Inter Press ServiceTerraViva United Nations – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:06:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continueshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:06:32 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152640 Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The Austrian elections show clearly that media have given up on contextualising events. To do that, calls for a warning about Europe’s future, as a vehicle of European values is required. Europe has been weakened by all the recent elections, with the notable exception of France. Common to all, France included, were some clear trends, that we will hastily, and therefore maybe imperfectly, examine.

Roberto Savio

The decline of the traditional parties.

In every election, since the financial crisis of 2009, the parties we have known to run their country since the end of the Second World War, are on the wane ( or practically disappearing, like in the last French elections). In Austria, the far right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) secured 26 per cent of the vote, just a few votes behind the Social Democrats who took 26.9 per cent of the votes. The social democrats have been in power practically since the end of the war. And the other traditional party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), won the elections with 31.5 per cent. Together the two parties used to have more than 85% of the votes. In the Dutch elections held in March, Geert Wilder’s far-right Party for Freedom PVV, came second after the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD, at the expense of all other parties. And in September in Germany, the far right anti immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) enjoyed historical success, becoming the third party while the two traditional parties, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany CDU and the social democrat Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD, suffered the worst results in more than a half a century. According to polls, next year Italian elections will see a populist movement, with the 5 Stars taking over the government.

Austria is the best example to understand how European national politics have changed. It is important to note that no right wing party was really visible in Europe, (except Le Pen in France), before the financial crisis of 2009. That crisis brought insecurity and fear and in the same year the Austrian far right, under the charismatic leadership of Jorg Haider, got the same percentage of votes as of today. And the conservative Prime minister of the time, Wolfgang Schlussel broke a taboo by bringing the Freedom Party into the government. Everybody in Europe reacted with horror, practically isolating Austria. And the FPO, lost all its lustre in the government, going down to 5%, and with the death of Haider even further down. There Are no gasps of horror now in Europe over any far right wing parties getting in to govern.

What has fuelled the decline of the traditional parties

The traditional parties were facing already a loss of participation and trust by the electors at the end of the last century but in 2009 Europe imported the financial crisis which racked the US in 2006. And, 2009 saw hardship and unemployment all over Europe. And that year Greece became the battleground of two visions in Europe. The Southern countries wanted to push out of the crisis with investments and social relief, while the bloc of Northern countries, led by Germany, saw austerity as the only response. Germany wanted to export it’s experience: they were doing well thanks to an internal austerity reform started by Schroeder in 2003, and they did not want to take on other reforms at any cost.

Greece was just 4% of the European economy and could have been rescued without problems. But the German line won and today Greece has lost 25% of its properties; pensions went down by 17%, and there is a massive unemployment. Austerity was the response to the crisis for all of Europe and that aggravated fear and insecurity.

It is also important to remember that until the invasions of Libya, Iraq and Syria, in which Europe played a key role (2011- 2014), there were few immigrants and this was not a problem. In 2010, immigrants numbered 215.000, in a region of 400 millions. But during the invasions, a very fragile balance between Shite and Sunni, the two main religious branches of Islam, collapsed. Civil war, and the creation of ISIS in 2015 pushed many to try to reach Europe to escape the civil wars. So, in 2015 more than 1.2 million refugees, the majority coming from countries in conflict, arrived in Europe, which was not prepared for such a massive influx. And, if we study the elections before then, we can see that the far right parties were not as relevant as they are now.

Therefore it should be clear that austerity and immigration have been the two main factors for the rise of the right wing. Statistics and data show that clearly. Statistics also show that immigrants, of course with exceptions, (that media and populism inflates), basically want to integrate, accept any kind of work, and are law abiding and pay their contributions, which is obviously in their interest. Of course the level of instruction plays a crucial role. But the Syrians who come here were basically middle class. And of course it is an inconvenient truth that if Europe did not intervene in the name of democracy, the situation would be different. NATO estimates that more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on the war in Syria. There are now six million refugees, and 400.00 dead.

And Assad is still there. Of course, democracy has a different value in countries which are closed and rich in petrol. If we were serious about democracy, there are so many African countries which need intervention. Book Haram has killed seven times more people than ISIS; and Mugabe is considering running for re-election after dominating Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. But you will never hear much on those issues in the present political debate.

How the far right is changing Europe

Nigel Farage is the populist who led a far right party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which fought for leaving Europe. UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.49%) of any British party in the 2014 European Parliament election and gained 11 extra Member of the European Parliament MEPs for a total of 24.[55] The party won seats in every region of Great Britain, including its first in Scotland.[56] It was the first time in over a century that a party other than Labour or Conservatives won the mosti votes in a UK-wide election.

But Farage lost the elections held just before Brexit, in June 2016. His declaration to the media was: Infact, I am the real winner, because my agenda against Europe now is the basis for politics in all the traditional parties. Brexit did follow.

And this is what is happening now everywhere. The Austrian elections did not see only the FPO rise. They also saw the conservative OVP taking immigration, security, borders and others part of the far right agenda of the populist agenda in the electoral campaign. A full 58% of the voters went for the far right or the right, with the social Democrats also moving more to the center. The new Dutch governement took a turn to the right, by reducing taxes on the rich people, and to companies. The same turn to the right can be expected by the new coalition led by Merkel, with the liberals aiming to take over the ministry of Finance. Its leader, Christian Lindner, is a nationlist and has several times declared his aversion to Europe. In that seense, he will be worse than the inflexible Schauble, who just wanted to Germanize Europe, but was a convinced European. And it is interesting that the main vote for the far righ party AfD came from East Germany, where immigrants are few. But in spite of investing the staggering amount of 1.3 trillions Euro in the development of East Germany, important differences in employment and revenues with West Germany remain. No wonder that the President of South Korea has warned President Trump to avoid any conflict. They have decided a longtime ago, looking at the German reunification that they would not have the resources required by annexing with success, North Korea.The rocketman, as Trump calls Kim, after the decertification of Iran, can claim that the only way to be sure that US will not intervene, is to show that he has a nuclear intercontinental ability, because US does not respect treaties.

Those considerations done, a pattern is clear everywhere. The agenda of the right wing has been incorporated in the traditional parties; they bring in the governing coalition, like Norway did , or they try to isolate them , as did Sweden. This does not change the fact that everybody is moving to the right. Austria will now tilt to the Visegrad group, formed by Poland , Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, which are clearly challenging Europe and looking to Putin as a political model ( all the right wing does).

The only active European voice is Macron, who clearly is not a progressist guy either. The real progressist, Corbyn, is ambigous about Europe, because the Labour Party has a lot of eurosceptic.

The new German government has already made clear that many of it’s proposals for a stronger Europe are not on the agenda, and austerity remains the way. Unless a strong growth comes soon (and the IMF doubts that), social problems will increase. Nationalism never helped peace, development and cooperation. Probably , we need some populist movement to be in the government to show that they have no real answers to the problems. The victory of 5 stars in Italy will probably do that. But this was the theory also for Egypt. Let the Muslim Brotherhood take the government , and it will be a failure. Pity that the General El Sisi did not let this happen. Our hope is that we do not get any El Sisis in Europe.

If only young people went back to vote, this would change the situation in Europe…this is the real historical loss of the left in Europe.

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Global Interfaith LGBTIQ Leaders Convene at UN for Expert-level Dialoguehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:43:14 +0000 Patricia Ackerman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152638 Rev. Patricia Ackerman is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, and the New York UN Representative for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

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Rev. Patricia Ackerman is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, and the New York UN Representative for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

By Rev. Patricia Ackerman
NEW YORK, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

On September 29, 2017, Yvette Abrahams, an indigenous religious leader from Cape Town, South Africa who served as the country’s Commissioner For Gender Equality for five years, gasped when she learned that South Africa had just voted in favor of United Nations Human Rights Council resolution condemning the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts. She could not believe that the United States had not.

Rev. Patricia Ackerman

Just the month before, waves of concern arose in her as she read the text of the Nashville Statement, an anti-LGBTIQ document authored by the conservative Christian Right in the US, with the aim of equipping pastors with a consolidated justification for excluding LGBTIQ people in both spiritual and civic life.

Abrahams herself has lived through the effects of US based anti-LGBTIQ efforts that are are exported to Africa, leading to deaths, rapes, and beatings. Working against anti-LGBTIQ violence in South Africa and across the continent has been her life’s work, so Abrahams immediately noted that many of the Nashville Statement signers had also funded anti-gay legislation across Africa.

This is why she plans to travel to the UN Headquarters in New York on October 26th for the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue, to begin a meaningful and healing conversation with her religious opponents.

Abrahams is joined by LGBTIQ faith leaders around the world – including supporters of the Nashville Statement – for the first expert-level international discussion by interfaith LGBTIQ religious leaders at the UN about how to work together to end abuses, violence, beatings, and murders of LGBTIQ people, often because of religiously sanctioned beliefs.

Yvette Abrahams knows that this dialogue can save lives. She was a key player during End Hate Campaign in the South African West Cape, working to highlight hate violence against LBGTIQ people.

“As late as 2008 there were no monitoring mechanisms or reporting systems for such crimes, and political leaders did not even recognize this as a problem”. She recalls a conversation she had with a Ugandan activist:

“We realized we were both dealing with criminalization, and then police abuse, which made reporting almost impossible. In Uganda, the arrests of LBT/Kuchu people weren’t always recorded because the police were using sexuality to extort money instead of pressing charges – making it difficult to track police abuse.

She explained to me how if you’re arrested in Uganda, the police lock you up and intimidate you, and because they steal your money, they won’t report the arrest. This violence has been made invisible.

Abrahams is joined by an LGBTIQ Baptist minister from Uganda named Brian Byamukama, a Baptist minister from Uganda, who has seen first-hand how the efforts of the Christian Right at the UN have rippled out to his community. In Uganda, same-sex acts are punishable by death.

Abrahams and Byamukama recount the story of a Ugandan lesbian woman who was raped: “So many people – church people and members of my own family – told me that this was God’s way of punishing me for being a lesbian. Because I was unwilling to ‘change’, they said, God was using this method to teach me a very hard lesson…I was hurt in two ways; firstly I was dealing with the pain and humiliation of the rape, and secondly I suffered because of my people’s judgement.”

Both leaders say that rape as an ‘instrument of God’ is common in South Africa and Uganda. A number of conservative, moderate, and progressive religious organizations such as C-Fam, The Salvation Army, The Lutheran Church, numerous Catholic religious orders in consultation with the UN including Sisters of Mercy, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Big Ocean Women, many other are attending.

Noticeably absent from the consultation will be the Office of the Holy See at the UN, the Vatican. Father Roger Landry, Attaché, has stated he “doubts they will attend.” About their participation in the UN event, Byamukama said: “This is where we stand together or fall apart. We cannot afford to waste energy fighting each other. The UN is the closest thing we have to a world government. It is where conversations about love and justice should happen on a planetary scale.”

Religious leaders participating at the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue hail from Uganda, Malawi, Tajikistan, Hong Kong, Australia, Samoa, South Africa, Ghana, and Brazil. This is the first time LGBTIQ faith leaders will be formally addressing communities at the UN, where international leaders will hear these stories from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Indigenous, and Buddhist faith traditions.

There was also the US’s recent affirmative vote in the UN resolution on a ban on the death penalty for homosexuality as a renewed call for religious leaders to commit to end to criminalization and violence of LGBTIQ people. “The death penalty for consensual same-sex acts currently exists in 13 countries, but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear that all of us are born free and equal. It’s time for faith leaders to come together where we agree, which is to treat others the way we would like to be treated – free from violence. The golden rule of do unto others is something we can all agree on.”

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Good Men Should Not be Quiet Spectators in Sexual Assaultshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 14:34:52 +0000 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152628 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

The pain and anger of more than a million people who tweeted #MeToo in the last week have crowded social media with personal stories of sexual harassment or assault.

This virtual march of solidarity marks both the urgency of finding a shared voice and the hidden scale of assault that did not previously have a register. When women are almost invisible, when they are not really seen, it seems that people do not have to care what happens to them.

Protesters gather outside the Lahore Press Club in the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province on July 12, 2016 to demand justice for victims of sexual violence. Credit: IPS

This online outcry is important because it is giving voice to acts that are public, but that are silenced and neutralized by convention. It is a cruel privilege to be able to harass a girl or a woman with impunity, but in so many cases this is the norm.

What we are seeing currently, as women build and reinforce each other’s accounts, and as men join in to acknowledge their role, is a validation of the rightness of speaking out. We are seeing also the strength in numbers that comes from accumulated individual experiences that are characteristically undeclared.

As the crowd builds of those telling their story, we see a picture of real life begin to emerge. A critical mass is growing that proves how much goes wrong when people can act with impunity in a culture of silence.

The online wave joins the other mass movements collectively expressing women’s activism: the Latin American ‘ni una menos’ marches to protest violence against women and particularly against the least privileged; the women’s marches that took place across the world earlier this year in support of women’s rights and other freedoms; and the marches in Poland and Ireland against abortion bans.

The blanket of silence has also shielded perpetrators of assaults on LGBTI communities and others who are more vulnerable for reasons of ethnicity, poverty, or age. These women are the ones most affected, least visible and have the most to gain from the collective strength of voices building peer pressure and culture change.

After all, it was Tarana Burke, a New York community organizer serving young women of colour who originated ‘me too’, and her friend Alyssa Milano who picked it up and became the catalyst for the billions who have now been reached by its message.

The full and free participation of women in society, in politics, and in the workplace is essential for women’s voices to be heard and for their rights to be respected. The more women there are who take on senior representation roles across public and private sectors, the more opportunities there are for change in the culture of invisibility and impunity, where more powerful men are able to prey on women. Sexual and all other forms of harassment at work, home and outside the home are not acceptable and must not be ignored.

Casual indifference, and people saying “it’s nothing” have to stop. The number of men who have joined this campaign is promising but far from being enough (30 per cent in one report). It has already been too long that permissive blindness is the norm.

This is about both women and men changing their response to acts of sexual aggression and acting in solidarity to make it visible and unacceptable. Good men should not be quiet spectators.

We need to have all women empowered to speak, their rights and bodies respected, and behaviours established and entrenched as normal that let no one off the hook. No more impunity.

We salute the thousands of women who have been fighting against all violations of women’s and girls’ rights and call for renewed investment in the fight to end all violence against women.

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World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:39:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152613 With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main […]

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"Oceans: our allies against climate change. How marine ecosystems help preserve our world." Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main buffer against climate change.

The 30 countries – all members of UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s #CleanSeas campaign – account for about 40 per cent of the world’s coastlines–they are drawing up laws, establishing marine reserves, banning plastic bags and gathering up the waste choking their beaches and reefs.

Five ways the oceans help fight climate change and its effects:


1. Trapping carbon: Mangroves, coral reefs, salt marshes and sea-grasses make up just 1 per cent of the ocean’s seabed, but they contain between 50-70 per cent of the carbon stored in the oceans.
- Like forests, marine ecosystems take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and trap them, some of it for thousands of years. As such, these ecosystems are known as “blue carbon sinks.”

2. Reducing coastal erosion: Overtime, waves carry away sediment from the shore. When this happens more quickly or forcefully, for example because of large storms, it has the potential of causing major damage to homes and coastal infrastructure.
- Sea grasses may look like our grass fields on land, but they are actually flowering plants that live in the salty environments of the sea floor and help hold sediment in place. Salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs also help in slowing erosion and protecting shorelines.

3. Protecting marine life and biodiversity: Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 per cent of the world's ocean surface, yet they provide a home for at least 25 per cent of all marine biodiversity. Often popular tourist attractions, coral reefs are the least secret of the ocean’s secret weapons. They draw people in to observe the wealth of marine life that they host.
- However, coral reefs are delicate ecosystems that are increasingly strained by human activity. Careless tourism, water pollution, overfishing, rising temperature and acidity are all damaging these ecosystems, sometimes beyond repair.

4. Forming barriers to storms: Mangroves, salt-tolerant shrubs or small trees that grow in saline water of coastal areas, create barriers to destructive waves and hold sediments in place with their underwater root systems. This protects coastal communities in times of cyclones or other tropical storms.
- In fact, scientists concluded that mangroves could have reduced the damages caused by the 2008 Nargis cyclone in Myanmar, where parts of the coastline had lost up to 50 per cent of its mangrove cover.

5. Slowing down destructive waves: Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. Salt marshes are well-known for protecting the coast from soil erosion.
- However, they are also an effective defence against storm surges and devastating waves. Salt marshes can reduce wave sizes by up to 20 per cent.
- As the waves move through and around these marshes, the vegetation quells the force of the water and buffers the effects of these waves on coastal communities, FAO reports, adding that once viewed as wastelands, salt marshes can rival tropical rainforests in terms of biologically productive habitats, as they serve as nurseries and refuges for a wide variety of marine life.

SOURCE: FAO’s Guide to the Ocean

The populous nations of East and South-East Asia account for most of the plastic trash entering the global ocean, UNEP reports, adding that in order to address this menace at its source, Indonesia has pledged to reduce its generation of plastic trash by 70 per cent by 2030, while the Philippines plans new laws targeting single-use plastics.

Human Addiction To Plastic Bags

Humanity’s unhealthy addiction to throwaway plastics bags is a particular target, the UN environment agency warns, while informing that countries including Kenya, France, Jordan, Madagascar and the Maldives have committed to banning plastic bags or restricting consumers to re-usable versions for which they have to pay. See: Plastic No More… Also in Kenya

“Legislation to press companies and citizens to change their wasteful habits is often part of broader government strategies to foster responsible production and consumption – a key step in the global shift toward sustainable development.”

According to UNEP, Belgium and Brazil, for instance, are both working on national action plans to curb marine pollution. Costa Rica has embarked on a five-year strategy to improve waste management that includes a push to reduce the use of plastics.

Eight Billion Tonnes of Plastic… A Year

The flow of pollution means detritus such as drink bottles and flip-flops as well as tiny plastic fragments including micro-beads used in cosmetics are concentrating in the oceans and washing up on the most remote shorelines, from deserted Pacific islets to the Arctic Circle, the UN specialised body informs.

“Humans have already dumped billions of tonnes of plastic, and we are adding it to the ocean at a rate of 8 million tonnes a year,” UNEP warns, adding that as well as endangering fish, birds and other creatures who mistake it for food or become entangled in it, plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood.

It also harms tourist destinations and provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying diseases including dengue and Zika.

The #CleanSeas campaign aims to “turn the tide on plastic” by inspiring action from governments, businesses and individuals on ocean pollution. See also: UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic

Pollution is the theme of the 2017 United Nations Environment Assembly, which is meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 4 to 6 December.

Forming barriers to storms. Credit: FAO


The Main Buffer against Climate Change

Another UN agency reminds that while it is well known that forests, especially rainforests, are key allies in the fight against climate change as they absorb greenhouse gas emissions, oceans are the earth’s main buffer against it.

In fact, about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that we emit actually gets absorbed by the oceans, as does over 90 per cent of the extra heat produced by human-induced climate change, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.

“However, oceans are also one of the most affected by it.”

According to the Rome-based UN agency, human activities are resulting in acidification and increasing water temperatures that are changing our oceans and the plant and animal life within them.

More Plastic than Fish?

The UN estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 – with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tonnes currently floating in the world’s oceans. Meanwhile, harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars.

Coral reefs and coastal environments in tropical regions, including mangroves and salt marshes, are in particular danger, warns the UN food and agriculture agency.

“These ecosystems store much of the carbon, which then remains in the oceans for hundreds of years, and are thus one of our “allies” against climate change.”

However, since the 1940s, over 30 per cent of mangroves, close to 25 per cent of salt marshes and over 30 per cent of sea-grass meadows have been lost.

“Right when we need them the most, we are losing these crucial ecosystems.”


UN #CleanSeas campaign aims to combat marine plastic litter

Did You Know That…

FAO tells some key facts about the oceans:

— The ocean has it all: from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, from the colourless to the iridescent, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet.

— The ocean is the largest ecosystem on earth and provides 99 per cent of the living space for life. It is a fascinating, but often little explored place.

— The ocean affects us in many different ways. It provides us with an important source of food and other natural resources. It influences our climate and weather, provides us with space for recreation and gives us inspiration for stories, artwork and music.

— The list of benefits we get from the ocean is almost endless! But we are also affecting the ocean.

— Overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food webs.

— Our waste is found in massive floating garbage patches and plastics have been found from the arctic to the bottom of the deepest places in the ocean.

— Climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species.

— Coastal development is destroying and degrading important marine habitats. Even recreation is known to impact marine habitats and species.

— We need a clean and healthy ocean to support our own health and survival, even if we don’t live anywhere near it.

Now you know! It would good to also remember that humankind managed to survive over millions and millions of years… without plastic!

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UN Migration Chief Ends Visit to Bangladesh as Bleak Picture Emerges of Rohingya Settlementshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/un-migration-chief-ends-visit-bangladesh-bleak-picture-emerges-rohingya-settlements/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-migration-chief-ends-visit-bangladesh-bleak-picture-emerges-rohingya-settlements http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/un-migration-chief-ends-visit-bangladesh-bleak-picture-emerges-rohingya-settlements/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:09:07 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152621 Yesterday (19/10) over 6,900 Rohingya refugees who were stranded in dire conditions in no-man’s land at Anjuman Para on Bangladesh’s side of the border, were moved by the Bangladesh military to several makeshift settlements in the Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar. Some 800,000 Rohingyas are now living in the settlements, 589,000 of whom […]

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Soaked to the skin a Rohingya mother tries to protect her child with her drenched scarf, as it pelted down with rain yesterday (19/10). They were among the 6,900 Rohingya refugees who arrived in Cox’s Bazar from no man’s land. Credit: UN Migration Agency/Timothy Wolfer 2017

By International Organization for Migration
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Oct 20 2017 (IOM)

Yesterday (19/10) over 6,900 Rohingya refugees who were stranded in dire conditions in no-man’s land at Anjuman Para on Bangladesh’s side of the border, were moved by the Bangladesh military to several makeshift settlements in the Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar. Some 800,000 Rohingyas are now living in the settlements, 589,000 of whom have arrived since August 25th.

Also yesterday, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing concluded a three-day visit to Bangladesh and thanked the government for its continued willingness to open the country’s borders to hundreds of thousands of desperate Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.

During Ambassador Swing’s meetings with high level officials, the Bangladesh Government reconfirmed its commitment to allow Rohingya seeking protection from violence in Myanmar to continue entering the country. It also confirmed its willingness to consider additional options for the settlement of the new arrivals, including the creation of more manageable, smaller camps to alleviate public health and security concerns.

On Thursday, men, women and children continued to pour into the settlements where IOM and its humanitarian partners are on the ground providing lifesaving assistance. They walked in long lines – exhausted, hungry and muddied after days of walking from villages in Myanmar’s North Rakhine State to Anjuman Para. Men carried tired children and old people in baskets on shoulder poles, together with whatever meagre possessions they had salvaged from their homes. Children carried younger siblings on their backs and women trudged through the mud with infants in their arms under the rain.

The entrances to the Kutupalong refugee camp and makeshift settlement are a surging sea of humanity. Most families have nothing. The lucky ones have managed to bring some clothes, pots and pans, the odd water carrier.

One family arrived with their three daughters, but told IOM staff they had to leave their two sons behind to come later with neighbours. Another family said they had to leave their two young sons with neighbours, as they would not have been able to carry the boys, given the fact that their mother was ill and needed her husband’s help to walk.

Mohammed Hanun said he trekked for 11 days before reaching no man’s land in Anjuman Para. He waited there for three days without any food, before finally reaching Kutupalong yesterday.

These new arrivals bring the total Rohingya population of Cox’s Bazar settlements to around 800,000. IOM’s latest Needs and Population Monitoring Report, published on Wednesday, estimated that over half of the 582,000 new arrivals who were there by mid-week are women and girls. The report identified a total of 28 collective sites and 99 locations in host communities between 30 September – 9 October 2017.

The report noted that of the total population, 33,542 (4 per cent) were registered and living in two UNHCR refugee camps. The remaining 96 per cent (761,116) were living in makeshift settlements, spontaneous sites and host communities.

Based on sampling techniques across the sites, the assessment identified lactating mothers (9.2 per cent) and pregnant woman (4.9 per cent) as the two highest number of vulnerable groups within the population. An estimated 3.6 per cent of the total number of households were female-headed and 2.2 per cent headed by elderly persons.

Lifesaving services delivered by IOM and its partner agencies include clean water and sanitation, shelter, food security, healthcare, education and psychosocial support for the most vulnerable individuals, many of whom are suffering from acute mental trauma or are survivors of sexual violence.

Since late August, IOM has scaled up quickly – shelter has been provided to 379,000 individuals, while 47,000 health consultations have been provided. IOM has contributed 200 staff to assist in a Ministry of Health-led Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) campaign that has reached 679,000 people. Some 678,000 litres of water have been distributed, along with over 11,000 dignity kits. IOM staffing has also been boosted with 443 staff and community volunteers in country.

Earlier this month, the UN launched a Joint Response Plan, in order to sustain and enhance the large humanitarian effort already under way. The plan requires USD 434 million to meet the life-saving needs of all Rohingya refugees and their host communities – together an estimated 1.2 million people – for the difficult months to come.

IOM’s funding requirements within this plan amount to USD 120 million. A pledging conference for the crisis organized by IOM, UNOCHA and UNHCR, and co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait, will take place in Geneva on Monday (23/10). The conference will provide governments from around the world an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the burden and responsibility for the Rohingya refugees.

For more information, please contact:
Cox’s Bazar: Hala Jaber, Tel: +8801733335221, Email: hjaberbent@iom.int
Dhaka: Shirin Akhter, Tel: +8801711187499, Email: sakhter@iom.int

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Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 10:33:27 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152617 Index insurance is being promoted as a solution to protect climate affected smallholder farmers in Africa. This type of micro insurance is slowly gaining ground as a way of compensating farmers for lost crops and livestock due to climate change. A number of African governments have either introduced or are piloting index insurance while some […]

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Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient?

Panel discussion on innovating agriculture for climate and food security in Africa, during the Global Green Growth Week conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

By Wambi Michael
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

Index insurance is being promoted as a solution to protect climate affected smallholder farmers in Africa. This type of micro insurance is slowly gaining ground as a way of compensating farmers for lost crops and livestock due to climate change.

A number of African governments have either introduced or are piloting index insurance while some are still waiting and watching to see if it will have any tangible impact. Various experts attending the Global Green Growth Week conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia discussed and shared experiences with index insurance as an innovation in agriculture for climate and food security in Africa.

“We have managed to serve over 1.3 million farmers. So we have proved that index insurance is scalable. But the key challenge is financial education for the farmers and the regulatory environment regarding use of technologies like mobile phones to provide the services.”
Dr. Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program On Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security explained how in the older days of insurance you had to go out and find out if anything is damaged and there would be a payout after everything is damaged “Index insurance is a really neat product because it is based on index. So if the rain drops below a certain amount, the insurance company knows the crop has failed and they will pay the money immediately.”

Campbell said with index insurance, the farmer gets the money immediately and does not have to sell his/her assets in order to survive. It also reduces the transaction costs.

According to Campbell, index insurance, also known as parametric insurance, has been around for close to 17 years and is slowly taking root in Kenya, Zimbabwe and other African countries. With this experience, countries can now share experience about it works and what needs to be improved.

A common example, Campbell told IPS, is of a remote rural farmer who buys seed, uses his mobile phone to take an image of the barcode on the seed pack and sends it to the insurance company to buy insurance. “When the rain fails, they can get the payment back as insurance,” Campbell explained.

It is estimated that sixty farmers in Kenya are registered under the index insurance schemes being rolled out with help of insurance firms partnering with mobile phone operators.

David Muigai, an Actuarial Officer with Sygenta Foundation For Sustainable Agriculture said their experience in East Africa has shown that index insurance offers affordable insurance and has helped farmers to benefit from agriculture.

“We have managed to serve over 1.3 million farmers. So we have proved that index insurance is scalable. But the key challenge is financial education for the farmers and the regulatory environment regarding use of technologies like mobile phones to provide the services.”

Zimbabwe’s mobile network, Econet Wireless, is providing services offering climate-based insurance to farmers via SMS and voicebased messages. “They also ensure that you shouldn’t just sell insurance. It should be bundled with other things like agricultural advisories and funeral policies,” explained Dr. Campbell, also resident in Zimbabwe.

Uganda is among the African countries that have just introduced an index insurance scheme run on a public private partnership basis between insurance firms, the insurance regulatory authority and the Central Bank of Uganda, which holds the money.

The Government of Uganda allocated a USD2 million budget this financial year to provide a 50% premium subsidy to smallholder farmers. Under the same scheme, large-scale farmers are given 30% premium subsidy.

“By so doing we think we are going to increase production and productivity of the farmers. The farmers are going to get bankable and we are reducing the risk of the financial institutions to the farmers. They are coming out to lend money to the farmers because they know that their money is secure,” said Musa Lukwago, a Senior Economist with Uganda’s Ministry of Finance.

Lukwago said the elite are being attracted to livestock and crop farming because they know they are covered under the index insurance scheme. He gave the example of a retired civil servant who invested his employment gratuity in growing passion fruit. “There was drought and the farmer lost the entire crop. He was found dead the following day. We believe he would still be alive if he had insurance,” Lukwago narrated.

But the reviews on index insurance remain mixed.

According to Lukwago, there is need for a lot of farmer sensitization. “You must convince the farmers that it works. They must see the benefits. If there is a season hit by drought and the insurance companies are not paying, expect a decline the next season”.

Based on Uganda’s experience, Lukwago added that index insurance requires a lot of meteorological data. “You need to put up weather stations to measure climatic changes, you must domesticate the products. Some of the concepts from Western Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient? world may not work in our local situations.”

Muigai said challenges remain in persuading insurance regulators and Central Banks in East Africa to accept text messages as evidence of insurance purchases. Kennedy Tesfam, from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Addis Ababa is of the view that while index insurance has been in Africa for quite a while it is not taking off.

Tesfalidet Hagos, Managing Director at Ethiopia’s Luna Exports Slaughterhouse Plc said his organization has tried index insurance in the vegetable sector and hopes that it can work in livestock production.

“The most important thing we are trying to achieve is to increase the income of the farmers. If we can ensure better productivity of the farmers, they will have better income and therefore take insurance. We want to begin from the root cause. And I believe the root cause of everything in Africa is poverty” Hagos said.

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Global Campaign to Smoke Out Tobacco Firms from UN Bodyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 19:44:24 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152603 The world’s tobacco companies – which have been widely ostracized in the UN system – may be ousted from one of their last fortified strongholds in the United Nations: the International Labour Organization (ILO). A letter signed by nearly 200 public health organizations and labour rights groups worldwide is calling on the Governing Body of […]

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A cigarette vendor in Manila sells a pack of 20 sticks for less than a dollar. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

The world’s tobacco companies – which have been widely ostracized in the UN system – may be ousted from one of their last fortified strongholds in the United Nations: the International Labour Organization (ILO).

A letter signed by nearly 200 public health organizations and labour rights groups worldwide is calling on the Governing Body of the Geneva-based UN agency to expel tobacco companies from its subsidiary membership.

“Tobacco companies victimize farmers and other workers through practices including unfair pricing strategies, abusive contracts and child labour. They have no place in a UN agency concerned with fair labour practices and human rights,” says the coalition.

The Governing Body – which will hold its upcoming 331st sessions beginning October 26 through November 9 —is expected to decide whether to sever tobacco companies from its partnership with ILO.

“If the ILO is to live up to its promise of promoting rights at work, encouraging decent employment opportunities and enhancing social protection, the decision should be an easy one: the Governing Body must prohibit all members of the tobacco industry from participation in the ILO,” says the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK).

Asked whether the world’s poorer nations — where “big tobacco” still has a heavy presence — are losing the battle in the war against smoking, Mark Hurley, International Director of Tobacco Industry Campaigns at CTFK, told IPS that for tobacco companies, “low- and middle-income countries represent the new frontier for a deadly industry”.

Tobacco companies, he pointed out, are increasingly targeting low- and middle-income countries that often lack the regulations and resources to protect themselves against manipulative industry practices.

“Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries and if current trends continue, they will account for 80 percent of the world’s tobacco-related deaths by 2030,” said Hurley.

Any action taken by the ILO against tobacco companies would bring the agency in line with the Geneva-based World Health Organization’s (WHO) international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Last month, the UN Global Compact in New York also took action to cut ties with tobacco companies, CTFK said.

Asked about the Global Compact, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters last week
companies that are part of the Global Compact have to report on the activities they carry out.
If there are concerns about different transactions by those companies, he pointed out, “that can affect their membership in the Compact as well as the sort of nature of their participation with the Global Compact”.

And so the Global Compact will need to be in dialogue with all the various companies, (including tobacco-related companies), in terms of what they’re doing and in terms of “socially responsible business practices”, he added.
The letter, addressed to members of the Governing Body, says tobacco companies use membership in respected organizations like the ILO to portray themselves as responsible corporate citizens when in fact they are the root cause of a global tobacco epidemic that is projected to kill one billion people worldwide this century.

Tobacco companies continue to aggressively market their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations around the world, to mislead the public about the health risks of their products and to attack every effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives, the letter added.

“Tobacco companies that spread death and disease across the globe should have no place in a UN agency, or any responsible organization”, the letter adds.

The signatories to the letter include the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, the Voluntary Health Association of India, Action on Smoking and Health and Corporate Accountability International, the African Tobacco Control Alliance, the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention, the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance, the Austrian Council on Smoking and Health, the Dutch Alliance for Smoke-Free Society and the French Alliance Against Tobacco, among others.

Hurley told IPS “the good news is we know how to reduce tobacco use”.

The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) obligates its 181 signatory Parties to implement proven, effective measures in their countries, such as increasing tobacco taxes, placing graphic, picture-based health warnings on tobacco packs, and banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

And countries around the world, including those that are low- and middle-income, are taking bold action to implement these life-saving policies, he added.

This includes Nepal, where graphic health warnings cover 90 percent of tobacco packs – the biggest in the world, Uruguay, where public places are 100 percent free of secondhand smoke and in the Philippines where steadily increasing tobacco taxes contributed to a nearly 20 percent decline in tobacco use in six years.

Other countries must take note of these success stories and move to fully implement the FCTC to protect their own populations from the death and disease of tobacco use, he added.

Hurley also said the WHO already states that the tobacco industry’s interests are in clear conflict with public health goals in its international treaty, the FCTC, as agreed to by the 181 signatory nations.

However, other UN agencies like the ILO continue to work with these companies despite public knowledge that tobacco companies aggressively market their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations around the world, mislead the public about the health risks of their products and attack every effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

“We urge the ILO to join other international organizations and agencies acting to cut ties with tobacco companies,” he declared.

Meanwhile, a report titled “ILO Cooperation with the Tobacco Industry in the Pursuit of the Organization’s Social Mandate”, submitted to the last meeting of the Governing Body in February 2017, provides background information on the ILO’s current activities in the tobacco sector, as well as on the role and responsibilities of the ILO within the broader framework of the WHO’s FCTC, to help the tripartite members of the Governing Body to make an informed policy decision regarding the ILO’s future engagement with the tobacco industry in pursuit of its mandate.

The study said tobacco is produced in 124 countries, and some 60 million people are involved in tobacco growing and leaf processing worldwide.

In pursuit of its mandate, the Office has engaged with member States and social partners, including the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and its affiliates, globally and in a number of member States, to support the realization of fundamental principles and rights at work in tobacco growing communities.

Globally, reduced smoking rates in some industrialized economies have been generally offset by increased rates in developing and middle-income countries.

Tobacco cultivation is labour intensive, involving field preparation, making nursery beds, transplanting seedlings, continual care as the plants grow, harvesting and curing. As with many agricultural crops, most tasks involved in tobacco growing are hazardous, the report continued.

“Tobacco harvesting presents a unique hazard for children and adults – green tobacco sickness – which is nicotine poisoning caused by dermal contact with green tobacco. Given the need to handle leaves with care to avoid damage, manual harvesting predominates. This holds true despite the growth of the market for e-cigarettes, for which tobacco can be harvested mechanically,” the study noted.

There has been a significant geographical shift in tobacco leaf growing in recent years, with important consequences for employment in the sector.

And there have been substantial drops in employment in tobacco leaf growing between 2000 and 2013 in several countries, including Turkey (from 583,500 in 2000 to 66,500 in 2013), Brazil (from 462,800 in 2002 to 342,200 in 2013) and the United States (from 51,700 in 2002 to 14,100 in 2013). In contrast, increases were seen in Argentina (32,300 in 2000 to 58,400 in 2010), India (62,800 in 2001 to 89,300 in 2013) and Zimbabwe (8,500 in 2000 to 56,900 in 2011).

Characterizing the nature of the workforce, the report said that for many countries “tobacco growing, in contrast to manufacturing, still functions as a safety valve which safeguards livelihoods for millions of people who for the most part belong to vulnerable social groups”.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Caught in Conflict without Travel Documentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/caught-conflict-without-travel-documents/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caught-conflict-without-travel-documents http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/caught-conflict-without-travel-documents/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:55:57 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152594 Migrants in Yemen Cross into Saudi Arabia, Hoping to be Deported

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Young migrants sleep on a beach in Djibouti as they wait to cross into Yemen by boat. Credit: Muse Mohammed/UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

By International Organization for Migration
SANA'A, Yemen, Oct 19 2017 (IOM)

In early October, three Ethiopian boys in Yemen told IOM, the UN Migration Agency, “we miss our family and can no longer stay here.”

They had spent seven long months at IOM’s migrant shelter in Aden waiting for a legal way of returning home to Ethiopia. After they spoke these words, the boys left the shelter to attempt the dangerous journey to Saudi Arabia, crossing a country embroiled in armed conflict. Their thinking — deportation will be easier.

Obtaining valid travel documents for irregular migrants in Yemen is an extremely difficult challenge for IOM and is blocking vital humanitarian assistance the migrants desperately need. Hundreds of Ethiopians have asked IOM for help to get home and whether they will get there is unclear.

A few thousand migrants cross into Yemen every month — the majority start their journey in the Horn of Africa and hope to reach the Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. They soon become stranded in Yemen, often pinned in by conflict zones. They also find themselves at risk of being abducted by smugglers and criminal networks that use extreme violence to extort money from their families.

Having experienced abuse from smugglers or the consequences of war, migrants come to IOM for help to get home. Most of them lack valid travel documents and embassies have suspended consular services since the early days of Yemen’s two-year conflict. This has made it extremely difficult for IOM to assist many of the migrants turning to the Organization, simply wanting to go home and see their families again.

Unaccompanied migrant children, who comprise almost 25 per cent of the migrants assisted by IOM in Yemen, are particularly vulnerable and in need of protection services. While at the shelter, the migrants receive humanitarian assistance and information about personal safety in Yemen. The migrant children often tell IOM about their frustration in being unable to return home quickly. The long wait and seemingly perpetual limbo escalates their disappointment. Irritated and tired of waiting, some decide to take the risk of setting out on their own again, despite the danger and threats to their lives when traveling through Yemen. They leave in the hope that they will be able to cross the Yemeni borders with the Gulf countries, which are highly monitored and controlled.

A young migrant boy on a beach in Djibouti as he waits to cross into Yemen. Credit: Muse Mohammed/UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017


Coordination with the authorities in Yemen, the country of origin and IOM is continuous but the process has been slow due to the conflict.

Ultimately, migrants like the three Ethiopian boys resort to dangerous options, such as trying to Saudi Arabia to be caught and deported, which is, in their point of view, a “faster way” to return home.

The US Department of State and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs fund IOM’s 2017 migrant voluntary humanitarian return efforts from Yemen.

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The Future for Financing Africa’s Renewable Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/future-financing-africas-renewable-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=future-financing-africas-renewable-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/future-financing-africas-renewable-energy/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 14:30:25 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152591 Wambi Michael interviews Henning Wuester, Director Knowledge, Policy and Finance Centre, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

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Henning Wuester in conversation with Wisdom AhiatakuTogobo, Director Renewable and Alternate Energy, Ghana

Henning Wuester in conversation with Wisdom AhiatakuTogobo, Director Renewable and Alternate Energy, Ghana

By Wambi Michael
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

Lack of energy access presents a formidable challenge to Africa and lack of access to financing has been singled out as the biggest reason why over 620 million people living on the continent are stuck in energy poverty.The issue of inadequate financing, especially for renewable energy sources, was among the pressing concerns as leaders, scientists and policy leader met at the Global Green Growth Week conference in Ethiopia.

Governments and their private sector and international development partners say Africa needs to attract financing for renewable energy for it to achieve most of the social development goals –SDGS. But the question is where the financing will come from and when?

Henning Wuester oversees IRENA’s work on knowledge, Policy and Finance, including the production of up-to-date renewable energy data and information and analysis to identify best practice in renewable energy policy and finance.

He spoke with IPS about the potential of renewable energy in unlocking Africa’s green growth potential and why financing is crucial.

IPS: Financing of renewable energy is not penetrating Africa much as it is in Asia. Can you give an overview about what is
happening in Africa in terms attracting financing for renewable energy?

Henning Wuester: I agree that financing is not picking up as much as other countries like for example in Asia where the growth is much more rapid. We are seeing less than USD10 billion investment in renewables in Africa. We need to triple it or increase it to more than USD30 billion to reach the cost effective potential for renewables that Africa has.

IPS: Why are we not seeing that flow in Africa given its vast renewable energy potential and a big population without access
to energy?

We are seeing less than USD10 billion investment in renewables in Africa. We need to triple it or increase it to more than USD30 billion to reach the cost effective potential for renewables that Africa has.
HW: One aspect is that Africa is relying heavily on public finance and of course public finance is limited. And so you can’t scale up using public finance. Budgets are limited and international development finance is limited.

IPS: So what can be done to have the finance flow to Africa’s energy?

HW: What has to happen is a shift in the way public finance is used. Public finance has to be focused on enabling additional finance by mobilising the private investors that are very eager to invest in renewable energy. Then we could scale up more rapidly.

IPS: What is the private sector looking for?

HW: Private sector is looking for markets. I hear from them that they are much interested in Africa. They see great potential, they see a lot of consumers that want to buy energy and they see economic growth in many countries in Africa. What they are not sufficiently comfortable with is the risk profile for investment in renewables in Africa. They are not yet comfortable that
governments are serious about the policy frameworks they are putting in place and that the microeconomic risks are addressed. Currency risk is an issue where you see many currencies depreciating very rapidly in some African countries. That poses a mismatch between the revenue stream from those that buy the energy and investors that often come with hard currency funds.

Overcoming this again requires a more active role of public finance institutions. In some cases public finance institutions are putting in place vehicles that enable public finance to co-finance. They are putting in place some hedging mechanisms to deal with exchange rate risks.

IPS: Is there actually a market for renewable energy in Africa? Some have said the population is big but has no effective
demand.

HW: Yes there is a huge market. We have estimated that you can increase renewable energy by 310 GWh in terms of capacity. Far more than 100 GWh that were are talking about right now. That is by 2030. This is cost effective because renewables [will be] operating competitively against other sources of energy, whether fossil fuel-based or other sources of electricity production. We have private companies that offer business models with very small payments so that consumers can benefit from off grid solar light. Solar home systems are increasingly becoming more attractive. Many of the new offers include more
attractive packages including TV.So it is a complete electricity solution for homes.

IPS: So is there any future for financing of Africa’s renewable energy?

HW: Absolutely. We are taking to investors around the world and they are looking at the African market. They know that this is a market that can be as interesting as Asia if certain conditions fall into place. On the other side we see some African leaders are recognising that they have an opportunity. So they will work towards putting these conditions in place. Then the financing issue will go away. There is enough money. That is not the issue. Money is not at the right place at the moment but it will come.

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Zimbabwe’s Diaspora Could Help Revive Ailing Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:55:15 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152588 At the dawn of the millennium, Sheila Mponda, 60, waved goodbye to her four children, who were leaving Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. Mponda had just lost her husband and had been a housewife all her life. While the parting was bittersweet, since they established new lives abroad, Mponda’s children […]

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Zimbabweans applying for South African work permits in Johannesburg in 2010. Credit: Raymond June/flickr

Zimbabweans applying for South African work permits in Johannesburg in 2010. Credit: Raymond June/flickr

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

At the dawn of the millennium, Sheila Mponda, 60, waved goodbye to her four children, who were leaving Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. Mponda had just lost her husband and had been a housewife all her life.

While the parting was bittersweet, since they established new lives abroad, Mponda’s children have faithfully sent her money to provide for her needs.“Slowly trust is being built between the government and the diaspora and enquiries from the diaspora associations have been coming in on how they can work together with government in national development.” --IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Lily Sanya

“As a widow, people would expect me to live in abject poverty – with old age, no skills and a late husband.  But my children overseas have been a miracle,” she said.

They all hold down multiple jobs to sustain their families in the United Kingdom as well as back home. “[But] where would they be working [in Zimbabwe] with this current economy?” Mponda told IPS.

Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, explained that family-level remittances from the diaspora are very important as they keep families in Zimbabwe afloat and mean the difference between survival and starvation for many.

“The collapse of the Zimbabwean economy due to poor governance has made it difficult for the government to harness funds from the diaspora and make good use of them for sustainable development,” Mavhinga told IPS.

He stressed the need for the government to restore public trust and confidence in its willingness to protect people’s investments in its effort to lure more funding from the diaspora.

Dr. Prosper Chitambara, an economist at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), told IPS that remittances from the diaspora are only mitigating extreme poverty, serving as social protection rather than financing development.

‘The uncertainty in the country is affecting [it] to fully utilize and better harness remittances from the diaspora as no one would want to invest money in an unstable environment,” Dr Chitambara said.

He suggested the need for government to issue diaspora bonds, clarify the issue of dual citizenship and allow member of the diaspora to vote in elections.

“Government should engage people in the diaspora on how they can best work together for the development in the country,” Dr Chitambara added.

Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) together with the government of Zimbabwe launched the Zimbabwe National Diaspora Directorate to enhance engagement and participation of the Zimbabwe diaspora on national development.

IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Lily Sanya said, “We encourage the government to get to know its diaspora by mapping their locations, compiling inventories of their skills and experience, and engaging a wide range of the diaspora in listening events to understand what the diaspora is willing to offer and what it expects from the government in turn, as this lays the foundation for good communication and mutual trust-building.”

IOM is currently implementing a project dubbed “Promoting Migration Governance in Zimbabwe”, which seeks to provide capacity to the government to better manage migration issues.

“IOM aims at creating platforms to promote dialogue between government and the Zimbabwean Diaspora for the latter to participate in governance and national development,” Sanya said.

In October 2016, IOM facilitated the initial diaspora engagement meetings for government in the UK, Canada and South Africa.

“Slowly trust is being built between the government and the diaspora and enquiries from the diaspora associations have been coming in on how they can work together with government in national development,” Sanya told IPS.

A skills transfer program has been put in place, where Zimbabwean experts abroad can come back home on short-term assignments to build the capacity and skills of local professionals in the health and education sector.

“IOM has also been assisting irregular Zimbabwean migrants in foreign countries to return home with dignity under IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme. They are supported to start small businesses of their choice to help them reintegrate into society,” Sanya said.

In addition, IOM aided the government to formulate its National Diaspora Policy and action plan for the 2017–2022 period.

“Support is being provided to government through the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare (MoPSLSW) formulate the National Labour Policy which will ensure protection of the rights of Zimbabwean migrant workers abroad,” Sanya said.

For Zimbabweans in South Africa, the South African government has announced an extension of special permits for nearly 200,000 economic migrants by four years. This only applies to those already in possession of the permits, not new applicants.

“The government of Zimbabwe should make a fresh call for new applicants as there are likely more Zimbabweans undocumented in South Africa than those with special permits. This can help the government of Zimbabwe to document Zimbabweans and to place them in a formal tax role for them to contribute to the South African economy,” Mavhinga of HRW said.

The South African Minister of Home Affairs Hlengiwe Mkhize stressed that the extension was due to the worsening economic situation, but the permits are not a path to permanent residency.  As such Zimbabweans are expected to return home.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, more than one million people have sought asylum in South Africa. The majority of them are Zimbabweans, while others have come from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Mozambique, among other African countries. About 50-150 people are arrested each day as they attempt to renew their permits.

Speaking to the website Refugees Deeply, Gabriel Shumba, the director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, said, “We have visited Lindela Repatriation Centre and noted with serious concern that those arrested for deportation include those either attempting to apply for or renewing asylum and refugee status.”

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One of the World’s Most Dangerous PIaces For Aid Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:14:35 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152583 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

I will travel to the Central African Republic early next week to spend United Nations Day with a peacekeeping operation in order to pay tribute to peacekeepers across the world.

Peacekeeping operations are among the international community’s most effective tools for meeting the challenges of global peace and security. Peacekeepers show tremendous courage in volatile environments and great dedication in helping countries rise from the depths of armed conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

I thank the uniformed and civilian personnel for their contributions and the troop contributing countries for their commitment and generosity. This service too often claims the lives of those who serve. Since the beginning of the year, 67 peacekeepers have died in the line of duty. We honour their sacrifice.

In the Central African Republic, 12 peacekeepers have been killed from hostile acts this year alone. It is important to remember that five years ago, the Central African Republic was experiencing mass atrocities, and United Nations peacekeepers helped avert the worst.

Today, the situation remains very troubling. My visit also aims to draw attention to a fragile situation that is often far from the media spotlight. Across the country, communal tensions are growing. Violence is spreading. And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating.

Since the beginning of this year, the number of internally displaced persons has almost doubled, reaching 600,000. The number of refugees in neighbouring countries has surpassed 500,000. About one out of four people in the Central African Republic have been forced from their homes since the beginning of the crisis.

Despite these rising needs, humanitarian personnel and aid workers are being targeted and access restricted. This year alone, 12 humanitarians have been killed in the Central African Republic, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers to serve.

Meanwhile, our appeals for emergency aid are only 30 per cent funded. My upcoming visit will be an opportunity to engage with the Government and others in order to ease suffering, halt the current backsliding, and strengthen international support for peace.

I also aim to give impetus to the new United Nations approach to addressing and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. We know that the good work and the tremendous sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world has been tarnished by the appalling acts of some UN personnel who have harmed the people they were meant to serve.

I am pained that some peacekeepers are alleged to have committed egregious acts of sexual exploitation and abuse against the people of the Central African Republic. During my visit, I will be accompanied by Jane Connors, who I appointed recently to serve as the Organization’s first Victims’ Rights Advocate. We are determined to ensure that the voices of victims are heard – I will myself be ready to meet with victims and their families – in and beyond the Central African Republic. Victims must be at the centre of our response if we want our zero-tolerance policy to be successful.

This is a critical moment for the Central African Republic. Much has been accomplished, including the election of a president and a government, following the inclusive Bangui Forum.

A special criminal court has been established with the help of the United Nations to ensure accountability, and in several aspects there has been progress towards recovery.

We need to do everything we can to preserve these achievements, support the UN peacekeeping operation and sustain peace. I have just asked the Security Council to increase the ceiling of troops in the Central African Republic and also to increase their capacity, their mobility and their ability to address the very dramatic challenges they face.

But there is no military solution to this crisis. We will continue to cooperate with the African Union and strongly support the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, and I urge all partners to move this process forward, under the leadership of the Government of the Central African Republic, in line with the so-called Libreville Roadmap.

The country has seen enough brutality, enough division, enough conflict. It is time to consolidate the fragile gains and transform them into a sustained investment in peace and stability for the people of the Central African Republic.

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An Inequality Beyond Wealth: Gaps in Women’s Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:54:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152578 While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health. In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls […]

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A mother and her child from West Point, a low-income neighbourhood of Monrovia, Liberia. The 10-worst countries to be a mother in are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health.

In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls from a productive and prosperous future.

“It’s not just about money,” Editor of UNFPA’s report Richard Kollodge told IPS.

“Economic inequality reinforces sexual and reproductive health inequality and vice versa,” he continued.

Despite its recognition as a right, access to sexual and reproductive health is far from universally realized and it is the poorest, less educated, and rural women that continue to bear the brunt of such inequalities.

Globally, women and girls in the poorest 20 percent of households have little or no access to contraception and skilled birth attendants, leading to more unintended pregnancies and higher risk of illness or death from pregnancy or child birth.

In the developing world, 43 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and this is more prevalent among rural, poor, and less educated women.

These inequalities are particularly prevalent in West and Central Africa.

In Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Nigeria, use of skilled birth care is at less than 20 percent among the poorest women compared to at least 70 percent among the wealthiest.

The lack of power to choose whether, when or how often to become pregnant can limit
girls’ education, delay their entry into the paid labour force, and reduce earnings, trapping women in poverty and marginalization.

“The absence of these services in these women’s lives leads them to be poor or makes them even poorer,” said Kollodge.

A woman with no access to family planning may be unable to join the labor force because she has more children than intended.

In high-fertility developing countries, women’s participation in the labor force remains low, from 20 percent in South Asia to 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Once in the paid labor force, underlying gender inequalities lead to women earning less than men for the same types of work.

Though the gender wage gap has decreased in recent year, women still earn 77 percent of what men earn globally.

At the current pace, it will take more than 70 years before the gender wage gap is closed.

Further gaps can be seen for women who have children—a “motherhood penalty,” Kollodge said—as well as for women of color and those with less education.

Illiterate people earn up to 42 percent less than their literate counterparts and a majority of the world’s estimated 758 million illiterate adults are women.

This can also be traced to harmful gender norms that keep girls from school, and creates a vicious cycle that keeps women in the bottom rung of the economic ladder and without access to sexual and reproductive health services.

If all girls stayed in and received secondary education, it’s estimated that child marriages would decrease by 64 percent, early births by 59 percent, and births per woman by 42 percent.

Among the countries that have made most progress is Rwanda, which has effectively closed the gap between poor and rich households in access to contraception.

Kollodge told IPS that Rwanda’s achievement shows that a low-income country can advance access to sexual and reproductive health.

“The policies that [countries] adopt really make a difference. There are things you can do, regardless of your GDP, to improve well-being and reduce inequality in sexual and reproductive health and rights,” he said.

Rwanda’s success is partly due to the expanded availability and integration of family planning services in each of the country’s villages and health centers.

But inequality in sexual and reproductive health is not just a developing country issue, Kollodge noted.

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

In Texas, maternal mortality rates jumped from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 35.8 deaths in 2014, the majority of whom were Hispanic and African-American woman.

Meanwhile, the government is working to repeal health coverage which risks returning to a time where many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

Already, the Donald Trump administration has rolled back access to contraception, affecting up to 60 million women.

Elsewhere, the U.S.’ decision to cut funding to UNFPA is affecting the health and lives of thousands of women.

In 2016, the government provided 69 million to UNFPA programs, helping avert almost one million unintended pregnancies and prevent 2,300 maternal deaths.

“Any reduction to UNFPA has a direct impact on women and adolescent girls in developing countries,” said Kollodge.

The report calls to make information and services more available and accessible and recommends a number of actions including increasing access to child care which can help women join the labor force and climb out of poverty.

This will lead to not only better reproductive health outcomes, but also a healthier economy and society as a whole.

“If you eliminate these inequalities in accessing sexual and reproductive health and thus give women control over their own lives, you are going to make a lot of headway in economic inequality,” Kollodge told IPS.

He said that though eliminating inequalities in sexual and reproductive health alone will not be enough, countries will never achieve economic inequality if half of the world’s population lacks access to health services and rights.

“And if you continue to have extreme economic inequality, it drags down whole economies and prohibits countries from rising out of poverty fast enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Kollodge continued, pointing to SDG 1 which aims to end poverty by 2030.

The internationally adopted SDGs also include a goal to reduce inequality within and among countries by accelerating income growth of the poorest 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average.

“If you don’t do that, you are never going to achieve shared prosperity,” Kollodge said.

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US Withdrawal from UNESCO: Abandonment of Principleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:32:52 +0000 Anuradha Mittal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152575 Anuradha Mittal* is the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a leading US policy think tank.

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Anuradha Mittal* is the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a leading US policy think tank.

By Anuradha Mittal
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

A woman shopkeeper is standing on a plastic chair to avoid knee high swirling rainwater mixed with sewage. “I work with a women’s cooperative selling products made by Palestinian women in my shop. The sewage water has gone into the electric wires, so I have no electricity. Everything in the shop is destroyed. The metal door [that was] installed to protect the settlers prevents the water from flowing out into the main drain. . . . This means we suffer every time it rains. They [the settlers] want us to move from here. This is why they make our life hard,” she cries.

UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France. Credit: UNESCO

The silent rain accompanies wails of those impacted.

This is the Old City of Hebron – the largest city in the West Bank and the only city in the Occupied Palestinian Territory apart from Jerusalem, with illegal settlements inside the city. As the sewage water in the market rises, Palestinian shopkeepers and residents point out the holes in the gate to allow for water to go through. However, cement blocks and sand placed by the settlers have closed the water drainage.

I am reminded of my time in Hebron, with last week’s announcement of US withdrawal from UNESCO, the Paris-based cultural, scientific, and educational organization of the United Nations, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon followed, tweeting, “I welcome @realDonaldTrump’s decision … I have instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from Unesco in parallel with the United States.”

Under Obama administration, United States took similar action in 2012 after Palestine was accepted as a member state of UNESCO. A law from the 1990s apparently prohibits U.S. funding for any U.N. agency that recognizes Palestine as a state.

The recent U.S. pull out has to do with UNESCO’s designation of Hebron’s Old City as Palestinian World Heritage site in danger in July 2017. Condemning the decision, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced an annual $1 million cut in membership fees to the United Nations, diverting those funds to a Jewish People’s Heritage Museum in the Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron.

Israel’s UNESCO ambassador, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, response was to disdainfully take out his mobile phone and share with the UN members, “It’s my plumber in my apartment in Paris. There is a huge problem in my toilet and it is much more important than the decision you just adopted.”

The UNESCO’s decision was a verdict against the occupation. Following the 1994 riots that erupted in Hebron after an American Jewish settler killed 29 Palestinians in a massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque, Palestinians in the Old City have been living a collective punishment – life in a cage.

Today over 100 physical obstacles, including 18 permanently-staffed checkpoints, 14 partial checkpoints, and various permanent blockades, cut the Old City off from the rest of Hebron. The former lively bustle of Shuhada Street, Hebron’s once main commercial strip and home to the wholesale, gold, and vegetable markets, has drowned behind the green shutters of the boarded up shops, abandoned homes, and empty sidewalks.

In 2015, a third of Palestinian homes in the restricted area (1,105 housing units) were abandoned and an estimated 1,600 businesses closed. Several streets, designated for the exclusive use of settlers, restrict Palestinian traffic and, in some streets, even Palestinian pedestrians are banned.

With innumerable security check points, watchtowers, barricades, soldiers with automatic weapons, revolving gates, deserted streets, and welded shut homes and shops, the Old City of Hebron is a city under siege.

Metal wire mesh and white plastic tarps—littered with garbage and used plastic bottles—form a canopy to prevent Israeli settlers, living in the buildings above, from throwing garbage, dirty dish water, and chemicals down onto Palestinians.

This is everyday life in the Old City of Hebron.

When it comes to Palestine, actions of President Obama and Trump based on a law from over two decades ago, are confusing for the residents of the Old City of Hebron. United States withdraws from the organization it helped establish after World War II to widen access to education and ensure the free flow of ideas, when UNESCO carries out its mandate.

*Anuradha Mittal is also the lead author of “Palestine: For Land & Life” (https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/palestine-for-land-life). And to learn more about Hebron, see “Hebron: City Under Siege” https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/hebron-life-under-siege

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To Eliminate Poverty, Better Understanding Neededhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed/#comments Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:05:31 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152572 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The latest Bank data on global poverty suggests that 767 million people, or 10.7% of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty. Credit: IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

As the United Nations’ Second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) comes to an end, more self-congratulation is likely. Claims of victory in the war against poverty will be backed by recently released poverty estimates from the World Bank, entrusted by the UN system to monitor poverty.

Mismeasuring poverty
The latest Bank data on global poverty suggests that 767 million people, or 10.7% of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty, compared to some 42% of the world’s population in 1981. Earlier figures suggested that most progress was due to East Asia, especially China.

The Bank’s international poverty line was revised from a dollar a day in 1985 to $1.08 in 1993, $1.25 in 2005, and $1.90 in 2011. Poverty estimates for 2011 are available using both $1.90 and $1.25 per day poverty lines. Global poverty has fallen from 14.5% of the world’s population (or 1,011 million people) using the $1.25 poverty line or 14.2% (or 987 million) with the new $1.90 line! Global poverty has thus declined more using the new yardstick, confounding those who expected a statistical explosion in the number of poor with the 52% increase during 2005-2011!

Echoing an earlier complaint, economics Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton believes that the World Bank has an “institutional bias towards finding more poverty rather than less” to ‘keep itself in business’ leading the fight against global poverty. No wonder the World Bank faces a serious credibility problem when it comes to its poverty role.

The World Bank’s poverty estimation methodology is problematic, as admitted by Martin Ravallion who pioneered its dollar-a-day measure. Doubts remain, even after several adjustments. The Bank’s poverty line appears arbitrary as it has not been consistently anchored to a broadly accepted specification of basic human needs.

Asian progress exaggerated
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) argued that the World Bank’s $1.25 yardstick was not representative of Asia, the continent that has supposedly contributed most to the decline in global poverty according to the Bank. There were only two Asian countries, compared to 13 African countries, in the sample with which the World Bank set its $1.25 benchmark.

The ADB deems other factors more relevant, such as living costs for Asia’s poor, food costs rising faster than the general price level, and vulnerability to natural disasters, climate change, economic crises and other shocks. Its estimated extreme poverty rate for Asia in 2010 thus increased by 28.8 percentage points to 49.5% while the estimated number of poor jumped by 1.02 billion to 1.75 billion people!

It is now widely agreed that poverty is multidimensional while the Bank still uses ‘money-metric’ measures. The UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report (HDR) publishes its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) considering multiple deprivations across three dimensions – health (nutrition, child mortality), education (years of schooling, school enrolment) and living standards (cooking fuel, toilet, water supply, electricity, flooring, assets).

About 1.5 billion people in the 102 developing countries currently covered experience such acute deprivations. Close to 900 million people are vulnerable to falling into poverty following setbacks due to financial crisis, natural disaster and other factors.

Globalization reduced poverty?

With little convincing evidence, The Economist (30 March 2017) attributed the world’s “great progress in eradicating extreme poverty” to globalization.

In the Globalization and Poverty book, 15 economists considered whether globalization has helped spread wealth, as often claimed. They conclude that the poor benefit from globalization when appropriate complementary policies, such as investments in human resources, infrastructure, credit promotion, technical assistance and supportive institutions, are in place.

Most supposed evidence is indirect, suggesting poverty reduction is mainly due to growth attributed to globalization. But recent globalization has also seen sharply increased inequality and volatility, including more frequent and deeper financial crises.

Other policies associated with globalization and liberalization, such as privatization, financial sector deregulation and pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, have also harmed the poor. The efficacy of programmes, such as microfinance and governance reforms, in significantly reducing poverty is now very much in doubt.

Rethinking poverty
The United Nations’ Report on the World Social Situation 2010 – Rethinking Poverty, and our accompanying volume, Poor Poverty, affirmed the urgent need to abandon the market fundamentalist thinking, policies and practices of recent decades in favour of more sustainable development- and equity-oriented policies appropriate to national conditions and circumstances. Such new thinking on poverty and its eradication can be summarized as follows:

• Dominant mainstream perspectives have led to poor, ineffectual policy prescriptions.
• Poverty reduction is helped by sustained growth of output and decent jobs.
• Growth helps raise incomes and fiscal resources for social spending.
• Growth needs to be more stable, with consistently counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies and better capacity to deal with exogenous shocks.
• Progressive structural change and inequality reduction are crucial for development.
• Social provisioning accelerates development and poverty reduction.
• Social protection can better mitigate negative shocks, prevent people becoming much poorer, and help generate economic activities and livelihoods.
• A basic social protection floor is affordable in most countries, although poorer countries will progress faster with donor support.

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What Do You Really Eat When You Order a Steak, Fish or Chicken Filet?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 12:41:37 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152567 The world is running out of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned while announcing the World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 13-19 November. The reason, according to WHO, is that most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics […]

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Cattle is by far the most susceptible livestock to Bovine TB (animal tuberculosis). Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

The world is running out of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned while announcing the World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 13-19 November.

The reason, according to WHO, is that most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions. See: The World Is Running Out of Much Needed New Antibiotics

Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), on 20 September said on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), “A stronger global effort, including larger investments and improved surveillance measures, is required to ensure that antimicrobials are used responsibly and in ways that do not threaten public health and food production.”

What is it?


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major global threat of increasing concern to human and animal health.

It also has implications for both food safety and food security and the economic wellbeing of millions of farming households--FAO

AMR refers to when micro-organisms – bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites – evolve resistance to antimicrobial substances, like antibiotics.

This can occur naturally through adaption to the environment, the pace of AMR's spread is now on the uptick due to inappropriate and excessive use of antimicrobials.

Various factors are at play:

• Lack of regulation and oversight of use
• Lack of awareness in best practices that leads to excessive or inappropriate use
• The use of antibiotics not as medicines but as growth promoters in animals
• Over-the-counter or internet sales that make antimicrobial drugs readily availability common
• Availability of counterfeit or poor-quality antimicrobials

As a result of AMR, medicines that were once effective treatments for disease become less so – or even useless, leading to a reduced ability to successfully treat infections, increased mortality; more severe or prolonged illnesses; production losses in agriculture; and reduced livelihoods and food security.

The health consequences and economic costs of AMR are respectively estimated at 10 million human fatalities a year and a 2 to 3.5 percent decrease in global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), amounting to US$ 100 trillion by 2050. However, the full impact remains hard to estimate.

SOURCE: FAO

“We need surveillance on antimicrobial use and the spread of AMR – not only through hospitals, but throughout the food chain, including horticulture and the environment for more comprehensive risk assessments.”

This was not the first time UN agencies have sounded the alarm about the misuse and abuse of antibiotics both in humans and animals. To learn more, IPS interviewed Dr. Juan Lubroth, Coordinator on AMR and Chief Veterinary Officer at FAO.

Dr Juan Lubroth. Credit: FAO


So, what do you really eat when you order a steak, fish or chicken filet? IPS asked.

“Meat! Meat, and other foods of animal origin are high quality nutritious products that are very important, not least for women and growing children, and especially in the developing world or wherever under- and mal-nutrition are rampant,” Lubroth answers.

There is a widespread misunderstanding that food may contain hazardous antimicrobial residues if an animal was previously treated with these medicines, he said.

“This is not the case if farmers and other producers comply with the rules in respecting the withdrawal periods. These withdrawal periods ensure that the antimicrobial in question has been eliminated from the system of the animal so that the meat, the milk or eggs are fit for human consumption.”

According to Lubroth, the problem with antimicrobial resistance in farming lies in poor management systems where antimicrobials are given routinely and in excessive amounts which in turn drives development of antimicrobial resistance.

“As a consumer, you have the power to make a difference by choosing animal products from sustainable farming systems operated responsibly.”

A farmer and her cattle in Cambodia, which is sharing with other countries its successful experience in dealing with AMR. Credit: FAO


Meantime, farmers need more tools in their toolbox to produce food more sustainably to feed a growing global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, said the FAO Chief Veterinary Officer.

“More affordable vaccines and portable diagnostic tests for vets – or physicians, dentists, pharmacists – to accurately diagnose causes of disease will help to reduce reliance on antimicrobials. Innovations in alternatives to antimicrobials such as probiotics are promising too.”

Bacteria, Not Humans, But…

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.

WHO notes that bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant. However, these bacteria may infect humans and animals – terrestrial or aquatic – and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.

The UN estimates that around 700,000 human deaths each year are estimated to be related to antimicrobial resistant infections. Across the globe, AMR further poses a major “threat to food safety and security, livelihoods, animal health and welfare, economic and agricultural development.”

And FAO reports that the intensification of agricultural production has led to an increasing use of antimicrobials – a use that is expected to increase by 67 per cent by 2030.

IPS asked Lubroth how to reconcile the need for antibiotics in food and agricultural production with ensuring human and animal health?

How to balance intensive and extensive production to meet the needs of a growing world population is a difficult and equally important question, he said. “Livestock, aquaculture and crop production needs to be guided by the right policies, ss do the human health sector and the environment sector.”

According to Lubroth, changes needed include better tracking of animals from primary production areas on farms to the market, and products to consumers, as well as regulation of antibiotic use through the approval of a licenced veterinarian, and better hygiene on farms to prevent infections.


Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. It poses a major challenge http://www.fao.org/antimicrobial-resi…

“Antimicrobials are essential to ensure animal health and for animal welfare. Sick animals under human care have a right to treatment, however, the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion must be phased out.”

Lubroth emphasises that a sustainable agriculture sector is essential to safeguard food security and nutrition, development of countries and gender equality around the world, and that food security is a significant factor to achieve stability and peace.

“Optimising production practices such that we can minimize the need for antimicrobials requires investment. In this we all have a role to play, from government policies and investment in the food and agriculture sector, to the producers implementing the necessary practices, and the retailers and consumers where there needs to be a recognition that this does come at a cost and will impact the price of food.”

This is observed in some markets where meat produced “antibiotic-free” retails at a higher price, he said.

According to Lubroth, the best way to assist developing countries is have the enabling conditions for them to produce their own food and to take responsibility for their own national development.

Healthy Animals

The single most important action to create this balance is education – in all sectors, he said. For the food and agriculture sector, it is education about good management practices based on hygiene and care on the farm, which reduce the need to treat livestock or the growing fish. Herd, flock and aquaculture health is key.

“Healthy animals provide food and livelihoods and they do not need antimicrobials… We also need affordable and quick diagnostic tools to be used on the site to get the right treatment for the corresponding disease.”

How? FAO formed an inter-departmental working group on AMR, bringing together multidisciplinary experts. And it supports the agriculture sector to move towards responsible use of antimicrobials, and towards sustainable food production systems, and it is present in the rural communities and in constant dialogue with the farmers on site as well as in the halls of government ministries.

“In the end, this is where the change starts – in the meetings and communications between professionals and farmers.”

FAO is currently active on the ground in more than 25 countries to engage the food and agriculture sector in addressing AMR and provide them with support for implementation.

“But what we can invest is a tiny portion of what is needed by countries, as countries are developing their national action plans they are now starting to also cost their implementation and realise that this is a multimillion dollar investment.”

However, Lubroth explains, the benefit of such investment is multiple as many aspects such as improving biosecurity, implementing good hygiene practices among others can reduce the burden of disease in the production system and also improve the safety of the food produced. In this context it is a worthwhile investment, with great dividends in health.

The Business Sector

The business sector has been signalled as one of the major causes leading to the excessive use and misuse of antibiotics in the food and agriculture and animal production chains.

What is this sector’s response to the world efforts to reduce the misuse and abuse of antibiotics? IPS asked Lubroth.

The business sector is a very important stakeholder in this matter, he answers. They are in close contact with consumer demands and consumer behaviour patterns.

“They are often multinational companies with great potential to put demands on suppliers. And that is what is happening now – we see major food companies putting demands for improved policies on antimicrobial use in the supply chain.”

The Consumers

According to Lubroth, we also see that there are over 6 billion of consumers – their voice can be very powerful and can change industrial or commercial or marketing policies.

“We need to be careful though, so that animal welfare or health are not jeopardized by too strict policies. Sick animals will always need adequate treatment.”

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Argentina’s Biodiesel Plagued by Commercial and Environmental Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/argentinas-biodiesel-plagued-commercial-environmental-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentinas-biodiesel-plagued-commercial-environmental-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/argentinas-biodiesel-plagued-commercial-environmental-challenges/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 07:00:49 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152563 The Argentine biodiesel industry, which in the last 10 years has become one of the most powerful in the world, has an uncertain future, faced with protectionist measures in the United States and Europe and doubts in the international scenario about the environmental impact of these fuels based on agricultural products. In August, the U.S. […]

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A view of Enresa, one of Argentina’s biodiesel plants. The country's biofuel production capacity is four million tons, but more than half is idle, due to a lack of external markets and limitations in domestic consumption. Credit: Courtesy of CEPREB

A view of Enresa, one of Argentina’s biodiesel plants. The country's biofuel production capacity is four million tons, but more than half is idle, due to a lack of external markets and limitations in domestic consumption. Credit: Courtesy of CEPREB

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

The Argentine biodiesel industry, which in the last 10 years has become one of the most powerful in the world, has an uncertain future, faced with protectionist measures in the United States and Europe and doubts in the international scenario about the environmental impact of these fuels based on agricultural products.

In August, the U.S. government blocked in practice the import of Argentine biodiesel, which is made exclusively from soybeans, by imposing high import duties, arguing dumping, or unfair competition with local soybean producers.

One month later, Argentina recovered, at least partially, from the economic effect of this measure, when the European Union (EU) complied with a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling and lowered – although they did not eliminate – the anti-dumping tariffs they had imposed on the product in 2013.

“We are convinced that there is protectionism hidden behind false arguments. The decision by the Donald Trump administration not only affects consumers in the U.S., where fuel prices are already on the rise, but also delays the replacement of oil,” said Gustavo Idígoras, international relations consultant for the Argentine Chamber of Biofuels.

In his view, “the lowering of tariffs in the EU allows us to recover a commercial opportunity that had been closed arbitrarily, but it will not replace the U.S. market.”

The EU had heavily invested in biofuels until 2012, but began to reduce its use since 2015, when it considered that devoting agricultural raw materials to transport fueled deforestation and accelerated climate change.

This reasoning was disputed in his dialogue with IPS by Idígoras, who was a commercial attaché for Argentina before the EU in Brussels between 2004 and 2009.

“The use of biodiesel generates 70 percent savings in emissions of greenhouse gases, as international studies show, and is a fundamental tool in the fight against global warming,” he argued.

Argentina, a major soy producer since the commercialisation of the first transgenic seeds from biotech giant Monsanto was authorised in the 1990s, began to develop its biodiesel industry in 2007.

That year, a law to promote biofuels came into force, requiring a certain proportion to be included in petroleum-based fuels sold in the country.

“Today the country has an installed capacity to produce 4.4 million tons per year of biodiesel, 70 percent of which is produced by 10 transnational corporations.

“This country is the third largest producer of soybean oil biodiesel, after the United States and Brazil, but it is the leading exporter of biofuels, taking all raw materials into account,” explained Julio Calzada, director of Economic Studies at the Rosario Stock Exchange (BCR).

Most of the biodiesel-producing plants are near the central city of Rosario, where soy exports are shipped out from its river port to the Atlantic Ocean.

However, more than half of the national production capacity is currently idle.

The domestic market consumes 1.2 million tons, due to the obligation to incorporate 10 percent of biofuel into diesel.

Although the industry is pressing the government of Mauricio Macri to increase the proportion, automotive companies are lobbying in the opposite direction, arguing that it could affect the performance of the engines.

The country also produces ethanol, from maize and sugarcane, but in an amount that only covers domestic use. In 2016, according to official data, it produced 815 million litres, destined almost entirely to be mixed with fuel sold in the country, which according to the 2007 law should include 12 percent biofuel.

In 2016, Argentine exports of biodiesel amounted to 1.6 million tons which generated 1.175 billion dollars, according to data from the BCR.

However, more than 90 percent of that was exported to the United States, which in August brought purchases to a halt when it slapped an average tariff of 57 percent on Argentine biodiesel.

The reason given was that Argentina’s production of biodiesel is locally subsidised, since its exports are not taxed, unlike soybeans and soybean oil which do pay export taxes amounting to 30 and 27 percent of their value, respectively.

The decision left the Argentine government in a particularly uncomfortable position, because it was adopted only a few days after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was given a friendly reception in Buenos Aires, where he praised the economic reforms carried out by President Mauricio Macri, in power since December 2015.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry rejected the U.S. decision in an Aug. 24 statement, saying that biodiesel “derives its success (in the U.S. market) from the recognised competitiveness of the soybean production chain in our country” and announced negotiations to try to reverse the Washington measure.

However, not only have they not been successful so far, but reportedly, in the near future the United States could raise import duties on Argentine biodiesel, due to the alleged unfair competition.

The EU also accused Argentina of dumping – selling at a lower price than normal – when it imposed a 24 percent tariff on Argentine biodiesel in 2013 – a rate that had been miscalculated, according to the WTO’s March 2016 ruling, which the EU complied with last month.

However, it is not only economic issues but also environmental ones that cast a shadow of uncertainty on the future of Argentine biodiesel.

“Beyond the fact that using crops for fuel goes against food uses, Argentine biodiesel is not green at all,” said Hernán Giardini, coordinator of the Greenpeace Argentina Forests campaign.

“The emissions avoided by the substitution of oil could be less than those generated to transport soybeans, which in Argentina is done by truck. In addition, soy accounts for more than half of all deforestation in recent years,” he told IPS.

On the other hand, Jorge Hilbert, an international consultant at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology, said that the environmental criticism against Argentine biodiesel actually arise from economic and political interests.

“Argentine biofuels are meeting the goals of emission reduction agreed at a global level, given the characteristics of our agricultural system,” he told IPS.

Hilbert claimed that “80 percent of the grains used are grown in the Rosario area, in soils with more than 100 years of agriculture, where there are no problems of deforestation or biodiversity.”

“The oil used for biodiesel is a byproduct of the soybean that Argentina produces in such quantity that there is no market for it. Its use in biofuel does not compete with food use,” he argued.

For Daniel Lema, an economist who specialises in agriculture, “U.S. and European producers are affected by Argentine biodiesel, and the problem is that our tax scheme gives them an argument for applying protectionist measures.

“Argentina should unify its taxes on all by-products of soy in order to not lose markets,” he told IPS.

Lema warned about another source of uncertainty with regard to biofuel. “Biodiesel faces another obstacle: it is more expensive than diesel derived from petroleum, and for the time being consumers have shown no signs of being willing to pay more in exchange for reducing emissions of polluting gases,” he said.

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Ending Poverty in Next 13 years Means Boosting Resilience Nowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ending-poverty-next-13-years-means-boosting-resilience-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-poverty-next-13-years-means-boosting-resilience-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ending-poverty-next-13-years-means-boosting-resilience-now/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 15:58:09 +0000 Jessica Faieta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152556 Jessica Faieta is UN Assistant Secretary General & UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Dominica, 2 October Devastation after Hurricane Maria. Credit: Ian King/UNDP

By Jessica Faieta
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

This month the world marks two key International Days: for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October and for Disaster Reduction, four days earlier. It is no coincidence that they are profoundly connected.

Reducing risks related to disasters has never been so urgent—and the Latin America and the Caribbean region bears witness to this. Seven hurricanes have hit the Caribbean in the past five months, two of them as category 5, causing catastrophic damage, including in island nations that were barely recovering from another massive hurricane that struck one year ago.

Also, two earthquakes rocked Mexico in September—with almost 5.000 aftershocks—while another powerful quake struck Ecuador in April 2016. In addition, both Colombia and Peru suffered major landslides in the past eight months.

The number of children, women and men killed is deeply saddening, especially in an era in which we have the knowledge to minimize loss of lives due to natural events. Yet, we keep experiencing tragedies.

The fact is that natural disasters do not exist. Such phenomena become disasters when people, communities and societies are vulnerable to them. This, in turn, translates into losses—of lives and assets. And the poorest are the hardest hit.

On the one hand, poverty reduces people’s capacity to face and recover from disasters; on the other hand, disasters also hinder people’s ability to leave poverty behind.

That’s why if the world is to end poverty in all its forms by 2030 we must also boost resilience—in all its forms. This means the capacity to cope with shocks without major economic, social and environmental setbacks.

A disaster of natural causes, a financial crisis, an economic slowdown or a health problem in the family can all cause people to fall into poverty—especially those who barely managed to leave it behind, as one of our recent UNDP report shows; unless a ‘cushion’ is in place to help absorb the impact, such as social protection systems or physical assets.

In this particular moment, it is crucial to take special notice of what the Caribbean is experiencing. Two back-to-back hurricanes, Irma and Maria, were the most powerful ever recorded over the Atlantic. They forced—for the first time ever—the island of Barbuda to evacuate its entire population.

These colossal phenomena battered several Caribbean countries with deadly waves and maximum sustained winds of nearly 300 km/h for up to three full days. They decimated Barbuda, Dominica and Saint Maarten, also impacting some of the region´s disaster-preparedness champions, like Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

What we have just witnessed is a game changer. And it will likely be the new norm. That’s why we need urgent action.

It’s a fact. Climate change—and all natural hazards—hit Small Island Developing States (SIDS) hard, even though these countries haven’t historically contributed to the problem. Having lived and worked in four Caribbean countries I have witnessed firsthand how such nations are extremely vulnerable to multiple challenges ranging from debt and unemployment to climate change and sea level rise.

Clearly, if countries do not reduce their vulnerabilities and strengthen their resilience—not only to natural disasters but also to any shock—we won’t be able to guarantee, let alone expand, progress in the social, economic and environmental realms.

Since the hurricanes hit we have been working on the ground in affected Caribbean countries supporting Governments to build back better—with more resilient communities—so they are prepared for the next hurricane season only eight months ahead. This is essential: international cooperation and the private sector play a key role with investments in resilient infrastructure.

If Caribbean countries are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in 13 years they need urgent accessing to financing—including for climate change adaptation. However, the vast majority of Caribbean SIDS are ranked as middle-income countries—with per capita income levels above the international financial eligibility benchmark—and are shunned from receiving financing for development.

In view of such urgent needs, our Caribbean Human Development Report “Multidimensional Progress: human resilience beyond income”, launched a year ago, called for improved standards that take into account multiple indicators, or well-being measurements beyond income alone.

Now is the moment to act on climate change, support countries as they build back better and rethink traditional development ranking methods based on monetary aspects alone.

If the world has vowed to eradicate poverty by 2030 we need to invest in boosting communities’, countries’ and entire regions’ resilience in the social, economic and environmental fronts. Reducing vulnerabilities—in its multiple aspects—is a crucial path to leave no one behind.

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Press Freedom Groups Condemn U.S. Withdrawal from UNESCOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/press-freedom-groups-condemn-u-s-withdrawal-unesco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=press-freedom-groups-condemn-u-s-withdrawal-unesco http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/press-freedom-groups-condemn-u-s-withdrawal-unesco/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 14:21:01 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152552 Civil society groups have called on the United States to reverse its decision to withdraw from a UN body, citing concerns for press freedom and journalists’ safety. Citing anti-Israel bias and concern over the inclusion of Palestine, the Donald Trump Administration announced that it will end its membership in the UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

Civil society groups have called on the United States to reverse its decision to withdraw from a UN body, citing concerns for press freedom and journalists’ safety.

Betlehem Isaak, daughter of 2017 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Laureate receiving the award certificate from the hands of Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

Citing anti-Israel bias and concern over the inclusion of Palestine, the Donald Trump Administration announced that it will end its membership in the UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by December 2018.

“This anti-Israel bias that’s long documented on the part of UNESCO, that needs to come to an end,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

“If UNESCO wants to get back and wants to reform itself and get back to a place where they’re truly promoting culture and education and all of that, perhaps we could take another look at this,” she continued.

Though the North American nation wants to provide input as a nonmember observer, press freedom organizations including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Article 19 called the move a major blow to press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

“Their withdrawal from UNESCO represents an attempt to weaken that organization and that they will no longer provide input or influence on important issues that UNESCO has within its mandate which includes the protection of journalists,” RSF’s Advocacy and Communications Director in North America Margaux Ewen told IPS.

“The fact that the U.S. has now decided to no longer be a part of UNESCO, they essentially no longer want to be a part of this portfolio and that is really discouraging to anyone who is in favor of press freedom and protecting journalists,” she added.

CPJ’s Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch echoed similar sentiments, stating: “UNESCO plays a critical role in promoting the safety of journalists around the world and U.S. withdrawal will weaken UNESCO’s ability to address global press freedom violations, creating a power vacuum that could very well be filled by governments that embrace authoritarian tactics.”

Founded on the ashes of World War II in 1945, UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication along with encouraging peace and strengthening ties between nations and societies.

Among its objectives is to promote free, independent, and pluralistic media in order to enhance freedom of expression and information around the world.

Alongside its concern for press freedom, the organization has also paved the way to ensure the safety of journalists.

UNESCO has recorded the killings of almost 1,000 journalists and media workers since 2007 and it is the lead agency tasked with ensuring the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity, a document which lays out measures to strengthen work on such issues.

“Support for UNESCO is therefore intrinsically linked to ensuring that journalists are safe to do their work, including in some of the most dangerous countries,” the press freedom groups said in a statement.

Though it is unclear if it reflects the ongoing trend of rejecting multilateralism and the UN, Ewen noted that the decision is in line with current violations of press freedom within the U.S.

“The current administration has been very locally against press freedom and has attacked media outlets and journalists individually for coverage that the White House doesn’t like, so this kind of seems like an extension of that type of view of press freedom,” she told IPS.

“Protecting free speech and ensuring journalists’ safety, core US values, requires investing in multilateralism, not running away from it,” he added.

Throughout his presidential campaign and since taking office, President Trump has repeatedly described media organisations including the New York Times and CNN as “fake news.”

During a rally in Arizona, the President called journalists as “truly dishonest people” and criticised their coverage of his reaction to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Most recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions raised the prospect of media subpoenas to reveal leakers, violating journalists’ right to protect their sources.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has criticized President Trump’s anti-media rhetoric, stating: “It’s really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only sort of a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution but very much something that the United States defended over the years, is now itself under attack from the President himself…to call these news organisations ‘fake’ does tremendous damage and to refer to individual journalists in this way—I have to ask the question: is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?”

Already, repercussions of such rhetoric can be seen around the world.

In Cambodia, government spokesperson Phay Siphan threatened to take action against media outlets because they do “not reflect the real situation” while citing President Trump’s expulsion of news organizations from a White House briefing earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has labeled report of atrocities against the Rohingya community “fake news” that helps terrorists.

Executive Director of Article 19 Thomas Hughes noted that President Trump’s attacks on media are “more than empty rhetoric” and signal a shift away from “championing freedom of expression worldwide.”

“Protecting free speech and ensuring journalists’ safety, core US values, requires investing in multilateralism, not running away from it,” he added.

The press freedom groups called on the U.S. to reconsider its decision.

“[The U.S. is] a key player on the international stage and they have the ability to influence positive change, so we would like them to continue to be a part of this discussion and ongoing campaigns to make sure that journalists are protected while doing their job on the field,” Ewen told IPS.

This is the second time that the U.S. has left UNESCO, having withdrawn in 1984 due to concerns over the Soviet Union’s influence and rejoining in 2003.

In 2011, the U.S. withdrew its funding to the organization as a response to Palestine’s membership.

The recent move came in the midst of UNESCO’s elections for a new Director-General which saw French-Jewish former Minister of Culture Audrey Azoulay rise to the occasion.

In response to the turmoil, Azoulay said that leaving UNESCO is not the answer.

“In this moment of crisis, I believe we must invest in UNESCO more than ever, look to support and reinforce it, and to reform it—and not leave it,” she said.

If confirmed by the 195-member General Assembly in November, Azoulay will succeed outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova.

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Women: Major Drivers & Beneficiaries of Poverty Eradicationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 13:54:28 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152549 Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the declaration of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by the United Nations General Assembly. Under the theme “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies,” this year’s commemoration reminds us of the importance of equality, dignity, solidarity and equal voice in the fight to end poverty everywhere.

Enabling Policy Environments · Equal Participation of Rural Women in Decision-making. Credit: UN Women/Gangajit Singh Chandok

Equally, the fight to end poverty is also a call to arms against gender-based discrimination and violence that has led to an increase in the feminization of poverty in both developed and developing countries, as well as in rural and urban areas. Moreover, gender-based discrimination and violence have also thwarted well intentioned attempts to make poverty history once and for all.

The symbiosis between SDGs on poverty eradication & gender equality

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.

The General Assembly resolution entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, (2030 Agenda) declared that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is one of the greatest global challenges and priorities and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Goal 1 (SDG 1) vows to eradicate extreme poverty everywhere by 2030, reduce the proportion of women, men and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions by half, provide social protection coverage including social protection floors for the poor. It also sets out the need for everyone to have access, ownership and control over productive resources and essential services.

The trinity of women and girls’ economic empowerment, autonomy and rights must be linked, horizontally and vertically, to the realization of SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls and its nine targets. Sustainably and irreversibly eradicating poverty requires all poverty reduction and development strategies, policies and measures to make SDG 5 their lodestar and to cultivate an enabler and beneficiary symbiosis between SDG1 and 5.

Poverty link with other SDGs and women’s and girls’ empowerment

The 2030 Agenda also recognizes that realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to the progress made across all goals and targets, along with the gender-responsive implementation of the entire Agenda. In turn, the role that each SDG plays in gender-responsive poverty reduction action is of critical importance for the empowerment of women and girls.

Attacking multidimensional poverty of women and girls means addressing the poverty linked gender gaps and deficits in education (SDG 4), in water, sanitation and hygiene (SDG 6), in food security and sustainable agriculture (SDG 2), in sustainable energy (SDG 7), in housing, safe public spaces and transport (SDG 11), and in information and communication technologies (ICT) and other technologies (SDG 5b).

Providing access to comprehensive healthcare services (SDG 3) and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SDG 5.6) is fundamental to both poverty eradication and gender equality and women’s empowerment. Child marriage, maternal mortality, women’s lack of control over their bodies and on childbearing, including through their lack of access to information and contraception, swells the ranks of the poor and that over generations.

Women’s burden of care work and poverty eradication

Poverty eradication is about enabling women to have income security, sustainable livelihoods, access to decent work, and full and productive employment (SDG 8). It is about valuing, reducing, and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work, and the provision of infrastructure and social protection as targeted in SDG 5.4, which otherwise creates and perpetuates time and other types of poverty for women and girls and deprives them of other opportunities.

Care work for the family and the community is essential to human life and to the social and economic foundations of all economies. It enables the “productive” economy to function as it supports the well-being of the workforce, children, older persons and people with disabilities, and subsidizes the monetized economy.

Women’s unpaid work contributes $10 trillion per year globally, or 13 per cent of global GDP, according to the High-level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment. Hence, we need to implement a gender-responsive approach to fashioning a new quality, paid care economy as we tackle the poverty, jobs, economic growth and inequality crisis and nexus.

SDG 5 targets on violence and leadership in decision making

We must prevent and effectively respond to all forms of violence and harmful practices against women and girls in all spaces (SDG 51 and 5.2), and help the more poor and vulnerable among them to escape the dual trap of poverty and sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation and trafficking. Their voices, participation and leadership in governance, from the grassroots level to the highest levels in political, public and economic life, as well as in the cultural and social spheres, as accounted for in SDG 5.4, are critical and proven to be effective in poverty reduction.

Challenges to overcome

Despite global economic growth and a reduction in poverty over the last 30 years, evidence indicates that about 2.1 billion people are still living in poverty, with 700 million living in extreme poverty. Even in countries where poverty has been reduced, pervasive inequalities remain between rural and urban areas, between regions, between ethnic groups, and between men and women.

These inequalities and inter-sectionalities are reflected in the struggles of women and girls who face multiple forms of discrimination and disadvantage over and above that of poverty and gender. Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in households and communities. Furthermore, poor women and girls face compounded challenges due to physical and mental disability.

Gender disparities in poverty are also rooted in inequalities in access to economic resources, participation in the formal economy and labour force (only 50 per cent), income disparities including the gender wage gap, and assets and social protection gaps. Women-headed households and their families risk falling into poverty, depleting their assets in response to shocks and engaging in distress sales of labour to meet immediate subsistence needs.

Women’s lower incomes and limited access to other resources such as land, credit, and assets can reduce their bargaining power within a household. As such, women experience a restricted ability to exercise their preferences in the gender division of unpaid/paid labor, the allocation of household income and their ability to exit harmful relationships is also impeded. Thus, promoting women’s economic empowerment can foster a more gender-equitable and gender-responsive pattern of economic development and be a panacea for poverty.

The risk factors of migration, conflict, and natural disasters

As the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants highlights, experiences of multidimensional poverty can influence people’s propensity to migrate, from rural to urban or developing to developed contexts. It can also be a root cause of conflict due to unequal distribution and access to resources. In 2015, the number of international migrants surpassed 244 million, growing at a rate faster than the world’s population.

Women account for at least half the world’s migrants affected by the push factor of poverty and pull factor of a better, gender equal future. Women and girls account for 60 per cent of refugees escaping violence, climate change, natural disasters and the resulting dislocation, violence and poverty.

Macroeconomic policies are important instruments as they can create an enabling environment and help reduce deprivations and conditions of poverty. Public investments in social care infrastructure, for instance, can be a self-sustaining way of creating more productive employment opportunities for women. Investments in basic physical infrastructure and transport services can enhance the productivity of women’s informal enterprises.

Social protection & poverty eradication

Social protection policies play a critical role in reducing poverty and inequality, supporting economic growth and increasing gender equality. The impact of social protection on reducing feminized poverty by increasing women’s household income is well documented.

Many informal workers are women who may interrupt paid employment to take care of children, elderly parents, and sick relatives, thereby compromising their access to social protection and 40 per cent of employed women lack maternity benefits.

Well-designed social protection schemes can narrow gender gaps in poverty rates, enhance women’s access to personal income and provide a lifeline for families. Social protection measures that countries have taken include universal health coverage, non-contributory pensions, maternity and parental leave, basic income security for children and public works programmes.

The way forward to a gender equal, poverty free world

A truly transformative, gender responsive development and poverty eradication agenda can drive change on systemic issues and structural causes of poverty and discrimination, including unequal gender relations, social exclusion and multiple forms of discrimination and marginalization.

In this equitable and people-centered development framework, empowering and fully tapping into the talent and potential of half of humanity that is systematically marginalized from the benefits of development, is critical.

In this context, Governments and stakeholders should ensure a gender perspective is included while undertaking value chain, delivery of public services and social protection impact analyses to inform the design and implementation of poverty eradication policies and programmes.

Also, women’s access to financing and investment opportunities, tools of trade, business development, and training to increase the share of trade and procurement from women’s enterprises, including micro, small and medium, cooperatives and self-help groups in both the public and private sectors, are critical entry points to grant women equal opportunities and allow them to reach their full potential.

Other specific gender-responsive poverty eradication efforts include:
• Increasing women’s access to and control over economic opportunities, resources and services;
• Increasing women’s economic, social and political leadership at all levels, including through women’s organizations and collectives;
• Promoting gender-responsive macroeconomic policies that support the creation of full and productive employment opportunities and decent work for women;
• Expanding fiscal space and generating sufficient resources to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment by increasing public investments in physical and social care infrastructure, including water and sanitation infrastructure and renewable energy sources, as time well as – and energy-saving infrastructure and technology;
• Expanding or reprioritizing public expenditures to provide gender-responsive social protection for women and men throughout the life cycle;
• Ensuring that national laws contain provisions for core labour standards, including minimum wages and secure labour contracts, worker benefits and labour rights for workers in informal employment, and ending workplace discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic background, migration status or disability;
• Adopting laws and regulatory frameworks to reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work for women through measures such as care leave policies, care insurance schemes, flexible workplace practices for work-life balance, decent work hours and cash transfers or child support grants paid to the primary caregiver;
• Adopting measures that recognize, reduce and redistribute the contribution of unpaid care and domestic work to the national economy through the implementation of time-use surveys and the adoption of satellite accounts;
• Protecting the rights to collective bargaining and freedom of association to enable women workers, especially informal workers, to organize and to join unions and workers’ cooperatives;

Overall, poverty eradication would only be possible if women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms are strongly upheld with universality, indivisibility and interconnections of economic, social, cultural and labour rights framing women’s economic empowerment and women’s work in all contexts.

Therefore, advancing women’s economic rights, freedom from violence and harassment, granting equal opportunities for recruitment, retention and promotion in employment and transforming the negative and harmful norms that limit women’s access to and condition of work and income generating opportunities, are crucial to the elimination of poverty.

Mahatma Gandhi spoke about how poverty is the worst form of violence, that it robs human beings of their essential dignity, self-respect and human rights and how it is one of the products of the cruelties and injustices of our social system.

For most of the poor who are women and girls, this violence, cruelty and injustice is both a product of, and reinforces the injustice of gender inequality, discrimination and violence against women and girls. To root out poverty we must root out gender injustice in all its forms. A planet 50/50 by 2030 will also ensure a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful planet without poverty.

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New Villages Bloom in the Shadow of a Mountain’s Wrathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 12:46:50 +0000 Kafil Yamin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152545 Repeated volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung since 2010 have displaced thousands of people, leaving villages around the mountain deserted, with volcanic ash, lava and mud covering the soil, trees and empty houses. No one knows when the eruptions will cease. Some displaced people have formed new settlements; others live in temporary houses or refugee camps. […]

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A woman works in her vegetable patch at the foot of Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Credit: Kafil Yamin/IPS

A woman works in her vegetable patch at the foot of Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Credit: Kafil Yamin/IPS

By Kafil Yamin
MEDAN, Indonesia , Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

Repeated volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung since 2010 have displaced thousands of people, leaving villages around the mountain deserted, with volcanic ash, lava and mud covering the soil, trees and empty houses.

No one knows when the eruptions will cease. Some displaced people have formed new settlements; others live in temporary houses or refugee camps.Mount Sinabung is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago vulnerable to seismic upheavals because of its location on the ‘Ring of Fire’, a horseshoe-shaped belt of tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin.

With support from BNPB, the Indonesian acronym for the National Agency for Disaster Management, the local government has resettled 347 families in three housing complexes in Siosar area, Karo regency, with each family getting a 500 square meter plot for farming. They grow vegetables, breed animals, and operate shops and services. Social, cultural and economic life have blossomed.

Since 2015, following a major eruption, Siosar farmers have sent their harvest to Kabanjahe, the capital of Karo Regency. Potatoes, carrots, cabbages, oranges and coffee beans are on the market, helping stimulate economic growth of 4.5 percent of the North Sumatra province.

But the 2016 eruption devastated the staggering economy. At least 53,000 hectares of farmland was destroyed by volcanic ash and mud. The harvest failed throughout the entire district. Of 17 sub-districts, 14 were severely affected. The head of the local Agriculture Office, Munarta Ginting, urged the farmers to shift to tubers, which were more resilient to volcanic ash.

The farmers refused to give up. They started all over again late last year. BNPB sent seeds, fertilizers and consultants to help.

“After emergency management measures come social and economic recovery measures, which look farther ahead but are no less challenging,” said Agus Wibowo, director of the Social-Economic Division of BNPB.

“We aid victims to overcome the calamity, start a better life, restore social and economic enterprises, and more importantly, restore confidence for the future,” Agus added.

Mount Sinabung is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago vulnerable to seismic upheavals because of its location on the ‘Ring of Fire’, a horseshoe-shaped belt of tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin.

In the first week of October, life in Siosar has returned to normal, with farmers harvesting potatoes, cabbages, carrots and chilies, despite lower production due to lack of rainfall.

Several farmers have enjoyed large harvests. Berdi Sembiring grew nine tons of potatoes on his 500 meter square farm, which is good for the dry season.

“I sold my potatoes for 48 million rupiah (4,000 dollars) – not bad,” said Sembiring with a big smile.

BNPB also encourages the refugees not to rely solely on farming and raw products. “We encourage people to develop new business opportunities, such as food industry, mechanics and manufacturing,” said Agus Wibowo, who sent a team of business consultants to train the wives of farmers.

Now, with potato chip processing machines from BNPB, Siosar has started producing chips branded Top Potato. But challenges remain in turning a profit.

“One of the shortcomings is the unstable rate of production. Four groups of farmer wives take turns using one processing machine. Each group has its own production capacity,” said Nurjanahah, a business consultant for the potato chip manufacturing.

“Uncompetitive quality and big diminution from raw potatoes to final potato chip is another challenge to deal with. Four kilograms of potatoes produce only 600 grams of chips,” she added.

“The potato chip has yet to be a professional product until we solve all these shortcomings,” Nurjanah told IPS.

BNPB provided four processing machines for groups of farmer wives in Siosar, beyond the Rp590 billion fund it created for the Mount Sinabung disaster, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of BNPB’s Center of Data and Information.

Basic mechanics is another alternative to diversify from agriculture. For one thing, the sector has yet to have competitors in the new settlements. For another, the area is in urgent need of such services, considering the absence of public transportation. Personal minivans and motorcycles are the backbone of village transportation.

Basmadi Kapri Peranginangin returned to his village after living for a year in a refugee camp. He grew potatoes and other vegetables, but just as he finished planting, Mount Sinabung erupted again and his newly-replanted farm – part of the area’s most vulnerable ‘red zone’ – was ruined.

Peranginangin decided to go to Siosar and shift to the motorcycle repair business, but lacked the funds to buy tools and build a workshop. Then he heard about a training program for displaced people jointly sponsored by the International Labor Organisation (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Development Program and BNPB.

After one month of training, he received a set of equipment to repair motorcycles. And with his new knowledge, including administration and financial management, he started a motorcycle repair business in July 2016. Now he earns Rp3,5 million a month on average.

When social and economic life blooms, so does art and culture. On October 1, the new community celebrated its one-year anniversary with an art and music show.

Biri Pelawi, a local religious leader, said in his opening remarks, “Siosar land is God’s promised land for us. Sigarang-garang, our former village, is the departing spot. One year in refugee camps is our training period. God’s plan for us is here. He kept His plan secretly.”

“Now we live safe with no fear of Mount Sinabung eruption. God has sent us to safer place to carry on,” he said.

On that very day, Mount Siabung erupted again, spewing volcanic ash as high as four kilometers, but this time, no one was affected and the celebration continued as planned.

“We don’t have to worry anymore. We live in a safe place,” said Mesti Ginting, one of the celebration organizers.

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