Inter Press Service » Regional Alliances http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 06 Dec 2016 07:25:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 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/#comments Sun, 30 Oct 2016 15:23:30 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147555 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/#comments Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:23:00 +0000 Hisham Allam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147406 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/#comments Fri, 14 Oct 2016 12:10:07 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147364 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/#comments Sat, 10 Sep 2016 11:27:11 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146861 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/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:00:20 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146852 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/#comments Thu, 08 Sep 2016 12:49:02 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146839 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/#comments 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

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/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 17:59:47 +0000 Desmond Latham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146365 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.]]>

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 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/#comments 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)

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/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 22:53:55 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144908 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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Latin America to Redouble Its Climate Efforts in New Yorkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/latin-america-to-redouble-its-climate-efforts-at-new-york-ceremony/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-to-redouble-its-climate-efforts-at-new-york-ceremony http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/latin-america-to-redouble-its-climate-efforts-at-new-york-ceremony/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 23:48:16 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144741 Deforestation, as seen in this part of Rio Branco, the northern Brazilian state of Acre, is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America. Credit: Kate Evans/Center for International Forestry Research

Deforestation, as seen in this part of Rio Branco, the northern Brazilian state of Acre, is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America. Credit: Kate Evans/Center for International Forestry Research

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Apr 20 2016 (IPS)

The countries of Latin America will flock to sign the Paris Agreement, in what will be a simple act of protocol with huge political implications: it is the spark that will ignite actions to curb global warming.

More than 160 countries have confirmed their attendance at the ceremony scheduled for Friday, Apr. 22 in New York by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And eight have announced that they will present the ratification of the agreement during the event, having already completed the internal procedures to approve it.

The countries of Latin America, with the exception of Nicaragua and Ecuador, promised to participate in the collective signing of the historic binding agreement reached by 195 countries on Dec. 12 in the French capital.

Experts consulted by IPS stressed the political symbolism of the ceremony, and said they hoped Latin America would press for rapid implementation of the climate deal. “In New York, the region will underscore the importance of acting with the greatest possible speed, in view of the impacts that we are feeling in each one of our countries.” -- Andrés Pirazzoli

“In New York, the region will underscore the importance of acting with the greatest possible speed, in view of the impacts that we are feeling in each one of our countries,” said Chilean lawyer Andrés Pirazzoli, a former climate change delegate of Chile and an expert in international negotiations.

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, many of which are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, are calling for the adoption of global measures to curb global warming.

According to a 2014 World Bank report, “In Latin America and the Caribbean temperature and precipitation changes, heat extremes, and the melting of glaciers will have adverse effects on agricultural productivity, hydrological regimes, and biodiversity.”

Pirazzoli said this recognition of the threat posed by climate change in the region would be a bone of contention for the participating countries.

At the Paris Summit or COP 21 – the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the Chilean expert led the technical team of the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), made up of Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.

Pirazzoli said that “if there is one issue that has brought Latin America together, beyond internal ideological questions, it was the issue of vulnerability.”

“That will be a mantra for the region in the negotiations that will follow the signing of the agreement,” which will get underway again in Bonn in May, he added.

Friday’s ceremony is just the first piece in a puzzle that involves the 197 parties to the UNFCCC, in which each one will have to activate its mechanism to achieve ratification of the international agreement.

On Dec. 12, 2015, at the end of COP 21, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) and other dignitaries celebrated the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, to be signed this week in New York. Credit: United Nations

On Dec. 12, 2015, at the end of COP 21, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) and other dignitaries celebrated the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, to be signed this week in New York. Credit: United Nations

In order for the treaty to enter into effect, it must be signed by at least 55 parties accounting for a combined total of at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and this is to happen by 2020, according to what was agreed on at COP 21.

The countries agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century relative to pre-industrial levels to prevent “catastrophic and irreversible impacts”.

The agreement set guidelines for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, for addressing the negative impacts of global warming, and for financing, to be led by the countries of the industrialised North.

In the region, the process will vary from country to country, but “according to tradition in Latin America, normally these accords have to go through two houses of Congress, which makes the process more complex,” said Pirazzoli.

He pointed out that Mexico and Panama committed to ratifying the agreement this year.

The United Nations reported that the eight countries that will attend the agreement signing ceremony with their ratification instrument in hand are Barbados, Belize and St. Lucia – in this region – along with Fiji, the Maldives, Nauru, Samoa and Tuvalu.

“A story of power of vulnerable countries is beginning to emerge, and instead of coming as victims, they will use this ceremony to show that they want to be in the leadership,” said Costa Rican economist Mónica Araya, another former national climate change negotiator.

Araya heads the non-governmental organisation Nivela and is an adviser to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a self-defined “leadership group” within the UNFCCC negotiations, which assumes strong, progressive positions.

The economist said the confirmation of their participation in the New York ceremony by almost all of the countries in Latin America was one more sign that the region is waking up.

She concurred with Pirazzoli that Latin America’s leaders are finding points in common that enable them to overcome ideological barriers, at least in this field.

“We have seen new efforts, such as the summit of environment ministers in Cartagena, which set a precedent by creating a climate change action platform for the entire region,” said Araya, referring to the 20th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in late March in that Colombian city.

But she said that in order for international efforts to be effective, change must start at home. “Public opinion and the business community should be helped to understand that our parliaments will play a key role” in ratifying the agreement, she added.

Enrique Maurtua, climate change director with the Argentine NGO Environment and Natural Resources Foundation, and a veteran of the climate talks, agreed.

“The signing of the accord is only the second step, after reaching the agreement,” he said. “Without this, we can’t go on to the third, which is ratification – the most important step in order for the accord to go into effect.”

Maurtua said these global processes need to take root at a global level, by improving their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which nearly the entire region submitted last year, with the exception of Panama, which did so on Apr. 14, and Nicaragua, which said it would not do so.

Although they account for only a small proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions, the region’s countries pledged to reduce them in their INDCs – a numerous group with ambitious goals, including the two biggest economies in the region: Brazil and Mexico.

They also listed climate change adaptation actions, in several cases going beyond the minimum required.

Maurtua was upbeat with regard to the implementation of the Paris Agreement by 2020 and the 2016 negotiating process, which will begin in Bonn in May and will continue until COP 22 is held in Morocco.

“Latin America could very well be an example of the implementation of good practices for achieving sustainable development,” he said.

The absence of Ecuador and Nicaragua is in line with previous positions taken, where they have showed a reluctance to participate in multilateral processes.

After COP 21, Nicaragua said the Paris Agreement did not go far enough.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Focusing on Future of Food: What’s Next for Global Agricultural Research?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/focusing-on-future-of-food-whats-next-for-global-agricultural-research/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=focusing-on-future-of-food-whats-next-for-global-agricultural-research http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/focusing-on-future-of-food-whats-next-for-global-agricultural-research/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:27:53 +0000 Kwesi Atta-Krah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144562 Kwesi Atta-Krah is the Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics) – a program led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).]]>

Kwesi Atta-Krah is the Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics) – a program led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

By Kwesi Atta-Krah
JOHANNESBURG, Apr 11 2016 (IPS)

Food security scientists from around the globe gathered in Johannesburg last week with one objective: to work towards the transformation of agriculture as engine for growth in developing regions of the world. The gathering was also an opportunity to examine what farmers need to prosper in the face of social and environmental challenges.

Kwesi Atta-Krah

Kwesi Atta-Krah

The Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3) was the culmination of a two-year consultation process with national and regional stakeholders, and a chance to set a new agenda for today’s agricultural research, to ensure it meets the challenges of development for tomorrow.

A major theme running throughout the conference has been ensuring that “no one is left behind” in the unfolding agricultural revolution, and that research remains “future-focused”. We know that sudden shocks such as natural disasters and pest outbreaks can cripple agricultural production – just look at the impact El Niño-induced drought is having on farmers across southern Africa.

We therefore need to be investing in forward-thinking programs that will help communities prepare for such events. However this should not be just a case of researchers thinking for communities, but also of supporting communities to engage in the process of designing desired futures taking into account climate change and other scenarios.

In Africa alone, CGIAR’s global network of research centers is already working on a number of programs to make this happen. For example, a project is under way in Nigeria to map flooding patterns to guide decision-making on future flood response. It will also identify flood capture and storage solutions for flood-recession agriculture and dry-season farming.

Improving access to climate information is also going to be critical, to help farmers maintain their yields in the face of erratic weather patterns. In collaboration with AGRHYMET and the National Meteorological Services of several countries (such as Madagascar, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania), CGIAR is channelling climate information directly into farmers’ hands across Africa.

By combining traditional and scientific knowledge, locally specific forecasts are tailored to meet farmers’ needs and delivered via mobile phone and radio broadcasts. Farmers benefit from tailored information about what to plant, when to plant, when to fertilise and when to harvest, and are trained in how to interpret and apply the forecasts to their day-to-day farming.

Another overwhelmingly supported take away from the conference was the need to change our mindsets and recognise the yet untapped potential of youth for realising agricultural development, and also providing employment to themselves and others. Two dynamic young speakers (from the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) and Makolobane Farmers Enterprises) urged the audience to stop referring to youth as “leaders of tomorrow” and recognise their role as “leaders of today”.

When one stops to consider that Africa has some 200 million youth in need of employment, and Africa’s food and beverage markets have the potential to be worth US$1 trillion by 2030 – it is an obvious action point to equip young people with the skills they need to participate in this growing market.

Significant investment in training and equipment is required, to make local production, processing and marketing of these foods an attractive choice for young entrepreneurs. In her speech, the young Managing Director of Makolobane Farmers Enterprises, Dimakatso Sekhoto, highlighted the need for more young people to be able to access finance to support their businesses.

Building capacities of the youth in the area of business skills, entrepreneurship, leadership and personal development came across from a number of young people attending GCARD3 as essential support factors. For example, training to write business plans, so that young people are able to go to banks and ask for loans, backed up with the appropriate paperwork and planning, will be a critical step towards this.

It is encouraging that several initiatives are springing up aimed at supporting the “Youth in Agriculture” mission. Examples are the YPARD initiative being implemented by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), in various countries around the world. In 2012, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria, also launched the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) initiative.

The program is aimed at exposing young people to the opportunities inherent in agriculture for job creation and employment, and encouraging them to explore the various channels that are open to business in agriculture. These include areas such as the specialization and production of quality seeds; value addition through processing; fisheries and brood stock production; marketing and use of ICT in agribusiness.

At IITA, we are investing heavily in this kind of preparation for young “agripreneurs” to enter the market. The IYA initiative has now been replicated in five other countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia. Many more countries are on the horizon.

In DRC, for example, the IITA-Kalambo Youth Agripreneurs (IKYA), a group of young and enterprising graduates engaged in agribusiness, aim to build agribusiness enterprises for themselves and serve as a model to other youth. Formally launched in April 2014 as an offshoot of IYA, the group has a current membership of 32 young “Business Builders”, aged between 25-32 years old from different backgrounds.

The activities of the group cut across the value chains of different crops including cassava, maize, beans and soybeans. The group has engaged in different profitable agriculture business enterprises, including production and sales of agricultural commodities and vegetables, such as agro-processing of cassava and maize, production of high-quality maize flour and cassava flour and starch, as well as fisheries.

Aiming to increase their incomes, the young and enterprising members of IKYA have also increased their business opportunities by going into value-addition activities through the development and marketing of nutritious cassava-soybean agro-foods products, aimed at improving the nutritional diversity of household diets.

In addition to this type of program, several CGIAR centers now have business incubation platforms that develop efficient manufacturing methods that can be replicated by the private sector. One new business incubation hub in Uganda – Afri Banana Products Ltd – has nurtured 39 entrepreneurs; commercialized six technologies and helped generate employment for over 420 people.

New technologies are being tested, that reduce the drudgery of agro-processing and improve efficiency, such as a mechanical sheller that can shell 18 times more groundnuts in one hour than hand shelling, and processors that can turn cassava peels into high quality animal feed. The Business Incubation Platform (BIP) of IITA in Nigeria has set up mini plants for the production of key agricultural inputs, as models for private sector engagement.

A key product from the IITA BIP is aflasafeTM for addressing the problem of aflatoxin contamination in grain and other crops. The aflasafeTM plant produces up to 40 tons of aflasafeTM a day and the BIP’s main goal is to get interested parties to invest in plant construction and laboratories all over Africa.

The GCARD process is designed to make sure that the scientists working on solutions to feed the world are listening to the needs of farmers, and other stakeholders on the ground. The national consultations have given CGIAR research centers around the world a refreshed plan of action for the countries in which they work.

Priorities such as preparing for future risks and consciously leveraging the potential of youth to catalyse agribusiness are going to be two important steps paving the way through the next decade of agricultural research. We are excited to move forward with this new era, towards a world were healthy, sustainable diets are provided for all.

(End)

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Turning to Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/need-to-encourage-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-to-encourage-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/need-to-encourage-agriculture/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2016 05:45:44 +0000 Moyiga Nduru http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144529 A woman weeds a sesame crop field in South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria state. Credit: Charlton Doki/IPS

A woman weeds a sesame crop field in South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria state. Credit: Charlton Doki/IPS

By Moyiga Nduru
JUBA, South Sudan, Apr 8 2016 (IPS)

Facing an unprecedented economic crisis, South Sudan — the newest nation of the world — has urged its 12 million inhabitants to turn to agriculture instead of depending on declining oil revenues.

Before the fall of oil prices below $30 a barrel in the international market, oil-rich South Sudan used to import virtually all of its basic requirements from overseas.

Chicken came from Brazil. Tomatoes, onions, maize flour, cooking oil, dairy products and beans are still being imported from neighbouring Uganda. China and Dubai export a variety of goods such as soft drinks, smart phones as well as construction materials.

All of this is unsustainable and worries the government. South Sudan has ignored agriculture since it achieved its independence in July 2011. Up to 75 per cent of the country’s land area is suitable for farming.

“South Sudan has virgin land. Yet we import most of our food from neighbouring countries,” finance minister, David Deng Athorbei, complained during a meeting organised in the national capital Juba recently to address the deteriorating economic situation in the country.

Every year, South Sudan spends between US$200-300 million on food imports, according to estimates for 2013 provided by the Abidjan-based African Development Bank (AFDB).

“South Sudan currently imports as much as 50 per cent of its needs, including 40 per cent of its cereals from neighbouring countries, particularly Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia”, according to AFDB.

During the first two years of independence, the country was producing nearly 245,000 barrels of crude oil per day, raking in billions of dollars in revenue annually. As a result, the elite saw no value in labour-intensive activity like farming.

That is now changing. A drop in the oil output, a decline in global oil prices and the devastating conflict in South Sudan, as well as an acute scarcity of hard currency have triggered shortages of goods in the market.

South Sudan, which currently produces 165,000 barrel of crude oil per day, depends on oil revenue for nearly 98 per cent of the total government budget.

“We must diversify. We should not depend on one commodity — oil. We have gold in Kapoeta (on the border with Kenya). We have cattle,” said Gabriel Alak, a senior official of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) on a popular programme, Face the Nation, on the state-owned South Sudan Television recently.

Campaigners are now focusing on food production to mitigate the impact of a devastating conflict that erupted in Juba in December 2013. The violence spread quickly to oil-producing states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile.

The fighting has left hundreds of thousands of people in need of humanitarian assistance.

At the height of the oil boom, South Sudanese businesspeople had directed their energy toward trade, ignoring agriculture.

“The business of trade is over. We now need to embark on the business of production. We have to change our ways of doing business. Let’s start with agriculture,” Athorbei advised.

In April 2015, President Salva Kiir donated 1,000 tractors to farmers around the country. He also set up the country’s first food security council headed by himself.

“I am determined to end hunger and malnutrition in the Republic of South Sudan,” Kiir said during the launch of the tractors in Juba.

“We have vast fertile lands, abundant water and climate suitable for production of wide variety of food and cash crops but the country still faces enormous challenges which prevent it from realising its full potential,” he said.

“Experts estimate that up to 300,000 metric tonnes of fish could be harvested on a sustainable basis from its share at the River Nile swamps and tributaries,” Kiir disclosed.

South Sudan produces some food crops, but the food is rotting in the bush due to poor road network to transport the commodities to the market.

Athorbei said he would set aside some money in the financial year 2015/2016 to boost agriculture. He did not say how much he would allocate.

With South Sudan joining the East African Community (EAC) on 2 March 2016, Juba hopes to invite farmers across the region to till the country’s vast lands. “This will cut transport costs and reduce food prices,” vice-president James Wani Igga told a parliamentary caucus of the ruling SPLM in Juba on March 10, 2016.

EAC comprises Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and now South Sudan, with a combined population of more than 157 million.

As South Sudan works out plan to fix agriculture, prices have continued to spiral beyond the reach of the poor. The crisis has prompted parliament to urge government to reduce inflation to mitigate the sufferings of ordinary persons.

“There is urgent need to mobilise up to US $20 million for the importation of food commodities and medicines within a period of one month. The food commodities shall be sold through established consumer cooperative network,” the chairperson for the committee for economy, development and finance in parliament, Goc Makuach Mayol, said in a 14-page report on March 7, 2016.

The parliament has also called for a probe into a US$70 million, which was disbursed by an agency known as “financial auction” to commercial banks and forex bureaux with instructions by the central bank to allocate 50 per cent for importing food commodities, 30 per cent for industrial inputs and 20 per cent for school fees and medical treatment overseas.

The parliament did not indicate when the money was disbursed. But it has demanded for a record showing how the money was spent.

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Caribbean Biodiversity Overheated by Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/caribbean-biodiversity-overheated-by-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-biodiversity-overheated-by-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/caribbean-biodiversity-overheated-by-climate-change/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2016 22:44:12 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143651 A young man on the banks of lake Enriquillo on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which forms part of the Caribbean Biological Corridor created in 2007 by these two countries and Cuba with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

A young man on the banks of lake Enriquillo on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which forms part of the Caribbean Biological Corridor created in 2007 by these two countries and Cuba with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

By Ivet González
SANTO DOMINGO , Jan 20 2016 (IPS)

The nearly 7,000 islands and the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea are home to thousands of endemic species and are on the migration route of many kinds of birds. Preserving this abundant fauna requires multilateral actions in today’s era of global warming.

That is the goal of the Caribbean Biological Corridor (CBC), a project implemented by the governments of Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which was created in 2007 with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union with the aim of protecting biodiversity in the region.

“Puerto Rico should form part of the corridor in 2016,” Cuban biologist Freddy Rodríguez, who is taking part in the initiative, told IPS.

In late 2015 Puerto Rico, a free associated state of the United States, presented an official letter asking to join the sustainable conservation project, whose executive secretariat is located in the Dominican Republic on the border with Haiti.

“The admission of new partners, which has been encouraged from the start, is a question of time,” said Rodríguez. “Several countries have taken part as observers since the beginning.”

He said the Bahamas, Dominica, Jamaica and Martinique are observer countries that have expressed an interest in joining the corridor.

The Caribbean region is already prone to high temperatures, because the wind and ocean currents turn the area into a kind of cauldron that concentrates heat year-round, according to scientific sources.

And the situation will only get worse due to the temperature rise predicted as a result of climate change, a phenomenon caused by human activity which has triggered extreme weather events and other changes.

The extraordinary biodiversity of the Caribbean is increasingly at risk from this global phenomenon, which has modified growing and blooming seasons, migration patterns, and even species distribution.

Meanwhile, the biological corridor is one demonstration of the growing efforts of small Caribbean island nations to preserve their unique natural heritage.

A flock of birds flies over a coastal neighbourhood of Havana, Cuba. The Caribbean Biological Corridor is on the migration route for many species of birds, and its conservation requires multilateral actions in today’s era of global warming. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A flock of birds flies over a coastal neighbourhood of Havana, Cuba. The Caribbean Biological Corridor is on the migration route for many species of birds, and its conservation requires multilateral actions in today’s era of global warming. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

It also reflects the long road still ahead to regional integration in the area of conservation.

The 1,600-km CBC includes the Jaragua-Bahoruca-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve and Cordillera Central mountains, in the Dominican Republic; the Chaîne de la Selle mountain range, Lake Azuéi, Fore et Pins, La Visite and the Massif du Nord mountains – all protected areas in Haiti; and the Sierra Maestra and Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa mountain ranges in Cuba.

Tips on the insular Caribbean’s biodiversity

- The region has 703 threatened species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

- It provides wintering and nursery grounds for many North Atlantic migratory species, including the great North Atlantic humpback whale, which breeds in the north of the Caribbean.

- Several parts of the Caribbean are stopping points for millions of migratory birds flying between North and South America.

- The population of the Caribbean depends on the wealth of fragile natural areas for a variety of benefits, such as disaster risk prevention, availability of fresh water and revenue from tourism.

Studies carried out by researchers involved in the biological corridor have documented damage caused to nature by extreme events like Hurricane Sandy, which hit eastern Cuba in 2012, and the severe drought of 2015, which affected the entire Caribbean region.

Rodríguez said they have carried out more than 60 training sessions, involving local communities as well as government officials from the three countries, with the participation of guests from other Caribbean nations.

And they have a web site, which compiles the results of studies, bulletins, a database and maps of the biological corridor.

“Other people and institutions say the CBC’s biggest contribution has been to create a platform for collaboration with regard to the environment, which did not exist previously in the insular Caribbean. This has created the possibility for the environment ministers to meet every year to review the progress made as well as pending issues,” Rodríguez said.

“We are trying to grow in terms of South-South collaboration,” he said.

The insular Caribbean is a multicultural, multi-racial region where people speak Spanish, English, Dutch, French and creoles. It is made up of 13 independent island nations and 19 French, Dutch, British and U.S. overseas territories.

These differences, along with the heavy burden of under-development, are hurdles to the conservation of the natural areas in the Caribbean, which is one of the world’s greatest centres of unique biodiversity, due to the high number of endemic species.

Experts report that for every 100 square kilometres, there are 23.5 plants that can only be found in the Antilles, an archipelago bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and west, the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and east.

The project is focusing on an area of 234,124 square km of greatest biodiversity, home to a number of unique reptile, bird and amphibian species.

View of the Caribbean Sea in the Dominican Republic near the border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, which the two countries share. The roughly 7,000 Caribbean islands are home to thousands of endemic species, whose preservation is complicated by climate change. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

View of the Caribbean Sea in the Dominican Republic near the border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, which the two countries share. The roughly 7,000 Caribbean islands are home to thousands of endemic species, whose preservation is complicated by climate change. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

The CBC’s 2016-2020 development plan also involves continued research on climate change, and aims to expand to marine ecosystems.

The four million square km of ocean around the Antilles are “the heart of Atlantic marine diversity,” according to a report by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

The region contains 25 coral genera, 117 sponges, 633 mollusks, more than 1,400 fishes, 76 sharks, 45 shrimp, 30 cetaceans and 23 species of seabirds.

The area also contains some 10,000 square km of reef, 22,000 square km of mangroves, and as much as 33,000 square km of seagrass beds.

“As a Dominican, I didn’t have that much experience and I hadn’t heard about the Caribbean environment,” business administration student Manuel Antonio Feliz, who has taken CBC courses, told IPS. “The trainings have opened my eyes to the natural riches of our islands.”

“We talk more about the polar bear and the loss of its habitat at the North Pole than about a little local frog or solenodon (one of the rarest mammals on earth, native to the Antilles),” Cuban researcher Nicasio Viña said in a conference for a group of journalists in the capital of the Dominican Republic, which IPS took part in. “The people of the Caribbean, we don’t know what treasures we have in our hands.”

Viña, director of the CBC executive secretariat, explained that initiatives like the biological corridor require at least 30 years of work to solidify.

He called for “thinking about conservation systems, due to the extraordinary influence and responsibility that we human beings have with regard to biodiversity in the Caribbean, because of what we have done, and climate change.”

The corridor has a centre of plant propagation in each one of the member countries, where seedlings of native species are grown to reforest the areas that are benefiting from pilot projects.

The pilot projects are aimed at helping Dominican, Haitian and Cuban communities to find environmentally-friendly sources of income, besides restoring degraded environments.

So far they are being implemented in the Cuban settlements of Sigua in Santiago de Cuba and the Baitiquirí Ecological Reserve in Guantánamo; the communities of Pedro Santana, Paraje Los Rinconcitos and Guayabo, in the Dominican province of Elías Piña; and in the Haitian towns of Dosmond and La Gonave.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Not Yet Curtains for BRICshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/not-yet-curtains-for-brics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-yet-curtains-for-brics http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/not-yet-curtains-for-brics/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:50:16 +0000 N Chandra Mohan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143102

Chandra Mohan is an economics and business commentator.

By N Chandra Mohan
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 2015 (IPS)

With Goldman Sachs folding up its haemorrhaging BRIC fund, is it curtains for the acronym that defined the investment bankers’ fancy for emerging markets? It certainly appears so after China’s stock market crash and a fast slowing economy triggered fears that the dragon will set off the next global recession.

N Chandra Mohan

N Chandra Mohan

Brazil’s economy is experiencing its deepest recession in 25 years. Russia, too, is contracting due to the crash in oil prices and sanctions. India remains a haven of stability. South Africa’s growth is sluggish with very high unemployment. Against this dismal backdrop, what are the prospects of BRICs playing a vital role in the world economy?

Fourteen years ago, BRICs was very much an idea whose time had come. Goldman Sachs projected them as the future growth engines of the world economy. This acronym soon became a self-fulfilling buzz word with a life of its own. A focus on these leading emerging economies, especially since 2006, provided handsome returns that peaked five years ago. Since 2010, however, BRIC Fund assets plunged from $842 million to $98 million in end-September 2015 according to Bloomberg. With no hope for “significant asset growth” in the near future, Goldman Sachs threw in the towel on October 23, the last trading day for this fund.

These financials clearly reflect the fast-deteriorating growth prospects of the BRIC economies. They were expected to overtake the US in size by 2015. But this isn’t likely to happen. A decelerating Chinese economy, in fact, threatens the first global recession in 50 years without help from the US, says a rival investment bank. Russia and Brazil are doing much worse as they are highly dependent on commodity exports to drive their growth. As China is the biggest importer of oil, iron ore and other raw materials, this is bad news for their commodity-driven prospects. Only India’s track record is creditable as the fastest growing economy in the world.

Such concerns can only make this grouping – which globally accounts for one-fifths of GDP, 42 per cent of population, 17.3 per cent of trade, 41 per cent of forex reserves and 45 per cent of agricultural production – less cohesive to have geo-economic significance in the world economy. Analysts consider the BRICs to represent an alliance of middle -sized economies that could lead to a serious attempt to counter-balance the US, the most powerful economy in the world. This is far from obvious except, perhaps for Russia, that has faced the full brunt of US-led sanctions due to its intervention in Ukraine. This is less true of India that is deepening its relations with the US.

But the BRICs are far from happy with the US-led global financial architecture. A striking feature of all the seven statements issued at BRIC summits from 2009 to 2015 is that this grouping aims to promote peace, security, prosperity and development in a multi-polar, equitable and democratic world order. The grouping seeks a greater voice and participation in institutions of global governance like the IMF, World Bank, WTO and UN. The Durban summit in 2013, for instance, indicated that the WTO required a new leader who demonstrated a commitment to multilateralism and that he or she should be a representative of a developing country.

The formation of a New Development Bank (NDB) is in fact a concrete expression of the desire of BRICs to set up its own alternative to the US-led World Bank and IMF. NDB President KV Kamath has indicated that the bank would blaze a different trail than the Bretton Woods twins who impose an unacceptable conditionality on their loan assistance. In sharp contrast, the NDB is expected to place a greater priority on borrowers’ interests instead of the lender’s interests; that it would better reflect the expectations and aspirations of developing countries. BRICs, however, are not keen to position the NDB as a rival to the World Bank or IMF.

At a BRICs meeting ahead of the recent G-20 summit in Turkey, India’s PM Narendra Modi stated that India will guide the NDB to finance inclusive and responsive needs of emerging economies. India will assume the chairmanship of BRICs in February 2016 and the theme of its chairmanship will be Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions – the acronym lives on! PM Modi added for good measure that there was a time when the logic of BRICs and its lasting capacity were being questioned. But group members have provided ample proof of its relevance and value through action at a time of huge global challenges.

The good news is that the BRICs are cooperating and competing with one another for a place under the global sun. The seven summits from St Petersburg to Ufa testify to this. BRICs are the new growth drivers for low-income countries, especially in Africa, considering the growing importance of their trade and foreign direct investments in such economies. The BRICs may be passing through troubled times, but they do constitute a major consumer market. Incomes have grown as more and more people have joined the ranks of the middle class, resulting in greater demand for oil, cars and commodities in leading member countries like China and India.

But the grouping must seriously address the serious challenges of kick-starting its pace of expansion to power global growth as before. The BRICs may not be yielding returns to investment banks but they are in no immediate danger of fading into the sunset. Member countries after all take it seriously enough to set up a potential rival to the World Bank and IMF dominated by the US and Europe. Even if its creator has pulled the plug on the BRIC fund, the acronym will remain relevant in the future as well. Its resilience only exemplifies the profound truth of what the famous economist John Maynard Keynes stated long ago that the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else!

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Private Nature Reserves in Latin America Seek a Bigger Rolehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/private-nature-reserves-in-latin-america-seek-a-bigger-role/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=private-nature-reserves-in-latin-america-seek-a-bigger-role http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/private-nature-reserves-in-latin-america-seek-a-bigger-role/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 14:27:09 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143070 The Punta Leona private reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where the owners voluntarily protect biological diversity and use a small part of the property for ecotourism. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

The Punta Leona private reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where the owners voluntarily protect biological diversity and use a small part of the property for ecotourism. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
PUNTA LEONA, Costa Rica , Nov 20 2015 (IPS)

Private voluntary nature reserves in Latin America should be seen as allies in policies on the environment, climate change mitigation and the preservation of biological diversity in rainforests, say experts.

“Private reserves in Latin America are not included in conservation policies; they should be integrated in our national strategies,” said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, vice-president of conservation policies in Conservation International (CI) in Costa Rica.

Rodríguez, a former Costa Rican minister of environment, energy and mines (2002–2006), was addressing 150 environmentalists, promoters of voluntary conservation agreements, and ecotourism business owners, during the 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves, held Nov. 9-13 in the Punta Leona private nature reserve and tourism destination.

In his view, the private sector should play a more central role and governments and the owners of private nature reserves should work together to achieve compliance with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted in Nagoya, Japan in 2010.

During the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, 193 United Nations members established 20 targets to fight the loss of biodiversity, with a 2020 deadline.

“We are losing our natural capital due to climate change and the big gap between private and public conservation,” said Rodríguez. “The owners of private reserves should become political actors, to help meet the Aichi Targets.”

The global cost of financing efforts towards the targets is estimated at 150 to 440 billion dollars a year, according to figures from the Convention itself. But currently, CI says, the world is only channeling 45 billion dollars towards that end.

Rodríguez says private conservation efforts could help mitigate the shortfall in funds.

With that aim, the Latin American Alliance of Private Reserves was formally created Nov. 6 – the first of its kind in the world. It groups 4,345 private reserves in 15 countries, with a combined total of 5,648,000 hectares of green areas.

The 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves held No. 9-13 in the Punta Leona nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

The 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves held No. 9-13 in the Punta Leona nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

“The idea is to form a conservation chain,” Martin Keller of Guatemala, the president of the new alliance, told IPS. “Private areas can form a chain with national parks and expand national conservation systems. They are also a mechanism to absorb drastic climate changes.”

He argues that there should be no borders for private reserves in the region. “We are joining together in something magnificent, and formalising associations with international institutions so that they include us in environmental projects,” he said.

During the congress in Costa Rica, a pilot programme to encourage the sale of carbon credits was announced, with the donation of 200 hectares of land by a member of the Alliance. The programme will have an estimated 3,600 tonnes of carbon.

Keller hopes Latin America will begin to sell carbon as a bloc, starting in 2017.

“We have dreams and a passion for conserving nature,” the president of the Costa Rican Network of Nature Reserves, Rafael Gallo, who is donating the 200 hectares for the pilot plan, told IPS. “We want the sale of carbon to be a mechanism for private conservation at a global level.”

Gallo has an 800-hectare property on the Banks of the Pacuare River along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Of that total, 700 hectares are a forest reserve. It is located in Siquirres, 85 km east of San José, near the Barbilla National Park, which forms part of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve.

“The market is still just getting off the ground, a ton of carbon is worth three dollars,” said Gallo, who believes the mechanism will become viable when the price of a ton reaches 10 dollars.

The countries in the Alliance are Argentina, Belize, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. Uruguay and Venezuela also have private reserves, but they have not yet set up local networks – a necessary step before they can join.

Keller said he hopes the initiative will expand to the entire hemisphere, including the Caribbean island nations, Canada and the United States.

Private reserves in the northern Costa Rican province of Heredia. A pilot project for carbon credits will be carried out on one such reserve, thanks to a donation of 200 hectares of land by its owner. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Private reserves in the northern Costa Rican province of Heredia. A pilot project for carbon credits will be carried out on one such reserve, thanks to a donation of 200 hectares of land by its owner. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Private reserves would like to benefit from multilateral institution programmes, and with that in mind they have made contact with U.N. partners involved in one way or another with conservation issues, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

“We want to be a regional bloc, we want to be heard at an international level, and we want incentives for property owners to continue joining forces to support conservation – because we would have a massive impact as a bloc,” Claudia García de Bonilla, executive director of the Association of Private Natural Reserves of Guatemala, told IPS.

Voluntary conservation areas are set up by ecotourism businesses, academic institutions, research bodies, or organic agricultural producers, and their advocates see them as green shields against climate extremes and the loss of biodiversity.

“Forests are a sponge, absorbing storms and hurricanes. We have to keep expanding our ecological corridors,” Bonilla said.

The representative of private green areas in Chile, Mauricio Moreno, underscored benefits that nature reserves belonging to individuals or private bodies can offer a global vision of conservation.

“These areas are refuges protected with a great deal of goodwill and effort,” he told IPS. “They complement the public networks. There are reserves that border natural parks and thus create much bigger areas that make it possible to conserve species of animals. With a public and private effort, integral conservation is possible.”

According to Ariane Claussen, an engineer in renewable natural resources at the University of Chile, the budget assigned to public protected areas in the region is insufficient, which makes it difficult for countries to have the capacity to act on their own in the preservation of biodiversity.

“Rather than seeing private reserves as independent, they should be seen in an integrated manner,” she told IPS. “If these people didn’t decide to practice conservation, they would be using that land in different ways, for unsustainable monoculture or stockbreeding.”

She said “the property owners dedicate a small portion of this land to (economic) development like tourism, because they need an income.”

Claussen, along with another Chilean colleague, Tomás González, stressed the Latin American initiative Huella, aimed at voluntary cooperation in technical planning for conservation, environmental education and ecological activism in the region.

Private reserves cover gaps left by the state, she said. “The idea is that they take part in conservation as buffer zones and link up the ecosystems of public protected areas that are isolated and fragmented,” she explained.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Latin American Legislators Find New Paths to Fight Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/latin-american-legislators-find-new-paths-to-fight-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-legislators-find-new-paths-to-fight-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/latin-american-legislators-find-new-paths-to-fight-hunger/#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2015 22:40:02 +0000 Aramis Castro and Milagros Salazar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143061 Peruvian lawmaker Jaime Delgado reads out the final declaration of the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Lima. From left to right: John Preissing, FAO representative in Peru; Ecuadorean lawmaker María Augusta Calle; and Uruguayan legislator Bertha Sanseverino, with other participants in the meeting. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

Peruvian lawmaker Jaime Delgado reads out the final declaration of the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Lima. From left to right: John Preissing, FAO representative in Peru; Ecuadorean lawmaker María Augusta Calle; and Uruguayan legislator Bertha Sanseverino, with other participants in the meeting. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

By Aramis Castro and Milagros Salazar
LIMA, Nov 19 2015 (IPS)

With eight specific commitments aimed at pushing through laws and policies on food security and sovereignty, family farming and school feeding programmes, legislators from 17 countries closed the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean.

During the Nov. 15-17 Forum in the Peruvian capital, the delegates of the national chapters of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger (PFH) reasserted their determination to promote laws to “break the circle of poverty and enforce the right to food” in the region.

The more than 60 legislators who took part in the Forum, including guests from Africa and Asia, stated in the final declaration that of all of the world’s regions, Latin America and the Caribbean had made the greatest progress in reducing hunger, cutting the proportion of hungry people by more than half, in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which had a 2015 deadline. “After six years of debate, we understand the concept of food sovereignty to mean eliminating injustice to preserve the environment and biodiversity.” -- María Augusta Calle

But after stressing these results, John Preissing, representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Peru, called on the legislators not to be content “with averages” that hide inequalities between and within countries.

He also stressed that “it will be much more difficult” for the region to reduce the proportion of hungry people to two or three percent, than what they already managed to do: to cut the percentage from 32 to seven percent.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, some 37 million of the region’s 600 million people are still hungry, of a total of 795 million hungry people around the world, the Forum participants were told.

The final declaration emphasised that it is essential that the PFH work together with the governments of each country to create programmes and pass laws aimed at eradicating hunger, and to promote the three main areas for doing so: food security and sovereignty, family farming, and school feeding.

To advance in these three complementary areas, eight specific accords were reached, including the need for PFH legislators to participate in the debate on public budget funds, in order to guarantee that governments finance programmes against hunger.

The final declaration included the conclusions of the working groups on these three central themes, where one of the key issues was the importance of promoting public policies to benefit small farmers.

In another agreement, the lawmakers committed themselves to backing a new concept of food sovereignty.

“After six years of debate, we understand the concept of food sovereignty to mean eliminating injustice to preserve the environment and biodiversity,” Ecuadorean lawmaker María Augusta Calle, who the Forum ratified in her post as regional coordinator of the PFH, told IPS.

Members of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean sign the final declaration of the Sixth Forum at the end of the Nov. 15-17 gathering in Lima, Peru. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

Members of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean sign the final declaration of the Sixth Forum at the end of the Nov. 15-17 gathering in Lima, Peru. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

The next step, according to Calle, is to deliver the accords – especially the ones linked to food sovereignty – to the heads of state and government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), during the summit to be held in January 2016 in Ecuador.

“They asked us to draw up the concept of food sovereignty that has been debated here,” said Calle.

The parliamentarians also agreed to support CELAC’s plan for its member countries to reach the goal of “zero hunger” by 2025 – five years before the deadline established by the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by the international community in September.

Uruguayan legislator Bertha Sanseverino, the subregional coordinator of the PFH in South America, told IPS that the Forum established long-term commitments to “eradicate hunger by 2025” in the region.

She said that meeting this goal will require “a complex effort to design public policies and laws.”

One hurdle standing in the way of the many initiatives launched by the PFH national chapters, said Sanseverino, is the inevitable and democratic renewal of parliament. “Sometimes they have a good Parliamentary Front, but those legislators serve out their terms, and the following year you come up against the need to put the Front together again,” she said.

The FAO’s Preissing said eradicating hunger in the region is “an uphill task….But we can do it, there is evidence here, there are commitments,” he added optimistically.

The Forum expressed its support for small-scale community agriculture, as well as traditional knowledge and practices of Latin America’s indigenous peoples, as instruments of healthy, diverse diets.

It also warned about a food-related problem that is new in the region, and has begun to affect the population of Latin America – the junk food craze, which is bringing problems that did not previously exist, like widespread obesity.

Before the Sixth Forum came to an end, all of the participants sent a communiqué to the president of the host country, Ollanta Humala, urging him to approve the regulations for the bill on the promotion of healthy eating, which was signed into law in May 2013, and whose implementation has been blocked by his failure to do so.

“This law has been a pioneer in Latin America, and they (the participants in the Forum) are surprised that since we were pioneers, the law has not been codified,” the coordinator of the Peruvian chapter of the PFH, Jaime Delgado, told IPS, pointing out that the law had served as a model for countries like Ecuador.

He added that the PFH is trying to make sure that the 2016 budget about to be approved includes funds earmarked for the fight against poverty, while he complained that “there are programmes that do not benefit small farmers,” who are the main link in the country’s food security chain.

Next year, the members of the regional front will meet in Mexico, in a new edition of the parliamentary forum.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Latin America to Push for Food Security Laws as a Blochttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/latin-america-to-push-for-food-security-laws-as-a-bloc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-to-push-for-food-security-laws-as-a-bloc http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/latin-america-to-push-for-food-security-laws-as-a-bloc/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 21:41:22 +0000 Milagros Salazar and Aramis Castro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143030 A panel in the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, held Nov. 15-17. Second from the right is indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who represented rural communities in the Forum. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

A panel in the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, held Nov. 15-17. Second from the right is indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who represented rural communities in the Forum. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

By Milagros Salazar and Aramis Castro
LIMA, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

Lawmakers in the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean decided at a regional meeting to work as a bloc for the passage of laws on food security – an area in which countries in the region have show uneven progress.

The Nov. 15-17 Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger (PFH) in Lima, Peru drew more than 60 legislators from 17 countries in the region and guest delegations from parliaments in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The coordinator of the regional Front, Ecuadorean legislator María Augusta Calle, told IPS that the challenge is to “harmonise” the region’s laws to combat poverty and hunger in the world’s most unequal region.

Calle added that a number of laws on food security and sovereignty have been passed in Latin America, and the challenge now is to standardise the legislation in all of the countries participating in the PFH to strengthen policies that bolster family farming.“We have reduced hunger by 50 percent (since 1990), but this is still insufficient. We cannot continue to live in a world where food is a business and not a right. It cannot be possible that 80 percent of those who produce the food themselves suffer from hunger.” -- María Augusta Calle

In Latin America, 81 percent of domestically consumed food products come from small farmers, who guarantee food security in the region, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which has advised the PFH since its creation in 2009.

Twelve of the 17 Latin American countries participating in the PFH already have food security and sovereignty laws, Calle said. But it has not been an easy task, she added, pointing out that several of the laws were approved only after long delays.

During the inauguration of the Sixth Forum, she said the region has reduced hunger “by 50 percent (since 1990), but this is still insufficient. We cannot continue to live in a world where food is a business and not a right. It cannot be possible that 80 percent of those who produce the food themselves suffer from hunger.”

The fight against hunger is an uphill task, and the forum’s host country is a clear illustration of this.

In Peru, the draft law on food security was only approved by Congress on Nov. 12, after two years of debate. The legislature finally reacted, just three days before the Sixth Forum began in the country’s capital. But the bill still has to be signed into law and codified by the executive branch, in order to be put into effect.

“How can it be possible for a government to put forth objections to a law on food security?” Peruvian Vice President Marisol Espinoza asked during the opening of the Sixth Forum.

Espinoza, who left the governing Peruvian Nationalist Party in October, took the place of President Ollanta Humala, who had been invited to inaugurate the Sixth Forum.

Display of native varieties of potatoes at a food fair during the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. Defending native products forms part of the right to food promoted by the legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

Display of native varieties of potatoes at a food fair during the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. Defending native products forms part of the right to food promoted by the legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

The coordinator of the Peruvian chapter of the PFH, Jaime Delgado, told IPS that he hopes the government will sign the new food security bill into law without setting forth observations.

Indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who took part in the Sixth Forum in representation of rural communities in Peru, said the government should pass laws to protect peasant farmers because they are paid very little for their crops, even though they supply the markets in the cities.

“What the government has to do is regulate this, for the citizens,” Buendía, who belongs to the Asháninka people, told IPS. “Why do we have a government that is not going to defend us? As we say in our community: ‘why do I have a father (the government)?’ If they want investment, ok, but they have to regulate.”

Another controversial question in the case of Peru is the more than two-year delay in the codification and implementation of the law on healthy food for children and adolescents, passed in May 2013, which requires that companies that produce food targeting this age group accurately label the ingredients.

Congressman Delgado said food companies are lobbying against the law, which cannot be put into effect until it is codified.

“It would be pathetic if after so much sacrifice to get this law passed, the government failed to codify it because of the pressure from business interests,” said Delgado.

He said that in Peru, over 200 million dollars are invested in advertising for junk food every year, according to a 2012 study by the Radio and Television Consultative Council.

Calle, from Ecuador, said the members of the PFH decided to call for the entrance into effect of the Peruvian law, in the Sixth Forum’s final declaration.

“The 17 countries (that belong to the PFH) are determined to see the law on healthy food codified in Peru. We believe it is indispensable. It is a wonderful law,” said the legislator.

Peasant farmers from the Andes highlands dancing during one of the opening acts at the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. More than 80 percent of the food consumed in the region is produced by small farmers, while the same percentage of hungry people are paradoxically found in rural areas. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

Peasant farmers from the Andes highlands dancing during one of the opening acts at the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. More than 80 percent of the food consumed in the region is produced by small farmers, while the same percentage of hungry people are paradoxically found in rural areas. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

She explained that in her country food and beverage companies have been required to use labels showing the ingredients, despite the opposition from the business sector.

“In Ecuador we have had a fabulous experience (regarding labels for junk food) which we would like businesses here in Peru to understand and not be afraid of,” Calle said.

The regional coordinator of the PFH said that to address the problem of food being seen as business rather than a right, “we need governments and parliaments committed to the public, rather than to transnational corporations.”

Another country that has made progress is Brazil, where laws in favour of the right to food include one that requires that at least 30 percent of the food that goes into school meals is purchased from local small farmers, Nazareno Fonseca, a member of the PFH regional consultative council, told IPS.

Calle said Brazil’s efforts to boost food security, in the context of its “Zero Hunger” programme, marked a watershed in Latin America.

The PFH regional coordinator noted that the person responsible for implementing the programme in the crucial first two years (2003-2004) as extraordinary food security minister was José Graziano da Silva, director general of FAO since 2011.

Spanish Senator José Miguel Camacho said it is important for legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean to act as a bloc because “there is still a long way to go, but these forums contribute to that goal.”

The commitments in the Sixth Forum’s final declaration will focus on three main areas: food security, where the PFH is working on a single unified framework law; school feeding; and efforts to fight overnutrition, obesity and junk food.

Peru’s health minister, Aníbal Velásquez, said the hope is that “the commitments approved at the Sixth Forum will translate into laws.”

And the president of the Peruvian Congress, Luis Iberico, said people did not enjoy true citizenship if basic rights were not guaranteed and hunger and poverty still existed.

The indigenous leader Buendía, for her part, asked the PFH legislators for a greater presence of the authorities in rural areas, in order for political declarations to produce tangible results.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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