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Top 300 Cooperatives Generate 2.5 Trillion Dollars in Annual Turnover

3 July 2017 - 2:30am

Coffee Handlers at Cooperative Café Timor Sifting Coffee Beans. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

The top 300 cooperatives alone generate 2.5 trillion dollars in annual turnover, more than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of France, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

Cooperatives help to build inclusive economies and societies, and can help to eliminate poverty and reach the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the head of the United Nations labour agency on 1 July said, marking the International Day of Cooperatives.

“Let us draw on the strengths of cooperatives as we pool efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and make sure that no one is left behind,” the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder said, referencing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes the SDGs.

Decent work is a fundamental mechanism for inclusion and social justice, Ryder said, noting that decent work is embedded in the SDGs.

“It means being particularly attentive to the situation of working women and men who are at risk of exclusion and poverty, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees,” he said, highlighting this year’s theme for the Day, which is to ensure that no one is left behind.

Cooperatives allow people to create their own economic opportunities through the power of the collective, the UN has said, but there are still more areas where cooperatives’ potential can be explored.

Ryder noted that cooperatives could play a powerful role in efforts to eliminate child labour, forced labour and discrimination at work.

“Addressing the multi-dimensional challenges of inclusion will require cooperation and partnership,” he said.

The 2017 International Day of Cooperatives focused on ‘inclusion’ under the theme ‘Co-operatives ensure no one is left behind’, which complements the priority theme of the 2017 High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development: ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’.

A woman in Valle, Honduras, sets up a street storefront to sell household items. She has built her business with the help of microcredit funds. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten


The Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) – whose membership includes ILO, UNDESA and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) – is scheduled to host the observance of the 2017 International Day of Cooperatives during the High-level Political Forum, to be held from 10-19 July in New York.

This year’s theme for the Forum is “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.”

The Most Powerful Job Creators

Few weeks earlier, a United Nations high official said that by leveraging their ingenuity and creativity to harness new market opportunities, micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises can lead the way towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“That is why these enterprises are at the heart of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti. The Compact involves over 9,000 companies from 162 countries committed to doing business responsibly and advancing the SDGs.

“These enterprises are among the world’s most powerful job creators, drivers of productivity, and agents of growth globally. We simply cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without the support and leadership from such enterprises worldwide,” she on 11 May said in a statement during a high-level meeting on the issue.

By designating 27 June as the annual Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, the UN General Assembly recognised the importance of these enterprises in achieving the SDGs – especially by promoting innovation, creativity and decent work for all (SDG 8), she continued.

Her remarks were a part of the first-ever Small Business Knowledge Summit held at UN Headquarters in New York, co-organised by Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations, the International Council for Small Business and the UN Office for Partnerships (UNOPS).

Ribeiro Viotti said that micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises represent around 90 per cent of global economic activity. They are on the front lines of embracing transformative technologies and new business models. Over half of these business participants are small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises are powerful partners. They can have tremendous impact in embedding responsible business practices and sustainability in today’s complex global value chains,” she said adding: “Their power and potential to help us achieve the 2030 Agenda is very clear.”

At the same time, Ribeiro Viotti called for broader cooperation to foster greater economic development and tackle the challenges faced by these enterprises.

This includes partnerships for capacity building, integrating these enterprises into the formal economy, and ensuring greater access to financial services, microfinance and credit.

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Time Stands Still for Nepal’s Conflict Victims

2 July 2017 - 8:01pm

By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

“Reconstruction and reconciliation require finances and physical structure, but the families of the victims of the conflict first and foremost need their integrity protected. Physical and financial compensation mean little without justice,” wrote Suman Adhikari nearly 11 years ago, during a ceasefire in Nepal’s Maoist insurgency.

The conflict ended later that year, leaving 17,000 dead over a decade, including Adhikari’s father. A teacher and headmaster in Lamjung district, he and his fellow teachers in January 2002 refused Maoist demands to hand over 25 percent of their salaries. Days later, cadres seized him as he was teaching a Grade 10 class, bound his hands and legs, and dragged the man out of the school to a forest, where he was stabbed in the stomach and shot in the head. His body was left tied to a tree.“Many victims have been unable to get on with their lives. They are frustrated and suffer from psychological trauma." --Suman Adhikari

Soon after, Suman returned to the capital Kathmandu, where he began talking to other conflict victims about their own horrible experiences. They met with civil society organisations and political leaders, created an organisation and submitted their demands to political leaders then crafting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Today, as chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, Suman finds himself repeating many of the same requests.

One of the Common Platform’s main demands is that the government provide needs-based compensation to victims. The state has paid most of them Rs 500,000 (4,834 US dollars) as interim relief since the conflict ended but Adhikari says one-off payments can’t replace many of the breadwinners who families lost; without them, many are still struggling to find sufficient work or pay school fees.

“Many victims have been unable to get on with their lives. They are frustrated and suffer from psychological trauma,” he says.

Suman Adhikari, chairperson of Nepal’s Conflict Victims Common Platform, holding a photo of his father. Credit: Marty Logan/IPS

While society moves on, with, for example, the political leader who was prime minister three times during the insurgency taking over as PM again last week from former Maoist supremo Prachanda, victims are being forgotten, Suman says. “They still haven’t had the chance to speak of their pain properly, from the heart.”

A recent report found that victims have diverse demands for ‘truth’. Prepared by the Nepal office of the International Centre for Transitional Justice and local think-tank Martin Chautari from recent interviews with victims, it noted that many people needed closure and an end to their ambiguous losses. “Our people will come home today or tomorrow. We watch the roads,” said one woman in Bardiya, the district that had the most disappearances during the conflict.

Recognition is also a common wish, Aileen Thomson, head of ICTJ Nepal, told IPS. “They feel that the violation happened because of their membership in certain communities … a lot of times violations perpetrated by the State were because of perceived associations with the Maoists, which was really tied to identity and community and where you lived.”

The survivors want society to know that their kin were innocent victims, caught in the crossfire, adds the report.

Just as victims’ demands varied, civil society also had different ideas about what transitional justice should achieve, says Mandira Sharma, co-founder of Advocacy Forum, an NGO that filed numerous court cases for conflict-era crimes. But those theoretical discussions were shelved when it became apparent that political leaders from both sides were hoping to use the process to avoid prosecutions, adds Sharma, who is now doing a PhD in human rights and law.

“We went to see the prime minister at that time, Girona Prasad Koirala, and he was very open and honest. He said ‘Look, I had concerns raised by the military, I had concerns raised by the Maoists, and I have assured them that nothing will happen to them… We have to turn now to development, and we have to forget what happened’.”

Instead, Advocacy Forum and other groups continued to take cases to court. After victims received their interim relief, “You could have closed the chapter forcing victims to be quiet with that, but that would have been temporary: this deep sense of injustice would have remained,” Sharma says.

“In that past that’s what we did (using commissions formed after earlier political milestones like Nepal’s return to democracy in 1990). That hasn’t helped us to heal, that hasn’t helped us to improve the justice system, to correct the sense that certain people are always above the law. And there’s a very deep sense of inequality in our system because of this. We identified this as something we had to fix.”

Today though, transitional justice appears at a near standstill. The government created truth and disappearances commissions in 2014, but the legislation was severely criticised on several fronts. The Supreme Court later struck down a provision that grants amnesty for serious human rights violations.

Human Rights lawyer Raju Chapagain says that while the laws creating the bodies must be amended, the truth commission could be making efforts to advance transitional justice, which would also help to diminish a strong sense of scepticism about the body. “Nothing is preventing them inquiring into human rights violations. Commissions have powers equivalent to courts; they have adequate powers in terms of inquiries,” he says.

By taking action the commission could overcome its “credibility gap,” Chapagain adds, but it has failed to date, in part because it hasn’t engaged with victims.

The truth commission opened its office in Pokhara, west of Kathmandu, this week, one of seven regional centres, but Adhikari says the body still refuses to engage with victims. “The commissions are not good, the appointments are political, the commissioners are new to this: they should at least have a willingness to learn and to collaborate – but they don’t listen to us.”

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The National Relaunches With Enhanced Print and Digital Platforms

1 July 2017 - 1:53pm

By WAM
ABU DHABI, Jul 1 2017 (WAM)

International Media Investments (IMI) today announced the relaunch of The National, Abu Dhabi’s first English language newspaper. The new ‘The National’ features a complete enhancement of both its print and digital platforms with a focus on digital  including  daily video content podcasts with unmissable analysis, 360 degree images bringing the reader closer to the story, interactive graphics and animation as well as live and interactive video interviews and news on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Youtube.

IMI announced the acquisition of  The National from Abu Dhabi Media (ADM) on November 2016. Today marks the completion of The National’s transition to IMI.

In ensuring round-the-clock relevant news, the new ‘The National’ will also include a London Bureau led by Damien McElroy along with correspondents in Washington DC, Beirut and several other cities.

Mina Al-Oraibi, who has taken the helm as Editor in Chief, said: “We have completely revamped our approach to news. Every journalist and staff member starts with a digital focus at the core of their role at the new National. We will engage on all platforms and ensure the widest reach possible for our content, whether in written word, video, images or podcasts.”

“The National will have three objectives: create influential and intellectually challenging content, bring the UAE and Abu Dhabi perspective to the world, and lead in the region and internationally as a modern and digitally led newsroom,” said Al-Oraibi, adding, “In short, The National will be your window to and from the Middle East.”

The relaunch will feature:

 

  • A host of influential new commentators from the worlds of diplomacy, politics and finance
  • Strengthened business coverage under the National’s new Business Editor, Massoud Derhally
  • Expanded sports coverage across all platforms
  • A new, 20-page Weekend supplement showcasing The National’s acclaimed coverage of arts and culture in the UAE and beyond

 

The National will publish its print version 6 days a week with a special weekend edition containing the free supplement.

Dan Gledhill has joined The National as Deputy Editor In Chief with 20 years of journalism at The Independent and the Daily Mail behind him. Meanwhile, the digital transformation is led by Dan Owen, who helped spearhead the digitisation of Trinity Mirror’s newsrooms.

“Our pages will have star power with global names and regional heavyweights contributing. In addition to our weekly writers, we will be reaching out across various disciplines and countries for exclusive pieces,” added Al-Oraibi.

To see the new enhanced ‘The National’, please visit us on: www.thenational.ae

The post The National Relaunches With Enhanced Print and Digital Platforms appeared first on Inter Press Service.

The Greater Caribbean Raises Funds to Protect its Sandy Coasts

1 July 2017 - 3:39am

Tourists enjoy the beach in the international resort of Varadero, in western Cuba. Scientists say the erosion of sandy ecosystems in the Greater Caribbean - which have a high economic value and are a protective barrier for life inland - is irreversible. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Jul 1 2017 (IPS)

Almost no Caribbean beach escapes erosion, a problem that scientific sources describe as extensive and irreversible in these ecosystems of high economic interest, that work as protective barriers for life inland.

“The phenomenon of erosion is widespread in the Caribbean,“ geographer Luis Juanes, a researcher at the recently created state Marine Science Institute of Cuba, who participates in the scientific coordination of a project of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) to protect sandy coasts from the effects of global warming, told IPS.

The regional initiative “Impact of climate change on the sandy coasts of the Caribbean: Alternatives for its control and resilience“ could begin to be implemented this year, after negotiations between the ACS and the main donor for the project: the International Cooperation Agency of South Korea.

“Caribbean beaches have an irreversible tendency to erosion,“ said Juanes in an interview with IPS, referring to a problem “whose main causes are associated with misguided human action in coastal areas, such as the extraction of sand for the construction industry and the building of tourism installations on dunes.“

However, the scientist pointed out that research from local and foreign authors found this kind of deterioration even in pristine beaches on uninhabited keys, which can only be explained by the rising sea levels and other consequences of global warming.

For this reason, the ACS, founded in 1994, which groups 25 countries of the Greater Caribbean region, initially approved in 2016 and ratified in a summit in March this year this proposal set forth by Cuba, within a broader programme of adaptation to climate change.

This programme also includes projects against the invasion by Sargassum seaweed and exotic species such as the lionfish.

To finance the programme, the ACS raises cooperation funds to mitigate and adapt to the new climate scenario in this diverse region of highly vulnerable small islands and mainland countries that have in common developing economies with limited resources for environmental preservation.

So far, the project against erosion of the sandy coasts has received around a quarter of a million dollars from the Netherlands and Turkey, said Juanes. And a contribution of 4.5 million dollars from South Korea is foreseen to achieve the targets set out during its four years of implementation.

Geographer José Luis Juanes, of the Marine Science Institute, stands along the eroding and polluted shore in Havana, where the new Cuban state body is based. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

In addition, each country member of the ACS that confirms its participation will contribute funds and a logistic base.

The initiative´s coordination has already attracted the interest of Antigua and Barbuda, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent, Saint Lucía, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The initiative seeks to improve practices of preservation and restoration of beaches in the Caribbean, by establishing a regional network to monitor erosion, developing a coastal engineering manual, training technical and professional staff, generating scientific exchanges, and providing equipment, among other objectives.

“Part of the topics we are discussing with the Koreans is the collaboration of scientific institutions from that country to contribute a basic infrastructure with some modern technologies such as drones and coastal radars,“ said Juanes.

A key goal is obtaining data to assess the effects of coastal erosion up to 2100 in the area of the Greater Caribbean, which must ensure sustainable use of sandy beaches, its main natural resource for the tourism industry.

Many of these countries depend on the entertainment industry, particularly small island states where tourism represents an average 25 per cent of GDP and is the sector with the highest rate of growth.

A man combs through objects among the trash strewn on the polluted sands of El Gringo beach in the city of Bajos de Haina, the Dominican Republic’s main industrial centre and port. Credit: Jorge Luis Bolaños/IPS

Juanes pointed out that the concern with the issue emerged “mainly in the major tourist centres“ in the region, in the last decades of the 20th century. He said the countries have adopted coastal protection legal measures and engineering solutions on beaches frequented by tourists.

Pioneers in this area, Cuban scientific institutions and state companies have shared their local experiences in coastal protection and restoration with countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Dominican Republic, said the scientist.

He warned that the “touristic development model used is unsustainable“ and the Greater Caribbean should halt the current deterioration of the sandy coasts, since it lacks the resources to maintain artificial beaches, like the ones created in the U.S. state of Florida.

“If our Caribbean beaches and ecosystems deteriorate, in a few years the competition with tourism spots within the United States itself will be overwhelming,“ he said, referring to the main source of visitors to the Caribbean region.

While the beaches of Varadero, in Cuba, the Riviera Maya, in Mexico, and Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, to mention some examples, are financing their own studies and costly maintenance efforts using sand extracted from the depths of the sea, many beaches outside the tourist routes are neglected and affected by pollution.

In response, the ACS project will prepare “at least three beach restoration projects in three hot spots in three different less well-off countries,“ said Juanes.

But he said that they will only “prepare the conceptual framework, do the fieldwork and modeling,“ since the implementation will cost millions and will be up to the countries themselves.

“A community-based and eco-conscious solution is that the people adopt the beaches that they benefit from,“ said Ángela Corvea, the coordinator of the Acualina environmental education programme, which mobilises the authorities and the community in cleaning up the coastline in the Havana district of Playa, on the west side of the Cuban capital.

“Nobody cleans those beaches,“ lamented Corvea about the area with many mainly rocky beaches and only a few sandy ones. For this reason, Acualina has been organising children and young people since 2003 to pick up garbage in three neighborhoods along the coast, including La Concha, the only sandy beach accessible to the public in the municipality.

“These community actions, if all the people that use the beaches would particpate, would improve the preservation of the beaches,“ said the activist. “And to do these things, nobody should wait for an order or decree,“ she said, referring to the limited practical effect of environmental laws in different ACS countries.

In another Caribbean island nation, the Dominican Republic, IPS saw one of the most blatant examples of the deplorable environmental situation on the many beaches that have no tourism.

There are heaps of garbage on the dunes of El Gringo beach in the highly industrialised Dominican municipality of Bajos de Haina. “The problem of pollution on the beach has been discussed a great deal in the neighbourhood council. It needs to be cleaned and dredged,“ said Mackenzie Andújar, a 41-year-old local plumber.

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Caribbean Seeks to Climate-Proof Tourism Industry

30 June 2017 - 8:01am

CTO Secretary-General Hugh Riley (left) and CDB President Dr. Warren Smith share a light moment during the signing of a partnership agreement at CDB headquarters. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 30 2017 (IPS)

The tourism industry is the key economic driver and largest provider of jobs in the Caribbean after the public sector. Caribbean tourism broke new ground in 2016, surpassing 29 million arrivals for the first time and once again growing faster than the global average.

Visitor expenditures also hit a new high, growing by an estimated 3.5 per cent to reach 35.5 billion dollars. And the the outlook for 2017 remains rosy, with expected increases of 2.5 and 3.5 percent in long-stay arrivals and between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 percent in cruise passenger arrivals.A 460,000-euro grant from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will increase the tourism sector’s resilience to natural hazards and climate-related risks.

But tourism officials say Caribbean islands are significantly affected by drastic changes in weather conditions and they fear climate change could have a devastating impact on the industry.

They note that the Caribbean tourism sector faces significant future threats related to both competitiveness and climate change impacts. And for a region so heavily dependent on coastal- and marine-related tourism attractions, adaptation and resilience are critical issues facing Caribbean tourism.

“The impact of more severe hurricanes and the destruction of our most valued tourism assets, our beaches and coral reefs, and the damage to our infrastructure threaten to reverse the developmental gains that we have made,” Dominican Senator Francine Baron said.

“Our efforts to attain the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations cannot be achieved without dealing with the causes of climate change.”

Baron, who serves as Dominica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, made the comments as she addressed a forum on the issue of climate change at the general assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Mexico recently.

In the face of these threats, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Caribbean’s tourism development agency, has received a much-needed boost with a 460,000-euro grant from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to implement a project to increase the Caribbean tourism sector’s resilience to natural hazards and climate related risks.

“Global climate change and its impacts, including the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events, pose a significant risk to the Caribbean region and threaten the sustainability of Caribbean tourism,” the CTO’s Secretary General Hugh Riley said.

“The CTO is pleased to have the support of the CDB to implement this project which will contribute to enhancing the resiliency, sustainability and competitiveness of the region’s tourism sector. Mainstreaming climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk management (DRM) strategies in tourism development and planning is our duty to our member countries.”

The CDB/CTO partnership was formalized at a signing ceremony held on June 22 at CDB’s headquarters in Barbados.

Speaking at the event, CDB President Dr. Warren Smith noted that the tourism sector makes an enormous contribution to the region’s socioeconomic development.

“Tourism generates high levels of employment, foreign direct investment and foreign exchange for our borrowing member countries and, given its multi-sectoral nature, it is a very effective tool for promoting sustainable development and poverty reduction,” Dr. Smith said.

“However, maintaining this critical role calls for adequate safeguards to be erected against the enormous threats that climate change and natural hazards pose to the sustainability of our region.”

Funding is being provided under the African Caribbean Pacific-European Union-Caribbean Development Bank-Natural Disaster Risk Management in CARIFORUM Countries programme, which aims to reduce vulnerability to long-term impacts of natural hazards, including the potential impacts of climate change, thereby achieving national and regional sustainable development and poverty reduction goals in those countries.

During the 19-month project implementation period, the CTO will support the region’s tourism entities with policy formulation, the promotion of best practices in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, and the development of tools to enhance the tourism sector’s knowledge and awareness of disaster risk reduction strategies and the potential impacts of climate variability and climate change (CVC).

A training component will also be included to strengthen the ability of public and private sector tourism stakeholders to undertake adequate mitigation and adaptation actions to CVC. The CTO secretariat will also benefit from institutional strengthening to help provide technical assistance and ongoing support for tourism-related climate services.

The project is in keeping with 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, which has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly.

At the CDB’s Annual Board of Directors meeting held in Turks and Caicos Islands last month, Governors noted the acute environmental vulnerability of the Region and urged CDB to continue to play an important role in helping its Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) build resilience.

Smith said CDB’s commitment to this role was evidenced during the meeting, at which CDB signed an agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the second Climate Action Line of Credit (CALC).

“This will facilitate increased climate proofing of critical infrastructure in the Caribbean. The Line of Credit for Euro 100 million is the largest single loan made by EIB in our region. We are very encouraged by the strong statement of confidence in CDB that this line represents,” he said.

Eligible investments under the Climate Action Framework Loan II include climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency, road transport, water infrastructure and community-level physical and social infrastructure that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve resilience to the impacts of climate change.

“We are delighted to be signing this new climate action loan with CDB, which is the result of a fruitful partnership that lasts for almost four decades, to support new projects in the Caribbean,” said Pim Van Ballekom, EIB Vice President.

“This partnership is currently supporting CDB’s efforts to mainstream climate action to help its borrowing member countries (BMCs), which are all considered Small Island Developing States, to adequately tackle risks related to climate change. Caribbean countries face economic and social challenges which must be addressed whilst ensuring resilience to climate change,” he added.

To date, CDB has committed the total resources under the ongoing Climate Action Line of Credit (50 million euro), for nine projects. This co-financing is associated with total project financing of approximately 191 million dollars (from CDB loans/grants, EIB CALC, counterpart and other sources of financing).

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Ending Child Marriage Could Add Trillions to World Economy

30 June 2017 - 2:07am

In Nepal, many children who suffer from malnutrition belong to young mothers. In fact, teen marriages and pregnancies are common and over 23 percent of women give birth before they are 18 years old. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 30 2017 (IPS)

The benefits of ending child marriage are many—boosting a young girl’s morale and increasing her chances of education and work, and by that virtue, curbing high population rates in developing economies and boosting growth.

Still, more than 15 million children, under 18 years of age, are married each year.

A new study published by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) estimates that from now until 2030, the largely outlawed practice of child marriage is going to cost developing countries trillions of dollars.

“We haven’t seen real investments needed to end the practise. Policy makers narrow it down to human rights abuse, but we didn’t have a sense of the economic impact, which could spur donations by financial investors, donors, and governments,” Suzanne Petroni, one of the lead authors of the report, told IPS.

The burden is borne mainly by poor economies with a large population of children under 18. The UN estimates that Africa, by the end of 2050, will be home to the largest population of children under 18.

In the Republic of Niger, for instance, 77 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 22 were married before they turned 18.

Given the high numbers, Niger also stands to curb its population growth by as much as 5 percent if it ended the practice, and trigger growth of 1.7 billion dollars in additional welfare, 327 million in savings to the education budget, and 34 million through reduced infant mortality.

Similarly, In Uganda, the economy stands to gain 2.4 billion dollars by curbing its population growth, as does Nepal, which stands to gain almost a billion dollars.

Globally, the amount adds up to 500 billion dollars, picked up by related benefits—fewer instances of malnutrition, for example—by the end of 2030.

“Many countries have laws on the books. In Bangladesh, for instance, half of the girls are married before 18. Laws are not sufficient to create change,” Petroni explained.

Besides the glaring benefits of a surge in economic growth in developing countries, ending the practise will ensure better prospects for young girls— better education, higher incomes, and finally, as better decision makers.

In fact, child marriage and higher school dropout rates hamper the chances of earning better wages by 9 percent on average.

The UN aims to abolish the practise by 2030, as a part of its broader mission to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Sustainable Development: Is Media –and the Business- Doing Enough?

29 June 2017 - 12:03pm

Mr. Hisashi Owada, Board Member, United Nations Foundation (center), Ms. Kaoru Nemoto, Director, United Nations Information Centre, Tokyo (left), and Prof. Taikan Oki, Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University (right)

By IPS World Desk
ROME/TOKYO, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Why and how should the media report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in an engaging way? Can the SDGs deliver global development? And what are the role and challenges of business leadership in advancing these goals?

Tokyo has been chosen as the right scenario to pose these key questions and try to answer them in a way that helps achieve the 17 major SDGs that were agreed upon by the international community on the year 2015.

In fact, over 50 well known professional journalists, business leaders, and experts from various backgrounds, participated in the Japanese capital in a two-day workshops organised by the international news agency–IPS, with the support of the United Nations Foundation (UNF).

The workshops aimed to raise awareness and promote better understanding of the SDGs and discuss strategies together for greater and effective engagement by the participants in their implementation.

During the first day, a series of sessions were held under the title: “SDGs Tokyo Workshop for Journalists – Journalism and the Sustainable Development Goals–Working Together — Why and how should the media report on the SDGs in an engaging way?”

On the second day, discussions and exchanges focused on the theme: “SDGs Tokyo Workshop for Business Leaders – Business and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Working Together – Can the SDGs deliver global development? Role and Challenges of Business Leadership in Advancing SDGs”, 35 business leaders attended.

Hisashi Owada, a Board Member of the United Nations Foundation, underscored that the SDGs provide an” important policy framework for international cooperation aimed at promoting sustainable development across the world.”

For her part, Kaoru Nemoto, Director, United Nations Information Centre, Tokyo emphasised the “role that needs to be played by media in transmitting information, thereby raising public awareness and encouraging behavioral changes.”

Prof. Taikan Oki, Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University highlighted policy and science interface where “media has a vital role to play in filling information gaps.”

Prof. Akihiko Tanaka, President, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (right), Mr. Mitsunari Okamoto, Member, House of Representatives and Secretary-General of the SDGs Promotion Committee, Komeito Party, Japan (left) and Mr. Koichi Aiboshi, Ambassador, Assistant Vice-Minister/Director-General for Global Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan (center)

Prof. Akihiko Tanaka, President, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies stated that in his capacity as a negotiator on the SDGs and then as President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), considers the SDGS as “ambitious yet significant policy goals for which extensive collaboration is essential.”

Mitsunari Okamoto, Member, House of Representatives and Secretary-General of the SDGs Promotion Committee of Komeito Party, Japan, emphasised that the SDGs match his Party’s mission and therefore “cross-cutting measures are required for SDGs implementation.”

Koichi Aiboshi, Ambassador, Assistant Vice-Minister/Director-General for Global Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, stressed that the government “will bolster its efforts to raise the public awareness, monitor progress and mainstream SDGs implementation in its policies.”

He also informed that the Japanese Government is preparing for review of Japan’s SDGs implementation at the United Nations High Level Political Forum to be held in July 2017 in New York.

(left to right) Mr. Masanori Kobayashi, Senior Research Fellow, Ocean Policy Research Institute, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Prof. Hideki Ishida, President, Earth Village Laboratory, Japan, Ms. Naoe Yakiya, Director, Japan Relations Office, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Japan Relations Office, Ms. Yumiko Watanabe, Chairperson, KIDS’ DOOR, and Mr. Katsuji Imata, Steering Committee Member, Japan Civil Society Network on SDGs

Masanori Kobayashi, Senior Research Fellow, Ocean Policy Research Institute, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, underlined that SDGs implementation strategies “need to be tailored based on the characteristics and conditions of respective countries and communities, in connection with SDG14 on oceans.”

He stressed the importance of developing partnerships and facilitating policy and institutional transformation for reducing marine pollution, minimising the impacts of ocean acidification and enhancing autonomy of small island developing states and artisanal fishermen.

Prof. Hideki Ishida, President, Earth Village Laboratory, Japan, highlighted the “importance of supporting local processes to raise autonomous resource management in island and coastal communities.”

For her part, Naoe Yakiya, Director, Japan Relations Office, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), recommended to “explore closer partnership between the UN and media” to deliver and share information particularly at the forefront of field operations.

Yumiko Watanabe, Chairperson, KIDS’ DOOR underlined that Japan is “ranked at the bottom group of poverty rate including poverty in children.” She called for policy and institutional reforms to provide equal opportunities and provide better social safeguarding for children who endure economic difficulties.

Katsuji Imata, Steering Committee Member, Japan Civil Society Network on SDGs raised concern about the “growing social gaps and unsustainable pattern of lifestyles” and called for urgent and concerted actions to implement the SDGs.

(left to right) Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka, President, Foreign Press Center Japan, Mr. Tetsuji Ida, Senior Staff Reporter, Kyodo News Agency, Ms. Kyoko Gendatsu, Executive Producer, NHK Enterprise, and Ms. Miyuki Hokugo, News Bureau Desk, Asahi Shinbun

Kiyotaka Akasaka, President, Foreign Press Center Japan, underlined a need” to promote interactions with media for its increased involvement in the SDGs discourse.”

He also stated that information is a vital tool for people to learn from each other and build a sustainable society for which media must continue to play a vital role.

Tetsuji Ida, Senior Staff Reporter, Kyodo News Agency introduced his work on research journalism and stated that it is a challenge to expand SDGs media coverage and facilitate policy and behavioral changes.

Kyoko Gendatsu, Executive Producer, NHK Enterprise introduced diverse TV programs on SDGs related issues and her endeavors to link news and information providers and viewers in SDGs context.

Miyuki Hokugo, News Bureau Desk, Asahi Shinbun stated that reporting on SDGs require different approaches. She also underlined that it is indeed essential to praise good practices while at the same time raise concerns over unsustainable patterns of businesses and activities.

A wide range of issues were addressed in the course of discussions at the Workshop on the first day which turned out to be productive with active participation and interaction between the attending media and the speakers.

The following captures the views expressed by the journalists:

• Comprehending sustainable development issues as an overarching societal agenda
• Eliminating institutional compartmentalisation and promoting cross-sectoral approaches
• Mainstreaming SDGs as a priority policy agenda
• Setting concrete target and multiplying the multifaceted impacts
• Exploring solutions suitable to characteristics and conditions of respective countries and communities
• Promoting synergies among related SDGs and supporting them in a holistic manner
• Producing stories and communicating these as our own
• Promoting continued media coverage and reporting
• Mainstreaming and standardising the effective media coverage and reporting on SDGs
• Linking SDGs not just with social and environmental issues, but also with financial, economic, real estate and asset, and other market issues, reporting with a cross-cutting approach
• Not just reporting and providing critiques, but reporting to praise and positively evaluate good practices,
• Presenting negative and harsh evidence, warning the society with severe reporting, facing those who may encounter negative impacts by the reporting, reporting to criticise wrong doing/bad practices for better solutions,
• Criticism is a mother of transformation and good practices,

The Workshops were held at the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo and were organised with support of the United Nations Information Center in Tokyo, the UNU, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, Global Environmental Forum, Japan, Global Compact Network, Japan, the Japan Center for International Exchange and the Global Environment Outreach Center.

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Southeast Asia: From Miracle To Debacle

29 June 2017 - 10:40am

For many, the "East Asian Miracle" has turned out to be nothing more than a misleading illusion. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

The World Bank and other influential international financial institutions and development agencies have been touting Southeast Asian (SEA) newly industrializing countries as models for emulation, especially by African developing countries seeking to accelerate their development transformations. But these recommendations are usually based on misleading analysis of their rapid growth and structural transformation.

Sub-regional differences
Typically, various cultural and other justifications are offered to justify recommending SEA, rather than Northeast Asia (NEA), as the better sub-region for emulation. Consequently, important lessons from East Asian experiences have been misrepresented, drawing erroneous lessons from the region’s undoubtedly impressive economic performance during its high growth periods.

Despite SEA’s much greater resource wealth, NEA’s growth performance was superior over the long term in the second half of the 20th century until the 1990s, when Japanese economic growth collapsed following its financial liberalization ‘big bang’ shock and the strong yen (endaka) decade from 1985. For over two decades, growth in Japan, Korea and Taiwan averaged 8 percent, compared to 6 percent in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Population growth has been much lower in NEA, increasing per capita differences over at least a quarter century. While income inequalities have grown in most of SEA, they have remained lower in NEA. Hence, economic welfare improvements have been much greater in NEA.

Education
Most accounts of the ‘East Asian miracle’ emphasize education. But educational achievements in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have been greatly inferior to NEA’s. Ironically, the Philippines, which long had the highest share of tertiary educated in East Asia, has not had an impressive economic growth record.

Thus, actual experience compels scepticism about the facile policy recommendations that governments should enhance human resources, but only subsidize primary schooling. Instead, there is now compelling evidence that industrialization and productivity gains have been slowed by the region’s modest progress on education.

Foreign direct investment
Greater SEA dependence on foreign direct investment (FDI) has impeded the development of industrial and technological capacities and capabilities, raising concerns as to whether their industrialization processes were sustainable.

The region has become less attractive for new FDI in the face of growing competition from alternative locations seeking to be part of ‘global value chains’. Meanwhile, the supposed ‘middle income country’ trap in SEA is essentially due to limited development of indigenous industrial and technology capacities owing to modest ‘technological learning’ from the presence of ‘foot-loose’ FDI temporarily locating parts of their ‘value chains’ in the country.

Investment policy reform to promote more sophisticated industries in SEA is long overdue and needs to be coordinated with technology policy reform. SEA governments have not been conducive to elaborating and implementing appropriate investment and technology policies. The rest of SEA has not emulated Singapore’s pro-active technology policy attracting desired investments in line with its own national development priorities besides developing capacities and capabilities using government investments.

Financial havoc

Favouring FDI has weakened the influence of domestic industrial capital in the region, allowing financial interests, both domestic and foreign, to become more influential. Finance capital has developed symbiotic relations with other politically influential rentiers, dubbed ‘cronies’ following the 1997-1998 (mainly Southeast) Asian financial crisis. This powerful alliance successfully promoted partial financial liberalization in the region before the crisis.

Although capital account liberalization greatly increased short-term capital flows, which precipitated the 1997 crisis without increasing FDI, the region has opened up again to short-term capital inflows after accumulating reserves believed sufficient to withstand future crises. This is wrongly referred to as ‘self-insurance’ although there is no insurance element involved. Meanwhile, regional monetary cooperation has advanced beyond earlier bilateral swap arrangements, but there has been little progress beyond that.

Policies
After 1997, the ‘Asian model’ fell into disrepute as the East Asian miracle was written off as a debacle. Hence, it is crucial to also recognize the reasons for its inferiority and vulnerability during the high growth period from the 1960s to the 1990s when the Asian financial crisis exposed its new vulnerabilities.

But it would be a mistake to throw the baby out with the bathwater as there are undoubtedly important lessons to be learnt from SEA as well. Also, some of the very policies that the West has criticized were actually crucial for rapid growth and structural transformation in East Asia.

NEA has generally had more sophisticated and effective industrial policy compared to SEA. This accounts, in no small way, for the major differences in industrial and technological capabilities between the two East Asian sub-regions. Of course, there have also been different industrial policy orientations, emphases and instruments within SEA, sometimes involving discernible contrasts in investment and technology policies.

As these policies were inappropriately or prematurely undermined or terminated, the ‘miracle’ ended, often rather abruptly, due to the financial crises precipitated by liberalization. Contrary to popular Western narratives of the debacle, East Asia’s previously successful ‘catch-up’ efforts had in fact been undermined by financial liberalization promoted by the Washington Consensus.

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Nikki Haley Grilled in US Congress on America’s Role in the UN and the World

29 June 2017 - 9:52am

Nikki Haley and the Egyptian ambassador to the UN, Amr Aboulatta, in the Security Council. Haley told Congress recently that Trump’s proposed budget for the UN put the world body “on notice.” Credit: RICK BAJORNAS/UN PHOTO

By Barbara Crossette
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Five months into her stint as United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley faced two days of often-sharp questioning on June 27 and 28 by influential panels of the United States Congress. They demanded justification for the Trump administration’s decision to slash funding to the United Nations, particularly cuts to the UN Population Fund, Unicef, UN Women and the World Food Program.

Concerns were also raised about the wisdom of reducing the US budget contributions to peacekeeping from 27 percent to 25 percent (which cannot be done unilaterally without incurring arrears) and by squeezing peacekeeping missions around the world. Haley was proud to note that funds for the mission in Haiti were being cut by $150 million, though Secretary-General António Guterres just named Josette Sheeran, special envoy on cholera in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Cuts to US contributions to the International Atomic Energy Agency in an era of nuclear proliferations were also questioned.

Haley also proudly told Congressional members that the US got the UN General Assembly budget committee this month to reduce the annual peacekeeping budget. In fact, the US aimed for $1 billion in cuts but agreed to about half that amount, for a total yearly budget of $7.3 billion.

Paradoxically in her testimony in Congress, Haley bemoaned the lack of equipment for peacekeeping troops (the mission in Mali desperately needs armored tanks), which could be financed through a more generous UN budget and save lives.

The tone of questions asked to Haley by Congressional members may suggest that Trump’s 2018 budget will not get significant legislative support on UN-related issues, yet there remains a hard core of Republican legislators who — not always clear on facts or context on how the organization works — are dismissive and insulting. Among them and other groups, a strong pro-Israeli lobby continues to function and may have been strengthened by Trump’s team.

Haley acknowledged pressure from Israel — calling it “support” — that led to the US forcing Guterres, the secretary-general, to reverse the appointment in February of Salam Fayyad, a former Palestinian prime minister, as the UN’s special representative for Libya. Fayyad’s appointment apparently was not initially opposed by Haley. Asked by a member of Congress about the last-minute about-face in the US on Fayyad, Haley said that because Palestine was not recognized as a country by the US, a Palestinian should not be given an official UN post.

In this case, she said, appointing him would add to the UN’s “imbalance” against Israel. She would not say clearly whether Israel forced the change in the original US position or whether a Palestinian could ever be approved for a UN post.

On her first day testifying before Congress, Haley was questioned by a House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee dealing with funds for international organizations; on the second day, she faced the full House committee on foreign affairs. A consummate politician, Haley performed well, skirting some issues, although generally showing unwavering support for the Trump team and the president himself.

“We are on the same page,” Haley said of Trump, who seems to approve of her tough talk in the international arena and his voice at the UN. “I don’t go rogue on the president.”

Yet, she added later that “this administration does not tell me what to say or not to say.”

In an interesting interlude amid the questioning by appropriations committee members, Haley revealed that the most recent threat to Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad and his backers, Russia and Iran, should another Syrian chemical weapons attack occurred, was just a threat by the US, with no action planned.

The goal, she said, was “to send a message” not only to Syria but also to Russia and Iran to get them to “back off.”

On the zeroing out of US funds for Unicef from the proposed 2018 federal budget, about which members on both committees voiced a range of reactions — from disbelief and disappointment to shock and outrage — Haley breezily replied to one questioner that the “starting point” of the budget was to build up the military and look for cuts everywhere else.

She did not react when Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, asked whether the world’s children — through slashing Unicef — should have to pay for the US military buildup, saying it was “not a proud value that Americans would uphold.”

Members of Congress, many of them Democrats shut out of policymaking in a House of Representatives controlled by the Republican party, also wanted to know why the US appeared to have an incoherent foreign policy. They noted conflicting pronouncements in President Trump’s tweets and public flip-flops; measured statements by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; and declarations by Haley that seemed to be her own opinion at times.

Putting it mildly, the US has become “unpredictable,” a legislator said.

Pressed to describe her relations with her bosses in Washington, Haley revealed to the foreign affairs committee that she rarely talked with Trump or Tillerson and had no information on the unusual number of vacancies in the US State Department. She said that her closest relationship was with the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, the defense secretary; James Mattis, with whom she spoke on issues concerning the UN; and others in the president’s cabinet, of which she is a member.

“We work as a team,” she said, adding that there was “a very organized process in place.”

On Russia, Haley stuck to her strong objections to the invasion of Crimea and Moscow’s incursions into eastern Ukraine, and accepted that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election. She insisted, however, that Trump was not involved in colluding with the election interference. Asked whether she had discussed with Trump the Russian involvement in the election, possibly at the direction or President Vladimir Putin, Haley said that topic had not come up because it was not a UN matter.

Haley faced many questions on the rationale for the total defunding by the Trump administration of the UN Population Fund, or UNFPA. The most persistent questioners came from Democrats, but they were not alone. Haley responded that there was nothing she could do about the full loss of funds from the US to UNFPA since it had been done by presidential order. She insisted that the money saved, about $70 million by current calculations, would go to similar US aid programs.

Those programs, however, strictly bar US funding for any international organization or NGO that assists or even counsels on abortion. Reflecting her lack of interest about the loss of money to UNFPA, she was asked how maternal health care was being replaced by the UN agency in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which she just visited. Although she admitted she didn’t know, she said the next day in Congress “I always just meet with women” when she had visited the refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey.

The Trump administration (and the George W. Bush administration) used debunked reports that the Population Fund’s work in China supported forced abortions there to stop financing the agency. Haley repeated the claim, but told the appropriations subcommittee that the UNFPA was “associated” with a “company” in China that was guilty of involuntary “sterilization.” She did not repeat that formulation in the foreign affairs hearings, but Lois Frankel, a Democrat from Florida, called the China reason a “totally phony excuse.”

“A lot of women are going to suffer,” said Ami Bera, a Democrat from California and medical doctor, said about the cuts to the Population Fund.

Much of the hearings were consumed by repeated questions and criticisms of the Human Rights Council. Haley repeated what she said in her confirmation hearing in January about the Council needing to be “fixed.” She has never said plainly that the US is considering withdrawing from the 47-nation body. But in Geneva in June, Haley, saying she had come to see the Council firsthand, made a brief appearance (about three minutes) in the chamber to announce her presence.

Later that day in a speech to the Graduate Institute of Geneva, she warned that the US could “go outside” the Council to protect human rights if two nonnegotiable conditions were not met.

In that speech, Haley demanded that the Council change its election procedures (which would have to be done by the General Assembly) to “keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats on the Council.” That would mean ending the open election of Council members, who are now chosen regionally by consensus, or horse-trading.

“As it stands, elections for membership to the Council are over before the voting even begins,” she said. “No competition means no scrutiny of candidates’ human rights records. We must change the elections so countries are forced to make the case for membership based on their records, not on their promises.”

Her second demand was that a Council agenda provision — known as Item 7 — which perennially singles out Israel for condemnation, “must be removed.” That command has garnered wide bipartisan support in the US, and American diplomats have been successful in recent years in reducing the number of obsessive resolutions on this issue, which will not be open to debate again until 2020. In Congress, Haley pointed to Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as providing the “hard core support” for Item 7.

Haley had no problem defending Trump’s decision to quit the Paris Agreement on climate change. “We are not going to throw climate out the window,” she said, adding: “What the president did was in the best interest of businesses and the best interest of our country.”

To which Connolly, the representative from Virginia, proclaimed that Trump’s decision put the US in the same boat as Nicaragua and Syria.

(*Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Civilian Casualties Rise in Raqqa as Fighting Intensifies

29 June 2017 - 7:23am

On 3 June 2017 in the makeshift camp at Ain Issa, 50 km north of the Raqqa in the Syrian Arab Republic, a boy carries a jerrycan filled with water. More than 6,000 people live in harsh conditions and the numbers continue to rise as violence escalates in the area. Credit: UNICEF/UN067440/Souleiman

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

As US-backed Syrian rebels plow ahead in the fight to take back Raqqa from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, the stake of civilian lives, who number as many as 100,000 in the city, has raised concerns among top UN officials.

Among them, at least 40,000 are children.

According to the UN Human Rights Office, at least 173 civilians have been killed by air and ground strikes since June 1. Even though the estimated numbers provide the international community with a sense of the killings, the actual numbers are likely much higher.

“The intense bombardment of Al-Raqqa over the past three weeks has reportedly left civilians terrified and confused about where they can seek refuge as they are caught between ISIL’s monstrosities and the fierce battle to defeat it,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday.

Reports of civilian casualties continue to stream out of the region as escape routes are strategically choked off. Hospitals and schools have also been allegedly attacked. In fact, modern urban tactics of warfare, such as the use of humans shield in densely populated areas, has wreaked havoc in the region.

“The large number of civilian casualties indicates that much more needs to be done by the parties to ensure protection of the civilian population,” Zeid stressed.

Fleeing civilians face the risks of landmines and getting caught in the crossfire. Those who have managed to escape have had to pay hefty sums of money, sometimes to smugglers affiliated with ISIL.

There are also allegations that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have looted homes and abducted children to join the fight against ISIL in cities where they enjoy control, like Tabqa.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Tuesday that Washington may continue to supply Syrian Kurdish fighters with weapons even after the ISIL is ousted from its de facto capital Raqqa.

Zeid has called on all parties in the war to review their tactics to minimize loss of civilian lives, and commit fully to international law.

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Insurance: A Valuable Incentive for Small Farmers’ Climate Resilience

29 June 2017 - 6:17am

Abshy Nchimunya of Kayokela farmers club in Pemba district, Southern Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Frequent extreme weather and climate shifts pose a challenge to already vulnerable groups such as smallholder farmers in the developing world. Between 2004 and 2014, farmers are said to have endured the brunt of the 100-billion-dollar cost of climate-related disasters.

With traditional insurance proving costly, especially for smallholders residing in typical rural areas, the alternative approach – weather index-based insurance, which links pay-outs to events triggered by extreme weather – is increasingly becoming popular.R4’s integrated approach to risk reduction has somehow changed the dominant monoculture mindset of more than 2,000 farmers.

In Zambia, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been piloting such an intervention for the past two years in Pemba district of Southern Province. Premised on improving credit uptake and savings – two key enablers for smallholder agricultural growth – the insurance product targets farmers who have taken the initiative of engaging in climate smart agricultural practices (Conservation Agriculture).

Dubbed R4—Rural Resilience Initiative, the project takes a holistic approach to managing risk by integrating improved natural resource management (disaster risk reduction), credit (prudent risk taking), insurance (risk transfer), and savings (risk reserves).

But to what extent has the project helped smallholders? Abshy Nchimunya of Kayokela Farmers Club thinks to a large extent. While there has not been any pay-out in the two-year pilot project cycle, the 34-year-old believes the mere fact of being under insurance cover has been enough incentive for farmers’ resilience to climate shocks.

“I want to thank DAPP and its collaborating partners for initiating a programme like this which has opened my eyes to begin crop diversification so as to improve food security in my household,” says Nchimunya. “Besides this, the opportunity of accessing inputs on time through micro finance made me plant early and a large portion (2.5ha) which has not happened in my farming practices in a long time.”

Over the years, Nchimunya, just like many other farmers in his area, had always grown maize as a major crop. But when the project came, especially with insurance cover as a reward for conservation farming practices, it became an incentive for farmers to diversify into other crops such as cowpea and beans.

And 29-year-old Choobwe Meldah of Sinamanjolo village of the Ndondi Agriculture Camp thinks the project’s emphasis on diversification has uplifted the female voices in male-dominated households where legumes are usually considered female crops with little or no importance attached.

“Over the years, we have been conditioned and made to believe that maize is the best crop with a few legumes grown within the main field just for home consumption, and mainly cultivated by us women,” says Choobwe.

Since R4 however, “extension services have improved; coupled with timely weather information provision from fellow farmers in charge of project rain gauge stations, we have confidence to grow other crops and now treat farming as a business.”

By providing key services that are generally hard to access – financing for inputs, reliable weather information, a profitable market and simple saving schemes – R4’s integrated approach to risk reduction has somehow changed the dominant monoculture mindset of more than 2,000 farmers.

“So far, the project has shown a lot of impact—at least 60 to 70 percent of farmers are practicing conservation agriculture; all these farmers are accessing insurance, micro-credit, and we have taken it as a matter of principle to ensure that they all belong to small village saving groups,” explains Nervous Nsansaula of Development Aid from People to People (DAPP), a lead implementing Agency of R4.

As the pilot project ends this year, a four-year expansion project is on the horizon to cover the other four districts of Southern Province. “With a lot of success stories recorded, the plan is now to extend the project for four years and reach a target of 17, 000 smallholder farmers in four districts,” says Stanley Ndhlovu, R4 Project Manager at WFP Zambia office.

It is such success stories that have led agricultural stakeholders and development agencies to seek sustainable ways of up-scaling weather-based adaptation for farmers who largely rely on rainfall.

Hosted by the CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), how to strengthen the momentum of weather-based adaptation to climate change was part of a fortnight long UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) talks in May 2017, in Bonn, Germany.

During the event, Bruce Campbell, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, echoed farmers’ reasoning that insurance opens numerous opportunities for farmers, aside the expected pay-outs for climate change losses.

“Through research, we have seen that formally insuring farmers against damage and loss caused by climate change is effective,” he said. “Insurance not only compensates smallholders to avoid catastrophic losses, it also allows them to invest and adapt, even when they don’t receive a pay-out.”

His plea is to ensure that all key players are engaged in order to reach more farmers, noting the importance of bringing the insurance industry together with climate change and agricultural researchers to develop truly global solutions.

Adding to the multiple benefits nexus, Michael Hailu, Director, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), shared the prospects of CTA’s flagship project—Making Southern African cereal and livestock farming climate resilient, which seeks to promote the scaling up of four specific proven climate-resistant solutions for cereal and livestock farmers: drought-tolerant seeds, improved climate information services, diversified options for livestock farmers, and innovative weather-based insurance for crops and livestock.

“In one of our flagship projects in Southern Africa alone, 200,000 maize and livestock farmers in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia will have access to weather-based information services by 2019, which will help bolster the insurance market as one of the elements in a bundle of adaptation solutions,” said Hailu, adding that such innovations could pave the way for a proper scale-up.

Working in partnership with the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), the project focuses on a challenge that has critical importance for Southern Africa now and in the future. Climate change is affecting all sectors of the economy in the region, but especially agriculture, which is generally rain-fed.

And Ishmael Sunga, CEO, SACAU, said: “The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) is actively encouraging farmers to take up weather-based insurance because we believe it is an important incentive for investment as well as a safety net for climate-related losses.

“SACAU is currently working with the private sector to help expand an innovative weather-based insurance solution after successful pilots in Zimbabwe. We strongly believe that scaling up index-based insurance on a regional level can effectively share the burden of climate change while also breaking the cycle of low risk, low investment and low productivity.”

Private sector involvement in agricultural development is heralded as a new normal. But how much insulation is provided to poor farmers from a profit-driven industry is usually the question that arises. For example, the first year in the WFP Zambia rural resilience pilot project, the premium for insuring 500 farmers cost about 77,000 dollars.

However, amidst an El Nino-induced drought that affected not only Zambia but the entire Southern African region, some farmers in the project were riled that the index insurance did not trigger a pay-out. This was due to the fact that the satellite data showed that there was rainfall during the agreed window period.

But for farmers, understanding such scientific technicalities proved difficult, a point that Pemba District Commissioner, Reginald Mugoba, highlighted during one of the District Development Coordinating Committee (DDCC) meetings.

“I think it is important to be clear with farmers from the beginning,” he said. “New concepts are always difficult for our farmers to understand, especially if they involve scientific interpretations,” he added, pointing out the need to avoid ambiguity for such projects to be successful in rural communities.

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Education, a Building Block for Sustainable Peace

29 June 2017 - 3:20am

Adult literacy and education program. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/ IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Millions lack access to quality education around the world—but how can the international community change this?

Two years into the adoption of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which includes a goal to provide inclusive, equitable, and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, the question of ‘how’ still remains.

In an effort to answer this question, the UN convened a high-level meeting to discuss and explore new approaches to achieve the education goal, namely SDG 4.

“Access to quality education is not only a goal in itself, but a fundamental building block of creating a better world of sustainable peace, prosperity, and development,” said current General Assembly President Peter Thomson during the opening segment.

“For in the act of investing in education, we are realizing the potential of our greatest asset: the potential inherent in the people of this world,” he continued.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed echoed similar sentiments, stating, “We know that when we deliver education to a young person, we are not only delivering the knowledge and skills they will need to chart their futures, but we are preparing them to lend their hearts, hands, and minds to shaping a much more peaceful, prosperous society indeed for themselves but also for everyone.”

However, much work needs to be done.

More than 260 million children and young people are out of school, and the number of primary-aged children not in school is increasing.

Over 750 million youth and adults also do not have basic literacy and numeracy skills, even if education is accessible.

Access to education often has a trickle-down effect, helping boost food, health, and economic security, all of which are also essential SDGs.

Education is therefore the “golden thread” that connects all 17 SDGs, Thomson noted.

But providing education is no simple task as there are many challenges to overcome.

Children in fragile or conflict-affected countries are often hard to reach but are three times more likely to miss primary school compared to children in other non-fragile developing countries. Additionally, only 50 percent of refugee children and 22 percent of refugee adolescents have access to primary and secondary schools.

“This is not only a short-term challenge, but a challenge that goes directly to the heart of our long-term efforts to build a more peaceful and equal world,” Mohammed said.

Innovative ways to deliver quality education are therefore essential, from providing temporary learning spaces to displaced children to using technology to reach children in remote and hard-to-reach areas.

Girls also still face a range of barriers from gender-based violence to social and cultural norms that prevent girls from attending to even the lack of appropriate and separate toilet facilities for girls, causing 130 million primary and secondary-aged girls to be out of school today.

Two-thirds of all illiterate adults are also women.

Since increasing women and girls’ access to education is proven to directly contribute to healthier families and economies, Thomson urged to look for ways to end gender discrimination that stops women and girls from accessing education.

Participants also highlighted the importance of providing lifelong learning for life and work.

“Over the next ten years, a billion young people will enter the global workforce. They need the requisite skills and competencies required not only to do the jobs that exist today, but the many jobs that haven’t yet been invented,” Mohammed stated.

Thomson added that adults should also be supported with ongoing training to help them adapt to and participate in rapidly changing workplaces.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), automation threatens up to two-thirds of jobs in developing countries, reflecting the necessity of adaptation support and vocational training.

However, among the biggest challenges to provide inclusive, equitable, and quality education is finances which continue to be insufficient worldwide.

The Education 2030 Framework for Action, adopted by the international community in 2015 to lead efforts to achieve SDG 4, provides two benchmarks for public expenditures on education: allocate at least 4-6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to education and/or allocate at least 15-20 percent of public expenditure to education.

Some countries such as the Republic of Korea, which has one of the best education systems in the world, have successfully allocated almost 5 percent of GDP to education, providingequitable access to vocational programs, and achieiving some of the highest secondary and tertiary enrollment and attainment rates in the world.

“This comes from the belief of the people on the power of education from the bottom,” said Republic of Korea’s Former Minister of Education and member of International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity Ju-Ho Lee during the event.

However, this is not the case for many other countries. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) found that 51 out of 138 countries with data spent less than 4 percent of GDP on education, including a number of both low-income and high-income countries.

Though low and lower middle income countries have increased their spending on education, it is estimated that these countries would still face an annual financing gap of 39 billion dollars between 2015-2030.

External resources such as aid become essential for such countries. However, aid to education has remained stagnant.

Between 2014 and 2015, aid to education was a total of 12 billion dollars below its 2010 level and significantly less than the amount required to achieve SDG 4.

Mohammed urged for increased funding both on domestic and international levels, especially to countries most in need, as well as calling on participants to explore new approaches beyond ODA.

New funds dedicated to education have already been created, including the Education Cannot Wait Fund which provides education in humanitarian contexts. The UN’s education envoy Gordon Brown also proposed an international finance facility to leverage funds to help close the global funding gap for education.

Referring to his meeting with schoolgirls kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, Thomson said that it should serve as inspiration to strengthen access to education for a safer and equitable world.

Mohammed made a similar appeal, stating: “There is no better investment in the future of peace and resilience of a society than in the education of its citizens, every citizen, and perhaps to say beyond citizens for those who are stateless—every person deserves a right to quality education.”

The UN High-Level SDG Action Event on Education is the last in a series of SDG events convened by the 71st session of the General Assembly. Each event focused on a key driver of sustainable development including sustainable peace, climate action, financing, and innovation.

The post Education, a Building Block for Sustainable Peace appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Chilean President’s Apology to the Mapuche People Considered “Insufficient”

28 June 2017 - 9:27pm

Representatives of the Mapuche, Lonko and Machi people attend the raising of the flag in the Plaza de Armas in Vilcún, 700 km south of Santiago, one of the numerous ceremonies held in Chile on Jun. 24, declared a national holiday as We Tripantu, the Mapuche new year. Credit: Mirna Concha/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s formal apology to the country’s Mapuche Indians, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them by the Chilean state, is seen by indigenous and social activists in the central region of Araucanía – the heartland of the Mapuche people – as falling short.

Native leaders in that region are calling for concrete actions and policies with regard to key questions such as their demands for self-determination, respect for their rights to their ancestral land, water use rights, and an end to violence against indigenous people.

The latest incident took place on Jun. 14, when members of the carabineros militarised police used tear gas during a raid in a school in the town of Temucuicui, which affected a number of schoolchildren and local residents.

On Jun. 27, lawyers at the government’s National Human Rights Institute filed legal action on behalf of the schoolchildren in that Mapuche town of 120 families, in the region of Araucanía.“While the question of relations between the state and indigenous people is fundamentally political, any kind of self-determination must necessarily be accompanied by management of and access to economic resources. These are the most marginalised parts of the country, and are also paradoxically where the most profitable industries operate. That is immoral.” -- Carlos Bresciani

“This apology and acknowledgment that mistakes, and especially atrocities, have been committed is important,” said Adolfo Millabur, mayor of the town of Tirúa, the hub of the Mapuche people’s ancestral territory, with respect to the Jun. 23 request for forgiveness by the socialist president, during the launch of a Plan for Recognition and Development of Araucanía.

“I think it is positive that a president of Chile has recognised mistakes and above all atrocities committed after the Chilean state’s invasion of Mapuche territory started in 1860, in the misnamed ‘Pacification of Araucanía’,” he said.

The “Pacification of Araucanía” was a brutal military campaign by the Chilean army and settlers that ended in 1881 with the defeat of the Mapuche people, leaving tens of thousands of indigenous people dead and leading to the reduction of Mapuche territory from 10 million to just half a million hectares.

But Millabur called for “concrete measures to repair the damage caused” and said “the demilitarisation of the area would be a good gesture.”

“Children are suffering, there are victims of all kinds, Mapuche people have died, and there is no indication of how the state is going to act in the immediate future, if it is going to continue to militarise the area as it is doing now,” he added.

The Association of Municipalities with Mapuche Mayors acknowledged in a communiqué that Bachelet’s apology “is aimed at gaining a better understanding between the Mapuche people and the state.”

But it also said “this gesture must be accompanied by concrete developments such as new forms and methods of dialogue, a different approach by the police in our communities…fair trials for our brothers and sisters, and the non-application of the anti-terrorism law.”

The mayors were referring to the prosecution of Mapuche activists accused of setting trucks on fire, and the continuous raids on Mapuche homes and buildings, such as the one in the school in Temucuicui.

Mapuche activists have been arrested and prosecuted under the 1984 anti-terrorism law, put in place by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and still in force, which allows witnesses to conceal their identity while testifying, and provides for longer periods of arrest on remand and extremely heavy sentences.

According to the last census, from 2012, 11 percent of Chile’s population of 17.7 million people identify themselves as indigenous.

Of the country’s 1.9 million indigenous people, 84 percent are Mapuche. Smaller native communities in Chile include the Aymara, Atacameño, Pehuenche and Pascuense people.

Catholic priest Carlos Bresciani, the head of the Jesuit mission in Tirúa, told IPS that “it is laudable that the president apologised, but asking for forgiveness is not enough if it is not accompanied by fair reparations.”


During the launch of a new plan for the region of Araucania, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet apologised to the Mapuche people on Jun. 23 in the name of the Chilean state, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them. Credit: Chilean Presidency

Bresciani also believes greater dialogue with the Mapuche people will be possible “if more political questions such as self-determination or autonomy are put on the table, and if the dialogue includes all sectors, no matter how radical they might be.”

The priest was referring to the low level of representation of Mapuche leaders on the Araucania Presidential Advisory Commission, appointed by Bachelet in January 2015, which wrapped up its work in January with a package of proposals that included a suggested apology by the president.

“If she wants to talk about collective rights, (Bachelet) should be reminded of the treaties signed by Chile, such as convention 169 of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous people which, among other things, declares their right to self-determination or autonomy, terms that are absent from her plan for Araucanía,” Bresciani said.

Jorge Pinto, a history professor at the Universidad de La Frontera, a university in Temuco, the capital of Araucanía, who sat on the commission set up by Bachelet, told IPS that the government’s new plan for that region is “sound and complete” and interpreted the apology as a gesture aimed at reactivating dialogue.

“We need more dialogue,” said Pinto. “I agree with the president’s call for more dialogue, without repression, because repression brings more violence.”

But the academic urged “talks with the different actors from the region who have been left out so far.”

He also said “it is not enough to guarantee rights to land ownership and water use. Control over their land by indigenous people and autonomy in managing resources are also necessary.”

“No one is proposing that the forestry and hydroelectric companies pull out of the region,” said Pinto. “What we are saying is that agreements must be reached with the local communities affected by hydropower dams, logging companies and mines, and not with the authorities.”

Jesuit missionary Bresciani said “the main issue is not poverty or marginalisation; it’s political.”

“The proposals talk about economic or development policies,” the priest said. “While the question of relations between the state and indigenous people is fundamentally political, any kind of self-determination must necessarily be accompanied by management of and access to economic resources. These are the most marginalised parts of the country, and are also paradoxically where the most profitable industries operate. That is immoral.”

According to Bresciani, the extreme poverty in Araucanía “is the result of a systematic and planned policy to appropriate resources, under an unsustainable extractivist model. The measures proposed are not aimed at modifying these structural policies, but at continuing to offer money to turn the communities into clients of the existing system.”

Social activists and indigenous leaders admit the value of some of the initiatives included in Bachelet’s plans, such as the official declaration of Jun. 24 – We Xipantu, the Mapuche new year – as a national holiday, and a stronger effort to teach Mapuzungún, the Mapuche language, in schools in their communities.

They also applaud the proposal to explicitly recognise native communities in the projected new constitution, which would replace the current one, which dates back to 1980 and is a legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship which successive democratic governments have failed to replace, implementing limited reforms instead.

Activists say however, that the measures taken so far have been inadequate, and point out that Bachelet’s term ends in just nine months.

That will make it difficult to bring about real actions in areas such as land ownership and water use rights, which are key to a regional economy dominated by the interests of large logging, hydropower and mining companies.

Former right-wing president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), who is the favorite in the opinion polls for the November elections as the likely candidate for the Chile Vamos alliance, supports Bachelet’s apology to the Mapuche people.

“I agree with the apology because I believe that throughout history, many injustices have been committed against the Mapuche people,” said Piñera. He added, however, that “the apology is just a gesture, and does not solve any problem.”

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Did Arab Coalition Threaten to Pull Out of UN in Protest?

28 June 2017 - 4:36pm

Children sitting in front of a school that was badly damaged in the conflict in Yemen. Credit: UNICEF/Abu Monassar

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28 2017 (IPS)

When Saudi Arabia – which has been spearheading a coalition of Arab states in a devastating war against Yemen since 2015 – was accused of bombing civilians, and particularly children caught up in the conflict, the government in Riyadh threatened to cut off humanitarian funding to the world body.

As a result of the looming threat, Saudi Arabia was de-listed from the “offending” annex to a UN report last year, by then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, largely in order to appease the Saudis.

But the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan, with close links to the Jordanian royal family, has cited a report that nine Arab states – the Saudi coalition fighting the Houthi/Saleh rebels in Yemen – made the “unprecedented threat of a withdrawal from the UN if they were listed as perpetrators in the annex of the Secretary General’s report on children and armed conflict.”

The new revelation by Zeid– a former Jordanian Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a former Ambassador to the United States – has shed new light on a hitherto unknown threat by the Arab coalition, coordinated perhaps by the Saudis.

Besides Saudi Arabia, the nine-member Arab coalition includes Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait and Qatar (whose role in the coalition has been suspended since the emergence of a new crisis among Gulf nations early this month).

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics & Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, told IPS “this threat by Saudi Arabia and its allies may indeed be unprecedented. Personally, I say call their bluff.”

“It’s important to stick to principle, particularly in regard to international humanitarian law. The reason more countries haven’t actually withdrawn is that they recognize that being part of the United Nations is on balance to their advantage, so it would be their loss and they would eventually return,” declared Zunes.

He said that “countries have threatened, and at times actually pulled out of certain US committees and agencies in protest, but pulling out of the UN itself is almost unprecedented.”

He pointed out that Indonesia pulled out of the UN in January 1965 in protest of Malaysia being elected to the Security Council, but resumed participation after the coup later that year.

Technically, there are no provisions for withdrawal, so the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) simply referred to it as a “cessation of cooperation” and allowed for Indonesia’s return with little fanfare, said Zunes whose areas of specialization include the United Nations and the Security Council.

He said some right-wing elements in Israel and the United States have threatened to pull out over criticisms of Israel and there are periodic attempts by Republicans for a pullout (currently there is an “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017” (H.R. 193) introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers, but won’t be going very far.)”

In a statement last year, Amnesty International (AI) said the credibility of the United Nations was on the line “after it shamefully caved in to pressure to remove the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition from the UN’s list of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights in conflict.”

The statement followed an announcement by the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the change to the list published as part of an annual report by his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

“The move was a direct result of diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia, angry at the UN’s conclusion that coalition operations had led to the death and suffering of children in the armed conflict in Yemen”, AI said.

“It is unprecedented for the UN to bow to pressure to alter its own published report on children in armed conflict. It is unconscionable that this pressure was brought to bear by one of the very states listed in the report,” said Richard Bennett, Representative and Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office.

Speaking before the Law Society in London June 26, Zeid also said the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the Inter-American Court, the Southern African Development Court, and the International Criminal Court have also not been spared such threats.

“Fortunately, in almost all these cases, either the threat of withdrawal has fizzled out, or, even if one or two countries did withdraw, no chain reaction ensued. But the regularity of these threats means it is increasingly probable the haemorrhaging will occur someday – a walk-out which closes the book on some part of the system of international law,” he warned.

Martin S. Edwards, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, told IPS that even he had I’ve not heard of the threat, he would suspect that “this is going to get more common, not only with autocracies under duress, but with countries getting inspired by this White House’s maddening inconsistency with multilateralism.”

“I’m no expert on Saudi foreign policy, but I’d be surprised if it was actually couched in this way. After all, how can the Saudis speak for other countries? I’m sure the Saudi’s own threats to rethink any financial contributions would have been potent enough as it is,” said Edwards who monitors the politics of the United Nations.

Zeid also told the meeting in London that the US is weighing up the degree to which it will scale back its financial support to the UN and other multilateral institutions.

“It is still deciding whether it should withdraw from the Human Rights Council and there was even talk at one stage of it withdrawing from the core human rights instruments to which it is party,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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