Interpress News Service

The Perils of Irregular Migration: From Migrant to Migrants

14 August 2017 - 11:15am

Migrants Charles, Fleur-Kafè, Marcel and Oumou reflect not only the difficulties and challenges they faced during their journeys, but also what they perceive their future to be back in their hometowns. Credit: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
ROME, Aug 14 2017 (IOM)

Migrants are increasingly becoming communication agents, revealing their own stories, fears, hopes and dreams. The testimonies below are part of the Aware Migrants information campaign, implemented by IOM, the UN Migration Agency and funded by the Italian Ministry of Interior with the aim of helping potential migrants in making informed decisions by warning them about the real dangers of the journey along the main routes from East and West Africa across the desert and the Mediterranean. 

In the campaign’s latest short documentaries, migrants Charles, Fleur-Kafè, Marcel and Oumou reflect not only the difficulties and challenges they faced during their journeys, but also what they perceive their future to be back in their hometowns. They have very clear messages for prospective migrants who are thinking of undertaking the perilous journey to Europe.

Their testimonies raise questions about migrants’ vulnerabilities along the route, as described by Marcel and Fleur-Kafè, but also about their perceptions of their own identity.

“I am going back to an unknown land, my own country,”says Oumou with a bright smile on her face.

Charles is convinced that he should bring back to his own community the know-how and the experience of life he gained while away from his country.

Watch here

 

 

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New Tool Separates Wheat from Chaff for Climate-Smart Ag Finance

14 August 2017 - 9:40am

Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand

By Desmond Brown
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad , Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand. 

CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation.

Trinidadian scientist Steve Maximay says his new Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides a certification and auditing scheme that can be used to compare projects, processes and products to justify the applicability and quantum of climate change funding.

“C-SAC provides a step-by-step, checklist style guide that a trained person can use to determine how closely the project or process under review satisfies the five areas of compliance,” Maximay told IPS.

“This method literally forces the examiner to consider key aspects or goals of climate-smart agriculture. These aspects (categories) are resource conservation; energy use; safety; biodiversity support; and greenhouse gas reduction.

“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture . . . all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers,” he said.

Climate-smart agriculture

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) describes climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces or removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.

The climate-smart agriculture concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness. It aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.

While the concept is still evolving, many of the practices that make up CSA already exist worldwide and are used by farmers to cope with various production risks.

 

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Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?

14 August 2017 - 8:39am

The solar farm in Arribeños, a locality in the province of Buenos Aires, which began to inject 500 Kw into the Argentinian power grid in August. Credit: Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energy

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents.

Renewable sources of energy today make up an insignificant proportion of Argentina’s energy mix. But under a law passed in 2015, with the consensus of all political sectors, this scenario is to be reverted in the next few years.“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources.” -- Javier Cao

The objective is not only based on commitments of turning to clean sources of energy undertaken by Argentina within the framework of global agreements to combat climate change, but also on the need, imposed by the economy, to expand and diversify the energy mix.

For years, Argentina has been spending a fortune to import fossil fuels, although the amount has decreased, from seven billion dollars in 2014 to less than three billion dollars last year.

However, that did not happen due to increased productivity or a diversification of local sources, but because of a fall in international oil prices.

“Fossil fuels form an absurdly large portion of our energy mix. We have to change that,” Daniel Redondo, the government’s secretary of strategic energy planning, acknowledged in July in front of an auditorium of experts.

“We are going to live up to the law on renewable energies, which stipulates that 20 per cent of our energy should come from clean source by 2025,” he added.

According to official data, Argentina’s primary energy supply is based on 51 per cent natural gas and 33 per cent oil.

With respect to power generation, thermal plants which use fossil fuels cover 64 per cent of the supply, while 30 per cent comes from hydroelectric plants. The country’s three nuclear plants provide four per cent of the total.

Since 2016, the government has signed 59 contracts with private investors to develop renewable energy projects around the country. These initiatives, which should begin functioning next year, involve an overall investment of about four billion dollars, according to the Energy Ministry.

These projects will jointly add 2,423 megawatts (MW) to the energy supply, which the state has assumed the commitment to buy and incorporate into the national grid, which currently has some 30,000 MW of installed capacity.

China, a decisive player in the energy sector

Besides these projects, which form part of the government’s RenovAr Programme, the governor of the northern province of Jujuy, Gerardo Morales, announced that he signed a contract with the Power China company for the construction and financing of a 300-MW solar farm in the Salar de Cauchari, some 4,000 metres above sea level.

The contract was signed during President Mauricio Macri’s visit to China in May, when Morales was part of the official delegation. According to the governor, it will be “the biggest solar farm in Latin America.”

President Mauricio Macri signs contracts for renewable energy projects, together with members of his administration and representatives of the Buenos Aires city government. Credit: Argentine Presidency

During the visit, China consolidated its role as a key player in the renewal of the power industry in Argentina. In Beijing, an agreement was reached for the Asian giant to finance 85 per cent of the construction of two nuclear plants, with an investment of 14 billion dollars.

Before the visit, they had agreed for China to finance the construction of two hydroelectric plants in Argentina’s southern region of Patagonia, at a cost of nearly five billion dollars. But the two mega-projects are still on hold by a Supreme Court order, in response to a complaint filed by environmental organisations.

The government is keen on solving this situation, as the Chinese investors have threatened to apply a “cross-default” clause and block their investments in other projects.

Energy Ministry officials reiterate in every public forum in which they participate that the goal is for 20,000 MW of power to be added to the electric grid by 2025, and for half of this to come from renewable sources.

To finance this, the government created the Fund for the Development of Renewable Energies (Foder), which was endowed with 800 million dollars from the state, in addition to another 480 million approved by the World Bank to finance the projects.

The ones that are already underway are mainly wind and solar power projects, since Argentina has favourable conditions for the former in the windy southern region of Patagonia, and for the latter in the high plateaus of northwestern Argentina, where solar radiation is intense.

There are also small-scale hydroelectric and biogas projects.

“This is the first time that Argentina is really moving forward in the development of renewable energies. Today we have what we used to lack: financing,” said Javier Cao, an expert in renewable energies for the economic consulting firm Abeceb.

“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources,” he told IPS.

Will the third time be the charm?

Argentina’s dream of developing renewable energies is not new, but up to now all the efforts made had failed.

The first law that declared renewables a matter of “national interest” was passed by Congress in 1998. But the financial incentives created by that law were destroyed by the late 2001 economic and political crisis that led to the resignation of President Fernando de la Rúa.

In 2006 a second law was enacted, which set a target: eight per cent of the electric power consumed was to come from renewable sources by 2016. But once again, it failed, due to problems with financing.

The third, which will hopefully be the charm, was passed in 2015, with votes from lawmakers who backed then president Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) as well as members of the opposition, in a rare example of consensus.

This law created tax and customs incentives for investors and included among renewable sources hydroelectric dams up to 50 MW of capacity, in contrast to the ceiling of 30 MW set by the previous law.

In addition, it established the obligation to reach the target of eight per cent renewable energies in the electric grid by Dec. 31, 2017 – a deadline that will not be reached. However, the government hopes to meet the target by 2019.

The government does hope to reach the second target set by the law, on time: 20 per cent renewables by 2025.

“One of the challenges in this respect is decentralising production,” said Marcelo Álvarez, president of the Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energies, which represents companies in the sector.

Towards that end, Congress is expected to pass a new power distribution law this year, which will allow users who generate renewable power to sell their surplus to the grid, which would be a real innovation in Argentina.

“We already have achieved a unified text for the bill in the Energy Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, with the participation of technical advisers from all the parties and technicians from the executive branch,” said Juan Carlos Villalonga, a former Greenpeace environmental activist who is now a lawmaker for the governing alliance Cambiemos.

“The take-off of renewable energies will be one of the legacies of this government,” said Villalonga.

Within the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed by 196 member states in December 2015, Argentina committed itself to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent before 2030, a level criticised as low, but to which this country would add another 15 per cent if it receives special funds.

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Yemen: African Migrants Beaten, Starved, Sexually Violated by Criminal Groups

14 August 2017 - 4:11am

Map of the Horn of Africa. Source: United Nations, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Cartographic Section. Public Domain

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

African migrants who arrive on Yemen’s shores –that’s if they are not forced into the sea to drown—risk to fall in the hands of criminal networks who hold them captive for several days to extort money in exchange for their “freedom,” according to UN sources.

During captivity, the migrants are “horribly treated – beaten, starved, sexually violated, chained to the ground” so they are willing to pay, confirmed to IPS Chissey Mueller, from the International Organization for Migration’s Mission in Yemen.

The released migrants might go to IOM, or other organisations for help, or they might continue their migratory journey at the risk of being abducted and held captive again, informed Mueller, IOM’s Migrants Assistance and Protection Unit in Yemen.

“It truly is a terrible ordeal: crossing the sea is only part of the dangerous journey that the migrants are embarking on,” said Mueller. IOM provides humanitarian assistance, such as medical assistance, food, water, and non-food items, to the most vulnerable migrants.

The smugglers that sail  boats between the Horn of Africa profit easily because the distance is short (5 hours or less between Somalia and Shabwa), and the demand is high, said Mueller.

“In addition to the smugglers operating boats, there are smugglers and criminal networks in Yemen who facilitate the movement of migrants between the governorates and into Saudi Arabia.”

And for those who want to return to their home country, the UN specialised body tries to evacuate them by coordinating with the authorities in Yemen and the country of origin for safe passage, she added.

IOM staff assist Somali, Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Dumped” in the Sea

Informing from Aden, Yemen, IOM on 10 August said that up to 180 migrants were reported to have been forced that day from a boat by smugglers off the coast of Yemen. Five bodies had been recovered so far and around 50 were reported missing.

This tragic incident came barely 24 hours after smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea resulting in the drowning of over 50 migrants. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf region via war-torn Yemen.

According to IOM, a total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing. See: Smugglers Throw Hundreds of African Migrants OffBoats Headed to Yemen.

“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM Yemen Chief of Mission.

“It truly is a terrible ordeal: crossing the sea is only part of the dangerous journey that the migrants are embarking on”
“They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers on the false hope of a better future,” de Boeck added.

Migration Between Horn of Africa and Yemen, Not New

Migration of Africans to Yemen is not new. In fact, Mueller said to IPS that the migration trends between the Horn of Africa and Yemen are centuries old, and facilitated by the geographical proximity.

In 2014, there were an estimated 270,000 Somali refugees and several hundred thousand Ethiopian migrants in Yemen, she informed, adding that while the Somalis had sought refuge in Yemen, the Ethiopian migrants for the most part were focused on economic opportunities, either in Yemen or in Saudi Arabia.

‘There are large populations of Somalis along the southern and western coastal villages of Yemen, with significant communities in Aden and in Sana’a.  When the conflict engulfed Aden 2015 for three months, there was a mass exodus of the city.”

Somalis fled the area, and many of them headed east towards the Port of Mukallah, and eventually took boats to Somalia, said Mueller.  The Ethiopian migrants seemed to head north into Yemen, trying to avoid the conflict hotspots, with the intention of reaching Saudi Arabia.

Several Thousands Stranded in Yemen

Several thousand Ethiopian migrants have subsequently found themselves stranded in Yemen, trapped by the conflict’s frontlines, she added.

“Once the conflict in Aden ended by July/August 2015, and began to diminish in the southern part of the country, people – Yemenis and Somalis returned to their communities in Yemen. By the end of 2015, it was thought the Somali refugee community in Yemen still numbered 250,000, according to UNHCR estimates. “

According to Mueller, in 2016, despite the conflict’s continuation, but probably because it had begun to concentrate in the Taiz enclave, Hajjah, Sa’adah, etc., the number of Somali refugees and Ethiopian migrants estimated to have come to Yemen was over 117,000, according to the UN Refugee agency UNHCR.

Many More than 2,000 Migrants per Month

“IOM thinks that the trend of Ethiopian migrants coming to Yemen in 2017, most likely to transit through to Saudi Arabia, is still strong.”

For the first six months of 2017, we encountered almost 2,000 migrants per month when our mobile teams would patrol the coastal roads in Lahj and Shabwa, said Mueller, adding that is just two governorates that we cover, and we are just one agency.

“So imagine how many migrants are landing along other parts of Yemen’s coastal areas, where we are not present.  This is why we think that this year’s estimates of new arrivals are similar to last year’s trends. “

“Recently, smugglers have been pushing migrants out of the boats, fearing that the security forces might arrest them. This is what happened the past two days in Shabwa,” said Lina Koussa, IOM’s Emergency Response Officer in Aden.

Violently Forced into the Sea

Reporting from Aden, Yemen, IOM on 10 August informed that 160 Ethiopian migrants had been violently forced into the sea off Yemen’s coast in the morning of that day.

This tragic incident came one day after the presumed death of 50 Ethiopian and Somali migrants during a similar incident, the UN migration organisation informed, adding that as with yesterday (9 August), this tragedy took place off the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea – although in a different location and closer to the shore.

Every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives on this life-threatening route towards the Gulf countries through Yemen, a country in crisis. The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous for migrants, IOM said.

“The psychological effect these experiences have on children can be enormous. This is why IOM has psychologists embedded in their patrolling teams on Yemen’s beaches. The deadly actions of the smugglers today bring the total number of presumed dead over the last two days close to 70. “

IOM is has information on 114 dead or missing in 2017 off the coast of Yemen (Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea in route to Yemen) and 109 in 2016. “The actual total is likely to be higher.”

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One in 10 Displaced Syrians Returned Home

14 August 2017 - 3:07am

IOM distributes hygiene kits in Damas, Syria last May 2017. File photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

This year alone, between January and July, 602,759 displaced Syrians returned home, according to reports from the UN Migration Agency and implementing partners on the ground. Around 6 million Syrians currently remain displaced within their own country.

Findings indicate that the vast majority of  people returning (84 per cent) had been displaced within Syria, the Geneva-based UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported.

The next highest number of people (16 per cent) returned from Turkey, followed by Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, it added. Those from Turkey and Jordan reportedly returned mainly to Aleppo and Al Hasakeh Governorates.

An estimated 27 per cent of the returnees stated that they did so to protect their assets or properties and 25 per cent referred to the improved economic situation in their area of origin.

Other factors people gave IOM and partners as their reasons for returning included the worsening economic situation in the place where they were seeking refuge (14 per cent), social or cultural issues such as tribal links, political affiliations or any obstacle preventing integration in their area of displacement (11 per cent), and the improvement of the security situation in their area of return (11 per cent).

Aleppo, Main Destination of Returnees

Half of all returnees in 2016 were to Aleppo Governorate, said IOM.

The report shows that similar trends have been observed in 2017. Consequently, an estimated 67 per cent of the returnees returned to Aleppo Governorate (405,420 individuals), 27,620 to Idleb Governorate, and 75,209 to Hama Governorate, 45,300 to Ar-Raqqa Governorate, 21,346 to Rural Damascus and 27,861 to other governorates.

Within the Governorates mentioned, Aleppo city, received the most returnees, followed by Al Bab sub-district in Aleppo Governorate, Hama sub-district in Hama Governorate, Menbij sub-district in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate, and Al-Khafsa sub-district also in Aleppo Governorate, the UN specialised body reported.

According to reports, almost all (97 per cent) returned to their own house, 1.8 per cent are living with hosts, 1.4 per cent in abandoned houses, 0.14 per cent in informal settlements and 0.03 per cent in rented accommodation.

The city of Zabadani in Syria taken last June 2017 during an IOM assessment. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Access to Food, Household Items

Access of returnees to food and household items is 83 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. Access to water (41 per cent) and health services (39 per cent) is dangerously low as the country’s infrastructure has been extremely damaged by the conflict.

The report indicates that an increasing number of Syrians displaced within the country appear to be returning home, informed IOM, adding that the total figure by end of July this year was already close to the 685,662 returnees identified in the whole of 2016.

However, of those returnees, an estimated 20,752 and 21,045 were displaced again in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This means that around 10 per cent of those who returned ended up as internally displaced persons (IDPs) once again.

Six Million Displaced Within Syria

While trends of returnees increase, Syria continues to witness high rates of displacement. From January to July 2017, an estimated 808,661 people were displaced; many for the second or third time, and over 6 million in total currently remain displaced within the country. This makes up to 1 in 3 inhabitants.

The figure is particularly relevant in view of the fact that the Syrian population is estimated to be slightly more than 21 million, i.e. one in three Syrians are still displaced.

IDP returns have mainly been spontaneous but not necessarily voluntary, safe or sustainable. As such, they cannot, at present, be considered within the context of a durable solutions framework.

These data have been collected by IOM’s implementing partners, who use a set of tools and methods to identify, assess and monitor different population categories throughout Syria, in relation to needs and mobility dynamics at a community level.

According to IOM’s Progressive Resolution of Displacement Situations, the number and scale of crises are forcing record numbers of people to flee their homes seeking relative safety within or across international borders.

“However, the growing complexity and unpredictability of these crises is resulting in increasingly protracted displacement situations which challenge the versatility of the three traditional durable solutions – voluntary return and sustainable reintegration, sustainable settlement elsewhere and sustainable local integration.”

Over 4.5 Million Syrians in Hard-to-Reach Areas

According to the United Nations Refugee agency UNHCR’s estimates, there are 6.3 million internally displaced persons in Syria, while 4.53 million people are in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.

UNHCR reported that over 5 million people have fled Syria since 2011, seeking safety in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and beyond. Millions more are displaced inside Syria and, as war continues, hope is fading fast.

It also estimates that 13.5 million people are in humanitarian need in Syria.

 

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Women Build Rural Infrastructure in Bangladesh

13 August 2017 - 7:45am

Women laborers engage in a development project in Bangladesh. Credit: LGED

By Shahiduzzaman
DHAKA, Aug 13 2017 (IPS)

Breaking all the social barriers and taboos, poor women in Bangladesh are now engaged in rural development works across the country as labourers.

The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh initiated the move in the early 1980s, a time when a section of the so-called local elite and influential people stood in their way to move forward.

The engineers of LGED walked a long way to make this happen. They brought the working women under a platform named ‘Labour Contracting Society’ or ‘LCS’. Most of the LCS members are poor women from local communities. The LGED in cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have been successful in formally shaping the LCS concept.

IFAD as an important development partner of Bangladesh, working with the government for the last four decades and supporting the country in alleviating poverty and strengthening the rural economy.

The participation of women in the LCS for rural development is on the rise and they are replacing formal business contractors who have no accountability once the work is done.

The LGED has laid out eligibility criteria for the LCS members, particularly for the women living within a 2-km radius of the work station to include those who are unemployed, divorced or separated from their husbands, widows, destitute, with physically challenged person/s in their families, those who do not have more than 0.5 acres of land, including the homestead, and who are adults and physically fit to take on construction work. There are also men in LCS but their numbers are insignificant.

These poor women have proven that they can build rural roads and markets, and maintain them in the long run better than the private contractors. They also own their own work as their community asset, which can never be expected from the business contractors.

IFAD is promoting the active participation of LCS members in most of their projects in the country, the Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP) being one of them. LGED considers CCRIP as a ‘Silver Bullet’ for eradicating rural poverty and unemployment.

CCRIP Project Director AKM Lutfur Rahman said apart from engineering aspects of infrastructure development, they consider its social aspects, too. “So, we call it ‘Social Engineering’, in a broader sense ‘engineering for poverty alleviation, education, irrigation, agriculture, women empowerment and tree plantation and so on’.”

LGED and IFAD are planning to further strengthen the LCS and diversify their effective involvement in the projects. As part of this, both the organisations recently supported a study conducted by Professor Sharmind Neelormi of the Economics Department of Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh, on the LCS.

The study found that the concept of a ‘Labour Contracting Society’ is a proven successful formula for reaching out to the target groups and implementation of their work. Higher quality of work coupled with an increase in daily labour income and skill development form a strong base for further strengthening and expansion of this model.

Earlier this month, Professor Neelormi presented the key findings of the study at an LGED seminar in Dhaka. She put forward a set of recommendations to further improve the LCS. The key recommendations include ensuring gender-friendly working environment in project areas; revising the wage structure in the schedule considering seasonality, location-specific requirements and inflation adjustment; exercising the practice of ‘Force Majeure’ as contractual agreement; ensuring life and injury insurance during road maintenance and market construction works; and ensuring the use of retro-reflective vests.

LGED’s engineers and IFAD staff from its project areas, experts and representatives from other partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP), German KFW, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), and the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP)actively participated in the seminar.

Almost all the participants agreed with the study findings and the recommendations. Professor Sharmind drew attention of the project planners to the review some issues of LCS such as revising the wage structure to consider seasonality, location-specific requirements and inflation adjustment; and harmonisation of the daily wage rate and policy for profit-sharing across projects.

She said, “living in uncertain realities, no overnight change can be expected. Issues need to be challenged from the institution itself. It might not be possible for a local project implementing agency to ensure the safeguard.”

Jona Goswami of BMP said it is encouraging for rural women that job opportunities are created for them. She emphasised safety and security of female LCS members, saying they often become victims of violence, harassment and abuse either in their own houses or in workplaces. “So, the project authorities must ensure a gender-friendly working environment and they should be flexible about their personal issues,” Goswami said.

In an interview, Professor Md Shamsul Hoque of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) commended the initiative, saying, “It has proved through all projects that the LCS approach of constructing minor infrastructure has not only increased the income of the poor women and men but also enhanced their technical and management skills. The concept of LCS can now easily be embraced in the country’s other development programmes as well as other developing nations.”

Akond Md. Rafiqul Islam, General Manager of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, commenting on the income sustainability of LCS members, said LGED can include more partner organisations (POs) of PKSF in the projects.

The POs are helping select the LCS members and provide financial services to them, which is an important tool for the members’ income sustainability, he said. “After receiving training, many LCS members have now turned into micro entrepreneurs and they are doing well.”

PKSF is an apex development organisation for sustainable poverty reduction through employment generation.
Rafiqul Islam suggested building up an effective linkage between LCS and POs for supporting the LCS members’ income-generating activities and building them as sustainable micro-entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Professor Hoque said different ministries and non-governmental organisations are now engaging LCS in different titles in their development activities. Some of them are the Bangladesh Water Development Board, Department of Forest, Department of Disaster Management, Department of Agricultural Extension, Cash for Work Program, World Food Program (WFP), CARE Bangladesh, BRAC and Oxfam International.

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Promise or Peril? Africa’s 830 Million Young People by 2050

11 August 2017 - 10:10am

Refugees land at Lampedusa island in Italy. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By John Dramani Mahama and Siddharth Chatterjee
ACCRA, Ghana / NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 2017 (IPS)

Last month, Spanish charity workers rescued 167 migrants arriving from Africa aboard a small boat.

2016 was the deadliest for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, with at least 3800 deaths recorded. Most know the dangers they face on the route, yet still choose the possibility of death in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels over the hopelessness of life in areas they reside.

John Dramani Mahama

Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed.

A report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees released this month claims that seven in ten of those heading for Europe are not refugees fleeing war or persecution, but economic migrants in search of better lives.

12 August 2017, is International Youth Day.

Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050. Whether this spells promise or peril depends on how the continent manages its “youth bulge”.

According to the World Bank, 40% of people who join rebel movements are motivated by lack of economic opportunity. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted, “The frustration generated in young people that have no hope in the future is a major source of insecurity in today’s world. And it is essential that when Governments plan their economic activities, when the international community develops forms of cooperation, they put youth employment, youth skills at the centre of all priorities…”

Some estimates indicate that more than half a million Africans migrated to European Union countries between 2013 and 2016, adding to the millions flowing in from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghnistan and parts of Asia.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Many of Africa’s young people remain trapped in poverty that is reflected in multiple dimensions, blighted by poor education, access to quality health care, malnutrition and lack of job opportunities.

For many young people–and especially girls– the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services is depriving them of their rights and the ability to make decisions about their bodies and plan their families. This is adversely affecting their education and employment opportunities.

According to UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report for 2016, gender inequalities cost sub-Saharan Africa US$ 95 billion annually in lost revenue. Women’s empowerment and gender equality needs to be at the top of national development plans.

Between 10 and 12 million people join the African labour force each year, yet the continent creates only 3.7 million jobs annually. Without urgent and sustained, the spectre of a migration crisis looms that no wall, navy or coastguard can hope to stop.

10 to 12 million young people join the African labour force each year, yet the continent creates only 3.7 million jobs annually. Credit: Adapted from “Promulgation,” courtesy of flickr user ActionPixs (Maruko). Kenya

“The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe, but in a prosperous Africa”, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has said.

Africa’s population is expected to reach around 2.3 billion by 2050. The accompanying increase in its working age population creates a window of opportunity, which if properly harnessed, can translate into higher growth and yield a demographic dividend.

In the wake of the Second World War, the Marshall Plan helped to rebuild shattered European economies in the interests of growth and stability. We need a plan of similar ambition that places youth employment in Africa at the centre of development.

For example, one sector that Africa must prioritise is agribusiness, whose potential is almost limitless. Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa Region has said, “We cannot overstate the importance of agriculture to Africa’s determination to maintain and boost its high growth rates, create more jobs, significantly reduce poverty….”. The World Bank says African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth US $1 trillion by 2030.

The demographic dividend wheels: Adapted from African Union Commission.

Agriculture can help people overcome poor health and malnutrition. Given the importance of agriculture for the livelihoods of the rural poor, agricultural growth has the potential to greatly reduce poverty – a key contributor to poor health and undernutrition.

In the meantime, the aging demographic in many Western and Asian Tiger economies means increasing demand for skilled labour from regions with younger populations. It also means larger markets for economies seeking to benefit from the growth of a rapidly expanding African middle class. Consumer spending in Africa is projected to reach US $1.4 trillion in the next three years and business-to-business spending to reach $3.5 trillion in the next eight years.

Whether the future of Africa is promising or perilous will depend on how the continent and the international community moves from stated intent to urgent action and must give special priority to those SDGs that will give the continent a competitive edge through its youth.

The core SDGs of ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education all have particular resonance with the challenge of empowering youth and making them effective economic citizens.

As we mark International Youth Day, there is hope. Many young people in Africa are taking charge of their futures. There is a rising tide of entrepreneurship sweeping across Africa spanning technology, IT, innovation, small and medium enterprises. They are creating jobs for themselves and their communities.

The African Development Bank is working on creating 25 million jobs and equipping at least 50 million youth to realize their full economic potential by 2025.

The African Union established the theme for 2017 as “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth.” This will determine Africa’s enormous promise to realise its economic and social potential as well as reap a demographic dividend (video).

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Smugglers Throw Hundreds of African Migrants Off Boats Headed to Yemen

11 August 2017 - 9:33am

IOM staff assists Somali and Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. Credit: UN Migration Agency (IOM)

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 11 2017 (IPS)

A total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing, the United Nations migration agency has reported.

“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the Yemen Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,” de Boeck added. “There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again.” – IOM chief.

According to IOM, up to 180 migrants were reportedly thrown into the sea from a boat today by the smugglers. Five bodies have been recovered so far, and around 50 are reported missing.

This latest incident comes barely 24 hours after smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea, resulting in the drowning of around 50 migrants, said IOM. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

Shallow Graves

Shortly after 11 August’s tragedy, IOM staff found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa, during a routine patrol. The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions. The approximate average age of the passengers on the boat was 16.

“The UN Secretary-General is heart-broken by this continuing tragedy,” his Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at the daily briefing in New York.

“This is why he continues to stress that the international community must give priority to preventing and resolving a variety of situations which both generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger,” he added, underscoring the need to increase legal pathways for regular migration and offer credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection.

30,000 Under the Age of 18

Since January of this year, IOM estimates that around 55,000 migrants left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen, most with the aim of trying to find better opportunities in the Gulf countries.

More than 30,000 of those migrants are under the age of 18 from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female, according to the UN specialised body.

IOM staff tend to the remains of a deceased migrant on a beach in Yemen. Credit: UN Migration

“This journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean. Smugglers are active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants.”

IOM and its partners operate across the region to support these migrants and provide lifesaving assistance to those who find themselves abused or stranded along the route.

Forced into the Sea

Meantime, IOM reported that 160 Ethiopian migrants were violently forced into the sea off Yemen’s coast on 8 August morning.

This comes one day after the presumed death of 50 Ethiopian and Somali migrants during a similar incident, it adds.
“As with 9 August, this tragedy took place off the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea – although in a different location and closer to the shore.”

Staff from the UN migration agency found six bodies on the beach –two male and four female. An additional 13 Ethiopian migrants are still missing (unaccounted for).

IOM on 10 August provided emergency medical assistance to 57 migrants. The UN agency also provided food, water and other emergency relief assistance to the surviving migrants. 84 migrants (in addition to the 57) left the beach.

The UN migration agency has also reported that every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives on this life-threatening route towards the Gulf countries through Yemen, a country in crisis.

“The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous for migrants. The psychological effect these experiences have on children can be enormous.”

This is why IOM has embedded psychologists embedded in their patrolling teams on Yemen’s beaches.

“The deadly actions of the smugglers on 10 August bring the total number of presumed dead over the last two day close to 70. IOM is aware of 114 dead or missing in 2017 off the coast of Yemen (Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea en route to Yemen) and 109 in 2016. The actual total is likely to be higher.

Brutally Treated

Survivors from both incidents described their journey with the smugglers to IOM:

“Throughout the journey, migrants had been brutally treated by the smugglers. They were forced to squat down for the entirety of the trip from Ambah Shore in Somalia, which sometimes takes between 24-36 hours, so that the smugglers could increase the number of people in the boat…

“… The migrants were not allowed to move inside the boat. They were not allowed a private or separate space to use the bathroom and had to urinate on themselves…

“… In some cases, the smugglers tied their hands so if something did happen, they would not be able to run or swim or save their lives. If one of the migrants accidentally moved, he would be beaten or even killed…

“…The migrants were not allowed to take enough food or water on the journey to fulfil their basic needs. They were only allowed to take one to two litres of water and one small meal. They also faced many dangerous during the journey in the windy season.”

Migrant survivors from other smuggling journeys have told IOM that usually smuggler networks coordinate when migrants arrive in Yemen so that they would have a pick up location.

“Some migrants who are able to pay extra money are taken by car to unknown destinations. Others, who do not have money, walk for long distances, without knowing where they are headed.

Pushed Out of the Boats

Recently, smugglers have been pushing migrants out of the boats, fearing that the security forces might arrest them. This is what happened the past two days in Shabowa, said Lina Koussa, IOM’s Emergency Response Officer in Aden.

“We condemn the acts of smugglers off the coast of Yemen – 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants were forced from a boat yesterday, and another 160 today, the death toll is still unknown,” said William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General.

“The utter disregard for human life by these smugglers, and all human smugglers worldwide, is nothing less than immoral. What is a teenager’s life worth? On this route to the Gulf countries, it can be as little as 100 USD, “ said IOM chief.

Something Wrong in This World

“There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again.”

It should never have happened in the first place, he added.

“We should not have to wait for tragedies like these to show us that international cooperation must be enhanced to fight human smuggling – not just through policy but through real action along these smuggling routes.”

This is a busy and extremely dangerous smuggling route. Yemen is suffering one of today’s most dire humanitarian crises, said William Lacy Swing.

Countries experiencing conflict or crisis like Yemen need greater support to reinforce law enforcement and humanitarian border management with the aim of protecting vulnerable migrants like these 16-year-old kids, he said.

“My thoughts are with their families and loved ones in Ethiopia and Somalia. I am making a promise to them that IOM will not forget them and will continue to fight to protect the rights and dignity of future generations of migrants,” concluded Swing.

120 Somali and Ethiopians, Forced into the Pitching Sea

IOM on 9 August reported from Aden that early that morning, a human smuggler, in charge of the boat, forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the pitching sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

Shortly after the tragedy, staff from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa, during a routine patrol.

The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions. IOM is working closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure appropriate care for the deceased migrants’ remains.

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Conservation Agriculture Sprouts in Cuban Fields

10 August 2017 - 2:21pm

Onay Martínez holds a sugar-apple on his farm, Tierra Brava, in western Cuba, where he practices conservation agriculture and has turned this sustainable system that minimally disturbs the soil into a model in his country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
LOS PALACIOS, Cuba, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

At the entrance, the Tierra Brava farm looks like any other family farm in the rural municipality of Los Palacios, in the westernmost province of Cuba. But as you drive in, you see that the traditional furrows are not there, and that freshly cut grass covers the soil.

“For more than five years we’ve been practicing conservation agriculture (CA),” Onay Martínez, who works 22 hectares of state-owned land, told IPS.

He was referring to a specific kind of agroecology which, besides not using chemicals, diversifies species on farms and preserves the soil using plant coverage and no plowing.

“In Cuba, this system is hardly practiced,” lamented the farmer, who is cited as an example by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of integral and spontaneous application of CA, which Cuban authorities began to include in their policies in 2016.

This fruit tree orchard in the province of Pinar del Río, worked by four farmhands, is the only example of CA reported at the moment, and symbolises the step that Cuba’s well-developed agroecological movement is ready to take towards this sustainable system of farming. The Agriculture Ministry already has a programme to extend it on a large scale.

FAO defines CA as “an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. CA is characterised by three linked principles, namely: Continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance; Permanent organic soil cover; Diversification of crop species grown in sequences and/or associations.”

Because of the small number of farms using the technique, there are no estimates yet of the amount of land in Cuba that use the basic technique of no-till farming, which is currently expanding in the Americas and other parts of the world.

CA, which uses small machinery such as no-till planters, has spread over 180 million hectares worldwide. Latin America accounts for 45 per cent of the total, the United States and Canada 42 per cent, Australia 10 per cent, and countries in Europe, Africa and Asia 3.6 per cent.

The world leaders in the adoption of this conservationist system are South America: Brazil, where it is used on 50 per cent of farmland, and Argentina and Paraguay, with 60 per cent each.

And Argentina and Brazil, the two agro-exporter powers in the region, are aiming to extend it to 85 per cent of cultivated lands in less than a decade.

Sheep are raised for meat on the Tierra Brava farm, which also produces fruit, expensive and scarce in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“In conservation agriculture we found the basis for development because it allowed us to achieve goals in adverse conditions,” said Martínez, a computer specialist who discovered CA when in 2009 he and his brother started to study how to reactivate lands that had been idle for 25 years and were covered by weeds.

A worker operates a kind of mower characteristic of this type of agriculture to clear the paths in Tierra Brava, which has no electricity or irrigation system. The cut grass is thrown in the same direction to facilitate the creation of organic compost.

“There are places on the farm, such as the plantation of soursop (Annona muricata), where you walk and you feel a soft step in the ground,” Martínez said, citing an example of the recovery of the land achieved thanks to the fact that “no tilling is used and the soil coverage is not removed.”

Focused on the production of expensive and scarce fruit in Cuba, the farm in 2016 produced 87 tons, mainly of mangos, avocados and guavas, in addition to 2.7 tons of sheep meat and 600 kilos of rabbit.

Now they are building a dam to practice aquaculture and are starting to sell soursop, a fruit nearly missing in local markets.

Mandarin orange, canistel (Pouteria campechiana), coconut, tamarind, cashew, West Indian cherry (Malpighia emarginata), mamey apple (Mammea americana), plum, cherry, sugar apple (Annona squamosa), cherimoya (Annona cherimola) and papaya are some of the other fruit trees growing on the family farm, until now for self-consumption, diversification or small-scale, experimental production.

An assortment of fruit grown on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Río. In the cooperative of which it forms part, farmers aspire to build a processing plant to sell “healthy fruit” to tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Rotating crops is hard and requires a lot of training and precision, but CA is also special because it allows you time to be with your family,” said Martínez, referring to another of the benefits also mentioned by specialists.

FAO’s representative in Cuba, German agronomist Theodor Friedrich, is one of the staunch advocates of CA around the world, based on years of research.

“Agroecology, as it was understood in Cuba in the past, has excluded the aspect of healthy soil and its biodiversity,” he told IPS in an interview. “Now the government recognises that the move towards Conservation Agriculture fills in the gaps of the past, in order to achieve true agroecology.”

Friedrich said that in this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million people, CA is new, but “several pilot projects have been carried out, and there is evidence that it works.”

In October 2016, Cuba laid out a roadmap to implement CA around the country, after an international consultation supported by FAO. And in July a special group was set up within the Agriculture Ministry to promote CA.

“CA has not been immediately adopted on a large-scale around the country,” said Friedrich. “But as of 2018, the growth of the area under CA is expected to be much faster than in countries where this system only spreads among farmers, without the coordinated support of related policies.”

A worker operates a low-impact mower, used in conservation agriculture to clear the land, on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, a municipality at the western tip of Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Good practices that improve the soil, which form the basis of this system, have been promoted in Cuba for some time now by bodies such as the Soil Institute (IS). It is even among the few environmental services supported by the state in Cuba’s stagnant economy, to combat the low fertility of the land.

According to data from the IS, only 28 per cent of Cuban soils are highly productive for agriculture. Of the rest, 50 per cent is ranked in category four of productivity, one of the lowest, due to the characteristics of the formation of the Cuban archipelago and the poor management of soil during centuries of monoculture of sugarcane.

“In this municipality, the number of farms that use organic compost to improve the soils has increased. The payment for improving the soil has been an incentive,” said Lázara Pita, coordinator of the agroecological movement in the National Association of Small Farmers of Los Palacios.

“We have rice fields, where agroecology is not used, but where they do apply good practices for soil conservation such as using rice husks as nutrients,” Pita, whose association has 2,147 small farms joined together in 15 cooperatives, an agroindustrial state company and rice processing plant, told IPS.

Standing in a wide-roofed place without walls in Tierra Brava, Pita estimated that 40 farms qualify as ecological, and another 60 could shift to clean production techniques.

With the certification of a soil expert, a farmer like Martínez can earn between 120 and 240 dollars a year for offering environmental services, such as soil improvers, the use of live barriers and organic materials. This is an attractive sum, given the average state salary of 29 dollars a month.

Cuba, which depends on millions of dollars in food imports, has 6,226,700 hectares of arable land, of which 2,733,500 are cultivated and 883,900 remain idle.

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This Is How Indigenous Peoples Help Curb Gas Emissions, End Hunger

10 August 2017 - 7:55am

Indigenous Peoples can provide answers to food insecurity and climate change challenges. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations.

Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“Constituting only 5 per cent of the world population, indigenous peoples nevertheless are vital stewards of the environment. Traditional indigenous territories encompass 22 per cent of the world’s land surface, but 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. “

According to this Rome-based UN specialised body, indigenous peoples ways of life and their livelihoods can teach us a lot about preserving natural resources, growing food in sustainable ways and living in harmony with nature.

“Mobilising the expertise that originates from this heritage and these historical legacies is important for addressing the challenges facing food and agriculture today and in the future,” it added on 9 August on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

According to FAO, here are 6 of the many ways in which Indigenous Peoples are helping the world combat climate change:

1. Their Traditional Agricultural Practices Are Resilient to Climate Change

Throughout the centuries, indigenous peoples have developed agricultural techniques that are adapted to extreme environments, like the high altitudes of the Andes, the dry grasslands of Kenya or the extreme cold of northern Canada.

These time-tested techniques, like terracing that stops soil erosion or floating gardens that make use of flooded fields, mean that they are well-suited for the increasingly intense weather events and temperature changes brought on by climate change.

2. They Conserve and Restore Forests and Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples see themselves as connected to nature and as part of the same system as the environment in which they live. Natural resources are considered shared property and are respected as such.

By protecting natural resources, like forests and rivers, many indigenous communities help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

3. Indigenous Foods Expand and Diversify Diets

The world currently relies very heavily on a small set of staple crops. Wheat, rice, potatoes and maize represent 50 per cent of daily calories consumed. With nutritious, native crops like quinoa, oca and moringa, the food systems of indigenous peoples can help the rest of humanity expand its narrow food base.

4. Indigenous Foods are Resilient to Climate Change

Because many indigenous peoples live in extreme environments, they have chosen crops that have also had to adapt.

Indigenous peoples often grow native species of crops that are better adapted to local contexts and are often more resistant to drought, altitude, flooding, or other extreme conditions.

Used more widely in farming, these crops could help build the resilience of farms now facing a changing, more extreme climate.

5. Indigenous Territories hold 80 Per Cent of the World’s Biodiversity

Preserving biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition. The genetic pool for plants and animal species is found in forests, rivers and lakes and pastures.

Living naturally sustainable lives, indigenous peoples preserve these spaces, helping to uphold the biodiversity of the plants and animals in nature.

6. Indigenous Peoples’ Lifestyles Are Locally Adapted and Respectful of Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples have adapted their lifestyles to fit into and respect their environments. In mountains, indigenous peoples’ systems preserve soil, reduce erosion, conserve water and reduce the risk of disasters.

In rangelands, indigenous pastoralist communities manage cattle grazing and cropping in sustainable ways that preserve rangeland biodiversity. In the Amazon, ecosystems improve when indigenous people inhabit them.

FAO considers indigenous peoples as “invaluable partners” in eradicating hunger and in providing solutions to climate change.

“We will never achieve long-term solutions to climate change and food security and nutrition without seeking help from and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.”

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Jordan Makes Strides Toward Inclusive Green Economy

9 August 2017 - 8:37pm

Safa Khasawneh interviews the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman. Credit: Safa Khasawneh/IPS

By Safa Khasawneh
AMMAN, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

Jordan may be one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, but it has high ambitions for inclusive green growth and sustainable development despite the fact that it lies in the heart of a region that has been long plagued with wars and other troubles, says the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman.

In a wide-ranging interview with IPS, Rijsberman stressed that Jordan has shown a strong commitment towards shifting to a green economy, and has made significant strides in the area of renewable energy.The demand for water and energy is increasing due to the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees.

Following months of intensive cooperation with GGGI, the government of Jordan – represented by the Ministry of Environment with contributions by line ministries and other stakeholders – launched its National Green Growth Plan (NGGP) in December 2016, Rijsberman said.

Highlighting GGGI’s key role in helping Jordan launch its NGGP and develop a clear vision towards green growth strategy and policy framework in line with the country’s vision 2025, Rijsberman said that his institute will also play a critical part in mobilizing funds and investments to enable green growth.

Rijsberman, who is currently visiting Amman to check on projects funded and implemented by GGGI and the German government, underscored Jordan’s accelerated steps towards preserving its natural resources, leading the country into a sustainable economy, fighting poverty and creating more jobs for young people.

Rijsberman told IPS that the NGGP, which was approved by the cabinet, lists 24 projects in six main sectors, including water, agriculture, transport, energy, waste and tourism, the most pressing of which are water and energy, two of Jordan’s most limited resources.

The demand for these two resources is increasing due to the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees, Rijsberman said, adding that the GGGI water projects take into consideration that Jordan is one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of water. According to World Bank data, the availability of water per capita stands now at 145 m3 /year but is projected to decline to 90 m3 /year by 2025.

“In terms of water, our projects in Jordan aim to preserve the country’s efficiency of water distribution system, provide clean drinking water, maximize the use of treated wastewater for agricultural and industrial purposes and prevent pollution by cleaning some of the polluted rivers,” he told IPS.

Rijsberman, who is also an expert in water issues, revealed that one of the GGGI’s important near future projects in Jordan is the “Master Plan for Cleaning and Rehabilitation of Zarqa River Basin,” a heavily polluted river located 25 kilometers east of the Jordanian capital Amman.

The GGGI also works to address Jordan’s energy challenges, Rijsberman said, adding that the Kingdom imports 97 percent of its energy needs, and its annual consumption of electricity rises by 5 percent annually.

“In the energy sector, our primary focus is on the efficiency of this resource, since Jordan has already made good progress in setting up solar energy plans, and the need lies on storing this energy,” he said.

During his visit to Jordan, Rijsberman said that he had talks with officials in the ministries of energy, environment and planning on ways to exploit solar energy for battery technology, another renewable technology that can store extra solar power for later use. This new technology, Rijsberman explained, will provide the country with the opportunity to shift to renewable energy and reduce imports of fossil fuels.

In transportation, Jordan has also made further progress by introducing eco-friendly hybrid cars with greater fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions.

In order to move to a green economy, another step in the right direction was made by the Ministry of Environment, which established a “Green Economy Directorate (unit)”, he said, adding that the GGGI is truly impressed by the full support the unit is receiving from the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Energy.

As Jordan faces new geopolitical challenges and an unprecedented influx of refugees, Rijsberman revealed that GGGI is working with government on a Country Planning Framework (CPF), which is a five-year in-country delivery strategy that identifies and operationalizes the institute’s value additions to national development targets in partner countries.

As a strategic and planning document, the CPF aims at delivering in-country development targets that are in alignment with the overarching GGGI Strategic Plan and Corporate Results Framework. It also elaborates a clear and logical assessment of development challenges and enabling conditions, identifies GGGI’s comparative advantage in country and sets priority interventions, he explained.

In Jordan, he explained, there is political will and determination to create green jobs, green businesses, a healthy environment, and secure and affordable supply of energy for all. What the country lacks is the capacity and technical skills as well as adequate financing mechanisms to encourage the private sector to implement green growth projects.

“So a big part of our job is capacity-building to come up with bankable projects that are green and sustainable, and as we know that the government can’t fund projects by itself, therefore it is very important to build partnerships between the private and public sector to reach this end,” the DG told IPS.

According to official data, four workshops were organized in 2016 to enhance capacity among green growth stakeholders in Jordan. A total of 177 participants attended these workshops in Amman, Jordan, and Abu Dhabi, and the UAE. Eighty-two percent of participants responded to surveys conducted after the workshops, indicating an improvement in their knowledge and skills as a result of their participation.

Rijsberman stressed that although Jordan has made tremendous progress in its approach, there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Despite accelerating degrees of environmental degradation and depletion of resources in the region because of wars, poverty and high unemployment, the GGGI official said he was impressed by how rapidly some Arab countries such as the UAE and Qatar are shifting towards green growth.

The concept of green growth is starting to take hold in the region, Rijsberman said, adding that there is a sustainability week held annually Abu Dhabi, the GGGI has offices in Masdar city in UAE, Jordan started implementing its National Green Growth Plan and the Arab League has requested to share this plan be with its 22 members.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization dedicated to supporting and promoting strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging economies.

Established in 2012 at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, GGGI is accelerating the transition toward a new model of economic green growth founded on principles of social inclusivity and environmental sustainability.

With the support of strong leadership and the commitment of stakeholders, the GGGI has achieved impressive growth over the last several years and now includes 27 members with operations in 25 developing countries and emerging economies.

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Leadership Failure Perpetuates Stagnation

9 August 2017 - 12:33pm

Growing income inequality in most countries before the Great Recession has only made things worse, by reducing consumer demand and household savings, and increasing credit for consumption and asset purchases. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR , Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

What kind of leadership does the world need now? US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership was undoubtedly extraordinary. His New Deal flew in the face of the contemporary economic orthodoxy, begun even before Keynes’ General Theory was published in 1936.

Roosevelt’s legacy also includes creating the United Nations in 1945, after acknowledging the failure of the League of Nations to prevent the Second World War. He also insisted on ‘inclusive multilateralism’ – which Churchill opposed, preferring a bilateral US-UK deal instead – by convening the 1944 United Nations Conference on Monetary and Financial Affairs at Bretton Woods with many developing countries and the Soviet Union.

The international financial institutions created at Bretton Woods were set up to ensure, not only international monetary and financial stability, but also the conditions for sustained growth, employment generation, post-war reconstruction and post-colonial development.

Debt bogey
In resisting painfully obvious measures, the current favourite bogey is public debt. Debt has been the pretext for the ongoing fiscal austerity in Europe, which effectively reversed earlier recovery efforts in 2009. With private sector demand weak, budgetary austerity is slowing, not accelerating recovery.

Much has been made of sovereign debt on both sides of the north Atlantic and in Japan. In fact, US debt interest payments come to only 1.4 percent of annual output, while Japan’s very high debt-GDP ratio is not considered a serious problem as its debt is largely domestically held. And, as is now well known, the major problems of European debt are due to the specific problems of different national economies integrated sub-optimally into the Eurozone.

The international community has, so far, failed to develop effective and equitable debt workout, including restructuring arrangements, despite the clearly dysfunctional and problematic international consequences of past sovereign debt crises. The failure to agree to sovereign debt workout arrangements will continue to prevent timely debt workouts when needed, thus effectively impeding recovery as well.

Meanwhile, earlier international, including US tolerance of the Argentine debt workout of a decade and a half ago had given hope of making progress on this front. However, this has now been undermined by the Macri government’s recent concession, on worse terms and conditions than previously negotiated, to ‘vulture capitalists’.

Golden cages of the mind
Most major deficits now are due to the collapse of tax revenues following the growth downturn and costly financial bailouts. Slower growth means less revenue, and a faster downward spiral. While insisting on fiscal deficit reduction, financial markets also recognize the adverse growth implications of such ‘fiscal consolidation’.

Many policymakers are now insisting on immediate actions to rectify various imbalances, pointing not only to fiscal deficits, but also to trade and bank imbalances. While these undoubtedly need to be addressed in the longer term, prioritizing them now effectively blocks stronger, sustained recovery efforts.

Recent recessionary financial crises have been caused by bursting credit and asset bubbles. Recessions have also been deliberately induced by public policy, such as the US Fed raising real interest rates from 1980. Internationally, this contributed not only to sovereign debt and fiscal crises, but also to protracted stagnation outside East Asia, including Latin America’s ‘lost decade’ and Africa’s ‘quarter century retreat’.

Yet another distraction is exaggerating the threat of inflation. Much recent inflation in many countries has been due to higher international commodity, especially fuel and food prices. Domestic deflationary policies in response only slowed growth while failing to stem imported inflation. In any case, the collapse of most commodity prices since 2014 has rendered this bogey irrelevant.

Market vs recovery
Strident recent calls for structural reforms mainly target labour markets, rather than product markets. Labour market liberalization in such circumstances not only undermines worker protections, but is also likely to diminish real incomes, aggregate demand and, hence, recovery prospects. Nevertheless, these have become today’s priorities, detracting from the urgent need to coordinate and implement strong and sustained efforts to raise and sustain growth and job creation.

Meanwhile, cuts in social and welfare spending are only making things worse – as employment and consumer demand fall further. In recent decades, profits and rents have risen at the expense of wages, but also with much more accruing to finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) compared to other sectors.

The outrageous increases in financial executive remuneration in recent years, which cannot be attributed to increased productivity by any stretch of the imagination, have exacerbated problems of financial sector short-termism. Regulations are urgently needed to limit short-termism, including the ability of corporations to reap greater profits in the short-term while worsening risk exposure in the longer term, thus exacerbating systemic macro-financial vulnerability.

Growing income inequality in most countries before the Great Recession has only made things worse, by reducing consumer demand and household savings, and increasing credit for consumption and asset purchases – instead of augmenting investments in new economic capacities and capabilities.

Reform bias
Current policy is justified in terms of ‘pro-market’ – effectively pro-cyclical – choices when counter-cyclical efforts, institutions and instruments are sorely needed instead. Unfortunately, global leadership today seems held to ransom by financial interests, and associated media, ideology and ‘oligarchs’ whose political influence enables them to secure more rents and pay less taxes in what must truly be the most vicious of circles.

John Hobson – the English liberal economist in the tradition of John Stuart Mill – noted that ‘economic imperialism’ emerged from the inherent tendency for economic power to concentrate and the related influence of oligopolistic rentiers on public policy. Selective state interventions to bail out and protect such interests nationally and internationally, while not subjecting them to regulation in the national interest, must surely remind us of the dangers of powerful, but unaccountable oligarchies in a systemically unstable market economy and politically volatile societies.

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Why New US Cold War with Russia Now

9 August 2017 - 11:54am

Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

By Vladimir Popov
MOSCOW, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

Even before the imposition of new sanctions on Russia by Donald Trump and the ongoing fuss over Russian hackers undermining US democracy, Russian-American relations had deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s. Why?

Vladimir Popov

Political ideology
After all, the US has fewer ideological disagreements with Russia than with the USSR. Russia now has a capitalist economy and is more democratic than the USSR. Russia is also much weaker than the USSR – its population and territory are about 60 to 80 percent of the Soviet Union, and its economic and military might has been considerably diminished, so it poses much less of a threat to the US than the USSR.
However, US rhetoric and actions towards Russia are much more belligerent now than during the 1970s, or in the 1980s, when the US imposed sanctions against the USSR after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. Even when President Reagan was calling the USSR ‘the evil empire’, relations did not deteriorate as much as in recent years.

Bilateral economic relations have taken a similar turn for the worse. Soviet-US trade expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, nominally increasing nearly a hundred-fold in two decades, before plateauing in the 1980s. There was some growth in the 1990s and 2000s after the USSR fell apart, but after peaking in 2011, trade has been falling.

Why did the fastest expansion of bilateral trade occur in the 1960s and 1970s? After all, the USSR was not a market economy, and also ‘communist’. By contrast, US trade growth with post-Soviet, capitalist and democratic Russia over the next two decades was modest, before actually shrinking in the last half decade.

Geopolitics?

One popular explanation is geopolitical considerations. It is argued that when a hostile power tries to expand its influence, the US, the rest of the West and hence, NATO respond strongly.

Examples cited include the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s, and sanctions against the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The same could be said about more recent Western sanctions in response to Russian advances in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Syria.

But the 1970s contradicts this argument. After all, the USSR was gaining ground at US expense in Indochina, the former Portuguese colonies, Nicaragua and other developing countries. Why then did détente and trade grow in the 1970s?

US as #1
The US position is not primarily determined by either ideology or geopolitics, but rather, by the changing US establishment view of the balance of power. After the devastation of the Second World War, the USSR was hardly a superpower, so the US expected to press the USSR, its erstwhile ally, into submission through the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union began closing the gap with the United States in terms of productivity, per capita income and military strength in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though its economy slowed from the mid-1960s, the USSR had caught up in many respects, enough to qualify as the other superpower. The result was détente. Although the USSR had been offering rapprochement after the Second World War, the US only accepted detente in the 1970s, as the military gap closed.

Today, the US establishment knows that the Russian economy have fallen far behind since the 1980s while its military is getting more obsolete. The strategic conclusion appears to be that Russia can be contained via direct pressure and sanctions, something unthinkable against the communist USSR in the 1970s or China today, even though China is less democratic than Russia and still led by a communist party.

Playing with fire
Economically and militarily, Russia is undoubtedly relatively much weaker today than the USSR was. But its capacity has recovered considerably in the new century from the 1990s, with modest growth reversing the economic devastation of the Yeltsin presidency.

And even if it is true that the US is now an unchallenged ‘number one’, and will remain dominant in the foreseeable future, while Russia is not only weak, but also getting relatively weaker, the current effort of pressing Russia into submission has risks.

US pressure on Russia can result in a stand-off comparable to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which the USSR was willing to risk at that time, even though its military capability was well behind that of the US. Eventually, not only were Soviet missiles withdrawn from Cuba, a return to the status quo ante, but the US also promised not only not to invade Cuba, but also to withdraw its medium range missiles from Turkey.

True, Russia is relatively weaker today, but it still has tremendous destructive capacity. One only has to remember that North Korea, with much less military capacity, has successfully withstood US pressure for decades. However, as US economic dominance in the world has been eroding since the Second World War, and its military superiority is the main source of US advantage, the temptation will remain to use this superiority before it is eroded as well.

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Donald Trump & Kim Jong-Un Need To Find A Diplomatic Off-Ramp

9 August 2017 - 3:40am

Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream – flickr.com

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

WASHINGTON DC, 9 August 2017 (IPS) — Just six months into the administration of President Donald Trump, the war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea have escalated, and a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis is more difficult than ever to achieve.

Both leaders need to immediately work to descalate the situation and direct their diplomats to engage in an adult conversation designed to resolve tensions

On Jan. 1, North Korea’s authoritarian ruler Kim Jong Un vowed to “continue to build up” his country’s nuclear forces “as long as the United States and its vassal forces keep on [sic] nuclear threat and blackmail.” Kim also warned that North Korea was making preparations to flight-test a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Two days later, Trump could not resist laying down a “red line” on Twitter, saying, “It won’t happen.”

Pyongyang has responded to the U.S. statements and military exercises on North Korea’s doorstep with its own, even more bellicose rhetoric. Following press reports that a U.S. carrier strike group was being sent toward the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations warned April 17 that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that his country is “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the United States.”

After an inter-agency review, Trump and his team announced a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” to try to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program. So far, the approach has been all “pressure” and no “engagement,” with U.S. officials calling for North Korea to agree to take concrete steps to show its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

In response, North Korean has accelerated its pace of ballistic missile tests, including flight tests of missiles in July with ICBM capabilities. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Aug. 5 the toughest UN Security Council sanctions yet imposed on North Korea. The Korean Central News Agency lashed out Aug. 8, warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation in response to the UN actions.

Trump, in turn, said Tuesday “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Trump’s attempt to play the role of nuclear “madman” is as dangerous, foolish, and counterproductive as North Korea’s frequent hyperbolic threats against the United States.

Trump’s latest statement is a blatant threat of nuclear force that will not compel Kim to shift course. In fact, repeated threats of U.S. military force only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and it may lead Kim to try to accelerate his nuclear program.

That should not come as a surprise. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, U.S. “atomic diplomacy” has consistently failed to achieve results. The historical record shows that U.S. nuclear threats during the Korean War and later against China and the Soviet Union, as well as Nixon’s “madman” strategy against North Vietnam, failed to bend adversaries to U.S. goals.

With respect to North Korea in particular, the threat of pre-emptive U.S. military action is not credible, in large part because the risks are extremely high.

North Korea has the capacity to devastate the metropolis of Seoul, with its 10 million inhabitants, by launching a massive artillery barrage and hundreds of conventionally armed, short-range ballistic missiles. Moreover, if hostilities begin, there is the prospect that North Korea could use some of its remaining nuclear weapons, which could kill millions in South Korea and Japan.

U.S. intelligence sources believe North Korea has already developed a warhead design small enough and light enough for delivery by an ICBM. North Korea’s may have a supply of fissile material for up to 25 nuclear weapons, but its fissile production capacity is likely growing and it may be ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion, which would further advance ability to develop a reliable missile-deliverable warhead.

Trump and his advisers need to curb the impulse to threaten military action, which only increases the risk of catastrophic miscalculation. A saner and more effective approach is to work with China to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important. Such measures can help increase the leverage necessary for a diplomatic solution. But it is naive that sanctions pressure and bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack can force North Korea to change course.

Unless there is a diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

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IOM Responds as Rainy Season Threatens Further Spread of Cholera in South Sudan

8 August 2017 - 11:34am

Children fetch water from a repaired borehole in Bentiu town. Credit: Ashley McLaughlin / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

By PRESS RELEASE
JUBA, South Sudan, Aug 8 2017 (IOM)

As the rainy season progresses in South Sudan, rapid responses are critical to stemming the cholera outbreak that has affected the country for over a year. The outbreak has compounded already dire humanitarian needs. Approximately four million people have been displaced by the conflict that erupted in December 2013.

Since 18 June 2016, over 18,000 cholera cases – including 328 deaths – have been reported in South Sudan. IOM health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) teams continue to respond to the outbreak through case management and preventive measures across the country.

Disease outbreaks are particularly dangerous for displaced and vulnerable populations, such as children under five years of age, who account for more than one in five cholera cases reported in 2017.

Many locations experiencing outbreaks are in proximity to the Nile River, increasing the impact of the rainy season on the cholera outbreak and threat of spreading further.

“In a country with mass displacement and severe levels of food insecurity, the effect of the continued cholera outbreak on the health of vulnerable populations is acute,” explained Dr. Beldina Gikundi, IOM South Sudan Migration Health Emergency Officer. “As we saw the outbreak continue even during the dry season in 2017, we expect to see the trend persist throughout the rainy season, which leaves as much as 60 per cent of the country inaccessible by road. Sustained and flexible responses are crucial to stemming the continued transmission of the disease in this extremely challenging context.”

An IOM WASH team has been on the ground in Kapoeta, Eastern Equatoria, since May to help stem the outbreak that began in April, with more than 4,200 cases reported.

To date, the team has repaired 84 boreholes, distributed cholera response kits—including jerry cans, water treatment supplies and soap—to more than 2,600 households, as well as conducted water quality monitoring and treatment at water points and distributed soap and household water treatment supplies during hygiene promotion sessions.

Since the outbreak began, IOM teams have been deployed to cholera-affected areas across the country. Teams continue to conduct hygiene promotion, core relief item distribution and borehole repairs in Bentiu and Rubkona towns, and Wau town and surrounding areas, as well as in UN protection of civilian sites across the country.

IOM health teams – in collaboration with partners, the UN World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health – are conducting oral cholera vaccination (OCV) campaigns across the country, recently reaching more than 39,900 people in parts of Jonglei and Unity in an effort to reduce the number of cholera cases in outbreak areas.

IOM is currently on the ground in Warrap, preparing to lead an upcoming OCV campaign targeting more than 189,000 people in Tonj East County.

Through the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) Rapid Response Fund (RRF), managed by IOM, partners have been deployed on 14 missions to respond to and promote prevention of cholera cases since the outbreak began in 2016. Seven RRF partners are currently on the ground in three states to provide health and WASH assistance to cholera-affected communities.

IOM conducts multi-sector humanitarian responses across South Sudan, where over 7.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The scale of needs is unprecedented, with approximately one in three South Sudanese displaced from their homes today, compared to 1 in 12 during the first year of the crisis.

For more information, please contact Ashley McLaughlin at IOM South Sudan, Tel: +211 912 379 793, Email: amclaughlin@iom.int

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Why Breastfeeding Is One of the “Smartest Investments” for All Countries

8 August 2017 - 3:08am

May 18, 2017. A combined group of South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans take part in a class about breast feeding. Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement, Adjumani District. Conflict and famine in South Sudan have led to an exodus of refugees into Uganda. Credit: JAMES OATWAY/UNICEF

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 8 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released new findings on the economic gains—besides the obvious health benefits—of breastfeeding.

Hailing the practice as an investment that ought to be supported by governments, the UN estimates that 4.70 dollars can push up rates of breastfeeding to 50 percent by 2025. Currently, only 23 countries can claim a rate above 60 percent. Overall, only 40 percent of children less than six months old are exclusively breastfed today.

In the world’s largest emerging economies—China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria—236,000 children die each year from a lack of investment in breastfeeding. Together, the countries lose more than 119 billion dollars annually.

A healthier workforce, nurtured from the very beginning of childhood, can add to a prosperous economy. Breastfeeding ensures ammunition against deadly diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, which are two major causes of death among infants. Similarly, it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer among mothers.

“We need to bring more understanding to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding—the baby should be fed with mother’s milk within the first hour of being born. Unfortunately, for many social and cultural reasons, this is not put to diligent practice. This is a sheer missed opportunity,” France Begin, a Senior Nutrition Adviser for Infant & Young Child Nutrition at UNICEF, told IPS.

The obvious benefits of breastfeeding, such as providing nutrition and bolstering development of the brain, are well known. Still, it is commonly mistaken as a woman’s job alone.

“Countries like Nepal and Kenya have done a wonderful job with policies to protect lactating mothers. In Kenya for example, all workplaces in the private sector have a room dedicated to mothers who have to breastfeed their children. In a way, this is our message too—you have to support women, and can’t simple leave it up to them,” said Begin. Indeed, providing lactation education classes and better paid maternity leave can go a long way.

Across all income levels, breastfeeding adds to an increase in intelligence, measured by a 3-point Intelligence Quotient (IQ) increase on average. Better academic performances, ensured by strong educational opportunities and programs, can lead to a better life for all members of the family.

“If you don’t make a strong commitment, it is a sheer drain to the child’s life, the families, and in the end, the economy,” resounded Begin.

This is why the report has deemed the practice as a “smart investment.” As the rate of breastfeeding remains stagnant in over two decades, it has become imperative to rally support and raise awareness. The UN has stepped up to do so by observing World Breastfeeding Week from August 1 until August 7.

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One Earth: Why the World Needs Indigenous Communities to Steward Their Lands

7 August 2017 - 6:41pm

An ethnic matriarch in India's biodiversity-rich Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. She is a repository of traditional knowledge on plants both for food and medicinal properties. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
BHUBANESWAR, India, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

“Showing them a picture-book crow, I intone ‘kaak’ in Bengali, the State language. While others repeat in chorus, the tribal Santhali first-graders respond with a blank look. They know the crow only as ‘koyo’. They’ll happily roll out glass marbles to count but ask them how many they counted, they remain silent because in their mother tongue, one is mit, two is bariah – very different sounding from the Bengali ek and du.”

Teacher Ramakrushna Bhadra faced a formidable challenge at the rural Hatrasulganj Santhal primary school in India’s eastern West Bengal state, until he decided to learn the tribal language himself.Out of 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, India holds as many as 700 different ethnic groups, adding up to 104 million people.

For Santhals, the largest tribal community in West Bengal, Bengali is a foreign tongue. Hence at school, the new entrants learnt nothing, lost interest, dropped out of classes and joined their parents in seasonal migration. Generational illiteracy has only perpetuated the poverty cycle.

India even passed a law declaring education as a constitutional right for all children 6 to 14 years old, and to reduce the drop-out rate of ethnic minorities, it provided for mother-tongue primary education and set up free residential schools in tribal pockets.

With a precarious demographic total of around 8,000, and a female literacy rate of 3 percent, the Dongria Kondh tribal community in neighbouring Odisha state has an exclusive girls-only free residential school in Rayagada district set up by the government in 2008. While enrolling and retaining the girls demands continued effort, teachers say older girls who have been in the school for some years have now distanced themselves from their roots, viewing their unique traditional costume and hair-dress as embarrassing.

Retaining unique indigenous cultures, their traditional knowledge systems and sustainable management of natural resources, even while aiding them to access, choose and prioritize from the development pathway so that they are not left behind, has been a challenge for governments around the world.

Out of 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, India holds as many as 700 different ethnic groups, adding up to 104 million.

Central to this challenge and offering the closest solution is granting their right to customary land and the resources within it.

Their ancestral land and natural resources have a fundamental importance in their livelihood, ways and of life, culture and religion and, in fact, in their collective physical and cultural survival as communities.

One of the Indian tribes least in contact with the outside world, the Bonda community’s remote settlements are part of the left-wing extremists Red Corridor, where government education, health and sanitation schemes have had little impact. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

The government has several specific programmes for indigenous communities such as in education, livelihoods, quotas in educational institutions and jobs, and food security at huge funding expense, whose aim has been to bridge the conspicuous economic gap between them and the mainstream population.

“Poor implementation of existing schemes in the tribal regions has meant that not only poverty

continues at exceptionally high levels in these regions, but the decline in poverty has been much slower here than in the entire country,” according to an earlier national report by the Planning Commission, now Niti Aayog.

Discrimination, official apathy, and insensitivity to tribal ways of life, rampant corruption, denial of justice and human dignity, and political marginalization has led to entrenchment of left-wing extremism is several tribal regions in India.

In India, most of the indigenous groups live in deep natural forests that sit atop rich deposits of iron, bauxite, chromites, coal and other minerals. The government and corporate miners want to get their hands on as much of this as possible.

But the Indian Constitution has given powers of self-governance and autonomy to tribal communities over their habitat, where the village council holds the last word in decisions, even over government’s, on the use of its resources, specifically in the context of the Forests Rights Act 2006 and the Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.

Still, this power of the village council has been subverted time and again by government agencies and corporate, as numerous studies and reports have established.

Lack of clear recognition and protection of indigenous people’s land rights and natural resources especially forests, is today the root cause of conflict and unrest around a majority of infrastructure and mining projects, resulting in time over run, aborted project with losses running into billions of dollars.

While the ethnic groups have become somewhat more aware, India’s apex court has been keenly monitoring their land and forest rights implementation. This has made a tremendous difference in the last decade. The issue continues to be on the boil as civil society organizations, both local and international keep the debate open and protest ongoing.

Until the 2011 census, more than half of the total indigenous population in India had left home to live in urban areas, completely alien to their nature-loving lives and livelihoods. Poverty, project-related displacement and loss of livelihoods from denied access to land and forests are the main causes for migration.

In Kadaraguma village high in the hills of Rayagada, 66-year-old Kone Wadaka is looking for an heiress to pass on her confidential wealth of medicinal knowledge in forest plants. The oral knowledge of generations was passed down from her father, a tribal healer of a Dongria Kondh clan. Accompanying him as a teenager for days before the sun was up, Wadaka learnt to identify leaves and roots that could prevent conception, alleviate fits and seizures, heal wounds, and subdue pain. Herself unmarried, a young girl she had set her mind on to relay the family knowledge has moved on to school.

As the forest moves further away from their villages, and trees are cut, to be replaced by commercial timber plantations, Wadaka is afraid if she does not find someone suitable soon, the invaluable knowledge might die with her. It saddens her that her people will lose something that was theirs for generations.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development, whose key larger goal remains building inclusive societies, seeks to empowerment of indigenous people through secure tenure rights to land, parity in education and vocational training, doubling of small-holding agricultural productivity and income and encourages States to include indigenous leaders in subsequent reviews of country progress towards the goals.

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A Hostage to Parliament, Temer Sacrifices Indigenous Rights to Save Himself

7 August 2017 - 6:19pm

Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Brazilians now have new reasons to yearn for and at the same time fear the parliamentary system of government. It facilitates quick solutions to political crises such as the one that is currently affecting the country, but it also further empowers reactionary forces and has led to backsliding on gains such as indigenous rights.

In a country with a presidential system of government, the “semi-parliamentarism” which many people, including President Michel Temer, identify in the current administration, is working against indigenous people and other sectors that have little say in parliament.

“The national Congress forms part of a conservative system, a ‘democracy’ which never took indigenous representation into account,” lamented Marcos Terena, coordinator of the World Indigenous Nations Games, also known as the Indigenous Olympics, and a veteran activist of the Terena people, who live in west-central Brazil.

Native people are suffering an offensive against their rights, which has intensified since Temer took office.

Temer, who went from vice-president to president in May 2016 after the impeachment and removal of Dilma Rousseff, who was elected in 2014 and accused of fiscal fraud, totally depends on mainly conservative parliamentary groups.

This dependence started with how he rose to power, because a two-thirds majority in both houses was required to remove Rousseff. But it has been heightened since May 17, when the scandal broke out that made Temer the country’s first sitting head of state to be formally charged with a crime.

A conversation recorded by Joseley Batista, owner of JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, was the basis for a formal accusation of corruption against Temer by the federal prosecution office.

On Aug. 2, the lower house of Congress rejected a corruption charge against Temer for alleged bribe-taking, which saved him from a possible Supreme Court trial might have removed him from office. But the federal prosecution office is preparing new charges of obstruction of justice and activity in a criminal organization, drawing out the parliamentary and judicial battle for the current presidency, which ends on Jan. 1, 2019.

To ensure the backing of the ruralist parliamentary group, which according to their website has 214 representatives and 24 senators – 40 per cent of parliament – Temer is granting its members a number of benefits and the approval of legal measures, to the detriment of native peoples, the environment and fiscal austerity.

Headed by large landowners, cattle ranchers and producers of grains for export markets, this bloc sees indigenous lands, whose demarcation is ensured by the 1988 constitution, as an obstacle to the expansion of agriculture.

According to the last census, there were 896,917 indigenous people in Brazil in 2010, or 0.47 per cent of the population of 190.7 million at the time. But they occupy more than 13 per cent of the national territory, which the powerful ruralist caucus considers excessive.

A constitutional amendment that would submit the demarcation of indigenous lands to approval by Congress is one of the ruralist bloc’s proposals, which would likely prevent the creation of new protected areas to ensure the physical and cultural survival of native peoples.

Submitted in the year 2000, the initiative has been shelved until now. “I think that even the ruralists themselves recognise that the conditions for it to be passed do not exist,” said Marcio Santilli, founder of the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), the non-governmental organisation that has the largest database on indigenous people in the country.

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A constitutional amendment requires approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, which has become more difficult to obtain with a governing coalition weakened by accusations of corruption, not only against Temer, but also against his chief ministers and parliamentary leaders.

“The biggest threat, more than a risk, is the time frame, a concept with which they want to limit the entire public administration,” on the indigenous issue, Santilli told IPS.

This time frame is October 1988, when the constitution was approved. The rights of indigenous peoples were to be limited to the area occupied at that time, according to an interpretation by the Supreme Court, when it ruled in 2009 on the demarcation of the Raposa Sierra do Sol indigenous reserve, in the state of Roraima, in the far north of Brazil.

The ruralist caucus wants this to be the general criteria followed. Up to now what have been demarcated are “lands traditionally occupied” by indigenous people, as stated in the constitution. Anthropological studies are carried out identify the territory to be demarcated, in a process carried out by the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), which answers to the executive branch.

The Attorney General’s office, which advises the executive branch, pronounced itself in favour of the validity of the time framework, “extending the threat” to prevent new demarcations, said Santilli, who presided Funai in the 1990s.

According to data from ISA, Brazil has 480 indigenous lands already approved, but there are still 72 declared and 44 identified which are still pending demarcation, in addition to other 108 in process of identification, the initial phase of the process.

There is a huge lag, because the constitution established that all the areas were to be demarcated within a five-year period – in other words, by 1993.

A time frame makes no sense in “a country that was 100 per cent indigenous” when, in 1500, “the native people encountered the unknown world of the ‘coloniser’ which caused the extermination of thousands of natives and their communities, generating a national debt which cannot be subject to a moratorium,” Terena told IPS.

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Besides, the offensive against indigenous rights and lands has brought violent conflicts. From 2003 to 2015, 891 indigenous people were murdered in Brazil, an annual average of 68, according to the latest report by the Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council. The violence has intensified in recent years, with 137 murders in 2014 and 138 in 2015.

The current context encourages “anti-indigenous groups to promote proposals that range from changes to the sacred national constitution to attempts to block a budget capable of addressing indigenous demands,” Terena asserted.

Another ruralist threat is to close down Funai, the government body which implements indigenous policies and has suffered constant budget cuts that curtail its functions, such as the anthropological studies and the defence of demarcated territories.

The loosening of measures against mining and the construction of roads, hydroelectric plants and power transmission lines on indigenous lands are other means of pressure exercised by the ruralists and by companies that seek to “break down or weaken” indigenous peoples’ exclusive rights to use their lands, said Santilli.

“There is an ‘anything goes’ mentality, against an absurd backdrop of weakness of the president, accused of corruption and with only five per cent approval in opinion polls,” who is incapable of defending the diluted rights of the minorities and the environment against the private interests of legislators, he lamented.

The ruralist caucus reflects a distortions in parliamentary representation. Landowners make up a small sector of the population with disproportionate political power, in contrast to the millions of small-scale farmers, who are practically absent in Congress.

The economical clout of the former and the electoral rules, which assign a larger proportion of legislators to small states in Brazil’s hinterland with rural economies than to the most urbanised states, go a long way to explaining the power of the conservatives, said Santilli.

Weakened, Temer is distributing “prizes, incentives, public posts and advantages, paying the price for being saved, but when the money is finished, there will be an exodus,” predicted Antonio Queiroz, head of the Inter-Union Department of Parliamentary Advisory, which supplements the legislative work in Brasilia.

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Can the Gender Gap Be Measured in Dollars Only?

7 August 2017 - 12:13pm

FAO Gender and Climate Change Programme. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Until a decade or so ago, experts and world organisations measured the impact of natural and man-made disasters in terms of human losses. For instance, they would inform about the number –and suffering—of human beings falling victims of extraordinary floods, droughts, heat or cold waves, and armed conflicts. This is not the case anymore.

Now the measurements are made in terms of money, i.e., how much losses in terms of money a disaster can cause to world economy–more specifically to Gross Domestic Product. In other words, human suffering is now being calculated in terms of dollars. This way, the traditional human welfare related question “how are you today?” might gradually become “how much are you worth today?”

This trend to “monetising” instead of “humanising” shockingly applies also to what can be considered as the major social and human drama the world has been facing all along its known history—the gender gap.

True that every now and then reports remind about women representing more than 50 per cent of all human beings; that they are the human “life-givers”; the guardians of family and nature and the engine of social coherence, let alone their essential contribution to feeding the world. Indigenous women, for instance, are the key protectors of world’s biodiversity. See: Indigenous Peoples Lands Guard 80 Per Cent of World’s Biodiversity.

90 Per Cent of Agricultural Workers; 10 Per Cent of Land Holders

Here, the facts speak by themselves: globally, women make up 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force.

Young girls and women collecting water from a water spring situated in a cabbage field owned by a local woman farmer and FAO-EU Project beneficiary in Ethiopia. Credit: FAO

In many poor countries, more than 95 per cent of all economically active women work in agriculture. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, women hold 10 per cent of the credit available to smallholder agriculture, they add.

Similarly, female farmers receive only 5 per cent of all agricultural extension services, and only 15 per cent of agricultural extension officers are women.

These facts, which have been cited among others by the United Nations Convention toCombat Desertification (UNCCD), also indicate that closing the gender gap could create 240 million jobs by 2025 and add US 12 trillion dollars to annual global growth (GDP), according to a report by McKinsey and Company.

Other major UN specialised bodies, like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have systematically been highlighting the essential contribution of women.

Rural women and girls are key agents of change to free the world from hunger and extreme poverty, said FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva at a special side-event on gender equality and women’s empowerment on the occasion of the 40th Session of the FAO Conference (Rome, 3-8 July 2017).

“Their role goes beyond agricultural production and extends throughout the food system but, as we all know, rural women continue to face multiple constraints,” he said, noting that they have less access to productive resources and employment opportunities.

Graziano da Silva also stressed that women are more affected by the consequences of conflicts and crises.

“During a drought situation, for example, a greater workload is placed on women. In Africa and Latin America, women can spend many hours a day searching for water in times of drought and then need to walk many kilometres carrying a bucket of water on their head,” he said.

In Ghana, the stability of a woman’s marriage and good relations with male relatives are critical factors in maintaining her land rights. Credit: FAO


In spite of this, women worldwide continue to be victims of flagrant inequalities. See: “It Will Take 170 Years for Women to Be Paid as Men Are

World Conference in China

The need to accelerate women’s empowerment in fighting droughts and desertification will be on the table of the UNCCD’s 13 Conference of the Parties (COP 13), that’s the signatories to the Convention, scheduled to take place in Ordos, China, 6–16 September 2017

The Bonn-based UNCCD secretariat’s note “Gender, Drought, and Sand and Dust Storms,” states that structural inequalities embedded in the social, political, economic and cultural institutions, norms and practices limit women’s agency, undermining effective implementation of the Convention.

“A focused and systematic approach to bridge the gender inequalities linked to women’s land use and management, it adds, can improve the livelihoods of women and girls and their families and the conditions of the ecosystems that supply these needs, and enhance their resilience to drought.”

Their increasing exposure to extreme weather events –drought, unpredictable rainfall–accentuates their vulnerability, and compels them to take ever-greater risks to meet their needs, UNCCD underlines.

Women in Land-Dependent Communities

“Women in land-dependent communities affected by the impacts of land degradation and desertification require special attention in order for them to access the resources they need to provide for their households and make communities resilient and stable.”

According to the Convention, the Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality states that the drivers of land degradation are not gender neutral. It stresses that poverty is both a root cause and a consequence of land degradation, with gender inequality playing a significant role in the process, worsening the impacts on women.

On this, the UNCCD Science Policy Interface recommends integrating gender considerations into implementation of the Convention, including through Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) planning and implementation, decision-making, stakeholder engagement and the preliminary assessments for LDN.

“Evidence shows that gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s full and equal participation and leadership in the economy are vital in achieving sustainable development, and significantly enhance economic growth and productivity.”

Women are not just percentages nor can they be quantified merely in terms of dollars.

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World Still Lagging on Indigenous Rights 10 Years After Historic Declaration, UN Experts Warn

7 August 2017 - 10:43am

Women from Nepal's indigenous tribe. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Albert K. Barume and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
GENEVA / NEW YORK, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

The world’s indigenous peoples still face huge challenges a decade after the adoption of an historic declaration on their rights, a group of United Nations experts and specialist bodies has warned. Speaking ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, the group says States must put words into action to end discrimination, exclusion and lack of protection illustrated by the worsening murder rate of human rights defenders.

The joint statement from the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples reads as follows:

“It is now 10 years since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly, as the most comprehensive international human rights instrument for indigenous peoples. The Declaration, which took more than 20 years to negotiate, stands today as a beacon of progress, a framework for reconciliation and a benchmark of rights.

But a decade on, we need to acknowledge the vast challenges that remain. In too many cases, indigenous peoples are now facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did 10 years ago.

Indigenous peoples still suffer from racism, discrimination, and unequal access to basic services including healthcare and education. Where statistical data is available, it shows clearly that they are left behind on all fronts, facing disproportionately higher levels of poverty, lower life expectancy and worse educational outcomes.

Indigenous peoples face particularly acute challenges due to loss of their lands and rights over resources, which are pillars of their livelihoods and cultural identities.

Indigenous women face double discrimination, both as women and as indigenous peoples. They are frequently excluded from decision-making processes and land rights, and many suffer violence.

We call on all States to ensure that indigenous women fully enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Declaration and emphasize that their rights are a concern for all of us.

The worsening human rights situation of indigenous peoples across the globe is illustrated by the extreme, harsh and risky working conditions of indigenous human rights defenders.

Individuals and communities who dare to defend indigenous rights find themselves labelled as obstacles to progress, anti-development forces, and in some cases, enemies of the State or terrorists.

They even risk death. Last year alone, some sources suggest that 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries – more than double the number who died in 2014. Half of them were working to defend land, indigenous and environmental rights.

We urge States to protect indigenous human rights defenders. Crimes committed against them must be duly investigated and prosecuted, and those responsible brought to justice.

Indigenous peoples are increasingly being drawn into conflicts over their lands, resources and rights. Lasting peace requires that States, with the support of the international community, establish conflict resolution mechanisms with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples’, in particular indigenous women.

Many States still do not recognize indigenous peoples, and in particular indigenous women and youth still face a lack of official recognition and direct political participation. Even in States where laws are in place, the Declaration has not been fully implemented.

It is high time to recognize and strengthen indigenous peoples’ own forms of governance and representation, in order to establish constructive dialogue and engagement with international and national authorities, public officials and the private sector.

The minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world, as set out in the Declaration, must now be met.

These include the rights to identity, language, health, education and self-determination, alongside the duty of States to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing measures that may affect them.

The Declaration represents important shifts in both structure and the practice of global politics, and the last 10 years have seen some positive changes in the situation of indigenous peoples and greater respect for indigenous worldviews.

But we still have a long way to go before indigenous peoples have full enjoyment of their human rights as expressed in the Declaration. We call on all States to close the gap between words and action, and to act now to deliver equality and full rights for all people from indigenous backgrounds.”

The post World Still Lagging on Indigenous Rights 10 Years After Historic Declaration, UN Experts Warn appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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