Inter Press Service » Extra TVUN Turning the World Downside Up Thu, 23 Oct 2014 00:50:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 U.N. Chief Condemns Expulsion of Human Rights Director from DRC Tue, 21 Oct 2014 09:46:54 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands By Lyndal Rowlands

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the decision of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to expel the Director of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), Scott Campbell from the country.

Campbell was given 48 hours notice to leave the DRC last Thursday, one day after his office released a report detailing human rights violations by Congolese security forces that took place between November 2013 and February 2014 in Operation “Likofi”. Campbell departed on Friday 17 October.

The UNJHRO said the report detailed serious violations of human rights, including summary and extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, committed against civilians.

UNJHRO researchers found that at least nine civilians had been killed and that there had been at least 32 enforced disappearances of civilians at the hands of the Congolese national Police (PNC), however the office said that the actual numbers could be much higher.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Secretary-General expressed his full confidence in Campbell: “The Congolese people have suffered grave human rights violations, which the Joint Office has, over the years, helped to document as it seeks to promote and protect their rights, while strengthening justice and accountability”, he said.

“Respect for human rights is absolutely essential for long-term peace and stability in the DRC,” Ban added.

Human Rights Watch 2014 World Report describes how serious human rights violations have continued in the DRC.

“Armed conflict continued in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with Congolese security forces and non-state armed groups responsible for serious abuses against civilians.”

“In Kinshasa and elsewhere, government authorities have sought to silence dissent with threats, violence, and arbitrary arrests against human rights activists, journalists, and opposition political party leaders and supporters who were critical of government officials or participated in anti-government demonstrations”, the report said.

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Lack of Resources Hindering U.N. Efforts to Investigate Torture in Detention Tue, 21 Oct 2014 09:39:48 +0000 Roger Hamilton-Martin By Roger Hamilton-Martin

The United Nations is unable to effectively assess the state of violations in detention centres around the world due to a lack of resources, said Malcolm Evans, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT).

The Committee was only able to conduct three full visits to assess detention centres during 2013 due to lack of logistical and financial support from an underfunded U.N. Human Rights Office, which supports the SPT’s work.

“The Committee is unlike some other committees within the U.N. system. We have a right to go into places of detention in any of the 74 States Parties to the Convention (Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture) to investigate.

At the moment we are only able to go into three or four per year. At this pace, States will receive a full regular visit only once in 25 years.”

We need more staff support within the Office of the High Commission – It’s intensely frustrating that we aren’t able to use the power at our disposal because of a want for money and logistics.”

After presenting the SPT’s annual report to the General Assembly, the Chairperson spoke about a recent visit to Azerbaijan, which had to be suspended halfway through; noting plans to take “appropriate follow-up action.”

“For the first time, we found it necessary to suspend one of our full visits, to Azerbaijan, due to repeated problems in securing immediate and unimpeded access to places of detention,” Evans said.

Chairperson of the U.N. Committee against torture Claudio Grossman spoke out on protection for human rights abuse whistleblowers , saying, “People who send comments to the committee cannot be the object of reprisal. We are calling for zero tolerance for reprisals against human rights defenders.”

With the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention against Torture coming up on November 4th, Grossman emphasised the importance of States complying with the obligations set out in the Convention.

Evans and Grossman were accompanied by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, who reiterated his frustration at not being permitted appropriate access to assess the situation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

“When I became Special Rapporteur, I renewed the request (to visit Guantanamo) – but the response was that I would not be able to talk to any inmates there with or without supervision, so I unfortunately had to decline the invitation. I asked them to review the conditions. I am insisting on being invited to Guantanamo.”

Mendez also expressed his desire to visit other detention centres both in Cuba and in the United States.

“My visits to facilities in the United States are pending, and have been pending for quite a long time I am sorry to say… I have insisted on being invited to Cuba, but have not received an invitation.”

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Ebola Drugs Safety Tests Raise Ethical Issues Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:29:05 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Oct 20 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Can you test a promising new Ebola drug by giving it to one sample infected group and giving a deactivated placebo to another?

That’s the issue dividing medical experts at a World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting this week in Geneva.

“Is that even ethical? Will workers amid an epidemic be willing to consider getting a placebo? Which villages won’t get the active vaccine?

“Will the bad roads and overwhelmed medical systems even allow for such a study?” – were among the questions posed in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

A rigorous vaccine study that would cover anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 subjects would be challenging to say the least in the three affected West African countries.

The issue has moved to the front burner since a drug developed in the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center has been proven to block Ebola.

“(We) have generated, for the first time, “durable protection against a lethal Ebola virus challenge,” the NIH scientists reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

But the next step – a clinical study in the region – presents daunting hurdles. The vaccine needs to be kept at the temperature of dry ice.

That means a minus 80-degree centigrade freezer in a part of the world with a spotty power system, notes WSJ reporter Thomas M. Burtos.

Reaching treatment centers from congested Monrovia to the rural countryside could take days. Finally, health care workers might object to taking part in a test if only half of them are getting the actual drug as opposed to the placebo.

Meanwhile, in an unusual turn from its frequently negative Cuba reporting, the New York Times this week sang high praises for the “impressive role” of Cuba in sending close to 500 medical professionals to Sierra Leone.

“Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus,” wrote the paper of record in its leading editorial. “While the United States and several other wealthy countries have been happy to pledge funds, only Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.”

Calling it “a shame” that Washington is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the editorial adds that “the schism has life-or-death consequences.

”It was an urgent reminder, they wrote, of the need “to move swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba… as the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.”

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Ebola Epidemic Deeply Distressing for Children, Warns UNICEF Sat, 18 Oct 2014 09:43:19 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands By Lyndal Rowlands

Ebola will undoubtedly leave a deeply distressed generation of children, said Sarah Crowe, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Crisis Communications Chief.

Crowe, who has just returned from Liberia, described how Ebola had turned the lives of children and adults upside down.

Addressing reporters at the U.N. press briefing last week, she said children are no longer attending school and have even been banned from playing sport because it could increase the likelihood of spreading the disease.

Many children are frustrated that school has stopped, asking, “When is Ebola going to leave Liberia because I want to go back.”

School buildings are instead being used as makeshift quarantine centres showing the extreme measures needed to address the spread of the disease.

UNICEF has begun piloting radio schooling to try to help children continue their education, but it will take time to develop a curriculum and re-train teachers in this mode of teaching.

Many children are also at risk of becoming isolated from their families and communities because of the disease, said Crowe.

Some children had become separated from their parents in the “the chaos of being admitted into an ebola treatment centre,” while children whose parents had died or who themselves had survived ebola were shunned by their extended families and communities.

Crowe spoke of child-headed households including Miyata, a 15 year-old girl who was living under a tree with her brothers and sisters because they had been chased out of their village.

These children are being cared for at interim care centres by a network of survivors, who have immunity, and can provide the loving care and attention that a small child needs.

Six hundred of the children have also now been reunited orphans with their family members, showing that it is possible for aid agencies to address the stigma that is putting vulnerable members of the community at risk.

Crowe said that UNICEF was also working with survivors, “It is important to remember that nearly half do (survive).”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Thursday the lack of funds in the United Nations Ebola trust fund was “a very serious problem.” The fund was reported this week as having fallen to 100,000 dollars.

“We need at least a 20-fold surge in assistance”, Ban told a panel on the elimination of poverty at the United Nations Friday.

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Women’s Leadership Central to Poverty Eradication Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:55:19 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands By Lyndal Rowlands

The twenty-first century will be the century for ending inequality, patriarchy and discrimination against women once and for all, Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women said Thursday.

Speaking on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Puri added that the gender equality and poverty eradication goals in the post-2015 development agenda were central to addressing these issues.

“We very much fervently hope that member states will safe guard this, and strengthen it and consolidate the gains that are represented for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda“, she said.

Puri also spoke about the importance of women’s “voice, participation and leadership”. She said that these were important not only for women as beneficiaries but also for women’s agency and leadership to be harnessed.

Linking gender equality to the eradication of poverty, Puri told a panel of civil society organisations that more than 60% of the world’s poor are women.

Puri also discussed intersectionality, adding, “if you are an indigenous women, you are a rural women, you are poor, it’s a triple whammy.”

“While both men and women suffer in poverty, gender discrimination means that women have far fewer resources to call, they are likely to be the last to eat, the least likely to access health care, routinely trapped in time consuming unpaid domestic work”, said Puri.

Puri said that governments and agencies needed to recommit to eradicating poverty and achieving gender equality, emphasising the importance of addressing these two issues together.

Jeanne d’Arc Byaje the Deputy Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the U.N. had a positive message for the panel.

“Twenty years ago in Rwanda we had a genocide and the situation was completely catastrophic, after the aftermath of the genocide we started from scratch”

“But currently, just to give you some figures, in leadership we have 64% women representation in parliament, about 50% of the judiciary, all of that because we have enacted laws to protect women.”

“What is happening in Rwanda is really amazing, I want you to have hope”

The empowerment of women has to start from the early age, the education of the girl child, to be empowered when they are really young. If the government is very supportive, things can happen.”

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Venezuela’s Security Council Election Inspires Controversy Fri, 17 Oct 2014 09:52:40 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Venezuela’s election to the U.N. Security Council is inspiring controversy even before it votes on a single resolution.

On Thursday the U.N. General Assembly elected Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela to serve as non-permanent members of the Security Council for the next two years, beginning January 1st.

Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela ran uncontested in their respective regional groups, while New Zealand and Spain fought off Turkey to claim the two open spots in the “Western European and Others” group.

Venezuela’s confirmation may not have been surprising, given that it was the only country competing for the Latin American and Caribbean seat, but it was controversial.

Venezuela had previously attempted to secure a place on the Council in 2006, but the United States’ public opposition stopped it in its tracks. Venezuela’s then-president Hugo Chávez had called George W. Bush “the devil” in a speech at the General Assembly less than a month before.

This time around, with Chávez replaced by Nicolás Maduro, the United States held its tongue before the elections.

After the vote, however, it was a different story.

In a statement following the elections, U.S. representative to the U.N. Samantha Power said that “Venezuela’s conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter, and its violations of human rights at home are at odds with the Charter’s letter.”

“The United States will continue to call upon the government of Venezuela to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of its people,” she said.

Venezuela also attracted criticism from several human rights groups.

“Under the UN Charter, candidates to the Security Council must be those who have contributed to international peace and security,” said Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO. “Yet Venezuela is notorious as the only country at the U.N. Human Rights Council last year to vote against holding Syria accountable, effectively backing its mass murder of 200,000 people.”

With 181 “yes” votes from the General Assembly’s 193 voting members, Venezuelan diplomats and politicians were euphoric.

According to Venezuela’s foreign minister, Rafael Ramirez Carreño, the election was “the result of a long and sustained effort of president Nicolás Maduro when he decided to move forward with its model of the peaceful settlement of conflicts, which has been so successful domestically.”

Ramirez also dedicated the victory to Hugo Chávez, who died in office last year.

Chávez may be gone, but his presence will be felt in the Council. María Gabriela Chávez, Hugo’s daughter, was recently appointed to be Venezuela’s deputy U.N. ambassador.

Venezuela and the other four incoming countries will join current non-permanent members Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria.

The Security Council is made up of five permanent members, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, who all yield veto power, and ten non-permanent members who rotate in two-year cycles.

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Boycott USA, Implores Chomsky Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:47:23 +0000 Roger Hamilton-Martin By Roger Hamilton-Martin

Professor Noam Chomsky, a renowned political activist and one of the strongest critics of U.S. foreign policy, called on the boycott movement to penalize the United States for the suppression of Palestinians.

Chomsky suggested that if the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is going to hold Israel up for repressing Palestinians, it should move to boycott the United States.

“Why not boycott the United States? Take a look at African American history in the U.S., it’s grotesque.”

A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Chomsky was speaking at a meeting hosted by the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Arguably the world’s most famous public intellectual, Chomsky also addressed the U.N. General Assembly, and later spoke to the press.

Chomsky critiqued the tactics of the BDS movement with respect to Israel. “BDS is not a principle, it’s a tactic. For anyone who is involved in any form of activism, it is second nature to ask a simple question about tactics: are they going to work?”

Chomsky spoke about the movement’s effectiveness, saying, “The movement itself has 3 principles – BDS actions against Israel as long as it maintains control of occupied territories, firstly.

Secondly, action as long as there is discrimination against Palestinians within Israel, and thirdly, action until Israel allows the refugees to return.

If you are an activist, you ask yourself one question- what is the effect going to be of these tactics. Actions directed against the occupation have been successful, effective, and have the positive effect of opening up discussion and debate in the western countries so that people come to understand what they are involved in.”

“Actions of this kind have usually led to a backlash which is harmful to the Palestinians. Don’t just say I like this it makes me feel good, it’s right in principle, you have to ask what’s the impact on the victims. That should be the guideline.”

After praising a recent vote in the U.K. parliament, in which a large majority of MPs voted (although symbolically) in favour of a Palestinian state, Professor Chomsky spoke of his desire for the Palestinian leadership to address the American population.

“I think there will be no significant progress in this conflict until pressure from the American population induces the government to take a different stance.”

Responding to a question regarding the Palestinian leadership’s call for a Security Council resolution to end the Israeli occupation within a two-year timeframe, Chomsky replied, “I think the Security Council should take that action and indeed stronger action.”

But it can only do as the great powers permit, and I think the U.S. delegation will seek ways to block the resolution, although I do think it (the resolution) is appropriate.”

U.N. Secretary General’s spokesperson Thursday responded to a question on Chomsky’s comments regarding the diminishing likelihood of two state solution and whether the U.N. should put sanctions on Israel, by saying, “Noam Chomsky is a man of global reputation so I will say this with all respect, obviously he has his own opinion, but the Secretary General’s position is that the two-state solution is the only way to stop this senseless cycle of war.

As for issues of sanctions, those are up to the Security Council and for member states to take.”

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U.N. Staff Union Expresses Concern Over Ebola Response Tue, 14 Oct 2014 05:14:47 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

As thousands of U.N. staff volunteer to work in Ebola-stricken countries in Africa, the Staff Union has called for safety measures to protect personnel on the ground.

The Staff Union said Tuesday it was deeply saddened by the loss of another colleague due to the West African Ebola outbreak.

With the United Nations sending in more staff to meet this emergency situation, questions must be asked on whether adequate resources are in place to protect UN personnel and their families from this deadly disease, said a statement released here.

“We are devastated about the loss of our colleague and our thoughts are with his family at this time,” said Ian Richards, the Vice-Chair of the UN Staff-Management Committee.

“Ebola has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is natural that UN workers should want to be part of the solution, out on the front line, helping those in need.”

“For this reason we call on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to make sure all staff can get the protection they need, if necessary be evacuated to the best health care, and have access to cutting-edge drugs.”

Thousands of staff have volunteered to join the new UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), but the Organization’s growing presence raises concerns that have not been answered.

The Staff Union and its Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service again emphasize that safety measures and policies must be in place beforehand and that all personnel, both national and international, must be given equal treatment if exposed to the disease.

With no proven treatment and no vaccine, the situation is more than dangerous and quality medical care, access to experimental drugs and medical evacuation must be guaranteed.

The Union, on behalf of all its members, once again extends its heartfelt sympathy to the families and colleagues of the victims of this disease.

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With Ebola Crisis Looming, Where is the Surgeon General? Mon, 13 Oct 2014 09:41:01 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK , Oct 13 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Almost forgotten in the panic sparked by a new Ebola infection – this time of the Dallas nurse apparently suited up properly to care for the Liberian patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, in isolation – some media houses are asking the question: “Where is the nation’s Surgeon General?”

Although primarily a ceremonial post, the Surgeon General has the power of a bully pulpit and could provide much needed reassurance that plans are coming together to stop the further spread of the virus and counteract rumor.

“Americans need to know that someone with authority is drawing information from disparate agencies tracking and countering Ebola within our borders,” wrote Jerry Lanson, professor of journalism at Emerson College.

But a candidate proposed by US President Barack Obama has been sidelined by the Republican Congress because the nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, apparently offended the powerful gun lobby by supporting an assault weapons ban and writing that “Guns are a health care issue.”

Kentucky Sen. Ran Paul retorted: “As a physician, I am deeply concerned that Murthy has advocated that doctors ask patients, including minors, details about gun ownership in the home… Dr. Murthy has disqualified himself from being Surgeon General because of his intent to launch an attack on Americans’ right to own a firearm under the guise of a public health and safety campaign.”

But an op-ed by News One Now host Roland Martin countered: “Murthy has no business sitting around waiting to be confirmed. The Obama administration should be raising holy hell, demanding that a pre-eminent doctor get his vote on the Senate floor.”

Two MSNBC producers weighed in with a joint editorial: “Thanks to NRA power and Senate cowardice, we are left with no surgeon general during a time when we not only have Ebola arriving on our shores but are also dealing with the mysterious Enterovirus, which is contributing to the deaths of children in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, a top U.S. health official has riled some health care experts and nurses by blaming a “protocol breach” for the new virus infection on a Dallas nurse.

Hospital staff, said the experts, need better coaching on treating an Ebola patient, making sure they have the right safety equipment and know how to use it properly to prevent infection.”

“You don’t scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak,” said Bonnie Castillo, a disaster relief expert at National Nurses United. “We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct.”

More than 4,000 people have died in the worst Ebola outbreak on record that began in West Africa in March.

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Kenyan President Fronts ICC While Witnesses Remain Intimidated Fri, 10 Oct 2014 11:01:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands By Lyndal Rowlands

Although Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta is the first Head of State to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Kenyan civil society groups believe the case will collapse without cooperation from the government in Nairobi.

At a press briefing Friday, civil society groups said the ICC case– into post-election violence– was heading towards failure because of missing and intimidated witnesses and lack of cooperation from the government.

Stella Ndirangu of the International Commission of Jurists Kenya told reporters that “several witnesses have died, others have disappeared and still others have recounted their testimonies”.

The case now hinged on records and cooperation from the government, because “the eye witness testimony and evidence that had been secured has definitely been eroded by all the interferences and all the disappearances of witnesses” said Ndirangu.

Ndirangu added it was unrealistic to expect President Kenyatta or his government would cooperate: “you don’t expect him to incriminate himself by providing the records”.

The case would show “what happens when a state refuses to cooperate and that state is the situational state”, said Ndirangu.

Kenyatta has made it clear he was appearing as a private citizen by temporarily stepping down as President.

Abdul Noormohamed of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa told reporters there was still no justice for the victims after seven years. Noormohamed said the ICC case had done little to change this, because “nobody spoke for the victims who died”. “We need justice. The ICC is the only place where those victims can see something happen.” he added.

Although there were 4,000 files of sexually violated women, none were considered good enough for prosecution, he pointed out.

Noormohamed said, “There is no intention in the country to prosecute, instead we are trying to destroy the only thing that has focused on the justice and that is the Rome Statute.”

Kenya is pursuing an amendment to the statute but Haron Ndubi of Kenyans for Peace Truth with Justice said the proposed amendment did not align with Kenya’s own constitution.

After Kenya’s disputed 2007 Presidential election, 1,100 people were killed and more than 350,000 people were displaced in post-election violence, according toa report from Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice.

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Inequality in High-Income Countries Increasing, Says World Bank Thu, 09 Oct 2014 05:28:24 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands By Lyndal Rowlands
NEW YORK, Oct 9 2014 (IPS)

Inequality in high-income countries is at highest levels since World War Two, says a new World Bank report.

Increased youth unemployment, a growing concentration of income among top-income earners and slowed growth following the global financial crisis are all contributing factors to increased relative poverty in developed countries according to the report released Thursday.

Although absolute poverty among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has reduced, relative poverty has increased over the same period, the report noted.

The average OECD Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, increased from 0.29 in the mid-1990s to 0.32 in 2010, including increases in inequality in some of the world’s highest income countries such as the United States and Japan.

The report added that, “Perhaps most strikingly, income inequality is increasing even in traditionally egalitarian high-income stalwarts like Denmark, Germany, and Sweden.”

Youth unemployment remains a concern, with an increase from 12 percent in 2000 to 16.3 percent in 2012 across the 34 OECD countries.

“Unemployment has reached close to 49 million people in the OECD area as a whole, or about 7.9 percent of the labor force. In addition, nearly 8 million youth in OECD countries are neither employed nor enrolled in education or training”, the report said.

The report also noted that an increased casualisation of the work force was an issue for up to one-third of employees in OECD countries.

According to the report, “Not only are youth, the low-skilled, immigrants, and other disadvantaged groups currently facing relatively higher unemployment rates, but many of them who are employed are subjected to nonstandard work arrangements, such as involuntary part-time or temporary jobs and self-employment. These jobs now account for about one-third of total employment across OECD countries”.

The trend towards inequality within high-income countries is part of a global trend towards inequality.

In January 2014 Bill Gates wrote that there would be no more poor countries by 2035, the same week Oxfam released a report that found that the world’s 85 richest people were as wealthy as the poorest half of the world’s population.

The Oxfam report, also found that just one percent of the world’s population now own almost half of the world’s wealth and that “seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.”

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Kenyan President Steps Down to Face Charges of Crimes Against Humanity Mon, 06 Oct 2014 09:41:00 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Oct 6 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – After failing to win further delays in a hearing of serious charges against him, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced he would temporarily step down as president of Kenya and face the court.

Five charges of crimes against humanity are linked to Kenyatta’s alleged involvement in funding and directing aspects of the violence that killed 1,300 people in the weeks following disputed 2007 elections.

Gangs allegedly under his direction carried out rape and murder including the incineration of dozens of Kenyans who sought shelter in a church. Some victims were hacked to death and four were beheaded. More than 600,000 people were left homeless.

Prosecutors say Kenyatta met members of the Mungiki, a secretive Kikuyu gang, in order to organize retaliatory attacks in the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and Naivasha, in response to the initial attacks on the Kikuyu community in the region.

Members of the Kikuyu ethnic group of Kenyatta and Kibaki were led to turn against other communities, butchering people using machetes, bows and arrows. He denied the accusation at a preliminary hearing at the ICC last September.

The case, set to begin Oct. 8, is before the International Criminal Court (ICC), based at The Hague, Netherlands. Deputy president William Ruto will fill the seat although he faces similar charges in a separate but linked case at the ICC. His trial has already begun.

With witnesses now backing out and requested documents being withheld by Kenyan officials, the case could collapse, say some experts. This would be a blow to a court that has handed down just two guilty verdicts, both to little known Congolese warlords, and one acquittal since inception in 2003.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for genocide, still travels to countries, particularly in Africa, that have ignored a warrant for his arrest, even when they are court signatories.

Kenyatta, in a speech to the nation, echoed complaints heard across the continent that the court is biased and persecutes Africans.

“My accusers both domestic and foreign have painted a nefarious image of most African leaders as embodiments of corruption and impunity,” he said, repeating his previous denials of the charges by saying his “conscience is clear”.

George Kegoro, head of the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, praised the president for following the rule of law. If Kenyatta had refused to go, he risked an international arrest warrant and international condemnation or economic sanctions against Kenya.

“The tragedy is,” wrote ‘ID1647404’ on the Guardian website, “that Kenyans really deserve to be able to vote for someone who presents them with ideology and policy choices, rather than just more exhortations that it is their tribe’s ‘turn to eat’…

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Protests Planned at World Bank Development Meeting Mon, 06 Oct 2014 09:40:58 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Oct 6 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Farmers, indigenous peoples and other social justice groups will be taking to the streets this week in 10 cities, calling for an end to ruinous business-driven development plans for poor countries around the world.

According to the “Our Land Our Business” campaign, millions of people are being thrown off their land because large corporations have been given special rights.

Showing their disapproval, participants will stage “creative resistance” outside the World Bank’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. and in other cities from Oct. 10 to 11.

Over 200 organisations from over 100 countries have signed on to the group’s Our Land Our Business statement, the group said. Other cities planning actions include Nairobi, Lagos, Mexico City, Delhi, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Dhaka, Brussels, and London.

“The World Bank’s Doing Business ranking gives points to countries when they act in favor of the ‘ease of doing business.’ This consists of smoothing the way for corporations’ activity by, for instance, cutting administrative procedures, lowering corporate taxes, removing environmental and social regulations, or lowering trade barriers,” according to the event organizers.

“The ranking system also encourages land reforms that tend to make land just a marketable commodity, easily accessible to wealthy corporations. In the process, they neglect human rights, the protection of workers, and the sustainable use of natural resources.”

Among the planned DC activities is a panel discussion on Agricultural Development with panelists Ruth Nyambura from the African Biodiversity Network, Kenya; Okok Ojulu from Anywaa Survival Organization, Ethiopia; and Ibrahim Sidibe from National Rural Youth Federation & National Coordination of Peasant Organisations, Mali.

“Working for the World Bank’s Social Fund in Gambella, I protested the widespread coercion and forced relocation of people,” recalled Ojulu.

“Today I live in political exile in Kenya. I am protesting the World Bank on Oct. 10 because I know firsthand how their policies negatively impact communities.”

To coincide with the #WorldVsBank mobilization, the Oakland Institute, a leading think tank on land issues, is releasing a new study “Unfolding Truth: Dismantling the World Bank’s Myths on Agriculture and Development.”

In addition, the Institute will also release six new country fact sheets that examine reforms promoted by the World Bank in Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Laos, Cambodia, and Uruguay. “

In each country, the Bank’s policies served as a catalyst for massive land grabs, dispossession, and forced eviction of countless small-scale farmers,” they wrote.

For further information about the event , visit

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Marine Protection as Stand-Alone Goal for Post-2015 Agenda? Mon, 06 Oct 2014 09:37:45 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

A multi-stakeholder group has expressed strong support for a stand- alone goal to protect healthy oceans in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda to be finalised next year.

Organised by the permanent missions of Italy, Monaco and Palau on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly sessions last week, the event was an opportunity for heads of states, representatives of the private sector, civil society and academics to come together around a topic that has wide implications, particularly related to food security.

“Healthy oceans are crucial for a sustainable development and they must be front and centre of a standalone goal if we are to eradicate poverty, feed the planet, develop our economies and protect our environment”, said Stuart Beck, Palau’s Ambassador for Oceans and Seas.

A nation-wide marine sanctuary in Palau, with a total ban on fishing will be implemented thanks to the contribution of Italy and Monaco and it will help regenerate the marine ecosystem.

Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said: “Our aquatic environment is under stress from overexploitation, pollution, declining biodiversity, climate change, invasive species and ocean acidification”.

“In fisheries and aquaculture, unsustainable development has lead to overfishing, ecosystem degradation and habitat and biodiversity loss”, she added, pointing out that responsible seafood chain and fisheries governance are needed to reverse negative trends.

FAO and the World Bank say restoring the fish stock and reducing fishing capacity would lead to economic gains of 50 billion dollars per year.

Ellen Pikitch, an academic from Stonybrook University in New York, said that overfishing has been the most destructive force inflicted upon the oceans, followed suit by habitat loss.

Every year 100 million tons of fish are harvested, with a full 40 percent of that figure representing accidental by-catch, fish that get wounded, killed, and often wasted.

Stocks of some valuable species have been depleted about 90 percent and the blue-fin tuna, for example, has been overfished to 99,5 percent. A hundred marine species also got extinct, but this is only what has been recorded by scientists.

These sets of data, in fact, are only available for 20 percent of the marine species, which means the situation of the remaining 80 percent of the ocean inhabitants is unknown, explains Pikitch.

The share of overfished marine fish stock increased from 10 percent in 1997 to nearly one third today, she explained, and uncurbed illegal, unreported fishing is estimated at 15-20 million tons a year.

The current approach of: “Fish first, ask questions later”, lead to this situation.

Protected areas cover two percent of the oceans, with only one percent of full no-take zones. This falls short of the recommended 20-30 percent recommended by scientists.

Palau’s sanctuary would be the world largest fully protected area, and it would be contributing with an additional 17 percent. Other initiatives go in the same direction.

Pelagos, a marine protected area in the Mediterranean sea, was set up by Italy, Monaco and France. The Marshall Islands implemented a shark sanctuary and conservation programmes.

U.N. member states and philanthropists, like the London-based Bianca Jagger and Human Rights Foundation, are pledging money and energies to restore oceans in a fight for both food protection and climate change mitigation.

Currently, one of the U.N.’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14) is set to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

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Locust Plague in Madagascar Halted, But Possible Resurgence Due to Lack of Funds Thu, 02 Oct 2014 10:03:00 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said Thursday that a locust plague in Madagascar, that threatened the main staple food crops and pasture in the country, has been successfully contained.

However, progress is under threat due to a gap in funding, it warned

At the beginning of the plague in April 2012 the highly destructive Malagasy Migratory Locust ravaged crops and pastures on its way from the southwest of the country toward the North, according to a FAO press release.

By April 2014, it had spread towards the country’s largest rice crop areas in the northwest and threatened the livelihoods of 13 million people.

Potential for further damage was contained by the first locust control campaign, which is part of a three-year programme jointly executed by FAO and the Government of Madagascar, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“The effects of this plague could have been devastating, but thanks to strong efforts by the Government of Madagascar, supported by FAO, we have succeeded in preventing these locusts from migrating even further,” said David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

Since locust control actions began in September 2013, large-scale areal operations allowed to survey over 30 million hectares of land and control locust populations on over 1.2 million hectares, FAO said.

A total of $28 million has been donated so far by the Governments of Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Madagascar through a World Bank loan, Norway and the United States of America as well the European Union and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.

Donors also include Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco, which donated pesticides.

Preliminary results of an FAO/WFP assessment mission, conducted between mid-June and mid-July 2014 in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, indicate that the first anti-locust campaign prevented larger damage to crops and pastures and protected the large rice producing regions of the country located in the centre and north.

This first campaign also provided the opportunity to further strengthen national capacities in locust management.

“Despite great support and achievements, however, we now face a new challenge due to a gap in funding,” says Phiri.

Funds available so far are only sufficient to implement the first part of the second locust control campaign, which started in September 2014.

With the onset of the rainy season, from October 2014 onwards, the locust situation will deteriorate as seasonal temperatures and humidity at this time are ideal breeding conditions for the locust.

FAO said the second and third campaigns are imperative to respectively support the decline of the plague and the return to a situation of recession.

Additional support of $14.7 million is urgently needed for aerial surveys, control operations, equipment, pesticides, as well as the recruitment of key staff to carry out the second and third campaigns.

Without added funding, efforts made during the first campaign will be largely lost and the locust plague will expand again.

The context was similar in 2010/11 and 2011/12 when the funding for two anti-locust campaigns was not made available and as a result, the current plague developed.

“An immediate food crisis has been avoided,” says Phiri, “but an economical and humanitarian crisis could still threaten Madagascar if the two next campaigns are not implemented in time.”

“We are in a position to help – we just need one last push to stop this disaster and prevent future plagues.”

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World Bank Linked to “Cultural Genocide”of Kenya’s Sengwer People Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:14:32 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Sep 30 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Leaked documents seen by the Guardian newspaper of London reveal that the World Bank ignored an inspection report that detailed violations of the Bank’s own policies, permitting the burning of homes and forcible eviction of approximately 1,000 Sengwer people from their ancestral lands in Kenya’s Embobut forest.

The forced evictions were described as “cultural genocide” by horrified rights groups around the world. They were also condemned by the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination.

An online petition by the group called on the bank to end the evictions.

“As citizens from around the globe, we call on you to use your leverage over the Kenyan Forest Service and the Kenyan government to urgently halt the forceful and illegal evictions of the Sengwer people from Embobut Forest,” the petition stated.

“These evictions violate Kenya’s Constitution, are illegal under international law, and are an abuse of the community’s human rights.”

Evictions of forest dwellers began as part of a World Bank plan to “preserve” natural Kenyan forests as an offset to dirty industrial projects in western countries – a plan known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Kenya has already received over $600 million from the World Bank to protect the forests, using the Kenyan Forest Service to clear out so-called “squatters” who could be cutting down trees or burning coal.

Factories in Europe and the U.S., on the other hand, are allowed to continue polluting the land and air as long as these African forestlands could be preserved.

When first alerted to the Sengwer’s plight, the Bank president said he was “alarmed” by reports of the evictions. “The World Bank is not involved in the reported evictions, nor has the Bank financed or supported these actions. Nevertheless, we are not bystanders”, he said.

According to the UK-based Forest Peoples Programme, an internal report confirmed safeguard violations but the Bank’s management response, seen by the Guardian, denied many of the findings… proposing instead more training for forest service staff, and a meeting to examine what can be learnt.

“The Sengwer People have always preserved the ecosystems in their ancestral land by practicing by living sustainably and are now facing complete annihilation under the guise of ‘conservation’ under REDD, wrote Nnimmo Bassey and Anabela Lemos of the No REDD in Africa Network.

“The World Bank is both admitting its complicity in the forced relocation of the Sengwer People as well as offering to collude with the Kenyan government to cover-up cultural genocide,” they wrote.

“Claims of being able to restore and improve the living standards of evicted people such as the Sengwer are crude, paternalistic, colonial in nature and above all smack of sheer arrogance on the World Bank’s part.”

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U.N. Sees Progress in Death Penalty Moratorium Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:09:10 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

With the U.N. General Assembly expected to discuss a proposed moratorium on the death penalty later this year, a senior U.N. official said the world body is supportive of the proposal to end this “cruel practice.”

U.N. deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson said: “We are seeing substantial progress towards the universal abolition of the death penalty.“

This progress, he said, is felt in every region and across all legal systems, traditions and religions.

Eliasson was speaking at an event co-sponsored by the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the mission of Italy.

“The United Nations system stands with you to put an end to this cruel practice, spare innocent lives and usher in a more humane and just future”, he added.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the newly appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced a 214 page book titled “Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Arguments,Trends and Perspectives”.

“We can advocate national debates on the death penalty that are not moored in disinformation and fear. We can debunk the myth of deterrence by highlighting research and facts. And we can highlight the very real probability that death sentences will kill innocent people”, he added.

Data on wrongful convictions and documents show how marginalized groups of people are disproportionately targeted, due to discrimination, unequal economic status and poor legal representation.

This understanding lead Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico and currently member of the International Death Penalty Commission to change his stance towards the practice.

He told the audience how he moved away from being an active supporter of the death penalty to signing a law to abolish capital punishment and convert it into life sentence.

As more than one panelist noted, reducing the types of crimes or the categories of people that can be charged with death penalty is a first step in the direction of its complete ban.

The U.N. General Assembly first adopted a death penalty moratorium resolution in 2007, which was supported by 104 states. In 2012, and this number grew to 110.

“The death penalty has no place in the 21st century. Together, we can finally end this cruel and inhumane practice everywhere around the world”, said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last July.

OHCHR points out that currently more than 160 U.N. member states have either abolished the death penalty or do not practise it.

The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who co-hosted the event, recalled the long history of Italy as an abolitionist, dating back to the Renaissance. He said that political leadership is crucial, but it has to go together with civil society initiatives and even religious leadership.

“A society with high standards of respect for human rights is almost always a society with lower rates of crime”, he added, highlighting the wrong assumption that death penalty deters crime.

High-level political leaders from Mongolia, Tunisia and Benin, who have been on the frontline in this battle,
Recounted their personal experiences, showing how they have led their nations to shift away from the death penalty.

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U.N. on Safe Use of Living Modified Organisms Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:02:46 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

A five day meeting in the Republic of Korea, beginning Monday, will provide an opportunity for the global biodiversity community to make progress on the safe transboundary movement of Living modified organisms (LMOs) in the direction of lessening trade distortions while securing the biosafety of the State Parties.

The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (or COP-MOP 7) opened at the Alpensia Convention Center in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.

Delegates, including representatives from Government, civil society and industry, attended the opening session. The meeting is the first of three major biodiversity meetings being held in Pyeongchang, according to a press release.

The meeting is expected to adopt further decisions to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of LMOs that may have negative effects on biodiversity.

It will also advance the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol through the Strategic Plan for the Cartagena Protocol (2011-2020).

Delegates will, among others, discuss issues relating to the financial mechanism and resources for the implementation of Cartagena Protocol, the Nagoya – Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol; risk assessment and risk management; socio-economic considerations concerning LMOs; assessment and the review of the effectiveness of the Cartagena Protocol.

The Parties will also convene a special session on the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol to integrate biosafety into relevant national development plans, other relevant national policies and programmes, the press statement said.

Shri Ashok Lavasa, Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India, outlined the progress achieved during the last meeting of the Parties and in the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol over the last two years.

He also noted: “India is committed to supporting any new initiatives taken up by Republic of Korea during their Presidency in furtherance of the objectives of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and implementation of the Strategic Plan.”

The meeting was opened by Sang-jick Yoon, Minister of Trade, Industry & Energy of the Republic of Korea, who said “As President of COP-MOP 7, I am confident that the next five days will provide an opportunity for the global biodiversity community to make progress on the safe transboundary movement of LMOs in the direction of lessening trade distortions while securing the biosafety of the Parties.”

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity highlighted the main issues to be discussed by Parties during COP-MOP 7.

He said: “The common denominator of our presence here is the theme for the meetings of the Convention and its Protocols – Biodiversity for Sustainable Development. Your discussions over the coming week will contribute to building a strong and vibrant Biosafety Protocol, which contributes to sustainable development.”

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Its objective is to contribute to ensuring the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms that may have adverse effects on conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.

The Protocol was adopted on 29 January 2000 in Montreal, Canada and entered into force on 11 September 2003. To date, 166 countries and the European Union have ratified or acceded to it.

The Protocol is named after the Colombian city of Cartagena where the final round of its negotiations was launched.

The governing body of the Protocol, known as the Conference of the Parties to Convention on Biological Diversity serving as meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (or COP-MOP, in short), has held five meetings – in Kuala Lumpur in February 2004; in Montreal in June 2005; in Curitiba, in March 2006; in Bonn in May 2008; in Nagoya, in October 2010; and in Hyderabad, in October 2012.

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African Leaders Strengthen Ties with Cuba Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:00:06 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Sep 29 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – While the U.S. tightens an economic embargo on its island neighbor, several African leaders were making a pilgrimage to Havana to strengthen bilateral relations.

Niger’s President Issoufou Mahamadou arrived Sunday on an official visit to Cuba aimed at developing exchanges in the areas of health, sports and education.

The arrival by Mahamodou follows visits by the presidents of Equatorial Guinea and Namibia.

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba during a tour last week of Havana’s National Zoo, expressed the hope that economic development could be fostered for the benefit of the two nations. Namibia has contributed 144 animals of 22 different species to the National Zoo.

Also this month, South Africa agreed to give Cuba a multi-million dollar economic assistance package. The $31 million deal will be delivered to Cuba in three installments.

The first payment will be to purchase seeds for Cuban agriculture. The second installment is earmarked for buying goods from South Africa. The final allotment will be a $18.75 million line of credit.

South African President Jacob Zuma pledged the money to Cuba in 2010, but its implementation was delayed for several years.

The deal was signed Friday by South African Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies.

Finally, the Cuban ambassador to Angola made a special trip to the central Huambo province for the second annual meeting of Cuban residents in Angola. Some 5,000 Cubans live in Angola working in education and health.

Meanwhile, Cuba this week announced it had increased the number of medical specialists assigned to the West African nation of Sierra Leone. A group of 165 healthcare workers is due to arrive in early October.

The 62 doctors and 103 nurses have been training for their mission with international experts at a Havana hospital specializing in tropical diseases.

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Film Industry Stereotypes Women, Says New Study Fri, 26 Sep 2014 10:26:30 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

In a new study on women stereotypes, the global film industry has been accused of perpetuating discrimination against women.

The study, released last week, reveals deep-seated discrimination and pervasive stereotyping of women and girls by the international film industry.

The investigation analyzes popular films across the most profitable countries and territories internationally, including Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, United States, United Kingdom, as well as UK-US collaborations, according to a press release.

The study was commissioned by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, with support from U.N. Women and The Rockefeller Foundation and conducted by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and her research team at the Annenberg School for Communication.

The team included Marc Choueiti and Dr. Katherine Pieper at the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California

While women represent half of the world’s population, less than one third of all speaking characters in film are female. Less than a quarter of the fictional on-screen workforce is comprised of female (22.5%).

When they are employed, females are largely absent from powerful positions. Women represent less than 15% of business executives, political figures, or science, technology, engineering, and/or math (STEM) employees.

“The fact is – women are seriously under-represented across nearly all sectors of society around the globe, not just on-screen, but for the most part we’re simply not aware of the extent. And media images exert a powerful influence in creating and perpetuating our unconscious biases”, said Geena Davis, Founder & Chair, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

“However, media images can also have a very positive impact on our perceptions. In the time it takes to make a movie, we can change what the future looks like. There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. “

How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers?

By casting droves of women in STEM, politics, law and other professions today in movies”, she added. Stereotyping also stifles women in prestigious professional posts. Male characters outnumber female characters as attorneys and judges (13 to 1), professors (16 to 1), and doctors (5 to 1).

In contrast, the ratios tipped in the favor of females when it came to hypersexualization.

Girls and women were over twice as likely as boys and men to be shown in sexualized attire, with some nudity, or thin.

“Females bring more to society than just their appearance,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith the principal investigator. “These results illuminate that globally, we have more than a film problem when it comes to valuing girls and women. We have a human problem.”

While the report shows how discriminatory attitudes that affect women and girls are reflected in film worldwide, it also points to some significant differences among countries.

The frontrunners (U.K., Brazil, South Korea) feature female characters in 38 – 35.9% of all speaking roles on screen. UK-US collaborations and Indian films are at the bottom of the pack, clocking in at 23.6 percent and 24.9 percent female respectively.

Half of South Korean films featured a female lead or co-lead, as did 40 percent of the films analyzed from China, Japan, and Australia.

“Twenty years ago, 189 governments adopted the Beijing Platform for Action, the international roadmap for gender equality, which called on media to avoid stereotypical and degrading depictions of women.

Two decades on, this study is a wake-up call that shows that the global film industry still has a long way to go”, said U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

“With their powerful influence on shaping the perceptions of large audiences, the media are a key player for the gender equality agenda. With influence comes responsibility. The industry cannot afford to wait another twenty years to make the right decisions”, she added.

Across the films assessed, women comprised nearly one in four filmmakers behind the camera (directors, writers, producers). Yet when films featured a female director or writer, the number of female characters on screen increased significantly.

One obvious remedy to gender disparity on screen is to hire more female filmmakers. Another approach is calling on film executives to have a heightened sensitivity to gender imbalance and stereotyping on screen.

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