Inter Press ServiceTerraViva United Nations – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 18 Oct 2018 10:11:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Is There a Remittance Trap?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/is-there-a-remittance-trap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-there-a-remittance-trap http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/is-there-a-remittance-trap/#respond Thu, 18 Oct 2018 10:11:45 +0000 Ralph Chami http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158247 RALPH CHAMI is an assistant director in the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development, EKKEHARD ERNST is chief of the macroeconomic policy and jobs unit at the International Labour Organization, CONNEL FULLENKAMP is professor of the practice of economics at Duke University, and ANNE OEKING is an economist in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department*.

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

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

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

Credit: ISTOCK/ RAMZIHACHICHO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have undoubtedly played a vital stabilizing role in a country that has endured civil war, invasions, and refugee crises in the past several decades. In addition, remittances are a valuable source of foreign exchange, amounting to 50 percent more than the country’s merchandise exports. This has helped Lebanon maintain a stable exchange rate despite high government debt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why would this situation develop and persist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And if a remittances trap does exist, then what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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Africa Must Increase Spending on Health Care, Education & Modern Contraceptionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/africa-must-increase-spending-health-care-education-modern-contraception/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-must-increase-spending-health-care-education-modern-contraception http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/africa-must-increase-spending-health-care-education-modern-contraception/#respond Thu, 18 Oct 2018 09:37:32 +0000 Marie Rose Nguini Effa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158241 Marie Rose Nguini Effa is a Member of Parliament (MP), President of the African Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (FPA), Member of National Assembly of Cameroon & Member of the Pan-African Parliament. She is also a delegate to the International Parliamentarians’ Conference in Ottawa next week.

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Marie Rose Nguini Effa is a Member of Parliament (MP), President of the African Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (FPA), Member of National Assembly of Cameroon & Member of the Pan-African Parliament. She is also a delegate to the International Parliamentarians’ Conference in Ottawa next week.

By Marie Rose Nguini Effa
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Oct 18 2018 (IPS)

One of the main challenges which we are facing across Africa today is the imperative to empower its largest ever young population and to provide them with opportunities to realise their full potential.

Students in a classroom. Credit: UN photo

This calls for crucial and sustainable investments into young people’s needs – their healthcare, their education – and of course, ensuring that they have access to modern contraception to allow them to take charge of their own futures, and also help to stabilise the fertility rate. All of this will contribute to the realization of the African Union Agenda 2063.

Economic progress within the African continent as a whole has the potential to evoke a truly profound positive impact upon our collective achievement of the SDGs. For some this is direct: more economic prosperity would mean better employment opportunities and increased financial stability on an individual level.

It also implies, however, an increased spending into crucial social needs such as healthcare, education and sustainable agriculture which will not only have a knock-on effect upon the physical health and education level of citizens but open up a whole new world of possibility for them.

Once the basic human rights of health and education are met, social progress accelerates dramatically, and this is what we hope to see as African economies continue to develop.

Overall, Cameroon has many challenges when it comes to reproductive health and gender equality. That being said, we are making progress when it comes to spreading awareness of these flaws with the end goal to tackle these issues.

Various laws demonstrate systematic sexism, for instance adultery committed by a woman is criminalised but is only considered punishable when committed by a man if it is “habitual” or takes place in the matrimonial home.

Furthermore, abortion is criminalized, except if the mother’s life is in danger or if pregnancy is the result of rape. And rape is not recognised when committed within a marriage.

An issue which is badly impacting on the health of our young people is drugs. One particular opioid, called tramadol, is resulting is great suffering and ruined lives. Tackling this crisis is complex and requires a coordinated response from many actors, including parliamentarians.

Over the past few years, Cameroon has been grappling with the influx of over a hundred thousand refugees from several neighbouring countries. Although their presence regrettably provoked tensions with the local population, we must strive to look past the divisions created in our society and see each other as one and the same; as equals.

We should all take responsibility over the wellbeing of our neighbours and work together to make more inclusive, stable and healthy societies for all. This absolutely includes paying attention to the health and wellbeing of migrants and refugees, who are often particularly vulnerable.

In 2017, a $310 million humanitarian response plan, backed by the United Nations, was launched to provide life-saving assistance to 1.2 million people in Cameroon’s northern and eastern regions.

Our role as parliamentarians is very important. The voice we have gives us an unmatched responsibility to spread awareness on these vital issues within our political parties, our parliamentary groups and as well as our constituencies and regions.

We must fiercely and persistently encourage our governments to act, as well as to invite our co-citizens to engage with us.

Parliamentarians must lead the conversations on maternal and infant mortality rates, abortion rates and whether to legalise it, early marriages, with good health and wellbeing of citizens at the core of our intentions.

I want us all to unite, sign resolutions and laws and share best practices and ideas amongst our countries, because we are the voice of the voiceless.

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Excerpt:

Marie Rose Nguini Effa is a Member of Parliament (MP), President of the African Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (FPA), Member of National Assembly of Cameroon & Member of the Pan-African Parliament. She is also a delegate to the International Parliamentarians’ Conference in Ottawa next week.

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

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Credit: Institute for Palestine Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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For the Survival of the Nile and its Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/survival-nile-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=survival-nile-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/survival-nile-people/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 14:25:11 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158229 Running through eleven countries for 6,853 kilometres, the Nile is a lifeline for nearly half a billion people. But the river itself has been a source of tension and even conflict for countries and territories that lie along it and there have been rumours of “possible war for the Nile” for years now. While to […]

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Natural fertility is actually the Nile's biggest legacy for Egyptians. A fisherman fishes for food on the Nile. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Oct 17 2018 (IPS)

Running through eleven countries for 6,853 kilometres, the Nile is a lifeline for nearly half a billion people. But the river itself has been a source of tension and even conflict for countries and territories that lie along it and there have been rumours of “possible war for the Nile” for years now. While to date there has been no outbreak of irreversible tension, experts say that because of increasing changes in the climate a shared agreement needs to be reached on the redistribution of water soon.

“Right now I do not think there is a concrete and imminent risk of conflict between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, given the internal difficulties and the unstable nearby area [Libya] of the first, the recent secession suffered by the second and the peace agreement achieved by the third with Eritrea,” Maurizio Simoncelli, vice president of the International Research Institute Archivio Disarmo, a think tank based in Rome, told IPS.

“However, it is certain that if a shared agreement is not reached on the redistribution of water in a situation of increasing climatic changes, those areas remain at great risk,” he said.

No one master of the river Nile

All the cities that run along the river exist only because of these waters. For Egypt, this is particularly true: if the Nile wasn’t there, it would be just another part of the Sahara desert.

Egypt has tried to be master of the river for centuries, seeking to ensure exclusive control over its use. Nevertheless, today upstream countries are challenging this dominance, pushing for a greater share of the waters. Egypt and Sudan still regard two treaties from 1929 and 1959 as technically binding, while African upstream nations – after gaining independence – started to challenge these agreements, signed when they were under colonial rule.

The 1959 treaty allocates 75 percent of the river’s waters to Egypt, leaving the remainder to Sudan. Egypt has always justified this hegemonic position on the basis of geographic motivations and economic development, as it is an arid country that could not survive without the Nile’s waters, while upstream countries receive enough rainfall to develop pluvial agriculture without resorting to irrigation.

“From the Egyptian point of view, it is right [to hold this hegemonic position] because it is true, Cairo has no alternative water resources. Without the Nile, Egypt would die,” Matteo Colombo, associate research fellow in the MENA Programme at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) told IPS.

Egypt – according to Colombo – should therefore aim to open regional forums focusing on cooperation in a broad sense.

Cooperation among countries sharing this watercourse is key. For example, Ethiopia could need more water to produce more electricity, which could in turn diminish the amount of flow towards Cairo. Indeed, Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is currently under construction, will be the biggest dam on the African continent and could diminish the amount of water flowing to Egypt.

Water is not the only gift of this river for Egypt. Each year, rainfall in Ethiopia causes the Nile to flood its banks in Egypt. When the Nile flood recedes, the silt – a sediment rich in nutrients and minerals and carried by the river – remains behind, fertilising the soil and creating arable land. Natural fertility is actually the Nile’s biggest legacy for Egyptians.

“The problem for Egypt is that, from a geographical point of view, it does not hold the knife on the side of the handle,” warns Colombo.

“For this reason, Egypt cannot fail to reach an agreement with neighbouring countries. What Cairo could do is to create a sort of ‘regional forum’, a ‘platform’, where the various disputes with neighbouring countries are discussed and perhaps include other topics in the talks,” Colombo added. “If other themes were included, Egypt could have some more voices than Sudan and Ethiopia, while if the discussion remains relegated to the theme of water, the margin of action for Egypt would be limited.”

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), created in 1999 with the aim to “take care of and jointly use the shared Nile Basin water and related resources”, could be an example of regional multilateralism to resolve disputes but it remains relegated to discussions about water management.

Institutionally, the NBI is not a commission. It is “in transition”, awaiting an agreement on Nile water usage, so it has no legal standing beyond its headquarters agreement with Uganda, where the secretariat is settled.

Due to differences that have not yet been resolved, the NBI has focused on technical, relatively apolitical projects. This ends up weakening the organisation since Egypt sees technical and political tracks as inseparable. Therefore, Cairo suspended its participation in most NBI activities, effectively depleting the organisation’s political weight.

Populations living on the Nile and the impact

If regional agreements on the management of the Nile’s waters seem difficult, what is certain is that local populations’ living along the river have always been impacted by environmental changes.

The Nubian population are among these affected people. The Nubians, an ethnic group originating in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, have lived along the Nile for thousands of years. In 1899, during the construction of the Aswan Low Dam, they were forced to move and relocate to the west bank of the Nile in Aswan. During the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, over 120,000 Nubians were forced to move for a second time.

Their new home proved far from satisfactory: not a single resettlement village was by the river. And to date, the socio-economic and political conditions of the Nubians have not appeared to have improved.

“I think we are passing through one of the worst moments for us Nubians. Every time we tried to claim some rights in the last few years, the government did not want to listen to us and many of our activists were recently arrested,” Mohamed Azmy, president of the General Nubian Union, a movement that actively promotes the right to return of the Nubian community to their ancestral land, told IPS.

Lorri Pottinger of International Rivers told Al Jazeera that Africa’s large dams have not reversed poverty, or dramatically increased electricity rates, or even improved water supply for people living near them.

“What they have done is help create a small industrial economy that tends to be  companies from Europe and elsewhere. And so these benefits are really, really concentrated in a very small elite,” she had said.

The demographic challenge

The reasons why Egypt faces water scarcity are numerous but the exponential increase in population certainly accelerates the critical situation.

The United Nations estimates that unless the current fertility rate of 3.47 changes by 2030, Egypt’s population is expected to grow from the current 97 million to 128 million. This demographic growth has grave implications as it comes at a time of unprecedented challenges in the climate which in turn has worrisome implications for loss of arable land, rising sea levels and depletion of scarce water resources.

Moreover, the demographic increase is having grave consequences on the entire economic system, as there is insufficient infrastructure and not enough jobs for the increasing young population.

Birth control policies could be and should be part of the solution to overcome these challenges. The government has recently launched a campaign named ‘Kefaya etnen’ (‘Two is enough’), through which it is trying to raise the awareness on controlling birth rates and having no more than two children per family. “I think this is a great initiative from the Egyptian government but it definitely needs to permeate the society, and this will not be easy,” said Colombo.

Egypt needs to curb its population and to turn its youth into an asset for its economy, otherwise the waters of the Nile could be insufficient.

Indeed, the importance of the Nile is felt in the blood of all Egyptians. “Walking along the Nile for me is what makes me relaxed and vent when I need it, in the chaos of the city,” Tarek, a resident of Cairo, tells IPS.

And many Egyptians hope that this gift will be with them forever, because it is not just about survival, but about the essence itself of being part of these lands.

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Parliamentarians to Assess Population & Development Funding 24 Years After Historic Conferencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/parliamentarians-assess-population-development-funding-24-years-historic-conference/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-assess-population-development-funding-24-years-historic-conference http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/parliamentarians-assess-population-development-funding-24-years-historic-conference/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 13:11:56 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158232 When international parliamentarians-– both from the developed and developing world— meet in Canada next week, the primary focus would be to assess the implementation of a landmark Programme of Action (PoA) on population and development adopted at a ground breaking UN conference, led by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), held in Cairo back in 1994. […]

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

When international parliamentarians-– both from the developed and developing world— meet in Canada next week, the primary focus would be to assess the implementation of a landmark Programme of Action (PoA) on population and development adopted at a ground breaking UN conference, led by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), held in Cairo back in 1994.

Population Growth through 2100. Credit: UN Photo

With one year to go before the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), more than 150 parliamentarians will meet at a three day forum in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, October 22-24, to rate the successes and clear roadblocks, if any, to a strategy laid out more than two decades ago.

The thrust of the PoA included a commitment to reduce maternal and infant mortality, promote reproductive health and family planning, halt the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and children, as well as strengthen women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Underlying some of these issues were problems related to ageing, urbanization, female genital mutilation (FGM), midwifery, migrants and refugees, child marriages, adolescent pregnancies, the role of youth and the rising world population, which now stands at over 7.6 billion.

Besides sharing experiences, parliamentarians will also focus on the road ahead with a call for an increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA) — specifically funding for population and development which is being increasingly diverted to help finance refugee settlements.

Austria is one of the Western donors which has taken a lead role in helping developing nations reach some of the ICPD goals.

Asked about her country’s contributions, Petra Bayr, an Austrian member of parliament (MP) and chair of the Sub-Committee for Development Cooperation in the Austrian Parliament, told IPS: “As a multi-party group on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), we are pushing for more funds in that important political field for many years.”

“At the moment, we are successful. For the first time in recent years, we have some extra funding to combat FGM and to support access to SRHR services in the development cooperation budget,” she added.

She pointed out that there is one million Euros (about $1.2 million US dollars) available for fighting FGM and providing family planning services, and the UNFPA is being supported with 200,000 Euros (about $232,000) in core budgeting.

“I anticipate more cooperation between the Austrian Development Cooperation and UNFPAwhich remains to be explored,” said Bayr, who is also chair of the Austrian All Party Parliamentary Group on Population and Development.

She also pointed out that the Austrian strategy on International Financial Institutions (IFI) tackles the empowerment of women and their better involvement in economic activities.

“We know that economic independence leads to increased self-determination, also in private lives, including the decision about the number and the spacing of children,” she declared.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: What are your expectations of the upcoming International Parliamentarians’ Conference in Ottawa? Should there be, in your opinion, any economic commitments from Western nations to meet the funding needs of some of the developing countries who have fallen behind in the implementation of the PoA?

BAYR: My expectations are focused on cooperation, exchange of strategies on how to combat the global back clash in the field of SRHR and how we can fortify our communication to strengthen women’s rights which are human rights.

Also, how to meet economic commitments governments of the global north have already signed or pledged but still not fulfilled; they should definitely be an important part of our discussions in Ottawa.

IPS: The US, which was a significant contributor to UNFPA providing about $69 million in FY 2016, has cut off all funding to the UN agency. Should European nations step in and fill this funding gap?

BAYR: I’m very grateful that the Dutch minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Liliane Ploumen, initiated the global fund “She Decides” to curb the shortfall of about USD 600 million over the four years of Trump´s presidency and guarantee millions of women access to SRHR services.

Besides, this supports the fundamental rights of girls and women to decide freely and for themselves about their sexual lives, including whether, when, with whom and how many children they want to have. UNFPA shares the same goals, and of course, the agency´s loss should be refilled, also with funds from European countries.

The financial contribution of Austria will definitely not be enough to fill the gap but we are working hard as multi party group to push our government for more core funding for UNFPA.

IPS: As one of the key parliamentarian networks, what role does the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF) play in helping implement the PoA, including reproductive health, reducing maternal and infant mortality and gender empowerment?

BAYR: It’s we as legislators who decide about the laws underlying the programs that support SRHR and it is for us to ensure there is sufficient funding for these programs. As EPF has a clear focus on the rights of women and girls not only in Europe but through our development cooperation also in the global South, we have a key role to play so that women and girls can enjoy their human rights, have access to evidence based sexuality education and modern means of contraceptives, as well as medically attended pregnancies and deliveries and the economic independence to decide and self determine. EPF supports us in order to exchange good practise, take part in international discussions on SRHR and join forces to make SRHR a reality for all.

IPS: Is the widespread refugee problem in Europe hindering Europe’s ODA commitments? Is there a diversion of European funds from development financing to refugee funding?

BAYR: In general, we have witnessed a shift from fundings for development cooperation to refugee funding in Europe. I’m happy that we managed not to have this terrible involvement in Austria.

Despite the fact that our ODA is very poor, only 0.3% of the gross national expenditure (GNE) and that — already for decades — Austria extensively counts all fundings for refugee spendings in Austria into our ODA, even if this is in line with the criteria of OECD. We have to increase our ODA and dedicate it to the needs of those who are mostly in need.

If we want to achieve the spirit of the Agenda 2030 and leave no one behind, we should follow the good examples of some Nordic countries, the UK and others who show that it is possible to meet one’s international commitments by fostering the political will to do so.

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Developing Countries Losing Out To Digital Giantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/developing-countries-losing-digital-giants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=developing-countries-losing-digital-giants http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/developing-countries-losing-digital-giants/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:37:54 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158224 A new United Nations report warns that the potential benefits to developing countries of digital technologies are likely to be lost to a small number of successful first movers who have established digital monopolies. According to the Trade and Development Report 2018 (TDR 2018), subtitled ‘Power, Platforms and the Free Trade Delusion’, while developing countries […]

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, Oct 17 2018 (IPS)

A new United Nations report warns that the potential benefits to developing countries of digital technologies are likely to be lost to a small number of successful first movers who have established digital monopolies.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

According to the Trade and Development Report 2018 (TDR 2018), subtitled ‘Power, Platforms and the Free Trade Delusion’, while developing countries need to invest more in digital infrastructure, they must also address the ownership and control of data and their use.

Developing countries will need to protect, and extend, available policy space to successfully integrate into the global digital economy. Stronger competition and regulatory frameworks will also require multilateral cooperation.

Digital concentration
Libertarian ‘light-touch’ regulatory frameworks have allowed powerful corporations to largely evade strict regulatory supervision and oversight, expand exclusively into lucrative related areas and limit policymakers’ influence. Digital monopolies have thus profitably ‘mined’ and processed data.

Of the top 25 big technology firms in terms of market capitalization, 14 are US based, with three in the European Union, three in China, four in other Asian countries and one in Africa.

In 2015, the top three big US technology firms had average market capitalization of more than $400 billion, compared to $200 billion in China, $123 billion in other Asian countries, $69 billion in Europe and $66 billion in Africa.
Apple recently became the first company in the world to be valued at more than $1 trillion, matching the combined economic output of Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Anis Chowdhury

Such concentration and market dominance have ensured lucrative rents for the big players in the sector. For example, Amazon’s profits-to-sales ratio increased from 10 per cent in 2005 to 23 per cent in 2015, while Alibaba’s increased from 10 per cent in 2011 to 32 per cent in 2015!

These trends are largely due to the extraction, processing and sale of data. Digital platforms use their control over data to organize and mediate transactions along value chains. Network effects allow these platforms to expand these ecosystems utilizing feedback-driven processes.

The resulting market power, with stronger ‘property rights’ on the control and use of data, has enabled rentier and other uncompetitive practices. Thus, one cannot but be circumspect about the hype over ‘big data’ and ‘data revolution’. They rarely promote inclusive development, especially when left to ‘market’ or ‘self-regulation’.

Digital democracy?
TDR 2018 recommends active policies to check anti-competitive rent capture by digital platforms, and misuse of data. Antitrust and competition policies, historically concerned with market structure and behaviour, increasingly emphasize maximizing consumer welfare, using price-based measures.

In our increasingly digitized world, consumers receive services in exchange for surrendering their data, at zero nominal prices, i.e., for free. The control and use of such data enables the lucrative rentier activities associated with their use and abuse.

Policy options include stricter regulation of restrictive business practices and breaking up large firms responsible for market concentration. The digital world’s monopolistic tendencies should be regulated, and firms’ abilities to exploit their dominance restricted, e.g., the recent measures taken by the European Union against Google.

Developmental digitization?
For developing countries, the regulatory challenges to realize developmental gains from digitization are greater. Some countries are already using localization measures to develop domestic digital capacities and digital infrastructure.

But in most cases, data are owned by those who gather and store them, mainly digital super platforms, which then have full, exclusive and unlimited rights over the resource.

National data policies should be designed to address four major issues: who can own data, how data can be collected, who can use such data, and on what terms. They should also address the question of data sovereignty, e.g., which data can leave the country, and consequently are not governed by domestic law. South-South and regional cooperation can help small developing countries build their digital skills, capacities and capabilities.

Developing countries need to protect and expand available policy space to implement development strategies that should include digital policies with regard to data localization, data flow management, technology transfers and custom duties on electronic transmissions.

The international community is just beginning to discuss rules and regulations to improve them, before agreement is reached at the World Trade Organization and other multilateral bodies.

A premature commitment to rules with long-term impacts on fast-changing matters should be avoided, especially where powerful business interests remain influential and often dictate the very terms for discourse.

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What Accounts For Southeast Asia’s Phenomenal Success?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/accounts-southeast-asias-phenomenal-success/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accounts-southeast-asias-phenomenal-success http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/accounts-southeast-asias-phenomenal-success/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 09:47:01 +0000 Chang Yong Rhee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158222 Southeast Asia has made extraordinary strides in recent decades. Growth in per capita incomes has been among the fastest in the world, and last year the region was the fourth largest contributor to global growth after China, India, and the United States. Living standards have improved dramatically. Poverty rates are down sharply. What accounts for […]

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By Chang Yong Rhee
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 17 2018 (IPS)

Southeast Asia has made extraordinary strides in recent decades.

Growth in per capita incomes has been among the fastest in the world, and last year the region was the fourth largest contributor to global growth after China, India, and the United States. Living standards have improved dramatically. Poverty rates are down sharply.

Chang Yong Rhee. Credit: IMF

What accounts for this record of success?

Openness to overseas trade and investment is a big part of the answer. Malaysia and Thailand have established themselves as global manufacturing powerhouses, churning out cars, consumer electronics, and computer chips.

Indonesia and the Philippines are among the world’s fastest-growing large, domestic-demand-led emerging markets. Singapore is a major financial and commercial hub.

Frontier economies such as Cambodia, Lao P.D.R, Myanmar, and Vietnam are exiting from decades of central planning after joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and integrating with regional supply chains, particularly in China.

Sound economic management has also played a vital role. To be sure, the Asian crisis of 1997 was a setback, but Southeast Asia bounced back quickly and emerged stronger. Banks were restructured and financial regulation strengthened. Local currency bond markets were deepened to reduce dependence on volatile capital flows.

Rising prices and credit growth were brought under control as some countries moved toward adopting inflation targets and so-called macroprudential policies, which are designed to monitor and prevent risks to the financial system.

As a result, the region weathered the global financial crisis, but it will need to further strengthen its economies to handle short-term challenges, such as rising interest rates in the United States and other advanced economies, growing trade tensions, and slowing growth in China. It all adds up to greater uncertainty and more market turbulence for increasingly interdependent economies that have accumulated more debt.

In the longer term, though, more fundamental forces will test ASEAN leaders and populations. While Southeast Asia has significantly narrowed the gap separating it from the world’s richest nations, further progress is not preordained. The region cannot afford to rest easy; rising to the next level will call for a mutually reinforcing set of bold reforms.

Shifting demographics loom large among the coming challenges. In recent decades, the number of workers grew faster than the number of dependents, providing an impetus to economic growth. That demographic dividend is now starting to wane.

The working-age population continues to grow in Indonesia and the Philippines, but it is projected to shrink rapidly in other countries, including Thailand and Vietnam. Simply put, Southeast Asia risks growing old before it grows rich.

In response, Southeast Asian nations will have to beef up their pension systems and social safety nets to care for the growing ranks of older citizens. Bringing more people into the labor force, especially women, will help keep the growth engine humming.

With notable exceptions, such as in Vietnam, female labor participation rates remain low across Southeast Asia. Providing child care and flexible working arrangements can encourage more women to work.

Waning productivity growth is another obstacle. More advanced ASEAN economies are starting to lose some of their competitive advantage as wages rise. At the same time, automation and robotics are reducing demand for relatively unskilled labor; increasingly, manufacturing will require fewer, better-educated workers.

To move beyond middle- income status, the region will no longer be able to depend on the existing growth model of labor-intensive manufacturing for export.

Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, while creating opportunities, present additional challenges. Workers will need education and training to prepare for the jobs of the digital age. Governments should also improve the business environment by investing more in research and development and upgrading roads, ports, and broadband infrastructure.

Of course, all this requires money. Taxes as a proportion of GDP, at 13 percent, are below the global average of over 15 percent. That will have to change if the region is to finance essential investments, unlock productivity growth, and prepare for an aging population.

But raising more money won’t be enough: strong policies and institutions will be needed to make sure that precious taxpayer money is spent wisely.

As trade patterns and technology reshape the competitive landscape, Southeast Asia will have to rely more on domestic demand and less on sales of goods outside the region. To that end, further integration will be needed.

ASEAN has significantly reduced tariff barriers to trade in manufactured goods; it should further reduce trade costs and open its markets more fully to trade in services and the movement of labor.

The goal of completing an ASEAN trade in services agreement by 2025 will be a big step. If living standards are to rise further, the region cannot rely indefinitely on low-wage, low-skill service jobs in corner shops and restaurants; it will have to train more scientists and programmers, as well as professionals such as home health aides to care for the elderly. Investing more in its people and opening markets to expertise and technologies from abroad would advance that goal.

Of course, we must always remember that the goal of rapid growth is to improve living standards for the many, not the few. To be sustainable and command broad social support, economic policies must ensure inclusive growth. Governments should strengthen social safety nets, encourage competition, and challenge entrenched interests.

The region has made huge strides since the founding of ASEAN more than half a century ago, but significant challenges remain. Thankfully, with the right policies, Southeast Asia can rely on the creativity, resilience, and dynamism of its people to meet those challenges. The IMF has been an important partner in the region’s development, and it stands ready to continue serving its Southeast Asian members in the future.

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Caribbean Nations Pay Steep Price for Climate Change Caused by Othershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/caribbean-nations-pay-price-climate-change-caused-others/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-nations-pay-price-climate-change-caused-others http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/caribbean-nations-pay-price-climate-change-caused-others/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 19:10:50 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158216 Although their contribution to global warming is negligible, Caribbean nations are bearing the brunt of its impact. Climate phenomena are so devastating that countries are beginning to prepare not so much to adapt to the new reality, but to get their economies back on their feet periodically. “We live every year with the expectation that […]

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UN Secretary-General: About 820 Million People Still Suffer From Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/un-secretary-general-820-million-people-still-suffer-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-secretary-general-820-million-people-still-suffer-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/un-secretary-general-820-million-people-still-suffer-hunger/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:54:52 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158214 U.N. Secretary-General's message on World Food Day

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António Guterres

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

In our world of plenty, one person in nine does not have enough to eat.  About 820 million people still suffer from hunger.

Most of them are women.

Some 155 million children are chronically malnourished and may endure the effects of stunting for their entire lives.

And hunger causes almost half of the infant deaths worldwide.

This is intolerable.

On World Food Day, let us commit to a world without hunger — a world in which every person has access to a healthy, nutritious diet.

Zero hunger is about joining forces.

Countries and companies, institutions and individuals: we must each do our part towards sustainable food systems.

Today, we renew our commitment to uphold everyone’s fundamental right to food and to leave no one behind.

Thank you.

 

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Excerpt:

U.N. Secretary-General's message on World Food Day

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Girls Sold into Forced Labour Largest Group of Trafficking Victims Identified by IOM in Bangladesh Refugeehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/girls-sold-forced-labour-largest-group-trafficking-victims-identified-iom-bangladesh-refugee/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=girls-sold-forced-labour-largest-group-trafficking-victims-identified-iom-bangladesh-refugee http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/girls-sold-forced-labour-largest-group-trafficking-victims-identified-iom-bangladesh-refugee/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:40:56 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158212 Young girls sold into forced labour are the largest group of trafficking victims identified by the UN Migration Agency (IOM) in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps. IOM counter-trafficking experts warn that more than a year into a crisis that has seen the number of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar soar to almost a million, more desperate […]

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Rohingya refugees watch a street performance aimed at raising awareness of the risks of trafficking in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps. Credit: IOM 2018

By International Organization for Migration
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Oct 16 2018 (IOM)

Young girls sold into forced labour are the largest group of trafficking victims identified by the UN Migration Agency (IOM) in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps.

IOM counter-trafficking experts warn that more than a year into a crisis that has seen the number of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar soar to almost a million, more desperate families are sending their young daughters off into dangerous work situations because most households have no other way to earn money in the camps.

“There is a very limited number of jobs in the camp and for women there is almost nothing. That’s why I went outside of the camp,” explained one young Rohingya woman, who ended up being forced to work extremely long hours for very little pay in the fish processing industry.

Latest figures show that women and girls lured into situations of forced labour account for two thirds of those who have received support from IOM in Cox’s Bazar after escaping or being rescued from exploitation. Another 10 per cent of identified victims were women and girls who suffered sexual exploitation.

Bangladeshi security agencies have reported stopping up to 60 women and girls a day attempting to leave the camps in small groups, many of whom appeared to have been coached what to say, but who, when questioned further, appeared unclear about issues such as who they are supposed to be travelling to meet.

IOM experts stress that adult men and boys are also the target of traffickers, accounting for around one in three of those found to have ended up in forced labour.

“We are struggling to meet our everyday needs and there is no scope to get any job inside the camp. So, we [agreed to go] outside of the camp to work,” said a Rohingya father, who ended up receiving no payment after working long hours and being physically abused by an employer.

“The stories we commonly hear are of vulnerable people being approached by traffickers with false promises of work and a better life. Some people simply do not realise the risks. Others may be aware it is dangerous, but feel their situation is so desperate that they are willing to take extreme measures, perhaps sacrificing one family member for the sake of the rest of the family,” said Dina Parmer, IOM’s head of protection services in Cox’s Bazar.

“Men, women and children, are all at risk of exploitation from traffickers. But in this situation, the demand for girls and young women to work as domestic maids, means they are often targets. Once trafficked, their youth, inexperience and isolation leave them particularly vulnerable to abuse,” she added.

IOM offers support to survivors, including physical and mental health assistance, legal counselling, safe shelters, emergency cash assistance, and access to safe livelihoods, including cash for work programmes.

Counter-trafficking and protection staff with IOM have now helped almost 100 people who have escaped trafficking situations and returned to Cox’s Bazar since the Rohingya refugee crisis began in August 2017. But according to Parmer, the numbers represent just a fraction of those who have fallen victim to traffickers over that period.

Despite limited data due to the clandestine nature of the crime and widespread reluctance of victims to come forward because of stigma and fear of retribution, the figures provide the clearest guide yet to the main forms of trafficking being perpetrated against Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and give important insights into those most at risk.

Nearly a million Rohingya refugees now live in Cox’s Bazar after violence in Myanmar last year sent over 700,000 people fleeing over the border into Bangladesh. The vast majority live in bamboo and tarpaulin shelters in what has become the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Barred from leaving the refugee settlements, and entirely reliant on aid for survival, other than a limited number of cash-for-work programmes with humanitarian agencies and small-scale trading opportunities within the camps, the refugees are easy prey for traffickers, who promise transportation and access to lucrative work opportunities elsewhere. Other refugees resort to unsafe jobs for subsistence wages or end up in forced or early marriages.

Out of 99 cases of trafficked and exploited refugees identified under IOM’s counter trafficking programme in Cox’s Bazar in the past year, 35 were girls, 31 women, 25 men and eight boys. Of those, 31 girls and 26 women ended up in forced labour situations, as did 25 adult men and four boys. Five women and four girls ended up in situations of sexual exploitation, while four people were trafficked, but managed to escape before they became victims.

According to Parmer, brutal life experiences and lack of education due to long-term discrimination against the Rohingya in Myanmar, along with widespread illiteracy, make the refugee community extremely vulnerable. “To make sure messaging is effective, it needs to be culturally and socially appropriate and we need to be creative in how we raise awareness,” she said.

IOM Bangladesh has been working with partners to produce innovative ways of spreading messages about the dangers of trafficking to the refugees. A series of comic illustrations featuring real-life stories of trafficking victims are being used by trained caseworks to raise awareness in the camps.

An IOM NGO partner, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), has also been using street drama and music in the camps to raise awareness of the risks – drawing large crowds as they spread their message.

“Combatting human trafficking requires a joint effort. The authorities, UN agencies, local partners, and communities have to work together and support each other in recognizing and addressing the risks,” said Parmer.

Since September 2017, IOM has carried out more than 50 outreach sessions, ensuring almost 1,000 refugees have been made aware of trafficking with messages that they can then share with others in their community. IOM experts have also supported other agencies in their counter-trafficking messaging and activities. In addition, over 100 Bangladeshi law enforcement officers in Cox’s Bazar have taken part in IOM counter-trafficking trainings.

IOM’s counter trafficking activities in Cox’s Bazar are supported by the Governments of Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Further information about IOM’s counter-trafficking activities and approaches are available here.

See IOM/YPSA’s street performers in action as they raise awareness of trafficking here.

For more information please contact Fiona MacGregor at IOM Cox’s Bazar. Tel. +88 0 1733 335221. Email: fmacgregor@iom.int

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Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trendshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:18:53 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158207 Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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When isolated by floodwaters, families, like this one in Morigaon, India, have no choice but to use boats for transportation; even children must learn the survival tool of rowing. Credit: Priyanka Borpujari/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

This year the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) noted that 2017 saw the highest number of displacements associated with conflict in a decade-11.8 million people. But this is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, says the organisation which has been reporting on displacements since 1998.

These numbers were published in the World Migration Report 2018, which was released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) last month. The report also stated that an average of 25.3 million people are displaced each year because of natural disasters. “This will only get worse with climate change,” said IDMC’s director Alexandra Bilak in an interview with IPS.

Bilak has over 15 years of experience with NGOs and research institutes working on African conflicts. She lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2004 to 2008 and in Kenya for the next five years. In 2014, she joined IDMC. The biggest change for her, claimed Bilak, was “disconnecting from the field and connecting to high political levels of decision making.”

The IDMC, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international institution of data analysis on internal displacement. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the centre works towards creating dialogues on displacement and providing accurate metrics. IDMC, according to Bilak, takes data analysis to the next level: “We combine many methodological approaches to provide a databased to build research agendas. It is a very interest combination of quantitative and qualitative research, but not from an academic perspective.” She added: “The analysis wants to be practical and policy-relevant.”

Under Bilak, the institute has changed its focus. While three years ago the IDMC understood displacement as a human rights issue, now it treats it with a more comprehensive approach. “By doing that, it wasn’t having the right kinds of conversations,” claimed Bilak. Now, their employees are not only lawyers and political scientists, they are also anthropologists, geographers, and data analysts.

With a calmed voice, Bilak tells IPS that this shift was a team effort, and that she is very happy with the results. Excerpts of the interview below.

Inter Press Service (IPS): How did your interest on displacement start?

AB: I started my work in the Great Lakes region in Rwanda, but when I moved over to Eastern Congo I was exposed to the full scope of conflict impact. Displacement was a major issue. I was really struck with the capacity of communities to cope with the problem. That’s where my interest started.

Then I moved from one job to another and narrowed down on the issue of displacement. Now, at IDMC we are very interested in understanding the connections between internal displacement and wider migratory flows, cross border movements, and broader development challenges. At Geneva, you can bring the experience from the field to the higher level and see where it all ties in together.

IPS: What are your goals for the future of IDMC?

AB: I think we want to maintain this position as global authority and consolidate our expertise on data. We cannot rest on our laurels. We have to keep up our efforts. We need to continue building trust-based relationships with national governments. They are the change agents when it comes to finding solutions for internal displacement. You can’t achieve anything if you avoid them.

IPS: If national governments are the change agents, what’s the role of international organisations in displacement?

AB: Although it is a development issue for the national governments, there are many humanitarian implications that need to be addressed. International organisations provide that immediate protection and assistance that international displaced people need. This is the role they must continue playing, despite their reduced budgets. Also let’s keep in mind that there are many diplomatic efforts to prevent these conflicts.

This is the development, humanitarian and peace building nexus. They need to go hand in hand for a comprehensive approach. But yes, ultimately, it still boils down to political will.

IPS: What about natural disasters? How can we predict them to avoid their consequences?

AB: There are already models that project into the future and give a good sense of the intensity of natural hazards in the future. IDMC has actually developed a global disaster displacement risk model. There’s a way of having a sense of the scale and scope of what to expect in the future.

But our message has always been the same. This is only going to get worse with climate change, unless there is a significant investment in preventative measures like disaster-risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

We know which are the countries that are going to be most affected. The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on climate clearly pointed out what communities are going to be more affected in the future. This will impact internal displacement.

IPS: So, what would be your recommendation to a national government to manage this situation?

AB: There are many recommendations for those countries that suffer from the impacts. They need better early warning systems and preparedness measures, so people can be quickly evacuated in the right way.

Our recommendation is also to build on the good practices governments that have already been implemented. For example, in the Philippines displacement figures are part of their disaster loss database. It would be great if every country could have the same kind of national data system in place.

Other recommendations come from processes of relocation. In the Pacific, entire communities that are at risk of climate change impact have to be relocated. How are these communities going to be moved in a dignified way respecting their cultural heritage?

Finally, there also needs to be a gender perspective to make sure that women and children can be consulted in the process.

IPS: What do you predict for the next 12 months in terms of displacement?

AB: Based on what we are monitoring, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East will continue to be areas of concern for us due to conflict. We are looking at a recent peak in displacement in Ethiopia. This is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, so we will see a displacement crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria… also in Syria. We will look at high displacement figures next year.

In terms of disaster displacement, we will see massive hurricanes in Asia, which will have long-term consequences. There are pockets of displaced people that remain so for large periods of time, also in high-income countries like Japan.

The post Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trends appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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Water: a Private Privilege, not a Community Resourcehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/water-private-privilege-not-community-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-private-privilege-not-community-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/water-private-privilege-not-community-resource/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 10:31:44 +0000 Shekhar Kapur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158203 Shekhar Kapur* is director, actor and producer, who rose to international prominence with the 1998 Bollywood movie, Bandit Queen.

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By Shekhar Kapur
MUMBAI, India, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

Water is becoming a private privilege rather than a community resource. It is also one of the world’s most precious resources. As vital to the survival of the human species as the air that we breathe.

Yet while many of us take water for granted, readily buying a pair of jeans that take 7,600 litres of water to produce or luxuriating in power showers, 844 million people across the world still live without access to clean water. What’s more, an estimated four billion people face severe water scarcity for at least one month every year.

That is why I have created short animation Brides of the Well, with international development charity, WaterAid, adapted from one of my short stories. It tells the tale of Saraswati and Paras; two teenagers living in Punjab, northern India, who are forced into child marriage and a life of servitude, centred round walking long distances to collect water for their aging husbands.

The story, while fictional, tells a universal truth; that we are a world divided between the haves and the have-nots. That while many think nothing of turning on the tap for a glass of clean, safe water, millions of others are forced to walk long distances for this most basic necessity, often from contaminated sources; their health, education, livelihoods and dreams curtailed as a result.

Growing up in India, I would wake between 4am and 5am every day to fill tankards of water for the household because that was the only time it was available. Today, in Mumbai, I see people living in slums struggling to find a safe, clean water source while across the road, wealthier homes have endless supplies on tap.

In India, Saraswati and Paras are typical of a staggering 163 million people – including roughly 81 million women – living without access to clean water close to home, meaning it has the highest population of people in the world without access.

A lack of clean water close to home affects women and girls disproportionately throughout their lives, with many bearing the burden of walking long distances to collect water, often from contaminated sources.

This means that often girls have no choice but to drop out of school from an early age, missing their education and opportunities and – in some cases – making them more vulnerable to early marriage.

Each year, more people gain access to clean water, but at the same time India is facing severe water shortages, with 600 million people affected by a variety of challenges including falling groundwater levels, drought, demand from agriculture and industry, and poor water resource management; all of which are likely to intensify as the impacts of climate change take hold.

According to a government think tank, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply by 2030. India is by no means alone. These rising demands mean that this life-giving resource is increasingly under threat across the globe.

In January, authorities in Cape Town, warned of an impending ‘Day Zero’; when they would be forced to turn off the city’s taps after three consecutive years of drought. While in China, the country’s first National Census of Water showed that in the past quarter century, 28,000 riverbeds have vanished and groundwater levels are falling by one to three metres per year.

Saraswati and Paras might be works of fiction but their story – of lives centred round collecting water from drying wells – is a daily reality for millions of people across the world.

My hope is that Brides of the Well will impress upon people the injustices that result from not having clean water; of lives curtailed and dreams left unfulfilled simply because an accident of birth has denied them this most basic human right.

I hope it will act as a rallying cry for action, encouraging people to think more about where our water comes from, and call for better access for everyone everywhere.

The global water crisis is not a problem for the next generation to tackle; it is a problem playing out across our television screens and in our newspaper headlines today.

We need urgent action, not just from our governments, private companies and the international community to help people currently living without access to this most basic resource. Only then will people like Saraswati and Paras truly be free.

*Shekhar Kapur went on to direct the hugely popular and multi-award winning historical biopics of Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth and its sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age. He has been the recipient of the Indian National Film Award, the BAFTA Award, the National Board of Review Award, and three Filmfare Awards. His most recent project,Vishwaroopam II, is due for release this year.

Shekhar Kapur worked with WaterAid to create the animation Brides of the Well, which highlights the global water crisis. Watch it at www.wateraid.org/bridesofthewell.

The post Water: a Private Privilege, not a Community Resource appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Shekhar Kapur* is director, actor and producer, who rose to international prominence with the 1998 Bollywood movie, Bandit Queen.

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The Earthquake in Indonesia: How Collaboration Impacts the Global Water Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:57:31 +0000 George C. Greene http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158197 George C. Greene, IV is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Water Mission*, a nonprofit Christian engineering organization that designs, builds, and implements safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas

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By George C. Greene, IV
SOUTH CAROLINA, USA, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

On Friday, September 28, the world first heard the devastating news out of Indonesia that a 7.5 magnitude earthquake had struck the island of Sulawesi. The quake caused substantial soil liquefaction — where the earth literally turned to liquid and started to flow — with entire homes sinking into the ground. It also triggered a tsunami, confirmed to be as high as 23 feet, that devastated the coastal areas.

The photos coming out of the impacted region are mind-numbing and include images of cars wrapped around poles and ships that were washed inland sitting on dry land. The stories are heartbreaking and range from reports of children away from their parents at camp being found dead to an older man who is now the only one left alive in his family of 14 people.

When a disaster strikes, safe water is usually the number one need. Water Mission mobilizes personnel and water treatment equipment to provide aid to affected people as quickly as possible. We build and preposition Living Water Treatment Systems — our patented, mobile treatment systems that utilize rapid sand filtration and chlorination.

Once onsite, one system can be set up and functional in two to four hours, providing enough safe water for up to 5,000 people daily. In Indonesia, we were fortunate to already have an established presence, dating back to 2005, with offices on the islands of Sumatra and West Timor.

With twenty staff members and ten Living Water Treatment Systems prepositioned in the country, we have been able to respond quickly and work with our indigenous team to reach the communities most in need.

Aware of the logistical unknowns related to moving our equipment from Sumatra and West Timor to the impacted island of Sulawesi, we also airfreighted equipment from our headquarters in North Charleston, South Carolina, to enable a diversified approach to delivering aid as fast as possible.

We are fortunate to have a unique relationship with FedEx, one of our corporate partners and sponsors, and they expedited a shipment of two additional Living Water Treatment Systems and approximately 1.1 million P&G Purifier of Water packets.

The P&G Purifier of Water packets will provide 11 million liters of clean water, enough to sustain approximately 75,000 people with 20 liters a day for one week. Each Living Water Treatment System can provide enough safe water for an entire community.

The majority of this work is being made possible by another corporate partner and sponsor, the Poul due Jensen Foundation, who offered a significant grant that is allowing us to provide safe water to more than 75,000 people in and around Palu — a large city on Sulawesi that was devastated by the disaster.

The death toll is now more than 2,000 people, and it is estimated that more than 5,000 people are still missing. Conditions are horrendous, and we feel compelled to raise awareness because the need for basic access to safe water and sanitation is critical for the survival of people in the impacted region.

Our goal is to meet this need and help bring stability to a tenuous situation — people are hanging on by a thread while simultaneously trying to process what happened and grieve the loss of loved ones.

Logistics remain challenging as the Palu airport was severely damaged. Our Indonesian team is making the journey to Palu from all across the country, and we are working to bring clean water as quickly as possible while building relationships with the government and local communities in need.

Our team in Indonesia is experienced and equipped with water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) best practices and sustainability methods. Having completed more than 150 safe water projects in Indonesia, serving more than 340,000 people, our indigenous staff will not only respond immediately, they will stay and work to help local communities rebuild with the goal of providing long-term access to safe water.

In the coming days, having access to safe water is imperative to ward off the threat of disease and continued loss of life. Unfortunately, more than 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to safe water and more than 4.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation.

This is not a problem for any organization to face alone. Rather, through continued collaboration, we believe humanitarians, nonprofits, governments, and communities can come together and forge an alliance to address one of the world’s most basic needs: water.

Our hope is that, even after this disaster vanishes from the headlines, people will not forget but will unite and advocate to change the harrowing statistics. Every day, 2,300 people die from waterborne illnesses directly tied to a lack of access to safe water and compromised sanitation hygiene and each one of these deaths is preventable.

In disasters, conditions are infinitely worse, compelling us to respond as quickly as possible. We know that people need safe water to live, and we are working diligently on multiple fronts to address this need in Indonesia.

As we continue to respond, working with local communities to provide clean water to impacted people in the region, we are asking for your support. First, to raise awareness about the global water crisis. Second, to join us in prayer for all the families who are mourning loved ones and facing the daunting task of rebuilding.

And finally, to partner with us in our efforts. Everyone has the ability to create change, and I encourage people to think about what they have to offer in four different areas: time, talent, treasure, and influence. It can be overwhelming to read the reports and hear the staggering news that more than 2.4 million people have been impacted by this earthquake and tsunami. But by joining us in our efforts, you can help restore dignity and bring hope to the survivors.

It is encouraging to collaborate with the Poul due Jensen Foundation, the FedEx Cares Delivering for Good Initiative, and P&G, demonstrating our common bond and commitment to helping others when disaster strikes. When we work together and empower each other, we can make a bigger impact and tackle overwhelming problems like the global water crisis.

Our Indonesian team will continue to respond, and we are ready to deploy more resources as needed. If you are interested in updates on our relief efforts in the Palu region, you can follow online at watermission.org.

*Since 2001, Water Mission has used innovative technology and engineering expertise to provide access to safe water for nearly 4 million people in 55 countries.

Note: All photos can be attributed to Water Mission.

The post The Earthquake in Indonesia: How Collaboration Impacts the Global Water Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

George C. Greene, IV is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Water Mission*, a nonprofit Christian engineering organization that designs, builds, and implements safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas

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Zero Hunger: Our Actions Today Are Our Future Tomorrowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/zero-hunger-actions-today-future-tomorrow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zero-hunger-actions-today-future-tomorrow http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/zero-hunger-actions-today-future-tomorrow/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 16:32:07 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158187 This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16

 
José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Zolia Morán Tun, from Tucurú, in the department of Alta Verapaz, in Guatemala, implements the piling trays to produce local plants, which they consume at the family level and sell the surplus. Initiatives like these help to move towards the goal of zero hunger. Credit: Luis Sánchez Díaz / FAO

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

Just three years ago, in September 2015, all United Nations Member States approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The eradication of hunger and all forms of malnutrition (Sustainable Development Goal number 2) was defined by world leaders as a cardinal objective of the Agenda, a sine qua non condition for a safer, fairer and more peaceful world.

Paradoxically, global hunger has only grown since then. According to the latest estimates, the number of undernourished people in the world increased in 2017, for the third consecutive year. Last year, 821 million people suffered from hunger (11 percent of the world population – one in nine people on the planet), most of them family and subsistence farmers living in poor rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

However, the growing rate of undernourished people is not the only big challenge we are facing. Other forms of malnutrition have also increased. In 2017, at least 1.5 billion people suffered from micronutrient deficiencies that undermine their health and lives, At the same time, the proportion of adult obesity continues to rise , from 11.7 percent in 2012 to 13.3 percent in 2016 (or 672.3 million people).

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

Hunger is mainly circumscribed to specific areas, namely those ravaged by conflicts, droughts and extreme poverty; yet obesity is everywhere, and it is increasing all around the world. As a matter of fact, we are witnessing the globalization of obesity. For example: obesity rates are climbing faster in Africa than any other region – eight of the 20 countries in the world with the fastest rising rates of adult obesity are in Africa. Furthermore, childhood overweight affected 38 million children under five years of age in 2017. About 46 percent of these children live in Asia, while 25 percent live in Africa.

If we do not call for urgent actions to halt the increasing obesity rates, we soon may have more obese than undernourished people in the world. The growing rate of obesity is happening at a huge socio-economic cost. Obesity is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. Estimates indicate that the global economic impact of obesity is about USD 2 trillion per year (2.8 percent of the global GDP). This is equivalent to the impacts of smoking or armed conflicts.

This year, World Food Day (celebrated every 16th of October) aims to remind the international community of its fundamental political commitment to humanity – the eradication of all forms of malnutrition – and raise awareness that achieving a Zero Hunger world by 2030 (so in 12 years-time) is still possible. The experience of Brazil is a good example to have in mind.

According to FAO estimates, hunger in Brazil was reduced from 10.6 percent of the total population (about 19 million people) at the beginning of the 2000s to less than 2.5 percent in the 2008-2010 triennium, which is the minimum value in which FAO can make meaningful statistical inference. This reduction in the number of undernourished people was mainly possible due to the firm commitment of former President Lula and the implementation of public policies and social protection programmes addressing extreme poverty and the impacts of prolonged droughts in the northeastern part of the country.

In fact, governments have the most fundamental role in achieving Zero Hunger by ensuring that vulnerable people have sufficient income to buy the food they need, or the means to produce it for themselves – even in times of conflict.

However, world leaders have to bear in mind that the concept of Zero Hunger is broader and not limited to the fight against undernourishment. It aims to provide people with the necessary nutrients for a healthy life. Zero Hunger encompasses the eradication of all forms of malnutrition. So it is not just about feeding people but nourishing people as well.

Current global food systems have increased the availability and accessibility of processed food that is very caloric and energy-dense, high in fat, sugar and salt. Food systems must be transformed in a way so that all people can consume healthy and nutritious food. We need to address obesity as a public issue, not as an individual problem. This requires the adoption of a multisectoral approach involving not only governments, but also international organizations, national institutions, civil society organizations, the private sector and citizens in general.

It must be a collective effort towards healthy diets that include, for instance, the creation of norms such as labelling and the banning of some harmful ingredients, the introduction of nutrition in the school curriculum, the adoption of methods to avoid food loss and waste, and the establishment of trade agreements that do not hamper access to locally grown, fresh and nutritious food from family farming.

“Our actions are our future” is the message of World Food Day 2018. It is time to renew our commitment and, even more important, the political support towards a sustainable world free from hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

The post Zero Hunger: Our Actions Today Are Our Future Tomorrow appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16

 
José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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True Cost of a Plate of Food Around the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/true-cost-plate-food-around-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=true-cost-plate-food-around-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/true-cost-plate-food-around-world/#comments Mon, 15 Oct 2018 12:13:57 +0000 Herve Verhoosel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158153 This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16

 
Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson at the UN World Food Programme (WFP)

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This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16
 
Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson at the UN World Food Programme (WFP)

By Herve Verhoosel
GENEVA, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

How much would you expect to pay for the most basic plate of food? The kind of thing you might whip up at home – nothing fancy, just enough to fill you up and meet a third of today’s calorie needs. A soup, maybe, or a simple stew – some beans or lentils, a handful of rice, bread, or corn?

Credit: World Food Programme

In the rich Global North – say, in New York State, USA – such a meal would cost almost nothing to make: 0.6 percent of the average daily income, or US$1.20.

In parts of the developing world, by contrast, food affordability can shrink to the point of absurdity: in South Sudan, a country born out of war and disintegrating into more war, the meal-to-income ratio is 300 times that of industrialized countries.

It is, in other words, as if a New Yorker had to pay nearly US$348.36 for the privilege of cooking and eating that plate of food.

How do people in South Sudan afford it? It’s simple. They don’t.

This is not a unique issue to South Sudan. Across the board, food is becoming ever less affordable in poorer countries that are subject to political instabilities.

Lack of access to food, and the costliness of it, have many causes: climate extremes, natural disasters, post-harvest losses, or bad governance, all of which can damage- or even shatter- farming supply chains and markets.

But, one overriding cause stands out: conflict. At WFP, we’ve long known that hunger and war are tragically symbiotic. Which makes it that much harder to eradicate the one without ending the other.

The 2018 edition of WFPs Counting the Beans: The True Cost of a Plate of Food Around the World index, now spanning 52 countries, underscores this clear correlation between food affordability costs and political stability and security.

The index looks at whether food costs for the original 33 countries analyzed in 2017 have risen or fallen, and compares costs for the same meal in some of the world’s poorest places with one of its richest, by using a New York baseline to highlight vast gaps in global food affordability.

In many countries, it was found that food affordability measured in this way has actually improved since 2017. This is situational, thanks to strong economic growth, political stability, and/or a better rainy season- or in the case of southern Africa- humanitarian assistance helping to offset the effects of severe drought.

Though despite such progress made in many countries through the past year, food costs are often still intensely disproportionate in relation to income. This is the case across much of Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and, to a lesser degree, of Latin America.

Among the countries surveyed for the study, Peru tops the list with the most affordable plate at the NY equivalent of US$ 3.44, just 1.6 percent of per capita income, vs. what that same plate would cost in New York, amounting to 0.6 percent of per capita income.

While Laos and Jordan are close runners-up to Peru, other countries have deteriorated. Almost invariably, these are nations where peace has been (further) eroded by violence, insecurity or political tension, including South Sudan- where the cost of a plate of food has soared from the exorbitant 155 percent of daily income in 2016 (USD $321.70) to 201.7 percent of daily income in 2018 (USD $348.36).

It now costs twice the national daily income to buy a plate of food in South Sudan. Northeast Nigeria took second to last place, at USD $222.05, or 128.6 percent of daily income in 2018, up from USD $200.32, or 121 percent of daily income in 2016.

These abysmal numbers highlight the vast gaps in global food affordability, where 821 million people go hungry while elsewhere one can get a simple nutritious meal with a just a handful of change.

The fact that this still occurs defies both reason and decency, and it’s why we – the World Food Programme and other humanitarian partners – are there.

However, the impact of WFP and other humanitarian actors in saving and changing lives cannot be sustained without political investment, good governance, transparent markets, and wider partnerships.

Societies cannot lift themselves out of the poverty trap if families are continuously priced out of providing their children with the nutritional meals essential for them to develop into healthy and productive adults, if climate degradation continues to threaten food security and development gains, and if protracted conflicts continue to destroy societies and force young talent elsewhere.

With a concerted global effort, the international community can achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and end hunger and malnutrition. Governments must engage with and support their developing country counterparts in peacebuilding, conflict resolution and disaster risk reduction.

The private sector must embrace that turning a profit can go hand in hand with advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through employing young people to boost incomes, sourcing from smallholder farms, and through working alongside leaders to strengthen supply chains.

The shocking and outraging numbers in this year’s “Counting the Beans” index highlight that peaceful societies and affordable food go hand in hand. We have the modern technological capacities to end world hunger, but first we must end the conflict that fosters it.

Together, we can work towards reversing the figures in this year’s index, and ensure that in the future, nobody will have to work a day and a half to afford a simple meal.

The post True Cost of a Plate of Food Around the World appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16

 
Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson at the UN World Food Programme (WFP)

The post True Cost of a Plate of Food Around the World appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Sex Offender Registry is Not Enough to Curb Sexual Violence Against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:48:52 +0000 Elsa DSilva and Quratulain Fatima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158180 India recently launched a sex offender registry to deter sex offenders from perpetrating crimes against women and children by indicating that the government is keeping track of them. The personal details of 440,000 sex offenders who have been convicted for various crimes like “eve-teasing”, child sexual abuse, rape and gang rape will be registered in this database […]

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Protesters gather at a candlelight vigil in New Delhi. Credit: Sujoy Dhar/IPS

By Elsa D'Silva and Quratulain Fatima
Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

India recently launched a sex offender registry to deter sex offenders from perpetrating crimes against women and children by indicating that the government is keeping track of them. The personal details of 440,000 sex offenders who have been convicted for various crimes like “eve-teasing”, child sexual abuse, rape and gang rape will be registered in this database and accessible to law enforcement.

The creation of the registry is hailed by many as a welcome move in India, where violence against women and girls is pandemic. Recently, the Thomson Reuters Survey stated that India is the most dangerous country in the world with regards to sexual violence. From the start of this year, there has been a series of gang rapes of little girls ranging from babies to teenagers in all parts of the country –  NorthSouth, WestNorthEast and Central India

Neighbouring country Pakistan does not have a sex offender registry but is equally bad when it comes to violence against women and sex offences. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in Pakistan an incident of rape occurs every two hours and 70 percent of women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime by their intimate partners and 93 percent women experience some form of sexual violence in public places in their lifetime.

Measures to prevent sex offenses are needed in both countries and each country can learn from each other’s successful prevention programs. However, only workable solutions should be replicated, and a sex offender registry is not one.

Evidence suggests that sex offender registries have failed to reduce sex crimes and have made rehabilitation of offenders difficult. In fact, registries might work for other forms of crime but not for the sexually deviant

Sex offender registries exist in many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the Republic of Ireland. Sexual violence is a problem in each of those countries, too, but studies have shown that sex offender registries have little or no effect on crime prevention or recidivism. Furthermore, evidence from these countries suggests that sex offender registries have failed to reduce sex crimes and have made rehabilitation of offenders difficult. In fact, registries might work for other forms of crime but not for the sexually deviant.

Further, we think making the details public, which is how it works in the United States and is what some people in India want, is dangerous as it would further increase the risk for women and girls rather than protect them. Though the government has assured that the registry would have multiple layers of security, there are doubts that the names and identities of the victims would be revealed. The Indian authorities are planning to link the details of the perpetrators to the Aadhar database which has biometric information of the person. Reports have indicated that the Aadhar database is itself not secure and for as little as $8 one can access personal information of people.

Moreover, Googling and knowing that a sex offender lives next door does not ensure that you can google your way to safety since safety from sex offences entail more than sex offender registration laws and a registry. Research shows that most sex offenders are relatives or people known to their victims but systems that put in place sex offender registry assume that sex offenders are strangers.

Many sex offenders are not even reported – particularly in South Asia due to the cultural stigma, faulty police procedures and lengthy court cases – and they aren’t included on any registration/notification system.

Instead of implementing a sex offender registry and seeing that as a solution, more efforts should focus on addressing the underlying issues, like patriarchy and improving the effectiveness of the justice system. Specifically, we recommend the governments of India and Pakistan concentrate on the following measures:

  • Sex education in school curriculum to educate people about sex offences and teach them ways to have responsible, healthy and consensual relationships.
  • Advocacy efforts to break down social taboos around this topic and make it easier to discuss and have a dialogue in the family and community about sex offences.
  • Allocation of public resources toward the rehabilitation of sex offenders with a high risk of repeating their crimes. Research suggests that psychological treatment and cognitive behavioural treatment can reduce recidivism amongst sex offenders.
  • Including women in all policy formulation, including the passage of any relevant laws. They are the stakeholders most at risk of sexual violence and they are in a better position to provide guidelines for policies aiming to stop sex offences.
  • Training police officers to be sensitive to the needs of victim and knowledgeable about the relevant laws so they can be a resource to individuals who want to report crimes. For example, Sweden has a high reporting of sexual violence because the creation of a strong eco-system, a feminist mindset and sensitive police have made it easier to break the silence.
  • Ensuring quick and swift punishment for convicted sex offenses. Long court cases in the face of lingering social stigma puts many victims off reporting sex offences. Policy makers must take a hands-on approach to swiftly dispense justice in sex offences.

Elsa D’Silva is the Founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation (Safecity) and works on women’s rights issues in India. She is a 2018 Yale World Fellow and a 2015 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow  her on Twitter, @elsamariedsilva. 

Quratulain Fatima is a policy practitioner working extensively in rural and conflict-ridden areas of Pakistan with a focus on gender inclusive development and conflict prevention. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow her on Twitter, @moodee_q.

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A New IFC Vision for Greening Banks in Emerging Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/new-ifc-vision-greening-banks-emerging-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-ifc-vision-greening-banks-emerging-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/new-ifc-vision-greening-banks-emerging-markets/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:26:02 +0000 Philippe Le Houerou http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158182 Philippe Le Houérou is President, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank affiliate

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The Benban Solar Park will provide fast-growing Egypt with the clean energy it needs to drive economic growth sustainably. Credit: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

By Philippe Le Houérou
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

The International Finance Corporation is rapidly greening its portfolio.

This past fiscal year, 36 percent of our own accounts and mobilization supported climate-smart projects — up from 12 percent a decade ago. Since May, we have been applying a carbon price to all project finance investments in the cement, chemicals, and thermal power sectors, at $40-80 per metric ton.

And in less than a decade we, along with other development finance institutions, have become a global leader in creating the green bond market, helping to start a market that didn’t exist in 2007 and that last year totaled more than $150 billion in investments.

Yet we should do more. Over the past few years, civil society groups have been critical of IFC for supporting financial intermediaries that have coal exposures. We do not lend for the purpose of financing coal-related activities.

In the past, we have made equity investments in banks that may have exposures to such coal projects, and we have given general purpose loans to banks and those funds may have inadvertently been invested in coal projects.

In response, we have changed our policy in the past two years to vastly reduce our direct and indirect exposure to coal in new financial intermediaries projects.

For one thing, we have eliminated our general-purpose loans to any financial intermediaries; we now ring-fence about 95 percent of our lending to financial intermediaries to ensure that the financing only supports targeted areas, such as projects promoting energy efficiency, renewables, women business owners, or small and medium-sized enterprises.

We will certainly continue to lend to financial intermediaries with targeted credit lines going forward, and take equity in banks that are not engaged in financing coal projects, in support of our development mandate. We also have stepped up our work with emerging market banks on green bonds.

But the broader discussion around the vast need for climate finance and action has spurred a lot of thinking inside IFC. We have asked ourselves, how can we have a bigger impact? Would it be to never invest in, or divest ourselves of, all equity investments in financial intermediaries that have invested in coal in the past? That, indeed, is one way.

I believe there’s a different new and more impactful approach. I want to proactively seek financial intermediaries that would like our help in greening their portfolios and reducing their exposure to coal projects, which are not only bad for the environment but could also become stranded assets in the future.

I want to develop a green equity investment approach to working with financial intermediaries that formally commit upfront to reduce or, in some cases, exit all coal investments over a defined period.
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In the coming months, we will work to define the parameters of this new approach, including a framework for transparency and disclosure as well as time-bound commitments.

I strongly believe that transparency is essential to promoting accountability and ensuring good development outcomes.

On this front, I also plan to introduce a number of improvements. We will require new equity financial intermediary clients exposed to coal projects to publicly disclose their total exposure in this sector. We will also require all new financial intermediary clients exposed to high-risk projects to disclose a summary of their environmental social management systems.

In addition, we have decided to pilot a voluntary initiative with our financial intermediary clients exposed to high-risk projects for the next two years to promote disclosure of such high-risk sub-projects initiated from IFC lending, including the name, sector, and host country of the project.

I believe we must also push transparency from the regulatory angle. In this regard, we will seek to put disclosure on the agenda of the Sustainable Banking Network, which brings together banking regulators and associations from 35 countries to transform their financial markets toward environmental and social sustainability.

The experience gained through the pilot program, discussions with clients, and feedback from regulators will help us define a much better way forward on transparency.

It is our intent that this twin strategy aimed at creating incentives for financial intermediary equity clients to reduce or exit coal projects, as well as improving transparency, will result in fewer of these investments. There are no guarantees, of course.

But I believe that IFC and other development finance institutions must move urgently with new ideas to preserve our planet. We have no choice but to be bold.

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Excerpt:

Philippe Le Houérou is President, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank affiliate

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Rural Migration: An Opportunity, Not A Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:03:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158170 While it can be a challenging issue, migration must be seen as an opportunity and be met with sound, coherent policies that neither stem nor promote the phenomenon. A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) examines rural migration and urges countries to maximise the contribution of such migrants […]

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Women and children caught in a dust-laden gust at an IDP settlement 60km south of the town of Gode, reachable only along a dirt track through the desiccated landscape. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Women and children caught in a dust-laden gust at an IDP settlement 60km south of the town of Gode, reachable only along a dirt track through the desiccated landscape. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

While it can be a challenging issue, migration must be seen as an opportunity and be met with sound, coherent policies that neither stem nor promote the phenomenon.

A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) examines rural migration and urges countries to maximise the contribution of such migrants to economic and social development.

“We cannot ignore the challenges and costs associated with migration,” FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva said.

“The objective must be to make migration a choice, not a necessity, and to maximise the positive impacts while minimising the negative ones,” he added.

FAO’s senior economist and author of the report Andrea Cattaneo echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating; “Migration, despite all the challenges that it may pose, really represents the core of economic, social, and human development.”

Though international migration often dominates headlines, the report shows that internal migration is a far larger phenomenon.

More than one billion people living in developing countries have moved internally, with 80 percent of moves involving rural areas.

Migration between developing countries is also larger than those to developed countries. For instance, approximately 85 percent of refugees globally are hosted by developing countries, and at least one-third in rural areas.

Cattaneo additionally highlighted the link between internal and international migrants, noting that in low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to migrate internationally than people who have not moved.

A significant portion of international migrants are also found to have come from rural areas. FAO found that almost 75 percent of rural households from Malawi migrate internationally.

Abdul Aziz stands with his child in Dhaka's Malibagh slum. He came to Bangladesh’s capital a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but only to find grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Abdul Aziz stands with his child in Dhaka’s Malibagh slum. He came to Bangladesh’s capital a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but only to find grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Why all the movement?

While human movements have long occurred since the beginning of time, many migrants now move out of necessity, not choice.

Alongside an increase in protracted crises which force communities out of their homes, it is the lack of access to income and employment and thus a sustainable livelihood that is among the primary drivers of rural migration.

In China, significant rural-urban income gaps drove rural workers to abandon agriculture and migrate to cities.

Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of China’s population living in urban areas increased from 26 percent to 56 percent, and an estimated 200 million rural migrants now work in the East Asian nation’s cities.

However, such rapid urbanisation increasingly seen around the world is posing new challenges in the availability of resources.

Poor environmental conditions and agricultural productivity have also driven rural workers away.

A recent study revealed that a 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature is associated with a 5 percent increase in the number of international migrants, but only from agriculture-dependent societies.

In other countries such as Thailand and Ghana, migration is prompted by the lack of infrastructure and access to services such as education and health care.

This points to the importance of investing in rural areas to ensure migration is not overwhelming and that residents have the means to live a prosperous life.

However, it is very important to consider the right type of investments and development, Cattaneo said.

“The type of development matters. Development per say is not going to reduce migration…but if you have the right type of development and investments in rural areas, you can make the case that you can reduce some of this migration,” Cattaneo told IPS.

A forward outlook

In the report, FAO advocates a territorial development approach to reduce rural out-migration  and thus international migration including investments in social services and improving regional infrastructure in or close to rural areas.

For instance, investments in infrastructure related to the agri-food system—such as warehousing, cold storage, and wholesale markets—can generate employment both in agriculture and the non-farm sectors and provide more incentive for people to stay instead of move to already overburdened cities.

Policies should also be forward-thinking and context specific, Cattaneo noted while pointing the consequences of climate change. This could mean investing in new activities that are viable to a particular region while another region moves towards more drought-resistant crop.

While migration may still continue, it will not be driven by the lack of economic opportunities or suitable living conditions.

“Migration is a free choice but if you put in place good opportunities at home, many people may decide not to migrate. Some will still want to migrate and that’s fine—that’s actually the type of migration that works. It’s not out of need, it’s out of choice,” Cattaneo told IPS.

In fact, migration often plays a significant role in reducing inequalities and is even included as a target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10, which aims to reduce inequality within and among countries.

Whilst reducing their own inequalities, migrants also contribute to economic transformation and development around the world.

“We focus on the challenges without looking at the opportunities that can come with migration because at the end of the day, people are a resource for society,” Cattaneo said.

“If we can find a way to put them into productive use, then that’s an added value for the destination or host country,” he added, pointing to Uganda as an example.

In recent years, Uganda has seen an influx of refugees from conflict-stricken nations such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With its open-door policy, the East African country now has 1.4 million refugees, posing strains on resources.

Despite the challenges, its progressive refugee policy allows non-nationals to seek employment, go to school, and access healthcare. The government also provides a piece of land to each refugee family for their own agricultural use.

“This is a country that has looked beyond the challenges to see the opportunities, and they are making these people be productive part of society,” Cattaneo said.

With certain rhetoric that has cast migrants in a negative light, the international community still has a way to go to learn how to turn challenges into opportunities.

“Much remains to be done to eliminate poverty and hunger in the world. Migration was – and will continue to be – part and parcel of the broader development process,” Graziano da Silva concluded.

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Women & Youth Key to Achieving Agenda 2030 in South-South Cooperationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 10:52:12 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158159 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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India and Kenya signed agreements in the field of agriculture during Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to New Delhi. Credit: G.N. Jha

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

By 2050 Africa will have 830 million young people. Many countries in the global south, India included are seeing a youth(men and women) bulge. To reap a demographic dividend countries in the global south need to share and exchange knowledge to leapfrog socio-economic transformation.

When the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Technical Cooperation Amongst Developing Countries (BAPA) was adopted, few would have predicted that only 40 years later, developing countries would be accounting for the largest levels of global economic output.

It is an acknowledgement of the fact that new pillars of growth and influence have clearly emerged from the global south that the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stress the importance of South-South cooperation in implementing the 2030 agenda.

Goal 17 on revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development stresses the role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in achieving the SDGs.

South-South Cooperation (SSC) is on the rise in scale and scope. It is recognized as crucial in collective efforts to address challenges such as poverty eradication, climate change, food security, social protection, public health and infrastructure development.

SSC is seen by various development actors as a vital complement to North-South Development Cooperation. It may also represent the fertilization of a debate on how Overseas Development Aid flows relate to broader financing for development flows.

This year, 49 of the 55 member states of the African Union signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which will come into effect once 22 countries ratify it. It will be the largest free trade area that creates an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of US$2.5 trillion.

At the moment, infrastructure projects account for just over half of South-South cooperation, with China leading in this area. India is a considerable player, with projects such as the Pan African E-Network Project that will connect African countries by a satellite and a fibre-optic network for tele-education, tele–medicine, internet and videoconferencing.

Yet the feeling persists that the potential of this cooperation has not been fully leveraged, and a key topic of discourse being how south to south cooperation can contribute to sustainable development and what more needs to be done to scale-up and improve such cooperation for sustainable development.

How do we ensure that trade, investment, technology transfer and knowledge sharing address the needs of recipient countries as prioritized in their development strategies?

These are the kind of questions that will preoccupy organisations such as the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and United Nations Development Programme(UNDP). These two are leading efforts to establish the South-South Global Thinkers initiative that will enable joint research and knowledge sharing to inform global policy dialogues on South-South cooperation for the SDGs.

Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator emphasized UNDP’s role in addressing the knowledge gap that many countries face when confronting their poverty challenges and emphasized that South-South Cooperation has become a “way we conduct business on a daily basis” because it has proven to deliver results on the ground.

If we are to keep our eyes on the overall goal of the SDGs – reduction of poverty – it is time to bring support to social sectors on the same level as infrastructure. It is time for investments to target the women and youth. Empowerment of these two groups provides the quickest pathway to poverty reduction especially in Africa, with agriculture-based investments the most promising sector.

Kenya’s economy is anchored on agriculture, where 70% of the population finds its upkeep. While in many regions crop yields have remained a step ahead of population growth, helping free them of hunger and famine, Africa has not managed to keep up with this trend; the impact of new technologies has been less apparent and agricultural productivity has stagnated, and even fallen in some areas.

In Africa’s agriculture sector, two-thirds of the labour force comprises women. Unfortunately, women farmers have less access to essential inputs—land, credit, fertilizers, new technologies and extension services. As a result, their yields tend to be less than optimum.

In addition, while African women are highly entrepreneurial and own about a third of all businesses across Africa, they are more likely to be running microenterprises in the informal sector, engaging in low-value-added activities that reap marginal returns.

If south-south investments are not deliberately designed for gender-responsiveness, the development course will continue to miss out on the multiplier effect that has been so well documented regarding women’s income. Women reinvest a much higher part of their earnings in their families and communities than men, spreading wealth and creating a positive impact on future development.

The World Bank says that agriculture will be a one trillion dollar business in Africa by 2030. Is there a better way to prepare to reap from part of this business than positioning the continent’s richest resource – the youth?

In his acceptance speech as the global champion of the youth agenda at the UN General Assembly 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “progress for the youth means progress for the entire humanity”.

In Kenya for example, one million young people join the work force every year. Of these young people, only about one in five is likely to find a formal job, with the rest either being unemployed or engaged in some non-wage earning occupation.

This means that Kenya needs a million new jobs every year for the next 10 years to keep up with the rapidly-expanding youth bulge. The median age of Kenyan farmers is 61, yet the median age of the population is 18. This is a potential force that must be involved in Agriculture.

To do this, creative and sustainable ways must be found to create opportunities that will present youth with the allure and career progression currently lacking in agriculture. With one of the fastest internet penetration rates, the youth in the country can be supported to exploit information technology for various value-addition ventures in agri-business.

This can be even more useful when focusing on areas with untapped potential, such as what is now known as the Blue Economy. Africa’s economies have continued to post remarkable growth rates, largely driven by the richness of its land-based natural resources, yet 38 of the continent’s 54 states are coastal.

India and Kenya have already made initial moves in this direction. Following the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kenya two years ago, the two governments agreed to pursue initiatives in the sustainable management and extraction of ocean-based resources.

India will be sharing with Kenya expertise on space-based applications to address natural resources management and weather forecasting, expertise that can be exploited to improve food output in the country.

The rise of SSC introduces new dynamics to international development cooperation. SSC challenges traditional donor aid relationships inasmuch as it promotes economic independence and collective self-reliance of developing countries, and aspires for cooperation on the basis of equality, solidarity and mutual benefit.

There is a need to re-orient SSDC, along with international development cooperation more broadly, to adhere to norms and guidelines that consistently takes into account human rights, equity, gender equality, decent work, ecological sustainability, democratic ownership and other key elements of social justice.

As President Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.”

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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World Food Day: World Hunger is on the Rise Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/world-hunger-rise-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-hunger-rise-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/world-hunger-rise-2/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 09:58:41 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158168 According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 820 million people are currently suffering from chronic undernourishment across the globe. The reasons for the surge are complex, but are attributed to increasing conflict, economic slowdowns and the rise in extreme weather events related to climate change. Furthermore, rapidly increasing obesity levels are […]

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World Food Day - This year's day is being observed under the theme: "OUR ACTIONS ARE OUR FUTURE. A ZERO HUNGER WORLD BY 2030 IS POSSIBLE."

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 820 million people are currently suffering from chronic undernourishment across the globe. The reasons for the surge are complex, but are attributed to increasing conflict, economic slowdowns and the rise in extreme weather events related to climate change.

Furthermore, rapidly increasing obesity levels are reversing many years of progress in combatting hunger and malnutrition.

Indeed, today 672 million people suffer from obesity and a further 1.3 billion people are overweight.

However, change can happen.

This year’s World Food Day is being observed under the theme: “OUR ACTIONS ARE OUR FUTURE. A ZERO HUNGER WORLD BY 2030 IS POSSIBLE.”

70 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas where people’s lives depend on agriculture, fisheries or forestry. That’s why Zero hunger calls for a transformation of rural economy: through government to create opportunity and through Smallholder farmers engaging the future of sustainable agricultural methods.

But employment and economic growth aren’t enough, especially for those who endure conflict and suffering.

Zero Hunger moves beyond conflict-resolution and economic growth, taking the long-term approach to build peaceful, inclusive societies.

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