Inter Press Service » TerraViva United Nations http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 30 Jun 2016 21:56:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Suspend Saudi Arabia from Human Rights Council, Human Rights Groups Sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 21:56:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145882 Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch brief the press. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch brief the press. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 30 2016 (IPS)

Saudi Arabia’s membership in the Human Rights Council (HRC) should be suspended by members of the UN General Assembly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) said on Wednesday.

The two human rights groups have joined forces to make the exceptional call for action, noting that it is based on Saudi Arabia’s “gross and systematic violations of human rights” in Yemen and domestically.

“We believe that…Saudi Arabia does not deserve to sit anymore on the Human Rights Council,” HRW’s Deputy Director for Global Advocacy Philippe Bolopion said to press here Wednesday.

HRW and AI allege that they have documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which have killed at least 913 civilians including 200 children.

In total, the UN Human Rights Office estimates that there are more than 9,000 causalities since military operations began in Yemen in March 2015. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian causalities as all other forces put together.

In a recent report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon found that the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of recorded child deaths and injuries, and nearly half of the 101 attacks on schools and hospitals.

However, the Secretary-General removed Saudi Arabia from a list of countries that have committed violations against children in that same report earlier this month, after the Gulf state reportedly threatened to withdraw funding from critical UN programs. HRW and AI called the list of countries the “list of shame.”

“I had to make a decision just to have all UN operations, particularly humanitarian operations, continue,” the Secretary-General said upon receiving criticism of the move.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs,” he continued.

In response, the Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi denied the use of threats and intimidation to remove the country from the list.

“It’s important to defend this very important mandate to protect children affected by armed conflict. Member states of the General Assembly ought to stand up and defend this mandate,” Bennett told the press.

In addition to the UN’s reporting, HRW and AI have also documented 19 attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen involving internationally banned cluster munitions, many of which were in civilian areas such as Sana’a University.

Alongside the nine nation-strong coalition led by Saudi Arabia, Executive Director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division Sarah Leah Whitson also noted that the United States and the United Kingdom have “crossed the threshold to become a part of this war” by being principle suppliers of weapons including cluster munitions. In 2015, Saudi Arabia purchased $20 billion of weapons from the U.S. and $4 billion from the UK.

The two Western nations have also provided intelligence support and targeting assistance during the conflict.

This makes them legally responsible for crimes being committed on the ground, Whitson stated.

Meanwhile, the coalition’s naval blockade of Yemen’s ports have drastically limited the supply of food and medicine, leaving over 80 percent of the population in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. This barrier and starvation of civilians is “a method of warfare and a war crime,” Whitson said.

“Failure to act on Saudi Arabia’s gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,” -- Richard Bennett

Saudi and U.S. officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but members of the coalition have repeatedly denied any violations of human rights.

Domestically, Saudi Arabia’s country’s crackdown on dissent has also persisted. In 2015, at least six people, including prominent writers and activists, were punished for the expression of their opinions. One was sentenced to death.

Even speaking to human rights groups such as HRW and AI is an offense, said Director of AI’s Asia-Pacific Program Richard Bennett.

Executions have also surged, Bennett noted.

Just in 2016, at least 95 people have been executed, higher than at the same point last year. Approximately 47 of them were killed in a mass execution in January. Many of these executions are for offenses which, under international law, must not be punishable by death.

Despite the well-documented violations in international humanitarian and human rights law, Saudi Arabia has used its membership in the HRC to shield itself from scrutiny and accountability, the two groups said.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia thwarted a resolution in the HRC that requested an investigation on alleged war crimes and other violations by all sides to the Yemeni conflict. Instead, the country drafted its own resolution that did not include a reference to an independent UN inquiry.

HRW and AI have also called on member states of the General Assembly (UNGA) to act in accordance to Resolution 60/251. The resolution states that the UNGA, with two-thirds of the vote, can suspend the rights of membership in the Council if a member commits human rights violations.

The rule has previously been invoked in 2011 when Libya’s membership was suspended due to human rights violations.

“We realize that the odds are against us,” Bolopion stated when asked about the likelihood of Saudi Arabia being suspended.

But Bolopion hopes the campaign will be a “wake-up call” for other countries to see that they cannot get away with conducting human rights abuses and to clean up their act.

HRW and AI also stressed that action is essential in order to maintain the UN’s integrity.

“Failure to act on Saudi Arabia’s gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,” Bennett concluded.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia, along with nine Arab states including Egypt and Kuwait, intervened in the Yemeni conflict and has since clashed with Houthi forces.

Despite UN-mediated peace talks which produced a ceasefire, there have been “serious violations” by both parties, the Secretary General said to Yemeni negotiators.

The negotiations are set to resume in mid-July following the Muslim Eid holiday.

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The Geography of Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-geography-of-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-geography-of-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-geography-of-poverty/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 08:20:40 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145878 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-geography-of-poverty/feed/ 0 Uganda Rolls Out Compulsory Immunization to Dispel Anti-Vaccine Mythshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:49:56 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145876 Women wait to immunize their children at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda, where free vaccinations take place. The nurse in the foreground is Betty Makakeeto. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Women wait to immunize their children at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda, where free vaccinations take place. The nurse in the foreground is Betty Makakeeto. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Patience*, a Ugandan maid, planned on taking her three-year-old son for polio immunization during the country’s mass campaigns a year ago, until her landlord’s wife told her a shocking myth.

“The medicine they are injecting them with means the boy when he’s an adult won’t be able to reproduce,” Patience, 32, recalled to IPS what she’d been informed. “She said: ‘Don’t even think about immunization’.”

Patience said that in her neighborhood, the Kyebando slum in Kampala, many families “lied to medical personnel” because they were “terrified” about what this woman had told them.

Earlier this year, the country’s president signed the Immunization Act 2016, prescribing fines, a jail term of six months or both, for parents who don’t vaccinate their children in the age bracket of five days to one year old.“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals.” -- MP Huda Oleru

The Act also requires the production of an immunization card before admission to day care centres, pre-primary or primary education. It also aims to provide for compulsory immunization of women of reproductive age and other target groups against immunisable diseases.

According to the legislation, passed by Parliament last year, diseases for which immunization is compulsory include tuberculosis, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, polio and measles.

One in five African children still do not receive all of the most basic vaccines they need, including ones for three critical diseases—measles, rubella and neonatal tetanus – a report issued by WHO at the first ministerial on Immunization in Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February.

Uganda was ranked lowest in east Africa for immunization coverage, with one example being the country’s 2014 diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) coverage which was at 78 percent compared to DRC (80 percent) Kenya (81 percent), Tanzania (97 percent) and Rwanda (99 percent).

According to outgoing female MP Huda Oleru, who tabled the private member’s bill in 2011, the biggest obstacle to vaccination in Uganda was the 666 cult made up of more 500 members but “growing” across the country, who refuse to immunize their children.

“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals,” Oleru told IPS.

Oleru is continuing talks with the groups in eastern Uganda, and said she hoped “in the long-term” they would come around.

But for now the law was the “easiest way” of getting them to immunize their children.

“When I entered Parliament (ten years ago), I realised that we didn’t have an immunisation law, and a law is guidance or directive and it guides us in areas of impunity,” said Oleru.

At least ten members of a Christian group were detained over refusing to vaccinate their children against polio, the Daily Monitor reported last month.

Dr. Henry Luzze, the deputy program manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, told IPS the government was currently vaccinating against ten diseases. It had submitted an application to GAVI ((the Vaccine Alliance) and received approval to introduce the rotavirus vaccine for diarrhea in children, a “big problem”. They were also looking at introducing a rubella vaccine by 2018 and a second measles vaccination to be given at 18 months.

Measles were still a huge threat, after outbreaks last year in western Uganda, he said.

“We still have some districts and communities that are still below what we want in terms of coverage in the eastern part of the country, areas where there are very high hills and no transport,” said Dr Luze.

Children were also not being vaccinated due to shortages in a number of facilities at a district level, but through recent support from GAVI, Uganda was able to procure solar powered fridges to keep the vaccines in areas prone to power cuts.

The influx of refugees from Burundi, DRC and South Sudan, where immunization rates are low, pose another challenge to Uganda. Late last month at least three cases of yellow fever were confirmed here, with scores of cases suspected.

According to the new Act, “the government shall provide free vaccines and other related services to every Ugandan required to receive vaccination”.

Dr Luzze said the law was good as it was balanced and compels the government to “make sure all the vaccination services are in place”.

“After that, then you commit the parents or the caretakers to make sure all their children are vaccinated,” said Dr Luzze, claiming the legislation “empowers CSOs to challenge the government”, who could be taken to court over shortages.

But there has already been some criticism from Ugandans that the law is too harsh, and during a recent mass polio campaign, held in March, there were reports that about 2,000 children below the age of five missed out on immunizations in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, according to the country’s Daily Monitor newspaper.

The Act also creates the establishment of an Immunization Fund, house by the ministry of health, to “purchase vaccines and related supplies, cold chains, and funding of immunization outreach activities”.

Sources will be made of up monies appropriate by Parliament for the fund and donations.

“GAVI has been supporting this country so much and they’re still giving, but the challenge is GAVI has its criteria,” said Oleru. “Soon we might become a middle-income country, then we shall not be eligible (for support) under GAVI.”

Luzze said he believed the law would be easy to enforce because “the president, the ministers, the parliamentarians, religious leaders” all supported it.

President Yoweri Museveni was “aggressive” about promoting immunization because he believes it saves “families from spending too much money and time caring for sick members”, among other reasons, said his spokesperson Lindah Nabusayi.

Dr Moses Byaruhanga, the director of medical and health services for Uganda’s police, told IPS the authorities would go on radio talk shows to talk about the law, but would be strict on it.

“Police will be able to find out if (parents) did not take their kids for immunization,” he said, adding health workers, local leaders and schools would be the eyes and ears of the community.

International immunization experts such as Mike McQuestion, director of sustainable immunization financing at Sabin Vaccine Institute in the US, have praised the new legislation as a “textbook example of good governance”.

“The way the Ugandans created this law was itself impressive,” he told IPS. “Several public institutions had to work together to write it, vet it and push it through.”

In late March, about two weeks after it emerged the law had passed, Patience had her son immunized against polio, during a door-to-door mass campaign.

“It was very easy, they just put a drop in the mouth, then a mark on the finger,” she said, adding it took only three minutes.

Patience admitted she had been “partly” worried about going to jail under the new law, and that was the reason she’d chosen to vaccinate her son. But she said the nurse had told her “you shouldn’t not vaccinate him because you’ll be arrested, but because he can get sick”.

“I think now he is free from becoming sick,” said Patience.

*Patience’s name was changed for personal reasons.

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Let There Be Work: Italian Ministry of the Interior Announces Initiative on Employment of Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/let-there-be-work-italian-ministry-of-the-interior-announces-initiative-on-employment-of-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-there-be-work-italian-ministry-of-the-interior-announces-initiative-on-employment-of-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/let-there-be-work-italian-ministry-of-the-interior-announces-initiative-on-employment-of-refugees/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:29:38 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145874 An exceedingly high death toll of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea into Italy during the first five months of 2016 indicates the gravity of Europe’s current migrant crisis. For those who do survive the life-threatening journey, opportunities to establish themselves and progress in Italy are few and far between. The need for immediate governmental action is essential. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

An exceedingly high death toll of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea into Italy during the first five months of 2016 indicates the gravity of Europe’s current migrant crisis. For those who do survive the life-threatening journey, opportunities to establish themselves and progress in Italy are few and far between. The need for immediate governmental action is essential. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Thus far, 2016 has proved fatal for the thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in a bid to find safety in Italy. Alarmingly, between January and March, a spiralling death toll was recorded among refugees and migrants attempting to reach Italy by boat from North Africa.

According to William Spindler of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)  “Some 2’510 lives have been lost so far, compared to 1’855 in the same period in 2015 and 57 in the first five months of 2014.” Ironically, many migrants would regard risking their lives on the exceptionally treacherous sea route as the easiest part of their journey to Italy. Upon arrival, they are, in most cases made subject to unemployment, homelessness, legal disenfranchisement, arrest, and detention in Centers for Identification and Expulsion (CIE).

In many ways, life appears bleak and opportunities limited for the thousands of displaced people willing to stop at nothing in their search for a peaceful home that will grant them the fundamental human right to safety and security.

Fortunately, after years of dispute over the rights of refugees and migrants in Italy, the Italian Ministry of the Interior (Ministero Dell’Interno) has drawn attention to the importance of providing migrants with sustainable, productive livelihoods by agreeing to an employment initiative for refugees in conjunction with the General Confederation of Italian Industry otherwise known as Confindustria.

“We were immigrants and we welcome immigrants, on the integration wager we must have vision and courage”. Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano
The agreed employment initiative for refugees and migrants is particularly critical at this juncture due to the increasing number of migrants determined to seek refuge on Italy’s shores. In late May, The Daily Mail of the U.K reported an arrival of over 1’000 illegal immigrants only permitted access into Italy after threatening to throw the babies aboard their ship into the ocean if they were forcibly turned back.

In the same month, at least 880 people were reported to have drowned in shipwrecks and boat capsizing in the Mediterranean. In this sense, desperate times really do call for desperate measures. The catastrophic incidents which threatened and took the lives of countless highlights the need for innovative measures and the failure of current migrant regulation in Italy.

When the European Commission presented options for reforming the Common European Asylum System, the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) considered it unconvincing and lacking innovation. As Christopher Hein of CIR explained, “The approach adopted by the Commission is extremely limited and the basic principle to determine the state responsible for examining the asylum request remains substantially unchanged: it continues to strongly handicap, first of all, asylum seekers and secondly, the countries in which they arrive first.”

On a national level, there have also been significant setbacks presented to refugees and migrants from the Bossi-Fini law first implemented in 2002.  This law restricts the aiding and abetting of illegal immigrants. This is why in late May, migrants were willing to threaten the sacrifice of their own children rather than turn their ship back, the Bossi-Fini law requires authorities to dismiss and silence their pleas for protection and refuge.

The law also states that any immigrants found in international waters, formerly outside the patrolling power of Italy, can be sent back to their country or neighboring countries. It has been received with widespread criticism from international humanitarian organizations.

In fact, forced deportation in international waters not only contravenes Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 “Every man is free to leave his land”, it also defies the Geneva Convention of 1951 as the majority of refugees are sent back and offered no protection.

However, life is not any easier for those who succeed in their quest to secure refuge in Italy. As one refugee responded to a journalist from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting when asked on where he plans to be in a month, “I hope to be dead. When you are here there is no future.”

Undoubtedly, the situation has proved itself exceedingly difficult for displaced people in Italy over the past number of years. When scrutinized, the Italian Government has responded by stating its immigrant and refugee policies are combating terrorism. On the other side of the specter, human rights activists view this logic as nothing more than the creation of inhumane and undignified circumstances for refugees and migrants.

Luciano Scagliotti, Italian Coordinator for the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) has explained the consequences of the government’s “fight against terrorism” and how it has led to more and more refugees and migrants turning to the black market and facing exploitation. This includes working for mafia organizations to harvest produce in Turin’s countryside or in Italy’s southern provinces for two to four Euros a day.

In light of the increasing number of refugees arriving on a daily basis, recognizing the fundamental role Italy plays in Europe’s current migrant crisis is vital. On the 23rd of June, a significant development was achieved when the president of the General Confederation of Italian Industry, Vincenzo Boccia, and the Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano signed an agreement on inclusion in work for refugees.

The initiative aims to provide refugees and migrants with state-funded professional training, internships and employment by enterprises nationwide. It will initially be implemented for a three year period and renewed if successful.  Minister Alfano concluded the signing of the agreement by stating that “We were immigrants and we welcome immigrants, on the integration wager we must have vision and courage”.

The initiative led by the Italian government agency emphasizes the fact that the refugee crisis is not a one-time emergency, as seas of migrants flood into Europe, the Ministry of the Interior acknowledges that this is a long-term issue that needs to be dealt with through sustainable solutions.

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Preventable Child Deaths Not Always Linked to Poorest Countries: UNICEFhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:01:10 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145867 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/feed/ 1 Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Sweden Among New Members of UN Security Councilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 01:27:14 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145864 Italy and the Netherlands have taken the unusual step of splitting the term of a UN Security Council seat. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

Italy and the Netherlands have taken the unusual step of splitting the term of a UN Security Council seat. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden were elected on Tuesday to serve on the UN Security Council (UNSC) as non-permanent members, while Italy and Netherlands have split the remaining contested seat.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) met to choose five new non-permanent members who will serve a two-year term starting January 2017 alongside the 15-member council.

As the UN’s most powerful body, the UNSC is responsible for international peace and security matters from imposing sanctions to brokering peace deals to overseeing the world’s 16 peacekeeping missions.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom expressed how “happy” and “proud” Sweden is to be joining the UN’s top decision-making body.

“We will do now what we promised to do,” she told press. Among its priorities, Sweden has pledged to focus on conflict prevention and resolution.

“With 40 conflict and 11 full-blown wars, it is a very very worrisome world that we have to take into account,” Wallstrom stated.

Despite its location in Northern Europe,  Sweden has not been untouched by recent conflicts, including the ongoing civil war in Syria. With a population of 9.5 million, the Scandinavian country took in over 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015. The government has since imposed tougher restrictions on asylum seekers including a decrease in permanent residence permits and limited family reunification authorisations.

Ethiopia has also highlighted its position in promoting regional and continental peace and security. The country is the largest contributor of UN peacekeepers and is actively involved in mediating conflicts in Africa, most recently in South Sudan. It has also long struggled with its own clashes, including a crackdown on political dissent.

The Sub-Saharan African country has also promised to work towards UNSC reforms.

During the 70th Session of the UNGA in September 2015, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn remarked that he was “proud” that Ethiopia is one of the UN’s founding members, but stressed the need to reform and establish a permanent seat for Africa in the council.

“Comprehensive reform of the United Nations system, particularly that of the Security Council, is indeed imperative to reflect current geo-political realities and to make the UN more broadly representative, legitimate and effective,” he told delegates.

“We seize this occasion to, once again, echo Africa’s call to be fully represented in all the decision-making organs of the UN, particularly in the Security Council,” Dessalegn continued.

Ethiopia has been a non-permanent member of the UNSC on two previous occasions, in 1967/1968 and 1989/1990.

It will also be the third time that Bolivia will have a non-permanent SC seat. Bolivia campaigned unopposed with the backing of Latin American and Caribbean countries.

“Bolivia is a country that has basic principles…one of those principles is, without a doubt, anti-imperialism,” the Bolivian delegation said following their election, adding that they will continue implementing these principles as a member of the UNSC.

Since the election of Evo Morales, its first indigenous leader, the South American country has largely focused on social reforms and indigenous rights. Most recently, Morales has been reportedly implicated in a political scandal that is threatening journalists and press freedom.

Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian country to be a member of the UNSC after beating Thailand for the seat.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said that he was “very happy” and their selection was a “privilege.” He also reiterated the country’s priority focus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan relinquished its nuclear weapons and has been actively advocating for non-proliferation around the world.

“We have a lot to offer to the world and we believe that it is time to attract attention to the need of development in our part of the world,” Idrissov stated.

However, Human Rights Watch has scrutinized the Central Asian nation’s human rights record, including restrictions on freedom of expression.

Netherlands and Italy were up for the last Western European seat on the UNSC, but after four rounds of voting, they were deadlocked with each country receiving 95 votes while needing 127 to win.

Following deliberations, Italian and Dutch foreign ministers announced that they would split the seat, with Italy in the UNSC in 2017 and the Netherlands in 2018.

Since May, the six countries have been campaigning for council seats by participating in the first-ever election debates in the UN’s 70-year history.

The debates were a part of a new effort to increase transparency in the institution.

The new non-permanent members will work alongside the five veto-wielding permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Following their controversial exit from the European Union, known as “Brexit”, the UK may face an uncertain future in the UNSC as the prospects of Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK loom.

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The Case for Cash in Humanitarian Emergencieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 22:23:50 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145860 Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Currently only six percent of humanitarian aid worldwide comes in the form of cash handouts, yet many aid organisations believe that cash transfers should be seen as the rule, not the exception.

Both the World Food Program (WFP) and World Vision International, who work together in Somalia, South Sudan and other crisis-ridden countries, stressed the advantages of cash instead of in kind allowances at a meeting held here Monday.

“There is no longer a question about ‘does cash work’ or ‘is cash the right tool’,” said Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, Deputy Executive director of the WFP.

George Fenton of World Vision explained:

“Digital humanitarian cash transfers are one of the most significant and most exciting innovations of today. They offer… a greater dignity, choice and flexibility for crisis-affected people.”

Due to increasingly widespread mobile phone ownership, cash transfers are now often made digitally. In some circumstances, including refugee camps, aid organisations may hand out cash directly.

The transfers are usually given unconditionally, since this is considered an effective way to provide assistance to a person in need. Whereas in-kind assistance such as food or materials, may not suit the specific needs of the recipient, cash transfers allow recipients to spend money on their most urgent needs, while also supporting local markets.

“Cash transfers turn notions of aid and charity on their head. Rather than the giver deciding that people need food or clothes, the choice is with the people themselves," -- Sarah Bailey.

However, while cash transfers have been considered successful in the settings where they have so far been rolled out, humanitarian organisations, such as the World Bank now want to work out how to make wider use of the concept. As Amir Abdulla put it: “How do we take it to scale?”

In order to do this, some obstacles need to be overcome, methods of delivery have to be streamlined and there has to be a response to the “need to marry cash and technology,” as Fenton puts it.

Colin Bruce, senior advisor to the World Bank President, told the meeting about upcoming challenges: “Until we can better coordinate those processes (needs assessments and response analyses), it’s going to be very difficult to get the kind of upstream thinking, funding and programming necessary to take cash to scale.”

Secondly, a “change in mindsets” has to take place, as Sarah Bailey told IPS this week. Bailey is a Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and was on the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers which produced the report Doing Cash Differently. She explained to IPS that “cash transfers turn notions of aid and charity on their head. Rather than the giver deciding that people need food or clothes, the choice is with the people themselves.”

The desired shift to cash-based aid is closely linked to the fund-raising side of humanitarian programs. Charlotte Lattimer of the non-profit research organization Development Initiatives emphasized that although funding increased in the last year, there still exists “an enormous shortfall in terms of meeting humanitarian needs”.

Donors are increasingly asking for more transparency and more precise reporting on exactly how funds are spent, which is difficult if it is spent by the recipients instead of the aid organization.

Still “cash transfers are a tangible opportunity for more aid transparency because it’s easier to track the movement of money than the movement of food and buckets. Far from cash transfers being a risk to accountability, cash can be a vehicle for it,” Bailey told IPS.

Further research may help determine whether cash transfers can provide the transparency donors ask for. With innovations in the field of digital transactions and mobile banking and payment, the infrastructure for new aid delivery concepts improves year by year.

It is this development that aid organizations hope will catch the attention of donors. Bailey explained to IPS why she is convinced that cash transfers will become more and more important. At the end of the day, financial arguments decide financial questions: “Delivering cash is cheaper than delivering in-kind aid. You do not need to rent a warehouse and hire a driver to get money to people. As aid agencies use cash more it will become even cheaper with economies of scale.”

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Biogas Brings Heat and Light to Pakistan’s Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:08:30 +0000 Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145856 Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
FAISALABAD, Pakistan, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Nabela Zainab no longer chokes and coughs when she cooks a meal, thanks to the new biogas-fueled two-burner stove in her kitchen.

Zainab, 38, from Faisalabad, a town 360 kilometers from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, is among the beneficiaries of a flagship pilot biogas project to free poor households and farmers of their dependence on wood, cattle dung and diesel fuel for cooking needs and running irrigation pumps.

She got the biogas unit, worth 400 dollars, at a 50 percent subsidised rate from the NGO Rural Support Programme Network under the latter’s five-year Pakistan Domestic Biogas Programme (PDBP).

In the past, Zainab had to collect wood from a distant forest three times a week and carry it home balanced on her head.

“Getting rid of that routine is a life-changing experience,” she told IPS.

The four-cubic-meter biogas plant requires the dung of three buffalos every day to meet the energy needs of a four-member family, including cooking, heating, washing and bathing for 24 hours.

It saves nearly 160 kg of fuelwood a day, worth 20 to 25 dollars every month for a four-member family.

The wife of a smallholder vegetable farmer, Zainab says she has suffered from a cough and sore eyes for the last 20 years. “We have no access to piped natural gas in our village. The rising cost of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was not feasible either for us poor. However, we had no choice but to continue burning buffalo dung cakes or fuelwood,” she said.

Last January, cattle farmer Amir Nawaz installed a biogas plant of eight-cubic-meter capacity at a cost of 700 dollars under the PDBP. He got subsidy of nearly 300 dollars.

“I am now saving nearly 60 dollars a month that I used to spend on LPG,” he told IPS.

His plant is fueled by the dung of his six buffalos — enough to meet household gas needs for cooking and heating.

Nawaz also uses biogas to power wall-mounted lamps in his house at night, saving another 15 dollars a month.

“Above all, this has helped our children do schoolwork and for me to finish up the household chores in the evening hours,” Nawaz’s wife, Shaista Bano, said with a smile.

As many as 5,360 biogas plants of varying sizes have been installed in 12 districts of Punjab province over five years (2009-2015), ridding nearly 43,000 people of exposure to smoke from wood and kerosene.

Nearby, 500 large biogas plants of the 25-cubic-meter capacity each have also been introduced in all 12 districts of Punjab province under the PBDP, namely: Faisalabad, Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang, Chniot, Toba Tek Singh, Shekhapura, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Pakpatan, Nankana Sahib and Okara.

Such plants provide gas for a family of 10 for cooking, heating and running irrigation pumps for six hours daily.

Rab Nawaz bought one of these large plants for 1,700 dollars. PBDP provided him a subsidy of 400 dollars as part of its biogas promotion in the area.

“I use the dung of 18 buffalos to produce nearly 40 cubic meters of gas every day to run my diesel-turned-biogas-run irrigation pump for six hours and cooking stove for three times a day,” he told IPS, while shoveling out his cattle pen in Sargodha.

The father of three says that after eliminating diesel — which is damaging to the environment and health, as well as expensive — he saves 10-12 dollars daily.

As a part of sustainability of the biogas programme, 50 local biogas construction companies have been set up. International technical experts trained nearly 450 people in construction, maintenance and repair of the biogas units.

Initiated in 2009 by the non-governmental organization National Rural Support Programme – Pakistan (NRSP-Pakistan), PBDP was financed by the Netherlands Embassy in Pakistan and technical support was extended by Winrock International and SNV (Netherlands-based nongovernmental development organisations).

“The biogas programme aimed to establish a commercially viable biogas sector. To that extent, the main actors at the supply side of the sector are private Biogas Construction Enterprises (BCEs) providing biogas construction and after sales services to households. At the demand side of the sector, Rural Support Programmes organized under the RSPN will be the main implementing partners, but will also include NGOs, farmers’ organizations and dairy organizations,” NRSP CEO Shandana Khan told IPS.

“The 5,600 biogas plants are now saving nearly 13,000 tons of fuelwood burning worth two million dollars and 169,600 liters of kerosene oil for night lamp use,” she said.

“Implemented at a total cost of around 3.3 million dollars, the biogas plants have helped reduce the average three to four hours a woman spent collecting fuel-wood and cooking daily. These women now get enough time for socialization, economic activity and health is returning to households thanks to the biogas plants… which provide instant gas for cooking, healing and dishwashing,” she said.

More significantly, the programme is helping avoid nearly 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, she calculated.

At present around 18 percent of households in Pakistan, mostly in urban areas, have access to natural gas. Over 80 percent of rural people rely on biomass (wood, cattle dung, dried straw, etc) for cooking, heating and other household chores, according to Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

Chairman of the AEDB Khawaja Muhammad Asif said, “It is unviable for the large number of rural households to have access to piped natural gas. However, biogas offer a promising and viable solution to meet energy needs of the households in the country’s rural areas, which are home to 60 percent of the people live and 80 percent of over 180 million cattle heads.”

He argued that some 80 million cattle and buffaloes and an estimated 100 million sheep and goats and 400 million poultry birds in the country can also provide sufficient raw material for substantial production of biogas.

“This way, the biogas can be tapped to cope with a range of health, environmental and health and economic benefits,” he stressed.

Pakistan is home to over 160 million head of cattle (buffalo, cow, camel, donkey, goat and lamb). The dung of these livestock can feed five million biogas plants of varying sizes, according to energy experts at the National University of Science and Technology (Islamabad) and Faisalabad Agriculture University (Punjab province).

This can help plug the yawning gas supply gap. According to government figures, 73 percent of 200 million people (a majority of them in rural areas) have no access to piped natural gas. Such people rely on LPG gas cylinders and fuelwood.

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Why I Started SMART ALEC – Lobbying for the Public Goodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/why-i-started-smart-alec-lobbying-for-the-public-good/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-i-started-smart-alec-lobbying-for-the-public-good http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/why-i-started-smart-alec-lobbying-for-the-public-good/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 18:19:24 +0000 Matthew Charles Cardinale http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145854 Protest outside the ALEC Headquarters in Washington DC March 29, 2012. Against ALEC, the NRA, and "Stand Your Ground" laws. Credit: LaDawna Howard/cc by 2.0

Protest outside the ALEC Headquarters in Washington DC March 29, 2012. Against ALEC, the NRA, and "Stand Your Ground" laws. Credit: LaDawna Howard/cc by 2.0

By Matthew Charles Cardinale
PORTLAND, Oregon, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

For many years, as a reporter, including for IPS, I wrote about the dominance of a giant, corporate-funded lobbying organization called ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), on public policy in the United States.

In recent years, public uproar about the influence of ALEC resulted in campaigns for major corporations to divest from ALEC.  Several major corporations did pull out, although the wealthy Koch brothers and many corporations still provide ALEC with millions of dollars every year.

ALEC takes some of the most regressive, harmful ideas and puts them into the form of draft laws, or model bills, for Republican-led State Legislatures to adopt – one after another, after another.

Whether laws to make it harder to vote, or to privatize education and privatize prisons, or require U.S. families receiving food assistance to take drug tests, ALEC has provided the templates for one U.S. state after another to replicate these ideas into law.

Well, in 2013, I began to study law at Gonzaga University, and in 2014, I wrote a Model Bill for something called Affordable Housing Impact Statements.

Specifically, the bill requires cities and counties to prepare an “Impact Statement” every time they consider any decision that would have an impact on the amount of affordable housing in that city or county.

This Model Ordinance took an idea that had been successful in two cities–San Diego, California; and Austin, Texas–and added some new features, including a Scorecard to keep track of how many housing units would be added or subtracted at each income level.

I worked with the City of Atlanta, Georgia, which adopted it in November 2015, and am now working with four other cities–New Orleans, Louisiana; Los Angeles, California; Albany, New York; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania–which are also considering it.

With the rapid success of the model bill in so many cities, it occurred to me that this was the work of a progressive alternative to ALEC – and wouldn’t it be funny if we called it SMART ALEC?

It is supposed to be a “smart” alternative to ALEC.  [In the U.S., the term “smart aleck” refers comically to someone who behaves as if they know everything – so the name SMART ALEC has a double meaning that amuses people.]

SMART ALEC stands for State and Municipal Action for Results Today / Agenda for Legislative Empowerment and Collaboration.

So, in March 2016, I created the new nonprofit organization, and am serving as CEO.  The Board of Directors now includes Dr. Dwanda Farmer, one of the nation’s few PhDs in Community Development; Barbara Payne, former director of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation; and Christian Seppa, an activist.

Not only do we intend to promote progressive policies around the environment and affordable housing–basically the opposite of what ALEC promotes–we intend to do it in a way that is completely transparent and participatory.

We want to take back “lobbying” as a positive word.

In the United States, where vast concentration of wealth and corporate power has caused the average citizen to feel disempowered, as if they cannot make a difference in democracy, the word “lobbyist” has become a synonym for “devil.”

But we cannot let them have this word!  Just because corporations have become so adept at pushing their regressive, conservative proposals using the democratic process, so must we citizens become adept as doing the same.

SMART ALEC’s goal is to empower low-income, homeless, and marginalized people to make a meaningful difference in shaping, and advocating for, policy solutions.

The urgency of our environmental crises and affordable housing crises require that we work quickly to take the best solutions at the local levels of cities and states, and quickly replicate them.

Every day we are looking at the solutions being produced by civil society from all regions of the country; and we are inspired also by the bold solutions being pursued by our fellow “smart alecks” on every continent.

There is great experimentation happening, but we cannot experiment forever – so, let’s copy; paste; repeat.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Drought Prompts Debate on Cuba’s Irrigation Problemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:14:16 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145849 Low water in a nearby reservoir prevented the use of this central pivot machine for spray irrigation on the state-owned La Yuraguana farm for several days this year due to the severe drought affecting Holguín province and many other areas in Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Low water in a nearby reservoir prevented the use of this central pivot machine for spray irrigation on the state-owned La Yuraguana farm for several days this year due to the severe drought affecting Holguín province and many other areas in Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

By Ivet González
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Five gargantuan modern irrigation machines water the state farm of La Yuraguana covering 138 hectares in the northeastern province of Holguín, the third largest province in Cuba. However, “sometimes they cannot even be switched on, due to the low water level,” said farm manager Edilberto Pupo.

“The last three years have been very stressful due to lack of rainfall. We take our irrigation water from a reservoir that has practically run dry,” Pupo told IPS. In 2008 La Yuraguana received new irrigation equipment financed by international aid.

Central pivot machines are a form of overhead water sprinkler that imitates the action of rain. The machinery is assembled in Cuba using European parts.

Since late 2014 Cuba has endured the worst drought of the past 115 years.

The extremely dry weather has sounded an alarm call drawing attention to the urgent need to modernise and change water management practices in response to climate challenges, and to other problems such as water wastage from leaky supply networks, inefficient water storage and conservation policies and absence of water metering at the point of use.

National reforms begun in 2008 have not yet achieved the hoped-for lift-off in agricultural production. Farming, however, is the main consumer of water in this Caribbean country, responsible for using 65 percent of the island’s total fresh water supply for irrigation, fish farming and livestock.

Future difficulties loom on the horizon, because droughts are becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region due to climate change, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published June 21. 

“Agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences,” the FAO report says. “Most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed, and demand for fresh water is increasing with irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region.”

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, FAO said.

The eastern part of Cuba suffers most from droughts, and its population, alongside small farmers in Holguín province, has its own methods of addressing the problem of lack of rainfall. They say that in extreme droughts, irrigation equipment is of little use.

“At the most critical time we had to plant resistant crops like yucca (cassava) and plantains (starchy bananas that require cooking) that can survive until it rains,” Pupo said, speaking about the cooperative farm which sells vegetables, grains, fruit and root crops to the city of Holguín’s 287,800 people.

Julio César Pérez weeds a cassava (yucca) field on a farm owned by the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Services Cooperative in the eastern Cuban province of Holguín. An irrigation system installed in 2010 has increased the cooperative’s yields by 70 percent. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Julio César Pérez weeds a cassava (yucca) field on a farm owned by the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Services Cooperative in the eastern Cuban province of Holguín. An irrigation system installed in 2010 has increased the cooperative’s yields by 70 percent. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

La Yuraguana employs  93 workers, 14 of whom are women. Its 2016 production target is 840 tonnes of food, for direct sale to markets in the city of Holguín, in the adjacent municipality.

“We hope Saint Peter will come to our aid, that the rains will come and fill the reservoir, so that we can water our crops and keep on producing,” said Pérez. Devout rural folk call on Saint Peter, whose feast day is June 29, to intercede on their behalf because they believe the saint is able to bring rain.

Cuba’s total agricultural land area is about 6.24 million hectares out of its total surface of nearly 11 million hectares. Only 460,000 hectares of arable land is under irrigation, mostly with outdated equipment and technology, according to the government report titled “Panorama uso de la tierra. Cuba 2015” (Overview of land use: Cuba 2015).

At present only about 11 percent of the land used to raise crops is irrigated, but FAO forecasts that by 2020 the area equipped for irrigation will nearly double, to some 875,600 hectares, through a programme launched in 2011 to modernise machinery and reorganise farm irrigation and drainage.

Use of irrigation increases average crop yields by up to 30 percent, experts say.

Cuban authorities want to boost local production in order to reduce expenditure on purchasing imported food to meet demand from the island’s 11.2 million people, and from the influx of tourists – there were three million visitors to Cuba in 2015. The bill for imported food is two billion dollars a year.

Agricultural scientist Theodor Friedrich, the FAO representative in Cuba, told IPS that “irrigation is not the answer to drought.”

This Caribbean island “should curb the use of irrigation rather than extend it,” he warned, because exploiting water sources, especially underground aquifers, could lead to “degradation and accelerated salinisation of water resources.”

A better course of action, he said, is to “implement water conservation measures at once, including the reduction of leakage losses throughout the piped water distribution network, avoidance of all forms of sprinkling irrigation, watering the soil directly and irrigating according to the particular needs of the crop, not forgetting to take into account long-range meteorological forecasts.”

In Friedrich’s view, sustainable solutions must be based “on soil management” and conservation techniques.He pointed out that eco-friendly organic agriculture “achieves greater production yields with less water and opens up the soil so that rainwater can infiltrate to the fullest depths and refill aquifers.”

This ditch for collecting rainwater in the rural outskirts of Holguín, a city in eastern Cuba, is used by small farmers to water their cattle. Now it is almost empty due to the drought. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

This ditch for collecting rainwater in the rural outskirts of Holguín, a city in eastern Cuba, is used by small farmers to water their cattle. Now it is almost empty due to the drought. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Cuba is not blessed with any large lakes or rivers, and so is reliant on rainfall, captured in 242 dammed reservoirs and dozens of artificial minilakes.

Local experts agree with FAO’s Friedrich that over-exploitation of underground water reserves should be discouraged because of the risk of causing salinisation and losing fresh water sources.

The present drought in Cuba was triggered by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon, which has had devastating effects in Latin America this year. Shortage of water has affected 75 percent of Cuban territory, according to official sources, with the worst effects being felt in Santiago de Cuba, a province adjacent to Holguín.

In spite of steps taken to put the water consumption needs of people before agricultural and industrial uses, one million people experienced some limitation on their access to water in May, said the state National Institute of Water Resources. 

On June 20 the European Union announced an additional grant of 100,000 euros (113,000 dollars) to Cuba via the Red Cross, as disaster relief for 10,000 drought victims in Santiago de Cuba. The funds are intended to improve access to safe drinking water and to deliver transport equipment, reservoirs and materials for water treatment and quality control.

However, many of those responsible for the agriculture and small farming sectors still see irrigation as the key to boosting production.

“Yields under irrigation when necessary are much higher than when one just waits for nature to take its course,” said Abdul González, deputy mayor in charge of agriculture for the municipal government of Holguín. Unfortunately “80 percent of our land under crops lacks irrigation,” he told IPS.

“Small farmers from all forms of agricultural production (state, private and cooperative) are demanding irrigation systems. Some of them resort to home made tanks and ditches to mitigate the negative impacts of the drought,” he said.

At the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Service Cooperative, not far from La Yuraguana, Virgilio Díaz, one of the cooperative’s beneficial owners who grows garlic, maize, sweet potato, papaya and sorghum on his 22-acre plot, ascribed much of his success to the irrigation system bought in 2010 by the 140-member cooperative.

“Income went up by over 70 percent: we raised salaries; I was able to request a lease on more land and I built a new house,” Díaz said. He and five other workers between them produce 200 tonnes of food a year, when the climate is favourable.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Civil Society Under Serious Attackhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-under-serious-attack http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:51:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145847 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/feed/ 0 Journalists Face Unprecedented Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalists-face-unprecedented-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 21:41:33 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145845 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/feed/ 0 Will Brexit Have Political Ramifications at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:22:50 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145834 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/feed/ 1 Women’s Cooperatives Ease Burden of HIV in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 10:52:16 +0000 Charles Karis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145829 Dorcus Auma weaving sisal fronds into a basket. Her Kenyan women's group has helped provide income to care for her grandchildren, orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Credit: Charles Karis/IPS

Dorcus Auma weaving sisal fronds into a basket. Her Kenyan women's group has helped provide income to care for her grandchildren, orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Credit: Charles Karis/IPS

By Charles Karis
NAIROBI, Jun 27 2016 (IPS)

Seventy-three-year-old Dorcus Auma effortlessly weaves sisal fronds into a beautiful basket as she walks the tiny path that snakes up a hill. She wound up her farm work early because today, Thursday, she is required to attend her women’s group gathering at the secretary’s homestead.

Except for their eye-catching light blue dresses and silky head scarfs, they would pass for ordinary village women. They are part of the Kagwa Women’s Group in the remotest part of Homa Bay County in Kenya’s lake region.

A recent county profile of HIV/AIDS prevalence by the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) revealed that Homa Bay County leads Kenya in HIV prevalence, standing at 25.7 percent.

Auma joined the group in 2008 when the care of her three grandchildren was thrust upon her shoulders.

“HIV/AIDS robbed me of my three children, leaving me with the burden of having to take care of three children left in a vulnerable condition,” says Auma.

With no steady income to provide for their basic needs, she joined other women who shared the same predicament.

UNAIDS says that microfinance can play a big role in helping households affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the women’s group at Homa Bay has proved this to be true.

Composed of 28 members, it started as a merry-go-round, which is a self-help group that helps women to save money. The group is supported by World Vision through an initiative to enhance target households through cooperatives.

“Within economic strengthening we are trying to help the families to get economically empowered through the locally available resources. This is a group of old women, they are all grandmas, and they had already started doing their own merry go-rounds. We came in with training on village savings and loaning, which is a simplified model of the savings at the rural level – it’s like a rural bank,” says Jedidah Mwendwa, a technical specialist with APHIA II Plus (pdf), one of the implementing organizations.

Most of the members are grandmothers whose children died from HIV/AIDS, and hence were left to fend for their grandchildren.

“Since the grannies cannot engage in vigorous economic activities, they were introduced into saving and loaning at their own level. They agreed to raise monies for saving and loaning among themselves through locally available resources like making ropes, baskets and mats,” says Mwendwa.

“When they meet on Thursdays, they collect all their material contributions. One of their members is sent to the nearby market, which is Oyugis, a distance of 61km, to go sell their products and the following week, the money that came from the market is what is saved for each specific member,” says Mwendwa.

The savings are rotated to individual members on an annual basis, and since they do not have a secure place to keep the money, they usually loan out the entire collected amount to members who return it with one percent interest.

“Since I joined this group, my life has changed. I have been able to engage in sustainable farming. My grandchildren have a reason to smile as they have nutritious food on the table,” says Auma, as she gives instructions to her eldest grandchild, a 16-year-old girl, on how to separate the sisal strands.

Initially, local people were a bit reluctant to attend the HIV caretaker training sessions because of the real stigma associated with the illness, but most have come around, and their efforts are paying off.

“We offer to the group and school clubs sensitization on adherence and nutrition,” says Rose Anyango, a social worker in the county. “The women and the children are responding well and the stigma no longer exists. Through village savings and loaning they are able to feed their children as well as educate them.”

The group has seen immediate successes in behavior, attitudes and practices regarding cultural dictates and inclusion of people living with HIV/AIDS in development activities. Women are now actively taking the lead in economic empowerment, enabling them to support their families.

The group now plans to increase to increase its impact by involving more members from the surrounding community, which will go a long way in not only empowering of locals but also reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

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The Brexit Shock – Now All Is Up in the Air!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air/#comments Sun, 26 Jun 2016 06:03:00 +0000 Jan Oberg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145827 The author is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.]]>

The author is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.

By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, Jun 26 2016 (IPS)

The UK, Europe and the rest of the world will be affected. But there has been no planning for this anywhere.

It’s now all up in the air what this Brexit vote will be the starting point of. All we can safely predict is that we are in for interesting times!

Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

Why did it happen?

Arrogant corporate and other elites continuously enriching themselves against all common social sense and ignoring the legitimate needs and concerns of ordinary citizens, women in particular – so, class and gender.

So too that more highly educated people tended to vote for Remain and older people voting Leave – more interesting sociological analysis here.

Interestingly, the whole art world supported Remain – and now fear for the effects of Brexit on Britain’s cultural development.

An EU that has failed to create a new, better way of doing politics, merely growing its original democratic deficit – so, lack of real democracy.

An EU that has had a woefully inadequate, cynical response to a refugee crisis caused by leading EU member states’ warfare – so, (mis)management and lack of leadership.

Significantly, the leading Muslim Association of Britain, MAB, supported Remain with the argument that ”Exit from the EU runs the risk of perpetuating rifts in British society, which would increase levels of hate crimes against British Muslims.” So, Islamophobia.

A general sense (but sometimes denial) of insecurity about the future all over the Western world, a deep sense of failure, loss, sense of risk of war in Europe and the fact that the rest of the world is moving ahead and will surpass the West; a sense that of the West lead by the the US getting relatively weaker and lacking leadership – so, psycho-political-civilisational insecurity.

A fall-back to ”me and my home” and closing the doors to the wider world world’s problems – nationalism, xenophobia, right-wing, neo-nazism populism and all the things many of us hoped had visited Europe for the last time – so, populism/nationalism/regression.

What could it lead to?

An exit domino effect in a number of countries – referendums and eventually a quite small EU or no EU.

A punishment by Germany and other EU of the UK for leaving, depending somewhat on whether the post-EU Britain will not only move out of the EU but also closer to the US.

It could also, in the best of cases, lead to a re-think throughout the EU and a real effort to do things differently – but unlikely given the EU is already in crisis and lack visionaries in politics.

A referendum in Scotland, further reducing the unitedness of the Kingdom.

A reshuffling in the global economy – London being so much of a global financial centre. Where will the banks and investors go now? What will China do that had London as it’s major hub?

A tumbling of the British £ and turmoil on the financial markets, weakening of the US$?

A Britain in deep economic crisis – or perhaps starting out on a new course with a great future, speeding ahead of the average EU?

A Britain that ties itself (even more) to the US in security political terms and an increasing conflict between those two and EU/NATO countries – spelling the dissolution of NATO.

What does it signify?

That democracy works – and that it doesn’t. The referendum instrument is an utterly democratic method – as Switzerland continues to prove to the world.

But then, is it wise that such an important decision can be made with such a small majority? Wouldn’t it have been reasonable to demand, say, 2/3 majority for Leave?

To ignore now what over 48% wanted isn’t good. But, anyhow, nobody trusts politicians nowadays and perhaps the effects will be smaller than most fear today.

That the – Western centre – doesn’t hold anymore. Such an important country leaving the EU is a blow beyond imagination to the entire idea of that Union.

Basically that the West is getting weaker and while trying to ’divide and rule’ it is fragmenting from inside.

The EU is getting weaker in spite of still being the largest economic bloc in human history. Because of the rise of other economies, the 28 countries accounted for 30% of the world’s total output in 1980 and 16,5% in 2015. With the UK leaving, the EU loses 15% of its GDP.

That the EU construction and Lisbon Treaty, written up by three old men, was wrong and outdated from the outset and lacked every potential to appeal to the diverse citizenry throughout Europe, particularly the younger ones.

That there is no vision and strategy; no one – no one! – seems to have the faintest idea about what will happen now – as Ken Livingstone, London’ former mayor, expressed it on Russia Today the morning after.

Be sure that Brexit on June 23, 2016 will be remembered as a turning point. And be sure that, while we do not know what will happen after Brexit, it’s not a message of good things to come for the already crumbling, vision-losing Western part of our world.

”May you live in interesting times” as the English say, considering it a curse. The Chinese – to whom this phrase is often falsely attributed – expresses it differently: ”Better to be a dog in peaceful time, than to be human in a chaotic (warring) time.”

Both probably meaning that our time is more fraught with insecurity than ever…

 
Jan Oberg’s article was published on 24 June 2016 in: TFF – Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. Go to Original.

The statments and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do nt necessarily represent those of IPS

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Brex’it, So Be’it; And Then What?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-so-beit-and-then-what/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-so-beit-and-then-what http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-so-beit-and-then-what/#comments Sun, 26 Jun 2016 05:19:41 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145824 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]> Source: TRANSCEND Media Service

Source: TRANSCEND Media Service

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Jun 26 2016 (IPS)

The vote turned out like the two referenda held in Norway in 1972 and 1994. And much for the same reason: Protestant break with Rome–Catholic, imperial–Henry VIII made himself head of the Anglican Church in 1534.

Religion was not the only reason, there are Protestant Nordic members of EU, closer to the continent and closer to Russia. World history, a short while after Pope Francis-Patriarch Kirill also made world history, bridging the Catholic-Orthodox 395-1054 gap.

The Disunited Queendom is now London with surroundings; England. The implications are enormous, for UK-GB and the British Isles in general, for EU and Europe in general, USA and the world in general. The US Trojan horse decided to leave the EU on 23 June 2016.

UK-GB and the British Isles in general.

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Goodbye United Kingdom, UK, we may get United Ireland, UI, instead.

Goodbye Great Britain, GB, we may get Scotland in EU instead.

Welcome to Britain of England-Wales, if they care for that vocabulary.

Welcome to new-born England, 23 June being the Day of Independence.

Independence? Washington, having lost its inside EU ally, will soon remind London of their “special relationship” as unsinkable aircraft carrier also doing the killing job–maybe some wanted that.

And yet. England had the whole Global Establishment, if there ever was one, mobilized to pressure them to remain. They did not. There is something very impressive in that, however bad the campaign.

And yet. There is something to those British Isles, a shared and twisted history between Anglo-Saxons and Celts–Vikings, Normans–an enormous impact on the world now torn to pieces, torn into new pieces.

Maybe time has come for something this author proposed in an NGO encounter at the Houses of Parliament on Northern Ireland-Ulster right before the Good Friday Agreement: CBI, a Confederation of the British Isles, with United Ireland, Scotland, England-Wales and smaller islands.

EU and Europe in general.

On the possible positive side is EU independence of the USA, not choosing US foreign-military (and university system!) policy instead of working out its own. EU can now follow France-Germany in a Ukraine they know much better than the USA.

They nay one day meet Russia in some “European House”–may Gorbachev see that before he passes away–and they may one day, hopefully soon, have a European Parliament recognizing Palestine as a state, making it clear this is not anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, but pro the other Semitic, pro-Palestine.

On the possible negative side is Germany winning the two “world wars” in Europe over who shall run Europe: Germany or England-France.

Germany had visions of something close to an EU with economic center in Brussels and political in Berlin. After 1945 it was France, not England that stretched out a hand to beaten Germany, the 1950 coal and steel handshake that morphed into the Treaty of Rome (what a bad choice of name).

France will have to do that again, but this time not from the strong position of being on the winning side of a war, but the weak position of being in layer 3 of the present 5 in EU with Germany on top and Greece at the bottom, the Nordics no 3, then the Latins, then Eastern Europe.

This pyramid has to be flattened; many of the exit movements derive their momentum from that sad EU reality.

But also from a boring EU in spite of having to its credit, “acquis” open borders, the euro, a Europe with war held unthinkable.

Could some of that come from not being masters in their own house, always listening to His Master’s Voice?

Could healthy regionalism inspire a new deal, like healthy nationalism could for England? Freed from fighting US wars, liberated to build peace all over, like in EU?

Making an ever stronger or weaker union? Maybe stronger in peace policy. And maybe with the euro as common, not single currency, and not pressing members into a solidarity with no historical basis?

USA and the world in general.

This might be one more wake-up call for the USA, at a time with everybody but Hillary already awake.

Talk about NATO as out of date, Europe and the Middle East taking care of their own affairs, wars as non-affordable, as counter-productive, some awareness that there are other victims than Americans in the wars, had been unthinkable, unspeakable. But old addictive habits are hard to change.

That opens for a possible widening slit between USA-England and EU-Europe. There is a model: the split between the West Roman (Catholic) and East Roman (Orthodox) empires in 395, the former lasting about 81 more years, the latter more than a thousand.

This time the religious split would be between evangelical-protestant in the West and catholic-orthodox in the East, with a smart federation at the border, Ukraine, as a possible solution. A major test.

Another: defensive defense against IS brutality, negotiations with them, recognizing their right to have an IS when Europe has EU, and a Caliphate when Christianity has Vatican and the Patriarchy(ies).

Learning from Islam about togetherness and sharing, how to overcome loneliness and alienation, admitting that the West needs to learn.

And China? Learning from them like they do from the West, inviting them to join the world from “between heaven and earth”.

The world in general? Moving away from states, toward regions. Be a good, caring Mother of regions, sharing solutions and problems generously with other regions around the world.

With Latin America-Caribbean, Anglo-America–maybe with Mexico as MEXUSCAN–the African Union, the European House, SAARC, ASEAN. And the three badly missing ones in Asia: West Asia with Israel and Palestine, Iraq and Syria; Central Asia with Afghanistan, and Northeast Asia with the two Chinas, the two Koreas, Far East Russia and Japan now at nuclear logger-heads.

EU: a wake-up call! Don’t despair, grow, and help the world.

 
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 June 2016: TMS: Brex’it, So Be’it; And Then What?

The statments and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessariliy represente those of IPS.

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Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Brexit and EUexithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-ueexit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-and-ueexit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-ueexit/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:12:42 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145815 Roberto Savio, is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

The Europeans went to bed Thursday night, with exit polls giving a comfortable margin of victory for those who wanted to Remain. The following morning they awakened to find that the real result was the opposite.

Specialists in polling say that this happens when electors do not feel comfortable to say how they will rally voters because they are not comfortable, on a rational level, with what they will do. In other words, voters act because of their guts, not because of their brain.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Brexit was really based on gut feelings. It was a campaign of fear. The “Leave” campaign was about the Turks massively invading Great Britain, because of their admittance in the EU (totally false); that Great Britain was paying to the EU 50 million pounds a day (again, a false figure). But the central question raised, especially by Boris Johnson, was: we are not free any longer… Let us get our independence.

And he went to compare the EU to the Nazi Germany who wanted to take over Europe. Of course, his intention was simple: get prime minister David Cameron to resign and take his post. A good example of idealism.

This cry for independence stirred the nationalist nerve of the nostalgia of the imperial times… We are facing enormous tides of foreigners coming if we stay in the EU, and we have no control on our borders, etc. The fact that Great Britain in fact had got from the EU already the control of its frontiers, was totally lost.

But beside this specific trait of British identity, the reasons for Brexit were common to the xenophobic, nationalism and populism tide which is spreading all over Europe. The Brexit campaign did contain all three, plus an emerging fourth factor: the revolt of people against their elites.

The “Remain” campaign had all of them; from the leaders of the Tory and Labour party to all the industrial and financial sectors, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the European Central Bank, from Obama to Merkel, from the elite media (Financial Times, the Economist) to the Soccer League. Their campaign was also of fear: if we get out we will lose markets, our deficit will increase, and our welfare system is at risk.

What now finally analysts are beginning to grasp is that rational arguments are not important any longer. Fear is more important. And anything that smacks of elite and establishment creates an iconoclastic reaction, which is to throw away the icons of the elite. This call for a change is now a new factor of politics all over Europe.

A good example is the town of Turin, where a few days before the Brexit a honest, efficient and respected outgoing mayor Piero Fassino (who did a good job), lost to a young woman without any prior experience. People feel an urge to throw away all the old, because clearly it has failed to address their needs.

It is to soon to predict a dismembering of Great Britain, with Scotland calling this time for its independence. Brexit was decided by England, where a considerable number of citizens suddenly feel a reawakening of their identity.

It is the same call of Marie Le Pen in France (another lost empire), which has opened a debate about French identity, and the need to not get diluted by multiculturalism, immigrants, especially Muslim, and get again the control of the borders, out from the domination of the European Union.

Next year, we have French and German elections. Le Pen is now the leader of the largest party in France, And it will be difficult to keep her out of power. Then elections in Germany will see a rise of Alternative fur Deutschland (AFD), which makes re-appropriation of German identity and sovereignty the basis for leaving Europe.

All the xenophobic right wing parties have expressed their enthusiasm for the Brexit, which is going to give them more push. Brexit comes after the Austrian elections, where the right wing lost for few votes. If elections were held today in the Netherlands, its xenophobic party would be the largest. And in total symmetry, Donald Trump has expressed his enthusiasm for the Brexit.

One of the few positive elements of Brexit is that there is now a growing chorus on the fact that globalisation has not kept its promises.: wealth for everybody.

On the contrary, it has created a dramatic social inequality, with few people having the bulk of national wealth, and many left out. According to OECD statistics, Europe has lost 18 millions of middle class citizens, in the last 10 years.

The fact that bankers were unanimously voicing for “Remain”, had quite the opposite effect on those 27% of British citizens who have difficulty to reach the end of the month, while they see over 1.000 bankers, and 1.500 CEO make more than 1 million pounds a year.

Now even the IMF is publishing studies on how social inequality is a draw to growth, and the importance of investing in welfare policies of inclusion and equal opportunities.

This is happening, some could say, because reaction to globalisation does not create only right-wing waves. With the feeling that all those in the system are ignoring their problems, new mass movements are coming from the left, like Podemos in Spain or Bernie Sanders in the US.

In the coming elections in Spain, the traditional social democrat party, PSOE, risks to be after Podemos. In Italy few days ago, after winning the provincial elections, the 5 Star movement now looks to take over the national government, held by a social democrat party, the PD. After two years in power, the young Matteo Renzi looks already an old establishment figure.

The EU suffers the same problem. Everybody talks of its marginal role in the world, of the fact that the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels live detached from reality and dedicate themselves to discuss rules on how to pack tomatoes, indifferent to the problems of the common European citizen.

We should pause to reflect that this is the same kind of criticism we hear about the United Nations. International organisations can only do what their members allow them to do. The EU is a supranational organisation (the only in existence), yet all the political power is in the hands of the Council of Ministers, where governments sits and take decision.

The Commission is left to implement these and the bureaucrats (the same number of those who run the town of Rome), have autonomy to decide the size of tomato packaging. Then the same national government that has taken the decisions, finds it convenient to denounce the EU inefficiency, and complain that there is an European external policy. This irresponsible game is now seeing the concrete result in Brexit, and governments should think now carefully about continuing on this double standard path.

Anyhow, the king now is finally without clothes. Europe is disintegrating, and a very large responsibility falls on German shoulders.

Germany has been blocking any attempt to create European economic and welfare measures, because they do not want to pay for the mistakes of the debtors countries, Greece, Italy, and the south of Europe. The Economy minister of Germany, Wolfgang Schauble, even went to attribute to Mario Draghi, the BCE governor, 50% of the success of the xenophobe Alternative fur Deutschland in the last elections. Draghi , was doing a policy in the interest of Europe, and not of the German voters. Germany is by far the most powerful country in the EU.

It is ironic to know that all the important posts in the EU bureaucracy have been taken by the British and Germans. In fact, those who control the bureaucracy and the debate on tomato packaging come from those two countries. And chancellor Angela Merkel is considered the one who runs the EU. In fact, the fateful agreement with Turkey on refugees, was decided by the German chancellor, without even consulting France

Now Germany has to decide: or continue on its path to germanize Europe, or to become again a European Germany, as it was when it’s capital was Bonn. Germany has consistently ignored all European and international calls for playing a different policy in the EU. She has refused to increase spending, to share funding of any initiative on European bonds or any measure of socialisation of the crisis.

But it would be a mistake to think that this is due to the peculiar personality traits of Schauble. The large majority of German citizens share the belief that they should not pay for the mistake of others. To be fair, the German government has never tried to educate them on European needs. And now, may be it is too late….

Therefore, the coming elections will be difficult for the government. An ever more insular party, the AfD is expected to have a large increase, and the two traditional parties are very worried. Merkel will try to take away some of the AfD banners further reducing her European policy. What is she Going to do now after the Brexit?

Attempt to start a Europe on two speeds, with Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary and all other Eurosceptics left out? Or she is ready to change her self-centred policy and play a real European role, in spite of AfD rise? Europe now depends clearly on Germany. Here we will see if Merkel is a states-person or just a successful national politician.

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Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speaks at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. - Credit: ADB

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. – Credit: ADB

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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Least Developed Countries’ Vulnerabilities Make Graduation Difficulthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:25:40 +0000 Ahmed Sareer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145797 An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Ahmed Sareer
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Last month, over two thousand high-level participants from across the world met in Antalya, Turkey for the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action, an action plan used to guide sustainable economic development efforts for Least Developed Countries for the 2011 to 2020 period. The main goal was to understand the lessons learnt by the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the past five years and apply the knowledge moving forward.

For my country, the Maldives, the past five years have been a chance to experience first-hand the realities of life after graduation from LDC status. In January 2011, the Maldives was officially removed from the list of LDCs, the culmination of decades of hard work and determined efforts of developing the country. The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, held in May 2011, was the last for the Maldives as an LDC, but last month in Antalya, we went back because we believed it was important to share the lessons we had learnt since 2011.

While our graduation was naturally a moment of pride and cause for celebration for a country only 50 years old, it was accompanied by a sense of uncertainty about the challenges we would face following the withdrawal of the protections and special preferences afforded to LDCs.

Ultimately, we were able to forge ahead in spite of these difficulties and adapted to the new realities. We ensured that our economy, driven by a world-class tourism sector, and a robust fisheries industry, would continue to be competitive and dynamic. We focused on fostering a business-friendly climate, while making prudent investments for future growth.

However, we remain conscious of the degree to which the gains we have made are vulnerable to exogenous shocks. On 20 December 2004, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to graduate the Maldives effective 1 January 2008. But just four days before the UNGA decision, a catastrophic tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of over 275,000 people in fourteen countries.

The 2004 tsunami was especially devastating in the Maldives. With the highest point in our country being just 2.5 metres high, virtually all of it was, for a few harrowing minutes, underwater.

Several islands were rendered uninhabitable; nearly one in ten people were left homeless.

Farms were destroyed, the fresh water lens corrupted, with large-scale loss to infrastructure. The economic cost of the destruction was equivalent to close to 70 percent of GDP, a blow from which it took us over a decade to recover.

The Maldives is not alone in facing such vulnerabilities. For many countries, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as our own, an end to LDC status does not necessarily herald the disappearance of structural barriers to growth—such as limited access to markets, geographical isolation, environmental pressures, or difficulty achieving economies of scale.

By 1997, the Maldives had already exceeded two of the three thresholds that determine LDC status—GNI per capita, and the Human Capital Index, measured in terms of undernourishment, child mortality rates, secondary school enrolment rates, and adult literacy.

But we did not exceed the threshold for the third criterion, the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), which measures the structural vulnerability of countries to exogenous economic and environmental shocks – we did not meet this threshold to date. It is not necessary to meet all three thresholds to in order to graduate—meaning we were considered ready for graduation.

As the tragedy of 2004 taught us, persistent vulnerabilities have the potential to undermine, if not reverse, gains made towards development. Despite meeting the formal requirements, we were not yet ready. The lessons of our own experiences have meant that the Maldives has been consistent in calling for a smoother and more holistic approach to the graduation process.

Firstly, the criteria for graduation must account for the structural vulnerabilities of developing countries. The fact that economic vulnerability can be disregarded in determining whether a country is ready to graduate from LDC status represents a critical oversight.

Second, the Economic Vulnerability Index itself must also be redesigned to better account for vulnerability. At present, the index fails to account for key considerations such as geographic and environmental vulnerability, import dependency, and demographic pressures.

With greater attention being paid to the effects of climate change on developing countries, most notably in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), evaluating vulnerabilities more comprehensively is a task that has acquired even greater importance.

Lastly, the extension of support and assistance to countries must be determined on the basis of their individual capabilities and challenges, rather than their mere place on a list. We would be remiss to overlook the role that development assistance, including that provided by the UN, has played in helping the Maldives progress—as it has for many others—particularly in regards to our work in disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation.

The withdrawal of such assistance—including preferential trade access and concessionary financing—following our graduation from the ranks of the LDCs has meant increased fiscal challenges. This disregards the unique challenges faced by countries like the Maldives due to their specific structural constraints—constraints ignored under the present graduation regime.

While efforts have been made to smooth the graduation process for LDCs—in 2004, and most recently in 2012—the process remains deeply flawed and in need of comprehensive reform. To this end, the Maldives has called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the application of TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) for all LDCs, in addition to the exploration of a “small and vulnerable economy” category at the United Nations, which would recognize the particular needs of such countries.

Similarly, we must move towards devising measures of development that do more than just record national income, and instead provide a more meaningful assessment of national capability and capacity, for which GDP can often be a poor proxy.

No country wishes to be called “least developed”, much less remain in that classification indefinitely, but the factors driving underdevelopment must be meaningfully dealt with if we wish to attain genuinely sustainable development. It is for this reason that we believe that the desire by countries to eradicate poverty and achieve economic development must be met with commitment on part of the United Nations and other organizations to chart a realistic and holistic path towards that end.

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