Inter Press Service » TerraViva United Nations News and Views from the Global South Sun, 23 Oct 2016 12:47:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Student Struggle in South Africa Gains Momentum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 17:12:45 +0000 Desmond Latham Hundreds of #FeesMustFall protesters gather outside the Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa, to demand free education on Oct. 20, 2016. Credit: Denvor DeWee/IPS

Hundreds of #FeesMustFall protesters gather outside the Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa, to demand free education on Oct. 20, 2016. Credit: Denvor DeWee/IPS

By Desmond Latham

When #FeesMustFall began to trend on social media platforms in South Africa in October 2015, government shrugged it off as an example of isolated hotheads, while political pundits predicted the student campaign wouldn’t last.

But a year later and the protest movement has gained traction across the country, with all major tertiary institutions partly shut down or barely functioning, and civil society warning that the effect on various sectors of the economy will carry over to 2017.Black South Africans only account for around 25 percent of those studying at universities and the call for transformation underpins the Fees Must Fall movement.

In the latest action, hundreds of students marched to the Union Buildings on Thursday, Oct. 20, and called on government to take their complaints about the high cost of education seriously.

The University of the Witwatersrand student movement began in 2015 when students shut down the campus on the eve of exams after it was announced that fees would increase by 10.5 percent in 2016, citing the weak rand which lost a third of its value against the dollar in 2015 as one of the main reasons.

Since then protestors have taken aim at government as well as their local institutions and have called for action against the ruling African National Congress after its leaders told the country’s parliament this week that education could not be “a free for all”.

Posters emerged of students calling for the ruling party to “Fxxx Off” and the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to be fired. Speaking to media on Oct. 14, Nzimande said government could not afford free education demands.

“In South Africa it is the taxpayers who give you money up-front and then say when you are working bring it back in order to assist others,” he said. “Somebody is paying… So we must understand these slogans properly.”

Students have rejected this view and mediation between the students and state by church and other NGO’s has failed so far. South Africa spends 5.4 percent of its 100-billion-dollar budget on education, and earlier in 2016 allocated an additional 1.1 billion for higher education over the next three years, with 400 million specifically aimed at keeping fees for tertiary institutions as low as possible. However, this has failed to address the students’ demands.

Police face off with student protesters near the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 20, 2016. Credit: Denvor DeWee/IPS

Police face off with student protesters near the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 20, 2016. Credit: Denvor DeWee/IPS

The call for education to be free comes as South Africa’s economy flounders and its currency, the rand, lost a third of its value against the U.S. dollar. The country’s high youth unemployment rate of over 45 percent has exacerbated the problem, while South Africa remains the most unequal society in the world in terms of the rich/poor divide.

The Wits Student Representative Council warned that its members can no longer afford the tuition fees and early memoranda included the demand for free education, the scrapping of registration fees and for all security forces to vacate the university campus.

But arson has been reported at the University of Johannesburg, Wits University, Cape Town University and a host of other small campus around South Africa. End of year exams have been affected and the University of Cape Town Faculty of Health Sciences has suspended its academic year.

An impasse has now developed, with government saying it can’t allow unruly elements to destroy property and stepping up the number of police patrolling these venues.

Students have long led the struggle for change in the country. The most famous example is the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid linked to Afrikaans being used in education. Twenty-two years after democracy, students once again are making themselves heard and are focusing on higher education.

While making up around 80 percent of the population, black South Africans only account for around 25 percent of those studying at universities and the call for transformation underpins the Fees Must Fall movement.

But the protest movement has gained impetus in recent months and government has been largely unable to cope with the increased violence associated with the uprising. South African police officers have also claimed that criminals have infiltrated the protest movement, with a few to cashing in on the chaos.

‘‘It is evident that criminality has taken advantage of young people in the universities under the disguise of the #FeesMustFall initiative,” said police chief Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane on Oct. 6, although he provided no substantive proof to back up this view.

The state has also hardened its attitude toward the students, and succeeded in having former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamimi denied bail during a court hearing on Oct. 19 in Johannesburg. He’s charged with malicious damage to property and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after footage emerged of Dlamini allegedly assaulting a police officer.

He’s also accused of ignoring a previous court order obtained by Wits University to restrain students from disrupting normal activity.

The protest has turned more violent with a security guard battling for his life after being beaten by youths in Cape Town, while in Johannesburg the head of the local Fees Must Fall organisation, Shaeera Kalla, was rushed to hospital on Oct. 20 after being shot numerous times with rubber bullets.

Soon after, Kalla thanked supporters on her Facebook page and vowed: “Even as we sit in hospital beds and others languish in prisons, I take strength from students across the country who are continuing the fight. Onwards and Upwards. Towards the immediate realisation of free, quality and decolonized education now.”

In a statement earlier in the week, the Wits SRC warned that “as the days go on, the brutality against students and repression at our universities continues to increase. Since Friday night, the levels of violence at Wits University have increased. Students, regardless of their involvement in the protest action, are being violated in ways we thought were unimaginable in a post-apartheid South Africa.”

The students have called on members of the public to denounce “the apartheid tactics that are being used, to speak out against the violations and brutality” while reiterating that their call for “free, quality, equal and decolonized education” was a legitimate one.

Civil society leaders, including the Council of Churches, have been mediating between the two sides and continue to try to solve what is now being called an impasse.

An inter-ministerial committee on university fees was set up by government but it initially only included the Higher Education Minister and leaders of the security cluster managed by President Jacob Zuma.

Finally, on Thursday, following the upsurge in violence, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was added to the list, which is regarded as a crucial step in order for the state to approach international donors of the bond market in order to find cash to cover student demands.

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Innovate to Save Lives Fri, 21 Oct 2016 15:28:20 +0000 Syed Saad Andaleeb By Syed Saad Andaleeb
Oct 21 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

I recently went to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a city hospital. One of my students at BRACUniversity suffered a serious brain injury while travelling in a tempo that overturned. The boy eventually succumbed to his fatal injury. Deep within, I felt a sense of loss not only on account of the student and his family, but also for the university, as well as for the nation which lost a fine human asset. Three things occurred to me as I made my pensive way back home.

 Image: Peachinfomatics

Image: Peachinfomatics

First, when the accident occurred, some good Samaritans stepped forward and tried to save the student. But they were turned away from several hospitals, while his life was ebbing. For one thing, the Samaritans had no information regarding which hospital had ICU facilities and which one had an available bed to offer. As a result, when they reached a hospital, they either learnt that it did not have an ICU or were told that the ICUs were full. In one case, the hospital was reluctant to admit the student based on the seriousness of his condition. A staff member apparently remarked in cavalier fashion, “Take him away; you will only spend lakhs, but not take him back alive.” From what I learnt, there was no effort to admit the patient for a comprehensive evaluation and make any attempt to save the life. The frantic rush from one hospital to another may have been ultimately responsible for the loss of a precious life.

Given that the student was from the Computer Science and Engineering department, it dawned on me that an app could be developed (perhaps by his friends in remembrance) that would immediately show which hospitals have ICUs and available beds. This idea can later be expanded to other hospital services. To save precious time, one must be able to reserve a bed immediately via the app and regardless of the condition of the patient, the ICU must give a professional opinion after admitting the patient. This should be a law! Admittedly, the details of the app need to be worked out; for example, against false bookings, pranks, etc. Perhaps a substantive fee may be charged upon booking the space, although this may make the good Samaritans balk from making the reservation. Surely, these matters are not insoluble and will have to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

The second issue is that of costs. Who is to pay for the exorbitant cost of intensive care? As things stand, the family of the student will now be responsible for bearing the huge costs – a bolt from the blue – for the fault of someone else, namely the tempo driver. As reported, the haste, belligerence and carelessness of the tempo driver should make it his responsibility to pay. Perhaps the owner of the vehicle also bears some responsibility for hiring a reckless and unduly aggressive driver. But this idea is likely to go nowhere: too many ifs and buts, including the financial status of the tempo driver and the raw power of the owner’s groups that likely includes members from powerful coteries.

This particular student had a very high CGPA and was a promising star – in fact, a national asset. Students who come so far to study at the university level are decidedly national assets. They will be contributing to the nation’s growth and need to be supported to the extent possible. Suppose the student had survived, the burden of medical expenses could have cost him his education.

A suggestion, therefore, is to contemplate a nation-wide insurance plan for students in higher education (or even at lower tiers or all students). For their protection, as well as the protection of their families, a three-way insurance scheme may be envisaged where the student and his family pays a part, the university pays another, while the nation pays a third part. This proposal could be the starting point of a conversation on how to protect the most vital of our country’s assets: human assets. Insurance companies also ought to look at how best to craft policies that protect these assets. While these companies are entitled to make profits, their policies often keep out a significant proportion of the population, especially those in need, even from basic coverage. There are universal health coverage schemes in other nations that could be studied for adaptation and adoption.

Finally, the tempo (and other public vehicle) drivers really need to be reined in. They are far too aggressive, far too callous, and often hostile when let loose on our streets. In their rush to get to places, they are pushy, change lanes on a whim, and are utterly callous of where they pick up or drop off passengers, oblivious to the risks to which the passengers are exposed. Can a national programme be developed to train and certify the drivers of public (and even private) transportation vehicles? In addition, can a database be developed to track those drivers who have a record of bad driving to be able to keep them off the streets? An app could be developed for this as well. For example, each vehicle would have a highly visible code to which the driver of the vehicle is connected. Suffering passengers could report the driver using the code on a set of violations using the app that would automatically go into a database, resulting in accumulation of negative points. Using the database as a tracking mechanism about the driver and the owner, disciplinary penalties could be imposed on both driver and owner to bring about much needed behavioural changes in those who run riot on our streets.

Catastrophic events deliver many families into the clutches of poverty from which there may be no coming back. As the nation continues to make steady economic progress, its social innovations must keep pace. Social protection via innovative apps and a national insurance policy, crafted properly, can protect many families faced with a life-changing event. Anticipating the challenges driven by development and designing innovative provisions are the need of the day. Academia, especially, can and must join hands with other stakeholders to lead the way.

The writer is the Vice-Chancellor of BRAC University.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Social Unravelling Fri, 21 Oct 2016 15:19:32 +0000 Faisal Bari By Faisal Bari
Oct 21 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Recently I asked a colleague, who has been living in Pakistan for a couple of decades but had spent the early part of his life in the West initially studying and then working there, if he missed being abroad and regretted his decision to move back to Pakistan.

Faisal Bari

Faisal Bari

“No, no regrets, but I miss having access to good bookshops, coffee shops, pubs, parks and cinemas. But if I think more deeply about it, it is not just the goods and services that these places provide that I miss, it is the social and public space these places offer that I miss.” The answer was intriguing and so I pressed him to say more.

“I can get the books I want from Amazon and other sources in Pakistan too, but the joy of browsing through a large bookshop that is well organised and looked after is what I miss. It gave me the freedom to explore my options; when I am ordering books I am restricted to purchasing the ones I know about. Coffee shops and pubs gave me freedom to discuss a lot of issues with a lot of different types of people in public spaces.

When we think of development and quality of life, we should also consider our social fabric.

“Here, I feel more restricted to family and a smaller circle of friends. Our social lives are more restricted to our homes, and the homes of friends and relatives. What those places provide is very different; they allow for a very different interaction with others and even facilitate interaction with relative strangers. Those sort of public spaces are still not as readily available in our cities.”

He added: “Most importantly, though, I miss the relative calm of everyday existence in the West. The everyday certainties of life, which remain in the background and are taken for granted over there — but not in Pakistan — is what I miss the most. The predictability of water and electricity supplies, the ease of public transport, the quality of services you can expect from both public- and private-sector providers — all of these reduce base-level anxiety in the West. Your life becomes easier due to that.”

He gave me an interesting example. One of his sons, born in Pakistan, was admitted to a public school when they moved abroad. While in Pakistan, the child had attended one of the country’s top private schools. Within a month of enrolment abroad, his son’s teacher had called my friend in for a discussion; she thought the child might have a learning disability. His son was referred to the appropriate experts who identified the learning impairment within weeks and the school, with the parents’ help, had devised appropriate coping mechanisms for him within a matter of months.

Even though the child had already been experiencing issues in Pakistan, the school did nothing nor alerted the parents to any issue, instead suggesting that he should get extra coaching as he appeared to be careless or unable to understand.

“The few years my son spent in that public school abroad saved him and us. All of us learnt how to manage his learning disability and these lessons have helped us even after we moved back to Pakistan. Can you imagine what would have happened to him if he had continued in Pakistan? Most likely, he would have eventually been thrown out of school, or he would have had to rely on rote learning to pass his examinations.”

My colleague said that he always felt more ‘on edge’ in Pakistan than he ever did abroad. “More things go wrong in our daily lives and everything takes longer to fix or address. And there is a base-level ‘breathlessness’ to living in Pakistan; a lot more happens in our lives and in society every day. In a way, it feels like entropy levels are higher in our society and so, if you want to improve in either your personal/family space or in national life, you have to work a lot harder to do that than in other places.”

I asked him if he felt that all of this might be true of any developing society, and that this might be the ‘cost’ we have to pay for living in societies that are still struggling to get their institutions right. He was not sure about that. He had not travelled enough within developing countries to be able to say with certainty whether this was just a consequence of a lack of institutional development. But he did mention that he had spent some time in Sri Lanka some time ago, and he felt that the base-level issues were not the same there. But his stay was not long enough for him to form a firmer judgement.

“I know you do not regret the decision to come back despite all that you’ve said, but would you advise young people who have a choice of moving or staying abroad to come back or stay in Pakistan?” I asked.

“It is a personal decision, but I do feel that people who are fortunate enough to have the choice should think a lot harder before making their decision. If you decide to stay in or come back to Pakistan, be prepared to deal with a higher level of entropy. It will impact your personality, your relationships as well as your ability to do things in life.”

I am not a psychologist; I do not know how deeply our personalities are impacted by our environments. But the conversation, I thought, did point out some important issues in our society and the impact they have on us that makes it worth reporting. Maybe when we think of development and quality of life, we should also be thinking about some of the factors mentioned here, and not just about the GDP, infrastructure and capital.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Funding Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities in Developing Countries Fri, 21 Oct 2016 14:45:10 +0000 Lindah Mogeni 0 Freedom of the Press Faces Judicial Harassment in Brazil Thu, 20 Oct 2016 23:58:14 +0000 Mario Osava Journalists working for the Brazilian newspaper Gazeta do Povo, harassed by a series of lawsuits after reporting the high remunerations of judges and prosecutors in the southern state of Paraná, during a meeting at the newspaper’s offices with Governor Carlos Alberto Richa. Credit: PSDB

Journalists working for the Brazilian newspaper Gazeta do Povo, harassed by a series of lawsuits after reporting the high remunerations of judges and prosecutors in the southern state of Paraná, during a meeting at the newspaper’s offices with Governor Carlos Alberto Richa. Credit: PSDB

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 20 2016 (IPS)

The same justice that exists to ensure rights can become a tool to violate them and restrict freedom of the press, as seen with the recent wave of lawsuits against journalists and the media in Brazil.

The latest high-profile case involves the Gazeta do Povo, the main daily newspaper in Curitiba, the capital of the southern state of Paraná, which is facing 48 lawsuits from judges and public prosecutors who are suing the paper and several of its employees for reporting their incomes in February.

“There were weeks when four workdays out of five were spent running from one town to another in Paraná, to appear at hearings. I think overall we traveled more than 10,000 kilometres,” Rogerio Galindo, one of the three reporters facing legal action, told IPS.“This happened precisely in the midst of political upheaval in the country, jeopardising the sustainability of the newspaper and revealing a great potential (for a wave of lawsuits) to cause irreversible damage, when the press already faces serious economic difficulties.” -- Mendes Junior

Elvira Lobato, a journalist who writes for the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, went through a similar ordeal after publishing a Dec. 15, 2007 article titled “Universal celebrates its 30th birthday, with a business empire”, about the obscure dealings of the evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which owns television and radio networks and newspapers.

Lucio Flavio Pinto, an award-winning journalist who has published the independent newsletter Jornal Pessoal since 1988 in Belém, the capital of the northern state of Pará, has faced 33 legal actions brought by the local media empire “O Liberal” since 1992, after he uncovered illegal activities allegedly engaged in by its owners, the Maiorana family.

In Gazeta do Povo, three journalists, a computer graphics artist, a systems analyst, and the newspaper publishing company face legal action, accused of causing damage to the plaintiffs, who are demanding monetary compensation.

These legal proceedings have been brought in small courts scattered through dozens of towns – civil lawsuits that do not exceed 40 legal minimum monthly wages (about 11,000 dollars).

“Counting the lawyer and the driver, seven of us had our family and professional lives disturbed” from April to June, said Galindo, who underscored the case of Euclides García, who was not able to be with his wife in the last months of her pregnancy.

Fortunately, the Federal Supreme Court ordered a suspension of all proceedings, in a preliminary ruling by Judge Rosa Weber on Jun. 30, on the eve of the birth of Garcia’s son.

The lawsuits were filed in response to a Feb. 15 Gazeta do Povo article which revealed that judges in Paraná received in 2015 remuneration averaging 527,500 Brazilian reals (165,000 dollars at the current exchange rate) – 28 per cent above the ceiling set by the constitution, which stipulates that judges cannot earn more than 90.25 per cent of what Supreme Court justices are paid.

In the case of the Paraná public prosecutors, their pay was 23 per cent above the constitutional limit.

This distortion was created by payments for different expenses, compensations, retroactive payments and subsidies, which were added to salaries.

“At no time was it stated that they were illegal remunerations, but that legal accumulations resulted in amounts that exceeded the constitutional limit,” Leonardo Mendes Junior, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, told IPS.

The information disclosed is publicly available on the government’s Transparency web site. What the newspaper articles did was put it in a legal context and point out that the judicial branch cost Brazil 1.8 per cent of GDP, compared to an average of 0.4 per cent in Europe.

Lucio Flavio Pinto has won a number of international awards for his investigative reporting on corruption in the northern state of Pará, which has led to a number of lawsuits against him. Credit:

Lucio Flavio Pinto has won a number of international awards for his investigative reporting on corruption in the northern state of Pará, which has led to a number of lawsuits against him. Credit:

But the Association of Paraná Judges said in a statement that the “offensive content” in the articles suggested the presence of illegalities in the judicial branch and led to criticism of judges. They also denied having agreed on a number of individual lawsuits by its members, and that these actions threatened the freedom of press.

However, by forcing the accused to travel from town to town, some of them up to 500 kilometres away from the newspaper office in Curitiba, Gazeta do Povo’s reporting was undermined, as three of its seven political reporters were kept away from their jobs for many days.

“This happened precisely in the midst of political upheaval in the country, jeopardising the sustainability of the newspaper and revealing a great potential (for a wave of lawsuits) to cause irreversible damage, when the press already faces serious economic difficulties,” said Mendes Junior.

“It is interesting to note the concept of ‘judicial censorship’ mentioned by Carmen Lucia Rocha, the new president of the Federal Supreme Court, to describe the sequence of actions that keep away from their jobs a significant part of (a newspaper’s) journalists,” he said.

Each trip made by the defendants around the state to appear in hearings cost the newspaper about 25,000 reals (7,800 dollars), estimated Galindo, adding up costs of transport, hotels, meals and attorney’s fees, let alone the lost hours of journalistic work.

With the suspension of the legal proceedings, the journalists expect a final decision from the Federal Supreme Court, which is to take up the case as requested by Gazeta do Povo, arguing that judges in Paraná cannot try these cases since they are interested parties.

“Some of the judges have acknowledged that they cannot decide these cases, but most have not,” said Mendes.

This is an extreme case, in which justice system officials hand down rulings in their own interest, while punishing their alleged attackers with forced trips and proceedings that limit their freedom.

But the abuse of the right to sue journalists who report on awkward issues has become a common practice in Brazil.

In 2007 and 2008, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God brought a total of 107 legal actions, filed by its followers around the country, to smother Elvira Lobato and Folha de São Paulo, Brazil’s most widely circulated newspaper. It does not really matter that the journalist and the paper won every case; the punishment preceded the judgment.

Lucio Flavio Pinto had to study law to defend himself, which took time away from his one-man publication, the Jornal Pessoal. The sales of the bimonthly newsletter, with a print run of 2,000 copies, is his source of income, since he accepts no advertising.

The legal proceedings against him lasted four to five years on average. But four lawsuits, filed 11 years ago, are still pending. Having been convicted twice, he counted on the solidarity of people all over the country to pay the monetary penalties.

In many cases, those suing him are not seeking the implementation of the sentences, he said. “They prefer to keep the sword hanging over my head, by dragging out the proceedings,” the journalist, whose investigative reporting prevented illegal appropriations of vast extensions of land in Pará, while costing him several physical assaults, told IPS.

“Recurrent legal actions are the most efficient form of censorship,” said Pinto, recognised as an “information hero” by the Paris-based Reporters without Borders.

In his case he did not receive solidarity from business organisations such as the National Association of Newspapers, which granted the 2016 Freedom of the Press award to Gazeta do Povo, reinforcing the general reaction from the journalism sector to the harassment from judges and prosecutors in Paraná.

There have been other “attempts to curtail freedom of the press that in turn help to prevent new cases” with their strong repercussions, Ángela Pimienta, head of the Institute for Journalistic Development that maintains the internet portal Press Observatory, told IPS.

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Privatization the Problem, Rarely the Solution Thu, 20 Oct 2016 17:02:13 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Oct 20 2016 (IPS)

Privatization has been one of the pillars of the counter-revolution against development economics and government activism from the 1980s. Many developing countries were forced to accept privatization as a condition for support from the World Bank while many other countries have embraced privatization, often on the pretext of fiscal and debt constraints.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Privatization generally refers to changing the status of a business, service or industry from state, government or public ownership to private control. It sometimes also refers to the use of private contractors to provide services previously delivered by the public sector.

Privatization can be strictly defined to include only cases of the sale of 100%, or at least a majority share of a public or state-owned enterprise (SOE), or its assets, to private shareholders. The definition of privatization in some contexts is so broad that it includes cases where private enterprises are awarded licences to participate in activities previously the exclusive preserve of the public sector.

Why the turn to privatization?
The balance of payments problems arising from oil shocks in the 1970s and the US Fed’s increase of the interest rate to well over 20% precipitated sovereign debt crises in Latin America and elsewhere from the early 1980s, forcing many developing countries to seek credit support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The World Bank and IMF’s ‘neo-liberal’ policy prescriptions involved liberalization, deregulation and privatization. Collectively, they later came to be known as the Washington Consensus to refer to the common position of three Washington DC based institutions – the US Treasury, the IMF and the World Bank.

Main arguments for privatization
Privatization was advocated as an easy means to:
1) reduce the ‘financial and administrative burden of the government’, particularly in undertaking and maintaining services and infrastructure;
2) ‘promote competition, improve efficiency and increase productivity’ in the delivery of public services;
3) ‘stimulate private entrepreneurship and investment’, and thus accelerate economic growth;
4) help reduce ‘the presence and size of the public sector, with its monopolistic tendencies and bureaucratic support’.

Public or consumer welfare
Since a significant portion of state-run activities are public monopolies, privatization will hand over such monopoly powers to private interests likely to use them to maximize profits. The privatization of public services tends to burden the public, especially if charges are raised for privatized services which may not improve with privatization.

Private interests are only interested in profitable or potentially profitable activities and enterprises. Thus, the government will be saddled with unprofitable and less profitable activities, reinforcing the impression of SOE inefficiencies. Consequently, privatization may worsen overall enterprise performance. ‘Value for money’ may go down, despite improvements used to justify higher user charges.

Privatization in many developing and transition economies has primarily enriched a few with strong political connections who ‘captured’ lucrative opportunities associated with privatization, while the public interest has been increasingly sacrificed to such powerful private business interests. This has, in turn, exacerbated problems of corruption, patronage and other related problems.

Adverse consequences
Some other adverse consequences of privatization include:
– The social and political implications of two types of services, i.e. one for those who can afford more costly, private – including privatized – services, and the other for those who cannot, and hence have to continue to rely on subsidized public services, e.g. medical services and education.
– The effects of minimal long-term investments by private owners narrowly focused on maximizing short-term profits.
– Increased living costs as well as poorer services and utilities – especially in remote and rural areas – due to ‘economic costing’ of services, e.g. telecommunications, water supply and electricity.
– Reduced jobs, overtime work and real wages for employees of privatized concerns.

Flawed arguments
Arguments for privatization can be refuted on the following grounds:
• The public sector can be more efficiently run, as demonstrated in Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea.
• Greater public accountability and a more transparent public sector can ensure greater efficiency in achieving the public and national interest while limiting public-sector waste and borrowing.
• Privatization may postpone a fiscal crisis by temporarily reducing fiscal deficits, but the public sector would lose income from profitable public sector activities, and be stuck with financing and subsidizing unprofitable ones. As experience shows, the fiscal crisis may even deepen if the new owners of profitable SOEs avoid paying taxes with creative accounting or due to the typically generous terms of privatization.
• Privatization gives priority to profit maximization, typically at the expense of social welfare, equity and the public interest. It tends to adversely affect the interests of public-sector employees and the public, especially poorer consumers.
• Public pressure to ensure the equitable distribution of share ownership (e.g., ‘voucher privatization’) may inadvertently undermine pressures to improve corporate performance since each shareholder would then only have small equity stakes, and would therefore be unlikely to incur the high costs of monitoring management and corporate performance.
• By diverting private capital from productive new investments to buying over public sector assets, economic growth would be retarded rather than enhanced.

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Changing Climate Threatens World’s Smallholder Farmers Wed, 19 Oct 2016 13:45:07 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 1 Water Bodies Central to Urban Flood Planning Wed, 19 Oct 2016 11:21:32 +0000 Jency Samuel A couple wait on an overturned garbage bin to be rescued by boat during the Chennai flooding of December 2015. Credit: R. Samuel/IPS

A couple wait on an overturned garbage bin to be rescued by boat during the Chennai flooding of December 2015. Credit: R. Samuel/IPS

By Jency Samuel
CHENNAI, India, Oct 19 2016 (IPS)

“The rain was our nemesis as well as our saviour,” says Kanniappan, recalling the first week of December 2015 when Chennai was flooded.

“Kind neighbours let us stay in the upper floors of their houses as the water levels rose. The rainwater was also our only source of drinking water,” he added.“Urban planners value land, not water.” -- Sushmita Sengupta of the Centre for Science and Environment

Kalavathy, another resident, isn’t very familiar with the links between extreme weather events and climate change. All she knows is that in December, her house was completely submerged in 15 feet of water. Now, after working night shifts, she gets up at 4am to pump water, supplied by the administration during fixed timings.

The simple lives of Kalavathy and her neighbours, who live in row houses behind the 15-foot-high wall built on the embankment of Adyar River, seem to revolve around water. Either too much or too little.

Chennai, the capital city of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, literally became an island in December 2015. The airport was inundated. Trains and flights had to be cancelled, cutting off the city for a few days from the rest of India.

The Chennai floods claimed more than 500 lives and economic losses were pegged at 7.4 billion dollars, with similar figures for all flood-affected Indian cities.

Urban flooding in India and other countries is one of the issues being discussed at the Habitat III meeting in Quito, Ecuador this week. The Indian government has also released a draft for indicators of what a “Smart City” would look like.

Extreme weather events

Incessant rains also left Chennai  inundated in November. “The average rainfall for Chennai in November is 407.4 mm, but in 2015 it was 1218.6 mm. For December, the average rainfall is 191 mm, whereas in December 2015 it was 542 mm, breaking a 100-year-old rainfall record,” said G.P. Sharma of Skymet Weather Services Pvt Ltd.

While the extreme rainfall that Chennai experienced was attributed to El Nino, scientists predict that with climate change, extreme weather events will increase. “There will be more rain spread over fewer days, as happened in Chennai in 2015, Kashmir in 2014, Uttarakhand in 2013,” says Sushmita Sengupta of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based research and advocacy organisation. This concurs with the IPCC fifth assessment report that predicts that India’s rainfall intensity will increase.

Poor urban planning and urban flooding

According to India’s National Institute of Disaster Management, floods are the most recurrent of all disasters, affecting large numbers of people and areas. The Ministry of Home Affairs has identified 23 of the 35 Indian states as flood-prone. It was only after the Mumbai floods of 2005 that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), a government body, distinguished urban floods as different from riverine floods. The cause of each is different and hence each needs a different control strategy.

The Chennai city administration was ill-prepared to cope with the freak weather, in spite of forecast warnings from Indian Meteorological Department. Jammu & Kashmir had neither a system for forecasting floods nor an exclusive department for disaster management when it was hit by floods in 2014. While a different reason can be attributed for the flooding and its aftermath for each of the Indian cities, the common thread that connects  them is extremely poor urban planning.

As per a report by Bengaluru-based Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), in 1951, there were only five Indian cities with a population of more than one million. In 2011, this number rose to 53. To cater to the increasing population, the built-up area increased, roads were paved and open spaces dwindled.

But an IIHS analysis shows that the built-up area has been increasing disproportionately compared to population growth. Between 2000 and 2010, Kolkata’s population grew by about 7 percent, but its built area by 48 percent. In the same period, Bengaluru’s built area doubled compared to its population, indicating the commercial infrastructural development.

Disappearing urban sponges

The open spaces that disappeared, giving way to concrete structures, are primarily water bodies that act as sponges, soaking up the rainwater. Increasing population also led to increased waste and the cities’ water bodies turned into dumping grounds for municipal solid waste, as was the case with Chennai’s Pallikaranai marshland. They also became sewage carriers like the River Bharalu that flows through Guwahati, Assam.

“Urban planners value land, not water,” says Sengupta.

A 1909 map of Chennai shows a four-mile-long lake in the centre of the city. It exists now only in street names such as Tank Bund Road and Tank View Road. T.K. Ramkumar, a member of the Expert Committee on Pallikaranai appointed by the Madras High Court, told IPS that in the 1970s, the government filled up lakes within the city and developed housing plots under ‘eri schemes’, eri in Tamil meaning lakes.

In fact eris are a series of cascading tanks, where water overflowing from a tank flows to the next and so on till the excess water reaches the Bay of Bengal. But the marsh and the feeder channels have been blocked by buildings, leading to frequent floods. NDMA suggests that urbanisation of watersheds causes increased flow of water in natural drains and hence the drains should be periodically widened. Not only are the water courses not widened, but heavily encroached upon.

Encroachment of water bodies is a pan-India problem. The water spread of all its cities have been declining rapidly over the years. “Of the 262 lakes recorded in Bengaluru in the 1960s, only ten have water. 65 of Ahmedabad’s 137 lakes have made way for buildings,” says Chandra Bhushan of CSE. Statistics reveal that the more a city’s water spread loss, the more the number of floods it has experienced.

Way forward

After the Chennai floods, the government-appointed Parliamentary Standing Committee demanded strict action against encroachments. It directed the Tamil Nadu administration to clear channels and river beds to enable water to flow, to improve drainage networks and to develop vulnerability indices by creating a calamity map. The Committee’s direction applies equally well to all the cities.

The Indian government has allocated 164 million dollars to restore 63 water bodies under its Lakes and Wetlands Conservation Program. But urban flood statistics reveal that the efforts need to be speeded up.

Yet in the Draft Indian Standard for Smart Cities Indicator, there is no indicator to measure the disaster preparedness and resilience of a city.

“Catchment areas and feeder channels should be declared ecologically sensitive and should be protected by stringent laws,” says Sengupta.

As for Chennai, “The retention capacity of Pallikaranai should be enhanced by suitable methods after hydrological and hydrogeological studies says,” said Dr. Indumathi M. Nambi of the Indian Institute of Technology.

She adds that the Buckingham Canal should be connected to the sea to facilitate discharge during floods. Plans are afoot to demonstrate this with the cooperation of industries and NGOs.

The plans are sure to work as Jaipur has created a successful public-private partnership model. Mansagar Lake, which had turned into a repository of sewage, received 70 percent funding from the central government for restoration. The state government raised the balance with the help of the tourism industry by allocating space for entertainment and hospitality spots, successfully restoring the lake.

The restoration of water bodies and flood mitigation measures will need to be site-specific, taking the extent and topographical conditions of catchment area, existing and proposed storm water drains, status of embankments and bunds of water bodies and permeability of soil conditions into account. But with such measures and political will, experts believe the safety of inhabitants and urban resilience can be accomplished.


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U.N. Urban Summit Gives Rise to a Mixture of Optimism and Criticism Tue, 18 Oct 2016 18:30:44 +0000 Emilio Godoy 0 Reimagining South Asia in 2030 Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:52:26 +0000 Rehman Sobhan By Rehman Sobhan
Oct 18 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The future of South Asia, as a community does not look too promising in the wake of the postponement of the SAARC summit. As a person who has been engaged over 40 years in civil society initiatives to recreate a South Asian community, I have witnessed a number of such fluctuations in the fortunes of the SAARC process.

flag_2__At all such troubled moments it has remained important for civil society, across the region, to keep the idea of South Asia alive and moving forward. It is civil society, operating through the market place and through increasing movement of people across borders, who have continued to interact with each other. It is through such civic interactions that we have attempted to preserve our South Asian identity and ensured that set-backs at the inter-state level would not erode the concept of South Asia. Such civil society initiatives have fortunately been sustained by the commitment of particular governments, especially from the smaller states of South Asia, to retain their faith in the idea of a stronger South Asian community.

Within the long tradition of a pro-active civil society, I would invite South Asians assembled here today to let their minds roam free and try to imagine a South Asia in which our children and grandchildren may come of age. Through such an exercise in reimagination, let us cast our vision towards the Himalayan peaks of South Asia rather than tracking all the holes in the ground which have, in our recent history, threatened progress in our journey to a shared destination. The challenges I lay down before all the distinguished participants assembled at South Asian Economic Summit (SAES) IX from across the region is to apply your creative imagination to explore pathways which will help us to clear the obstacles to our ascent. This is an altogether different challenge from investing our time and energies in identifying the obstacles and then concluding that we had better not attempt such a forbidding journey.

To encourage all of you to look upwards I present my own vision for how I visualise South Asia in 2030. You are each free to challenge aspects of my vision and substitute your own but I would still encourage you to always look upwards.

My vision of an imagined South Asia is constructed around four challenges:

* Imagining a genuinely just, inclusive and democratic society

* Imagining a South Asian community living at peace with each other

* Imagining South Asia as a lynchpin in a wider Asian community which is emerging as the centre of the economic universe during the 21st Century

A just, inclusive and democratic South Asia

My vision of a just and inclusive society visualises exclusion as the outcome of an unjust society and international system. This injustice remains the source of poverty, income inequality and social disparity. This sense of injustice which permeates the more excluded segments of society across South Asiais expressing itself in social instability, alienation and resort to violence in our countries. Such tensions threaten to spill across national borders and disturb inter-state harmony. My idea of justice envisions a social universe where the more excluded segments of society, the resource poor, women, minority groups are provided with equitable opportunities to participate in the economic and political market place.

The right to economic justice can only be realised through a politically just order which demands a South Asia in 2030 where our elective bodies are competitively elected, free of the influence of money and the threat of muscle power or invocations to primordial loyalties and faith based identities. Such elective bodies would thereby include women representatives in numbers commensurate with their share of the population, working people, minorities and representatives from other excluded groups. These genuinely representative bodies should always remain responsive and accountable to their electorate who should be free to recall them if they fail to discharge their mandate to their constituents.

Fully representative elective bodies, should feel empowered to give voice to the concerns of the excluded and hold governments accountable to honour their commitments and for all their actions at all times. Corruption should be constantly challenged within institutions of governance which are kept fully transparent, accountable and non-partisan. Such a system of governance should always seek to draw upon and reward efficiency and integrity while punishing malfeasant conduct among public employees. To underwrite such a system we should look forward to a South Asia sustained by the rule of law.

Imagining a South Asian community

By 2030, we should aspire to construct an economic communitywhich would provide for the free movement of goods, people and capital across the region, through a common market backed by integrated labour and capital markets. A South Asian economic community would need to provide opportunities for the growth and diversification of the smaller economies of South Asia through leveraging the growth of the Indianeconomy which by 2030 would be the third largest in the world. We would accordingly need to construct value chains across the region in the same way that China has linked itself to its East and South East Asian neighbours and thereby stimulated their export and economic growth.

To underwrite the common market of South Asia we would need to integrate its economic infrastructure through establishing seamless connectivity which provides for uninterrupted movement of goods and people through rail, road, air and water transport across the region. Dr. Manmohan Singh’s dream of having breakfast in Dhaka, lunch in Delhi, tea in Lahore and dinner in Kabul must be realised. We further need to integrate energy grids which trade power across the region and are serviced by regional conduits which link the oil and gas fields of West and Central Asia with South Asia. We must finally work together to exploit the enormous energy potential of the Himalayan waters through cooperative action among South Asian countries served by these waters.

Imagining South Asia as the pivot of a new Asia

In conclusion, we should recognise that South Asia today serves as a pivotal link between the most dynamic economies in the world in China and East/South-East Asia with the enormous energy and natural resource of West and Central Asia. These linkages should be strengthened through building transport connectivity which permits for uninterrupted travel originating in China or Singapore, across Myanmar and North East India into Bangladesh, across India to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia. China already has its own plans to establish such connectivity but South Asia should position itself as a pivotal route for the Asian Highway and Railway networks and link up with China’s belt and road initiative for building connectivity across Asia.

Within the Asian region, apart from its pivotal location, South Asia is possessed of a unique resource, its people. Given the rapidly aging populationsof China as well as in East Asia and the sparse populations of West and Central Asia, South Asia’s demographic dividend should emerge as one of Asia’s most important sources of wealth. South Asia’s citizens, equipped with universal quality education and democratization of economic opportunities, could leverage its partnership in the Asia region as the principal source of labour services which will remain integral to the sustainable growth of the region. We should also recognize that South Asia presides over one of the largest untapped markets in the region in the form of its millions of low income households. A policy agenda, which is targeted to significantly enhance the inclusion of these millions in the development process and in the process, significantly enhances their incomes, would generate market demand from the bottom of the pyramid which has not been witnessed since Chain’s managed to lift millions of its people out of poverty.

Ascending the mountain top

The challenge before us is to move beyond the realm of the imagination to explore what we need to do together and within our own boundaries to scale the Himalayan summit. The journey may look forbidding but it must begin. South Asia cannot condemn itself to travel towards 2030 moving sluggishly along the swamps and marshes which hold us hostage today. Let me therefore conclude with an uplifting message inspired by the immortal verses of Rabindranath Tagore from his epic poem, Gitanjali:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where South Asia is no longerbroken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand or dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action—

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let the countries of South Asia awake.

This is an abridged version of the speech delivered by Rehman Sobhan at the ninth South Asia Economic Summit (SAES).

The writer is Chairman, CPD.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Big Powers Set to Grab High Level UN Posts Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:27:32 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

When Antonio Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, takes office as the new UN Secretary General on January 1, his top management team is likely to be dominated by nominees from the five big powers, namely the US, Britain, France, China and Russia (P5).

As befits tradition, the current management team of mostly Under-Secretaries-Generals (USGs) will submit their resignations – providing Guterres with a clean state before he takes over.

Asked about the longstanding custom, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “I believe there is a tradition for the most senior officials, like USGs, to turn in resignations.”

But heads of UN agencies, he pointed out, “are approved by the boards of those respective agencies for fixed terms, which do not necessarily end now, so they would continue on for the duration of their terms.”

According to an equally longstanding tradition, the P5 stake their claims to some of the most powerful jobs in the Organization, heading UN Departments overseeing Political Affairs, Peacekeeping, Economic and Social Affairs, Management and Humanitarian Affairs.

“For big powers, these high level posts are considered their political and intellectual birthrights,” said an Asian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

James Paul, who served for nearly 19 years as executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum tracking the politics of the United Nations, told IPS that from the earliest days of the UN, the P5 have greatly influenced the selection of high-level posts in the Secretariat.

In theory, he said, the Secretary General fills these posts independently, drawing on the best candidates worldwide. The Charter mandates independence of UN staff from government interference.

Ban once told the press, he makes high-level appointments “in a transparent and competitive manner, based on merit, while taking geographical and gender balance into account.” In practice, key appointments are made quite differently.

Paul said the P5 carefully vet these appointments and in certain posts they literally name their own appointees. “Under this system, departments have been virtual fiefdoms, controlled over long periods,” he noted.

For the UN’s first 46 years, through a total of 14 appointees, the Under Secretary General heading the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) was always a citizen of the former Soviet Union (now Russian Federation).

Even former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld “named” a Russian to the post – or to be more accurate, accepted the Russian nominee. The US had its own fief over an equally long period, he added.

Paul said that after the end of the Cold War, Russian clout diminished. The Brits took over the DPA post for 13 years, through two appointees. Now, he pointed out, the United States has taken over the appointment, controlling it for the past eight years, through two appointees. “A US fiefdom is clearly in the making”.

Meanwhile, the Brits have been in charge of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) since 2005, through eleven years and three appointees. “A UK fiefdom is definitely in place.”

Palitha Kohona, a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section, told IPS that an incoming Secretary-General (SG) might want to appoint his/her own team of managers because he/she would prefer to have people who can be trusted in senior positions.

“SGs tend to appoint their closest confidants to senior positions in the inner cabinet. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine that a new SG would want to continue with the same team of managers who served under Ban Ki-moon.”

Importantly, said Kohona, promises may have been made to influential countries in exchange for their support in the lead up to the appointment of the SG. These need to be honoured.

“Despite every effort made to ensure a more equitable representation of the Member States of the UN in senior positions, certain posts tend to be given to specific nationalities or to certain regional groups,” said Kohona, a former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations.

For example, he singled out peacekeeping, political affairs, legal and humanitarian affairs. “While past appointees could be described as competent, there is no logical reason for perpetuating such a monopoly in a body that aspires to be truly representative.”

The current practice also enables the countries or groups concerned to influence UN activities to reflect their own interests, despite the requirement to maintain neutrality. While merit alone cannot be the only criterion, the need to be representative, must be, Kohona argued.

“Having emerged from within the Secretariat, Kofi Annan could be said to have been more sensitive to the wishes of the staff than Ban Ki-moon. Both attempted to reform the administration to be more reflective of contemporary needs. Both achieved limited success. Much remains to be done. “

A new SG must consider Secretariat reform to be a priority. There is no doubt that the Secretariat must reflect the needs of the contemporary world, and its attitudes and practices must be upgraded to ensure the more efficient delivery of services. Inevitably, the Secretariat will be asked to deliver more with less, he noted.

The selection of appropriate top managers will be a critical element in implementing the necessary changes, Kohona declared.

Paul told IPS France is seigneur of one of the most visible and long-lasting recent fiefdoms in the Secretariat. A French diplomat has now been chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for nearly twenty years, through four successive appointees and two successive Secretaries General.

He said the Department’s culture has come to be visibly French and many of the appointees at a senior level have been French citizens or those of francophone countries.

“DPKO is a highly-prized position, since peacekeeping is a bigger-ticket operation that all the UN departments put together. France is happy to have such a top post under its control.”

Such fiefdoms, he said, do not mean that the incumbents are always less than competent or that they are automatically highly biased. Some appointees, however, would fit that description. The overall record is mixed, he noted.

“The system as a whole increases unfairness and dishonesty in the appointment system, greatly reinforces the control of the P-5 and tends towards mediocrity in the UN’s highest offices.”

Among the UN diplomatic community, such P5 leverage over top appointments is an open secret and cause for occasional fury, said Paul.

“Even the most effective incumbents serving in these P5-controlled posts symbolize a system of disregard for the Charter, disrespect for the opinions of other nations, and contempt for the very idea of neutrality of the international civil service,” declared Paul.

Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant-Secretary-General (ASG) who once headed the Department of Public Information told IPS for at least the first five SGs, it was indeed a traditional step for all USG’s to submit their resignations to allow for a new team.

They were mostly USGs who were Heads of Departments; others with similar rank were designated for special assignments, leaving after a specific accomplishment or lack of feasible outcome; an honorable example was Gunnar Jarring who made seven attempts to implement resolution 242 on the Middle East.

“Now there are dozens of envoys hanging around for years– -some for decades— on the pretext of pursuing a vague resolution or perplexed action,” said Sanbar, who served under five different Secretaries-Generals.

“It erodes the credibility of both the UN, its member states openly seeking posts, however symbolic.”.

“In the interest of a credible dynamic UN, it will be crucial for the new SG to announce new guidelines on senior appointments, limit their framework and-most important-maintain the position designated by the Charter as Chief Administrative Officer leading a dedicated competent International Civil Service, a unique UN asset,” declared Sanbar.

The writer can be contacted at

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Q&A: Land Degradation Could Force 135 Million to Migrate in Next 30 Years Tue, 18 Oct 2016 10:30:33 +0000 Manipadma Jena A man stands in the middle of parched paddy land in the northern Kilinochchi District, Sri Lanka. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A man stands in the middle of parched paddy land in the northern Kilinochchi District, Sri Lanka. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI/BONN, Oct 18 2016 (IPS)

One of the critical challenges facing the world today is that emerging migration patterns are increasingly rooted in the depletion of natural resources.

Entire populations are being disempowered and uprooted as the land that they rely on for their survival and for their future no longer provides sustenance.

Many people will move within their own region or to nearby cities, driving unplanned urbanisation. Up to 135 million people are at risk of distressed migration as a result of land degradation in the next 30 years, says a United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) vision document.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) along with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change both envision land rehabilitation and restoration as significant actions in development and addressing climate change.

Governments from all over the world are currently meeting in Nairobi in order to agree on the strategic direction of the Desertification Convention. IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena interviewed Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, ahead of the ongoing fifteenth session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC15) in Nairobi. Excerpts from the interview follow.

Monique Barbut. Photo courtesy of UNCCD.

Monique Barbut. Photo courtesy of UNCCD.

Q: With as many as 170 countries affected by drought or desertification, how could these factors drive conflicts and forced migrations?

A. Two Somali proverbs, nabadiyocaano meaning ‘peace and milk’ and col iyoabaar which means ‘conflict and drought’, illustrate the strong connection between stability and access to pasture and water. The world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees.

But neither desertification nor drought on its own causes conflict or forced migration. But they can increase the risk of conflict and intensify ongoing conflicts. Converging factors like political tension, weak institutions, economic marginalisation, lack of social safety nets or group rivalries create the conditions that make people unable to cope. The continuous drought and water scarcity from 2006 to 2010 in Syria is a recent well-known example.

Droughts are natural phenomena, they are not fated to lead to forced migration and conflict. Severe droughts also occur in countries like Australia and the United States, but government intervention has made these experiences bearable.

For poor countries where safety nets do not exist, the intervention of the international community is vital.

In Mali, for example, unpredictable and decreasing rainfall seasons have led to a decline in harvests. More and more herders and farmers’ are moving into cities searching for employment. In Bamako, Mali’s capital, population in just over 20 years has grown from 600,000 to roughly   2 million with living conditions becoming more precarious and insecure. As Lagos fills up with those fleeing desertification in rural northern Nigeria, its population now 10 million. Disillusioned, unemployed youth are easy prey for smugglers, organised drug and crime cartels, even for Boko Haram.

Pastoralists face similar challenges when they are compelled to move beyond their accepted boundaries in search of water and pasture and risk clashing with other populations unwilling to share resources. Clashes between pastoralists and farmer are a serious challenge for governments in Somalia, Chad and Niger.

Q: Which other countries are showing signs of vulnerability to extreme droughts in the near future?

A: Drought occurs in almost every climatic region. With climate change, droughts are expected to spread to new areas and to become more frequent and more intense. The vulnerable regions are Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle-East and North Africa, South-Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Australia, Brazil, India, U.S. and China. In the coming decades, most of the United States, the Mediterranean region, Southwest Asia, Western and Southern Africa and much of Latin America, especially Mexico and Brazil, will face extreme droughts.

The more important question, however, is “who is going to be affected and what can be done about it?” The livelihoods of the poor in developing countries will be the most impacted because they rely heavily on natural resources.  So, more investment is needed to incentivise them to adopt sustainable land management (SLM).

But frankly, the investments we have for land rehabilitation are insufficient. We must also improve land tenure security because farmers with secure ownership are more likely to adopt good practices. Improving access to markets and rural services will create alternative non-farm employment, reducing pressure on land and the impacts of droughts in turn.

Q: A lot now hinges on achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) which requires a paradigm shift from ‘degrade-abandon-migrate’ to ‘protect-sustain-restore’. UNCCD aims to achieve LDN by 2030.  Given the tremendous and diverse pressures on land for economic growth, also from large populations in regions like Africa and Asia, where do you see their achievements in 14 years?

A. We want to move from business as usual to a future where the amount of productive land passing from one generation to the next remains stable.

In the current scenario, large numbers of people and a large share of national economies are tied to the land sector, particularly in the developing countries. So any degradation of the land reduces a country’s productivity. Unsustainable land use practices costs Mali about 8 percent of its gross domestic product, for example.

By 2030, along with a higher world population, a large middle class will emerge, accelerating the demand to draw more from these land-based sectors. For Africa and Asia to bridge these gaps, the farmers need to keep every inch of their land productive. This switch to sustainable land management however needs strong government support – to move farmers to scale up these good practices, to recover degraded lands and to prevent losing the most productive lands to urbanisation.

Reforms would move credit, market access and rural infrastructural development to ignite sustainable growth in agriculture. This is what it will take, to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030.

The Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative that seeks to restore degraded lands and create green jobs in the land-based sectors is a good example of this vision. The Desertification Convention is working with partners around the world to develop initiatives that are linked to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030.

Q: Which countries are faring better in turning around land degradation and what is the key factor driving this achievement?

A. A 2008 global assessment showed that most of the land restoration since 1983 was in the Sahel zone. But we have seen a rise in global attention to land degradation through diverse initiatives. that include the Conventions on Biological Diversity and Climate Change,the Bonn Challenge on Forest and Landscape Restoration and the New York Declaration on Forests. There are also regional initiatives such as Initiative 20×20 in the Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa’s Great Green Wall and initiative AF100, also in Africa.

Once the SDGs were adopted last year, our ambition for 2016 was to have at least 60 countries committing to set voluntary national targets to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030. We have surpassed that target. Today, we have more than 100 country commitments.

This achievement is due, in part, to the success of a pilot project that enabled 14 countries to assess and politically communicate the potential returns each would get by reversing land degradation in target areas. Armenia, Belarus and Ethiopia could quantify how they could meet their national obligations under the climate change agreement by pursuing land degradation neutrality.

Some common patterns among the countries that tend to fare better in fighting land degradation and drought (DLDD) is strong government leadership that values the socio-economic benefits accruing to their people and political commitment to make effective policies. They also have active champions of good land use practices which can be NGOs, development and private sector partners as well as small and large farmers.

Q: UNCCD is open to private business funding for projects under LDN. Which type of projects would businesses -for- profit show investment interest?

A. There is a growing appetite in the private sector for sustainable land use projects that can contribute to land degradation neutrality. More industry players have committed to LDN-related initiatives and other environmental targets. Companies committing to reduce the ecological impacts of their commodity supply chains rose from 50 in 2009 to nearly 300 by 2014, Supply Change reported in 2016. Many businesses dealing in agricultural and/or forestry commodities get raw materials from the land, and may be interested in investing in projects that make their supply chains more sustainable.

But there is no dedicated public funding pool investing globally in projects to combat land degradation, and public financing alone is not sufficient to protect our planet’s ecosystems. The private sector needs to step up. This is what created the need and opportunity for a new dedicated funding source –the LDN Fund. It combines public and private capital in support of the SDG target of land degradation neutrality.

The sustainable agriculture, sustainable forestry (including agroforestry), land rehabilitation and conservation, and the ecotourism sectors can support profitable investments. Forestry has attracted 77 percent of all capital raised for LDN investments to date. Agriculture is expected to see the strongest increase in investments and to grow by nearly 350 percent by 2021. It is clear that projects that incorporate at least some component of food and/or timber production are more likely to generate a stable cash flow are more appealing to private investors in LDN.

In the developed countries, many of the conservation activities receiving private investment are backed by government legislation. A strong regulatory framework provides certainty to the market and helps to create end buyers. As a result, the investments attract steady flows of private capital.

Q: Do governments need to put in place smallholder-safeguard mechanisms for private investments in land?

A. Safeguard mechanisms that recognise the land rights of smallholders are vital, even when the farmers have no formal tenure. Smallholdings support billions of livelihoods, which makes these households extremely sensitive to land use change.

In developing countries, government policies designed to attract investment are often biased towards large-scale farming, and hardly offer the protection to smallholders require. Private investors should have their own safeguards but governments have a responsibility to implement and enforce mechanisms to protect smallholders. The LDN Fund is designed to align with progressive global environmental and social standards.

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From City 50/50 to Planet 50/50 – How to Step it Up for Gender Equality and Sustainable Development Mon, 17 Oct 2016 17:41:38 +0000 Lakshmi Puri Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women]]> Panama City, one of the fastest growing metropolises in Latin America. Credit: Emilo Godoy/IPS

Panama City, one of the fastest growing metropolises in Latin America. Credit: Emilo Godoy/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
QUITO, Oct 17 2016 (IPS)

Urban development ministers, mayors from all over the world, city planners, architects and municipal authorities, civil society and private sector will meet in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, for Habitat III, the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (17-20 October, 2016), to adopt the New Urban Agenda as well as to strategize and agree on its implementation.

Women’s and grass roots women’s organizations, youth champions for gender equality and UN Women, have consistently supported UN Habitat, the United Nations entity responsible for this agenda, in the three-year preparatory process, and will be at the Conference, to ensure that the historic gender equality and women’s empowerment compact agreed by the international community during 2015 is not only reflected in the outcome, but actually implemented where it matters most – on the ground at the local level, in communities and households.

Lakshmi Puri - UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

Lakshmi Puri – UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

HABITAT III is critical for the effective, accelerated and full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its transformative and comprehensive gender equality compact, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the outcome of the Financing for Development Conference and the Women, Peace and Security agenda in conflict and post-conflict countries.

It also comes at a time of unprecedented urbanization of the world with the large exodus of people from villages to haphazardly and rapidly growing cities in developing countries with inadequate infrastructure, services and social protection, transferring extreme rural poverty into vast city slums.

Studies indicate that there is a higher proportion of women within the urban population overall, and a concentration of women-headed households in urban centers.  Also, the population is becoming younger, and women and youth will continue to make up the majority of people living in poverty, with limited control over assets and with unequal access to economic and income generating opportunities and participation in public and private decision-making.

This population also faces greater vulnerability to gender inequalities, gender based violence and multiple forms of discrimination. For cities and human settlements it is increasingly more complex and challenging to meet the needs of women and young populations including for housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and health care.

Yet for many the trend towards the “feminization of urbanization” creates new opportunities for escaping the inequality trap and realizing their human rights, but it also poses new challenges.

The NUA is a collective vision and a political commitment to promote and realize sustainable urban development.

 It provides a strategic opportunity to support the implementation of the Agenda 2030 by improving the spatial configuration of cities and human settlements in a gender-inclusive way and by recognizing the crucial dimensions of women’s rights. In this regard, the Quito Implementation Plan envisions to develop cities that “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal rights in all fields and in leadership at all levels of decision-making, and by ensuring decent work and equal pay for equal work, or work of equal value for all women, as well as preventing and eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence, and harassment against women and girls in private and public spaces.”

In adopting «Leaving no one behind» and «Sustainable and inclusive urban economies» as part of its guiding principles, the NUA commits to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all, end poverty and discrimination and promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all.

With the adoption of the NUA, Member States are pledging their commitment to adopt sustainable, people-centered, age- and gender- responsive and integrated approaches to urban and territorial development.

Efforts have been made throughout the grounds up and consultative process leading up to HABITAT III to reflect the imperative recognized in the 2030 Agenda and elsewhere that without realizing the human rights of half of humanity – that of women and girls – sustainable development, peace and security, or effective humanitarian action and resilience cannot be achieved.

In this case, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is both an end and a vital means to these ends.

Equally it should be noted that there is an inextricable link between the achievement of SDG 11 and its targets on making cities and human settlements sustainable, inclusive, safe and resilient, and SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

This link has been emphatically recognized as critical to unlock the power of cities to empower women and girls as well to transform gender power relations within cities and human settlements.

In this regard, the NUA draws on SDG-5 and the gender equality component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for example, by committing to promoting safety and eliminating discrimination and all forms of violence; ensuring public participation providing safe and equal access for all (SDG 5.1); eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence, and harassment against women and girls in private and public spaces (SDG 5.2); eliminating harmful practices against women and girls, including child, early, and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (SDG 5.3); recognize the contribution of the working poor in the informal economy, particularly women, including the unpaid, domestic, and migrant workers to the urban economies (SDG 5.4); ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal rights in all fields and at all levels of decision-making, including in local governments (SDG 5.5);  promoting access to adequate, inclusive, and quality public services, social infrastructure and facilities, such as health-care services, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services to reduce newborn child and maternal mortality (SDG 5.6).

Furthermore, to consolidate the transformative power of cities, the NUA promotes increased security of tenure for all with particular attention to security of land tenure for women as key to their empowerment; make information and communications technologies accessible to the public, including women and girls, children and youth; and promoting participatory age- and gender-responsive approaches at all stages of the urban and territorial policy and planning processes, from conceptualization to design, budgeting, implementation, evaluation.

The NUA also references age- and gender-responsive measures throughout, including in relation to sustainable, safe, and accessible urban mobility for all and resource efficient transport systems, goods, services, and economic opportunities; housing policies, water and sanitation, and climate change. It makes reference to paying special attention to the needs and rights of women in relation to services provision, full and productive employment, decent work, and livelihood opportunities in cities and human settlements. It also commits to promote gender-responsive urban territorial development, budgeting, and tenure security, among others.

We now have the strongest political commitment ever to embedding the gender equality and women’s rights agenda in the path-breaking twenty-first century New Urban Agenda.  All stakeholders of cities and of all human settlements – peri urban and rural areas – should implement this agenda without which we will not be able to localize and achieve the first-ever universal and ambitious sustainable development agenda; nor will we be able to make and build peace in fragile and war torn countries; nor deal with the enormous migration and refugee crisis, humanitarian and climate change related challenges effectively.

As Habitat III unfolds, the challenge now is to ensure significant frontloading effort in implementation. Gender equality advocates, including UN Women, have played a critical role both in setting the agenda and monitoring the insider process during the run-up to Habitat III.

Now, we must remain vigilant to ensure, with a sense of urgency, its full and effective implementation. Strong accountability mechanisms are to be in place with clear responsibilities for all stakeholders while also providing avenues for women’s and grassroots’ and other civil society organizations at all levels to hold decision-makers answerable for their actions, and seek redress when necessary.

The most transformative commitments of land tenure, violence against women in public spaces and equal access to productive resources and decent employment, will truly root if the age and gender-responsive integrated approaches that the NUA promises are spelled out ensuring that women and girls’ human rights and fundamental freedoms are fulfilled.

The cities have a huge responsibility in generating an enabling environment to grant women and girls equal access to opportunities and the benefits of urban development, including in relation to the sharing of care work, for example through the provision of child care which actually has been left out of the NUA.

City 50/50 is the foundation for building a Planet 50/50 so we need to get all actors – local and national governments, the private sector and civil society to step it up for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls!!

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We Can Eliminate Hunger and Poverty Quickly with Greater Commitment Mon, 17 Oct 2016 12:08:06 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015 and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]> All those who currently go hungry in the world can be adequately fed with about two percent of current food production, much of which is wasted or lost. Credit: IPS

All those who currently go hungry in the world can be adequately fed with about two percent of current food production, much of which is wasted or lost. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Oct 17 2016 (IPS)

Why do people go hungry? Mainly because they do not have the means to get enough food, whether by producing it themselves or by purchasing it. There is more than enough food to feed the world. All those who currently go hungry can be adequately fed with about two percent of current food production, much more of which is wasted or lost. The main problem is one of distribution or access, rather than production or availability.

Inequality and poverty, and increasingly, ‘natural disasters’ and armed conflict in the world are at the core of the problem of world hunger. While there still is enough food to feed the growing world population, unequal distribution of resources, incomes and vulnerability mean that food security remains a challenge for localities, households, and individuals. Countries with persistent poverty and high population growth face the greatest challenges as the poor there are least likely to be able to raise incomes or mobilize resources to adequately feed themselves.


Despite some progress in reducing undernutrition, including micronutrient deficiencies, over the second half of the 20th century, almost 800 million people are still conservatively estimated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to be suffering chronic severe dietary energy (carbohydrate) undernourishment. About 30 percent of children in developing countries are stunted, suffering deficiencies of at least one key micronutrient.

In recent decades, diet-related non-communicable diseases, often associated with obesity, have become a serious public health concern in many countries, including in the developing world, with over two billion overweight, and consequently, more vulnerable to diet-related non-communicable diseases. Earlier this year, the UN General Assembly declared a Decade of Action Against Malnutrition following the 2014 Second International Conference on Nutrition.

Meanwhile, food systems – the processes by which food is produced, processed, distributed and consumed – and lifestyles have been changing rapidly in much of the world. More sedentary lifestyles with rising food consumption – especially of fats, oils, and sugars – have been particularly problematic.

Well-designed social protection programs can help improve nutrition for the most vulnerable, while appropriate interventions in food systems, health and education can be decisive. Healthy lifestyles remain a formidable challenge for most.

Food prices

Among the factors influencing price volatility, crop harvests and policy interventions are the most important. With accelerating greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, the weather has become increasingly extreme and unpredictable. Consequently, unexpected supply shocks, due to output shortfalls, have become more common.

Bio-fuel mandates in the West have also exacerbated food price increases, especially of feedstock. To make matters worse, incentives promote conversion of food crops into bio-fuels – unlike some second generation bio-fuels produced from other plants grown on marginally arable land.

Thankfully, since the 2007-2008 price spike, financial speculation has been less significant despite price increases due to drought and harvest failures.


Food production, supply, and availability clearly matter. There are less hungry people today than in the mid-20th century because food supply expansion has continued to outstrip population and food consumption growth in the second half of the 20th century – thus lowering food prices. This may well have been the main reason for the decline of poverty as food costs are the main expense in determining poverty line incomes. However, although food prices generally declined during the second half of the 20th century, there was a reversal for almost a decade until 2012.

With decelerating population growth and rising life expectancy in many parts of the world, food supply will still need to increase, but less rapidly — by about 60% between now and 2050, much less than the 170% increase between 1961 and 2007. Without massive increases in land productivity, farmland will need to increase by some 70 million hectares globally, mainly in a few countries of Latin America and Africa. Yield improvements are expected to account for about 80% of crop production growth, with productivity improvements more modest than in the past.

At the third Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in July 2015, the Rome-based food agencies presented a simple, yet feasible plan to accelerate sustainable progress poverty and hunger by using social protection to accelerate productivity increases among the poor farmers. Considerable additional annual investments are required for research, development, and extension, including for climate adaptation.

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Pan-African Parliament Seeks Larger Role in Food Security, Policy Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:23:00 +0000 Hisham Allam With better extension support, women farmers can increase productivity and food security in Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

With better extension support, women farmers can increase productivity and food security in Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Hisham Allam
CAIRO, Oct 17 2016 (IPS)

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) concluded its session in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh Monday with initiatives on PAP’s identity, counter-terrorism challenges in the continent and joint development plans, particularly the question of food security.

The session, themed “Taking the PAP to the People of Africa” and held in Egypt for the first time, witnessed a huge turnout from an array of parliamentarians, politicians, presidents and policymakers from across Africa.

The PAP is one of the organs of the African Union (AU) and comprises five members from each of the 54 African parliaments. Established in March 2004, it is headquartered in Midrand, South Africa.

Thursday’s special session witnessed the signing of a key Memorandum of Understanding between the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the PAP, announcing the establishment of the Pan African Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (PAPA-FSN).

This agreement is part of a broad strategy to mobilise key actors in both government and civil society with the aim of ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030, a statement by PAP read.

Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant-Director General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, told IPS parliamentarians play a vital role in working through existing institutions, both for capacity building and sustainability of the partnership.

According to Ahmed, PAP represents all member states of the African Union and therefore offers overall continental political support for ending hunger and malnutrition.

“This is expected to make it easier for implementation at the national level. Further, sustainable development forms part of PAP’s mandate,” he said.

According to the president of the Pan African Parliament, Roger Nkodo Dang: “Our alliance puts the battle against hunger on the right pathway, and I am convinced that FAO is the ideal partner based on its notoriety and determination.”

Another key issue in the session was the ratification of the Malabo Protocol, adopted by the AU in Equatorial Guinea in 2014.

Should 28 African countries sign and ratify the protocol, PAP will move from being just a consultative body of the African Union and become a separate legislative body for the continent. It also provides for more representation of women. Only two countries have ratified the agreement so far, Mali and Sierra Leone.

“The transformation of PAP into a legislative body will empower African countries to draft new bills to counter regional challenges—chiefly terrorism,” Dang said.

Dang also highlighted the importance of drafting new legislation to counter terrorism. “No one is safe from terrorism anymore.”

Meanwhile, a special celebration took place to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Egyptian parliament convention. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said in a speech at Sharm El-Sheikh on Sunday that the parliament is a “mirror” reflecting what is happening in today’s Egypt.

He said last year’s legislative elections marked a new phase of parliamentary life in Egypt by “electing the most pluralist chamber in the country’s history,” with over 40 percent youth and 90 female MPs.

Among the other issues tackled in the session was the perils of UN sanctions imposed on Sudan.

Mahadi Ibrahim, former communication minister of Sudan, called on African parliamentarians to adopt a resolution to end those economic sanctions, in order for Sudan to enjoy the legitimate aspiration of its citizens to sustainable development.

Ibrahim noted that the sanctions, which have been imposed since 1997, have had a profound effect on all vital areas such as infrastructure, education, health and the economy. The sanctions also led to a dramatic reduction of the country’s ability to deal with epidemics such as HIV/AIDS.

Speaking to IPS, head of the African affairs committee at the Egyptian parliament and member of the African Union Hatem Bashat said that the sanctions are not “smart.”

“Some African parliamentarians suggested filing a memorandum to end sanctions on Sudan, and to send an official delegation of Arab and African parliament members to negotiate with American counterparts in this regard,” he said.

Some delegates also called for broader reform of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council.

“To meet the challenges of this new century, the UN must become more effective, more representative and more democratic,” said Ivone Soares, a member of parliament from Mozambique, in a plenary speech.

Soares said that Africa should be given two permanent seats. “The privilege of the veto enjoyed by the permanent members must be called into question,” she said.

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Indigenous Land Rights Bring Economic, not just Environmental Benefits Mon, 17 Oct 2016 03:46:52 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands Cloud forest in Costa Rica. Credit: Germán Miranda/IPS.

Cloud forest in Costa Rica. Credit: Germán Miranda/IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
Oct 17 2016 (IPS)

Secure indigenous land rights not only bring environmental benefits, they can also foster economic development, according to a new report released by the World Resources Institute.

The report, Climate Benefits, Tenure Costs: The Economic Case for Securing Indigenous Land Rights, describes how local communities can sustainably manage forests and generate economic growth when given tenure rights to their land.

In Guatemala, Indigenous communities have successfully created sustainable income from the forest, while treating it as a renewable resource, Juan Carlos Jintiach, Advisor of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA) told IPS.

Indigenous communities in Guatemala export forest products including highly nutritious berries which are popular in Korea and Japan, said Jintiach.

“The role of forests in climate mitigation is vastly under-appreciated, even by most climate experts,” Dan Zarin

Their careful management of the forests has also made their wood products popular with guitar manufactures such as Gibson and Fender, he added.

“In Guatemala the community-based industry is very well organized.” They have a land rotation system for their timber activities and they monitor the timber products up to the point they reach the consumer.

“They have a sophisticated way of managing their forests – you can almost trace a product from the tree it came from on a particular patch of land.”

“They use this revenue to improve local development, healthcare and education in their communities and that’s where the economic impact comes into the picture,” said Jintiach.

The world’s 370 million Indigenous people have only limited land rights and are much more likely to live in extreme poverty than non-Indigenous peoples.

Although they make up just five percent of the world’s population, Indigenous peoples make up 15 percent of the world’s extreme poor, according the World Bank.

Therefore, inclusive economic growth which benefits indigenous peoples is one of the ways that countries can tackle extreme poverty, and achieve the first Sustainable Development Goal of ending extreme poverty.

However, economic benefits are not the only reason why Indigenous Land Rights are important, the report argues.

“The role of forests in climate mitigation is vastly under-appreciated, even by most climate experts,” Dan Zarin, Director of Programs, Climate and Land Use Alliance said at the launch of the report.

“Other than the oceans there are no other carbon capture and storage technologies that are nearly as cost effective as forests and are proven on a large scale,” said Zarin.

“Deforestation rates on legally recognised Indigenous lands are two to three times lower registered to Indigenous peoples,” the report found.

Yet far too often government overlook local communities and allocate the rights to exploit a forest and other natural resources to multinational corporations with few if any links to the land.

“Indigenous Peoples and other communities hold and manage 50 to 65 percent of the world’s land, yet governments recognise only 10 percent as legally belonging to these groups, with another 8 percent designated by governments for communities,” the report found.

The report argues that allocating land rights to indigenous groups is relatively inexpensive for governments especially considering the measurable benefits.

“Secure indigenous forestlands provide significant global carbon and other ecosystem service benefits in Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia, estimated at between $679 and $1,530 billion for the next 20 years,” said the report.

“Meanwhile, the costs of securing indigenous forestlands amount to less than one percent of these benefits.”

However without secure land rights, indigenous communities are often unable to protect the forest, Helen Ding, Environmental Economist and report author World Resources Institute, told IPS.

“We have seen that the REDD+ program has been there for more than 10 years now and there is still deforestation happening in Brazil and Indonesia. The reason for that is partly because many of these lands are held by indigenous people are not recognised and they are not protected,” said Ding.

In practical terms, she points out, land tenure rights allow local communities to access credit, which will enable them to generate economic benefits.

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Eradicating Poverty – a Lofty Ideal or Achievable Goal? Sun, 16 Oct 2016 20:00:24 +0000 Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze is President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)]]> IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze visits Fanose Assafa’s vegetable farm in Ethiopia, created with the help of an IFAD-supported small-scale irrigation project. She is now entirely self-sufficient and food secure. Credit: ©IFAD/Abate Damte

IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze visits Fanose Assafa’s vegetable farm in Ethiopia, created with the help of an IFAD-supported small-scale irrigation project. She is now entirely self-sufficient and food secure. Credit: ©IFAD/Abate Damte

By Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze
ROME, Oct 16 2016 (IPS)

The first Sustainable Development Goal calls for us to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030. The goal and the deadline are ambitious – and they need to be. We do not have the luxury of time.

Poverty is so intertwined with hunger, migration, forced displacement, conflict and environmental degradation that prioritising its eradication is not only a moral and economic imperative, but essential to address the most pressing global issues of our time.

To eradicate poverty, we have to focus our attention on the rural areas of developing countries where three quarters of the world’s poorest and hungriest people live.

The incomes of 2.5 billion people worldwide still depend directly on rural small farms, therefore developing smallholder agricultural production and market access is an essential starting point.

In terms of poverty, the plight of sub-Saharan Africa is particularly disturbing. Although, according to the World Bank, more than 1 billion people were able to escape extreme poverty globally between 1990 and 2012, in sub-Saharan Africa absolute poverty has actually increased since 1990 and an estimated 330 million people live below the poverty line.

Ines Terodoro dos Santos, 17, with her daughters, Eliara, 14-months, right, and Isabel, 3-years-old, in the family garden at home, in Aldeia Segredo Velho, near Ribeira do Pombal, in the state of Bahia, Brazil, on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Credit: ©IFAD/Lianne Milton/Panos

Ines Terodoro dos Santos, 17, with her daughters, Eliara, 14-months, right, and Isabel, 3-years-old, in the family garden at home, in Aldeia Segredo Velho, near Ribeira do Pombal, in the state of Bahia, Brazil, on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Credit: ©IFAD/Lianne Milton/Panos

It is important to ask why the continent has not made progress in its fight against poverty, and what can be done about it.

Extractive natural resources account for three-quarters of sub-Saharan Africa’s total exports but the resulting billions of dollars in revenue have had a limited impact on poverty reduction.

In some cases, the promotion of these industries has been to the detriment of investments in agriculture. Yet studies show that growth in agriculture is up to 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector in sub-Saharan Africa.

The potential of agriculture to create prosperity for millions of people cannot be underestimated. In fact, agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for close to 40 per cent of today’s workforce globally, and 60 per cent in Africa.

The untapped potential on the African continent is enormous. It has 25 per cent of the world’s arable land and half the world’s uncultivated land suitable for growing food crops.

The African population growth of 2.7 per cent annually means food demand will double every 30 years. Agriculture could lead African development, improve food security and job growth so that people can move out of poverty and will not need to leave rural areas in search of opportunities elsewhere.

But even with all this potential agriculture is, unfortunately, not the priority of many African leaders. In 2003, African governments pledged to allocate 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development within five years. Only 13 countries had met their targets by 2012.

Instead of developing its own agricultural sector, the continent spends US$35 billion on food imports annually – money that could be invested in creating domestic employment, particularly in rural areas.

Some members of Nnedima rice cooperative with their bagged processed rice. The cooperative is comprises of 10 women collectively farming and processing rice. The results have been less effort and higher yields of quality rice thanks to the support the cooperative benefits from the IFAD Value Chain Development programme. Credit: ©IFAD/Andrew Esiebo/Panos

Some members of Nnedima rice cooperative with their bagged processed rice. The cooperative is comprises of 10 women collectively farming and processing rice. The results have been less effort and higher yields of quality rice thanks to the support the cooperative benefits from the IFAD Value Chain Development programme. Credit: ©IFAD/Andrew Esiebo/Panos

Too often leaders expect economic growth alone to result in poverty reduction – but the one does not automatically lead to the other. Last month, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) released The Rural Development Report 2016, which analysed rural development, transformation, and poverty reduction in more than 60 developing countries.

One of the study’s central findings is that targeted policies focused on transforming rural areas are essential to eliminate poverty.

These are policies that promote increased agricultural productivity and marketable surpluses, expanded off-farm employment opportunities and better access to services and infrastructure. These policy and investment choices have to be made. They do not happen on their own.

IFAD’s experience over nearly four decades has shown that when rural people have reliable access to land and other natural resources, functioning infrastructure, technologies, finance and markets, then both their livelihoods and their communities flourish, contributing significantly to economic growth.

Once we see smallholder farmers as rural entrepreneurs and their farms as viable and profitable businesses, the importance of investing in agriculture to ensure those businesses thrive becomes evident.

The result: rural areas become vibrant centres of employment and prosperity and the estimated 600 million young people in developing countries who will be looking for jobs over the next decade will not need to migrate to urban areas or beyond their counties’ borders to find opportunities elsewhere.

Of course, achieving poverty eradication is not just the responsibility of governments. It will require all actors – farmers, domestic investors along food value chains, research institutions, development agencies, educational institutions and others – to work together towards this common goal.

With visionary leadership, targeted investments and policies, and coordinated effort, poverty eradication is not just a lofty ideal. It is achievable – but we must recognise the urgency and act now.

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Private Interests Valued over Human Lives in Flint, Michigan Sun, 16 Oct 2016 19:10:37 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite Flint water tower. Credit: George Thomas / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Flint water tower. Credit: George Thomas / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Phoebe Braithwaite
NEW YORK, Oct 16 2016 (IPS)

When the water in Flint, Michigan was found to be corroding cars at a General Motors’ (GM) factory, government officials agreed to change the factory’s water source, yet the same water source continued to poison the residents of Flint for another year.

From 17 to 20 October governments will meet in Quito, Ecuador, for HABITAT III, the UN’s most important conference about cities, which only occurs once every 20 years. HABITAT III looks to inaugurate a new urban agenda and set down goals about how cities can and should be responsible for the wellbeing of their inhabitants.

Flint’s ongoing crisis demonstrates some of the challenges cities face, all the more important due to extensive urbanisation, which means that half the world’s population now lives in cities. Judging by the example of Flint, much more can be done to hold state officials to account, and protect and support the most vulnerable in society, as corporations become more powerful.

In October 2014, six months after the crisis in Flint had begun, GM were given permission by the city’s emergency manager, appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, to reconnect their water to Detroit’s water source, Lake Huron, at a cost of $440,000. According to reporting by Democracy Now!, GM also took all the water fountains out of the plant, indicating they knew it was not fit for human consumption.

All over the world, the poorest pay the most for water, and 650 million people – almost 1 in 10 – don’t have easy access to clean water. Many of these people spend half their daily income on informal water supplies, while those connected to formal water sources pay a fraction of this amount, according to a report published this year by Water Aid. It cites Papua New Guinea as a salient example, where 60% of the population lives without access to clean water, and water costs, on average, 54% of an already economically deprived person’s salary.

But the United States is the richest country in the world, and the web of factors which have brought about this crisis did so because – in America as elsewhere – poor lives matter less than richer ones. “If this had happened in a more well-to-do or more economically successful or vibrant area, it is arguable that the problem would not have become as bad as it was permitted to become… their voice was more easily ignored,” lawyer Kenneth Stern, Chief Executive of Stern Law PLLC, who has represented many Flint residents affected by the crisis, told IPS.

“It is truly sad that money is more important than the welfare of the people,” -- Lorei Graham

“It’s shameful. I’m not proud as an American to say that to you. It embarrasses me, quite frankly… You can’t treat these people like that,” Stern said.

“It is truly sad that money is more important than the welfare of the people,” Lorei Graham, a Flint resident who to this day deals with chronic rashes and hair loss as a result of ongoing contact with Flint water, told IPS. Graham has two jobs, one in a department store, another for a merchandising agency. She used to work in a gas station, where customers would cringe at the sight of her skin, thinking she was contagious, an experience she says wore her down.

In East Chicago’s West Calumet Housing Complex, 1,100 residents were recently forced to move after extraordinary levels of lead were found in their soil, showing that the public health crisis in Flint is by no means a lone example of negligence towards poor, primarily black citizens. There are thought to be comparable problems with plumbing in at least 19 states.

“Really, humans matter. Life matters,” said Flint resident Clarissa Camez to IPS. “And when you put profits before people, profits before the environment, profits before the good of all, this is what you end up with.”

What happened in Flint

All of Flint’s 98,310 residents have been exposed to the water’s various toxins. A public health crisis of enormous proportions has afflicted the city: Legionnaire’s Disease, a virulent form of pneumonia caused by bacteria that can multiply in certain water systems, has so far killed 10 of the 87 people it affected. Though data is scarce, the city’s 8-9000 children under six have been exposed to lead poisoning, which leads to brain damage, developmental disorders, and sudden behavioral change. It has also been linked to violent behaviour later in life.

Graham has noticed changes of these kinds in her own grandchildren. Her 8-year-old granddaughter, who used to be a good student, is now struggling in school. Her grandson, who is even younger, is no longer the obedient kid he once was, and she says that both children are far slower to respond to requests. These reports are incredibly common, and doctors are clear that no level of lead exposure is safe for developing brains.

About 57 percent of Flint’s inhabitants are black, and 41.6 percent of the city lives below the poverty line. There is nothing accidental about the fact that Flint’s primarily black population experiences increased poverty, while its more affluent suburbs are still substantially white: beginning in the 1930s, racist mortgage redlining policies were explicitly and systematically designed to stop black people from buying homes and building wealth, and left them more vulnerable to extortion through contracts that overvalued homes, harshly punished them for missing payments and never entitled them to own those houses.

These policies enabled white residents to move out when GM began to de-industrialise and jobs began to be cut in the 1940s, as the company sought cheaper labour according to the whims of the global economy. This trapped black people in increasingly economically deprived areas, and lay the groundwork for the poverty that persists in Flint today, a shell of the headquartered industrial town General Motors claimed it as in 1908.

“The Federal Housing Administration, along with the Homeowners Loan Corporation, mapped out cities across the country and determined which areas of the metropolis were safe for federally backed mortgages,” Andrew Highsmith, Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Demolition Means Progress, a history of inequality and metropolitan development in Flint, told IPS. “Effectively, this enabled millions of white Americans to leave cities like Flint or Los Angeles and move to racially segregated suburbs with federal subsidies.”

Alongside the movement of whites into the suburbs, a drastic restructuring of state revenue-sharing occurred between 1998 and 2012, reducing Flint’s income from $900 million to $215 million, and significantly diminishing its tax base. This is led to a chronic lack of investment in public services. The same impulses underlay initial plans to build a cost-saving pipeline and the corresponding switch from Lake Huron to Flint River water.

Cutting Flint’s money, Highsmith says, has been “part of this broader shift towards austerity,” “this belt-tightening at all levels of government”. But, reflecting the same pattern of prioritising private investments over basic social provisions, in this topsy-turvy world, enormous tax subsidies were created to attract private investment, such as the millions film studios were offered to set up in Michigan. GM saves an undisclosed amount in capped tax credits, in return for which the company has made a deal with Governor Snyder that it should spend a billion on public investment.


Although Flint’s water has been switched back to Lake Huron, the crisis is far from over for Flint’s residents.
Residents “are still not drinking water. They are still afraid of the water,” Stern says. “Many of these people if not most of them are still washing their clothes in only bottled water; many of them are still drinking only bottled water; many of them are still bathing in bottled water.”

Residents are concerned that their water is still being contaminated because of the corrosion already caused to their pipes.

Nobody knows when the $1.5 billion needed to replace the pipes will turn up.

This is more than just inconvenient, he stresses. It is an extraordinary cost to bear over years – and Graham, like many other Flint residents, is still being charged for water that has poisoned her and continues to cause them severe health problems There have been recent reports of shigellosis in Flint, a bacterial disease that spreads from people not washing their hands.

There are also a vast number of problems caused by the crisis for which it is impossible to demonstrate a direct causal connection. Camez suffers from a chronic auto-immune disorder, as well as accompanying psychiatric effects. Both have been aggravated by the crisis – she experiences tingling in her hands and feet, she has pain in her joints and her hair falls out. All of the pre-existing difficulties in her life have been exacerbated by the crisis, and she conveys her sense of betrayal that what is causing all the ruin in Flint is “something that is necessary for life”.

“People say, ‘why is it so important?’ Well, why is it so important that you have something that’s necessary for the sustenance and maintenance of life? You know, you can do without food for a few days, but you should really have water every day. It would help if it was clean.”

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Q&A: We Won’t Go Far Until Climate Issues Are Mainstreamed in Policy Fri, 14 Oct 2016 12:10:07 +0000 Charles Mkoka Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Communication, in Nairobi, Kenya during the Second Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Forum. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Coordination, in Nairobi, Kenya during the Second Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Forum. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
NAIROBI, Oct 14 2016 (IPS)

Two years ago at the 31st African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, heads of state and government endorsed the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme on agriculture and climate change with the bold vision of at least 25 million smallholder households practicing Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) by 2025.

This means sustainable food systems and broad-based social and environmental resilience from the household level up. CSA also supports the aspirations and goals in Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the AU Malabo Declaration as well as the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and COP21 Paris climate agreement.

As a result of farmers embracing Climate-Smart Agriculture, some fields are still green and alive even as drought rages in the south of Madagascar. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

As a result of farmers embracing Climate-Smart Agriculture, some fields are still green and alive even as drought rages in the south of Madagascar. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

IPS correspondent Charles Mkoka caught up with Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Coordination, at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya during the Second Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Forum this week to shade more light on some of the initiatives her institution is implementing. Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: What does the CSA Alliance bring to agriculture and rural development on the African continent?

A: As you know, 2025 is the African Union decision to reach 25 million farmers that are practicing CSA on the continent in order that agriculture remains relevant to the changing weather and climate patterns.  NEPAD being the technical arm, it is part of our responsibility to translate all the decisions into practical actions on the ground. In that respect we have developed partnership and programmes that are targeted to bring support to farmers.

Q: NEPAD cannot do this mammoth task alone considering its footprint is invisible in some states. In terms of synergy, who are you working with on the ground?

A: In terms of partnership we entered in the NEPAD/International Non Governmental (INGOs) Alliance. This is an alliance between NEPAD and five INGO’s working through communities and community-based groups on the ground. As NEPAD, we cannot be present in every country but we realise the role of subsidiary organisations to work with others who have the first engagement with farmers. The alliance can structure their programmes into providing concentrated support to the farmers. This support would either be providing new technologies of farming, inputs that farmers need or availability of credit. But also to adopt practices that help them cope with weather patterns or adapt to innovations that reduce greenhouse gases.

The second area of partnership is the CSA forum. You have seen the last two days that there is a lot of knowledge but this knowledge is sitting on computers. It is not shared for others to utilize. This platform creates space to bring all those working on agriculture, climate change and climate smart agriculture to share experience and knowledge generated through research.

Q: Can you tell our readers what other programmes you’re involved in at the secretariat level as far as issues of building climate change resilience and rural development are concerned across the continent?

A: Resilience-building among farmers is one target coming out of the Malabo Declaration. The declaration reaffirmed the continent’s resolve towards ensuring, through deliberate and targeted public support, that all segments of our populations, particularly women, the youth, and other disadvantaged sectors of our societies, must participate and directly benefit from the growth and transformation opportunities to improve their lives and livelihoods.

So we are working with member states to review the Agricultural Investment Plans, so that issues of climate change can be mainstreamed in their lives. It is clear that we are not going to go far if we don’t ensure that climate change issues are mainstreamed in national development and sectoral policies.

Zambia, for instance, was an early adopter of conservation agriculture, which is an example of climate smart agriculture. According to reports, farmers – particularly women – appreciated the increase in yields as a result of CSA. Yields have translated into increased income, which has translated into improved social economic conditions for their families.

Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

Peter Mcharo’s two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

Q: Despite the experimentally proven results in the case of Zambia as you have stated, why is there low uptake of CSA across the continent?

A: The programmes we have try to address those obstacles. These include land ownership, particularly for smallholder farmers, access to finance, access to technologies to take up CSA techniques are some of the challenges.

So through our Gender Climate Change Agriculture Support Programme we hope to reach a significant number of households and women farmers to contribute to the target.  Furthermore, through our Climate Fund programme, we hope to continue to finance grassroots initiatives for the 2025 target. It is our belief that government themselves will put in place investments that will support farmers in their countries to ensure they take on board interventions on CSA so they withstand and cushion shocks brought  about by climate variability.

Q: More women are involved in food production on the continent. However, data shows that in terms of the policy framework embracing gender dimension little is being done by countries to provide an enabling environment for women participation especially when it comes to land ownership. What is your take on this?

A: I have always said that I think it will always be smart for any government to invest in women and make their condition better.

Even in the difficult conditions that they work, women contribute 80 percent of the food we consume in our households on the continent. True that they use these resources to support their families so that brings social cohesion in our communities and countries.

But also, we want to invest in women in terms of supporting their economic empowerment. They will also increase their political participation and empowerment. It is really important that countries give particular attention to policies that favour women, such as policies that make it easier to form women cooperatives. In some countries to register a women’s cooperative they have to pay more money than if it was a men’s cooperative. Why?

Why that kind of discrimination and inequality? The platform has to be equal for both men and women. So we need to develop policies that cut across the board for all stakeholders.

The issue of land is a big question and challenge. We can learn from other countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia. These countries have developed policies that allow for co-ownership of land, so that a woman who is married in a village will not be chased away not to farm when the husband dies, for instance.

Q: In your speech, you hinted at the need to utilise local indigenous knowledge in the face of climate change, together with scientific-backed data. Why is this crucial in resilience-building?

A: We tend to forget what we have been doing over the years and get good results from that. Much as it is important to embrace new knowledge from science, I think we have also good knowledge from what our ancestors have been doing over the years. Such kind of knowledge we should document and replicate.

We should believe that our farmers have knowledge. They have ideas that can be used to cope with climate change. In Cameroon, for instance, fishermen when I visited them described what they had noticed over the years in their area. They explained about the changes in the water level, changes in the seasonal patterns. As such we need to engage with farmers. They have rich information and knowledge that can help us as technocrats to make informed decisions as well.

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The Elusive Woman Secretary-General Fri, 14 Oct 2016 06:37:32 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury is former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN; chairman of the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee in 1997-1998 that approved Kofi Annan’s first reform budget; initiator of the Security Council resolution 1325 underscoring women’s equality of participation; and a well-known analyst of the UN system’s work. ]]>

Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury is former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN; chairman of the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee in 1997-1998 that approved Kofi Annan’s first reform budget; initiator of the Security Council resolution 1325 underscoring women’s equality of participation; and a well-known analyst of the UN system’s work.

By Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury
NEW YORK, Oct 14 2016 (IPS)

United Nations’ apex forum, the General Assembly elected the next Secretary-General yesterday by acclamation rubber-stamping the recommendation of the Security Council (SC). I am appalled by the choice of 15 members of the Security Council of another man following eight others in 70 plus years of UN’s existence as if only men are destined to lead this global organization.

Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury

Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury

The Council members were totally insensitive to a groundswell of support worldwide for a woman as the next Secretary-General. They advanced the legacy of ignoring the 50 per cent of humanity in their action. This is an absolute aberration of the system whereby the 15 members of the Council impose their choice prompted by P-5 pressure and manipulation upon the total membership of 193, not to speak of wide swath of civil society opinion and activism for a woman Secretary-General.

It is so very unfortunate that in the selection process politics has trumped women’s equality, violating UN Charter’s article 8 which underscores the eligibility and equality of men and women to participate in any capacity in all its organs – principal or subsidiary.

The grapevine is spreading that one of the East European women candidates would get the post Deputy Secretary-General (D-SG) as a part of the deal about the new SG. This is not a big deal as we already had two woman DS-Gs in the past.

It should also be remembered that when the DS-G post was created in 1998 by the General Assembly, it was the understanding that if the S-G is from an industrialized country, the DS-G would be from a developing country and vice-versa. Similarly, if the S-G is a man, the DS-G should be a woman – no possibility of vice-versa till now. This double balance in UN’s two highest posts has been ignored on occasions in recent years.

I would also underscore that the new S-G should bring in a true and real 50-50 gender balance at the level of Under Secretaries-General (USGs) and Assistant Secretaries-General (ASGs). This is an action which should be clearly laid down in a transparent way within the first 100 days in office.

UN General Assembly’s 70th President Mogen Lykketoft’s praiseworthy initiative for exposure of the candidates to wider membership and civil society did not have any impact of the predominant political process in the Security Council. Doing well in a Q&A is not a shortcut to the world’s most demanding job.

I believe strongly that a most practical and feasible way to prevent such Security Council’s choice imposition– though the UN Charter envisages as such– the General Assembly should decide to also hold straw polls on all candidates the way Council does to send a signal about how the majority of UN membership is expressing their choice. This can be done informally like the SC straw polls but made public and transmitted to the Council.

This will at least tell the world how the UN membership as a whole is assessing the candidates and hopefully will have an impact on the Council’s choice. All this can be done without amending the Charter or disrespecting any of its provisions.

Like any leader of an organization, the UN leader’s success or absence of it depends on his team. That is another area I belief needs a total overhaul in UN. It is long overdue. As in case of any new corporate CEO, each time the UN’s Chief Administrative Officer – that is how the S-G is described in the UN Charter – gets elected or reelected, interested quarters wonder whether he will introduce any new guidelines on senior appointments, and will he be subject to pressure from the big powers — as it happened with his predecessors?.

In that context, it is strongly felt that the UN’s so-called political appointments at ASG and USG levels should be more transparent and open. The pressures from Member States and personal favoritism have made the UN Charter objective of “securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity” (article 101.3) almost impossible to achieve.

It is also to be kept in mind that for his (yes, still it is “his”) own appointment, the incoming Secretary-General makes all kinds of deals – political, organizational, personnel and others. And those are to be honored during first years in office. That then spills over for the second occasion when he starts believing that a second term is his right, as we have seen in recent years.

The tradition of all senior management staff submitting their resignations is only notional and window-dressing. The new Secretary-General knows full well that there is a good number of such staff who will continue to remain under the new leadership as they are backed strongly by influential governments. In the process, merit and effectiveness suffer.

It is a pity that the UN system is full of appointments made under intense political pressure by Member States individually or as a group. Another aspect of this is the practice of identifying some USG posts for P-5 and big contributors to the UN budget.

What makes this worse is that individuals to these posts are nominated by their governments, thereby violating article 100 of the UN Charter which says that “In the performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization.”

The reality in the Secretariat does not reflect the Charter objectives – I believe it never did. One way to avoid that would be to stop nomination and lobbying – formally or informally – for staff appointments giving the S-G some flexibility to select senior personnel based on “competence and integrity”. Of course, one can point out inadequacies and possible pitfalls of this idea. But, there the leadership of the S-G will determine how he can make effective use of such flexibility being made available to him.

A very negative influence on the recruitment process at the UN, not to speak of senior appointments, has been the pressure of donors – both traditional and new ones – to secure appointments of staff and consultants, mostly through extra-budgetary resources and other funding supports. This has serious implications for the goals and objectives as well as political mission and direction of the UN in its activities.

No Secretary-General would be willing or be supported by the rest of the UN system to undertake any drastic reform of the recruitment process for both the senior management or at other levels. Also, at the end, he has to face the Member States in the General Assembly to get their nod for his reforms.

Yes, opposition will be there, both from within his own Secretariat and from influential Member States, but the determination and effectiveness of leadership of the new S-G will be tested in having the courage to push a drastic overhaul of the appointments and recruitments practice within the UN system as a whole.

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