Inter Press ServiceRegional Alliances – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:09:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Parliamentarians a “Fourth Pillar” of Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:56:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152201 Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week. Of course, these are not […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth

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

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

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

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

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

Population Growth

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

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

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

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

The Inter-Linkage

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

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

Bigger than the Whole African Population

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

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

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

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

The Arab, Asian Youth Bulge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*With inputs by an IPS correspondent in India.

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Latin America Seeks New Ways to Fight Rural Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 20:49:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151873 Experts in Latin America warned about the serious risk that would be posed if the fight against hunger, still suffered by 33 million people in the region, is abandoned, while proposing new alternatives and insights which include linking social protection with economic growth. More than 25 high-level experts met in Santiago, Chile on Aug. 28-29 […]

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Some of the academics, representatives of international organisations and former government authorities in social areas who took part in the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America at the FAO regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Some of the academics, representatives of international organisations and former government authorities in social areas who took part in the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America at the FAO regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Experts in Latin America warned about the serious risk that would be posed if the fight against hunger, still suffered by 33 million people in the region, is abandoned, while proposing new alternatives and insights which include linking social protection with economic growth.

More than 25 high-level experts met in Santiago, Chile on Aug. 28-29 in a workshop to launch the Alliance to End Rural Poverty, sponsored by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

After debating “concrete and feasible proposals” to address the problem, they announced that they would take their initiatives in the next few weeks to the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean, a region with a population of over 640 million.“There are a series of new spaces for policies that are aimed at different purposes, such as social protection or climate change mitigation, but that at the same time can generate pathways out of poverty for the extreme poor.” -- Alain De Janvry

“The Alliance is a group that began to generate knowledge and proposals and to interact with the countries in the region to once again sink our teeth into the challenge of reducing rural poverty,” said Carolina Trivelli, a former Peruvian minister of social development and Inclusion who heads the Peruvian Studies Institute.

“We need a very strong narrative to put the eradication of rural poverty on the agenda of the countries and the region. For many, it is currently a not very attractive challenge because it goes unnoticed and the rural poor are out there in remote areas,” the expert told IPS.

Besides, “the rural poor have declined in number so it’s as if there was no longer a need to worry about them. But the opposite is true. We do need to worry because rural poverty has consequences not only for the lives of the poor but also for the national economies, for inequality and for the possibility of creating more integrated countries,” she added.

Trivelli, who will draft the workshop’s conclusions, stressed that “because the rural poor of today are not the same as they were 20 years ago, the initiatives to help them cannot be the same either.”

“We need policies to address different kinds of rural poor, in different territories, but they have to be smart policies that allow us to reinforce what already exists,” she said.

According to Trivelli, “there are many social programmes that reach poor people in rural areas, but we can add productive or economic development components that allow us to use the social protection platform to boost economic opportunities for the rural poor.”

Alain de Janvry, a professor from the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics at the University of California-Berkeley, cited an example to illustrate.

“Rural poverty in Latin America is increasingly indigenous: 40 per cent of the rural poor are indigenous,” said David Kaimowitz, head of natural resources and climate change at the Ford Foundation, during his presentation at the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in the region. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“Rural poverty in Latin America is increasingly indigenous: 40 per cent of the rural poor are indigenous,” said David Kaimowitz, head of natural resources and climate change at the Ford Foundation, during his presentation at the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in the region. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“We have carried out a study on a monetary transference made in Mexico, after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and in compensation for the low prices of maize due to competition from maize imported from the United States,” the academic told IPS.

“A cash transfer was made to all producers of maize and basic grains. These transfers were specifically to farmers – to the male head of the household. The funds were multiplied by two: for every peso received they used it to generate another peso. The second peso was generated by how they used the first peso in a productive investment,” he said.

According to De Janvry, “the potential that is being explored is that social protection can have positive impacts together with economic initiatives, and can eventually generate employment, incomes and economic growth – a strategy to generate profits.”

“Economic efficiency and productivity,” said the expert, stressing the initiative’s intergenerational impact.

“Educating children and giving them better health coverage makes it possible to keep them from falling into poverty because they have poor parents who have not educated them or given them proper healthcare. The idea is to give them the possibility to pull out of poverty thanks to education and improved health,” he said.

De Janvry advocated the promotion of small-scale family farming and rethinking social protection policies in rural areas, but also called for “identifying critical sectors in rural poverty such as indigenous poverty, problems of discrimination and the relation with the preservation of natural resources, such as climate change mitigation.”

“There are a series of new spaces for policies that are aimed at different purposes, such as social protection or climate change mitigation, but that at the same time can generate pathways out of poverty for the extreme poor,” he said.

For Trivelli, the new proposals of policies to end rural poverty “require new institutional arrangements” since “there is no ministry taking care of the rural poor, different sectors and levels of government have to pitch in, besides many private sector actors.”

“Extractive industries, for example, that operate in rural areas, and we have to get these institutions involved, different ministries, public entities, levels of government, private companies and organisations of farmers and rural dwellers themselves to reach agreements,” she said.

But the plans of the emerging Alliance are facing key constraints, such as the backdrop of a difficult decade for the region in terms of economic peformance, as projected by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

“The macro-fiscal context in the region is not the most positive. Clearly the battle for public resources is increasingly fierce, and therefore the narrative is very important,” Trivelli acknowledged.

In her opinion, “we have to make a good case for why governments should invest in ending poverty instead of doing a bunch of other things for which there are also lots of interest and pressure groups.”

During the launch of the Alliance,, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué said it was necessary “to not lower our guard” in the fight against poverty in the region, stating that 27 per cent of the rural population living in extreme poverty “is not an insignificant proportion.”

“We cannot evade the link between poverty and inequality,” he said, pointing out the people hit hardest by extreme poverty are indigenous women in remote areas.

Berdegué described the emerging Alliance as “a regional public good that transcends FAO and IFAD,” which will mobilise Latin America’s wealth and experience “to give the best support to the governments of the region interacting with them and with their organisations committed to ending rural poverty.”

Through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)’s Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication, the region was the first in the developing South to commit to eradicating hunger by 2025, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which have set that goal for 2030 at a global level.

IFAD expert in public policies Lauren Phillips told IPS that the joint efforts together with FAO and other institutions that will join the Alliance “aim to propose better solutions to end extreme poverty in the region, which is very important for local people.”

“We are thinking of focusing on some key ideas where there is already evidence of the possibility of public policies achieving benefits, and also focusing on certain countries,” she said.

For Phillips, “we have to think strategically about where are the possibilities of achieving the most… we have to also think about the political situation of the countries and where we have evidence about the routes we need to take to make progress over the next few weeks.”

“We have to always think about what is feasible and realistic and what are the governments’ capacities,” the expert said. “We know that the governments of some countries need more technical support to implement the public policies.”

She believes that “it is a huge challenge faced by all developing regions, including Latin America. Perhaps the capacity to develop strategies exists, but to implement them is always harder due to a lack of resources and capacities.”

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Alliance to the Rescue of 33 Million Latin American Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 29 Aug 2017 02:01:46 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151824 “There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS. […]

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Indigenous women, such as these farmers on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s official capital, are part of a group with the most difficulties to overcome extreme poverty in Latin America, and therefore require specific policies to give them equal opportunities. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Indigenous women, such as these farmers on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s official capital, are part of a group with the most difficulties to overcome extreme poverty in Latin America, and therefore require specific policies to give them equal opportunities. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Aug 29 2017 (IPS)

“There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.

Since 1990, rural poverty in the region was reduced from 65 per cent to 46 per cent, while extreme poverty fell from 40 per cent to below 27 per cent.

But while the proportion of rural extreme poor decreased by 1 percentage point a year between 1997 and 2007, the rate of decrease was only 0.2 per cent a year between 2007 and 2014.

To break that pattern in the most vulnerable rural group, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are launching this last week of August in Santiago, Chile the “Alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America.”

FAO regional representative Julio Berdergué. Credit: FAOALC

FAO regional representative Julio Berdergué. Credit: FAOALC

“There is a strong deceleration in the reduction of poverty, five times slower than before, only just 0.2 per cent per year,” noted with concern Berdegué, who attributed the phenomenon, among other causes, to a regional economic slowdown which has had an impact on employment and incomes.

“The strong, sustainable, solid solution to rural poverty is economic development in rural areas. Quality jobs, better wages: that is the best strategy to reduce rural poverty,” said Berdegué, who is also FAO deputy director-general, in the body’s regional office in the Chilean capital.

For Berdegué, “social policies compensate for the effects of economic development, but what we want is for people to stop being poor because they have better jobs and not because of good social programmes…that is a second best option.”

In his interview with IPS, the Mexican senior U.N. official said the region has already done a great deal to reduce poverty and extreme poverty and what remains is to eradicate the most difficult part of poverty, harder to combat because it is structural.

He cited the example of Chile, where less than three per cent of the rural population suffer from extreme poverty, but the people affected are indigenous women in remote areas, which makes the task of rescuing them from deep poverty especially complicated.

According to Berdegué, the policies and programmes created and implemented in Latin America to eradicate poverty successfully served their purpose ,“but not necessarily the same strategies and same programmes are the ones that will work for us in the final push” of putting an end to hard-core, entrenched poverty.

Luiz Carlos Beduschi, a Brazilian academic and policy officer in the FAO regional office,pointed out to IPS that one of the most significant programmes to combat poverty in Nicaragua consisted of giving extremely poor people chickens, pigs or pregnant cows along with technical assistance.

Specific policies for women

“The same policies that help rural men move out of poverty don’t work for rural women,” said Julio Berdegué, who stressed that in the region “we have a generation of women with levels of education that their mothers never dreamed of.”

“We must soon achieve labour policies that allow these women to fully accede to formal employment. They are all working a lot, but on their farms or in unpaid, informal work,” he explained.

“These young rural women under 35 are going to stay on their farms producing food, but many of them are going to be employed in manufacturing and services, in nearby cities or in the rural communities themselves,” he added.

The FAO senior official stressed that “economic empowerment and autonomy are key, absolutely key, and this requires policies designed with a gender perspective. Without this, we are not going anywhere.”

Another thing that is essential, he added, is access to financing because “a poor woman farmer goes to ask for a loan and a poor male farmer goes, and the chances that the woman and the man get it are very different.”

“In all elements that are necessary for the development of family agriculture: access to markets, to technical assistance, land, etc, we need to multiply them by two, three or four in order to guarantee women equal opportunities,” he concluded.

“A woman from District 7, in the periurban area of Managua, discovered a dormant entrepreneurial potential. She was given a cow, and today, eight years later, she has 17 cows. Her oldest daughter left to study and graduated as a dentist. The woman sold three cows to finance a clinic (for her daughter) in the neighbourhood. She is now involved in the economic and social fabric of that area,” Beduschi said. Her second daughter is now studying medicine.

He added that the beneficiaries of this programme do not so much need advice as other elements such as credit at an interest rate lower than the 20 to 30 per cent offered by local creditors.
“We have to design a new plan for new times,” he concluded.

Launching the new Alliance
More than 25 experts, researchers and decision-makers are meeting Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 in Santiago, summoned by FAO and IFAD to seek new strategies and instruments to combat rural poverty.

In this new Alliance Launch Workshop, the participants are identifying and disseminating a politically viable and technically feasible package of proposals to be implemented by Latin American governments, for each country to face the challenge of ending rural poverty from an innovative perspective.

The activities of this initiative will be carried out from now until July 2019, and will count on FAO resources for the initial phase.

Berdegué said the first successful result of the Alliance was bringing together this group of experts with the commitment of “putting their shoulders to the wheel” in seeking innovative solutions to put an end to rural poverty.

“We want to release the 1.0 version of a proposal that we are going to offer to the countries. Not more of the same, because that has us at a five times slower rate. And we want to produce the first ideas, the best that we can, but we don’t want to spend the next six months writing documents. The best that we can, the sooner we can, and with those instruments we will go to the countries,” he said.

“The meeting will be a successful one if we come out of it with a very concrete working plan, detailed in such a way that the following week we can be going to the countries, as we have already started to do in Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he told IPS.

“We have a specific work agenda for collaboration to put these ideas into practice, with public programmes and policies,” he added.

Among the new tools that are being discussed in the world and in Latin America, Berdegué pointed out the concept of a universal basic income, which has its pros and cons, and is hotly debated.

There is also the issue of rural labour markets “which are in general in a state of true disaster, with high levels of informality and very low female participation rates, among them young women who have received 10 to 12 years of schooling and have no job offers in line with this human capital they have acquired.”

And a crucial issue in the new agenda, not taken into account in the past decades, is inequality.

“Many of these 33 million poor are poor because they are first victims of inequality. A rural indigenous woman, in a less developed area, is victim of more than four inequalities: gender, ethnicity, rural and territorial. Besides, economic inequality, on grounds of social class,” Berdegué said.

“Good quality employment, better wages, that is the best strategy for reducing rural poverty. And we have an accumulation of inequalities that, if we do not solve them, it will be very hard to return to the rate of one percentage point of reduction of rural extreme poverty,” he concluded.

Academics, as well as government officials and representatives of social organisations are taking part in the FAO and IFAD meeting, joining forces to think about how to keep on combating rural poverty with the goal of eradicating it.

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When Policies Speak the Same Language, Africa’s Trade and Investment Will Listenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen/#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:21:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151709 The rising Maputo-Catembe Bridge is a hard-to-miss addition to Mozambique’s shoreline. The 725-million-dollar bridge – billed to be the largest suspension bridge in Africa on its completion in 2018 – represents Mozambique’s new investment portfolio and a show of its policy commitment to boosting international trade. But the country can improve on its trade and […]

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Mozambique is open for business. A new suspension bridge rises on Maputo Bay. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Mozambique is open for business. A new suspension bridge rises on Maputo Bay. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
MAPUTO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

The rising Maputo-Catembe Bridge is a hard-to-miss addition to Mozambique’s shoreline.

The 725-million-dollar bridge – billed to be the largest suspension bridge in Africa on its completion in 2018 – represents Mozambique’s new investment portfolio and a show of its policy commitment to boosting international trade.“African governments have identified policy incoherence as the elephant in the room." --Wadzanai Katsande of FAO

But the country can improve on its trade and investment if it can effectively align its national trade and agricultural policies to ensure sufficient coordination between trade and agricultural policymakers, experts say.

Initiatives to improve agricultural productivity, value chain development, employment creation, and food security are often constrained by market and trade-related bottlenecks which are a result of the misalignment between agricultural and trade policies.

This was part of findings discussed at a meeting convened by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the Mozambican capital earlier this month. The high-level meeting attracted decision makers from the ministries of agriculture, finance, trade, industry and commerce, private sector representatives and donor groups.

To help address this challenge, FAO, in collaboration with Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) at the World Trade Organisation and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), has piloted a regional project to help countries coordinate policy making processing, starting with agriculture and trade.

Mozambique is one of four countries in East and Southern Africa targeted in the pilot project aimed at developing a model for best practices in policy development and harmonization in enhancing economic development.

An assessment of the agriculture and trade policy framework and policymaking processes in Mozambique has been done to understand decision making in setting objectives and priorities for the country’s agriculture and trade sector.

The assessment also sought to contribute to the development of a coherent national policy framework on agricultural trade in Mozambique, said Wadzanai Katsande, Outcome Coordinator for the Food Systems Programme of the FAO.

Though listed as one of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the world, Mozambique is rich in natural and mineral resources including gas. The country is a bright investment destination in Africa.

Policy alignment is the key

“On paper, policies sound well and good, but in practice the story is different. There are still coordination and consistency issues in the policy formulation and implementation processes within and between agriculture and trade and these need to be addressed,” says Samuel Zita, an International Trade and Development Consultant, who recently led on an analytical study commissioned by the FAO on “Coordination between agriculture and trade policy making in Mozambique.”

“When agriculture and trade policies speak the same language that creates some predictability to investors, any disconnect between the two can have a negative effect on foreign direct investment,” Zita told IPS.

The study which focused on the country’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) processes also looked at the policy documents from these processes such as the CAADP National Agricultural Investment Plan (PNISA)] and the Diagnostic Trade Integration Strategy (DTIS). It recommended that Mozambique should improve the dissemination of policies, plans and strategies to stakeholders through various media. In addition, there should be an improvement in the description and publication of agricultural production and trade data.

Agriculture – defined by the national constitution as the basis of the country’s economic development – contributes 25 percent to Mozambique’s GDP of nearly 14 billion dollars. Raw aluminium, electricity, prawns, cotton, cashew nuts, sugar, citrus, coconuts and timber are major exports.

Policy cohesion can help facilitate trade development by simplifying the regulatory and policy environment for small businesses, so countries can attract private sector investment at local and international levels, says Jonathan Werner, Country Coordinator, Executive Secretariat of the Enhanced Integrated Framework at the WTO.

“We are facing many challenges for regional trade integration in Africa,” Werner Told IPS. “Our findings have shown that aligned policy processes can help create an enabling environment for trade and development.”

Policy cementing the SDGs

African governments have committed themselves to a multitude of agreements, protocols and declarations meant to promote greater agriculture productivity and trade which are major drivers of economic growth, but something is still missing in getting it all together: effective policies both at national and regional levels. Until the well-meaning policies trade and agriculture are aligned, Africa will continue to miss out on attracting the level of investment it should.

Mozambique has taken the first steps towards aligning its national agriculture and trade sector policies to boost economic development.

“African governments have identified policy incoherence as the elephant in the room and getting the policies in trade and agriculture to speak to each other is key to turning policies into action,” Katsande said noting that agriculture and trade development form the basis of key initiatives such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Malabo Declaration and African Union’s Agenda 2063.

A boost for Inter-Africa trade

Africa has no less than 14 regional trading blocs but inter-Africa trade is low at 12 percent of the continent’s trade, according to statistics from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). However, Africa’s trade with Europe and Asia is at nearly 60 percent. Some of the bottlenecks to Africa trading with Africa include trade policy harmonization, reducing export/import duties low production capacity, differing production quality standards and poor infrastructure.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) set to be signed into operation by December 2017 will help double inter African trade. In 2012 African head of state endorsed the establishment of the free trade area by 2017. Trade is one of the pathways to unlocking economic growth in Africa to boost employment and foster innovation in a continent replete with opportunities.

Gerhard Erasmus, an associate at the Trade Law Centre, a trade law capacity building institution based in Cape Town, South Africa, said low inter-Africa trade was a real issue which has been blamed by some economists on the fact that African nations often produce the same goods (mostly agriculture and basic commodities) for which the intra-African export opportunities are limited.

“Unless we move up the ladder of value addition, industrialization and services we will remain stuck,” Erasmus said. “Thus domestic development plans need adjustment and targeted investments are necessary. There are many trade facilitation challenges, from long queues at border posts, corruption, uncoordinated technical standards and requirements, to red tape and inadequate infrastructure.”

Eramus said regional economic communities and even the African Union had policies and plans to address the many trade challenges, but implementation often encountered problems at national levels regarding political buy-in, lack of resources, technical capacity problems, and plain bad governance.

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Latin America Discusses How to Make Environmental Rights a Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 01:35:07 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151563 The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean. That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational […]

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Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 4 2017 (IPS)

The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean.

That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational legal instrument with the aim of making public access to information and to environmental justice a reality for people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Delegates from 24 countries are taking part Jul. 31 to Aug. 4 in the Seventh Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land.” -- Danielle Andrade

This week’s meeting in Buenos Aires, organised by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the government of Argentina, is to be the second-to-last debate on Principle 10, and is being held behind closed doors.

The final document is to be approved in November or December in an as-yet undetermined city.

But there is still a long way to go.

At the current meeting it has become clear that the debate on how far public participation should go has not come to a conclusion, although the ECLAC-sponsored negotiations began in November 2014.

The main sticking point is whether or not the document will be binding on signatory states.

If an agreement is reached for a binding document, it would set minimum standards for the participating countries to guarantee public participation in environmental matters.

If the decision is that it should be non-binding, it could merely become yet another declaration of principles that changes nothing.

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox of the United States, said “the instrument should be binding, even though that would make it harder to reach a consensus.”

“If it isn’t binding, the impression will be that instead of taking a step forward, we took a step back,” he said.

Knox was a special guest speaker during the opening of the meeting, which was held at Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, with the presence of three Argentine cabinet ministers and Costa Rica’s deputy minister of environment, Patricia Madrigal.

The Costa Rican official took part on behalf of the Negotiating Committee board, which is presided by her country and Chile, and is also composed of Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the same vein as Knox, the Argentine expert on environmental law, Daniel Sabsay, a speaker at a special session on the implementation of the future agreement, said he was “worried by the prospect that the text will just end up as another grand declaration, without any actual results.”

Rights of indigenous peoples and communities

The draft of the Regional Agreement makes several references to indigenous peoples and establishes that it will acknowledge the right to consultation, and prior, free and informed consent, which has been recognised in most national legislations, and in the International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which regulates the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.

It also stipulates that information must be delivered in indigenous languages, and that native people must receive special assistance to access information, since they are identified as a vulnerable group.

In addition, it establishes that, in every project with an environmental impact, the State has the obligation to identify the directly affected communities and promote their informed participation in the decision-making processes.

“The drafts that have been released until now set out no concrete instruments which countries are required to enforce and which would empower civil society. If it is not binding, it will not be useful,” he told IPS.

The debate is taking place against a backdrop of escalating disputes over land and natural resources, around the world and in this region in particular.

“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land,” said Danielle Andrade of Jamaica, chosen as a civil society representative in the negotiations.

This situation shows the failure of governments to address the concerns of local communities in the face of extractive or land use projects that affect them.

Principle 10 of the Río Declaration establishes that States must facilitate and promote social participation in debates on environmental issues, making information widely available and guaranteeing access to legal and administrative proceedings.

The consensus is that Latin America in general has sufficient regulations in this respect. In fact, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that “since 1992, 20 countries in the region have incorporated in their constitutions the right to a healthy and sustainable environment.”

The issue, it seems, is how to put into practice those rights which are only on paper.

“Nearly every country has environmental laws, but they have problems enforcing them. That is why we believe the creation of a committee for implementation of the treaty is crucial, to which people in the region could turn with their environmental conflicts, and which should include public participation, and should have powers to intervene,” Andrés Nápoli of Argentina, another civil society representative in the negotiations, told IPS.

The agreement that is being negotiated is inspired by the so-called Aarhus Convention, approved in 1998 in that city in Denmark, within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The Convention was especially useful for Eastern Europe countries, which had abandoned Communism a few years before, and had few environmental regulations.

“The countries of Latin America have been developing environmental laws since the 1990s, and recently some English-speaking Caribbean nations have being doing so,” said Carlos de Miguel, head of ECLAC’s Policies for Sustainable Development Unit.

“For that reason, the aim is enhancing the capacities of countries to ensure the rights established in the existing laws. Some countries have not been able to implement their environmental legislation, not because they don’t want to, but due to a lack of training and of financial resources,” he told IPS.

De Miguel said “we expect an ambitious agreement, that includes the creation of the institutions that will enforce it. We hope it will be signed not only by the 24 countries that are negotiating, but by all 33 countries in the region.”

The countries taking part in the discussions include all of the nations of South America except for Venezuela, Guyana and Surinam, and all of the countries of Central America with the exception of Nicaragua, while Caribbean island nations like Barbados and Cuba are absent.

Among the articles that are under discussion in Buenos Aires are article 6, which defines the scope of the right to information; 7 and 8, on the participation of citizens in decision-making processes; and 9, which regulates access to justice.

The last meeting will discuss the articles that define the institutions created by the treaty and whether or not to create an enforcement committee that, according to the majority, will define its effectiveness.

“It is essential to establish mechanisms to ensure that participation is real and ensure the most vulnerable populations have access to information, because official bodies and NGOs on their own cannot mobilise participation,” said Leila Devia, head of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for South America, at the special session on implementation.

That convention, which has 186 member States, deals with the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

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The Greater Caribbean Raises Funds to Protect its Sandy Coastshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/greater-caribbean-raises-funds-protect-sandy-coasts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greater-caribbean-raises-funds-protect-sandy-coasts http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/greater-caribbean-raises-funds-protect-sandy-coasts/#respond Sat, 01 Jul 2017 07:39:36 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151114 Almost no Caribbean beach escapes erosion, a problem that scientific sources describe as extensive and irreversible in these ecosystems of high economic interest, that work as protective barriers for life inland. “The phenomenon of erosion is widespread in the Caribbean,“ geographer Luis Juanes, a researcher at the recently created state Marine Science Institute of Cuba, […]

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Tourists enjoy the beach in the international resort of Varadero, in western Cuba. Scientists say the erosion of sandy ecosystems in the Greater Caribbean - which have a high economic value and are a protective barrier for life inland - is irreversible. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

Tourists enjoy the beach in the international resort of Varadero, in western Cuba. Scientists say the erosion of sandy ecosystems in the Greater Caribbean - which have a high economic value and are a protective barrier for life inland - is irreversible. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Jul 1 2017 (IPS)

Almost no Caribbean beach escapes erosion, a problem that scientific sources describe as extensive and irreversible in these ecosystems of high economic interest, that work as protective barriers for life inland.

“The phenomenon of erosion is widespread in the Caribbean,“ geographer Luis Juanes, a researcher at the recently created state Marine Science Institute of Cuba, who participates in the scientific coordination of a project of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) to protect sandy coasts from the effects of global warming, told IPS.

The regional initiative “Impact of climate change on the sandy coasts of the Caribbean: Alternatives for its control and resilience“ could begin to be implemented this year, after negotiations between the ACS and the main donor for the project: the International Cooperation Agency of South Korea.

“Caribbean beaches have an irreversible tendency to erosion,“ said Juanes in an interview with IPS, referring to a problem “whose main causes are associated with misguided human action in coastal areas, such as the extraction of sand for the construction industry and the building of tourism installations on dunes.“

However, the scientist pointed out that research from local and foreign authors found this kind of deterioration even in pristine beaches on uninhabited keys, which can only be explained by the rising sea levels and other consequences of global warming.

For this reason, the ACS, founded in 1994, which groups 25 countries of the Greater Caribbean region, initially approved in 2016 and ratified in a summit in March this year this proposal set forth by Cuba, within a broader programme of adaptation to climate change.

This programme also includes projects against the invasion by Sargassum seaweed and exotic species such as the lionfish.

To finance the programme, the ACS raises cooperation funds to mitigate and adapt to the new climate scenario in this diverse region of highly vulnerable small islands and mainland countries that have in common developing economies with limited resources for environmental preservation.

So far, the project against erosion of the sandy coasts has received around a quarter of a million dollars from the Netherlands and Turkey, said Juanes. And a contribution of 4.5 million dollars from South Korea is foreseen to achieve the targets set out during its four years of implementation.

 Geographer José Luis Juanes, of the Marine Science Institute, stands along the eroding and polluted shore in Havana, where the new Cuban state body is based. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

Geographer José Luis Juanes, of the Marine Science Institute, stands along the eroding and polluted shore in Havana, where the new Cuban state body is based. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

In addition, each country member of the ACS that confirms its participation will contribute funds and a logistic base.

The initiative´s coordination has already attracted the interest of Antigua and Barbuda, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent, Saint Lucía, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The initiative seeks to improve practices of preservation and restoration of beaches in the Caribbean, by establishing a regional network to monitor erosion, developing a coastal engineering manual, training technical and professional staff, generating scientific exchanges, and providing equipment, among other objectives.

“Part of the topics we are discussing with the Koreans is the collaboration of scientific institutions from that country to contribute a basic infrastructure with some modern technologies such as drones and coastal radars,“ said Juanes.

A key goal is obtaining data to assess the effects of coastal erosion up to 2100 in the area of the Greater Caribbean, which must ensure sustainable use of sandy beaches, its main natural resource for the tourism industry.

Many of these countries depend on the entertainment industry, particularly small island states where tourism represents an average 25 per cent of GDP and is the sector with the highest rate of growth.

A man combs through objects among the trash strewn on the polluted sands of El Gringo beach in the city of Bajos de Haina, the Dominican Republic’s main industrial centre and port. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

A man combs through objects among the trash strewn on the polluted sands of El Gringo beach in the city of Bajos de Haina, the Dominican Republic’s main industrial centre and port. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

Juanes pointed out that the concern with the issue emerged “mainly in the major tourist centres“ in the region, in the last decades of the 20th century. He said the countries have adopted coastal protection legal measures and engineering solutions on beaches frequented by tourists.

Pioneers in this area, Cuban scientific institutions and state companies have shared their local experiences in coastal protection and restoration with countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Dominican Republic, said the scientist.

He warned that the “touristic development model used is unsustainable“ and the Greater Caribbean should halt the current deterioration of the sandy coasts, since it lacks the resources to maintain artificial beaches, like the ones created in the U.S. state of Florida.

“If our Caribbean beaches and ecosystems deteriorate, in a few years the competition with tourism spots within the United States itself will be overwhelming,“ he said, referring to the main source of visitors to the Caribbean region.

While the beaches of Varadero, in Cuba, the Riviera Maya, in Mexico, and Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, to mention some examples, are financing their own studies and costly maintenance efforts using sand extracted from the depths of the sea, many beaches outside the tourist routes are neglected and affected by pollution.

In response, the ACS project will prepare “at least three beach restoration projects in three hot spots in three different less well-off countries,“ said Juanes.

But he said that they will only “prepare the conceptual framework, do the fieldwork and modeling,“ since the implementation will cost millions and will be up to the countries themselves.

“A community-based and eco-conscious solution is that the people adopt the beaches that they benefit from,“ said Ángela Corvea, the coordinator of the Acualina environmental education programme, which mobilises the authorities and the community in cleaning up the coastline in the Havana district of Playa, on the west side of the Cuban capital.

“Nobody cleans those beaches,“ lamented Corvea about the area with many mainly rocky beaches and only a few sandy ones. For this reason, Acualina has been organising children and young people since 2003 to pick up garbage in three neighborhoods along the coast, including La Concha, the only sandy beach accessible to the public in the municipality.

“These community actions, if all the people that use the beaches would particpate, would improve the preservation of the beaches,“ said the activist. “And to do these things, nobody should wait for an order or decree,“ she said, referring to the limited practical effect of environmental laws in different ACS countries.

In another Caribbean island nation, the Dominican Republic, IPS saw one of the most blatant examples of the deplorable environmental situation on the many beaches that have no tourism.

There are heaps of garbage on the dunes of El Gringo beach in the highly industrialised Dominican municipality of Bajos de Haina. “The problem of pollution on the beach has been discussed a great deal in the neighbourhood council. It needs to be cleaned and dredged,“ said Mackenzie Andújar, a 41-year-old local plumber.

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Towards a Global Role for ACP?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/towards-a-global-role-for-acp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=towards-a-global-role-for-acp http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/towards-a-global-role-for-acp/#respond Sun, 07 May 2017 11:04:33 +0000 Goele Geeraert http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150328 The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) met this week in Brussels for the 105th Session of its Council of Ministers to discuss the key question of how these 79 countries could play a more effective role for their own citizens and in the international arena. The ACP-group was established by the 1975 […]

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Patrick I. Gomes, Secretary-General of the ACP Group, at the 105th Session of its Council of Ministers in Brussels. Credit: Goele Geeraert/IPS

Patrick I. Gomes, Secretary-General of the ACP Group, at the 105th Session of its Council of Ministers in Brussels. Credit: Goele Geeraert/IPS

By Goele Geeraert
BRUSSELS, May 7 2017 (IPS)

The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) met this week in Brussels for the 105th Session of its Council of Ministers to discuss the key question of how these 79 countries could play a more effective role for their own citizens and in the international arena.

The ACP-group was established by the 1975 Georgetown Agreement to co-ordinate cooperation between its members and the European Union. At that time, it consisted of 46 countries of the Caribbean and the Pacific that signed the first Lomé Convention on trade and aid with nine European Union member states.“The question of insecurity, peace and crime is also a fundamental question of poverty and development." --Patrick I. Gomes

Since then the ACP’s commercial and political clout has grown. Today it counts 79 states. All of them, save Cuba, have signed the Cotonou Agreement that replaced the succesive Lomé conventions and is better known as the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement.

Post-2020 relations

The current ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement ends in 2020.  In the lead-up to negotiations for a renewed partnership, future relations between the ACP and EU countries was one of the main points on the agenda of the Council. The current ACP-EU Partnership Agreement is based on three pillars: development cooperation, political cooperation, economic and trade cooperation.

Economic and trade cooperation has been a key component of the ACP-EU partnership. It took the form of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA’s). They replaced the former non-reciprocal preferences the ACP countries enjoyed and had to meet the World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements. The majority of ACP countries are now implementing an EPA or have concluded EPA negotiations with the EU.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation Abraham Tekeste said, “We have to be ready to fundamentally reform our cooperation with the EU after 2020 aiming at deepening our relationship in various, differentiated fronts rather than sticking to the traditional cooperation areas. We must ensure a more balanced partnership with Europe based on shared values and mutual respect.”

Therefore the Council of ministers approved its three priority areas to guide future programmes and activities of the Group post-2020: trade, investment, industrialisation and services; development cooperation, technology, science, innovation and research; political dialogue and advocacy.

The ACP representatives reaffirmed their commitment to enhance ACP-EU trade relations. At the same time, they asked the European Union to show flexibility in responding to concerns from ACP countries.

Comparative advantage

Another APC challenge of paramount importance will be to demonstrate its comparative advantage in partnerships with governments, the UN, multilateral organizations, civil society, the private sector, academia, and others.

According to Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, the ACP Group has an added value on the global scene. “It can play a significant role in multilateral agreements such as the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.”

This has recently been shown by the joint announcement made by the EU and ACP during the COP21 negotiations, representing 28 plus 79 countries of the world. The partners called for a legally-binding, ambitious, inclusive and durable agreement with clear long term goals, as well as a five-yearly review mechanism and a transparency and accountability system tracking national commitment progress.

The statement became known as the “Ambition Coalition”, quickly growing to include major powers and emerging economies.

Intra-ACP cooperation

To play a significant global role, the ACP-group must also invest in stronger intra-ACP cooperation. There the group wants to play a complementary role to national and regional initiatives.

Patrick I. Gomes, Secretary-General of the ACP Group, said, “Looking at the question of security, peace and stability, we do not have an army to go for example after Boko Haram in Nigeria. But as ACP we can ask ourselves why that ideology of Boko Haram appeals to young people and what gives people purpose in life. And that is where the ACP culture programme comes in.

“The question of insecurity, peace and crime is also a fundamental question of poverty and development: how do we have comprehensive approaches to reducing and addressing poverty in all its forms and aspects? ACP makes a contribution in that direction by complementing what is at the national and the regional level. We have to look for examples of success at the national, we have to learn from each other’s experience and make a difference by our intra-ACP programmes.”

Sustainable financing

No organisation can develop without strong institutions and solid, sustainable financing sources. Therefore the Council asked its member states to invest in a sustainable self-financing capacity of the ACP. It made an appeal to consequently pay their membership contribution and launched the idea of an endowment trust fund.

According to Gomes, “Member countries are receiving millions in grant financing thanks to the ACP. Compared to that amount of money the membership contribution is very little. So we encourage everyone to contribute to keep us going.

“We also encourage voluntary contributions as a start for an endowment trust fund. There is so much wealth and money in our countries. Would our billionaires and corporations not be concerned to look to how they can support their own organisation? We see that as a very important area for our financial sustainability.”

At the end of the two-day meeting, the president of the council, Abraham Tekeste, said, “We have received by our Heads of State and Government clear marching orders to undertake the reforms needed to transform the ACP Group into an effective global player, fit for the 21st century, and responsive to the emerging priorities of our Member States.”

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Social Forum Calls for Fight Against Corruption, to Defend the Amazonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/social-forum-calls-for-fight-against-corruption-to-defend-the-amazon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=social-forum-calls-for-fight-against-corruption-to-defend-the-amazon http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/social-forum-calls-for-fight-against-corruption-to-defend-the-amazon/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 21:53:04 +0000 Milagros Salazar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150273 Corruption has penetrated the Amazon rainforest like an illness that infects everything, said Ruben Siqueira, coordinator of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), during the VIII Panamazonic Social Forum (FOSPA), which brought together in the Peruvian Amazon jungle representatives of civil society from eight Amazon basin countries. The forum, which drew more than 1,600 participants to […]

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Africa and the Paris Agreement: Which Way Forward?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/africa-and-the-paris-agreement-which-way-forward/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-and-the-paris-agreement-which-way-forward http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/africa-and-the-paris-agreement-which-way-forward/#respond Sun, 30 Oct 2016 15:23:30 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147555 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 […]

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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.

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Pan-African Parliament Seeks Larger Role in Food Security, Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/pan-african-parliament-seeks-larger-role-in-food-security-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pan-african-parliament-seeks-larger-role-in-food-security-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/pan-african-parliament-seeks-larger-role-in-food-security-policy/#respond Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:23:00 +0000 Hisham Allam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147406 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 […]

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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.

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Q&A: We Won’t Go Far Until Climate Issues Are Mainstreamed in Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/qa-we-wont-go-far-until-climate-issues-are-mainstreamed-in-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-we-wont-go-far-until-climate-issues-are-mainstreamed-in-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/qa-we-wont-go-far-until-climate-issues-are-mainstreamed-in-policy/#respond Fri, 14 Oct 2016 12:10:07 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147364 IPS correspondent Charles Mkoka interviews ESTHERINE FOTABONG, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Coordination

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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.

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Entrepreneurship, Job Creation Take Centre Stage at NEPAD Meethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet/#respond Sat, 10 Sep 2016 11:27:11 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146861 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, […]

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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.

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Will the World’s Largest Single Market Transform Africa Fortunes?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes/#respond Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:00:20 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146852 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 […]

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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.

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India and China, a New Era of Strategic Partners?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/india-and-china-a-new-era-of-strategic-partners/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-and-china-a-new-era-of-strategic-partners http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/india-and-china-a-new-era-of-strategic-partners/#respond Thu, 08 Sep 2016 12:49:02 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146839 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 […]

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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.
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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.

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The Economic Partnership Agreement has never made much sense for Tanzaniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania/#respond Tue, 16 Aug 2016 17:02:17 +0000 Benjamin W. Mkapa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146567 Benjamin William Mkapa is a former President of Tanzania and the Chair of the South Centre Board

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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

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New Alliance to Shore Up Food Security Launched in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa/#respond Tue, 02 Aug 2016 17:59:47 +0000 Desmond Latham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146365 As over 20 million sub-Saharan Africans face a shortage of food because of drought and development issues, representatives of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Pan African Parliament (PAP) met in Johannesburg to forge a new parliamentary alliance focusing on food and nutritional security. Monday’s meeting here came after years of planning that began […]

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PAP officials attend the workshop for members of the Pan African Parliament and FAO to advance the Food and Nutrition Security Agenda. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

PAP officials attend the workshop for members of the Pan African Parliament and FAO to advance the Food and Nutrition Security Agenda. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

By Desmond Latham
CAPE TOWN, Aug 2 2016 (IPS)

As over 20 million sub-Saharan Africans face a shortage of food because of drought and development issues, representatives of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Pan African Parliament (PAP) met in Johannesburg to forge a new parliamentary alliance focusing on food and nutritional security.

Monday’s meeting here came after years of planning that began on the sidelines of the Second International Conference on Nutrition organised by the FAO in late 2014.“The first port of call when there are food security issues is normally the parliament. We should be at the forefront of moving towards what is known as Zero Hunger." -- Dr. Bernadette Lahai

Speaking at the end of the day-long workshop held at the offices of the PAP, its fourth vice president was upbeat about the programme and what she called the “positive energy” shown by attendees.

“We have about 53 countries here in the PAP and the alliance is going to be big,” said Dr. Bernadette Lahai. “At a continental level, once we have launched the alliance formally, we’ll encourage regional parliaments so the whole of Africa will really come together.”

“This will be a very big voice,” she said on the sidelines of the workshop.

FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, said her role was to ensure that parliamentarians take up food security as a central theme.

“The reason why we’re doing this is because based on the evidence that we have in the FAO, is that once you have the laws and policies on food and nutrition security in place there is a positive correlation with the improvement of the indicators of both food and security of nutrition,” she told IPS.

“Last year we facilitated the attendance of seven African parliamentarians to a Latin American and Caribbean meeting in Lima, and these seven requested us to have an interaction with parliamentarians of Africa,” she said.

A small team of officials representing Latin America and the Caribbean had traveled to Johannesburg to provide some details of their own experience working alongside the FAO in an alliance which had focused on providing food security to the hungry in South America and the island nations of the Caribbean.

These included Maria Augusta Calle of Ecuador, who told the 20-odd PAP representatives that in her experience working alongside officials from the FAO had helped eradicate hunger in much of the region.

From left to right: FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, Maria Augusta Calle, and PAP Vice-President Dr Bernadette Lahai. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

From left to right: FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, Maria Augusta Calle, and PAP Vice-President Dr Bernadette Lahai. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

Caribbean representative Caesar Saboto of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was also forthright about the opportunities that existed in the developing world to deal with hunger alleviation.

“It’s the first time that I’m traveling to Africa,” he said, “and it’s not for a vacation. It’s for a very important reason. I do not want to go back to the Caribbean and I’m certain that Maria Augusta Calle does not want to go back only to say that we came to give a speech.”

Saboto delivered a short presentation where he outlined how a similar programme to the foundation envisaged by those attending the workshop had drastically reduced hunger in his country.

“In 1995, 20 percent of my country of 110,000 people were undernourished,” he said. “Over 22,000 were food vulnerable. But do you know what? Working with communities and within governments we managed to drive down that number to 5,000 in 2012 or 4.9 percent of the population. And I’m pleased to announce here for the first time, that in 2016 we are looking at a number of 3,500 or 3.2 percent,” he said to applause from the delegates.

PAP members present included representatives of sectors such as agriculture, gender, transport and justice as well as health. Questions from the floor included how well a small island nation’s processes could be used in addressing the needs of vastly larger regions in Africa.

“Any number can be divided,” said Saboto. “First you have to start off with the political will, both government and opposition must buy into the idea. If you have 20 million people you could divide them into workable groups and assign structures for management accountability and transparency,” he said.

African delegates queried the processes which the Latin American nations have used to set up structures in particular.  Dr. Lahai wanted the Latin American delegates to assist the African parliament in planning the foundation.

“Food security is not only a political issue but a developmental issue,” she told IPS in an interview.

“The first port of call when there are food security issues is normally the parliament. We should be at the forefront of moving towards what is known as Zero Hunger,” she said.

But major challenges remain. After a meeting in October last year, the FAO had contracted the PAP with a view to targeting hunger in a new alliance. The PAP is a loose grouping of African nations and members pointed out that they were unable to get nation states to support an initiative without a high-level buy in of their political leadership.

Dr. Lahai was adamant that the workshop should begin addressing issues of structure. She stressed that co-ordination between the PAP, various countries and other groupings such as Ecowas (the Economic Community of West African States) and SADC (Southern African Development Community) should be considered.

“We need a proper framework,” she said. “It’s important to engage our leaderships in this process. With that in mind, I would suggest that we learn a great deal from our visitors who’ve had a positive experience in tackling nutrition issues in Latin America.”

In an earlier presentation, FAO representative for South Africa Lewis Hove had warned that a lack of access to food and nutrition had created a situation where children whose growth had been stunted by this reality actually were in the most danger of becoming obese later in life. The seeming contradiction was borne out by statistics presented to the group showing low and middle income countries could see their benefit cost ratio climb to 16-1.

Africa’s Nutritional Scorecard published by NEPAD in late 2015 shows that around 58 million children in sub-Saharan regions under the age of five are too short for their age. A further 163 million women and children are anaemic because of a lack of nutrition.

The day ended with an appeal for further training and facilitation to be enabled by the FAO and PAP leadership. With that in mind, the upcoming meeting of Latin American and Caribbean states in Mexico was set as an initial deadline to begin the process of creating a new secretariat. It was hoped that this would prompt those involved in the PAP to push the process forward and it was agreed that a new Secretariat would be instituted to be headquartered at the PAP in South Africa.

Dr Lahai said delegates would now prepare a technical report which would then be signed off at the next round of the PAP set for Egypt later this year.

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Is a Referendum a Valid Tool for Democracy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-a-referendum-a-valid-tool-for-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-a-referendum-a-valid-tool-for-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-a-referendum-a-valid-tool-for-democracy/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 04:58:54 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145954 Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 7 2016 (IPS)

William Shakespeare would have loved to witness the Brexit. Many of his themes are evidently present: friendship and treason; truth and lies; deception and betrayal.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

David Cameron invents a referendum as a trick to get more power from the EU, and unify the Tory party under his leadership. He ends up instead out of Europe, with a possible Scottish cessation, and problems with North Ireland. His friend Boris Johnson, who turns anti EU to get Cameron’s job, has betrayed him. But Johnson does not wish to run for Prime Minister because his friend Michael Gove has betrayed him. And the Brexit has as a collateral damage – the leader of the other party, the Labour, with the majority of its parliamentarians asking Jeremy Corbin to go. He rejects, claiming that the majority of the party members are with him. But then, do not the parliamentarians represent the electorate?

The Brexit provides a strange show of the British political system, considered always the best example of parliamentarian democracy. A referendum is not the basis of a parliamentarian system, where elections are based on parties, with a strong identity and history. Labour electors vote Labour. But a referendum becomes a transversal issue, and in Brexit one third of them voted against the position of the Trade Unions and of the party, which stood for the Remain.

The same has happened with the Tories. At least 35% voted against the Cameron campaign for the Remain. In fact, people voted according to what they felt was their identity. So London along with other cosmopolitan citizens, voted for Remain. Those from the rural world, those who felt left out, voted massively for the Brexit.

Enough has been written about this. And how this kind of neoliberal globalization has failed, creating a growing angry and destitute population . What should we now debate: is referendum a tool for democracy? Let us examine what were the arguments for the Brexit that brought 17 million people to vote to leave the EU. Well, they were false, as the main campaigners for the Brexit themselves, Nigel Farage, and Boris Johnson have admitted.

The argument that the UK was giving Brussels 350 million pounds per week, and this money could instead go to the National Health System, was a fraud. The net contribution to the EU of 150 million pounds a year is net of what the UK receives from the EU. Brussels’s silence on this issue mainly to avoid meddling in internal politics, was a grave mistake .

Also the argument that by leaving EU, the UK would recover “its independence”, as Johnson said in his closing speech, and the control of its borders was also clearly false. Any future relations with the EU, that would keep UK exports to Europe without customs duty (that is 44% of total British exports), will entail free circulation of European citizens (180.000 in 2015, out of a total of 330.000). Britain already has control over the extra Europeans.

To make tall his credible, the tabloids, which are the real winners of Brexit, launched a campaign indicating that 70 million Turks could invade Britain. This was yet another fraud. Turkey is not a member of the EU, and just one vote from any member country could block an admission request. This was the usual Germany line, until Merkel asked the Turkish leader, Recep Erdogan to help block migrants, by giving the EU the responsibility to pay 3 billion euro.

At the time of the vote, 45% thought it was imminent. Tabloids also announced that after the Brexit, criminals and terrorists would be immediately deported to their country of origin, and of course nobody talks about this any longer. And it was also a fraud to assure that all the subsidies coming from the EU would be substituted by government funds. So for instance, voters from the small town of 18.000 people, Ebbw Vale in Wales, had the highest vote for Brexit: 63%. With an unemployment rate of 40%, the only real income was from the EU development fund. Ebbw Vale received 420 million euro for its industrial development; 40.5 millions for a professional institute, with 29.000 students; 36 million for a new train line; 96 million for upgrading roads: and 14.7 million that citizens did receive at different times. There were very few immigrants. EU did commit to Wales 2.200 million euro within 2020. Will now the government replace these ?

In fact, the referendum has created a dramatic inter-generational problem. The people over 55 years did vote at nearly 70% for the Brexit. Those under 25, voted 75 % for Remain. But only 50% of them went to vote, vis a vis 68% of the older citizens. Therefore, the older people have decided the future of the younger ones. In a progressively ageing world, with fewer young people, this should have us all thinking.

So the question is: with poorly informed people, manipulated by a campaign of fear and lies, is a yes or no referendum a tool of democracy?

But things are more complicated. We live in an era of post ideologies and post parties. To be on the left or on the right is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Without ideologies, discarded with the collapse of Berlin’s wall, politics is becoming just an act of administrative action, where differences disappear. Parties without ideologies carry little motivation and identity. Gone are the times when they were based on strong membership, with a vibrant youth wing. Parties are becoming just movements of opinions, which mobilizes citizens only to vote in a temporary campaign, where hired experts of marketing tools and other instruments of mass communication, have replaced debates on visions and values.

This costs more money than volunteers and corrupts politics. More important yet, Internet and new technologies have changed how people relate to politics. The relation between the parties and voters is not any longer direct, and vertical, as it was at the time of the radio and TV. Let us take the last important elections in Europe: those for electing mayors in Italy. A tide of young and untested mayors took over from an older generation.

A research in Rome conducted by Pragma Sociometrica has found that 36% of voters still use the TV as their primary instrument of information, but 26% use the net. Friends and relatives account for just 5%. And for deciding the vote, 46% made their own judgment via Internet on Virginia Raggi, the new young lady mayor of Rome, and only 18% used Internet and voted the oldest candidate, Giachetti. Dialogue with the candidates on Internet is preferred by 58% of the voters; followed by 48% for videos and 33 % by Facebook. And finally, 30 % by photos. Clearly, the great popular meetings filling public squares are something of the past…

The American website “Vox technology” has published an article: “How Internet is destroying politics”. Web Amazon has decimated libraries ITunes and Pandora with on line music and have uprooted the power of recording houses. On the transportation side, Uber is challenging the taxi’s monopoly. Now is the time of the political system, is the article’s thesis.

The net is progressively reducing the power of the traditional system of information, and cites the progressive candidate Bertie Sanders as an example. No media or any Democrat guru, like Paul Krugman, supported Sanders policies and denounced these as unrealistic. Yet Sanders has been immune to this campaign. Why? Because Sanders supporters did not read papers, but went on the net and created their own circle, immune to the traditional information’s system, where Clinton was overwhelming.

According to the pollster from El Pais, the Brexit in the recent Spanish elections, pushed people to take less risks, reinforcing the governing Popular Party (regardless of a string of corruption cases) and reducing the appeal of Podemos, the party of alternative. Yet Marine Le Pen, the French rightist leader, called a press conference to welcome Brexit, as did Donald Trump, Gehert Wilders and all the leaders of the xenophobic, nationalist and populist parties which are growing everywhere. They are already in power in Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia…and if Brexit has a domino effect (as many fear), the future is not going to be helpful for democracy. Already several of them has been calling for their national referendum, convinced that they would all be like Brexit…Campaign of fear will run through all Europe….

We now have an unexpected observatory coming up soon. Austrian elections, where the extreme right wing lost by only 30.000 votes, have been annulled for irregularities, and new ones are due. This time victory should be clearer. If the extreme right wing wins, this will have a strong impact on the coming elections in France and Germany. And then, the destiny of Europe as a political project will be sealed.

Will the traditional political elite be able to take lessons from the reality, and change austerity for growth, banks as a priority of youth, come back to a debate of ideas and visions, values and ideals? Begin to discuss at least social remedies in the face of the disasters of an unregulated globalization? Or will it repeat the Byzantines discussing about the angel’s sex, while the Turks were entering Costantipolis?

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Brexit – Perceptions and Repercussions in the Americashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:12:17 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145831 In this column Professor Joaquín Roy, director of the European Union Centre at the University of Miami, analyses the repercussions in the United States and other parts of the Americas of Britain’s referendum decision to leave the European Union (Brexit). He states that this is the worst calamity to befall Britain in the last half century, and says it has inflicted severe damage not only on the EU but also on all the countries of the North Atlantic rim.

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Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Jun 27 2016 (IPS)

The hopes of many of those who confidently expected the British electorate to vote, by a slender margin, for the country to remain in the EU have been dashed. All that is left to do now is to ponder the causes and background of this regrettable event, and consider its likely consequences, especially for relations with the United States.

In the first place one must point out and – and this is a general criticism of the present British political system – that Prime Minister David Cameron was hugely irresponsible to steer his country into this risky adventure. It has resulted in the worst calamity to befall Britain in the last half century and has inflicted severe damage not only on the EU but also on all the countries of the North Atlantic rim.

Cameron went out on a limb, thinking to secure total control over the country for his Conservative Party for the next several years. Next he pursued a surrealist referendum campaign agenda, seeking to persuade the public to vote to remain in the EU, against the Brexit proposal that he himself had engineered. He relied on the advantages and special privileges promised to the UK by the EU if the British people voted to remain.

Brussels had already warned that the EU would not grant Britain any further concessions or benefits over and above the conditions that apply in common to all EU members. It pointed out that Britain was in fact already a privileged partner, having opted out of the common currency (the euro) under a special agreement that did not even fix a timescale for its putative future membership of the euro area.

London also retains full control of Britain’s borders, having declined to sign the innovative Schengen Agreement which abolished many internal borders and introduced passport-free movement across the 26 Schengen countries.

The EU has indeed done everything in its power to keep the UK government and people happy and flaunting their prized British exceptionalism.

And now the fateful moment is at hand. The effect on Europe has been devastating. The one possible advantage for the EU – which has discreetly remained unvoiced – is that of ridding itself of an awkward partner, a dinner guest with an unfortunate habit of drawing attention to itself in negative ways. Britain slammed the brakes on progress towards fuller European integration and was a temptation to other recalcitrant EU countries to follow its bad example.

Recently concerns were raised in Washington over the Brexit referendum.

President Barack Obama himself did his best to urge Britons to stick with the EU when he visited London in April.

Cameron, and the people who voted for the UK to leave the EU, have done Obama a disservice. Britain’s image in the United States will deteriorate to unprecedented depths. The vaunted special relationship between the U.S. and Britain will no longer be an effective force underpinning one of the strongest alliances in recent history.

The first victim of the debacle may be the approval process for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, which is already looking shaky, at least for the immediate future.

The TTIP was meant to replicate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an ambitious deal to cut trade barriers, set labour and environmental standards and protect corporate intellectual property. The TPP was signed in principle by twelve Pacific Rim countries including the United States, and now awaits approval by legislators in each of the countries.

The rise of populism and anti-free trade sentiment is reflected in speeches by both U.S. presidential candidates, and is likely to slow down what is now viewed as “excessive globalisation”. There is a return to a style of nationalism that exerts control over economic as well as political initiatives.

The next U.S. president will find it difficult to advance their country’s alliance with London on defence issues. The UK will have freed itself from what was already problematic military cooperation with Europe, and only its link with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will endure. Some European NATO partners will be cautious about developing joint operations with a fellow member they view as uncommitted to agreements within the EU.

In the matter of trade per se, Washington will not take kindly to the new position of the City of London once it has lost its enviable status as a financial hub embedded in the EU. Siren songs from other European capitals solidly anchored in the soon-to-be expanded European community will be hard to resist, especially if European leaders adopt policies to strengthen the euro zone.

In Latin America, Brexit will be read as a confirmation that supranational practices and thoroughgoing integration are no longer a priority for the UK. The referendum result sends the message that national sovereignty is now paramount. All the time and effort the EU has spent over the years to promote the advantages of the European model of integration, based on the strength of its treaties and the effectiveness of its institutions, will be regretted as a sheer waste of time and energy.

An alternative “model of integration” based on the U.S. agenda, favouring one-off arrangements or treaties limited in scope exclusively to trade issues, will prevail over the already weakened European model.

The Caribbean region has strong historical and cultural ties to Britain. It will suffer from a less secure bond with the UK and will incline more closely to Washington.

The continent of the Americas, which is closest to Britain from the point of view of history and culture as well as in political and economic terms, will thus find itself further apart from Europe than before.

Joaquin Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Centre at  the University of Miami.  jroy@Miami.edu

Translated by Valerie Dee

 

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A Healthy Trading System Requires Progress and Engagement at All Levelshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/a-healthy-trading-system-requires-progress-and-engagement-at-all-levels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-healthy-trading-system-requires-progress-and-engagement-at-all-levels http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/a-healthy-trading-system-requires-progress-and-engagement-at-all-levels/#respond Fri, 10 Jun 2016 16:09:47 +0000 Roberto Azevedo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145587 Roberto Azevêdo is the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

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Roberto Azevêdo is the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

By Roberto Azevêdo
GENEVA, Jun 10 2016 (IPS)

This is a challenging time for global trade. According to the current World Trade Organization (WTO) new trade forecasts, global goods trade is expected to grow by 2.8%, making 2016 the fifth consecutive year of sub 3% growth. The gross domestic product (GDP) is still the most critical variable in the trade expansion equation, and as long as GDP growth remains low, trade numbers are likely to follow a similar trend.

Roberto Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo

This sort of dip in the numbers is not unprecedented, and we have experienced low trade growth in the early 1980s. Though we expect to come out of this pattern of low growth in the coming years- with trade growth forecast to pick up to 3.6% in 2017, it is nevertheless of some concern.

While the level of trade growth has stayed fairly constant in recent years, it is interesting to note that its composition is changing. A key driver of trade growth from 2011-2013 was import demand in Asia.

In the last two years this has shifted, with the US and Europe as the driving force of today’s modest growth, making up for slowdowns in Asia and elsewhere. In fact, if Asia’s contribution to trade had matched its average of recent years, world trade would have grown 3.5% in 2015, rather than 2.8%.

Rather than being an abstract indicator, trade growth, often matters because trade can act as a driver of broader economic growth and job creation. It certainly isn’t the only driver, but is an essential component of any strategy for sustainable economic growth.

And so the current downturn leads us to the question: what can we do to respond?

Governments have pushed monetary and fiscal policies to their limits in recent years but there is still room to move on trade. A more proactive approach could help to stimulate global demand.

One step would be for governments to remove the restrictive barriers introduced in recent years. Currently only 25% of these measures put in place by WTO members since the 2008 financial crisis have been removed. A shift in strategy here could help make a big difference.

We can also put in force trade agreements we have reached recently. By implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement alone we could add another trillion dollars to global trade. This would include exports of about $730 billion dollars from developing countries.

Another step is, of course, striking new trade agreements. And we are seeing a lot of activity on this front both at the regional level, and through the World Trade Organization. While they have grown rapidly in recent years, bilateral and regional trade initiatives are not a new thing, pre-dating the creation of the global trading system.

These two different approaches are frequently portrayed as incompatible, however, they do not require an “either/or” strategy and can be created and implemented to complement each other. These different kinds of initiatives have long co-existed and complemented each other and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so.

Today, virtually all WTO members are involved in at least one of these initiatives. Today there are 270 regional trade agreements or RTAs in force and have been notified to the WTO with over a third in the Asia-Pacific region.

The most recent examples in the region are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. And of course there are other important initiatives such as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road, which attempt to build and develop links between several partners.

To take the example of the TPP, many of the 12 partners involved already have existing bilateral agreements with each other. The added advantage of this broader agreement is the potentially enormous market it creates. Instead of dealing with a number of different sets of rules or standards, the TPP could help to homogenize rules between all the parties.

Like several other agreements today, the TPP is an example of deep integration initiative through regional trade agreements. While earlier RTAs concentrated on only liberalizing tariffs, more recent RTAs have gone further.

Empirical evidence suggests that RTAs with deeper integration between signatories provide greater potential for the development of production chains which span national borders. WTO members in the Asia-Pacific region in particular have greatly benefited from these global value chains.

As production networks expand and regional and global value chains become more important, it is critical to minimise significant differences in legislation, rules and infrastructure, which impact international trade and investment between trading partners. This appears to be the case more and more in current RTAs and other regional trade networks.

The silk-road economic belt, for instance, is rebuilding traditional links by concentrating on issues of connectivity such as improved infrastructure including port facilities, roads, and rail links. By improving these infrastructural networks connecting Asia and Europe, it is likely to improve trade by facilitating upgraded trade routes with landlocked areas of Central Asia.

These are all important steps that need to be taken to free up international trade and facilitate greater integration in value chains.

But how does all of this regional activity fit within the global framework of the World Trade Organization?

Currently the WTO has 162 members with increasing numbers. The rules and regulations of the WTO covers 98% of global trade, therefore by and large, RTAs operate within these rules.

Indeed, our analysis of regional agreements have shown that a large number of them fall within the guidelines set by the WTO with no obvious conflicts between overlapping agreements.

Perhaps a bigger consideration is where such initiatives touch on areas that are not currently covered by the WTO, whereby different RTAs deal with the same issues in different ways. This is not to suggest that regional agreements should not venture into these areas. But I think conversations in the WTO could help us establish whether a multilateral approach is feasible or desirable. Through discussions with the WTO, we’re likely to have a much more balanced, and inclusive framework.

A healthy trading system requires progress and engagement at all levels. And we have to acknowledge that one reason for the proliferation of regional agreements over recent years was a lack of progress in striking trade agreements globally through the WTO.

I’m pleased to say that we are now changing this situation. The WTO has actually delivered an impressive amount over the last couple of years.

But it’s also important to note that a healthy trading system isn’t just about negotiating trade agreements, the WTO’s work extends far beyond negotiations. We also monitor trade policies, build trading capacity in developing and struggling countries, and we have built one of the most effective dispute settlement systems in international law.

Indeed, although some RTAs have provisions on disputes, most of the dispute settlement mechanisms provided are rarely used. Meanwhile the level of activity in the WTO’s dispute settlement system is rising very rapidly. We have dealt with over 500 disputes in the WTO’s 21 year history. And of course most of the disputes brought to the WTO involve parties who are also themselves part of an RTA.

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“Together, Civil Society Has Power”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/together-civil-society-has-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=together-civil-society-has-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/together-civil-society-has-power/#respond Fri, 29 Apr 2016 22:53:55 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144908 When Tamara Adrián, a Venezuelan transgender opposition legislator, spoke at a panel on inclusion during the last session of the International Civil Society Week held in Bogotá, 12 Latin American women stood up and stormed out of the room. Adrián was talking about corruption in Venezuela, governed by “Chavista” (for the late Hugo Chávez) President […]

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Participants in the biannual International Civil Society Week 2016, held in Bogotá, waiting for the start of one of the activities in the event that drew some 900 activists from more than 100 countries. Credit: CIVICUS

Participants in the biannual International Civil Society Week 2016, held in Bogotá, waiting for the start of one of the activities in the event that drew some 900 activists from more than 100 countries. Credit: CIVICUS

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

When Tamara Adrián, a Venezuelan transgender opposition legislator, spoke at a panel on inclusion during the last session of the International Civil Society Week held in Bogotá, 12 Latin American women stood up and stormed out of the room.

Adrián was talking about corruption in Venezuela, governed by “Chavista” (for the late Hugo Chávez) President Nicolás Maduro, and the blockade against reforms sought by the opposition, which now holds a majority of seats in the legislature.

The speaker who preceded her, from the global watchdog Transparency International, referred to corruption among left-wing governments in South America.

Outside the auditorium in the Plaza de Artesanos, a square surrounded by parks on the west side of Bogotá, the women, who represented social movements, argued that, by stressing corruption on the left, the right forgot about cases like that of Fernando Collor (1990-1992), a right-wing Brazilian president impeached for corruption.“Together, civil society has power…If we work together and connect with what others are doing in other countries, what we do will also make more sense.” -- Raaida Manaa

“Why don’t they mention those who have staged coups in Latin America and who have been corrupt?” asked veteran Salvadoran activist Marta Benavides.

Benavides told IPS she was not against everyone expressing their opinions, “but they should at least show respect. We don’t all agree with what they’re saying: that Latin America is corrupt. It’s a global phenomenon, and here we have to tell the truth.”

That truth, according to her, is that “Latin America is going through a very difficult situation, with different kinds of coups d’etat.”

She clarified that her statement wasn’t meant to defend President Dilma Rousseff, who is facing impeachment for allegedly manipulating the budget, or the governing left-wing Workers’ Party.

“I want people to talk about the real corruption,” she said. “In Brazil those who staged the 1964 coup (which ushered in a dictatorship until 1985) want to return to power to continue destroying everything; but this will affect everyone, and not just Brazil, its people and its resources.”

In Benavides’ view, all of the panelists “were telling lies” and no divergent views were expressed.

But when the women indignantly left the room, they missed the talk given on the same panel by Emilio Álvarez-Icaza, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), who complained that all of the governments in the Americas – right-wing, left-wing, north and south – financially strangled the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Emilio Álvarez-Icaza, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the last one on the right, speaking at an International Civil Society Week panel on the situation of activism in Latin America. Credit: Constanza Vieira/IPS

Emilio Álvarez-Icaza, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the last one on the right, speaking at an International Civil Society Week panel on the situation of activism in Latin America. Credit: Constanza Vieira/IPS

He warned that “An economic crisis is about to break out in the Inter-American human rights system,” which consists of the IACHR and the Court, two autonomous Organisation of American States (OAS) bodies.

“In the regular financing of the OAS, the IACHR is a six percent priority, and the Inter-American Court, three percent,” said Álvarez-Icaza.

“They say budgets are a clear reflection of priorities. We are a nine percent priority,” he said, referring to these two legal bodies that hold states to account and protect human rights activists and community organisers by means of precautionary measures.

He described as “unacceptable and shameful” that the system “has been maintained with donations from Europe or other actors.”

There were multiple voices in this disparate assembly gathered in the Colombian capital since Sunday Apr. 24. The meeting organised by the global civil society alliance CIVICUS, which carried the hashtag ICSW2016 on the social networks, drew some 900 delegates from more than 100 countries.

The ICSW2016 ended Friday Apr. 29 with the election of a new CIVICUS board of directors.

Tutu Alicante, a human rights lawyer from Equatorial Guinea, is considered an “enemy of the state” and lives in exile in the United States. He told IPS that “we are very isolated from the rest of Africa. We need Latin America’s help to present our cases at a global level.”

Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang has been in power for 37 years. On Sunday Apr. 24 he was reelected for another seven years with over 93 percent of the vote, in elections boycotted by the opposition. His son is vice president and has been groomed to replace him.

“Because of the U.S. and British interests in our oil and gas, we believe that will happen,” Alicante stated.

He said the most interesting aspect of the ICSW2016 was the people he met, representatives of “global civil society working to build a world that is more equitable and fair.”

He added, however, that “indigenous and afro communities were missing.”

“We’re in Colombia, where there is an important afro community that is not here at the assembly,” Alicante said. “But there is a sense that we are growing and a spirit of including more people.”

He was saying this just when one of the most important women in Colombia’s indigenous movement, Leonor Zalabata, came up. A leader of the Arhuaco people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, she has led protests demanding culturally appropriate education and healthcare, and indigenous autonomy, while organising women in her community.

She was a keynote speaker at the closing ceremony Thursday evening.

A woman with an Arab name and appearance, Raaida Manaa, approached by IPS, turned out to be a Colombian journalist of Lebanese descent who lives in Barranquilla, the main city in this country’s Caribbean region.

She works with the Washington-based International Association for Volunteer Effort.

“The most important” aspect of the ICSW2016 is that it is being held just at this moment in Colombia, whose government is involved in peace talks with the FARC guerrillas. This, she said, underlines the need to set out on the path to peace “in a responsible manner, with a strategy and plan to do things right.”

The title she would use for an article on the ICSW2016 is: “Together, civil society has power.” And the lead would be: “If we work together and connect with what others are doing in other countries, what we do will also make more sense.”

In Colombia there is a large Arab community. Around 1994, the biggest Palestinian population outside the Middle East was living in Colombia, although many fled when the civil war here intensified.

“The peaceful struggle should be the only one,” 2015 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Ali Zeddini of the Tunisian Human Rights League, who took part in the ICSW2016, said Friday morning.

But, he added, “you can’t have a lasting peace if the Palestinian problem is not solved.” Since global pressure managed to put an end to South Africa’s apartheid, the next big task is Palestine, he said.

Zeddini expressed strong support for the Nobel peace prize nomination of Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader serving five consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison. He was arrested in 2002, during the second Intifada.

 Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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