By Rabiya Jaffery
ABU DHABI, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)
Much of the world is moving away from oil for its electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which says that globally the fossil fuel has dropped from a 25 percent share to 3.6 percent over the last four decades.
And, as the Gulf States take steps to expand their use of clean energy, an ambitious plan by the United Arab Emirates to boost its use of renewable electricity from less than 1 percent to 50 percent by 2050 could be a game-changer for the region, experts say.
Dropping oil prices and growing concerns about climate change have exposed the downsides of relying on oil. As the Gulf’s demand for power continues to rise, the UAE is leading the way in shifting to greener energy resources including multiple major investments in solar projects in order to reduce energy consumption and preserve natural resources.
In Abu Dhabi, for example, construction began earlier this year for an 11.1.1GW plant, its largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant yet, which is to produce enough electricity to power about 200,000 houses.
According to a press release, the plant, being constructed by Japan’s Marubeni and China’s JinkoSolar, is to be connected to the grid between the last quarter of next year and March 2019.
“This project must be associated with the creation of advanced research centre to drive the economic and technological journey, placing the UAE on the world map of knowledge-based economies,” tweeted Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the vice chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, about the launch of the construction.
This project falls in line with the UAE Energy Plan 2050, which aims to increase clean energy use by 50 per cent and improve energy efficiency by 40 per cent, resulting in savings worth Dh700 bn.
Dubai’s Electricity and Water Authority, DEWA, has also launched a number of major projects on renewable energy, to drive the sustainable development of the Emirate.
This includes the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world and the first of its kind to be implemented according to the Independent Power Produce (IPP) model, with a total investment of AED 50 billion, and a planned capacity of 1,000 MW by 2020 and 5,000 MW by 2030.
According to Energy Digital, the park will eventually save approximately 6.5 million tons per annum in emissions.
Hazza bin Zayed also wrote that UAE’s interest in producing renewable energy is leading to a decline in the global cost of energy tenders in solar power and wind energy, , especially in Europe and other parts of the Middle East.
DEWA has already broken two world records with the project – first, by obtaining the lowest price globally for the park’s second phase, at USD 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour (kW/h) last year and another, earlier this year, with the lowest recorded bid being USD 2.99 cents per kW/h for the 800MW third phase of the park.
DEWA’s has also launched the Shams Dubai initiative, the largest distributed solar rooftop project in the Middle East, which has commissioned DP world into installing 88,000 rooftop solar panels in some of its houses and building complexes. Any surplus energy will be exported back into DEWA’s grid.
“This supports our efforts to achieve the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, launched, to transform Dubai into a global hub for clean energy and green economy,” writes Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD and CEO of DEWA about the initiative, in a column for a local publication.
He added that DEWA’s strategy is in line with Dubai’s target of generating 5,000MW of solar power by 2030, comprising 25 percent of its total power output.
Dubai has also taken up a number of other initiatives and projects including a 1.5MW system deployed at the Jebel Ali Power Station and the Dubai solar schools program, which targets around 50MW over three years of systems installed in schools across the emirate. The Dubai based Al Nabooda Automobiles has also signed a solar lease for the development of 6.7MW of solar power to their new DIC facility and Aramex has a new 3MW system on their logistics facility.
Al Tayer added that due to UAE’s positioning on the solar belt makes solar energy the most common source of clean energy in the UAE and the country now realizes the importance of harnessing it.
By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)
Víctor Rodríguez arranges lettuce, broccoli, potatoes and herbs on a shelf with care, as he does every Sunday, preparing to serve the customers who are about to arrive at the Alternative Market of Bosque de Tlalpan, in the south of the Mexican capital.
Farmers bring their organic vegetables from San Miguel Topilejo, a rural village a few km away in the municipality of Tlalpan, where they grow chard, onions, radishes, beets and other produce as a group on a total of seven hectares.
Agriculture “is a family heritage handed down by our grandparents, we are the third generation, it gives us knowledge and tools for living. We farmers must continue to exist, because we form part of the food chain,“ said Rodríguez, 36, whose wife also works in the association.
He is one of eight members of the Organic Vegetables’ Producers association of San Miguel Topilejo “Del Campo Ololique”, which in the Nahuatl indigenous tongue means “place where things are well.“
Rodríguez, a father of two, says “the best thing to do was return to the roots and contribute to future generations,“ referring to the decision to engage in organic farming and create direct channels of distribution, instead of selling their crops to wholesalers, who used to pay them a pittance.
“We have made it through the hardest part, which was to keep the project alive. Now we have steady customers who want healthy products, they know what they are consuming. We have gained the trust of our customers,“ he explained.
The association emerged in 2003 and harvests some 700 kg of vegetables a week, which the members take on Sundays to the Tlalpan street market and two other alternative markets in Mexico City, and on Tuesdays to Cuernavaca, a city about 90 km south of the capital.
They also welcome visits to the farm by customers interested in seeing how they do things.
The group has added 1,000 metres of tomato greenhouses and 500 of cucumbers, thanks to a rainwater collection system that allows them to cultivate year round. They also make beet juice and ready-to-eat salads, to incorporate added value.
In Topilejo, which in Nahuatl means “he who holds the precious chieftain’s staff“ and where some 41,000 people live, the group also protects the forest and has built terraces to prevent mudslides.
The Ololique association is one of the five winners of the 2017 Fund for the Innovation of Short Agri-Food Chains, organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the non-governmental organisation Slow Food Mexico, which distributed some 34,000 dollars between five undertakings.
A total of 98 groups involved in sustainable commerce, eco-gastronomy and nutritional education ran in the competition held to promote traditional cuisine, agroecological food production, clean systems in small-scale agriculture, agricultural biodiversity of crops and wild species, as well as food security, sovereignty and resilience.
Short food supply chains are market mechanisms that imply a proximity between places of production and consumption, which offer products grown using sustainable agricultural practices, with fewer intermediaries and closer ties between producers and consumers.
The idea is that these mechanisms can bolster family farming, whose international year was celebrated in 2014, to promote agroecological practices, improve farmers’ incomes, protect the environment and bolster sustainable food.
“Short chains are mechanisms of commercialisation to sell directly to consumers or through only one intermediary,“ explained Mauricio García, coordinator of the Short Food Chains project in the FAO office in Mexico.
“Since the farmers know the consumers, they start growing in response to demand, and their products sell better. The consumer knows who the producers are and can see how they grow their food,“ he told IPS.
The expert said that this way “a connection“ is established that allows small-scale farmers to sell their products at a fair price and allows consumers to buy products knowing where they came from.
FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food estimate that small-scale agriculture produces 75 per cent of the country’s food. Of the more than five million farms in Mexico, over four million are family farms.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, small-scale farming makes up nearly 81 per cent of agricultural holdings, provides between 27 and 67 per cent of food consumed domestically, occupies between 12 and 67 per cent of agricultural land and contributes between 57 and 77 per cent of regional agricultural employment.
In this country of 129 million people, there are only 26 short food supply chain street markets, where farmers sell their produce directly to consumers in markets that they have set up themselves, according to the Platform of ‘Tianguis’ and Organic Markets of Mexico, and confirmed by FAO.
In 2017, the Mexican Agriculture Ministry’s Programme to Support Small-Scale Producers has a budget of 490 million dollars – a 29 per cent increase with respect to 2016.
One of the objectives of the Ministry’s 2013-2018 sectoral programme is to support the production and incomes of small-scale farmers in the poorest rural areas.
Rodríguez said that reaching more markets and consumers without intermediaries will require more support. “These projects are indispensable, because we defend agriculture, preserve our communities and protect the environment,“ he said.
The group plans to buy a solar dryer, add another four hectares of land in 2018, register their brand and design packaging and wrappers for their processed foods.
FAO and the Agriculture Ministry list some of the challenges for small-scale agriculture, such as human capital, limited capital goods and technologies, weak integration in production chains and degradation of natural resources.
They also include high vulnerability to weather shocks, low yields and serious constraints due to shortages of land and water.
García suggests a change in perspective for the public sector.
“We want strategic aspects to be financed in these projects, which already have a history and required very concrete things, in order for them to work better. They can have better products, with more added value to generate more resources and to be able to sustain their projects,“ he said.
He stressed that “these are replicable initiatives, we need to finance them, for them to thrive and to promote their replication.“
Since 2013, the more than 190 United Nations member states have been negotiating the “Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people living in rural areas.“
It addresses and promotes the rights to natural resources and to development, to participation, information about production, commercialisation and distribution, as well as to access to justice, work, and safety and health in the workplace.
In addition, it deals with rights to food and food sovereignty, to decent livelihoods and income, to land and other natural resources, to a safe, clean and healthy environment, to seeds and to biodiversity.
Meanwhile, organisations of farmers, rural associations and research centres have promoted, since 2015, that the UN declare a “Decade of Family Agriculture“.Related Articles
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- Mexico’s Chinampas – Wetlands Turned into Gardens – Fight Extinction
The post Local Farmers and Consumers Create Short Food Supply Chains in Mexican Cities appeared first on Inter Press Service.
By Andreas Bummel
BERLIN, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)
Earlier this month, the European Parliament adopted its annual recommendations on the European Union’s policy at the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly that begins in September.
Among other things, the European Parliament called on EU governments to foster a debate “on the topic of establishing a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly with a view to increasing the democratic profile and internal democratic process of the organisation and to allow world civil society to be directly associated in the decision-making process.”
For more than twenty years the European Parliament has been pushing for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). Six years ago it called on EU governments to promote its establishment.
The Council’s working group on the UN had a brief internal discussion at the time and concluded that the creation of a UNPA would imply a modification of the UN’s Charter which was considered unrealistic. It was also said that it would be a paradox for the UN to establish a UNPA since there are member states that do not have a democratically elected parliament. Finally, the point was made that a UNPA would entail high costs that the UN and governments would be unable to bear.
The Council did not engage with the parliament or anyone else pertaining these and other arguments. Its consideration of the issue was superficial. Ironically, it is easier for the UN to create a UNPA than to add just one single seat to the UN Security Council. Other than the Council seemed to believe, while the latter indeed requires an amendment of the Charter, the former clearly does not.
A UNPA can be created according to Article 22 which allows the General Assembly to establish subsidiary bodies as it deems necessary to fulfill its work. A UNPA could be seen as part of the assembly’s “revitalization”, a topic that has been pursued for long but did not yield much results so far.
Each year, Freedom House in Washington D.C. publishes its assessment of democracy in the world and today nearly two thirds of UN member states are considered to be “electoral democracies”. The foundation warns, however, that democracy is increasingly under threat by populist and nationalistic forces as well as authoritarian powers.
Proponents of a UNPA keep pointing out that giving parliamentarians a voice at the UN would help strengthening democracy especially in countries where it is still weak and under pressure. Opposition politicians certainly would benefit from a seat in a UNPA and the international exposure that would go along with it.
After all, it has been a key argument that if the UN’s promotion of democracy is to be credible, the world organization itself needs to democratize as well. The establishment of a UNPA could also be understood as a response to Sustainable Development Goal 16. SDG 16 targets include the development of “effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” and ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Why should the UN, of all things, be excluded from this?
A UN parliamentary body could be a useful complement to the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development in order to review the implementation of the SDGs.
At the beginning, a UNPA need not be a monumental investment. It depends on the specifics. So far, neither the Council of the EU or anyone else has come up with a thorough calculation. How can you argue that the costs would be too high if you never calculated them in the first place?
Under US President Donald Trump multilateralism and UN funding are under threat. This should be a wake-up call. To a large degree, a UNPA would be educational. It would bring the UN closer to lawmakers in the capitals and could help strengthen budgetary support of UN member states. In the long run, strengthening the UN’s democratic profile could turn out to be a good investment.
When she was an Italian deputy, the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, endorsed a UNPA and last year she confirmed that she still believes that it “could be a very useful tool.”
For a long time, EU governments have been ignoring the European Parliament’s endorsement of a UNPA. Will it be different this time?
Although a debate on this topic is not unrealistic, it is premature to expect that there will be a formal push in the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly. Most UN member states, including those from the EU, never looked into the concept of a UNPA in a serious way and will have to do their homework first.
Support like it was expressed by Malta’s foreign minister George Vella, who was succeeded last month, or by the cabinet of Italy’s foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, who is now Italy’s Prime Minister, was the exception.
In May an informal meeting in New York hosted by the Canadian UN mission in collaboration with the international Campaign for a UNPA brought together representatives of 12 governments for a briefing on the proposal. This was a sign of growing interest.
More such informal meetings seem to be the most likely way forward for the time being. In the process, several EU governments – and other UN member states – may declare their support in one way or another which eventually could bring it on the EU’s and the UN’s agenda.
In particular, it will be interesting to see what position the new French government under President Emmanuel Macron will take.
The post Lawmakers in Europe Want the UN to Debate a Parliamentary Assembly. When Will Governments Follow? appeared first on Inter Press Service.
By Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
MOSCOW and KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)
The transition to market economy and democracy in the Russian Federation in the early 1990s dramatically increased mortality and shortened life expectancy. The steep upsurge in mortality and the decline in life expectancy in Russia are the largest ever recorded anywhere in peacetime in the absence of catastrophes such as war, plague or famine.
During 1987-1994, the Russian mortality rate increased by 60%, from 1.0% to 1.6%, while life expectancy went down from 70 to 64 years. Although life expectancy declined from 1987, when Mikhail Gorbachev was still in charge, its fall was sharpest during 1991-1994, i.e., during Boris Yeltsin’s early years.
In fact, mortality increased to levels never observed during the 1950s to the 1980s, i.e., for at least four decades. Even in the last years of Stalin’s rule (1950-1953), mortality rates were nearly half what they were in the first half of the 1990s.
Economic output fell by 45% during 1989-1998, while negative social indicators, such as the crime rate, murder rate, suicide rate and income inequalities, rose sharply as well, but even these alone cannot adequately explain the unprecedented mortality spike.
This Russian mortality crisis underscores the impact of stress on life expectancy. Anne Case and Angus Deaton have linked deteriorating American white male real incomes to various distress indicators since the turn of the century. Their careful work helps us better understand the election of US President Trump, thanks to the electoral majorities he secured in the ‘rust belt’ states, so crucial in the American ‘electoral college’ system.
During the Enclosure movement and the Industrial Revolution in Britain from the 16th to the 18th century, mortality increased and life expectancy fell by about a decade – from about 40 to slightly over 30 – due to lifestyle changes, increased income inequalities and mass impoverishment.
Other instances of life expectancy reduction due to social changes – without wars, epidemics and natural disasters – are very few and never involved a fall in life expectancy by five years, from 69 to 64 years, in the three years from 1991 to 1994 for the entire population of a large country like Russia!
This dramatic fall has been obscured in much of the Western media coverage, although some academic research has been more accurate. Thus, the Economist implied that the fall was greater during Gorbachev’s final years (1987-1992) compared to Yeltsin’s early years (1992-1997).
Why premature death?
What kinds of stress did the transition induce, and why did they lead to premature death? Stress is correlated to the rise in unemployment, labour mobility, migration, divorce, and income inequalities.
These stress indicators turn out to be good predictors of changes in life expectancy in Russia during the ‘post-Soviet’ transition. Men in their forties and fifties who had lost their jobs, or had to move to another job and/or region, or lived in regions with greater inequality or higher divorce rates, were more likely to die prematurely in the 1990s.
The major popular alternative ‘explanation’ is increased alcoholism, which does not stand up to closer critical scrutiny for several reasons. First, during some periods, per capita alcohol consumption and death rates moved in opposite directions, e.g., during 2002-2007, death rates due to external causes – including murders, suicides and poisoning – fell as alcohol consumption rose.
Second, according to both official statistics and independent estimates, per capita alcohol consumption levels in the 1990s were equal to or lower than in the early 1980s, whereas death rates due to external causes doubled, and the total death rate increased by half. This simultaneous increase in indicators (total death rate, death rate due to external causes, and alcohol consumption) appear to be driven by another factor, namely stress.
Post-communist transitions varied
But not all post-communist transitions had equally traumatic consequences. Countries which proceeded more gradually – such as China, Uzbekistan and Belarus – managed to preserve institutional capacities and capabilities, thus avoiding or at least mitigating the output collapse and the sudden, dramatic increase in socio-economic stress indicators.
China and Vietnam did not experience any recession during their transitions, while life expectancy in both these countries continued to rise, although more slowly in China compared to before the 1980s, and to other countries with similar per capita GDPs and life expectancy levels.
In the case of Cuba, the 40% output reduction during 1989-1994 did not result in a mortality crisis. Instead, life expectancy in Cuba increased from 75 years in the late 1980s to 78 years in 2006.
By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)
The Caribbean accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries and Barbados is in the top ten. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines countries like Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis as water-scarce with less than 1000 m3 freshwater resources per capita.
With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean, experts say agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences.Expensive, desalinated water resources are also becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 percent in Antigua and Barbuda.
This is particularly important since the majority of Caribbean agriculture is rain fed. With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the Caribbean, countries’ fresh-water supply will become increasingly important.
In light of the dilemma faced by the region, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) is spearheading a climate smart agriculture project in which 90 farmers from three Caribbean countries, including Barbados, will participate over the next 18 months.
Executive director of the CPDC Gordon Bispham said the aim of the project, in which farmers from Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines are also involved, is to support sustainable livelihoods and reinforce that farming is serious business.
“Farming is not a hobby. It is a business where we can apply specific technology and methodologies, not only to be sustainable, but to be profitable. That is going to be very central to our programme,” Bispham said at the project’s launch last week.
“If we are going to be successful, it means that we are going to have to build partnerships and networks so that we can share the information that we learn from the project. We must not only upscale agriculture in the three countries identified, but bring more countries of the region into the fold,” he said.
According to the FAO, drought can affect the agriculture sector in several ways, by reducing crop yields and productivity, and causing premature death of livestock and poultry. Even a dry spell of 7-10 days can result in a reduction of yields, influencing the livelihoods of farmers.
Farmers, particularly small farmers, are vulnerable to drought as their livelihoods are threatened by low rainfall where crops are rain fed and by low water levels and increased production costs due to increased irrigation, the FAO said.
It notes that livestock grazing areas change in nutritional value, as more low quality, drought tolerant species dominate during extensive droughts, causing the vulnerability of livestock to increase. The potential for livestock diseases also increases.
“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, so this is a key issue for Caribbean food security,” said Deep Ford, Regional Coordinator for FAO in the Caribbean.
He adds that the poor are vulnerable as food price increases are often associated with drought. Expensive, desalinated water resources are also becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 percent in Antigua and Barbuda, and this can impact the poor significantly.
The FAO official adds that rural communities are vulnerable since potable water networks are less dense and therefore more heavily impacted during drought, while children are at highest risk from inadequate water supplies during drought.
Bispham said the youth and women would be a focus of the climate smart agriculture project, adding that with their inclusion in the sector, countries can depend on agriculture to make a sizable contribution to their gross domestic product (GDP).
While throwing her support behind the agriculture project, head of the political section and chargé d’affaires of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Silvia Kofler, highlighted the threat presented by global warning.
“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impact of climate change. It is an all-encompassing threat, and the nature and scale of this global challenge that we are facing demands a concerted action of us all,” she said.
She gave policymakers in Barbados the assurance that the European Union was willing to assist the region in transforming their societies and sectors into smart and sustainable ones, whether in farming or otherwise.
FAO said climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of droughts in the Caribbean, so countries must enhance their capabilities to deal with this and other climate related challenges to ensure food security and hunger eradication.
A new FAO study says the Caribbean faces significant challenges in terms of drought. The region already experiences drought-like events every year, often with low water availability impacting agriculture and water resources, and a significant number of bush fires.
The Caribbean also experiences intense dry seasons, particularly in years with El Niño events. The impacts are usually offset by the next wet season, but wet seasons often end early and dry seasons last longer with the result that annual rainfall is less than expected.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul said 2016 was an extremely tough year for farmers, as the limited rainfall affected the harvesting and planting of crops.
But he is encouraged by the fact that unlike last year there is no prediction of a prolonged drought for Barbados.
“Rain if still falling on some areas off and on, so that is a good sign. But the good thing is that we haven’t had any warning of a possible drought and we are hoping that it remains that way,” he said.
“With the little rainfall we got last year, farmers had some serious problems so we are definitely hoping for more rain this time around.”
Deputy Director of the Barbados Meteorological Services Sonia Nurse explained that 2016 started with below-normal rainfall levels in the first half of the year. However, by the end of the year, a total of 1,422 mm (55.62 inches), recorded at the Grantley Adams station, was in excess of the 30-year average of 1,270 mm (50.05 inches), while the 2015 total of 789 mm (31.07 inches) fell way below the 30-year average.
“Figures showed that approximately 78 per cent or 1,099.1 mm (43.27 inches) of the total rainfall measured last year was experienced during the wet season (June-November) as opposed to 461 mm (18.15 inches) recorded during the same period of the 2015 wet season.
“However, rainfall data showed that 2015 started out significantly wetter than 2016, with accumulations of over nine inches recorded between January and April as opposed to a mere five inches, which was recorded January to April 2016. A similar rainfall pattern was reported from some of the other stations around the island.”Related Articles
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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)
Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today.
Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.”
He mentioned the adoption of core policies, called MPOWER, to monitor and protect people from tobacco smoke. At the highest level of implementation of these policies, countries will have eliminated tobacco-related deaths.
“The focus of the report is to monitor effective implementation of policies. The trend is good, but there’s room for vast improvement. Many countries are helping people to quit by putting out larger warning labels, but there’s no stringent action by measures of raising tax, for example,” said Dr. Prasad.
Still, there is good news—almost 71 countries have two or more of MPOWER policies in place, protecting a total of 3.2 billion people worldwide. In 2007, only 42 countries had some policy in place.
Every country, of course, follows a mix of different measures.
In terms of the newer countries on board, Afghanistan and Cambodia have adopted smoke-free laws in indoor public places and workplaces. Other countries have expanded existing measures—Nepal and Bangladesh passed laws at the national level for larger warning labels clearly demonstrating the harmful effects of smoking.
Still others, like Austria and Malta, have adopted the surest but politically most charged approach to combat the epidemic—raising taxes.
“The important issue is to support the benefit of raising taxes—it’ll bring down both demand and generate resources. In Philippines—which raised taxes in 2012—two things happened. The country generated extra revenue by as much as 5 billion dollars, and the use of tobacco declined. More governments have to understand this,” said Dr. Prasad.
The importance of raising taxes so that governments are able to spend that extra money on healthcare is a crucial and proven linkage, but has faltered after enormous pressure from powerful tobacco lobbyists to maintain the status quo.
“The countries which have shown progress are moving in the right direction. There needs to be greater political will because we have the evidence and the knowledge to back it up. We need to understand that the tobacco industry is not our friend,” Dr. Prasad explained.
Similarly, adoption of other effective measures like a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion also ranks low among countries. Mainly low and middle income countries, like Afghanistan and Senegal, among five others, have implemented the policy.
Combating a tobacco epidemic does not rest on curbing sale of cigarettes alone. Tobacco can be consumed in several other ways, such as its widespread consumption as khaini and bidis in India.
“Of the 300 million smokers in India, 72 million smoke bidis. The majority of the population consume khaini,” explained Dr. Prasad on the multifaceted tasks of fighting the tobacco industry.
The report was launched on the sidelines of the UN high-level political forum on sustainable development. Controlling tobacco is a key part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).
By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)
Nigeria’s conflict has displaced more than a million children, leaving them without access to education. However, an innovative radio program aims to transform this bleak scenario.
Concerned by the ongoing insecurity and its impacts, the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) created a radio program to help educate displaced children in the Lake Chad region.
“Boko Haram has disrupted the lives of 1.3 million children with a radical insurgency that has burned villages, displaced people, and created a culture of fear,” said UNICEF’s Crisis Communications Specialist Patrick Rose.
Now entering its eight year, Boko Haram’s violent insurgency has intensified and spilled over in the Lake Chad region, displacing over 2 million people across four countries.
The group has particularly targeted education, destroying more than 900 schools and forcing at least 1,500 more to close.
According to Human Rights Watch, at least 611 teachers have been killed and another 19,000 forced to flee. Boko Haram has also attacked students to keep them out of school and forcibly recruited students into its ranks.
Such targeted attacks and destruction have created an education gap in crisis-affected areas, especially where displaced communities have fled to.
“Short of going through and building new schools in all of those communities when we don’t know how long this conflict is going to last, we tried to develop ways that we could reach these children and deliver some sort of educational routine that will keep them at least learning,” Rose told IPS.
Created with support from the European Union (EU) and in partnership with the governments of Cameroon and Niger, UNICEF’s radio education programs serve as an alternative platform for the 200,000 children in the two countries unable to access schools.
It includes 44 episodes of educational programming on literacy and numeracy for various ages and will be broadcast through state channels in both French and the local languages of Kanouri, Fulfulde, and Hausa.
The curriculum also includes a child protection component such as psychosocial support, guiding teachers to create a space for children to share their experiences and learn how to manage their fears.
“When you have children who have been deeply disturbed by displacement, many of whom have witnessed the murders of their own families, and you create a situation in which they are expected to spend eight hours a day in a classroom that isn’t engaging at all with the reality that they are encountering outside, you get a fundamental dissonance and ultimately low engagement,” Rose said.
As part of its Education in Emergencies initiatives, UNICEF works closely with communities to identify the risks they face as individuals and schools as a whole.
In one such workshop about fears, one girl wrote “kidnappy,” reflecting the deep distress and risk of kidnapping that young girls face.
Not only does the radio program have the potential to decrease the likelihood of kidnapping as children listen from home, but it also creates a “positive” space that addresses children’s realities.
Discussions are underway with the governments of Cameroon and Niger to make radio courses certified, allowing children to receive a certification and pass the school year.
Rose called the approach to the complex crisis “unique,” as it moves from a focus on individual countries to a multi-country response.
He also highlighted the potential for the radio education program to be replicated in other regions of the world.
In 35 crisis-affected countries, humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises have disrupted the education of 75 million children between the ages of 3 and 18.
“In the same way that radio played a key role in the Cold War and reaching people around the world with messages, it is the same sort of situation here—radio doesn’t respect the borders of conflicts,” Rose concluded.
Ongoing insecurity has impeded humanitarian response in the Lake Chad basin, leaving children’s needs largely unmet.
UNICEF has so far received 50 percent of a 38.5-million-dollar appeal to meet the education needs of children in the region.
By Barbara Crossette
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)
When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United States twice and once as Pakistan’s high commissioner in London.
In a sense, that background is all coming together at the UN.
While Lodhi’s diplomatic priority must be putting Pakistan’s interests first, she said in an interview in her office at the Pakistani UN mission on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she also finds time to focus on global perspectives, which makes the UN a great assignment.
From her base in New York, Lodhi stays actively involved in a number of international think tanks, including the Institute of Strategic Studies and the Middle East Center at the LSE, both in London. She is also a member of the UN Disarmament Commission and the global agenda council of the World Economic Forum.
In the interview, Lodhi ranged over Pakistan’s reputation in the UN arena, the increasing role of China in development across Asia, the rise of Islamophobia and the sad state of Western responses to an unprecedented world refugee crisis.
Although Pakistan’s national priorities remain predominant — Lodhi mentioned counterterrorism, sustainable economic development, relations with India and the decades-long impasse over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir — the UN has another 192 nations with their own interests. The rapid, spontaneous evolution of a new world order means every nation needs friends to meet the challenges.
“When you come to the UN, you see the priorities of other nations, and the dynamics at play, and the crises that are occurring,” she said. “The best thing about [the UN] is that it encourages a spirit of cooperation, and I think that’s extremely essential in the challenging times that we live in. The United Nations is about negotiating as part of a bloc of countries. No country here negotiates on its own for obvious reasons, because you need the support of other countries.”
The UN displays global changes in sharp relief, Lodhi suggested, and the West must recognize that these developments beg for a rethinking of old assumptions about international power structures.
“At a time when we see the rise of Asia — and this being described as Asia’s century — the West needs to go back to the drawing board and revisit the very notion of an international community,” she said.
Maleeha Lodhi was born into a well-to-do family in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and the center of the country’s cultural traditions and base for its most prominent human-rights activists and groups. That includes the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental group.
She has credited her career partly to her parents’ emphasis on education. But her personality came into play early. She is known to be tough but gracious, meticulous in her scholarship while outspoken in promoting Pakistan. An Indian commentator suggested that Lodhi may have been sent to the UN to keep India from getting a permanent Security Council seat, though the Council is a long way from reform and expansion.
Decades ago, Lodhi became a good friend and adviser to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister, who first appointed her ambassador to the United States in 1993-1996. She served as ambassador to the US again, from 1999 to 2002, under the military government of President Pervez Musharraf.
Her years in Washington, and later in fellowships at Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, would have demonstrated to anyone that Pakistan had serious critics across the US government and research organizations.
Under Abdul Qadeer Khan, who headed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Pakistan was found to have shared the technology he acquired while studying and working in Europe (or help given to him by China) with North Korea, Libya and Iran. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 for his black-market operations but pardoned almost immediately by General Musharraf and placed under house arrest until 2009.
Asked if Pakistan’s however-notorious past relations with North Korea and China, which is the country’s biggest development aid donor, had led to any outside requests for Pakistani information on the North Korean nuclear program or suggestions that Pakistani experts might be tapped to give advice with China on the current nuclear crisis with the Kim Jong Un regime, Lodhi said no.
Pakistan is often portrayed as an oppressive Islamic society, harsh on women and minorities, a record that is increasingly shared by neighboring India. The Pakistani government and intelligence services have also been accused of having created the Taliban, though little is said or remembered of Islamabad’s earlier hosting — with full US support — of the disparate armies of the Afghan mujahedeen, who took power after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The remnants of these warlord-led militias in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance continue to create political havoc in Kabul.
The attitude toward Pakistan is much more positive at the UN, Lodhi said.
“Contrary to the impression given by the negative media [particularly in the US], at the United Nations you’ll find the total antithesis. If you look at Pakistan’s position within this international community, it is one of enormous respect,” she said. She noted that the country has played a key role at the UN “on all three pillars: peace and security, human rights/humanitarian action and development.”
“We have consistently remained among the top three troop contributors to UN peacekeeping,” she said. “This has been the case since 1960 onwards.” Lodhi added that much of the current deployment of Pakistani soldiers is in Africa, “where they are needed most.”
On the humanitarian front, Lodhi points to Pakistan’s record on refugee assistance.
“We’ve always pointed out that the Western countries need to show a bigger heart,” she said. “They have a big wallet, but they need to match that wallet with a bigger heart. We didn’t have much of a wallet in Pakistan, but we continue to host over two million Afghan refugees. At the peak, we had more than three million. We continue to do that, and we’ve done that for 35 years.”
Pakistan, the world’s second-most-populous Muslim majority nation after Indonesia, plays a key role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, and its voting bloc at the UN, Lodhi said. Among the concerns of Muslims, she said, are the unfulfilled resolutions on Kashmir, still a disputed territory between Pakistan and India; and on Palestine.
“There’s such a similarity between the cases of Palestine and Kashmir, both involving Muslim nations, both involving big power politics that stood in the way and continue to stand in the way of implementation of those resolutions.”
As a Muslim, Lodhi sees Islamophobia and xenophobia as “new forms of racial discrimination,” she said. “This is the contemporary expression of effort to discriminate against people of a certain faith who also happen to be people of a certain color. Here, also, Pakistan has been active at the United Nations, raising the issue.”
China looms large in the ambassador’s perception of the most significant global changes happening on the horizon, starting with the shifting relationship between Islamabad and Beijing.
“Traditionally, it was a defense and strategic dimension that was dominant in the relationship,” Lodhi said. “Now that relationship has morphed into a much more wide-based relationship. The defense-strategic relationship is there, but in addition, there is a very strong — I would say, much stronger — economic and investment orientation because Pakistan is the pivot of China’s One Belt, One Road. We hope to be the beneficiary in a mutually advantageous way.”
The Chinese initiative was announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping. It is a breathtakingly ambitious program involving road, rail and sea links connecting traders and investors across Central Asia, parts of South and Southeast Asia, two seas — the South China Sea and Indian Ocean –and, ultimately, Europe.
The Chinese, who never think small or pay a lot of attention to critics, have wowed Pakistan, a longtime ally that sees itself as part of “the biggest economic initiative of the 21st century by any nation,” Lodhi said. “People still invoke the Marshall Plan as having in a way created a new paradigm and shifted a whole set of circumstances at that time. But this is gigantic by comparison. It’s not about aid and assistance. It’s about investment. It’s about trade. It’s about energy cooperation.
This has the potential of transforming all of Asia — certainly the 60 countries that are participating, thrusting them into a new era of prosperity and mutual cooperation.”
(*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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By Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
MOSCOW and KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)
Wide-ranging economic reforms following the demise of the Soviet Union at the end of December 1991 mainly resulted in economic collapse in most successor states. By the mid-1990s, output had fallen by about half compared to 1989. Meanwhile, income inequalities rose sharply as real incomes declined dramatically for most, while death rates increased by over half as life expectancy declined dramatically.
In Russia, output fell by 45% during 1989-1998, as death rates increased from 1% in the 1980s to over 1.5% in 1994, equivalent to over 700,000 additional deaths annually. In some former Soviet states embroiled in military conflicts, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan, GDP in 2000 was 30-50% of pre-transition levels! Even without military conflict, Ukraine’s GDP fell by nearly two thirds. In Eastern European countries, output fell less, averaging 20-30% over 2-4 years, whereas growth accelerated in China and Vietnam following reforms.
The huge collapses in output, living standards and life expectancy in the former Soviet Union during the 1990s without war, epidemic or natural disaster was unprecedented. During the Great Depression, GDP in Western countries fell by some 30% on average in 1929-1933, but then recovered to pre-recession levels by the end of the 1930s.
Why was the decline in output and incomes in the former Soviet Union so deep and protracted? To what extent was it due to ‘initial conditions’, and to what extent was it due to poor economic policy choices? If the latter was mainly responsible, the post-Soviet transition was the greatest ‘man-made’ economic disaster ever.
Many believe that “things went terribly wrong”, and that it would have been possible to avoid the fate of the former Soviet republics in the 1990s with different policies. After all, most other transition economies did better than them, and no Russian seriously believes that the exceptional length and depth of its post-Soviet recession was inevitable.
The question of the most appropriate post-Soviet economic transition policies is the subject of considerable debate, not least between those who advocate comprehensive ‘shock therapy’ and others who believe that pragmatic, gradual, piecemeal reforms, rather than policies driven by ideological dogmas, would have had much better consequences.
World Bank policy advice
The World Bank’s 1996 World Development Report (WDR), From Plan to Market, argued that differences in economic performance were mostly associated with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ policies, particularly in terms of economic liberalization and macroeconomic stabilization. “Consistent policies, combining liberalization of markets, trade, and new business entry with reasonable price stability, can achieve a great deal even in countries lacking clear property rights and strong market institutions”.
However, contrary to mainstream Western coverage, there is no evidence that rapid economic liberalization and macroeconomic stabilization would have improved post-Soviet economic performance. The apparent link between liberalization and performance is due to the greater depth of the recession in the former Soviet republics compared to Eastern Europe.
Attempts to correlate differences in output changes during transition to the cumulative liberalization index and to inflation rates have no explanatory value. Once a number of ‘initial conditions’ are taken into consideration, the liberalization index becomes insignificant. Although the Chinese index of ‘economic freedom’, as measured by the Heritage Foundation, has been about the same as Russia’s in recent years, the economic performance of the two countries have differed markedly.
The depth of the recession was mainly due to three sets of factors. First, greater distortions in industrial structure and external trade on the eve of transition. Second, the collapse of state and non-state institutions in the late 1980s and early 1990s which resulted in chaotic transformation. Third, poor policies worsening macroeconomic instability.
The post-Soviet economic recessions were due to the high costs of the distortions – including excessive militarization and over-industrialization, ‘perverted’ trade flows among the former Soviet republics and with Eastern European countries, excessively large industrial enterprises and agricultural farm sizes – as well as efforts to correct them. In most cases, Soviet distortions were more pronounced than in Eastern Europe. Apparently, the larger the distortions, the greater the output reduction.
The greater collapse of state institutions also explains the severity of post-Soviet recessions. Differences in the depth of transformational recessions between Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics appear to be due to their greater institutional collapses. Poorer government ability to collect taxes, check the shadow economy, and uphold ‘law and order’, e.g., by enforcing contracts, undermined creation of a business climate conducive to investment and growth.
Post-Soviet transitions (except in Uzbekistan, Belarus and Estonia) involved unfavourable initial conditions, institutional degradation, and poor economic policies, which were less problematic in Eastern Europe. Thus, the Gorbachev reforms of 1985-1991 failed, not because they were gradual, but due to weakened state institutional capacity. However, the Yeltsin reforms had catastrophic consequences due to inappropriate policy reforms for the Russian transition after Gorbachev.
By Qimiao Fan and Martin Rama
Jul 19 2017 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)
The success of Dhaka, one of the megacities of the world, is critically important for the economic and social development of Bangladesh. The city’s astonishing growth, from a population of 3 million in 1980 to 18 million today, represents the promise and dreams of a better life: the hard work and sacrifices made by all residents to seize opportunities to lift themselves from poverty towards greater prosperity.
Unplanned and uncontrolled growth has created unprecedented congestion: the average driving speed has dropped from 21km per hour 10 years ago to less than 7km per hour today. Continuing on current trends would result in a further slowdown to 4km an hour—slower than the average walking speed! Congestion eats up 3.2 million working hours each day and costs the economy billions of dollars every year. Some of the most important economic benefits from urbanisation are missed out due to this messiness, resulting in lower incomes for the city and the country.
These problems will not go away on their own. Dhaka’s population is expected to double once again by 2035, to 35 million. Without a fundamental re-think requiring substantial planning, coordination, investments, and action, Dhaka will never be able to deliver its full potential. Dhaka is at a crossroads in defining its future and destiny.
Up to now, urban growth has mainly taken place in the northern part of Dhaka and expanded westward after the flood of 1988, when the government built the western embankment for flood protection. This resulted in high-density investments near the city centre, where infrastructure and social services were accessible. However, real estate investments were not coordinated with other infrastructure and transportation services.
A similar process is taking place eastward of Dhaka despite the absence of an embankment to protect it from flooding. If properly managed, the development potential of East Dhaka is massive, as it is mainly a rural area with parts that are within the walking distance of the city’s most prosperous neighbourhoods. A well-planned East Dhaka could boost productivity and liveability, while helping relieve congestion in the rest of the city; but with a business-as-usual approach, doubling the size of Dhaka could amount to little more than doubling the current messiness.
For Bangladesh to become a middle income country by its 50th birthday, a lot depends on the success of Dhaka’s urban expansion. Based on the current path, East Dhaka runs the risk of facing the same low productivity and high congestion as the rest of the city, with greater vulnerability to floods and earthquakes. Retrofitting infrastructure in the current, dense and congested Dhaka is much more difficult and costlier than planning and building towards the East, with the future in mind. However, this needs to be done quickly, before East Dhaka densifies too. The time to act is now.
Today, ministries and agencies responsible for Dhaka’s development and experts from around the world gather for the “Dhaka Toward 2035” conference to share global experience in managing urban development while presenting scenarios and options for Dhaka’s future. Rigorous simulations of the city’s development will be discussed, and the experience of other major developing country cities that achieved a radical turnaround will be reviewed.
For example, Shanghai’s population growth from 6 million to over 24 million has been accompanied by improved access to services, economic activity, liveability, and mobility through greater transportation services. Much of this success has been due to its strategic approach to the development of East Shanghai (Pudong), and its integration with the rest of the city. The Pudong “miracle” transformed Shanghai into a global city in just 25 years. The experience of Shanghai and other cities shows that success requires a clear vision—one that is embraced by government agencies, private investors, citizens and development organisations, and supported by careful planning and tight implementation.
Leading up to a forthcoming report, to be released this fall, the conference presents four scenarios for Dhaka’s future depending on the actions that it takes today, through decisions such as completing an embankment in East Dhaka, investing in transportation, and managing and enforcing planning and zoning laws. The simulation results show what a big difference a strategic approach to Dhaka’s urban development would make. The opportunity to create a bright future for Dhaka, as a vibrant and liveable city, must be seized now before it is too late.
Qimiao Fan is the World Bank’s Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Martin Rama is World Bank’s Chief Economist for South Asia Region.
This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh
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By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)
Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert.
The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, South-Eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, northern Tanzania and north-eastern and South-Western Uganda, according to a new alert by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The alert, issued on 14 July by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), warns that the third consecutive failed rainy season has seriously eroded families’ resilience, and urgent and effective livelihood support is required. “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.” – FAO chief
“This is the third season in a row that families have had to endure failed rains – they are simply running out of ways to cope,” said FAO’s Director of Emergencies Dominique Burgeon. “Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further.”
Increasing Humanitarian Need
The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the five aforementioned countries, currently estimated at about 16 million, has increased by about 30 per cent since late 2016. In Somalia, almost half of the total population is food insecure, the UN specialised body reported.
Timely humanitarian assistance has averted famine so far but must be sustained. Conditions across the region are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months with the onset of the dry season and an anticipated early start of the lean season, it added.
The food security situation for pastoralists is of particular concern, in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where animal mortality rates are high and milk production from the surviving animals has declined sharply with negative consequences on food security and nutrition, FAO warned.
“When we know how critical milk is for the healthy development of children aged under five, and the irreversible damage its lack can create, it is evident that supporting pastoralists going through this drought is essential,” said Burgeon.
Poor Crop Prospects
On this, FAO provides the following detailed information:
In several cropping areas across the region, poor rains have caused sharp reductions in planting, and wilting of crops currently being harvested. Despite some late rainfall in May, damage to crops is irreversible.
In addition, fall armyworm, which has caused extensive damage to maize crops in southern Africa, has spread to the east and has worsened the situation. In Kenya, the pest has so far affected about 200 000 hectares of crops, and in Uganda more than half the country’s 111 districts are affected.
In Somalia there are unfavourable prospects for this year’s main gu crops, after the gu rains were late with poor rainfall and erratic distribution over most areas of the country.
In Ethiopia, unfavourable belg rains in southern cropping areas are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls. Drought is also affecting yields in Kenya’s central, Southeastern and coastal areas.
In Tanzania, unfavourable rains are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls in northern and central areas; while in Uganda there are unfavourable production prospects are unfavourable for first season crops in the Southwestern and northern districts.
108 Million People Face Severe Acute Food Insecurity
Meanwhile, despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people living in 48 food-crisis countries were at high risk of or already facing severe acute food insecurity in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises released on 31 March in Brussels.
The report, whose compilation required integrating several measurement methodologies, represents a new and politically innovative collaboration between the European Union (EU) and USAID/FEWSNET, regional food security institutions together with UN agencies including the FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets in affected countries and extreme weather conditions such drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño. “
Civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security, says the Global Report on Food Crises 2017.
By joining forces to deliver neutral analytical insights drawn from multiple institutions, the report – to be issued annually – enables better-informed planning decisions to respond to food crises in a more timely, global and coordinated way.
“This report highlights the critical need for prompt and targeted action to effectively respond to the food crises and to address their root causes. The EU has taken leadership in this response. In 2016, we allocated € 550 million already, followed by another € 165 million that we have just mobilized to assist the people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa,” said Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.
“The report is the outcome of a joint effort and a concrete follow-up to the commitments the EU made at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which identified the urgent need for transparent, independent but consensus-based analysis of crises,” added Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
Most Critical Situations Worsening
This year, the demand for humanitarian and resilience building assistance will further escalate as four countries are at risk of famine: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeast Nigeria, the report warns.
Other countries that require massive levels of assistance because of widespread food insecurity are Iraq, Syria (including refugees in neighbouring countries) Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the absence of immediate and substantive action not only to save people’s lives, but also to pull them back from the brink of famine, the food security situation in these countries will continue to worsen in coming months, according to the report.
“The cost in human and resource terms only increases if we let situations deteriorate,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.”
“The numbers tell a deeply worrying story with more than 100 million people severely food-insecure, a level of suffering which is driven by conflict and climate change. Hunger exacerbates crisis, creating ever -greater instability and insecurity. What is a food security challenge today becomes tomorrow’s security challenge,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.
“It is a race against time – the world must act now to save the lives and livelihoods of the millions at the brink of starvation.”
The 108 million people reported to be facing severe food insecurity in 2016 represent those suffering from higher-than-usual acute malnutrition and a broad lack of minimally adequate food even with external assistance.
This includes households that can cope with their minimum food needs only by depleting seeds, livestock and agricultural assets needed to produce food in the future, the report adds.
“Without robust and sustained action, people struggling with severe food insecurity risk slipping into an even worse situation and eventual starvation.”Related Articles
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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 18 2017 (IPS)
While the business sector jumps for joy as the number of tourists grew in 2016 for the seventh consecutive year to reach 1.2 billion, and as the first four months of 2017 have registered 6 per cent increase, the sheer speed, abetted by technology, of an atrocious crime—the sexual exploitation of children in tourism, has, to date, out-paced all attempts to put an end to it.
In fact, failure of collective action and a chronic lack of robust data constitute the main challenges to eliminate this crime, underlines the Global Study “Offenders on the Move,” which is the largest pool of information on the issue to date.
In spite of such widely recognised failure, further attempts gave lastly been deployed to halt this crime–a group of specialised experts on July 17 gathered in Madrid at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) headquarters, to discuss measures the fight against child sexual exploitation in the tourism sector. “Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has a child’s face. No country is untouched by this phenomenon and no child is immune.”
“We cannot build the responsible and sustainable tourism sector that we seek without protecting the most vulnerable in our societies. To do so we need effective tools and a global commitment,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
“Article 2 of UNWTO’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism underlines that the exploitation of human beings in any form, especially when applied to children, conflicts with the fundamental aims of tourism and is the negation of tourism”, Taleb Rifai recalled.
The world organisation is progressing with transforming the Code into a legally binding international treaty, the UNWTO Draft Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics, which we hope will be approved by our General Assembly next September, he added.
The Madrid meeting initiative has been coordinated by the Bangkok-based End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), a network of 95 civil society organisations in 86 countries with one common mission: to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children, with the support of the government of The Netherlands.‘Sexual Exploitation in Tourism Has a Child Face’
The fight against Child Exploitation in tourism is one of the priorities of UNWTO who has been leading since 20 years the World Tourism Network on Child Protection, formerly the Task Force for the Protection of Children in Tourism.
Najat Maalla M’jid, Chair of this Task force, which guided the development of the Global Study, set the scene for Madrid the meeting by stridently declaring, “Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has a child’s face. No country is untouched by this phenomenon and no child is immune.”
In this International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, let us place children’s right to protection from violence and exploitation at the heart of our actions, she added.
For his part, the Special Rapporteur on child trafficking and sexual exploitation, Maud de Boer Buquicchio called for “child protection to be placed at the core of tourism development strategies.”
The rise of the Internet and informal operators as well as greater access to international travel have expanded ‘demand’ and heightened the dangers for children. At the same time, grinding poverty and lack of education – combined with the continued neglect of child protection systems – have fuelled the ‘supply’ of children.
INTERPOL at Work
One of the initiatives conducted globally has been represented by the tools implemented by INTERPOL aimed at reducing the possibilities for known sex offenders travelling unnoticed internationally.
Peter van Dalen, from Interpol’s Organized & Emerging Crime Directorate, said, “Anonymity protects traveling sex offenders, and INTERPOL is working with countries to deprive known sex offenders’ of their anonymity, through mechanisms such as an international warning system sharing information across borders about convicted sex offenders, as well as an international vetting system for job applicants applying to working with children.A unique feature of this process has been the strong engagement with the private sector, motivated by the need to ‘get ahead’ of practices that can seriously affect their reputation and their bottom line, according to UNWTO.
“The recently reported examples from the US involving flight attendants intervening when they noticed unusual situations involving children travelling with adults underscore the fact that no country is immune to the issue – and furthermore, that investments by the travel and tourism industry in training staff and access to reporting systems can pay dividends.”
The challenge remains to expand coordinated action to implement the recommendations of Global Study.
Poor Countries Encouraged to Promote Tourism
Meanwhile, world bodies have been lastly encouraging developing countries, in particular in Africa and the poorest nations worldwide, to promote tourism as a powerful economic engine.
Just four days ahead of the Madrid expert meeting on sexual exploitation of children in tourism, the UNWTO reported that tourism “can make a strong contribution to the economies of Least Developed Countries where the sector is a major exporter concludes the report Tourism for Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).’
Launched on 13 July on the occasion of the Aid for Trade Review held in Geneva, the report has been produced by UNWTO, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).
Tourism represents 7 per cent of all international trade and is of increasing relevance to the trade community, according to the report. It is part of services trade, accounting for 30 per cent of the world’s trade in services. This is particularly true for the LDCs, where it represents 7 per cent of total exports of goods and services, a figure that stands at 10 per cent for non-oil LDC exporters.
In view of the above, and as shown in the report, tourism has been recognised as a key sector for trade-related technical assistance in LDCs. Forty-five out of 48 Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies analysed for the report feature tourism as a key sector for development, according to the study.
“Yet, despite tourism’s value in the trade agenda, it is often difficult to direct trade-related technical assistance towards the sector because tourism and trade tend to fall under different line ministries. Successful interventions in tourism require strong collaboration across government agencies as well as across different actors at the regional or local level.”
The report aims to increase the commitment and investment in coordination and raise tourism’s prominence in trade-related technical assistance as to ensure the sector delivers on its powerful capacity to create jobs and incomes where they are most needed and for those who are most vulnerable – including youth and women.
The report has been launched to coincide with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.
In the context of the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the International Year aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute to all the 17 SDGs.
Goal 17 sets as one of the targets a “significant increase of exports of developing countries, in particular with a view to doubling the least developed countries’ share of global exports by 2020”, to which tourism as service export can contribute.
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By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jul 18 2017 (IPS)
“I have lived through three good periods and two bad ones,” prior to the present crisis in the Brazilian shipping industry, said Edson Rocha, a direct witness since the 1970s of the ups and downs of a sector where nationalist feelings run high.
Now as the president of the Niteroi Metalworkers Union in this city near Rio de Janeiro Rocha has to battle with mass unemployment of shipyard workers, bearing a collective responsibility that he had not faced in previous shipyard crises.
“Out of the 14,500 people employed directly by the shipbuilding sector in 2014, only around 1,500 are left,” the union leader told IPS. He estimates that 2,500 indirect jobs, beyond the union’s control, have been lost out of a total of 4,000 such jobs in that year."Building ships abroad, although it may be cheaper, means paying attention only to shareholders’ profits and not to the overall interests of Brazil. Every job in the shipbuilding industry generates four or five indirect jobs, and domestic costs can be negotiated." -- Jesus Cardoso
For a city of half a million people and few alternative employment opportunities, the impact has been devastating. “This time the decline was abrupt,” with thousands of workers suddenly being made redundant at the 10 large and medium-sized local shipyards when construction of ships and other oil industry equipment stopped.
Rocha joined the shipbuilding sector when it was at its peak in the 1970s, when strong government stimulus policies promoted the production of dozens of ships, mainly for the export of Brazilian iron ore.
Then in the 1980s the industry went broke during the “lost decade” of foreign debt. It recovered slightly in 1993-1994, only to practically disappear in the years that followed.
But it made a strong recovery after 2002, based on the big increase in offshore oil production, Rocha, a qualified project design technician, told IPS.
The discovery in 2006 of vast pre-salt oil deposits in deep Atlantic ocean waters, some 200 kilometres off the Brazilian coast, accelerated national plans to become a new oil superpower.
The dream of reactivating and expanding the shipbuilding industry was consequently renewed. The industry depends on domestic demand because its costs are too high to compete internationally.
Large shipyards were buillt at various points on the Atlantic coast, joining dozens already in existence and under expansion, to provide the ships and equipment needed for exploration, production and transport of fossil fuels.
There was plenty of finance available, as well as a protectionist policy requiring at least 60 percent national content in such equipment.
The house of cards collapsed at the end of 2014. The fall in oil prices, the domestic economic crisis and the losses sustained by the state oil group Petrobras, owing to corruption and bad management, interrupted projects, contracts and payments to shipbuilding suppliers.
A total of 82,472 workers were employed by Brazil’s over 40 shipyards in late 2014. In November 2016, the National Naval Industry Union had only 38,452 registered members, and the figure is still dropping.
The Maua Shipyard, which has been operating since 1845 in Niteroi, ceased receiving payments in July 2015 and has had to suspend construction of three Panamax ships – the largest that could pass through the locks of the Panama Canal before the canal was enlarged in June 2016 – contracted by Transpetro, the logistical subsidiary of Petrobras.
“Two of the ships are 90 percent finished and the third is half built,” Ricardo Vanderlei, the president of the company since 2013, told IPS during a visit to the shipyard.
The cancellation of the contract forced the immediate redundancy of 3,500 workers. Today the shipyard, which also carries out repairs and other services, employs about 500 people, compared to an average of 350 in 2016.
“Our problem is how to survive until 2020,” when oil extraction is projected to increase, and demand for equipment and transport is expected to recover, in Vanderlei’s view.
The solution for his shipyard seems clear: finishing the three partly built ships in the yard would represent two years’ work and allow for the recall of 1,800 workers, he said.
At the moment there is a surplus of workers available in an economy that has been in recession for three years, he said, but the most highly skilled workers will be lost if the period of unemployment is further extended.
“Most of the workers laid off by the shipyards have resorted to the informal sector, like street sales and occasional services,” said Rocha, whose union is still claiming the labour rights of metalworkers, who are owed wages since they were made redundant two years ago.
A recovery in the shipbuilding industry, beginning by finishing partly built ships, platforms and drill rigs required for oil production, unites the interests of unionised workers and shipyards threatened by economic collapse. At least 12 shipyards are in the hands of the receivers with the courts setting measures such as long-term payment agreements.
There would be many advantages and limited costs in the case of Maua, but the process has been blocked by court procedures and by the paralysis of Transpetro, under new management since the resignation of its former president, Sergio Machado, in February 2015 after 12 years in office.
After being accused of corruption, Machado cooperated with the justice system, recording conversations with several of the political leaders involved. He was given a reduced sentence of only three years’ house arrest, and the return of 75 million reals (23 million dollars) that he had siphoned off from the company.
Transpetro cancelled 17 contracts in 2016 and put a halt to its Fleet Modernisation and Expansion Programme, initiated in 2004 for building 49 ships, more than half of which are completed or nearly completed.
Some, like the three ships being built by Maua in association with Ilha Shipyards S.A., are waiting on court judgments and the weakened decision-making power of Transpetro, Vanderlei said.
Losses are accumulating because of the need to maintain deteriorating equipment and the continued occupation of the shipyard’s whole industrial area of 180,000 square metres.
With a length of 228 metres, width of 40 metres and height of 18.5 metres, each Panamax ship is equivalent to a city block bearing six-storey buildings. Those built at Maua have the capacity to transport 72,000 tons.
The shipyards did not participate in “the business of bribery, and they lost market position” in an increasingly complex production sector, without budget add-ons that promoted corruption and recently benefited other large Brazilian projects, Vanderlei complained.
The Maua Shipyard survives thanks to its traditions, the diversification of its services including repair work on various ships and its privileged location at the entrance of Guanabara bay, shared between Niteroi and Rio de Janeiro, and its mooring facilities for large ships, Vanderlei said.
“Shipyards have an assured future as demand is bound to increase after 2020, given that the country has an extensive Atlantic coastline and needs to increase oil production,” he said.
“The initial costs of industrial infrastructure in Brazil have already been paid. We have already delivered dozens of ships to Transpetro, proving our capacity,” he argued. Production in Brazil is more expensive, but meets local requirements that are not satisfied by standard ships built abroad, he added.
Jesus Cardoso, president of the Rio de Janeiro Metalworkers’ Union, told IPS that “building ships abroad, although it may be cheaper, means paying attention only to shareholders’ profits and not to the overall interests of Brazil. Every job in the shipbuilding industry generates four or five indirect jobs, and domestic costs can be negotiated,” he said.
Rio de Janeiro, with 6.5 million inhabitants, has lost 15,000 shipyard jobs since 2015, contributing to the halving of the total number of local metalworkers which had reached a peak of 70,000, Cardoso said.Related Articles
- Mega-Projects Have Magnified Corruption in Brazil
- Crisis in Brazil Hampers Infrastructure under Construction
The post Brazil’s Shipyards – Victims of a Failed Reindustrialisation Process appeared first on Inter Press Service.
By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jul 18 2017 (IPS)
Southern African countries have agreed on a multi-pronged plan to increase surveillance and research to contain the fall army worm, which has cut forecast regional maize harvests by up to ten percent, according to a senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) official.
The crop-eating fall army worm (Spodoptera frugiperda), first detected in Central and Western Africa in 2016, has been positively identified in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe where it has extensively damaged maize crops.An estimated 13.5 million tonnes of maize across Africa, worth 3 billion dollars, are at risk from the worms in the next year.
FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri, said Southern African countries have agreed on a region-wide strategy to contain the pest, known to attack more than 80 plant species, including staple cereals and vegetables. The agreed strategy includes undertaking national assessments to determine the impact of the pest on crop yields and using Integrated Pest Management (IPS), an environmentally friendly approach to controlling pests focusing on pest prevention and application of pesticides only as necessary.
“The Fall army worm is still a threat that is not going away soon,” Phiri told IPS in a telephone interview from Harare. “Depending on the country, the impact of the pest has been 2 to 10 percent reduction in yield and that is worrying for the region which has experienced a food crisis.”
The scale of the damage of the Fall Army worm is expected to be felt more on maize where over 741,316 acres of the cereal – the staple for more than 200 million people in most of Southern Africa – have been affected.
The United FAO says while it was too early to know the long term impact food security as a result of the outbreak of the pest, native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, the potential for serious damage and yield losses were high. This has necessitated the development of a coordinated strategy to manage the pest ahead of the next agriculture season.
A consultative multi-stakeholder meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in April 2017 formulated a region-wide Framework for the Coordinated Management of FAW which involves surveillance and early warning, impact assessment, sustainable management and coordination of the pest. The Framework will guide the development of projects and programmes by governments, researchers, academics, farmers and other actors to contain the migratory pest which can reproduce quickly in the right environment.
Estimates from the Centre for Agricultural and Biosciences International (CABI), show that 13.5 million tonnes of maize worth 3 billion dollars across Africa are at risk from the FAW in the next year. It gets worse, in all confirmed and suspected fall army worm incident countries; there is total value at risk of over 13.3 billion dollars across all crops, according to a note on the recommendations from the Stakeholders Consultation meeting.
“While countries are doing vulnerability assessments, the biggest problem we have now is the next cropping season, “ said Phiri. “The pest is there and we have to manage it as it will affect next year’s production because we have not identified any particular pesticide that can control it and this is a race against time.”
The FAO, which is leading the response strategy for the FAW, is working with the government of South Africa to lead the research on technologies to help manage the pest. Earlier in July, the FAO met with experts from Latin America in Accra, Ghana, to see which if their management technologies could be applied in Africa. Brazil spends an estimated 600 million dollars annually to control the fall army worm.
“For sure we know that Integrated Pest Management works and that for large farms the judicious use of pesticides might be the only option and when that happens we need to identify a particular pesticide that is effective and at the same time foes not harm the environment and does not lead to resistance and hence the marathon meetings and research going on at the moment,” Phiri said, noting that the cost to control the pest was not yet determined for the region as countries were undertaking assessments.
FAO is developing a long-term IPM-based strategy for the sustainable management of fall army worm, including forecasting, crop monitoring, use of biological control options, resistant varieties and promotion of good agricultural practices and the use of pesticides as a last resort.
Kerstin Kruger, Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria, told IPS the recent arrival of fall army worm and other invasive species highlights the need for a strong scientific basis to respond to such threats.
Sub-Saharan Africa is economically highly dependent on agriculture and is considered to be amongst the most vulnerable regions to the economic threat posed by invasive species. Kruger said a thorough understanding of the biology of the pest and its interaction in its environment was key to its successful management.
North and South America have battled the FAW for decades and have developed a number of non-chemical management options ranging from planting of maize varieties that are less susceptible to FAW attack to monitoring with pheromone traps. In addition, biological control using natural enemies such as insect parasitoids, predators and microbial pesticides and BT-maize has been used.
“One avenue worthwhile exploring is to research local natural enemies of the related native Armyworm,” said Kruger, citing that wasps parasitizing the native African army worm may also attack the Fall army worm.Related Articles
- Zambia’s Armyworm Outbreak: Is Climate Change to Blame?
- AGRICULTURE-SOMALIA: Army worm Invasion Poses Threat To Main Crop
The post Southern Africa’s Marshall Plan to Stop Voracious Crop Worm appeared first on Inter Press Service.
By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)
Twenty years ago, when I was starting my functions as Prime Minister of Portugal, the world was surfing a wave of optimism. The Cold War had ended, technological prosperity was in full swing, the internet was spreading and there was the idea that globalisation would not only increase global wealth, but that it would trickle down and would benefit everybody in our planet.
At the same time, it is clear that people were left behind in the rust belts of this world, and youth unemployment became a severe problem in different regions of our planet not only undermining the future of those young people but also being an obstacle to the development of their countries and in some situations being a part of the global threat created by the fact that without hope they can easily be recruited by extremist organisations and we see that impact in global terrorism today.
Now it is true that that has generated a loss of confidence, loss of trust between peoples and government or political establishments, between people and international organisations like the UN, and between people and the idea of globalisation in itself, of global governance, and of multilateral institutions.
I think it is important to recognise that there is a paradox because problems are more and more global, challenges are more and more global, there is no way any country can solve them by itself, and so we need global answers and we need multilateral governance forms, and we need to be able to overcome this deficit of trust, and that in my opinion is the enormous potential of the Agenda 2030; because the Agenda 2030 is an agenda aiming at a fair globalisation, it’s an agenda aiming at not leaving anyone behind, eradicating poverty and creating conditions for people to trust again in not only political systems but also in multilateral forms of governance and in international organisations like the UN.
At the same time, it’s clear that when one looks at today’s economy, the global economies are improving, probably more slowly than we would like, but the areas of fragility are also increasing – political fragility, institutional fragility, but also development fragility, and societal fragility; and fragilities to a large extent are responsible for many of the conflicts today and for the spreading of those conflicts and the linking of those conflicts to the global threat of global terrorism.
And this is why it is true that the agendas of sustainable development and the agendas of preventing [conflict] and sustaining peace need to be linked. But here there is a caveat – that link should not be a pretext to move resources from development to security.
On the contrary, that should make us understand the centrality of development in what we do and the need to make sure that with that centrality of development we are able to fully recognise that sustainable and inclusive development is in itself a major factor of prevention of conflict as it is a major factor for the prevention of natural disasters and other aspects in which the resilience of societies is so important today.
And indeed if one looks at the global megatrends – population growth, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, chaotic urbanization in certain parts of the world – it is also true that all these megatrends are interacting with each other, are stressing each other. And we have to recognise that climate change became the main accelerator of all other factors.
This is also the moment to clearly say that the link to the Agenda 2030 of sustainable development, there must be a very strong reaffirmation of our commitment to the Paris Agreement and to its implementation with an enhanced ambition because the Paris Agreement by itself is not enough for the objectives that the world needs in relation to global warming. And this is something that I believe is very important not only because of its absolute need for mankind and the future of the planet but because it is also the right and smart thing to do.
We are seeing that the green economy is becoming more and more the economy of the future, that green business is good business and those that will not bet on green economy, on green technologies, will inevitably lose or not gain economic leadership in the years to come.
At the same time it is very important that we recognise that we need not only to be able to respond to the problems of those that are living in societies and that are under government responsibility but that human rights are also the rights of the people on the move, refugees and migrants, and so leaving no one behind will also have to inspire us to find the ways to look into migration with a different perspective, not with a perspective of rejection but understanding that is also an important component in solving global problems and that we need to find more legal avenues of migration and more ways to respect the human rights of migrants to make sure that they are not left behind in today’s world.
We know that the global megatrends are also making more and more people move in our world to prevent unnecessary movements, and to make sure that those movements that take place, take place in a regular way is another very important objective of not leaving anyone behind.
And then there is a central question of funding. And I think it is important to reaffirm today very clearly that developed countries need to abide by their commitments in relation to official development aid, but that at the same time that this is not enough to fund the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
We need to create conditions to help States be able to mobilise more their own resources and that has to do, on one hand, with tax reforms within states but also on mobilising the international community to fight together tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit flows of capital that are today making that more money is coming out of developing countries that the money that goes in through official development assistance.
And at the same time we need to make sure that the international financial institutions are able to leverage resources and to multiply their capacity to fund the implementation of the SDGs and also that we help countries to be able to access global markets, financial markets, and to be able to attract private investment without which it would be absolutely impossible to achieve these goals. And let’s also not only think about the problems of today, but also the problems of tomorrow.
We are facing a fourth industrial revolution, that will have a dramatic] impact in labour markets. And this will be a problem for many developing countries that today rely on cheap manpower as their competitive advantage; and cheap manpower will probably see many jobs destroyed in the near future with robotisation, and other forms of automation.
And at the same time a problem for many developed countries – look at the possibility that one day in a country like the US no more drivers might be necessary, no more drivers for cars, for trucks, and that is probably a very important source of employment in all societies in the world.
We need to be able to anticipate these trends, we need to be able to work together countries, international organisations, not to be reacting, but to be foreseeing what is coming and investing in education, in training, in new skills, in the adaptations of the labour markets to be able to cope with the challenges of the future. And for all that we also need to be able to reform, reform at country level, reform at the UN level and other organisations level.
Countries will look in different ways depending on different situations, on a country by country basis, into their governance mechanisms, into the way they are able to guarantee the participation of citizens, of businesses and of the civil society in development objectives. In the ways they are able to fight corruption, or to guarantee not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.
And as in the UN we need to be able to understand that even if the UN development system has produced many important contributions namely in the context of the implementation of the [SDGs], we are not fully ready for the new challenges of the present agenda 2030. That is why I presented to ECOSOC a first report on the reform of the UN development system. I will not be repeating here the 38 measures that are included in this first report but just say that there are a few central areas of concern.
First, the idea that we need to have at country level empowered resident coordinators and more effective country teams, more coordinated and more able to deliver support to the governments according to the government strategies – because governments and countries are the leaders of the implementation of the agenda – and to be more accountable to those governments at country level.
At the same time, to have this level of coordination, transparency, accountability at global level, being in this case accountable to ECOSOC and to the General Assembly of the UN and to consider that gender parity in the UN must also be an instrument in order to support gender mainstreaming, in the application of all policies that relate to the Agenda 2030 and to its objectives from the eradication of poverty to all the different areas, in the different sectors in which we need to be effective.
And finally that funding needs to be in line with the objectives of coherence and the objectives of accountability that I have mentioned and that is why we have the idea to propose a funding compact to guarantee exactly that coherence instead of the dispersion of funding in line that are not taking into account the objectives that in each country, each government is able to put in place to achieve the sustainable development goals.
And I think that looking at this Assembly, one can only be enthusiastic about the fact that there is a very strong commitment not only to the implementation of the agenda but a very strong affirmation of support to multilateral governance as the way to lead the 2030 Agenda respecting the leadership of member states but recognising that only working together we can rebuild the trust that is needed and we can make the Agenda 2030 that factor that brings the fair globalisation the world needs in the present times.
The post Don’t Move Resources from Development to Security, Warns UN Chief appeared first on Inter Press Service.
By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)
Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week.
“We have come to New York in order to find common solutions for common problems,” said Debapriya Bhattacharya, a top expert on policies on the Global South, to IPS News.
Debapriya Bhattacharya, among other key panelists, led discussions on the exchange of information, also addressed as interlinkages, between countries in one such panel, called Leveraging Interlinkages for Effective Implementation of SDGs.
The main goal of the panel was to identify the different ways in which different targets and goals could be mix and matched to produce maximum results.
For example, the goal of eradicating hunger necessarily means a sustainable chain of food production and consumption. Food production relies on fertile soil, which ultimately caters to goals of environmental conservation. This pattern of information in an interdependent ecosystem sits at the heart of reviews and assessment to improve implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Crucial information, such as who needs the most help and how to provide it, are collected by different agencies, governmental and non-governmental, in every country. While this exchange of information becomes important to identify synergies between countries, they are not enough to bring the goals to a vivid global reality.
“Setting up various kinds of agencies is important to ensure the flow of information is important, but are not fully adequate. We need to assess how to build one policy over another, so that two policies don’t add up to two, but more than two,” Debapriya Bhattacharya told IPS news.
The next crucial part of this flow is establishing a relationship—or seeking leverage—with the global community.
This partnering with a resourceful global community is especially important for countries to mitigate financial and technological issues. For example, a landlocked country with varying special needs can also quickly benefit from a global partnership.
To achieve this partnership, panelists stressed on the importance of political leadership.
Ultimately, with the help of newer technologies, this wide array of information coalesces into quantitative and qualitative data, and guides policy making.
Hopefully, in the next and complimentary step—the implementation of the data to deliver on the goals—all that glitters will turn to gold.
By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)
Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures.
Every now and then a reporter talks to a couple of them or interviews some of the tens of humanitarian organisations and groups, mostly to get information about their life conditions in the numerous so called “reception centres” that are often considered rather as “detention centres” installed on both shores of the Mediterranean sea.How to participate in IOM “i am a migrant” campaign
Answer a few questions:
- Country of origin/ current country/occupation,
- At what age did you leave your country and why (and where did you go to)?
- What was your first impression?
- What do you miss from your country?
- What do you think you bring to the country you're living in?
- What do you want to do/what do you actually do for your country of origin? (Example) What's your greatest challenge right now?
- Do you have a piece of advice you'd like to give to the people back in your country?
- And to those living in your host country?
- Where is home for you?
- Share a high-resolution picture of yourself
It is a fact that their numbers are shocking: 101,417 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 9 July, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported. Of this total, 2,353 died.
Beyond the figures, migrants and refugees live inhumane drama, are victims of rights abuse, discrimination, xenophobia and hatred–often encouraged by some politicians. Let alone that tragic realty that they fall easy pry to human traffickers who handle them as mere merchandise. See: African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya..
On top of that, another UN organisation—the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women.
“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” it reports. See: A Grisly Tale of Children Falling Easy Prey to Ruthless Smugglers.
On this, Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said that this route “is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life.”
True that statistics help evaluate the magnitude of such an inhumane drama. But, is this enough?
1,200 Migrants Tell Their Dreams and RealitiesIn a singular initiative, IOM launched “i am a migrant” – a platform to promote diversity and inclusion of migrants in society. It’s specifically designed to support volunteer groups, local authorities, companies, associations, groups, indeed, anyone of goodwill who is concerned about the hostile public discourse against migrants, says IOM.
“i am a migrant” allows the voices of individuals to shine through and provides an honest insight into the triumphs and tribulations of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys.”
“While we aim to promote positive perceptions of migrants we do not shy away from presenting life as it is experienced. We seek to combat xenophobia and discrimination at a time when so many are exposed to negative narratives about migration – whether on our social media feeds or on the airwaves.”
The IOM campaign uses the testimonials of migrants to connect people with the human stories of migration. Thus far, it has seen 1,200 profiles published. The anecdotes and memories shared on the platform help us understand what words such as “integration”, “multiculturalism” and “diversity” truly mean.
Through stories collected by IOM teams around the world, “diversity finally finds a human face.” While inviting migrants to share their stories with its teams, IOM informs that “i am a migrant” is part of the UN TOGETHER initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone who has left home in search of a better life.
From the Ashes of World War II
IOM is among the world’s most experienced international agencies dealing with migrants. No wonder– it rose from the ashes of World War Two over 65 years ago.
“In the battle-scarred continent of Europe, no government alone could help survivors who wanted no more than an opportunity to resume their lives in freedom and with dignity. The first incarnation of IOM was created to resettle refugees during this post-war period,” it reminds.
The agency’s history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past over 65 years – Hungary 1956; Czechoslovakia 1968; Chile 1973; the Viet Nam boat people 1975; Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999; the 2003 invasion of Iraq; the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.
Now under the United Nations umbrella as part of its system since 2016, IOM quickly grew from a focus on migrant and refugee resettlement to become the world’s leading inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the well-being, safety and engagement of migrants.
Over the years, IOM has grown into 166 member states. Its global presence has expanded to over 400 field locations. With over 90 per cent of its staff deployed in the field, it has become a lead responder to the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.
Shall these facts –and the stories migrants tell—help awaken the consciousness of those European politicians who ignore the fact that their peoples were once migrants and refugees as a consequences of wars their predecessors provoked? And that the migration agency was born for them?Related Articles
- Death Toll Rises in the Mediterranean Sea as EU Turns Its Back
- New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Second
- African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya
- Latin America Lacks Clear Policies to Tackle Human Trafficking
- Migrant Workers Pour Trillions into World Economy
- ‘Address African Rural Youth Unemployment Now or They Will Migrate’
- Putting the Spotlight on Women Migrant Workers
- No Wall for Ethiopia, Rather an Open Door—Even for Its Enemy
- Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Law
- This Is the Nation of 170 Million Enslaved Children
- “Horrific” Increase in Worldwide Displacement
- Poland, New Player in Islamophobia Game
- How to Stir up a Refugee Crisis in Five Steps, Trump Style
- Huge Health Needs for World's One Billion Migrants
- More IPS Coverage
By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)
Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting.
Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015.
Concerned about the slow progress towards sustainable development by governments after two years, civil society organisations (CSOs) from around the world have descended upon the global meeting to make their voices heard and demand engagement in order to achieve the ambitious agenda.
“One thing that is very different in the 2030 Agenda is the call for inclusion of all stakeholders and all people…we are not guests, we are not in the shadow, we are part of the implementation of this agenda as we were also part of the crafting of the agenda,” co-chair of the Steering Group of the Coordination Mechanism of Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) Naiara Costa told IPS.
MGoS is a newly created space to help civil society access information, increase their participation in decision-making processes, and facilitate collaboration across major stakeholder groups including indigenous peoples, women, and persons with disabilities.
“It is an agenda that is attracting so much attention and that civil society is taking so seriously that you need to have a space where people can come and get information and be prepared…if we are not engaged, [the agenda] is not going to be delivered,” Costa added.
Though there has been some progress towards inclusion of marginalised groups, there is still a long way to go.
Yetnebersh Nigussie, who is the senior inclusion advisor of international disability and development organisation Light for the World, told IPS that persons with disabilities have long been neglected, stating: “When talking about persons with disability, we are talking about billions—that’s 1/7th of the global population which is a huge segment of the population that has been highly overlooked.”
Though comprising of 15 percent of the global population, persons with disabilities are overrepresented among those living in absolute poverty.
They encounter exclusion and discrimination on a daily basis, including in development programmes and agendas like the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which made no reference to persons with disabilities.
Two years into the new 2030 Agenda, participation is still uneven for persons with disabilities, Nigussie said.
“Most of disability organizations were not fully informed—even in cases that they were consulted, accessibility needs were not addressed, and they were not meaningfully included,” she said, adding that there are also cases of exclusion against disability organizations within civil society itself.
Filipino indigenous activist and former Secretary-General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Joan Carling echoed similar sentiments to IPS on the exclusion of indigenous groups.
“Indigenous people who are defending our lands are being killed. So how can there be effective participation of indigenous peoples if that is the situation at the local level?” she said.
According to Global Witness, more than 200 environmental defenders, including indigenous leaders, were killed trying to protect their land in 2016, more than double the number five years ago.
Almost 100 have already been killed so far in 2017, including Mexican indigenous leader and illegal logging opponent Isidro Baldenergo Lopez.
States often exclude indigenous groups in development processes because it is too political otherwise, Carling noted.
“[States] are threatened by our demand of our rights to our territories and resources…so they try to avoid any reference to indigenous peoples because once they call us indigenous peoples, then they have to recognize our rights,” she told IPS.
Both Carling and Nigussie also highlighted the shrinking space for civil society around the world.
CIVICUS has found that civic space is severely constrained in 106 countries, over half of the UN’s members, through practices such as forced closure of CSOs, violence, and detentions.
Civil society activists are imprisoned most when they criticise the government and its policies or call attention to human rights abuses, the group noted.
Nigussie told IPS that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a “joint responsibility” between governments and civil society and that if they fail, they are “mutually accountable.”
To promote such accountability, the SDGs must be linked to the human rights model which will entail frequent consultations with persons with disabilities from the grassroots to the international levels.
Though engagement at the local and national levels are most important to successfully achieve sustainable development, global forums like HLPF at the UN allow civil society to make sure their concerns are heard.
“There is a lot of interest in bring the issue of lack of consultations at the global level simply because the space at the national levels are not provided,” Carling told IPS.
She highlighted the importance of indigenous peoples to identify, support, and have ownership of their own solutions.
“The goal is leaving no one behind—so if it is not participatory or rights-based, then it will end up as business as usual again,” Carling said.
Costa urged for nations to bring lessons learned back home, concluding: “It cannot stop here, [countries] need to bring the discussion back home. Otherwise its just a talk shop and we cannot allow this to happen.”
This year’s HLPF is held at the UN from 10-19 July with the theme of “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” It will focus on evaluating implementation of SDGs in 44 countries including Argentina, Ethiopia, and Thailand.
The post Civil Society on SDG Engagement: “We Are Not Guests” appeared first on Inter Press Service.
By Stella Paul
LONDON, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)
Online shopping may have its pros and cons, but when it comes to buying products that have an invisible morality tag, it’s the safest possible option, believes Franklin Paul.
One of India’s most vocal advocates for youth rights to sexual health, education and products, Paul has spent over two years studying and introducing digital technologies to India’s rural youths. “One day soon, nobody will have to walk into a store to buy condoms, face the nosey chemist and feel embarrassed. They will just order it from their mobile phone or tablet or laptop and and get it delivered on their doorstep,” he says ."Health workers themselves feel embarrassed to talk of sex and contraceptives, but if that information is available on the mobile screen, nobody will have to be embarrassed." --Kamla Mukhi
Talking to IPS on the sidelines of the London Family Planning Summit held last week, Paul shared his personal experiences of talking to youths in the East Champaran district of Bihar, one of India’s most underdeveloped states. The government has just introduced sex education in the state’s schools, but for young men and women, it is difficult to get the correct information on reproductive health.
To help them, Paul and his fellow youths launched a cellphone application called M Sathi. Available now on Google Play, the app provides information in a fun and interactive way where users can learn about sex and related issues through games and quizzes.
In India, the government is currently running a special campaign on expanding digital connectivity and providing quality e-Governance. Named “Digital India”, the campaign envisions transforming India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.
The campaign aligns well with the government’s plan to advance and improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the country, says Chandra Kumar Mishra, India’s secretary of health. “We are digitising our communication all along our supply chain,” he said, right after announcing that India would spend an additional one billion dollars in the next five years to provide better reproductive health care to its population.
With the new announcement, India’s commitment now stands at an impressive sum of three billion dollars.
There are 100 million women in India who use contraceptives, according to government data. But not every one receives what she needs. This causes not just an imbalance in the demand and supply system, but also becomes a hurdle in achieving the overall SRHR goal of the government: providing contraceptives to an additional 48 million women and also reduce and eradicate diseases and deaths.
Digital tools can help bridge the gap between the demand and the supply, says Mishra.
Citing the example of E-mitra, a mobile phone based communication service launched by the government, Mishra says that the rapid expansion of digital network in India is sparking greater use of internet phones, especially in the urban and semi-urban belt. Health service providers should leverage this opportunity to reach out more people and provide them with credible information through mobile phones and internet tools, he feels.
Cellphones for Better Information
Mishra’s words resonate with Kamla Mukhi, a 24-year-old young tribal woman community health campaigner in Daltongunj, a coal mining district in east India’s Jharkhand state. In Daltongunj, tribal women have to travel 20-25 kilometers to reach the nearest health center for their need – whether it is for information or a product.
A year ago, Mukhi visited one such health center. “An elderly woman health worker secretly slipped a box of condoms into a young woman’s hand. Later, the woman asked me, ‘Didi, how do I eat this? This is rubber.‘ I did not know whether to laugh or cry. The woman had earlier received cereals and birth control pills here, so she thought this new product was also for swallowing,“ Mukhi recalls.
With mobile phones, such situations would not occur because women can receive the information directly, without any added confusion, Mukhi says.“The health workers themselves feel embarrassed to talk of sex and contraceptives, but if that information is available on the mobile screen, nobody will have to be embarrassed.”
The digitized information system can also be a big boon for women and young people who live in conflict areas, says Mukhi, whose own village falls in an area partially controlled by Naxals, an ultra-communist rebel outfit fighting against the government.
“Women walk long miles to a health center. Then they find out it’s been closed because there was a security threat or an attack. If such information is shared on a mobile phone, they need not undergo such unnecessary hassles,“ says the young health activist.
Investing in Data
But while it’s rather easy to share and give away information, collecting accurate statistics about how that knowledge is put to use remains a huge challenge.
“Credible data is a very crucial area,” says Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who in 2016 had announced an 80-million-dollar fund for research and collection of reliable gender specific data. Such data, feels Gates, is vital to identify the economic and social issues affecting women and fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially goals 3 and 5.
“When a woman health center worker uses and shares data with the women in her community, she knows its valuable because its credible,“ Gates says.
Mishra agrees: “One of the technologies that we are using is Supply Chain Management, a software that will track the purchases and supply of all the reproductive healthcare commodities. We also have a current database on levels of contraceptive use which we are now going to digitize. Soon we will have an enormous volume of data and most of it we will make available to the public,” he says.
Currently, the government is partnering with the Gates Foundation in developing Kilkari, a mobile application that will provide customized information to new mothers, including notifying them on next vaccination dates. The government also has two other mobile apps – Emitra and Anmol – that are used to give free information on family planning.
None of the government’s technologies are specifically targeting youths, Mishra admits, but says that his department is planning to address it soon. Franklin Paul says that to encourage youths to use the technologies, they need to be ‘youth-friendly.‘
“The government apps are very text-heavy. But young people love something that is interactive and visually appealing and stimulating. This is why we are about to add videos to our Msathi apps. Just as we need to give them a basket of contraceptive products to choose from, we also need to give them a basket of technologies to pick. So, instead of just text messages, we should offer a bouquet of ecommerce, multimedia and social media that will help expand SRHR services among youths,“ says Paul.Related Articles
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International Dialogue on Migration Discusses Migrant Vulnerabilities in Preparation for Global Compact for Migration
By Olivia Headon
GENEVA, Switzerland, Jul 14 2017 (IOM)
Key actors in the Global Compact for Migration process will convene on 18 and 19 July at the United Nations Office in Geneva to explore and better understand migrant vulnerabilities through IOM’s International Dialogue on Migration.
The global compact is a major intergovernmental process, to which IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is extending technical and policy expertise as requested by Member States until its culmination in September 2018. It presents an historical opportunity for achieving a world in which migrants move as a matter of choice rather than necessity, through safe, orderly and regular channels, and in which migration is well governed and able to act as a positive force for individuals, societies and States.
This meeting, the second such Dialogue so far this year, is being held by IOM to create a space for governments and relevant actors to discuss solution-based approaches towards a global compact that reduces vulnerabilities and empowers migrants. Participants will explore all aspects of migrant vulnerabilities from a policy, cooperation and practical perspective.
Remarks will be made by high level guests including:
William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General
Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana
Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship of Canada
Nanette Thomas, Minister of Political and Public Affairs of Sierra Leone
Shahidul Haque, Foreign Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh
Anna Makakala, Commissioner General of Immigration Services of Tanzania
José Luis Lacome, Vice Minister of Human Mobility of Ecuador
Khadijetou Mbareck Fall, Minister Delegate for Maghrebian and African Affairs, and Expatriate Mauritanians of Mauritania
Marina Del Corral, Secretary General of Immigration and Emigration of Spain
Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly (via video message)
Contributions will also be made by other senior representatives of governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, diaspora, private sector, diaspora and academia. In total, 42 speakers will contribute to seven panels scheduled over the two-day event.
The outcomes of this discussion together with those of the first Dialogue held on 18-19 April 2017 at the UN Headquarters in New York will be gathered in a publication, which will input into the global compact stock-taking meeting to take place in Mexico in December.