Interpress News Service

UAE: Strong Partnerships Vital to Address Global Challenges

17 March 2017 - 7:03am

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates.

By Marsílea Gombata
SÃO PAULO, Mar 17 2017 (IPS)

IPS is reproducing an interview of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates with Valor Economico.

The UAE has witnessed a rapid expansion of its diplomatic relations with countries in Latin America, the South Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia as well as a consolidation and strengthening of its relations with Western countries during the tenure of Sheikh, who also launched a number of international forums, including the Sir Bani Yas Forum the Global Forum on Relationships between the Arab World, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Arab League countries dialogue with Pacific Island States. In this interview, among several issues,  he talks about building strong partnerships to address global challenges and the UAE’s commitment to invest in clean and renewable energy both at home and abroad.

Valor Econômico: This is your fourth time you are in Brazil as the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates. What is the purpose of the visit to Brazil this month?

Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan: In this increasingly globalized world, strong partnerships are vital for national prosperity, innovation, and in order to address global challenges. The UAE highly values its relationship with Brazil, and we seek to further build upon and expand the existing ties between our two friendly countries. During my visit, I am meeting/have met your President, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Industry, the Minister of Trade and Services, the Minister of Defense and the Governor of Sao Paulo, demonstrating the UAE’s commitment to strengthening ties with Brazil across the board.

VE: Today the United Arab Emirates is our second largest trading partner in Middle East after Saudi Arabia. In 15 years, bilateral trade went from US $ 300 million in 2000 to US $ 3 billion in 2015. What are the prospects for expanding these exchanges?

AAN: I am confident that the UAE and Brazil will be able to further build upon the current level of exchanges. Our two countries have a lot to offer one another, and we are in regular discussions about further expanding our trade and cooperation more generally. We share common interests and common aims, as well as friendly relations, which provide a solid foundation to further expand and broaden our bilateral cooperation.

VE: The trade balance between countries now has a Brazilian surplus of around US $ 2 billion. Does this figure bother the United Arab Emirates? Does the government think of any strategy / measure to reverse this figure?

AAN: The UAE welcomes the rapid growth in bilateral trade between the UAE and Brazil, demonstrating the excellent state of relations between our two countries. The UAE’s economy has been growing strongly over recent years and so it is not surprising that it has attracted an ever growing share of Brazilian imports. To ensure its economic dynamism in the future, the UAE has adopted ambitious plans to further diversify its economy, laid out in the UAE Vision 2021 and the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. As the UAE’s economy continues to diversify and expand in the new sectors, we expect that there will be a gradual and organic rebalancing of trade balance that will benefit both of our countries.

VE: In 2012, you were in Brazil with former Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota and expressed the interest of the United Arab Emirates to invest in the country’s oil and energy sector. Is this still on the bilateral agenda? Is there any prospect of investing in Petrobras or even in operations practically abandoned by the company, such as pre-salt exploration?

In this increasingly globalized world, strong partnerships are vital for national prosperity, innovation, and in order to address global challenges
The UAE is always reviewing investments in the oil and energy sector, and exploring potential new opportunities and partnerships. Since my visit in 2012, the underlying conditions of the oil market have changed considerably, which naturally meant that some UAE companies have been reviewing their investment decisions. Despite this, the UAE remains optimistic about the prospects of the sector as a whole and continues to seek out potential long-term partners and investment opportunities. In parallel, the UAE is also committed to making substantial investments in clean and renewable energy both domestically and overseas. Our companies continue to be interested in other investment opportunities within the energy sector, and we are open to further discussions about how Brazil can create conditions that will facilitate such investments in the future.

VE: If so, what is the size of the investment you are planning? Who will guide it: government of the United Arab Emirates or companies? Which ones?

AAN: The UAE government and UAE companies will discuss the size of any future investments and who will be leading them as they arise.

VE: Are there prospects for investment in the Brazilian military industry/ market? What are the values and products?

AAN: As with oil and energy, the UAE government and UAE companies regularly review their current and future investments in the defense sector. The UAE is pleased to be in the process of increasing its defense cooperation with Brazil, and we are engaged in ongoing discussions about how we can further collaborate in this area. We were also very happy to welcome 16 Brazilian companies to the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) held in Abu Dhabi in February of this year, which demonstrates Brazil’s growing presence in this sector and helped showcase Brazil’s advanced military industry to a wide regional audience. On the margins of Idex, Caracal, a UAE-based manufacturer of small arms, announced its intentions to set up a plant in the state of Goiás in Brazil. This will be an important step to further strengthen cooperation between the defense industries of our two countries.

VE: The ADIA fund invested alongside CIC (China) and GIC (Singapore) funds in the investor consortium that capitalized BTG Pactual with US $ 1.8 billion. Is there any prospect of investing in other businesses in the Brazilian financial sector?

AAN: The UAE is pleased that ADIA’s investment partnership with BTG Pactual has assisted in the growth of the banking and finance sector, setting the stage for other potential investments in the future. Brazil’s establishment of Islamic Banking makes investment arrangements all the more attractive, and the UAE welcomes new opportunities to cooperate in the financial sector. Sao Paulo and Dubai are both important financial hubs for our respective regions, and I am confident that we will be able to continue to create new, mutually beneficial opportunities in the financial and banking sectors.

VE: Some Sovereign Wealth Funds have shown an interest in assets linked to the infrastructure sector here, an area where the country currently has few resources. After the entry of the Mubadala, a company of the government of Abu Dhabi, in the Porte Sudeste (ex-MMX, of Eike Batista), what are the next businesses?

AAN: The UAE recognizes that there are a number of investment opportunities in the infrastructure sector in Brazil, and that Brazil’s growing economy is likely to create an even more positive investment climate. The UAE and Mubadala is always on the look-out for investment opportunities in geographic areas and sectors that have a long-term potential, and discussions over prospective investments are held with the relevant entities.

VE: The United Arab Emirates plans to send an unmanned mission to Mars in 2021 and build a city on the planet within a century. What is the size of the investments in this spatial sector today? Does it occur to diversify the economy of the country when the oil – main asset – will be over? What are the other fronts to reach that?

AAN: So far, the UAE has invested 20 billion AED into the space sector, which will support the UAE’s goals of economic diversification and help us develop advanced capabilities in the engineering and sciences. During the World Government Summit in Dubai this year, the UAE announced its ambitious 100-year national plan, which aims to establish a city on the planet Mars. To support this initiative, the UAE will develop educations programs and university studies in advanced space sciences. An Emirati scientific team will lead the process, which will eventually expand to include international scientists and researchers from around the globe.

The UAE is also continuing to build upon its petrochemical, plastics and aluminum industries, in addition to is financial services, cultural, air transport and ports sectors. This is ensuring that we are well on the way to achieving the target of generating 64 per cent of GDP from non-oil industries outlined in Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.

VE: Brazil has one of the most suitable rocket launching bases in Alcantara, in the State of Maranhão, near Ecuador line. Is there any joint project or cooperation linking the Emirates’ space expansion and the Brazilian base that is currently inactive?

Currently, the UAE’s space agency is not collaborating with Brazil over the use of launch sites in the country.

VE: To defend controversial policies, such as travel ban to immigrants from six countries, US President Donald Trump talks about protecting the US from potential terrorists. You are a supporter of joint action by the international community against terrorism. But is it all against terrorism? How far can we go?

AAN: The UAE is heavily involved in efforts to counter terrorism and extremism, given the significant threats they pose to the security and stability of the UAE, the region and the world. UAE forces have been leading the fight against Al Qaeda and other extremists in southern Yemen, where they have liberated the important port city of Mukalla last year. Amongst others, UAE forces have also participated in international anti-terror operations in Afghanistan and against Daesh in Syria and Iraq. But the UAE knows that force alone cannot win the battle against terror. This is why, we have invested heavily in tackling the root causes of terrorism, by for example hosting the Hedayah Center of Excellence for Countering Extremism and launching the Sawab Center, together with the USA to counter online radicalization and recruitment. Furthermore, the UAE has taken a leading role in the rebuilding and reconstruction of areas liberated from Daesh and other extremists.

The USA has been an important partner in the fight against terrorism worldwide and we welcome the determination of the Trump administration to tackling the challenge of extremism. With regards to the recent discussion on immigration, we acknowledge that every nation has a right to control access to its territory, and while we believe in the universal benefits of free travel and exchanges, we respect the decision of the Trump administration to take measures to protect its borders for national security reasons. We also welcome the US Government’s clarification that the ban is “not a Muslim ban”, and encourage the media to report responsibly on the issue in order to avoid fueling stereotypes that only serve the interests of extremists.

 

UN Facing Famines, Conflicts and Now U.S. Funding Cuts

17 March 2017 - 1:48am

Snow falls outside of the UN headquarters Secretariat building in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 17 2017 (IPS)

In the midst of responding to the worst humanitarian crisis since records began, the UN is now faced with potential funding cuts from its biggest donor, the United States.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump released “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” the first such budget proposal of his presidency. The blueprint’s biggest proposed cuts target the Department of State, which would lose 29 percent of its budget, and the Environment Protection Agency, which would lose 31 percent.

Although details of exactly how the proposed cuts – which still require approval of U.S. Congress – would be made, are yet to emerge, funding for the UN and the USAID which both fall under the State Department is at risk.

“If approved – and that’s a big “if” – the Whitehouse’s plans could slash several billions in UN funding,” Natalie Samarasinghe Executive Director of the United Nations Association of the UK, told IPS.

These billions of dollars of potential cuts come at a time when the United Nations is occupied responding to both acute and chronic crises around the world.

“Some 20 million people are facing famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen,” said Samarasinghe.

“The number of people forced to flee their homes is now the biggest since records began,” she said. “These are people for whom the UN is literally the difference between life and death,” she said.

“The total foreign aid of the U.S. is about one percent of the budget - not 10 or 15 percent as some people seem to think - it’s one percent.” -- Michel Gabaudan

Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International, told IPS that it is important to keep the United States contribution in perspective when assessing the potential cuts.

“The U.S. contribution is critical, it is generous it is vital but it is not unduly high compared to other countries of the western bloc – who are the main funders of humanitarian aid – and we must this contribution in perspective.”

“The total foreign aid of the U.S. is about one percent of the budget – not 10 or 15 percent as some people seem to think – it’s one percent.”

“The magnitude of the U.S. economy means that that one percent of money is critical to humanitarian relief and to development programs but if you compare this with what some European countries are doing, like Switzerland, like the Nordics, like the Dutch … they are certainly giving more in terms of dollar per capita of their citizens,” he said.

Samarasinghe also noted that the proposed cuts are “still a relatively small amount compared to, say, fossil fuel subsidies.”

She said that it would be “politically challenging for European countries to pick up the slack, especially with elections looming in a number of countries.”

As an example, said Samarasinghe, a recent appeal from the Netherlands to fund reproductive health and safe abortions has not yet reached its $600 million target. That appeal was set up after Trump re-instated the Global Gag Rule, which removes U.S. funding from non-governmental organisations that carry out any activities related to safe abortion, regardless of the funding source.

Meanwhile, Deborah Brautigam an expert on China in Africa told IPS that it is unlikely that China will increase its funding to the United Nations as the United States steps back, because China already feels “very comfortable” in its current position at the UN. This position includes a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and UN development policies, which align with China’s priorities, such as industrialisation, said Brautigam who is Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University.

Two UN agencies that receive the most funding from the United States are the World Food Program, which provides emergency food assistance, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

However Gabaudan said that both the more immediate humanitarian aid as well as long-term development assistance are needed to address the world’s crises:

“The state department funds UNHCR and USAID funds development programs which tie the humanitarian aid with longer term issues,” said Gabaudan.

“Most displacement crises are protracted, people don’t leave and get back home after a year or two,” he said, as is the case with the Syrian conflict, which just surpassed six year on March 15th.

The budget proposal also reinforces other aspects of the emerging Trump Republican administration policies, including sweeping cuts to environment programs and cuts to programs, which assist the poor in the United States.

Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations said in a statement that the cuts reflected a desire to make the United Nations more effective and efficient.

“I look forward to working with Members of Congress to craft a budget that advances U.S. interests at the UN, and I look forward to working with my UN colleagues to make the organisation more effective and efficient.”

“In many areas, the UN spends more money than it should, and in many ways it places a much larger financial burden on the United States than on other countries.”

However that financial relationship between the UN and the host of UN Headquarters is not unidirectional. According to the latest New York City UN Impact Report, the UN community contributed 3.69 billion dollars to the New York City economy in 2014.

In response to the budget blueprint Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “the Secretary-General is grateful for the support the United States has given to the United Nations over the years as the organisation’s largest financial contributor.”

“The Secretary-General is totally committed to reforming the United Nations and ensuring that it is fit for purpose and delivers results in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.”

“However, abrupt funding cuts can force the adoption of ad hoc measures that will undermine the impact of longer-term reform efforts,” said Dujarric.

Dujarric’s statement also addressed aspects of the proposed budget, which claim to address terrorism. The proposal, which significantly increases spending on the U.S. military appears to favour a “hard power” militaristic approach over a “soft power” diplomatic and humanitarian approach.

“The Secretary-General fully subscribes to the necessity to effectively combat terrorism but believes that it requires more than military spending,” said Dujarric. “There is also a need to address the underlying drivers of terrorism through continuing investments in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, countering violent extremism, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, sustainable and inclusive development, the enhancement and respect of human rights, and timely responses to humanitarian crises.”

Brazil and the UAE Determined to Explore New Bilateral Frontiers

16 March 2017 - 7:00pm

The UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (2nd-L), and his Brazilian counterpart Aloysio Nunes (3rd-R) sign agreements in Itamaraty Palace, Brazil’s foreign ministry. Credit: Doris Calderón/IPS

By Doris Calderon
BRASILIA, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, made his fifth visit to Brazil Thursday, Mar. 16, in search of new opportunities to exploit the enormous potential in relations between the two countries.

In statements to reporters in the Itamaraty Palace, the headquarters of Brazil’s foreign ministry, after a working meeting with his Brazilian counterpart Aloysio Nunes, Al Nayhan said he was “very pleased about the strengthening of ties of friendship between the two countries seen year by year.”

“There are great opportunities between the UAE and Brazil, not only in the economy and trade, but also in other sectors, like tourism. We are particularly interested in increasing the presence of Brazilian nationals in our country,” he added.

He said he was pleased that 60,000 Brazilians a year visit the UAE, making the Persian Gulf country the third destination for tourists from Latin America’s giant. “Brazil is opening up and finding new horizons in other parts of the world,” he said.

Al Nahyan, who has been foreign minister since 2006, commented that the Middle East currently finds itself in a complex moment, making it necessary to jointly take on challenges like fighting violence and terrorism.

Brazil’s foreign minister said they discussed a wide variety of questions on the regional and global agenda, as well as bilateral issues.

Nunes stressed that the latest visit by Al Nahyan, who also came to Brazil in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014, “shows the high priority that the two countries put on bilateral relations and cooperation.”

The Brazilian official was referring to the mutual interest of the private sector in the two countries in long-term projects in strategic areas like infrastructure, industry and services, and to investment in Brazil by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), considered the second-largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, worth nearly one trillion dollars.

The two ministers signed three bilateral accords during the meeting. Two of them were visa waiver agreements, and another involved the strengthening of air travel services between the two countries.

The UAE is home to the largest community of Brazilians in the Gulf: 4,500.

Al Nahyan’s agenda also included meetings with Brazilian President Michel Temer, Senate head Eunicio Oliveira, and the ministers of defence, Raul Jungmann, and industry, trade and services, Marcos Pereira.

The Emirati minister will visit Argentina on Friday Mar. 17, before returning to Brazil on Mar. 21, to participate in the inauguration of the new UAE consulate-general in São Paulo.

Relations between the two countries were formally established in 1974. The Brazilian Embassy in Abu Dhabi opened in 1978, and in 1991 the UAE opened its first embassy in Latin America, in Brasilia.

Ties grew stronger in recent years thanks to the number of visits by high-level Brazilian officials to the UAE: 31 ministers and 14 state governors since 2007, it was noted on Thursday.

The new emphasis on bilateral ties began in December 2003, with the visit to the UAE by then president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), at the head of a broad delegation of government officials and business leaders.

Ten years later, in 2013, then vice president Temer made an official visit to the Emirati cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Since 2008, the UAE haaçs become Brazil’s second-largest trading partner in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia, in terms of bilateral trade.

The UAE is currently one of the biggest Middle Eastern importers of Brazilian goods, such as chicken, refined sugar, aluminum oxides and hydroxides, and cast-iron pipes.

Brazil imports from the UAE products like sulphur and electrical control panels and distribution boards.

More than 30 Brazilian companies have offices in the UAE, a business hub which re-exports products to third countries and large markets, such as Saudi Arabia, India, Iran and Pakistan.

Bilateral trade soared from 300 million dollars in 2000 to three billion dollars in 2015.

In 2014, the two nations reached a defence accord that included the exchange of technology, cooperation in military instruction and training, weapons, crisis management, and logistical support in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

It was the first treaty of its kind signed by Brazil with a Middle Eastern country.

A new phase has now been launched in the promotion of trade and the exchange of people to make Brazil the UAE’s main ally in Latin America.

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“The Struggle Continues” for Human Right to Peace and Inclusion of Women

16 March 2017 - 4:07pm

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

UN officials and activists gathered to discuss the essential relationships between sustainable peace and gender equality during a two week-long UN meeting, begining March 13.

At a side event of the 61st session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), panelists shed light on the important role that women play in peace and development.

“Without peace, no development is possible. And without development, no peace is achievable. But without women, neither peace nor development is possible,” said Former Under-Secretary General and High Representative of the UN Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury.

Despite this, panelists noted that societies have long ignored women’s contributions.

According to an Oxfam report, women carry out up to 10 times more unpaid care work than men. This work is worth approximately $10 trillion per year, which is more than the gross domestic products (GDPs) of India, Japan and Brazil combined.

Research has also shown that almost 60 million unpaid workers are filling in the gaps caused by inadequate health services, majority of whom are women who have had to give up employment or education to carry out this role.

Chowdhury added that there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world if women had the same access to resources as men.

Panelists were particularly concerned with the lack of formal recognition of the human right to peace and the inclusion of women in this goal.

Canadian activist Douglas Roche explained the ‘human right to peace’ arose to address new “interconnected” challenges that the current human rights framework, which is based on a relationship between the State and the individual, is unable to do, including increased militarism by both State and non-State entities.

During the panel discussion, UN Independent Expert in the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order Alfred-Maurice de Zayas stated that the human right to peace also allows for the realization of the right to self-determination which is a “crucial conflict prevention strategy.”

After decades of struggling to gain consensus, the General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the Right to Peace in December. Though it was a significant accomplishment achieved largely due to a civil society initiative, many have expressed their disappointment in the document.

“The new declaration is falling far short of the expectation of civil society, many governments,” Chowdhury told IPS.

Among concerns about the declaration is its lack of reference to women which is only mentioned once in the 6 page document.

President of Hague Appeal for Peace and long time peace activist Cora Weiss criicised the document’s language, which calls for women’s “maximum participation.”

“It’s a slippery word,” she told participants, stressing the importance of “equal” inclusion of women to achieve peace.

Weiss was a national leader of the Women Strike for Peace, which organised the largest national women’s protest of the 20th century and contributed to the end of nuclear testing in the 1960s. She was also helped lead the anti-Vietnam war movement, including organising one of the largest anti-war demonstrations in 1969.

“There is no limit to the relationship between women and peace,” Weiss said.

Chowdhury, who led the initiative on Resolution 1325 calling for the increase in women’s representation in conflict management and resolution, echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “Women at the peace table is a very important element at the UN and at the Security Council to take into account. Unless they value the 50 percent of humanity positively contributing to securing peace and security, it will move nowhere.”

Despite the unanimous UN adoption of Resolution 1325, little has been done to enforce and implement it. No woman has ever been the chief or lead mediator in an UN-led peace negotiation.

Panelists also criticised the absence of language around disarmament in the Declaration.

“How are you going to make peace in a world that is awash with weapons?” Weiss asked.

According the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons still exist and are owned by just nine countries. The Arms Control Association (ACA) estimates a higher inventory of 15,500, 90 percent of which belong to Russia and the United States. Almost 2000 of these warheads are on high alert and are ready to launch within minutes, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found.

More general military spending also continues to dwarf resources provided to development activities including education.

In 2014, global military spending was approximately 1.8 trillion dollars while 26 billion dollars was provided to achieve education for all by the end of 2015.

Zayas highlighted the need to redirect resources used for war to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address other pressing socioeconomic and environmental challenges.

Chowdhury also told participants that a resolution on peace cannot and should not be adopted by vote.

“Peace is the ultimate goal of the UN,” he said.

The Declaration was approved with 131 vote for, 34 against, and with 19 abstentions, reflecting a lack of consensus on the subject.

Though he expressed fear that progress towards gender equality may be rolled back due to a reversal in trends, Chowdhury said the struggle will continue until the human right to peace is recognized and implemented.

CSW is the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights, bringing together civil society, academia, and governments. This year’s theme is women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

Willing Executioners

16 March 2017 - 4:04am

By Sobhya Agha
Mar 16 2017 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Terrorism, in one form or another, has existed for centuries. While its goals change according to the prevailing context, the basic technique ie using force to achieve political, social and religious ends has been the same throughout history, and has often included the use of suicide attackers.

Sobhya Agha

Modern suicide terrorism began in the 1980s under conditions where the coercer was the weaker actor and the target the stronger. From Hezbollah, Hamas, the Tamil Tigers and Chechnyan rebel groups to Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group, the rhetoric of major suicide terrorist groups reflects the logic of coercive punishment. This technique’s purpose is to inflict punishment and provoke fear. Triggered in part by suicide attacks elsewhere, a trend of such attacks took off in Pakistan in 2004, with waves of increased frequency.

The protracted terrorism campaign in Pakistan seems to base itself on three levels of validation: strategic, social and individual — the strategy being to induce changes in the status quo through political coercion. If terrorist groups did not believe that suicide attacks would advance their political goals, they would not carry them out. The reason behind the uptick in such attacks is that its sponsors know that the strategy pays off and is effective in achieving some political and societal changes. People belonging to minority Islamic sects and minority religions, security forces, lawyers, etc are tactically selected to maximise the damage in terms of casualties and intimidation.

Preventing suicide attacks requires shunning intolerance.

Social validation comes from terrorist groups’ ability to exist, nurture and thrive in society. Our government and society seem to tolerate their existence and recruitment efforts, and legitimise their proclamations of hate and religious purity.

The endless supply of individuals willing to give up their lives to attack innocent people provides the third validation. Religious indoctrination, weak states, hegemonic structures, inequality, poverty, and a lack of democracy and rule of law enable this supply of ‘willing executioners’.

Suicide attacks do not appear out of thin air, they require systematic efforts. Stopping this heinous act requires a multi-pronged strategy involving intelligence, security and operational measures, response and deterrence mechanisms, awareness campaigns and community involvement, and influencing the attitudes of such groups’ constituencies.

Intelligence is key, and both the federal and provincial law-enforcement agencies need to enhance their capabilities. Data collection and analysis, with support from modern technologies, is vital for eliminating terrorism’s infrastructure. Increased coordination among intelligence and law enforcement to collect, share and analyse data on terrorist threats is needed.

Even with such measures, attacks may occur, which is why the government must have effective response measures. Disaster preparedness plans and structures must be developed, and technical, mitigation and relief teams formed, to deal with rescue and evacuation. This would reduce public apprehension and panicked demands for extreme measures that may imperil democracy. Involving the community in emergency disaster preparedness would be of benefit.

Terrorism is a group endeavour and, thus, deterrence efforts should be mainly directed at groups rather than individuals. A credible threat of severe punishment that implies a group’s demise would presumably act as a deterrent, while addressing the grievances of larger population groups, to which the terrorists belong, may be effective in changing sympathies. A consistent, well-publicised de-radicalisation and rein¬-tegration plan for deserters and sym¬¬pathisers would also be invaluable.

It is imperative to gain insights into the conditions and processes leading up to terrorist atrocities to identify possible interventions to prevent/ break the cycle of retaliation. Physical security measures may prevent attacks from occurring, but they do not eliminate the ideology or the enthusiasm for it.

When we tolerate religious parties and schools censuring religious minorities, women, and progressive sections of society, and subscribe to the absence of separation between religion and state, terrorism is inevitable. Collective efforts are needed at all levels of government and society to create an environment that discourages militancy and fanaticism.

An outright rejection of sectarian religious education, and advocating for policies and laws that create a more unprejudiced and equal society, can serve as an antidote to terrorism. The syllabi taught in madressahs must be regulated. Civil society, progressive writers, academics, activists, and print and electronic media must be given support and protection to counter prevailing narratives that inspire extremism through education and awareness campaigns that promote tolerance.

The writer is adjunct faculty, Dept of Homeland Security, San Diego State University, US.
sagha@sdsu.edu
Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2017

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

Travel Restrictions Cast Shadow on UN Women’s Meeting: Rights Groups

16 March 2017 - 12:27am

A view of the General Assembly Hall during the opening meeting of the sixty-first session of the Commission on Stats of Women (CSW). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

Increasing travel restrictions have prevented delegates from attending this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to several women’s rights groups.

The travel constraints go beyond U.S. President Donald Trump’s embattled travel ban on refugees and Muslim-majority countries, which was again blocked by a Federal Judge on Wednesday.

Although the Executive Order has not been re-enacted, women’s rights groups perceive that organising internationally is becoming more difficult. They report that some potential delegates were surprised that they were unable to obtain U.S. visas for the UN meeting; others were worried about increasingly strict treatment at U.S. airports; while others were prevented from travelling by their home countries.

The annual Commission on the Status of Women is usually one of the most vibrant and diverse meetings at UN headquarters in New York with hundreds of government ministers and thousands of delegates attending from around the world.

Sanam Amin from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) told IPS that two members of the group’s delegation from from Bangladesh and Nepal, countries that “are not listed in the first or second version of (Trump’s travel) ban,” were unable to obtain visas.

“Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials,” said Amin.

Amin also said that she had “been in contact with UN Women in Bangladesh, in Bangkok (ESCAP) and in New York over the visa refusal issue,” for weeks before the meeting, trying to find a solution.

“Those who were refused were expected by us to speak or participate in our side events and meetings with partner organisations and official delegations.” The APWLD, is an NGO which has accreditation with the UN Economic and Social Chamber.

Others unable to attend the event include a youth activist from El Salvador who on Wednesday participated in a side-event she had been meant to speak at, via video. Meanwhile women’s rights activists Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman from Egypt were unable to attend because the Egyptian government has prevented them from leaving the country

"Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials," -- Sanam Amin.

Representatives from civil society having difficulties obtaining visas to travel to attend UN meetings in the United States pre-dates the current Trump-Republican Administration. The U.S. Department of State advised IPS that it could not comment on individual visa cases. However while there are many potential reasons why visas may be refused, several groups perceive travel becoming more difficult in 2017.

“It’s incredibly ominous to have women’s rights activists feel like the revised executive order and overall hate rhetoric from the Trump administration makes them feel unsafe coming to this CSW and that is what we have heard,” Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International told IPS.

“We’ve heard women’s rights activists say that they worried about how they would be treated at U.S. borders and airports. We heard LGBTI activists who were coming to this meeting also worry about their own safety.”

Both Stern and Amin expressed concern about the implications and meanings of the travel ban, even though the courts have continued to keep it on hold, because even the revised ban, specifically restricts travel for nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

“The ban text even cites violence against women – in section one – in the six countries as reason to ‘not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred’,” said Amin.

“In fact, it (would restrict) civil society from those very countries from participating in events such as CSW. Instead, their governments are emboldened to take more regressive positions on women’s human rights, and the U.S., with its Global Gag Rule among other anti-women policies, is taking its place side-by-side with the very countries it has targeted with the ban,” she said.

Stern added that the theme of this year’s CSW – the economic empowerment of women – should not be a politicised issue.

“(It) should be a non-partisan issue that every government in the world can get behind because every government has a vested interest in the eradication of poverty and national economic development and we know that women are the majority of the world’s poor and so if you empower women economically than you empower families communities and nations,” said Stern.

She emphasised the importance of the meeting as a global forum for people who are actively working for gender justice around the world to speak with governments.

At the CSW “thousands of activists for women’s rights and gender justice (speak) with every government of the world to say what struggles they have from their own governments and the kind of accountability that they expect from the international system,” says Stern.

The rights organisations sponsoring the No Borders on Gender Justice campaign include: MADRE, Just Associates (JASS), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, AWID, Urgent Action Fund, Women in Migration Network and OutRight Action International.

Caribbean Stakes Future on Climate-Smart Agriculture

15 March 2017 - 8:43pm

The massive rice industry in Guyana, which provides employment for at least 100,000 people, is just one area of the Caribbean’s agriculture sector under threat from climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

As Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries continue to build on the momentum of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech in 2016, special emphasis is being placed on agriculture as outlined in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

The historic climate agreement was approved on Dec. 12, 2015 at COP21. INDCs is the term used under the UNFCCC for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that all countries which are party to the convention were asked to publish in the lead up to the conference.Nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have experienced prolonged droughts, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

In their INDCs, the countries of CARICOM, a 15-member regional grouping, have prioritized adaptation in the agricultural sector, given the need to support food security.

They are now shifting their focus from climate planning to action and implementation. To this end, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) hosted a Caribbean Climate Smart Agriculture (CCSA) Forum here recently to raise awareness of best practices, by promoting and supporting climate change actions, while providing a space for dialogue among relevant actors and allowing them to discuss the challenges and successes of  Climate Smart Agriculture.

Climate Smart Agriculture has been identified as offering major wins for food security, adaptation and mitigation in the Caribbean.

“Agriculture is a priority sector,” Pankaj Bhatia, Deputy Director of the World Resource Institute’s Climate Programme, told participants.

As countries move forward with their plans, he recommended they participate in NDC Partnership, a global initiative to help countries achieve their national climate commitments and ensure financial and technical assistance is delivered as efficiently as possible.

“Much work still needs to be done by countries to create more detailed road maps, catalyse investment, and implement the plans to deliver on their climate commitments,” said Bhatia, who helps to manage one of the largest climate change projects of the World Resources Institute (WRI).

“It’s worth exploring the options and how the NDC Partnership can offer support,” Bhatia added. 

As of February 2017, there were approximately 40 countries involved in the NDC Partnership, as well as intergovernmental and regional organizations such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Bank, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The major pillars of the Partnership to drive ambitious climate action include sharing knowledge and information and facilitating both technical and financial support, thus encouraging increased efficiency, accountability and effectiveness of support programmes.

The Partnership develops knowledge products that fill critical information gaps and disseminates them through a knowledge sharing portal.

Another speaker, Climate Change Specialist in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Climate Change Office, John Furlow, emphasized the importance of participation from multiple sectors in the process of creating Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAPs), using Jamaica as a case study for how this was done effectively.

“In 2012, the then prime minister of Jamaica asked USAID to help Jamaica develop a national climate policy. Rather than starting with climate impacts, we wanted to start with what Jamaica defined as important to them,” Furlow explained.

“The national outcomes in the vision document listed agriculture, manufacturing, mining and quarrying, construction, creative industries, sport, information and communication technology, services and tourism.

“So, we wanted to bring in the actors responsible for those economic sectors for discussion on how they would address climate and hazard risk reduction in a national policy,” he added.

Furlow continued that the goal is to get climate change out of the environment ministry and into the ministries responsible for the sectors that are going to be affected.

This, he said, has the potential of putting developing countries in the driver’s seat in locating “multiple sources of funding – domestic, bilateral aid funding and multi-lateral aid funding” – so countries can take a role in what’s going on within their borders.

The Climate Change Policy Framework for Jamaica outlines the strategies that the country will employ in order to effectively respond to the impacts and challenges of climate change, through measures which are appropriate for varying scales and magnitudes of climate change impacts.

It states that relevant sectors will be required to develop or update, as appropriate, plans addressing climate change adaptation and/or mitigation.

Within the Policy Framework there are also Special Initiatives based on new and existing programmes and activities which will be prioritized for early implementation.

Each year the Caribbean imports 5 billion dollars worth of food and climate change represents a clear and growing threat to its food security with differing rainfall patterns, water scarcity, heat stress and increased climatic variability making it difficult for farmers to meet demand for crops and livestock.

In recent years, nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have been experiencing prolonged drought, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

Organizers of the CCSA Forum say there are many common agriculture-related topics in the NDCs of the English-speaking Caribbean countries, including conservation and forestry, water harvesting and storage, and improved agricultural policies.

All but one of the Caribbean countries included the issue of agriculture in their respective INDC. The sector is addressed in the INDCs with the priority being on adaptation. However, more than half of the countries also included conditional mitigation targets that directly or indirectly relate to agriculture.

The commitments made by all the countries denote the priority of the sector in the region’s development goals and the need to channel technical and financial support for the sector.

IICA said agriculture also has great potential to achieve the integration of mitigation and adaptation approaches into policies, strategies and programmes.

It also noted that the commitments made by each country, both through the Paris Agreement and in their respective INDCs, provide a solid foundation for tackling the global challenge of climate change with concrete actions keyed to national contexts and priorities.

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UN FARMS to Create One Million Days of Work for Mideast Migrants

15 March 2017 - 1:18pm

Fedah sayah Irshaid (42 years old) tends to some of her grape vines with the help of her husband and daughter. Fedah is a recipient of a Revolving loan for her plant nursery and rabbit raising business. She received the loan from the Al Khaldiyah Cooperative for Military Retired. Copyright: ©IFAD/Ivor Prickett/Panos

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 15 2017 (IPS)

The problem is rather complex and often not recognised: in one of the major regions of both origin and destination for migrants and refugees — the Near East and North of Africa, 10 per cent of rural communities is made up of forcibly displaced persons, while more than 25 per cent of the young rural people plan to emigrate.

This has a strong rural dimension, with large numbers of displaced people originating in rural areas, and now living in rural host communities within or outside their home countries.

In recent years, forced displacement has become a global problem of unprecedented scale, driven by conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations.

While the total number of displaced people reached an all-time high of more 65 million people, global attention has focused on the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, where continued conflict and violence most acutely affect Iraq, Syria, Yemen and neighbouring countries.

The total impacted population in the region is estimated at around 22 million people, a fact that generates additional pressure on both the host areas and the sending areas.

The UN, through its Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), designed an innovative response to the on-going crisis: FARMS (Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability), which was announced at the UN World Summit on Migration held in September last year at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Internally Displaced, Migrants, Refugees

IPS asked Khalida Bouzar, Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, who is in charge of FARMS at IFAD, if the Facility is meant for displaced rural persons within each country or if it also includes migrants and forcibly displaced persons fleeing conflicts and/or natural and man-made disasters?

Bouzar explains that in terms of displaced people, FARMS will cover both international refugees (people displaced across borders) and internally displaced people (forced to flee from their homes due to conflict or other extraneous factors but remaining within their country), she adds.

Khalida Bouzar greeting Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr Al Din Mahmoud Abbas. Credit: IFAD


FARMS will also address the needs of host communities (the local population) to reduce the stress on natural resources and economic opportunities. In origin communities, it will create opportunities for the entire community.

Specifically, Bouzar said that in host areas, the local communities will be supported in coping with the influx of displaced people by making their agriculture more productive and sustainable. The displaced, in turn, will be better able to contribute to their host communities, and better prepared to return home when the situation improves.

Regarding the “sending areas”, economic opportunities will be created so that people who have left have something to return to, and those who remain have a chance to build their livelihoods. “With FARMS, we seek to deliver long-term peace and development dividends. It is paramount to create a healthy climate for economic opportunities, and enable displaced people to return to their communities,” says Bouzar.

So far, about USD 20 million has been identified for the facility, with the goal of reaching USD 100 million.

FARMS resources will be provided in the form of co-financing support for the on-going IFAD portfolio of about USD 1.2 billion in the NENA region as well as stand-alone grants or activities and communication products to raise global awareness of the issues.

According to Bouzar, FARMS will strengthen the resilience of rural host areas to the impacts of large inflows of refugees, and will also create resilient livelihoods in the origin areas to break the cycle of migration and incentivise the eventual return of migrants.

One Million Days of Work

FARMS will create one million days of work, including at least 20,000 opportunities for youth. “This will be achieved over the life of the projects, and therefore over the next 5 to 6 years,” says Bouzar.

Other objectives are to implement at least 500 community infrastructure projects, and to increase social resilience by strengthening community and local government capacity to manage their development, resolve conflicts, and address the needs of refugees.

FARMS also aims at improving governance and management of natural resources, particularly land and water, as well as to improve the policy and regulatory frameworks to address the needs of rural host and sending communities.

Regarding the main causes of displacement, the IFAD’s Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division explains that these could be conflict, natural disasters, or climate-change related vulnerabilities and pressures. Often the cause is a combination of different factors.

Ten Priority Countries

Bouzar informs that the initial priority countries include: Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

In the first phase, the facility will focus on the NENA region where the current crisis is most acute, with the possibility of scaling up globally in the future. In fact, says Bouzar, after the initial pilot of projects in the NENA region, FARMS could be scaled up to potentially include displacement in other regions.

Asked about the countries, which have been supportive of FARMS and about the amount of financial resources allocated to this project, Bouzar says the IFAD has received support from a wide range of IFAD members.

“Countries in the region have stepped up as crucial early partners, too. The Government of Jordan is collaborating with IFAD, and more partnerships are being designed with Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan.”

Why IFAD? According to Bouzar, the Fund is well positioned to be a key partner in bridging the gap between humanitarian and sustainable development responses in rural areas, and is already actively engaged in many of the most affected regions.

In fact, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognised IFAD’s comparative advantage as a major investor in poor rural people and affirmed that rural development could achieve “rich payoffs across the SDGs,” she adds.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since its creation in 1978, it has provided 18.5 billion dollars in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 464 million people.

New Broadband Commission call to action provides guide to close digital gender gap

15 March 2017 - 8:28am

By UNESCO
HONG KONG, Mar 15 2017 (UNESCO)

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide, co-chaired by the GSMA and UNESCO, released a new report, Recommendations for action: bridging the gender gap in Internet and broadband access and use, which sets specific recommendations to address the barriers women face in access and use of the Internet.

The report highlights key action areas for different types of stakeholders as part of the group’s efforts to ensure that all women and girls can fully participate in the online world.

Despite worldwide endeavours, the global Internet user gender gap widened from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016, with the gap highest in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (31%) and Africa (23%). Moreover, Internet penetration rates remain higher for men than women in all regions of the world.

The global Internet user gender gap widened from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016, with the gap highest in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (31%) and Africa (23%). Moreover, Internet penetration rates remain higher for men than women in all regions of the world.
“The continuous development of new technologies and their application to economic, political and social processes is creating new opportunities that can enhance the quality of human life,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “To be sustainable, all new opportunities must be available to all, to empower all, for the benefit of all – especially girls and women.”

Structural inequalities remain and impede women’s full and equal participation in the digital economy. Greater Internet access and use can not only have a positive impact on women’s lives, but can deliver significant benefits to the wider economy and society, and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 9c, which contains a target for universal and affordable access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) in LDCs by 2020.

“Addressing the digital gender divide is critical to realizing the significant potential benefits that the Internet can bring for women, their families and communities” Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, said. “We hope that the recommended actions in this report will lead to concerted efforts to reduce the gender gap in Internet access and use. Working together, we can make significant strides to erase the digital gender divide, in full support of the SDGs.”

  • Compile detailed evidence: collect, analyze and track sex-disaggregated data to inform policy, particularly at a national and sub-national level, through a greater understanding of the issue.
  • Integrate policy: integrate gender equality targets and key performance indicators into strategies, policies, plans and budgets, involving women and relevant local communities from the onset.
  • Address the barriers women face: confront barriers that impede gender equality online, including affordable access; issues around safety; digital literacy and confidence; and the availability of relevant content, applications and services.
  • Support multi-stakeholder cooperation: develop tools and policies to support national and international efforts, and effective sharing of best practices to address the digital gender gap.

The report recognizes the different but complementary roles of various actors, including governments and policy-makers, private sector, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and academia and research institutions, and outlines detailed recommendation action points for each stakeholder group.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 and comprises of more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors. They are committed to actively supporting countries, UN experts and NGOs to fully leverage the potential of ICT to drive national Sustainable Development Goal strategies in key areas such as education, healthcare, gender equality and environmental management.

***

Contact:

UNESCO
George Papagiannis

Chief, Media Relations
Mobile: + 33 6 82 94 89 54
E-mail: g.papagiannis(at)unesco.org

ITU
Paul Conneally
Head, Corporate Communications
Mobile: +41795925668
E-mail: paul.conneally@itu.int

Why Do Some Men Rape?

15 March 2017 - 8:17am

A scared child shows fear in an uncertain environment. Credit: D Sharon Pruitt. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Wikimedia Commons

By Robert J. Burrowes
DAYLESFORD, Australia, Mar 15 2017 (IPS)

A recent report from Equality Now titled ‘The World’s Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic‘ offered a series of recommendations for strengthened laws to deter and punish sexual violence against women and girls.

However, there is substantial evidence that legal approaches to dealing with violence in any context are ineffective.

For example, the empirical evidence on threats of punishment (that is, violence) as deterrence and the infliction of punishment (that is, violence) as revenge reveals variable impact and context dependency, which is readily apparent through casual observation.

There are simply too many different reasons why people break laws in different contexts. See, for example, ‘Crime Despite Punishment‘.

Moreover, given the overwhelming evidence that violence is rampant in our world and that the violence of the legal system simply contributes to and reinforces this cycle of violence, it seems patently obvious that we would be better off identifying the cause of violence and then designing approaches to address this cause and its many symptoms effectively.

And reallocating resources away from the legal and prison systems in support of approaches that actually work.

So why do some men rape?

All perpetrators of violence, including rapists, suffered enormous violence during their own childhoods.

Robert J. Burrowes

This violence will have usually included a great deal of ‘visible’ violence (that is, the overt physical violence that we all readily identify) but, more importantly, it will have included a great deal of ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence as well: the violence perpetrated by adults against children that is not ordinarily perceived as violent.

For a full explanation, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

This violence inflicts enormous damage on a child’s Selfhood leaving them feeling terrified, self-hating and powerless, among other horrific feelings.

However, because we do not allow children the emotional space to feel their emotional responses to our violence, these feelings of terror, self-hatred and powerlessness (among a multitude of others), become deeply embedded in the child’s unconscious and drive their behaviour without their conscious awareness that they are doing so.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’.

For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal communication system.

When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioural dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others).

However, parents, teachers and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioural responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioural outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behaviour that is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings.

This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviours, including some that are violent towards themselves, others and/or the Earth.

So what is happening psychologically for the rapist when they commit the act of rape? In essence, they are projecting the (unconsciously suppressed) feelings of their own victimhood onto their rape victim.

That is, their fear, self-hatred and powerlessness, for example, are projected onto the victim so that they can gain temporary relief from these feelings.

Their fear, temporarily, is more deeply suppressed. Their self-hatred is projected as hatred of their victim. Their powerlessness is temporarily relieved by a sense of being in control, which they were never allowed to be, and feel, as a child.

The Robots are Coming, your Job is at Risk

15 March 2017 - 7:23am

Credit: John Greenfield/Flickr

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Mar 15 2017 (IPS)

Last year Uber started testing driver-less cars, with humans inside to make corrections in case something goes wrong. If the tests go well, Uber will presumably replace their present army of drivers with fleets of the new cars.

Some personally owned cars can already do automatic parking.   Is it a matter of time before Uber, taxi and personal vehicles will all be smart enough to bring us from A to B without our having to do anything ourselves?

But in this application of “artificial intelligence”, in which machines can have human cognitive functions built into them, what will happen to jobs?   It is estimated that in the US alone, 4 to 5 million drivers of trucks and taxis could be rendered unemployed.

The driver-less vehicle is just one example of the technological revolution that is going to drastically transform the world of work and living.

The risk of automation to jobs in developing countries is estimated to range from 55 to 85 per cent, according to a study in 2016 by Oxford University’s Martin School and Citi. Major emerging economies will be at high risk, including China (77%) and India (69%), higher than the OECD developed countries’ average risk of 57%.
There is concern that the march of automation tied with digital technology will cause dislocation in many factories and offices, and eventually lead to mass unemployment.

Just a day before he left office, former US President Barrack Obama warned in a farewell interview that “jobs are going away because of automation and that’s going to accelerate,” pointing to “driverless Uber” and “displacement that’s going to take place in office buildings across the country.”

Also voicing concern about the social impact of automation, Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently proposed that governments should impose a tax on robots.  Companies using robots should have to pay taxes on the incomes attributed to the use of robotics.

That proposal has caused an uproar, with mainstream economists like Lawrence Summers, a former US treasury secretary, condemning it for putting brakes on technological advancement.  One critic suggested that the first company to pay taxes for causing automation should be Microsoft.

However, the tax on robots idea is one response to growing fears that the automation revolution will increase inequality as many lose their jobs while a few reap the benefits of increased productivity and profitability.

The new technologies will cause uncontrollable disruption and add to the social discontent and political upheaval in the West which had fuelled the anti-establishment votes for Brexit and Donald Trump.

Recent studies are showing that deepening use of automation will cause widespread disruption in many sectors and even whole economies.  Worse, it is the developing countries that are estimated to lose the most, and this will exacerbate the already great global inequalities.

The risk of automation to jobs in developing countries is estimated to range from 55 to 85 per cent, according to a study in 2016 by Oxford University’s Martin School and Citi.  Major emerging economies will be at high risk, including China (77%) and India (69%), higher than the OECD developed countries’ average risk of 57%.

The Oxford-Citi report, “The future is not what it used to be”, provides many reasons why the automation revolution will be particularly disruptive in the developing countries.

First, there is “premature deindustrialisation” taking place as manufacturing is becoming less labour-intensive and many developing countries have reached the peak of their manufacturing jobs.  Manufacturing processes are more automated today, also in low and middle income developing countries.

Martin Khor

Second, while 20th century technologies allowed companies to shift production abroad to take advantage of cheap labour, recent developments in robotics and additive manufacturing now enable firms to locate production closer to domestic markets in automated factories.

Seventy per cent of clients surveyed believe automation and 3D printing developments will encourage companies to move their manufacturing close to home.  China, ASEAN and Latin America have the most to lose from this relocation, while North America, Europe and Japan are the main winners.

Thirdly, “the impact of automation may be more disruptive for developing countries, due to lower levels of consumer demand and limited social safety nets” as compared to the developed countries, according to a summary of the Oxford Martin School report.

The report warns that developing countries may even have to rethink their overall development models as the old ones that were successful in generating growth in the past will not work anymore.

“In the light of these technological developments, industrialization is likely to yield substantially less manufacturing employment in the next generation of emerging economies than in the countries preceding them.  Hence it will be increasingly difficult for African and South American manufacturing firms to create jobs in the same numbers that Asian countries have done.  In other words, today’s low-income countries will not have the same possibility of achieving rapid growth by shifting workers from farms to higher-paying factory jobs.”

Instead of export-led manufacturing growth, developing countries will need to search for new growth models, said the report.  “Service-led growth constitutes one option, but many low-skill services are now becoming equally automatable.”

It cites a World Bank report showing developing countries are highly susceptible to their workforce being affected by increasing automation, even relative to advanced economies where labour costs are high.

Moreover, countries with lower levels of GDP per capita typically have a higher share of their workforce “at risk”.   “Thus there are reasons to be concerned about the future of income convergence, as low income countries are relatively vulnerable to automation,” concludes the report.

Another series of reports, by McKinsey Global Institute, found that 49% of present work activities can be automated with currently demonstrated technology, and this translates into US$15.8 trillion in wages and 1.1 billion jobs globally.

About 60% of all occupations could see 30% or more of their activities automated and 5% of jobs can be entirely automated.  But more reassuringly an author of the report James Manyika says the changes will take decades.   How automation affects jobs will not be decided simply by what is technically feasible.   Other factors include economics, labour markets, regulations and social attitudes.

Which jobs are most susceptible to be affected?  While most people think they would be in manufacturing, in fact many jobs in services will also be disrupted.   The McKinsey study lists accommodations and food services as the most vulnerable sector in the US, followed by manufacturing and retail business.

In accommodations and food, 73% of activities workers perform can be automated, including preparing, cooking or serving food; cleaning food-preparation areas, preparing beverages and collecting dirty dishes.

In manufacturing, 59% of all activities can be automated, especially physical activities or operating machinery in a predictable environment.  Activities range from packaging products to loading materials on production equipment to welding to maintaining equipment.

For retailing, 53% of activities are automatable.  They include stock management, packing objects, maintaining sales records, gathering customer and product information, and accounting.

A technology specialist writer and consultant, Shelly Palmer, has also listed elite white-collar jobs that are at risk from “robots” which she defines as technologies, such as machine learning algorithms running on purpose-built computer platforms, that have been trained to perform tasks that currently require humans to perform.

Those she assessed would be displaced include middle managers, salespersons, report writers, journalists and announcers, accountants, bookkeepers and doctors.

While some analysts are enthusiastic about the positive effects of the automation revolution, others are alarmed by its adverse effects.

Certainly, the technological trend will improve productivity per worker that remains, and increase the profitability of companies that survive.

While there are benefits at the micro level for those companies and individuals that thrive in the new environment, there are adverse effects at macro level, especially retrenchment for those whose jobs are no longer needed.

What can be done to slow down automation or at least to cope with its adverse effects?

The Bill Gates proposal to tax robots is one of the most radical.   The tax could slow down the technological changes and the funds generated by the tax could be used to mitigate the social effects.

Another radical idea which is generating a lot of debate is to provide “universal income” to everyone irrespective of whether they are working.  The high productivity will allow everybody to be paid a comfortable income, and thus there is no need to worry that automation will displace jobs.

Governments can also take the attitude of “join them if you can’t beat them.”  For example, China is seeing major opportunities in joining the technological revolution and has drawn up plans to invest in robotics and artificial intelligence.

Other more conventional proposals include upgrading the education of students and present employees to take on the new jobs required in managing or working with the automated production process, and training workers to be made redundant with the new skills needed to work in the new environment.

Overall, however, there is likely to be a net loss of employment, at least in the short term, and thus the potential for social discontent.

As for the developing countries in general, there will have to be much thinking of the implications of the new technologies for their immediate and long-term economic prospects, and a major rethinking of economic and development strategies is also called for.

Women’s Pay Gap “Biggest Robbery in History”: UN Women

14 March 2017 - 6:43pm

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women with actress Patricia Arquette. Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 14 2017 (IPS)

A new UN initiative launched on Monday night calls the women’s pay gap, which sees women paid 23 percent less than men globally: “the biggest robbery in history.”

During the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting, UN Women and the International Labor Organisation (ILO) launched the high-profile Equal Pay Platform of Champions to raise awareness on the persistent gender wage gap.

The coalition consists of celebrities and activists including award-winning documentary filmmaker Kamala Lopez, Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach, President of the Garment and Allied Workers Union Anannya Bhattacharjee, and actress Patricia Arquette.

“There has been a normalization for centuries of a bias against women, an acceptance that we are less than…there is no woman that [the wage gap] does not affect,” Lopez said as she moderated the launch.

UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka echoed similar sentiments, stating that such bias has led women’s work in a range of sectors to be undervalued.

“What does a woman in Wall Street have in common with a woman who has a shop in Brazil? Or in a cane farm in South Africa? Or in a sweatshop in Bangladesh? Chances are that they are all not paid equally by their different employers,“ said Mlambo-Ngcuka to delegates in the filled General Assembly Hall.

Globally, the gender pay gap is at approximately 23 percent as women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

The figure is even higher in some regions and among certain communities. In the U.S., African American women earn only 60 cents, Native American women 59 cents and Hispanic women 55 cents for every $1 that white men earn. In Turkey, women earn up to 75 percent less than their male counterparts.

“What does a woman in Wall Street have in common with a woman who has a shop in Brazil? Or in a cane farm in South Africa? Or in a sweatshop in Bangladesh? Chances are that they are all not paid equally by their different employers,“ -- Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Retired U.S. soccer player Abby Wambach shared her story and reasons for joining the Platform of Champions, stating: “I have two gold medals, I won a World Cup with my country…but I actually have to worry about paying my bills now.”

Before the enactment of Title IX, which guarantees that no person in the U.S. can be discriminated on the basis of sex in education receiving federal funds, opportunities for women in sports were extremely limited as women received only two percent of academic athletic budgets. It has since increased to 40 percent due to the law, but its existence is now threatened by the new administration.

“I want to make sure that the world that I leave is better than the world that I found,” Wambach said in reference to raising her stepdaughter.

Garment and Allied Workers Union’s President Anannya Bhattacharjee shed light on the plight of garment workers around the world, including those in Asia who are responsible for the production of over 60 percent of the world’s garments.

Bangladesh alone, which is the world’s second largest textile industry, earns more than $25 billion a year from exports and employs over 4 million workers, the majority of whom are women.

“The workers of this industry who are mainly women cannot access their basic human rights…industries that are dominated by women tend to be lower paid, which means that millions of women and generations of families live in poverty,” said Bhattacharjee.

In December, protests erupted in the South Asian nation as garment workers took to the streets to demand a monthly minimum wage increase from 67 dollars to 187 dollars. The call was dismissed, more than 1500 workers were fired, and over 40 arrested.

Bhattacharjee highlighted the need for a living wage, and to recognize the additional unpaid labor that women often take up to care for their families.

ILO estimates that it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap at the current rate while the World Economic Forum warned that it could take 170 years for women and men to be paid the same for equal work due to reversed progress over the last few years.

Governments also joined in the call to action, including the Government of Iceland who recently became the first country to require equal pay for all.

“We had laws banning pay discrimination since 1961 in Iceland. Still, even though we are leading in equality, we still have a gender pay gap of around 7 percent. And that’s absolutely intolerable,” said Iceland’s Social Affairs and Equality Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson.

The country says it wants to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.

Mlambo-Ngcuka noted the need for a comprehensive response to the complex wage inequality issue including by providing education to promote a shift in societal norms and sharing best practices from around the world to push for laws similar to those of Iceland.

“We can no longer afford to stand by and allow these deeply entrenched discriminations to persist…Every one of us can be a champion for women and girls. There are no superpowers necessary,” Lopez said.

CSW is the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights. The Equal Pay Platform of Champions is a part of the broader UN Women-ILO led Global Equal Pay Coalition that helps create concrete targets and laws to reduce the gender pay gap by 2030 at the global, regional and national levels.

Worst Humanitarian Crisis since WWII

14 March 2017 - 11:49am

By Editor, The Daily Star, Bangladesh
Mar 14 2017 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

It is a matter of grave concern that, according to a UN estimate, twenty million people are facing starvation in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. These are the conflict prone regions that have witnessed civil war, foreign invasion, a breakdown of civil order and the rise of militancy. We are appalled that this crisis, which has been built up over a period of time, has been allowed to continue. Clearly, enough has not been done, as a UN official told the Security Council, that without immediate help, death and severe malnutrition would plague the regions for a long time.

It is indeed disturbing to note that man-made disasters like war and famine continue to bleed nations while international politics fails to come to a consensus on how to reach a stasis in parts of the Middle East, Northeast Nigeria and vast swathes of Somalia. This is degenerating into a grave humanitarian crisis due to shortage of essential supplies like food, water and electricity. This is especially so in Yemen where two-thirds of the country’s population remains hungry and do not know where the next meal will come from. The situation is the same in the other three countries where without any collective and coordinated effort on the part of the global community thousands will simply starve to death and many more will die from disease.

We urge the international community to infuse immediate aid to these four war-torn and famine ravaged countries. Also, it is important to devise a long-term strategy to prevent further food shortages and outbreaks of the disease in the areas. It is indeed appalling that in this era of globalisation and scientific breakthroughs, fellow human beings should die of hunger and shortage of food. The shame is on us all. The world should act immediately.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

Most Financial Inflows Not Developmental

14 March 2017 - 11:11am

The World Economic Situation and Prospect report 2017 calls for a complete revamp of the international financial system to address development finance issues and ensure needed resource transfers to developing countries. Credit: IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 14 2017 (IPS)

Recent disturbing trends in international finance have particularly problematic implications, especially for developing countries. The recently released United Nations report, World Economic Situation and Prospects 2017 (WESP 2017) is the only recent report of a multilateral inter-governmental organization to recognize these problems, especially as they are relevant to the financing requirements for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Resource outflows rising
Developing countries have long experienced net resource transfers abroad. Capital has flowed from developing to developed countries for many years, peaking at US$800 billion in 2008 when the financial crisis erupted. Net transfers from developing countries in 2016 came close to US$500 billion, slightly more than in 2015.

Most financial flows to developing and transition economies initially rebounded following the 2008 crisis, peaking at US$615 billion in 2010, but began to slow thereafter, turning negative from 2014. Such a multi-year reversal in global flows has not been seen since 1990.

Negative net resource transfers from developing countries are largely due to investments abroad, mainly in safe, low-yielding US Treasury bonds. In the first quarter of 2016, 64 per cent of official reserves were held in US$-denominated assets, up from 61 per cent in 2014.

High opportunity costs

By investing abroad, developing countries may avoid currency appreciation due to rising foreign reserves, and thus maintain international cost competitiveness. But such investment choices involve substantial opportunity costs as such resources could instead be used to build infrastructure, or for social investments to improve education and healthcare.

The African Development Bank estimates that African countries held between US$165.5 and US$193.6 billion in reserves on average between 2000 and 2011, much more than the infrastructure financing gap estimated at US$93 billion yearly. The social costs of holding such reserves range from 0.35% to 1.67% of GDP. Investing about half these reserves would go a long way to meeting infrastructure financing needs on the continent.

This high opportunity cost is due to the biased nature of the international financial system in which the US dollar is the preferred reserve currency. As there is no fair and adequate international financial safety-net for short-term liquidity crises, many developing countries, especially in Asia, have been accumulating foreign reserves for ‘self-insurance’, or more accurately, protection against sudden capital outflows or speculative currency attacks which triggered the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

Foreign capital inflows falling
Less volatile than short-term capital flows, foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries was rising from 2000, peaking at US$474 billion in 2011. But since then, FDI has been falling to US$209 billion in 2016, less than half the US$431 billion in 2015.

Most FDI to developing countries continues to go to Asia and Latin America, while falling commodity prices since 2014 have depressed FDI in resource rich Sub-Saharan and South American countries. Falling commodity prices are also likely to reduce FDI flows to least developed countries (LDCs), which need resource transfers most, but only receive a small positive net transfer of resources.

Bank lending to developing countries has been declining since mid-2014, while long-term bank lending to developing countries has been stagnant since 2008. The latest Basel capital adequacy rules also raise the costs of both risky and long-term lending for investments.

Portfolio flows to developing countries have also turned negative in recent years. Developing countries and economies in transition experienced net outflows of US$425 billion in 2015 and US$217 billion in 2016. The expected US interest rate rise and poorer growth prospects in developing countries are likely to cause further short-term capital outflows and greater exchange rate volatility.

Aid trends disappointing
Although aid flows have increased, aid’s share of GDP has declined after 2009. The recent increase has been more than offset by counting expenditure on refugees from developing countries as aid. When refugee expenditures are excluded from the aid numbers, the 6.9 per cent increase in 2015 falls to a meagre 1.7 per cent. In five DAC countries, aid numbers fell once refugee costs were omitted. Thus, WESP 2017 emphasizes the importance of decomposing aid components and of separately tracking country programmable aid (CPA).

At 0.30 per cent of the gross national income (GNI) of OECD DAC members, official aid falls far short of the 1970 commitment by developed countries to provide aid equivalent to 0.7 per cent of GNI. Only six OECD countries – namely Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom – met or exceeded the UN target in 2015. But aid to LDCs has been declining since 2010; even bilateral aid declined by 16 per cent in 2014.

Meanwhile, disbursements by multilateral development banks only increased marginally in 2015 while new commitments declined. Commitments by the World Bank’s concessional lending arm, the International Development Association (IDA), which relies on donor contributions to provide concessional credits and grants to low-income countries, declined in real terms during 2014-2015.

Reversing resource outflows
Developing countries also lost an estimated US$7.8 trillion in illicit financial flows (IFFs) between 2004 and 2013 through tax avoidance, transfer-pricing, trade mis-invoicing and profit shifting by transnational corporations (TNCs). Over the past decade, IFFs were often greater than combined aid and FDI flows to poor countries.

Hence, WESP 2017 calls for a complete revamp of the international financial system to address these development finance issues and ensure needed resource transfers to developing countries. Failing to do so will put the SDGs at risk.

Children Tapped to End Child Marriage in Indonesia

14 March 2017 - 10:47am

Lenny N. Rosalin, Deputy Minister for Child Growth and Development of Indonesia’s Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection. Credit: Kanis Dursin/IPS

By Kanis Dursin
JAKARTA, Mar 14 2017 (IPS)

The Indonesian government is tapping children as advocates against child marriage in this Southeast Asian country where over 340,000 girls get married before they reach 18 years old every year.

Lenny N. Rosalin, Deputy Minister for Child Growth and Development of the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, said her agency has been working with the National Child Forum across the country to explain the impacts of child marriage on health, education, and economic condition.“What is clear is that child marriage can be prevented if we explain its risks to children and parents." --Lenny N. Rosalin

National Child Forum, locally known as Forum Anak Nasional, is designed to be a venue for children under 18 years to air their aspirations on development programmes, from the planning to monitoring and the evaluation stage. According to its website, Forum Anak is now present in 33 of Indonesia’s provinces, 267 regencies and municipalities, 300 sub- districts, and 197 villages across the country.

“We are empowering children to be able to say no to child marriage and to tell other kids to do the same when asked to get married by their parents,” Rosalin told IPS in an interview in Jakarta.

Annually, around 340,000 Indonesian girls get married before they turn 18 years old, according to a survey published by the National Statistics Agency (BPS) in 2016. The publication, the first of its kind, was funded by the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The figure shows child marriage has fallen two-fold in the past three decades. However, according to the Council of Foreign Relations, Indonesia is one of ten countries in the world with the highest child marriage rate and the second after Cambodia in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The exact number of children engaged in child marriage is difficult to gauge, however, as most of them have no birth certificate to prove their age.

In 2013, at least 50 million children under 18 years had no birth certificates, or 62 percent of the country’s children of 85 million at that time, according to the Indonesian Commission on Child Protection (KPAI). Indonesian children under 18 years now stand at around 87 million.

Forum Anak members are also taught to alert the Women Empowerment and Child Protection office in their area if they feel they cannot convince peers to say no to parents who force them to get married.

“When we receive reports of children being forced to get married, we invite local religious leaders and influential figures to convince parents of child-bride-to-be to cancel the wedding,” said Rosalin.

She claimed the strategy has worked so far but could not give an estimate of how many children have been spared from that practice since January 2016, when her ministry was tasked with preventing and eradicating child marriage in Indonesia, saying they were yet to hold a national meeting to evaluate and collect data.

“What is clear is that child marriage can be prevented if we explain its risks to children and parents,” Rosalin said.

Indonesia’s 1974 marriage law sets the legal marriage age at 16 years old for girls and 19 years for boys, contradicting the child protection law that bans parents from marrying off children below 18 years old. Worse still, the legislation also allows children under 16 years to get married as long as their parents apply for and the state court grants dispensation to them.

Budi Wahyuni, deputy chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said ideally the legal marriage age should be raised to 21 years old, or at least 18 years as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Under the current situation, however, the court must be selective in granting dispensation for children under 16 years old to get married.

“For example, a dispensation is given to a bride who is already pregnant only,” Wahyuni said.

The marriage law gives no clear stipulation under what circumstances the court may grant a dispensation to children under 16 years to get married.

Several child activists here filed a judicial review with the Constitutional Court in 2015, seeking to raise the minimum marriage age from 16 years to at least 18 years old. The court, however, threw out the petition, arguing that it was the domain of the House of Representatives (DPR).

There are many reasons why parents marry off their children. First and foremost is a long-held belief that it is better to become a widow as a child than to delay marriage, according to Listyowati, Executive Director of Kalyanamitra Foundation, a non-governmental organization that promotes the rights of women.

“Many people still think that when a girl already had her first menstruation, she is already mature and ready to become a wife and mother. In such communities, girls who delay marriage are branded as old virgins even if they are still under 18 years old,” said Listyowati.

“The term old virgin has such a negative connotation that both girls and their parents feel humiliated when called so, putting pressure on them to get married early. For them, it’s better to become a child widow than to delay marriage,” said Listyowati.

Poor families, according to Listyowati, see child marriage as a way to ease economic burden as the girl moves out and stays with her husband.

“The sad thing is parents who got married while they were still children tend to marry off their young kids also,” lamented Listyowati.

Child marriage carries several risks and consequences, including high maternal and infant mortality rate. Children who get married usually drop out of school immediately and engaging in sexual activity at a very young age also runs the risk of cervical cancer.

In 2015, Indonesia’s mother mortality rate was recorded at 359 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, compared to only 228 in 2000. According to the National Population and Family Planning Board, at least 82 percent of the deaths involved young mothers aged 14 to 20 years old. Meanwhile, the country’s infant mortality rate stood at 22 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015.

The Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection has also set up so-called Family Learning Centers, known by its Indonesian name Puspaga, at provincial and regency capitals and municipalities where government-appointed psychologists and psychiatrists provide free counseling, including the issue of child marriage.

On top of that, the government encourages schools, provinces, regencies, and municipalities to become more child-friendly, with indicators including 12-year mandatory schooling, zero child labor, and zero child marriage.

“When all children attend 12 years of mandatory education, then there will be no more child marriage or child labor,” said Rosalin of the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection.

“Around 1,400 schools around the country have pledged to become child-friendly schools,” she added.

Listyowati of Kalyanamitra Foundation praised the Indonesian government’s move to engage children in its campaign against child marriage in the country. However, the move may prove inadequate if the marriage law still allows children to get married.

“The move should be followed up with a change in legislation. The marriage law must be amended to raise legal marriage age to at least 18 years old,” Listyowati stressed.

“The government must start introducing sex education. I know it’s still a taboo to talk about sex education, especially to children. In fact, some quarters see it as a way to teaching children how to engage in sexual activities but children have to know the risks of engaging in sexual activities at a very young age,” she said.

Rosalin said her ministry has submitted the draft of a government regulation on marriage in lieu of law to the office of the Presidential Advisory Council to replace the current marriage law.

“The draft is seeking two things. First, we want to increase the legal marriage age to 21 years old, or at least 18 years old, and secondly, scrap any sort of dispensation that may give room to child marriage,” Rosalin said.

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Developing Nations Call for New Trust Fund on Forest Protection

14 March 2017 - 9:29am

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 14 2017 (IPS/G77)

The Group of 77 is calling for the creation of a new and dedicated Trust Fund for the implementation of the UN’s strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030.

The proposed Trust Fund is expected to be under the management of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN).

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, joined by China, Santiago Garcia, Director of the National Forestry Office in Ecuador told a Working Group meeting he believes that without such a Fund, the implementation of the Strategic Plan on Forests “is difficult for developing countries”.

“As we come together to this Working Group Meeting, let me stress that Forests are crucial for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth of developing countries,” he said.

Forests are also central to sustained poverty reduction and is related to practically all aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and crucial for access to water, rural development, agricultural productivity, conservation of biodiversity, energy, soil conservation, and flood control.

“They provide habitat for at least 80% of terrestrial biodiversity and are also a major carbon sink for regulating global climate,” he added.

The Group believes that the United Nations strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030 should be action-oriented, and strengthened to deliver a real impact on the ground, catalyze the implementation and facilitate the mobilization of increased and predictable financing to adequately carry out sustainable forest management at all levels.

And it should also restate the commitments regarding financing in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Garcia said.

He also reiterated that the adequate and timely implementation of the United Nations strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030 is fundamental for developing countries.

“In this regard we express our concern on approaches delivered in this venue regarding the important issue of financing which needs to recognize major gaps on financing issues.”

He said it is important to strengthen the UNFF Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN) and foster and capitalize existing, new and emerging financing opportunities.

These opportunities include capacity building– given constrained abilities by several developing countries to apply to or implement international cooperation for forest-related programs—and facilitating mechanisms for developing countries to access funds and disseminate best practices on Sustainable Forest Management while ensuring the full implementation of the Forest instrument and achieving the goals and targets comprised in this proposal.

The Group took note of the proposal by the Co-chairs to explore further available data on official development assistance (ODA). However the Group is committed to include a reference on increasing of funding from all sources, including an increase in ODA.

“We highlight the voluntarily nature of the Strategic Plan proposed and that the provision of means of implementation should also encompass technology transfer to developing countries on favorable terms and capacity building for developing countries.”

In this regard, he said “we also should avoid increasing the burden of reporting or creating overlaps in the process of communication through streamlined reporting on the implementation of the Forest Instrument, the Strategic Plan and voluntary planned contributions”.

“We should agree on a communication strategy that addresses those issues, especially by reassuring a transparent process on the issue of reports. The Group also believes that the term voluntary planned contributions could be replaced by “national voluntary contributions”.

The Group expressed its general agreement on the co-chair’s proposal for the six Global Forest Goals. The group also recognized certain overlapping among the targets.

“In this regard we believe that numerical targets should be based on clear forest-related definitions and baseline,” he declared.

A Structural Theory of Aging

14 March 2017 - 9:16am

The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including '50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,' published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Mar 14 2017 (IPS)

Wikipedia has much to offer under “aging”. Highly recommended are the 10 points by the world’s oldest living man, 114, Walter Breuning.

Johan Galtung

However, older persons, like me at 86, know their own aging best. Less trouble with “oxidant stress” as a major cause, having used anti-oxidants based on blueberry skin–no chemicals–for decades. 20,000 blood stem em cells renew my blood, but they are dying. Problematic.

Rule no. 1: Keep mind and body active; maintain a good nutrition.

Obvious to counteract aging. However, equally important:

Rule no. 2: Be open to the positive sides and advantages of aging.

Bertrand Russell’s “On Being 90″ in the Observer dispenses with the disadvantages as obvious, in favor of his advantage: the overview. At the age of 5 he sat on the knee of a man who had fought Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815-=-. The longer the lives we have lived, the more events have impinged upon us. An “overview” identifies some link, a narrative, a common factor. That identification is often referred to as “wisdom”.

However: thigh muscles weaken, walking falters, fatigue, seeing and hearing impaired. Exercise helps, but aging is unavoidable.

Rule no. 3: At least do not fall; not breaking fragile bones, no ending up bedridden in a hospital, contracting new diseases. Equip the room, the home, the context with handles and handrails.

Then the mental aspects of aging: memories failing, not only of recent events, less ability to handle many and simultaneous stimuli. As a result, many and more mistakes reinforcing the sense of aging.

Rule no. 4: Simplify the context, contract the circle of living. Be realistic, change the structure of daily life, narrow the circle to what can be handled easily: the ward, the village, the context, the home, the room–but then equipped with a maximum of music, books, social media, as enriching as possible. If driving, then on known roads with little traffic, in small towns, villages.

Rule no. 5: Togetherness. A society with much loneliness for young or old is a bad society. Get old together, with a spouse, a cooperating partner. Much conversation will be about pains suffered. But cut it short. Focus on positives, beautiful landscapes, gardens, music, literature. Enjoyment together is more than double enjoyment.

Make shared meals as much of a feast as possible. The ability to enjoy good food lasts; our senses of smell and taste are more solid. No smoking of course and moderation with alcohol, sugar and cereals. Let good food and drinks stay a while in the mouth where the taste buds are, tied to the smell; do not just swallow and “wash it down”.

Rule no. 6: Live both real and virtual lives. Postmodern life has two realities; not only what we sense but also a virtual, IT, reality with friendship and enriching exchanges activating the mind. IT offers all of that–with no risks of falling!–in the simple context of a ca computer. Particularly when adding Skype, and even free!

Rule no. 7: no retirement. Go for a job where the older can share experiences with the younger, even if no longer showing up at work. A work place closed to the older is a bad work place. In post-modernity this is possible in ways unthought-of, for mutual benefit. How much, paid or unpaid, can be negotiated. Being productive is what matters.

Negate this. Retire, cut all links, live only one reality, alone/lonely, in a complex world with physical and mental risks, nothing positive, passively, no exercise, bad nutrition. Brutish, nasty, and short.

Better contract from the macro-society of country-region-world to a rich micro-society of a circle around oneself and the partner(s), relating to other circles. But it does not have to be that micro.

We can argue: high time. To be born into micro-society, then the macro-society of education and work, and then a poor micro-society of retirement is not good enough. Traditionally, women continue working longer than men, living more human lives. Is this why women live longer?

Due to better health, and family planning favoring 2 children, we now have aging populations and even more return into micro-society in old age homes.

Some time ago, huge macro-society growth swallowed such micro-societies as villages; now there is a return to villages and a return to childhood at old age. And macro becomes even more macro, regional, global, marginalizing the old even more. Inhuman; a far cry from retired farmers still living on the farm for care and experience.

Major structural changes, hence this structural theory of aging.

In those micro-societies of the aged, with nurses and others for “assisted living”, all know that the purpose of still living is dying. And before that there may be physical and mental suffering. Inhuman!

Fight it; practice Rules 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Aging is nothing to be afraid of, but foresight and planning are indispensable. Some macro can be created. A married couple here and an unmarried there, each managing in their ways, can relate, exchange experiences, also to old-age homes that may be the longer term answer to the aging. Virtually this micro to micro can even cross borders. Reconquering macro life.

Let me end on a subjective note. Having lived an eventful rich life, including meeting many people “high up”, I remember thinking “how can I live without this when I get older”? I find myself, older, thinking “how could I live without the wonderful life I now have”? Deluding myself, in both cases, closing the eye to all the negatives? Maybe. But then, maybe some selection is part of a good life.

I find myself floating, navigating through time and life, trying, not always successfully, to do more good and less harm. Not concluding that the present is the best period although it often feels like that. It is different, and very good. One positive aspect is obvious: with less work in the sense of a job there is more time for work in the sense of being creative. With hands and the mind. On the computer.

Thanks, Life, the best of all gifts. For every day.

Johan Galtung’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 March 2017: TMS: A Structural Theory of Aging

The statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

Books: A Writer Speaks of Childhood Spent During a “Dirty War”

14 March 2017 - 9:03am

Laura Alcoba. Credit: F. Mantovani - Editions Gallimard

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, Mar 14 2017 (IPS)

Laura Alcoba is an Argentine-born writer and translator who lives in Paris, France. Her first book, Manèges (The Rabbit House), described Argentina’s “Dirty War” of the 1970s from a child’s perspective, when even the very young knew what could happen “if your political sympathies drew the attention of the dictatorial military regime”. Thousands were killed, tortured, and abducted, and many names remain among “los desaparecidos”.

In the powerful and widely acclaimed memoir, readers see events through the eyes of the young Alcoba, whose father is imprisoned, forcing her and her mother to live in hiding with other members of the resistance movement.

Alcoba followed this affecting story with Le bleu des abeilles (The Blue of the Bees), which recounts her move to Europe to join her mother who had been granted refuge in France. At the age of ten, the author discovered a new country and language, and the book depicts a child’s experiences with living in exile, even as her father remained imprisoned “at home”.

This year Alcoba has published La Danse de l’Araignée (The Dance of the Spider / Gallimard Press), her fifth book and the latest in the trilogy of memoirs. In the following interview, she speaks with Jamaican writer Alecia McKenzie (an IPS correspondent) about her new work, her natal country, and her life in France as an author. (The interview is translated from French.)

McKenzie: How would you describe La Danse de l’Araignée? What can readers expect?

Alcoba: In La Danse de l’Araignée, the 12-year-old narrator lives with her mother and a friend of her mother named Amalia, in France, on the outskirts of Paris. These two women and the young girl are Argentine refugees. The story takes place at the beginning of the 1980s. The narrator in the book is on the threshold of adolescence and all the The past resonates in us and around us. You cannot turn your back. When it is painful, when it brings wounds, to ignore the past could be toxic, even very dangerous sometimes.
changes it brings – anxiety and dreams. Her head is also full of the correspondence that she has with her father, a political prisoner in Argentina. Despite the separation and the physical absence, the father is very much present thanks to the epistolary exchange. In one of his letters, he speaks to her of a spider that could serve as a pet, as a companion. A huge spider, a hairy tarantula, which makes her dream.  But how can a man play his role as a father even when he’s absent? In La Danse de l’Araignée, the challenges and obstacles are so many: distance, the prison where her father is, censorship (the letters are read by the prison administration and have to pass certain controls to enter or leave the prison). However, the narrator and her father manage to speak with each other, and the father/daughter relationship becomes a reality.

A.M.: Why have you told your story as a trilogy, rather than as a one-volume memoir?

L.A.: I didn’t set out to write a trilogy.  These three books came one after the other. A few years following the publication of Manèges (The Rabbit House), it seemed to me that the little girl who narrated the story in my first book – about her life under dictatorship in a house where there was a printing press behind a rabbit-breeding enterprise – should regain the words. To speak of exile, this time, and also the way in which an absent person could be at the centre of a child’s existence:  that’s what I did with Le Bleu des abeilles, where I evoked the correspondence that I maintained for a long time with my father. We wrote once a week to each other for two and a half years.

But after the publication of this book, I realized that the little girl hadn’t said everything there was to say. I felt that she needed to continue her story. Something important happens in La Danse de l’Araignée.  My latest book marks the end of the narrator’s exile: it’s after what is recounted here that she can fully put down roots in her new country. Furthermore, the age of the narrator in La Danse de l’Araignée particularly interests me. This age when one is between two worlds:  that of a child and that of burgeoning adulthood.

A.M.:  In The Rabbit House, you began the prologue by noting that you thought you would write this story only when you were very old, but then one day you “couldn’t bear to wait any longer”. How did this day come about? What made you begin to “remember the past in much more detail”?

L.A.: In my first book, I recount a very painful period, under the Argentine dictatorship. A tragic story where several people lost their lives and in which a mother and her daughter are separated: Diana Teruggi and Clara Anahí Mariani. Diana Teruggi was assassinated in November 1976, and her daughter, who was then a baby of three months, was carried off by soldiers. As a child, I lived with my mother in the house of Diana Teruggi and her husband, before these events. Diana was then pregnant. The army was looking for my mother. We had to hide…

I remember very well what we lived through in this house, where several people lost their lives in a tragic way after our departure. For a long time, I had wanted to write about these events. I told myself that if I wanted to become a writer, I needed to find the courage to begin with this. That this story and no other had to be the first stone. But I couldn’t stop saying “later”. Still, I felt a sense of urgency at a certain moment. I had to write, immediately. I

Alcoba’s lastest book (Gallimard)

think the birth of my daughter can explain this feeling. I started writing my first book at the moment that my daughter reached exactly the same age that Clara Anahi was when her mother was assassinated. That, without doubt, contributed to a sort of closeness between Diana and myself, and the memory of Diana came alive. Suddenly I could see her again. Her beauty, her smile, her strength. It was necessary to save a trace of all that, which I could give to others in writing this book.

A.M.:  The events are all portrayed with gripping clarity and intensity in the books. How do you balance “truth” and “memory” as a writer?

L.A.: I tried to bring up all the images from memory (the visual dimension is very important in my writing – it’s always the starting point).  Using these images, I look for the child that I was, and especially her voice. But this voice is that of a character. It’s not me remembering myself from the present. It’s the child who speaks – a child that I no longer am, a child who has to be a creation since she speaks in the present for herself.  But this child, I look for her and I create her through the images of the past that I manage to bring to light. There can of course be some distortions. My books are not testimonies. I see them as the result of a sort of quest.

The intensity with which children and adolescents live in relationship to the world is very special. For them, everything is new, everything is discovery.  I think that the intensity comes from my making a child speak, that I try to give form to the past from this point of view, from this «distance ».

A.M.: Yet, how much of your books is bearing witness, so that atrocities committed are not forgotten?

L.A.: The past resonates in us and around us. You cannot turn your back. When it is painful, when it brings wounds, to ignore the past could be toxic, even very dangerous sometimes. All my writing speaks of this, I think.  But if you have to give the hurtful past its place, if you have to listen to it and draw lessons from it, this is also to free yourself from it.

A.M.: You write in French, but you translate books from Spanish. How do you relate to the two languages?

I really need these two languages, which I love deeply. I pass from one to the other ceaselessly. I love translating. But for my literary work, it’s French that comes most naturally. Perhaps because Spanish is tied to fear, as I was growing up. When I was a child, during the Argentine dictatorship, it happened often that I didn’t know what I could say and what I had to keep hidden. So I preferred to keep quiet, it was wiser. It’s because of this that, although I dearly love my maternal language, I’m very grateful for French, very happy of the freedom that I’ve found using it.

A.M.: How have the books been received in Argentina, and in Latin America generally?

L.A.: In Argentina, my books have been received with a lot of warmth and sympathy. Each week, I receive messages from readers, often young people. The reception to the books in Spain, Latin America and particularly Argentina has really touched me.

A.M.: What’s next for you as a writer?

L.A.: I’m currently writing a book that requires a lot of research and which I hope to finish in a year. But perhaps it will take two more years. It’s a story that occurs between Latin America and Europe. For this novel, I’m working on a true story that requires me to consult many books and to call on others for their memories.

Laura Alcoba and other writers from Latin America and the Caribbean will discuss their work at the Maison de l’Amerique Latine in Paris on March 15, 2017.

This piece was originally published on the culture site SWAN

An Islamic system?

14 March 2017 - 8:57am

By Niaz Murtaza
Mar 14 2017 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Many people say Pakistan`s problems today stem from the wilful failure of rulers to establish an Islamic system. These are not supporters of the militant Islamic State group but well-meaning individuals who abhor IS excesses. For them, this system is like turning on a water tap waiting to deliver unlimited sustenance.

But when asked for specifics, they can only express vague generalities and wishful desires for an egalitarian system. However, egalitarianism is a final outcome that cannot be reached directly but through effective policies which they struggle to identify. Their basic belief, sold widely by clerics, is that the human mind is weak and leads us astray, so we must follow religious injunctions even for small things by gleaning Islamic history for edicts which only clerics can decipher.

There are many issues with this view.

Firstly, what constitutes God`s word? Besides the Quran and hadith, even broad and often questionable interpretations by latter-day and present-day clerics and often even their unsupported opinions are termed God`s word.

The high disregard for human intellect also seems contrary to the message of the Quran which extols it. Human beings are called the best species only since they have high intellect. The Quran says things have been made easy to fathom and those who use their minds can f athom divine signs easily. It is unlikely that a faith which values human intellect so much would expect humans to constantly copy ancient eras with very different contexts for minor things.

There are many societies globally without any history of revealed religions or adherence to detailed religious dogma which have still built materially and morally advanced states, eg, Japan, which f ar excels all Muslim states on both counts today. The human mind has made amazing discoveries with no clerical input. Disparaging it makes little sense.

Thus, this view seems designed to empower clerics by making them the custodian of divine knowledge while disempowering the masses as incapable of discovering the right way without clerics` help. But this is contrary to Quranic edicts that everyone can understand Islam directly without clerics` help. In reality, especially whenit comes to statecraf t, Islam expects people to use their intellect to identify policies relevant to their times. So, even the most important issue in governance, ie, how rulers should attain power, is left to people to decide as both the Quran and hadith appear silent on such matters. Thus, it stretches credulity to claim that Islam expects the divine word to be followed strictly for lesser decisions when even the most key decision has been delegated to people.

Similarly, while the debate on edicts vis-à-vis present-day governance, eg monetary, fiscal, industrial policies, continues, they are questions about their applicability to the challenges of the current times. Islam seemingly expects policies in all such areas to be developed by people. But many things that clerics present as divine injunction and mandatory policies to be adopted by states are either irrelevant or even harmful to the establishment of an egalitarian society today.

So, while we may think that establishing an Islamic system is like turning on a water tap, the obstacles in doing so are far more structural than unwilling rulers.

The Medina system was heavily reliant on the presence of people of very high morals, the likes of whom are absent today.

Even if such people could be assembled, the next challenge would be for them to find an easy and peaceful way of attaining power.

But if honest people could attain power, they could perform wonders even within a secular social democratic system.

So the next challenge would be to demon-strate that they have a vision and concrete policies based on Islam which can outperform secular systems, ie, deliver the strengths of Western democracies while avoiding their weaknesses. Even so, the next challenge would be to overcome the vehement opposition of clerics since this new vision will likelybe very different from the clerics` brand of Islam and will marginalise them. Finally, they will have to win the trust of people who, weary of decades of misuse of religion`s name in politics, largely shun religious politics in Pakistan.

Despite being a firm believer in secular democracy, I still believe if someone builds on Islam`s progressive elements, like egalitarianism, rights for women and minorities, etc., they should be able to develop such a vision. I am a firm believer in secular democracy not because I don`t believe in Islam`s progressive elements, but because I see the faith hijacked by retrogressive forces and little inclination within the majority to challenge their hold and develop a progressive Islamic vision. In such a situation, secular democracy seems the best available option. The writer heads INSPIRING Pakistan, a progressive policy unit, and is a senior fellow with UC Berkeley.

www.inspiring.pk
murtazaniaz@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

Misplaced optimism

14 March 2017 - 8:05am

By Idrees Khawaja
Mar 14 2017 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report The World in 2050, that came out a few weeks ago, forecasts Pakistan as the world`s 16th largest economy in terms of GDP by 2050, ahead of Italy and Canada.

The forecast is perceived by some to mean that Pakistan is on course to becoming a developed economy. However, a large economy is not necessarily a developed economy.

India is the world`s third largest economy, much ahead of Canada, but that does not mean it is more developed than Canada.

While development is a broader and somewhat abstract concept, a larger economy is one that has greater GDP relative to others. GDP is the total income of all individuals of a country; other things being equal, the greater a country`s population the greater its GDP. There is not much to cheer about in being a larger economy, if being larger owes to an increase in population that earns little.

PwC has projected the GDPs of 32 countries using mostly a single set of assumptions. One is that countries will follow `growth-friendly` policies. This is a big if, and what makes it even bigger is that we seem to be unsure what policies are growth-friendly and which ones are friendlier.

For example, building motorways, on which negligible cargo traf fic plies, versus putting the 25 million out-of-school children in schools which one is a growthfriendly policy and which one is friendlier? Are we following growth-friendly policies? Bear in mind that innovations like Google and Facebook are owed to human capital alone.

`Youth bulge`, ie more people entering the working age bracket than leaving it, and the level of inequality in the country are the two ticking bombs that may embarrass PwC on the projected size of Pakistan`s economy.

The PwC`s report says that a huge increase in working age population delivers a `demographic dividend`. However, this depends upon whether the young people entering the job market will manage to find a decent job. Otherwise the kind of political unrest seen in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years cannot be ruled out.

Among the countries experiencing a youth bulge and to which the scenario painted above could apply, the PwC`s report includes Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt and Philippines.

One study suggests that Pakistan witnessed the onset of the `youth bulge`in 1990 which is likely to continue till 2045. Out of around 55 years of the bulge, half stands consumed.

With little evidence of reaping significant benefits from this youth bulge so f ar, scepticism prevails over its future potential. PwCassumes a 1.4pc per annum average GDP growth in Pakistan till 2050 due to population growth the second highest after Nigeria`s 2.3pc among the 32 countries examined by PwC. Given Pakistan`s poor record of benefiting from the youth bulge, PwC`s estimates should be significantly trimmed.

A body of literature suggests that income inequality impedes growth through various channels. The PwC report also cautions that high inequality in some countries could be a huge drag on their economies. Quoting research,it argues that1pcincrease in the income share of the top 20pc decreases GDP growth by 0.08 percentage points while a similar increase in income share of the bottom 20pc increases GDP growth by 0.38 percentage points in the following five years.

While including domestic (economic) policies as drivers of inequality, the report tells us that mass education, heavy taxation of the rich and large social transfers (from rich to poor) re duced inequality f rom 1945-1980 in a number of countries. Inequality measuredby the Gini coefficient has increased significantly over time in Pakistan. The question then is: should we expect inequality reducing policies in years to come? Our GDP in 2050 crucially hinges on this assump-tion. A buoyant economic scene is not in sync with increasing inequality and absence of policies that would curb it.

The return to four and eight years schooling factored in by PwC is 13.4pc and 10.1pc respectively. Studies, undertaken exclusively on Pakistan, show a much lower return on primary and secondary education.

Terrorism has not significantly affected the majority of the 32 countries examined by PwC. Therefore the report does not account for its adverse impact on the economies. But Pakistan is bearing the impact even today. The projections regarding Pakistan need to be revised accordingly.

All this is not to say that Pakistan has no economic potential at all evaluating such potential requires a separate column. This piece only suggests that regardless of what the current economic scenario is, PwC`s forecast seems exaggerated as it does not account for specific growth-constraining conditions at home. It does not, therefore, afford an opportunity to celebrate.

The writer is a researcher at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.
idreespide1@gmail.com Twitter: @khawajaidrees11

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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