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Inter Press Service: At the intersection of conflict, climate change and energy access | Njus International

At the intersection of conflict, climate change and energy access

Community Inter Press Service

With the advent of the 21st century, there has been a steady rise in energy access all around the globe.For the first time ever, the total number of people without access to electricity fell below 1 billion in 2017 according to the International
'Given the far-reaching benefits and rising practical feasibility of renewables, it is likely that the global community is heading for a future that embraces clean power sources.Photo: SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP By Tarannum Sahar Jun 14 2019 (IPS-Partners) With the advent of the 21st century, there has been a steady rise in energy access all around the globe.For the first time ever, the total number of people without access to electricity fell below 1 billion in 2017 according to the International Energy Agency.Despite the increase in the pace of electrification, 13 percent of the global population, mostly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, still lack critical access to electricity—a factor linked closely with productivity, health and safety, gender equality and education.Without much greater ambition and more intensified efforts, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 that has an objective of “ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” will be impossible to attain by 2030.At the same time, as the global community faces the persistent and pervasive challenge of energy poverty, it also needs to address the intensifying human-driven climate disruption and the widespread displacement of people as a result of war, persecution and natural disaster.These critically important crises—energy poverty, climate disruption and displacement—are inexorably linked through the strong overlap in the populations affected by all three predicaments.There is an unprecedented 68.5 million people forcibly displaced across the world.Many of them end in relief camps, where approximately 90 percent do not have energy access as stated by the Center for Resource Solutions.In addition to refugees and internally displaced persons, majority of the people lacking the most basic of electricity services also count amongst the population most vulnerable to the disastrous consequences of climate change.Mass migration ensuing from the dramatic shifts in our environment has the potential of fuelling political unrests and exacerbating conflict.The communities at risk often lack both the political and economic resources that are essential in maintaining stability through strengthening climate resilience and adaptive capacity.As a consequence, many countries with significant energy poverty will bear the worst effects of global warming despite having contributed very little to the historical build-up of greenhouse gas emissions.Taking constructive steps towards climate change mitigation and achieving universal energy access supposedly seem to be in conflict.The reasoning behind this sceptical notion is the assumption that more people getting access to electricity will require further investment in carbon-intensive power systems and greater exploitation of fossil fuels which largely contribute to the vast majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.However, with rapid advancement in alternative energy technologies primarily in areas of efficiency and cost-reduction, it is no longer required to address one crisis at the cost of the other.In the current scenario, communities enduring extreme cases of energy poverty often depend on biomass burning to meet basic energy needs.Replacing biomass with clean sources of energy will significantly bring down deforestation, a step that is vital for climate mitigation and adaptation.Renewables like solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbines are less expensive than newly installed fossil-based power plants in many regions of the world and in some, it is even less expensive than using existing, traditional power plants.Communities in remote, rural areas or refugee camps located near borders and inhospitable regions of the world are usually situated far away from traditional transmission lines.Installation of capital-intense grid network is economically unviable as reaching an affordable scale in these places is nearly impossible.In recent decades, decentralised energy solution is becoming an increasingly important factor for expediting electricity access.Deployment of distributed infrastructures is powering a disruptive transformation in the energy sector like never seen before.Through the latest policy brief for SDG 7, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs emphasised that for over 70 percent of those without access in rural areas, decentralised systems based on renewable energy will be the most cost-effective solution.The new paradigm demands that decision makers think beyond the “grid versus off-grid” dichotomy and recognise the extensive value of autonomous mini-grids and distributed energy services that utilise local resources and effectively serve specific, regional needs.Reducing dependence on centralised generation further democratises the electricity distribution allowing for local ownership of energy services and increased support for alternative energy.Widespread adaptation of distributed systems based on renewables will put a check on the global demand for oil, ease the power struggle over resource-rich areas and cut down energy dominance in political negotiations.Such a transition will help nation states in reducing vulnerability to conflict, and strengthening socio-political stability.Given the far-reaching benefits and rising practical feasibility of renewables, it is likely that the global community is heading for a future that embraces clean power sources.However, the ultimate question is, will the transition be fast enough to limit global warming to a safe level?The special report on Global Warming of 1.5 degree Celsius published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that increase in temperature beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will lead to severe environmental catastrophes and the international community has 12 years to limit that.As the 25th session of the Conference of Parties (COP25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change draws near, it is critical that governments, negotiators, and other stakeholders not only consider a rapid shift towards a clean energy future, but also a transition that is just and inclusive of unserved and underserved communities.While international support is certainly essential in achieving SDG 7, real and lasting progress will also require participation at the national as well as local and regional levels.With the emergence of decentralisation in electrification, the energy sector can greatly benefit from polycentrism—the contribution of multiple stakeholders from numerous spheres.The present day is a unique moment in the history of energy access expansion, as distributed networks can viably reach the furthest corners of the globe.It’s critical to make the best use of this opportunity and drive action towards an energy system that will sustain the earth for future generations, while also stepping up electrification and promoting regional stability.Tarannum Sahar is studying Economics and Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Energy Transition and Technology Development at Cornell University, USA.This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh . The post At the intersection of conflict, climate change and energy access appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Asia-Pacific Region Falters on UN Development Goals

Law and Order Inter Press Service

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a Chatham House meeting in London last week that the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of the legacies of the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “spawned tremendous progress” in the battle
'By Thalif Deen UNITED NATIONS, Jun 14 2019 (IPS) UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a Chatham House meeting in London last week that the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of the legacies of the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “spawned tremendous progress” in the battle against poverty worldwide.She pointed out that the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day was reduced from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015 — “the largest decline of its kind in human history”. Yet, she warned, much remains to be done to ensure a life of dignity for all.The new rallying point, she pointed out, is the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Still, a new report released last month by the Bangkok-based Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) warns that the SDGs – the successor to MDGs—have been falling behind in a region which is home to the world’s two most populous nations: China and India.While there has been limited progress, “Asia and the Pacific will not achieve any of the 17 SDGs on its current trajectory”, the report declares.The targeted date to achieve the SDGs is 2030.The study says “progress has stagnated or has been heading in the wrong direction in more than half the SDGs.” The situation is deteriorating when it comes to providing clean water and sanitation (SDG6), ensuring decent work and economic growth (SDG8) and supporting responsible consumption and production (SDG12). The region has made progress towards ending poverty (SDG1) and ensuring all have access to quality education and lifelong learning (SDG4). Measures are also underway to achieve affordable and clean energy (SDG7), according to the report. “Yet even where good progress has been made, it is too slow for these goals to be met by 2030”. Launching the report – titled Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2019 during the 75th Commission session of ESCAP in Bangkok May 28– UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Alisjahbana called for urgent action to reverse these negative trends. “I hope this report will contribute to targeting our efforts to accelerate progress towards all Goals and to strengthen the region’s commitment to improving the quality of data and statistics essential to measuring progress,” she said.Responding to the report, Stuart Kempster, WaterAid’s Policy Analyst for Monitoring and Accountability, told IPS: “It is shocking that, on its current trajectory, Asia and the Pacific will not achieve any of the 17 SDGs by 2030”. Referring to SDG 6 which was singled out in the report, he said: “We are especially alarmed that some nations will be years off track in meeting the human right to water and sanitation, the basic building blocks of any stable and prosperous community”, he added.Kempster said at current rates of progress, everyone in low- and middle-income countries won’t have safely managed water until 2064, or sanitation until 2107. “We have only 11 years left to keep the promise made to those living without clean water or a decent toilet.Governments must prioritise clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene, ensuring proper financing is put in place to build a more sustainable world today and for future generations,” he noted.Arman Bidarbakhtnia, Head, Statistical Data Management Unit (SDMU) Statistics Division at ESCAP, told IPS the report only assesses regional and sub-regional progress and does not aim to do a country level assessment.Even though there are many references to country cases at indicator level, he explained, the conclusions on the goals should not be generalized to countries.The analysis is based on unweighted aggregations at regional and sub-regional level.So, results are not representative of China and India as the biggest countries, he said.Also, small islands developing states (SIDS) are as important as China and India in this analysis.He pointed out that “the region” does not mean an entire region or majority of the population but signifies a “typical country in the region” or “half or more countries of the region” (median values). He said the report is only focusing on the progress and does not aim for a “cause-effect” analysis.Meanwhile the report also shows major differences in progress between the subregions of Asia and the Pacific which have recorded different successes and face different challenges.Each subregion needs to reverse existing trends for at least three Goals.For example, East and North-East Asia is regressing in sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), climate action (SDG13) and life on land (SDG15). South-East Asia has moved backwards on SDG8, SDG13 and peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG16). Additionally, says the report, South and South-West Asia is moving in the wrong direction on SDG6, SDG12 and SDG13.Since 2000, there has been a decline on gender equality (SDG5), SDG8 and SDG11 in North and Central Asia.The Pacific subregion has regressed on zero hunger (SDG2), SDG8, life below water (SDG14) and SDG16, according to the report. “The lack of reliable data across all Goals and in all subregions is one of the Asia and the Pacific’s biggest challenges”. Despite a significant increase in the availability of SDG indicators since 2017, data gaps remain for two thirds of the global SDG indicators.Nearly one-quarter of all SDG targets lacking evidence relate to the environment, according to the report.Asked whether lack of political will or a shortfall in development aid were reasons for the setbacks, Bidarbakhtnia told IPS these cannot be deduced purely from results of this report.But it definitely differs by country, including lack of political will, financial resource, development aid, prioritization, development models etc.However, he said, “you can refer to one ESCAP publication that the cost of closing these gaps is affordable for governments, and it is definitely not all due to lack of financial resources”. https://www.unescap.org/publications/economic-and-social-survey-asia-and-pacific-2019-ambitions-beyond-growth Asked how valid the conclusions are when the report singles out the “lack of reliable data across all goals,” he said the conclusion is based on a rigorous data availability analysis that is presented in part III of the report.The same part also provides some hint for closing the gap and overcome challenges.He said administrative sources are a major primary source for SDG indicators at national level.Given their advantages over surveys (lower cost, more frequency, etc) investing in production and use of administrative data is one long-term strategy to close data gaps.Also exploring use of other alternative sources of data such as satellite imagery, GIS, mobile data and open online sources.Asked about the region’s rate of success in alleviating or eradicating poverty by 2030, and whether it includes two of the most populous countries in the region, Bidarbakhtnia said “the current rate for eradicating poverty is not enough to achieve the 2030 targets.” “We have to keep in mind that under goal 1 we are not only talking about income poverty.The region (including China and India) is on track to eradicate “income poverty” if they can maintain the same pace of progress.However, SDG1 goes beyond only income poverty, region is lagging behind because other dimensions, especially, government spending on basic services (education and health) and resilience against natural disasters.The report does not present data on China and India but “our data shows that both are doing better than the region on Goal 1 and are on track if they maintain the progress”. But they also (same as the region) need to accelerate spending on basic services.And there are several other dimensions such as social protection and multidimensional poverty that there is no data to measure, he added.The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org . The post Asia-Pacific Region Falters on UN Development Goals appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

The Storm is Over, But in Southern Africa, Cyclone Idai Continues to Rage for Women and Girls

Health care Inter Press Service

In late March Cyclone Idai carved a path of devastation across Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi.It was the deadliest cyclone to hit the region in more than a century, others have even referred to it as “Africa’s Hurricane Katrina.” More than 1,000
'Cyclone Idai’s aftermath in Mozambique.Credit: Denis Onyodi:IFRC/DRK/Climate Centre By Edinah Masiyiwa HARARE, Jun 13 2019 (IPS) In late March Cyclone Idai carved a path of devastation across Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi.It was the deadliest cyclone to hit the region in more than a century, others have even referred to it as “Africa’s Hurricane Katrina.” More than 1,000 people were killed.Many more saw their homes, food crops, and even entire villages washed away.My country, Zimbabwe, has been receiving aid from all over the world.Our citizens also have taken it upon themselves to donate toward the needs of those who survived.We may be feeling like things are getting better.But in fact, for many women and girls, they are getting worse.We are experiencing an aspect of natural disasters that rarely receives the attention it deserves: the fact simply being female puts one at a far greater risk of suffering harm.A recent report by the UN Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe observed that at least 15,000 women and girls in the areas affected by Idai are at risk of gender-based violence linked to disruptions caused by the storm.Edinah Masiyiwa For example, there was a report of a 14-year-old girl who suffered a sexual assault in Chimanimani, a community in eastern Zimbabwe hit hard by the cyclone.This one case might be just the tip of the iceberg as there are women walking long distances to get to places where food and other aid is being distributed and being forced to sleep in long queues.There also are concerns of women and girls being asked to provide sex in exchange for access to aid.Meanwhile, a UN Flash appeal report has noted the lack of privacy and lighting in camps for displaced persons, which can increase the risk of violence and transactional sex for female storm victims.This situation is, unfortunately, not unique to Cyclone Idai.UN Women has highlighted that there is a rise in violence , including sexual violence, against women and girls in the aftermath of a natural disaster.Just standing in a queue for food aid and other support leave women more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and, consequently, HIV infections.Also, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in crisis situations one in five women of childbearing age are likely to be pregnant .  There is an urgent need to ensure access to reproductive health services.Lack of services such as prenatal care and assisted deliveries, puts these women at an increased risk of life-threatening complications.Suspensions in services that provide prevention and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections also have a greater impact on women.Right after the Idai hit, the immediate focus of aid efforts was understandably on providing food and shelter.It is now time to broaden that focus to include interventions that protect women and girls from violence, sexual exploitation, and the loss of critically needed health services Right after the Idai hit, the immediate focus of aid efforts was understandably on providing food and shelter.It is now time to broaden that focus to include interventions that protect women and girls from violence, sexual exploitation, and the loss of critically needed health services.For example, all actors on the ground responding to the cyclone must ensure they integrate training programs that include efforts to mitigate the risk of gender-based violence.There should be clear procedures for reporting any cases of violence and measures to protect victims who step forward from suffering retaliation.Zimbabwe’s Civil Protection Unit also should devote resources to helping women retain access to reproductive health services.Pregnant women should be screened for complications and those at high risk—such as women who need to deliver via caesarian section—should be transferred to hospitals where emergency care is available from skilled health workers.Women will need access to contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies, which ultimately lead to unsafe abortions.Also, at a minimum, there should be a system in place for the timely delivery of aid so that women are not forced to sleep in a long queue just to receive assistance.And any temporary shelter should include security guards to help protect women and girls from attacks.A natural disaster can impose terrible hardships and cyclones like Idai could become more common as climate change increases the risk of weather extremes.But while we cannot prevent these events from occurring, we can ensure that, for women and girls, storms like Idai do not continue to rage in the form of sexual violence and other neglect that greatly compounds their trauma.Edinah Masiyiwa is a women’s rights activist.She is the Executive Director of Women’s Action Group and an 2019 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow . . The post The Storm is Over, But in Southern Africa, Cyclone Idai Continues to Rage for Women and Girls appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Cities of Light are Providing Safe Havens to Refugees

Law and Order Inter Press Service

While cities around the world have been providing safe havens to refugees, a few US cities in the Upstate New York region have been integrating refugees and asylum-seekers into their communities.Specifically, the towns of Utica, Buffalo and
'By Emily Thampoe UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2019 (IPS) While cities around the world have been providing safe havens to refugees, a few US cities in the Upstate New York region have been integrating refugees and asylum-seekers into their communities.Specifically, the towns of Utica, Buffalo and Syracuse, are welcoming refugees to live and work.These towns share a border with Canada and so have been allowing asylum-seekers into their communities for many years.As of 2018, there are 69,058 immigrant residents in the Buffalo Metro Area, according to a report by New American Economy.This is especially meaningful as immigration policies in the United States have become stricter since the Trump administration took office in 2016.Eva Hassett, the Executive Director of the International Institute of Buffalo, told IPS: “The Trump administration has lowered the admissions ceiling for refugees coming into the US drastically.There are far lower numbers of refugees arriving in Buffalo, in New York State, in the US – historically low numbers for a program that started in 1980”. The aforementioned towns fall into the category of “Cities of Light,” as coined by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This refers to places around the world that have accepted refugees in a warm manner and have provided opportunities and resources that will be beneficial to both the communities and to the refugees who settle in them.This is just one of the ways that refugees are able to lead lives that are safer than what they would experience in their home countries.Since 1950, the UNHCR has been aiding in providing assistance to refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced and stateless people.According to the UNHCR, common solutions for refugees include voluntary repatriation (returning to countries of origin), resettlement in another nation and integration into the host community.Liz Throssell, the UNHCR’s Global Spokesperson for the Americas and Europe, told IPS: “For refugees who cannot go home, integration into their local community can provide a durable solution, allowing them the chance to build a new life.Integration is often a complex and gradual process, with legal, economic, social and cultural dimensions”. “It places considerable demands placed on both the individual and the host community.But when refugees are integrated, this can bring benefits all round, as the person is able to contribute economically and socially to the community,” she declared.With approximately 1.1 million refugees becoming citizens in the countries in which they claimed asylum, the good that Cities of Light do is evident.These cities have given refugees a way to feel safe and welcome through bestowing governmental provisions and ways to maintain their cultural identity while being helped to adjust to a new environment.Globally-known Cities of Light include Jakarta, Indonesia; Kigali, Rwanda; Vienna, Austria; São Paulo, Brazil; Erbil, Iraq; Altena, Germany and Gdansk, Poland.Throssell said, “An increasing number of cities are working to empower refugees and embrace the opportunities they bring.Mayors, local authorities, social enterprises and citizens groups are on the frontlines of the global refugee response, fostering social cohesion, and protecting and assisting the forcibly displaced in their midst.” In Buffalo, benefits have included, “Affordability, welcoming community, pro-rights and inclusion, lots of support infrastructure, good jobs and cities are easy to get around,” according to Hassett.Similar social and economic effects have been seen in Utica, New York as well.Although the number of refugees allowed into the United States has been noticeably cut down to 30,000 this year due, in part, to immigration policies under the Trump administration, refugees are still moving into New York state.Hassett notes, “Refugee is an immigration status; it is conferred upon an individual by the US Department of State (DOS). Refugees arrive documented and work authorized, they are screened and greenlighted before they arrive by DOS, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They will naturalize to be legal permanent residents.” The US refugee resettlement program (officially called Reception and Placement) was established in 1980 and provides 90 days of support and financial support to refugees entering the US under the R&P program.This is the program whose ceiling the President has lowered so drastically”. This sort of migration is possible as residents of the region are promoting job placements, English language services and housing services in order to direct refugees who are already living in the United States to the state.Much of this advertising is done through video campaigns by resettlement agencies, Facebook groups, WhatsApp chats and newspapers that are run by refugees.While this will help give opportunity, it also allows New York to expand its population and the size of its workforce.Having more people move into towns like Utica, Buffalo and Syracuse has turned areas that once were barren or unsafe, into areas that are bustling with life and culture. . The post Cities of Light are Providing Safe Havens to Refugees appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

The Forgotten Migrants of Central America

Law and Order Inter Press Service

Rural and indigenous populations in countries like Guatemala and Honduras are increasingly on the move – either migrating internally or to neighbouring countries.But the focus on these populations have been limited, leaving them forgotten and
'Traditional indigenous attire of a Mayan woman from the Quiche region of Guatemala.Credit: UN Photo/John Olsson By Caley Pigliucci UNITED NATIONS, Jun 12 2019 (IPS) Rural and indigenous populations in countries like Guatemala and Honduras are increasingly on the move – either migrating internally or to neighbouring countries.But the focus on these populations have been limited, leaving them forgotten and marginalized as they continue to be disproportionately affected by climate change.The disappearance of farmlands and unreliability of crops due to climate change have led families to experience increased food and economic insecurity—that have forced some of them to migrate. “In general, we can say that the majority of rural migrants are poor people, but often not the poorest, because the latter cannot afford the significant costs of these journeys,” Ricardo Rapallo, Senior Food Security Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told IPS.According to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), between 2000 and 2010, the number of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras increased by an average of 59% and the number of illegal immigrants apprehended by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) increased from 50,000 during 2010 to over 400,000 in 2016.Elizabeth Kennedy, a researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW) based in Honduras, told IPS, “When we talk about climate change, we have to think about historical and social factors that leave certain groups more impacted than others…many of the people who farm and fish on the lands most vulnerable to climate change have been historically mistreated.” “Realizing that those most impacted are indigenous is critical, because it hasn’t been part of the main stream conversation, and it needs to be,” Kennedy added.The United Nations does not label those forced to migrate due to climate change as ‘climate refugees.’ A change in language would require an agreement among member-states altering the definition of refugees (currently defined as: “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence”. And a refugee also has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.However, Kennedy emphasized that “Indigeneity is a protected factor, and that is a reason to claim asylum.” But she warns that in the case of migration from Central America, “many people around the US, including lawyers are not aware that they need to be looking at historic and systemic inclusion.” She added that this is true “even in Guatemala and Honduras.This is in fact demonstrative that the state doesn’t take it seriously.” Researchers, like Kennedy, are frustrated as they see little data and few programs that help indigenous and rural people which also take into account the fraught history that indigenous people have in Central America, a place where a number of massacres occurred in 1996 and many are still recovering from the violence.Kennedy said there are six indigenous groups in Honduras and over 30 in Guatemala, but she expressed her desire to see “updated statistics on the various indigenous groups.” Many climate migrants are also left out of the public eye because they only migrate within their own country. “It is important to stress that, even if the international migration is the one gathering public attention, and motivating political reactions, internal migration is by far larger,” said Rapallo.The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has estimated external migration in 2015 at around 244 million people, while internal migration (as of 2009) was estimated at 740 million people.For many who experience food insecurities, families will send one member to another country to provide for the family from afar, but the rest of the family will remain in their home country.The FAO says “what has been observed is that young people represent a major part of the international migrants.” Alongside the increase of internal migration and external migration among youth, Kennedy also sees an increase in family units migrating away from Guatemala and Honduras in recent years, which, she says, “shows that more is happening than needing to just provide economic stability to the home.” Rapallo said: “If we want to give people options and make an impact on migration movements, we should work on the root causes of migration.” The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has taken a specific policy initiative to protect climate migrants: the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD). UNHCR representatives told IPS that the PDD “…promotes policy and normative developments to address gaps in the protection of people at risk of displacement or already displaced across borders in the context of climate change and disaster.” UNHCR says that member-states and stake-holders will have an opportunity to “…deliver concrete pledges and contributions that will advance the objectives of the Global Compact and highlight key achievements and good practices” at the Global Refugee Forum on the 17 and 18 of December 2019.But, thus far, it remains unclear to what extent the PDD has had an effect on the admittance or protections of climate migrants.The 2019 Climate Action Summit will take place this September during the UN General Assembly sessions.Luis Alfonso de Alba, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the summit responded to a question from IPS about the potential need to update language surrounding climate migrants.At a press briefing on May 28th, he said: “This is not a meeting for negotiations… So I think the topic of language will continue to rather be an issue for member states.” “We are obviously taking into account the impact of climate change into migration as a topic,” he added, but said “We are not negotiating language.” Though de Alba assured IPS that indigenous populations will be involved in the summit, rural and indigenous populations migrating internally and externally in Central America are still largely over-looked.Kennedy worries that not enough is being done. “They need targeted programs, they need targeted statistics, and these are not provided,” she said.Rapallo said: “The right to migrate also involves the right not to migrate.Migration should be an option, but not the only option to pursue a better life, or sometimes even to survive.” . The post The Forgotten Migrants of Central America appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

An Uncertain Future for Palestinian Refugees

Community Inter Press Service

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been forced to justify its existence at the United Nations ahead of a pledging conference later this month.
'By Charlotte Munns UNITED NATIONS, Jun 12 2019 (IPS) The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been forced to justify its existence at the United Nations ahead of a pledging conference later this month.UNRWA came under fire by Jason Greenblatt, US Special Envoy for International Negotiations, at a Security Council meeting late last month.Allegations and criticism raised by Greenblatt did little to aid the already precarious financial situation of the Agency.Last week, UNRWA held a press conference at the UN in an attempt to raise awareness — and funds for their work.The organisation supports around 74% of Gaza’s population, and also has major operations in the West Bank and Jordan, where millions of Palestine refugees reside.The Agency provides food aid, social services, education and infrastructure.UNRWA requires US$1.2 billion to fund all its operations in the coming year.However, fears have been raised regarding their ability to do so.Unless the Agency is able to secure at least US$60 million by the end of this month, their ability to provide food aid to over 1 million Palestine refugees seems uncertain.The Agency is funded predominantly by UN Member States, the European Union and regional governments.These sources contribute 93% of funds.Private individuals and non-governmental sources contributed over US$17 million in 2018.Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, noted at the press conference last week, “right now, strictly financially speaking, we don’t have the money to guarantee the opening of schools in the fall.” These financial concerns have largely arisen following the United States’ refusal to continue funding the organisation.Greenblatt justified Trump’s decision to the Security Council last month. “The UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people,” he said, describing the Agency as an “irredeemably flawed operation” and a “band-aid” solution.Instead, he proposed an integration of the Agency’s services into government and non-governmental organisations’ structures.In his explanation of the United States’ decision, he reaffirmed the country’s support of Israel, stating “the United States will always stand with Israel.” This prompted criticism that the decision to cease funding UNRWA was a political move, rather than for issues with the Agency’s functioning.Peter Mulrean, Director of UNRWA’s Representative Office in New York, said in a statement to IPS that “UNRWA regrets the U.S. decision to stop funding UNRWA after decades of being the Agency’s single largest donor and strong partner.” However, he refused to speculate on the motives behind that decision.Greenblatt claimed the politicisation of UNRWA, despite its intended neutrality, meant “year after year, Palestinians in refugee camps were not given the opportunity to build any future; they were misled and used as political pawns and commodities instead of being treated as human beings.” In his response, Mulrean said: “UNRWA is a UN humanitarian Agency that has no political role in Palestine or anywhere else.” Despite this, UNRWA was asked at the press conference to respond to claims its members have involvement with Hamas after weapons were found stored in a school, and tunnels were located beneath multiple UNRWA educational buildings.The Agency noted its officials reported all such incidents, and measures were taken to remove the weapons and close the tunnels.Criticism of UNRWA seems at odds with the Security Council’s stance on the Agency.Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said in a press briefing last week, “the Secretary General has been speaking on support of UNRWA for a long time,” adding, “his position remains unchanged, that he very much feels that UNRWA is a stabilizing force in the region through the education services it provides, through the health services, and through the support services.” At the Security Council meeting last month it was only the United States and Israel that spoke against UNRWA.All other 14 member states reaffirmed their support for the Agency. “That is a reflection of the broad support UNRWA enjoys in the international community,” Mulrean told IPS.Despite this, UNRWA has for years struggled to meet its budget.Last year, around 42 countries and institutions increased their contributions to erase an unprecedented deficit of US$446 million.Greenblatt noted the United States was frequently called upon to fill budget gaps.Having pledged around US$6 billion to the organisation over the course of its existence, he reaffirmed his government’s refusal to continue to do so.Instead, the United States has called for a conference in Bahrain—June 25-26– to discuss possible solutions to the Palestine refugee crisis.Many see this as compensation for withdrawing funding for UNRWA.While Mulrean refused to take a formal position on the upcoming conference in Bahrain, he did say that UNRWA doesn’t see this as in competition with the Agency’s work.UNRWA has fought Greenblatt’s criticism before press in order to garner support for its mandate.Within a context of escalating violence in Gaza – some saying the worst since 2014 – and ever- increasing numbers of Palestine refugees, the Agency continues to seek funding from member states so as to continue its operations in the coming year. “This is our reality,” Mulrean said, “we have schools to run, we have clinics to run, we have people to feed.” . The post An Uncertain Future for Palestinian Refugees appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Displaced in South Sudan – A journey of 1,000 kilometers

News Inter Press Service

(UNOCHA) – Conflict, hunger and disease forced nearly 700,000 people to flee South Sudan to become refugees in neighbouring countries in 2017.More than 70 percent of those fled in the first half of 2017, when multiple military offensives occurred in
'Photo Credit: UNICEF/Phil Moore By UNOCHA Jun 11 2019 (IPS-Partners) (UNOCHA) – Conflict, hunger and disease forced nearly 700,000 people to flee South Sudan to become refugees in neighbouring countries in 2017.More than 70 percent of those fled in the first half of 2017, when multiple military offensives occurred in Upper Nile, Unity, Jonglei, and the Greater Equatoria region.Since 2013, over 4.2 million people – about one in three South Sudanese – have been displaced within the country.More than 2.2 million people are now refugees in countries across the region, including Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.What happens when people are forced to abandon their land, homes, jobs and schools due to a civil war?Follow one family’s journey of 1,000 kilometers (over 600 miles) as they travel the length of South Sudan in search of safety.View the full story on UN OCHA . The post Displaced in South Sudan – A journey of 1,000 kilometers appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Developing Technologies for Zero-Carbon Economies

Business Inter Press Service

Nils Røkke is Chair of European Energy Research Association and head of Sustainability at SINTEF Energy.
'By Nils Røkke TRONDHEIM, Norway, Jun 11 2019 (IPS) Never before has half a degree (0.5C) meant so much for humanity.We are behaving as if we have time to deal with climate change.We don’t.The main problem is that we believe we must sacrifice growth and prosperity for the sake of decarbonisation.We don’t.Increase investments We can decarbonise the economy and create jobs and growth.In Europe, this requires that member states increase investments in energy research and renewable energy technologies.Europe can take the lead by investing in research and reviewing regulations, making sustainability a competitive advantage.The public and the private sector need to work together to quickly prototype technologies and then scale the pilots.This requires research and innovation incentives.To show the effect of these approaches, I would like to point out a few concrete examples.To increase investments in research in Europe, research institutes, the public and the private sector need to link national funding to EU programs.Existing research funding needs to be spent more wisely.Nils Røkke Simultaneously the public and the private sector need to plan, work and evaluate projects like real partners.I am certain that this will incentivize and accelerate climate-friendly and market-worthy businesses and ideas.One example of an effective public-private partnership is the Norwegian government’s support of research facilities for carbon capture and storage at multiple locations for multiple industries.This includes Norcem’s cement plant in Breivik and the recycling of energy from a waste incineration plant at Klementsrud in Oslo.Leveraging public-private partnerships The Norwegian government has understood that to balance its national carbon budget, the public sector needs to support private industry.Proof that this approach works is the first full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) solution to be implemented at a cement factory, in Brevik, Norway.Government supported schemes for capacity building, research and innovation has underpinned this development and planned deployment.This has also included projects operating under the EU Framework programs for research from FP6 to Horizon 2020.We need more solutions that are sustainable, effective and realistic by 2030.Which means we also need more public-private partnership.Regulating change At the same time, countries can regulate to ensure that sustainable operations become a competitive advantage and that sustainable technologies is rapidly deployed and adopted.A clear example from industry is the Europe-wide market for carbon quotas.Requiring companies to pay for their emissions incentivizes them to find the most innovative and effective ways to reduce their emissions.The companies that can reduce emissions in the most cost-effective way will in turn become more competitive.The companies that change will capture market share and grow.Regulations are also an incredibly efficient way to affect consumer and market behaviour, and thereby which technologies are sold, profitable and further improved.A common example of this is the Norwegian government’s approach to regulating the personal vehicle market.Electric vehicles are exempt from many taxes and fees in Norway, which makes them very appealing when compared to vehicles with internal combustion engines.All of these incentives have made a significant impact on consumers adopting electric vehicles.In March 2019 Norway actually became the first country in the world to sell more electric vehicles than internal combustion vehicles.Incentivising energy research Increasing funds for energy research and affecting behaviour through regulation are important for change, but full-scale pilot projects will only scale when energy research itself is incentivized.No one single technology or system can tackle our transition to a zero-emission society.Each country must therefore consider the tools at their disposal to incentivise research into technologies for renewable energy.This was the backdrop for establishing the Mission Innovation initiative (MI) that was launched at the COP21 in Paris.Why is only 1.8% of public research and development funding invested in clean energy when clean energy is one of the most important ways to achieve climate neutrality?The Mission Innovation initiative aims to double the investment into clean energy to trigger more investment from the private sector.After all, public money cannot solve this challenge alone.Countries need to work together.At EERA, we work hard to ensure that we facilitate cooperation to the greatest possible extent.One concrete project I would like to draw attention to is the Joint Programme for Concentrated Solar Power (JP CSP). Fostering knowledge and technology transfer from advanced European research to the most promising areas for solar thermal energy is the key aim of the international cooperation strategy of the program.Within the framework of the EU funded Integrated Research Programme STAGE-STE, the JP CSP has successfully integrated partners from four continents – from Australia to Chile, Brazil, Mexico, India, China, as well as from MENA countries like Libya, Morocco and Saudi Arabia – in its research community, gathering all the key research institutions working on CSP and solar thermal energy.The EU can always do more.One concrete recommendation I would like to give as Executive Vice President of Sustainability at SINTEF and Chair of EERA is to increase the budget for the next Horizon Europe research program.The initial suggestion of 100 billion EUR should instead be expanded to 120 billion.We need the budgetary room so that we can fully pursue the ideas that make the most sense.Also, we need to be sure that the research we do fully permeates industry.Therefore, “Pillar Two” of Horizon Europe, the portion that connects the research with industrial opportunities, must be further strengthened.There are many solutions and technologies that are required to generate the technologies and techniques for a more sustainable future.All countries and member states in Europe should increase their investments, regulate to ensure that sustainability becomes a competitive advantage, and incentivize research to realize as many solutions as possible.Technology can keep us in the race to prevent global warming, jobs and economic growth.How can we ever overspend on that investment? . The post Developing Technologies for Zero-Carbon Economies appeared first on Inter Press Service . \t\t Excerpt: Nils Røkke is Chair of European Energy Research Association and head of Sustainability at SINTEF Energy. . The post Developing Technologies for Zero-Carbon Economies appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Driving Financialization

Business Inter Press Service

The emergence and growth of financialization from the 1980s has been driven by several factors operating at various levels – national and international, ideological and political, and of course, technological.The 1971 collapse of the Bretton Woods
'By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Michael Lim Mah Hui KUALA LUMPUR and PENANG, Jun 11 2019 (IPS) The emergence and growth of financialization from the 1980s has been driven by several factors operating at various levels – national and international, ideological and political, and of course, technological.The 1971 collapse of the Bretton Woods (BW) international monetary system arguably paved the way for financial globalization.Jomo Kwame Sundaram Cross-border financing The BW dollar-gold standard had provided the basis for the relatively stable post-World War Two exchange rate system; ‘regulated’ capital flows of the BW system gave way to a new international financial order based on free-floating exchange rates and freer cross-border capital flows.These developments changed banking in two ways.First, banks became more globalized, with international banking taking off in the 1970s.In the 1950s, only three major US banks had foreign branches.In 1965, only US$9 billion, or 2% of total US banking loans, were foreign.By 1976, foreign loans had risen to US$219 billion as the ten largest US banks made half their profits from international banking . Second, with floating exchange rates, transnational companies’ (TNCs) profits were exposed to currency risks.Fluctuating, instead of stable exchange rates generated more profits from foreign exchange trading, accounting for growing bank revenues and profits.Hedging and speculation As banks increasingly served TNC ‘hedging’ needs, forex trading for speculation became more important than supporting the real economy.Although total world trade in 2007 was only worth US$15 trillion, forex trading averaged US$5 trillion daily, or over a quadrillion in the year ! Derivatives — such as options, swaps, non-deliverable contracts, ‘shorting’, etc. — allowed banks and their clients to hedge and speculate, with greatly increasing leverage magnifying risks, not only to the parties involved, but also to the financial system as a whole.Michael Lim Mah Hui \tAt the international level, governments have permitted the proliferation of tax havens for corporations and individuals to evade taxes, ‘recycle’ and hide illicit funds, supported by bankers, lawyers, accountants and other enablers.Such illicit flows in 2014 were estimated at between US$1.4 trillion to US$2.5 trillion . Thus, financial globalization involves mutating networks of financial institutions, both banks and non-bank financial institutions such as institutional investors, asset managers, investment funds and other ‘shadow banks’. It involves lending to companies, households and individuals, for trading on securities and derivative markets within and across national borders.Financial globalization has been enabled by innovations made possible by significant improvements in computing capability.Hélène Rey argues synchronized financial trends constitute a ‘global financial cycle’ due to the growing interconnectivity of securities and equity markets, capital flows and credit cycles around the world, ultimately influenced by US Fed policies.Greater integration and synchronization of financial markets have thus exacerbated financial instability and fragility.From state to individual But rapid global financialization is not only due to the expansive power of financial innovation, but also to deliberate policy choices at national and international level, beginning in the US with financial liberalization and banking deregulation from the 1980s.Interstate banking was allowed, and interest rate controls lifted, with commercial banks eventually allowed to underwrite and trade securities.The US and other powerful financial interests successfully ‘globalized’ financial liberalization and financialization in the rest of the world, pressuring economies to lift exchange rate controls and open financial markets to foreign banks and investors, leading to Japan’s financial ‘big bang’ in 1990-1991 and the 1997-1998 East Asian financial crises.The 1980s also saw the erosion of progressive taxation with more tax breaks for the rich, ostensibly to promote growth, and exaggeration of supposed funding crises for social security and public pensions.Governments have favoured finance with generous tax breaks for interest income, with capital gains taxed much less than wages.These were invoked to legitimize the shift from future provisioning via the welfare state to self-provisioning via market investments.Thus, investment risks have shifted from employers and governments to future pensioners investing individually via private pension funds, insurance companies and asset management corporations, i.e., changing from ‘defined benefits’ to ‘defined contributions’. Ideological drivers Financialization has been supported by the rise of shareholder activism, invoking ‘economic value added’ (EVA) arguments, to maximize shareholder value, instead of serving various stakeholders including employees, customers, suppliers and the public, or allowing managerial abuse of the ‘principal-agent’ problem, as managers serve their own interests, rather than investors’. Short-termist maximization of stock prices via quarterly earnings, e.g., through mergers and acquisitions, is thus prioritized instead of long-term considerations, including ‘organic growth’. This paved the way for the mergers and acquisitions wave of the 1980s and 1990s, immensely profiting Wall Street and anointing financiers as the new ‘masters of the universe’. Jomo Kwame Sundaram , a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.Dr Michael LIM Mah Hui has been a university professor and banker, in the private sector and with the Asian Development Bank. . The post Driving Financialization appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Championing Social Changes: A Tale of Two Women

Community Inter Press Service


'Elisa knitting outside her home.By Karessa Ramos MADRID, Spain, Jun 11 2019 (IPS) This is the story of two women who are positively transforming social norms in their respective societies, as part of the global movement towards gender equality.In Lima, Peru, Elisa Cuchupoma runs two livelihoods: one is selling knitted hair ornaments along with her group lending co-members, and the other is selling cuy (cavia porcellus) , a guinea pig native to the Andean regions, raised for its meat.She is part of the Palabra de Mujer group lending program of BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) in the country, which has reached more than 90,000 vulnerable women.In La Vega, Dominican Republic, Benita Hernández tends a small-scale farm where she grows coffee, celery and sweet potato among other crops.Recently, she has also added macadamia nuts in her list of produce and has been receiving loans and technical assistance from the Foundation’s local institution.This may not seem much at first glance, but in a region where women still face significant barriers to own productive properties and to independently access financing, Elisa and Benita join millions of women fighting for this and other rights that they are being denied.Similarly, over 1.2 million women like them are taking part in this worldwide action, with the support of BBVAMF, through its six microfinance institutions (MFIs) in five countries in Latin America.It is true that over the past decades in the Americas, the legal framework in politics, economics and in protecting women from gender violence has evolved positively.In fact, it is the second-best performer according to the OECD’s 2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) Report, which reflects women’s situation in 180 countries regarding discrimination in four dimensions: the family, restricted physical integrity, limited access to productive and financial resources, and restrained civil liberties.None of its countries classify as having high or very high discrimination.Still, the SIGI’s latest edition 1 confirms that to reach Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5): Gender Equality, the region has to address women’s lack of access to productive and financial resources.This organization, together with the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB) , confirms that adequate legislation is the first step towards gender equality, as it impacts women’s economic independence, without which, their progress and that of the whole region will never be optimized.For instance, the SIGI shares that “nine countries have not implemented gender-sensitive measures to expand women’s access to formal financial services”. Consequently, their participation in the social and economic spheres is limited and their potential remains untapped.The report has identified that the region’s economic cost of gender inequality is USD 400 bn.Benita in her farm.Likewise, it reveals that the family is the most difficult area of change, to the extent that Colombia is the only country with a law recognizing that women and men enjoy the same right to be head of household.This means that as of this day, women’s voice and status within their home are subordinated to those of men.However, legal protection is insufficient when women’s own families continue to express negative attitudes about them or the projects they wish to undertake.Social norms and dynamics, based on practices, would have to undergo major transformations as well.Accordingly, Elisa and Benita are not settling to be entrepreneurs with stable sources of income.Access to financial resources has enabled them to dream bigger and make their progress extensible to their households and communities.In fact, BBVAMF’s own social performance assessment reveals that its female clients perform better than males: their earnings grow by 20% annually (versus 12% for businesses managed by male entrepreneurs), 37% of female clients overcome poverty in the second year with the Foundation, and although their exit to poverty is slower than that of their male counterpart, they experience a much lower relapse rate.This is why it’s no surprise that, in their own way, these two women are also paving the road for change, so other women could enjoy the same rights as they do.In Elisa’s case, her husband’s apprehension to apply for a loan deterred her from pushing her business plans forward.This went on until she learned about BBVAMF’s Peruvian MFI, where she was given a loan without her husband’s knowledge (since his collateral and signature were not required). This then, became her gateway to economic independence, because aside from financial resources, her lending group (named “Neighbors united forever”) also receives training in financial and business management, and the members have become her second family who support her and encourage her to follow her ambitions.In return, she has taught other female lending groups how to knit; expanding their skillset and making other entrepreneurial possibilities open to them.She now offers employment to 12 women of her community.Benita, for her part, knows how lack of information has caused Dominican women to waive their right to be land proprietors, preventing them to accumulate assets and reduce their vulnerability.Indeed, the SIGI identifies “poor, less educated and rural women to be at higher risk due to intersectional discrimination.” Without adequate knowledge about the requirements, and sometimes not even possessing the basic document of identification, they don’t stand a chance to be legal land owners.This widespread reality drove her to become part of the “ Asociación Humanista de Campesinos ” (Humanist Farmers’ Association) to help people fix their documentation requirements and afterwards aid them to obtain their land titles.As the SIGI 2019 states, “social norms can be double-edged swords for women”: they can either hinder or act as catalysts for their progress.This is why the efforts of these two female entrepreneurs, along with those of other women, governments, the private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders are slowly taking the shape of a tool to eliminate discriminatory laws, social norms and practices.Yet it must be maintained that transforming this social, cultural and historical machinery is a non-exclusive responsibility for women.The whole society- women and men, girls and boys must be engaged.In this regard, SEGIB and BBVA Microfinance Foundation will jointly host the presentation of the SIGI 2019 in Madrid, Spain, on June 13th , as part of their commitment to drive changes that bring the world nearer to fulfilling SDG 5 and the 2030 Agenda.The gathering will take a broad look at the main conclusions of the report, after which the Latin American context will then be discussed, where Elisa and Benita will share their tales and make the reality of many others like them visible for the world to see: women who have to overcome social and economic barriers to find their way towards economic independence, and thus, contribute to achieving gender equality. 1 The SIGI looks at the gaps that legislation, social norms and practices create between men and women in terms of rights and opportunities.For more on methodology, refer to: http://bit.ly/2I2YDOw (p. 165) . The post Championing Social Changes: A Tale of Two Women appeared first on Inter Press Service . \t\t Excerpt: Karessa Ramos is Social Media Data Analyst for BBVA Microfinance Foundation based in Madrid . The post Championing Social Changes: A Tale of Two Women appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Duel at the Shangri-La dialogue: Implications for us all

News Inter Press Service

The Annual Jamboree of global defence leaders at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore is much more than just a talkathon.Amidst the wining and dining, and in the chambers and corridors, policymakers and thought leaders get the opportunity to
'China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe (left) and acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (front second right) attend the opening of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on May 31, 2019.PHOTO: AFP By Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury Jun 10 2019 (IPS-Partners) The Annual Jamboree of global defence leaders at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore is much more than just a talkathon.Amidst the wining and dining, and in the chambers and corridors, policymakers and thought leaders get the opportunity to interact with one another intensely over a weekend.They try to make sense of how the regional critical security and related issues are evolving, against the backdrop of a rising Asia and a burgeoning superpower competition in what is now being increasingly viewed as the “Indo-Pacific Region”. Over the last several years the United States seemed to enjoy a walk-over vis-à-vis the agenda in the absence of senior Chinese protagonists.It invariably resulted in a spot of “China-bashing”, and a consequent erosion of its significance, the high quality of discourses notwithstanding.All that changed during this year’s dialogue, between May 31 and June 2.The not-quite sleeping dragon decided that it was about time it showed up to spew some fire to display its potential might.So Beijing despatched a very high official, indeed its Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe to take on the US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan.On the verbal battlegrounds of Shangri La, it was finally, the Greek meets Greek, and as is said when that happens, then comes the tug of war!Though strategically the US is far ahead in terms of conventional and nuclear hardware, China already possesses the capacity to wreak absolutely unacceptable damage upon the US.The Shangri La Dialogue provides for some superb conferencing.The London-based Institute of International and Strategic Studies organises it and the Singapore government provides the deliberations a gentle stewardship so as to be able to yield fruitful results.If in the past China’s absence caused the upshot to appear somewhat lopsided, this time round Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself took care to lay down the ground-rules of the discussions in a masterful analysis of the regional and global situation at a post-dinner tour d’horizon on the opening night.He did not fight shy of the problems that dot the world in our times, offered some pragmatic solutions while circumspectly avoiding taking sides.He concluded by urging: “we must work together to maximise the chances that countries will have the wisdom and courage to work together…will have the wisdom and courage to make the right choices, opt for openness and integration, and so preserve and expand the progress we have made together.” It was not that Singapore was simply punching above its weight.His rational words calmed nerves.They helped to round off the sharp edges of the inevitable US-China debate that was at the core of this year’s programme.Nonetheless, some sparks did fly.A restrained Shanahan, without mentioning China, iterated that States that “eroded rules-based order”, were a “threat to the region”. Despite the perplexity of some in the audience, who could have thought the remarks could have applied equally to Shanahan’s own country, the US, Wei Fenghe accepted the fact that China was the target.Almost coinciding with Shanahan’s speech, The US Department of Defence released a report referring to China as a “revisionist power” seeking regional hegemony in the near, and global pre-eminence in the longer term.To many analysts though, it could have seemed like the pot calling the kettle black.For didn’t it resemble the pattern of behaviour of the US itself, not so long ago?So, is the US now looking to inherit the pristine purity of behaviour of the proverbial Caesar’s wife?In a laconic riposte worthy of Julius Caesar’s famous “I came I saw I conquered” message, Wei Fenghe shot back at his perceived rival: “A talk, yes?A fight, ready.Bully us?No Way”! He reiterated that China was ready to fight the US to the end, but confined the rhetoric, for now at least, to the sphere of trade!He might as well have quoted the old limerick: “We don’t want to fight, but by jingo if we do, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the ships, we’ve got the money too!” For the participants of other countries, the apprehension understandably was the same that faced the grass beneath the elephants, doomed to be trampled upon, whether the giant animals made love or locked war!Happily the prospects of a war are far beyond the rim of the saucer.The US and China, much unlike the US and the Soviet Union of the yesteryears are much too interdependent.They are the largest trade partners, and China owns an estimated USD 1.18 trillion US debt (as of April last year, though the figures pared down somewhat since). Though strategically the US is far ahead in terms of conventional and nuclear hardware, China already possesses the capacity to wreak absolutely unacceptable damage upon the US.Also, while Soviet leaders, not just Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky, but also those that followed were committed to destroying the capitalist system and building anew, the Chinese took the pragmatic line of working to change within the system and weaving the differences philosophically within the dialectical process.Despite the oft-cited mention of the Thucydides syndrome, named after the Greek historian who said when Athens grew strong there was great fear in Sparta, serious current thinkers have pretty much ruled out an all-out war.In a recent tome entitled “Destined for War; Can America and China escape the Thucydides Trap?” the strategic writer Graham Wallace argued that, yes, they can.What he meant was “yes, they must”. He stated that research showed such avoidance was possible, but it called for imaginative but painful steps.But this does not mean we are not headed for a long-term Sino-US rivalry, within the model of a rising power challenging a sated one.The trade gap with China has, for the US, grown to a record USD 419.2 billion.Competition for influence in the Asia-Pacific region, where the powers collide directly is fierce.The age of the US as the only hyper-power was short lived.The two current superpowers, led by both Mr Donald Trump and Mr Xi Jinping are subordinating multilateral institutions to suit their purposes.The global state-system is now very much the “anarchical Society” as described by the theoretician Hedley Bull in a classic study of the same name.In a situation where each State is more or less on its own, the need for each to focus on its own security and development increases manifold.For a country like Bangladesh it would entail expanding product and services markets through innovative initiatives like bilateral and pluri-lateral Free Trade Agreements, rather than say, being dependent on global bodies like the World Trade Organization.Also, bolstering its own defences with smart procurements rather than depend on the platitudinous resolutions of the United Nations.Perhaps the easy life of a policymaker is a thing of the past.It amply proves the veracity of the axiom that fitness to survive perhaps must remain a perennial societal goal.Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, and a former Foreign Advisor in a Caretaker Government in Bangladesh.This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh . The post Duel at the Shangri-La dialogue: Implications for us all appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

A Journey from a Small-Scale Farm to International Stage

Community Inter Press Service


'Ogbonge Women Lagos Chapter in Agege By Chinasa Asonye LAGOS, Nigeria, Jun 10 2019 (IPS) As a wife and mother in Nigeria who wanted to support my family and my community, I began my own farm in 2006.When I began, I never could have dreamed that just cultivating the earth would someday lead to my meeting government leaders, and traveling to meet other women from around the world doing their part to make a difference in their own communities.Years of hard work, learning and women’s solidarity built to my recent trip to New York City, where I participated in the Commission on the Status of Women.I was there to talk about my work in Nigeria, and my journey from being one individual small-scale farmer, to this international stage.It was an amazing opportunity that was all new, yet also brought me full-circle and made me realize I am on the right track.Now, as I head home after further travels, my time in New York feels monumental and my passion for this work is stronger than ever.THE BEGINNING What brought me is Chileofarms, my farming company that produces, processes and packages rice, fish, poultry, and vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, spinach, pumpkin.To help build up my farm, and the good it could grow, I entered a competition and development program in 2014 called Oxfam’s Female Food Heroes, which gives resources, training and exposure to female farmers.I was given an award as a Female Food Hero in a ceremony attended by the Governor, Commissioner, Permanent Secretaries and other guests.It was the first time I started to realize how much impact I could really have as a Small Scale Farmer and it was the assistance of Oxfam that made it possible.During the award presentation, the Director of the Gender Desk from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Nigeria, Mrs.Karima Babaginda, asked me what they could expect to see as my achievements in the next 5 years. l told her that in five years, Nigerian female farmers’ voices will he heard both locally and internationally.I knew I had to get to work to live up to my promise.Asonye Chinasa presenting her paper “Economic Empowerment as a Means for Social Protection for Women in Agriculture” at United Nations during The Commission on Status of Women l went back to my community to see how l can contribute to helping other women and l formed a Cooperative called Ogbonge Women Multipurpose Association, where women with like minds came together to discuss the progress of our farms and how we can help each other. l constructed a smoking kiln with my Female Food Hero award money in my community where my fellow women could come to smoke their fish, package and sell it.This simple equipment was important, especially when we are having post-harvest losses, because with the smoking kiln, the shelf life of dry fish is extended to 6 months.We also started farming mushrooms together, and donated a portion of the profit to help widows, displaced and other vulnerable people living in our community.There are many women who cannot go to their farms because of the fear of been raped or killed, or their farms were destroyed with nothing to fall back on.We are lucky we are even safe and able to farm in the first place – not everyone is that lucky.We then started to tackle the issue of loans because our women are always having problem accessing loans through banks.With Oxfam’s help, 42 women from around our state were trained in Village Savings and Loans (VSL), which is when 25 to 30 women come together to save, give each other loans, and share the interest.This not only brought extra and more reliable income, but it brought so much happiness to our women. l started a VSL group with 25 members in 2017 and today we are 500 women with more still waiting to join.Because of this program, our women can now feed their children and send them to school, without have to wait for the money they make in harvest season.We also advocated for farmers all over Nigeria – all women farmers decided to come together to present a Farmers Manifesto to the Gubernatorial Candidates before the Concluded Nigeria Election.We asked candidates to sign this manifesto that agreed that farmers be recognized, and our demands must be met if they want us to vote for them.We have also pushed to change land ownership laws that have not allowed women to own and inherit land.COMING FULL CIRCLE IN NEW YORK During the Commission on the Status of Women it was an unbelievable honor to see the experiences and knowledge from women from different countries together in one room.We shared ideas and what we wanted most, with one issue of common interest being the issue of women being denied American visas to attend the conference., l was overwhelmed with joy discussing issues like land rights for women, challenges facing displaced women and families and more. l told myself that l have to go back to my country and pass the knowledge to my women and also see how we can get more women from Nigeria to have this amazing opportunity to join this conversation with women from around the world.I was overwhelmed and honored to be included as a panelist representing Oxfam as the Female Food Hero to discuss economic empowerment as a means for social protection for women in agriculture.Here I was, a woman from a rural area in Nigeria, now having the chance to speak at this global forum in New York.I gave my presentation in the United Nations building, and to my surprise, there was the same Director of the Gender Desk from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Nigeria, Mrs.Karima Babaginda. l was able to ask her: “Have l fulfilled what l have promised to achieve over five years?” and she laughed and said “Well done, Ogbonge Woman.” I was right on schedule, five years later with my voice at an international forum sharing the stories of my Nigerian female farmers.WHAT’S NEXT My time in New York motivated me to do more and keep pushing.As an Ogbonge woman trying to contribute my part towards the growth and development of my community, I would like to work more to bring in more women to the Village Savings and Loans groups, and will also remind women that we need to work on ourselves, because the government can’t do it all for us.We need to face the problems as they come and that we can jointly speak with one voice.Women’s collective efforts and solidarity are key to make the changes we want to see, in partnership with our leaders.We are also pleading for more donors and NGOs to come to our aid, because even with a strong, united group, the women farmers really need help.I will continue to advocate for my fellow female farmers, because we each deserve a chance to work hard, feel safe, make promises and fulfill them. . The post A Journey from a Small-Scale Farm to International Stage appeared first on Inter Press Service . \t\t Excerpt: Chinasa Asonye is CEO of Chileofarms, a women’s farming collective . The post A Journey from a Small-Scale Farm to International Stage appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

UN Says Kyrgyz Journalist Should be Freed

Public Protection Inter Press Service


'Kyrgyzstan journalist Azimjon Askarov and his wife, Khadicha, pictured during a family vacation in Arslanbob in the summer of 2009. 'This was Azimjon's last summer of freedom,' Khadicha told CPJ. (Askarov family) By Gulnoza Said NEW YORK, Jun 10 2019 (IPS) On a recent morning in Bazar-Korgon, southern Kyrgyzstan, Khadicha Askarova was giving hasty instructions to her daughter about what needed to be packed.They were about to set off: first for the capital Bishkek, some 600km from where they live, and then another 70km to a prison colony where her husband, Azimjon Askarov , was transferred in March.But Askarov, a 68-year-old independent journalist and rights activist, shouldn’t be in jail at all.The U.N.Human Rights Committee ruled in 2016 that Askarov was subject to torture and mistreatment from the moment of his detention on June 15, 2010 to his speedy trial and subsequent imprisonment, and that he should be released immediately.CPJ’s research into his case found that the original trial was marred by irregularities and allegations of torture, mistreatment and harassment of defendants, including Askarov, and their witnesses.But Kyrgyz authorities defied the U.N. resolution and in 2017, amid international outcry, upheld his life sentence.Conditions in the new prison are harsh.In letters home, the journalist wrote that he had run ins with the guards and that prison officials punish detainees after visiting days.His health is also deteriorating and he has limited access to medication, the journalist’s wife, Askarova, said. “What breaks my heart is to see how much he aged since being imprisoned.He used to be a man full of energy and vigor.Now, he is old, sickly, skinny, and there’s no way out of this situation for him,” she said, fighting back the tears when we spoke via a video messaging app earlier this month.The couple, who have been married for over 40 years, now have limited contact: just six family visits and two phone calls a year.As Askarov wrote in a recent letter to his wife, “They like keeping us under a tight lid here.Communication with the outside world is banned.” The letter, which his wife shared with CPJ, also gave a glimpse of the harsh prison conditions: “After family visits, inmates are punished by being forced to eat raw onions and carrots for several days.” “On regular days, they give us pea soup that contains nothing but watery peas.On public holidays, we get what the prison administration calls plov [pilaf] but it is not more than 150g of rice cooked with some carrots, per person.” Since Askarov’s transfer to a prison outside Bishkek in March, he wrote that he has had three “incidents” with prison guards.The journalist did not specify the nature of incidents, but wrote that guards were known for their mistreatment of and conflicts with inmates. “There are few good ones among them”, he added, almost as if he was preventing possible punishment should the content of the letter became known to the guards.One of the incidents was connected to the journalist’s poor health.He has the heart condition tachycardia, hypotension, and gets dizzy and nauseated if he stands for too long.Under prison rules, if a guard enters a cell, the inmate must stand. “That’s the rule.Twice a day, guards enter cells.An inmate has to cite his full name and an article of the criminal code he was convicted of violating.But Azimjon was not able to stand straight for too long.His knees bend, he had to sit down.That was the ‘incident’,” the journalist’s wife, Askarova, told me.Soon after the transfer, Askarov complained about his health to prison administration, and said that low blood pressure and a cold was diagnosed. “But they did not have any medication to give me,” he wrote.Askarova told CPJ that doctors at the prison ask families to bring medication. “They rely on us for something that they ought to provide,” she said.She added that the few visits they are allowed are emotional, and the travel hard and costly.She makes sure that one visit falls on her husband’s birthday, May 17.This year, the couple’s daughter and their three grandchildren also visited on his birthday, their first visit to a new jail. ‘I’m afraid they will forget how he looks’ Askarov’s wife says Azimjon Askarov, pictured with his daughter Navruza and grandchildren, during a May 2018 visit in Bishek prison.The journalist was moved to a new prison in 2019 that bans families from taking photographs during visits. (Askarova family) “The new prison is much farther from Bishkek.After a nearly 14-hour drive to Bishkek, we took another taxi to the prison, but then had to walk about seven kilometers in the heat and dust.It was especially hard for the little ones, although they were excited to see their grandfather.They are still little, and I am afraid they can forget how he looks like, how he sounds,” Askarova said.Adding to that concern is a rule at the prison banning families from taking photographs during visits. “Now, I have to look at old pictures of Azimjon.They deprived me even of the photos of my husband,” she said.Askarova said she would move to Bishkek to be closer to the prison, but she cannot sell the house that her husband has owned for decades.The authorities seized the journalist’s property after he was charged in 2010.In 2015, the journalist’s lawyer successfully appealed against the seizure, but before Askarova had overcome a legal quagmire of changing the ownership, authorities placed a new lien on the house in February.She said she has started another appeal process.Askarova said that before they visit each year on his birthday, the couple’s daughter Navruza, who lives in Uzbekistan, usually comes to Bazar-Korgon to help pack personal items, food, medicine and books.But it is Askarova who picks flowers from her garden and buys bouquets at a florist for her husband. “He is an artist, you know.He loves flowers.I get the most beautiful ones for him.Many kinds, sometimes several bouquets,” she said.Azimjon and Khadicha met at art college in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in 1974.They have been married for 42 years and raised four children, who live in Uzbekistan.He used to work as an artist.But every time he heard a neighbor complain of injustice, he felt the urge to help, Askarova said.In the late 1990s, he started documenting the cases, mediating between his community members and law enforcement, and researching legal books.He eventually became a go-to person in Bazar-Korgon if the rights of a member of his community had been violated.He was known for taking up the cases on police brutality.It was this reputation that led many people to come to him for help when violence against ethnic Uzbeks erupted in June 2010, she said.In prison, Askarov started to paint again.In 2014, international and local activists organized an exhibition of Askarov’s work to raise awareness of his case.In 2018, he wrote a book, “ I am happy ,” which includes a dedication to his late mother, “who lost me, her son, during her and my life, and left this world, shocked by the greatest injustice.” Copies of the book are still available online.During his imprisonment, Askarov studied English and is able to read the many cards sent to him from around the world, his wife said.She added that he has been studying Japanese from the books and dictionaries she brought him, and that he has become interested in herbal medicine because conventional medication was not available in prison.Askarov has also kept a diary since 2010. “He writes down everything.I keep reading them in between prison visits.One word that he uses most frequently is freedom.When he sees rain through the cell window, he writes ‘I wish I was free to feel rain drops on my skin.When he sees snow, he writes ‘I wish I was free to be outside and enjoy the snow now’. Freedom is his main wish and goal.He lives for it,” Askarova said. * Gulnoza Said is a journalist and communications professional with over 15 years of experience in New York, Prague, Bratislava, and Tashkent.She has covered issues including politics, media, religion, and human rights with a focus on Central Asia, Russia, and Turkey. . The post UN Says Kyrgyz Journalist Should be Freed appeared first on Inter Press Service . \t\t Excerpt: Gulnoza Said * is Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Europe and Central Asia . The post UN Says Kyrgyz Journalist Should be Freed appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Venezuelans Left Without Assistance in Washington

Law and Order Inter Press Service

Venezuelans in the city of Washington D.C., in the United States, are currently without consular protection as access to their country’s embassy has remained unstable since April. “I went to get my passport…and then of course April 2019 is when it
'A group of activists calling themselves the Embassy Protection Collective protested against the U.S. and opposition party leader Juan Guide's representatives taking over the Venezuelan embassy.Credit: Backbone Campaign/ (CC BY 2.0) By Caley Pigliucci UNITED NATIONS, Jun 10 2019 (IPS) Venezuelans in the city of Washington D.C., in the United States, are currently without consular protection as access to their country’s embassy has remained unstable since April. “I went to get my passport…and then of course April 2019 is when it expired.And that limits me because you know my parents are at an age that anything could happen,” Luis*, a 35-year-old Venezuelan living in the U.S., told IPS.He asked not to be identified by his real name as he still has family living in Caracas and is concerned for their safety.While the situation regarding the embassy remains uncertain, Venezuela still has other consulates in the country, but IPS was unable to reach them.Where do Venezuelans in need of assistance go to?Luis’s inability to renew his passport through the embassy comes amid a continued power-struggle at the embassy.Protestors had occupied the Washington embassy two weeks prior to the revocation of visas for representatives in the embassy on Apr. 24 by the Trump Administration.Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro won re-election in May 2018, but the U.S. and other nations, including Canada, recognised the leader of the opposition party Juan Guaidó as president in January.The U.S. revoked the visas of Maduro’s representatives at the embassy and helped establish Carlos Vecchio, a representative of Guaidó. Medea Benjamin is co-founder of Code Pink, a NGO that describes itself on its website as “a women-led grassroots organisation working to end U.S. wars and militarism”, which participated in protesting, along with other activists, against the U.S. and Guadio’s representatives taking over the Venezuelan embassy in May.She told IPS: “It is such a critical international convention on diplomatic relations, one that has global implications.” “If you’re a Venezuelan in need of assistance, where are you going to go?You need representation.” Luis moved to the U.S. at 17 and eventually naturalised.He now has dual citizenship, but according to the U.S.Department of State – Consulate Affairs , if a person is a dual national, they must still have a valid Venezuelan passport in their possession to enter and leave Venezuela.In the almost two decades that he has been in the U.S., Luis said he “never encountered any issues”, having at least three passports during that time.But now, should Luis wish to travel to Venezuela he would have to travel out of state, or possibly to the Venezuelan embassy in Canada, to renew his passport.It’s a trip that he said is too expensive and time consuming.There are some consulates still open in the U.S., including the one in New York.But Luis said he believed the New York consulate has already been taken over by representatives of the Venezuelan opposition. “I do not recognise the opposition’s president.I wouldn’t go and get my paperwork with an institution that I don’t recognise,” he said.Luis told IPS that he is part of the local Venezuelan community and has many Venezuelan friends, but that he thinks many of them are not as concerned as he is about the embassy. “I’m a minority, because the largest amount of Venezuelan people are people from middle and upper class that have the means to travel,” Luis said, referring to the ability to travel out of state to other consulates or out of country to other embassies to renew their passports. “It’s a class-struggle and also an ideological struggle,” he added.IPS tried to reach out to the embassy for a statement from Guaidó’s representatives, but the phone lines were cut, and there is no other contact information listed on their website.Safety of Embassies Protestors fighting against the U.S. intervention in Venezuela had kept a small group of four protestors inside the Washington embassy, starting about two weeks prior to the visa revocation on Apr. 24 until May 16 when police in Washington used a battering ram to enter the building.Adrienne Pine, an associate professor of anthropology at American University, was one of the final four protestors occupying the embassy.Other protestors had left after an eviction notice was posted by U.S. police on May 13.She was arrested on May 16, and released the following day after a court appearance.She is neither a member of Code Pink nor a Venezuelan.When asked why she remained in the embassy until her arrest, Pine told IPS: “I am a United States citizen, and I feel passionate about our government not engaging in regime change operations and not acting as an imperial actor around the world.” On May 15, the permanent representative to Venezuela, Samuel Moncada, stated to the United Nations that the U.S. actions in attempting to occupy the embassy was a “pretext of war”. He called for the U.S. to respect international law and warned of a violation of respect for diplomats worldwide.In response to Moncada, spokesperson for U.N.Secretary-General António Guterres, Stéphane Dujarric, stated in a U.N. press briefing on May 16: “We hope that the situation is resolved peacefully, bilaterally between the United States and Venezuela.” The U.S. is legally allowed to recognise Guaidó, but under international law in Article 45 of the Vienna Convention, the violation of diplomatic offices of other governments is not allowed.Pine warned of the U.S. police occupation of the embassy, “What it basically signals is that no embassy around the world is safe.” Dozens of nations, including the U.S. and many of its western allies, recognise Guaidó as president of the Latin American nation.The U.N., however, continues to recognise Maduro as president.Though the U.N. has not agreed with the actions of the U.S., Benjamin believes the response from the U.N. and the international community has been too limited.She explained that this is “absolutely because of the United States.In any other country, I think the U.N. would have stepped in.” Luis, who has family on both sides of the political aisle, is in support of the on-going international dialogue.He told IPS: “The ones who are left to pay are us, you know, the ones who want to have peace.” “I just want my family to have a normal life,” he added. *Not his real name.Related Articles International Trade Unions Condemn Recognition of Guaidó The Crisis in Venezuela Repression Stands in the Way of Political Solution to Crisis in Venezuela . 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OGP-APRM Collaboration A Positive Step for Good Governance in Africa

World News Inter Press Service


'A memorandum of understanding was just signed between Open Governance Partnerships (OGP) and Africa’s flagship governance programme, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), sealed on the sidelines of the just concluded 6th Convening of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), in Ottawa, Canada.By Korir Sing’Oei NAIROBI, Jun 7 2019 (IPS) When two high profile governance initiatives strategically collaborate, the expected intent is to effect significant outcomes.Thus, the universe of democratic governance – lately buffeted by adverse winds of nationalism, intolerance and other threats – should take a keen note of the memorandum of understanding between Open Governance Partnerships (OGP) and Africa’s flagship governance programme, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), sealed on the sidelines of the just concluded 6th Convening of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), in Ottawa, Canada.Although the APRM was established in 2003 as a small project by the African Union (AU) under the framework of the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), it was under President Kenyatta’s chairmanship (2015-2017), that it reinvigorated and upgraded into a Specialized Agency of the AU.OGP stands to gain from its collaboration with APRM since a critical challenge it faces is inadequate linkage with AU institutions.This challenge has contributed to perceptions that the West conceived it with little African involvement.APRM’s robust mandate now encompasses not only support for African countries in the voluntary self-assessments of their governance and socio-economic processes but also monitors implementation of specific country commitments while tracking key Continental governance initiatives.As such, the APRM is a mechanism for identifying governance deficiencies and assessing constraints to political stability, economic growth and sustainable development of a country.With a membership of 38 African countries and the ambition of universal participation by all the 54 states by 2020, APRM is a significant vehicle that the continent cannot ignore.On the other hand, Africa has been a critical cog of the OGP since its inception in 2011, as reflected by the fact that 17% of the current membership of OGP is from Africa.Similarly, 3 of the 20 sub-national members of OGP (including Kenya’s Elgeyo Marakwet) are from Africa.Rather than present mandate compliance of its membership with prescribed targets as does APRM, OGP mandates that participating countries curate National Action Plans (NAPs) detailing commitments towards good governance based on a participatory process that involves state and non-state actors.The Independent Review Mechanism then reviews these co-created, context-specific and autonomous commitments.As a country involved in both OGP and APRM, Kenya can state without equivocation that both initiatives are not placebo treatment to governance challenges that continue to imperil the continent.Instead, they represent a serious attempt at tackling the impediments to sustainable development by mobilising important constituencies to the aid of governance.In 2006, when Kenya went through the first APRM review, the outcome document revealed the clear need for a review of our constitution to create mechanisms for managing diversity and addressing land-related grievances.These issues were to hurt the country a year later during the contested 2007 elections.On the ashes of this unfortunate development, Kenya proceeded to craft a reasonably progressive constitution that has served the country better over the last ten years.Similarly, Kenya, now on its 3rd National Action Plan, has leveraged on its OGP membership to advance participatory budgeting, strengthen transparency in procurements through beneficial ownership and open contracting regimes and facilitate the enactment of laws on climate change and freedom of information.Moreover, Kenya has become a vital laboratory by which the APRM may address one of its perceived weaknesses: disconnect with citizens of African member countries.Under Kenya’s 3rd NAP 2018-2020, APRM Kenya Office is working on modifying indicators used in country assessments for application at county levels.Enabling counties to engage in a peer review process that will provide an opportunity for county reports on the state of their governance processes to be produced and submitted to the Council of Governors by the peer review with the ed county.The APRM mashinani is bound to ensure that citizens at the grassroots level understand the relevance of this critical continental initiative, leading, hopefully to greater ownership.By cascading APRM to counties, the precise aim is also to enable counties to meet their constitutional obligation Likewise, OGP stands to gain from its collaboration with APRM since a critical challenge it faces is inadequate linkage with AU institutions.This challenge has contributed to perceptions that the West conceived it with little African involvement.It further impedes OGP from high-level political engagement with the AU, especially at the Heads of State Summit level.As the APRM is now even more firmly grounded in the African governance architecture than at its inception, and given it is well poised to bring most members of the AU block under its ambit; through APRM, OGP will find apposite structures to socialise African states regarding the potential presented by OGP in furthering good governance on the continent.Kenya OGP community will undoubtedly lend its support to the effective activation of the OGP-APRM collaboration. . The post OGP-APRM Collaboration A Positive Step for Good Governance in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service . \t\t Excerpt: Korir Sing’Oei, Legal Advisor, Office of the Deputy President, Kenya & Convener OGP Implementation Committee . The post OGP-APRM Collaboration A Positive Step for Good Governance in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Restoring Our Degraded Planet

Community Inter Press Service

On the 1st of March 2019, we saw one of the rare moments in history when the entire world comes together and agrees on a joint way forward.
'By Tim Christophersen NAIROBI, Jun 7 2019 (IPS) On the 1st of March 2019, we saw one of the rare moments in history when the entire world comes together and agrees on a joint way forward.The United Nations General Assembly recognized the urgent need to tackle the compounded crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss, and passed a resolution to proclaim 2021-2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration . With the aim to restore at least 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030 – an area the size of India – the UN Decade is a loud and clear call to action for all of us.And it is a great opportunity for the UN-REDD Programme and its partner countries to build on 10 years worth of relevant experience with safeguards, impactful policies and measures, and attracting private and public investments.Tim Christophersen It is high time that we bring more attention to the essential role of nature for a peaceful, fair and prosperous future.Nature can provide more than one third of the solution to climate change, but nature-based solutions such as ecosystem restoration and forest conservation currently receive less than 3 percent of climate finance.Neglecting nature in our implementation of climate solutions means we are also not doing enough to save biodiversity.The double whammy of climate change and biodiversity loss has impacts that go far beyond our economy.If we do not act now, the very foundations of our culture, and our cohesion as a global civilization could be at risk.How can we turn the tide?While ecosystem restoration is not a silver bullet for our current crisis, it is a useful approach to shift the narrative, from despair to action.Restoration is about active participation at all levels.The restoration of ecosystems can at the same time restore a sense of community, and restore dignity and hope to disadvantaged and marginalized communities around the world.It can provide many young people with a new sense of purpose and opportunity, and help vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change.To harness the full potential of this UN Decade, we need three key changes, at global and national level: –\t Investments: public funding needs to crowd more private sector investments into restoration.For the 350 million hectare target, we need an estimated 837 billion USD of public and private investments by 2030.This can be achieved through a mix of shifting subsidies and other fiscal incentives, and public risk capital to attract private investments. –\t Capacity: we need a huge cadre of young (or young-at-heart) green entrepreneurs, who will need a combination of skills on ecology, social transformation, and sound financial and business sense.There are potentially millions of jobs world-wide, if we can train and help these ‘eco-preneurs’ of the future. –\t Government leadership: above all, we need Governments to step up.They need to take over the baton now from the citizens who are protesting for better climate protection, more decent jobs, and more equality.There is already a ‘regreening revolution’ underway across degraded landscapes and coastal areas world-wide.But we need Governments to ensure this is going in the right direction, by giving clear policy signals, and setting solid strategies to integrate nature-based solutions into national climate action and sustainable development pathways.The restoration of ecosystems across the globe, at a significant scale, has the potential to be a big part of the required joint effort of humanity to turn the tide of environmental degradation.We have risen to critical global challenges before, and we can do it again. . The post Restoring Our Degraded Planet appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Mothers in the US Are Dying: What Are We Doing to Save Them?

Personal Finance Inter Press Service

Juan Pablo Segura is Co-founder of Babyscripts, the leading virtual care platform for managing obstetrics.
'By Juan Pablo Segura WASHINGTON DC, Jun 7 2019 (IPS) The maternal mortality rate in the United States is the highest of any developed country – and the rate is rising.The US is currently the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world . Few to none of these maternal deaths are due to medical mismanagement.Instead, problems of access, care coordination, and inequities in health care resources and social services are at the heart of maternal death rates.Minority women, particularly those facing socioeconomic challenges, are the primary victims behind these statistics — nationally, African American women are three to four times more likely to die from childbirth than non-Hispanic white women . Heavy hitters like The New York Times , USA Today , NPR , and others have highlighted the problem of maternal mortality and called for action; and cities like DC have responded to the call by implementing maternal mortality task forces.Consistently, these task forces have arrived at the same conclusion: the causes affecting pregnancy-related deaths are not separate threads, but a web; and these overlapping social, economic, behavioral, and genetic determinants cannot be adequately addressed by siloed stakeholders.There are many who have long recognized this problem, and a few who have been actively committing resources toward creating solutions.They have put energy, time, and capital on the line to disrupt the status quo, addressing the problems to make improved pregnancy outcomes a reality.Cradle Cincinnati is an exemplar.They have formed a coalition that connects all of the significant stakeholders in the pregnancy space to combat the high infant mortality rates in Hamilton Country, Ohio, joining families in the community to payers and health systems (including traditional competitors). Cradle’s strategic model has made significant steps toward improving outcomes: for five years in a row, the number of sleep-related infant deaths in Hamilton County was lower than their historic average, dropping from 16 to 12 annually.But 12 is still over the national average of nine, and the national average is nine too many.While a single life is at stake, we need to be taking leaps, not steps, to better outcomes.While effective, models like Cradle and others like it (group prenatal care, for example) all share a dependence on human interaction, and this physical requirement is a huge constraint to scaling such programs.Without scalability, outcomes will continue to improve at a snail’s pace, eventually plateauing.We need to be able to scale these best practices in every community — not tomorrow but today.This is where technology comes in.Tech can bridge the gap created by the human limitations of these models, and embedding proven workflows and care protocols in tech experiences that enable more interventions — like remote patient monitoring (RPM) through internet of things (IoT) devices — can be the key to scaling these alternative and more effective care models.Digital tools provide the connectivity that models like Cradle deliver in the physical setting, while addressing the problems of cost, inefficiencies, and scalability that have slowed progress in the past.More than 4 years ago, George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates (GW-MFA) anticipated this vision.They were one of the first providers in the United States to recognize the power of tech to disrupt outdated and insufficient standards of care in the pregnancy space — standards that had woefully failed in their purpose.GW-MFA were early adopters of a novel model that directly addresses three troubling realities in the status quo: absence of education, lack of access to necessary care, and failure to stratify risk.That new model was a partnership to create and deploy a technology-powered pregnancy solution to directly impact the pregnancy journey and its associated outcomes, supporting patients and providers with increased digital touchpoints, educational materials, and interventions through remote monitoring and digital engagement.Now, in an industry first, the vision to connect all stakeholders in the space is being realized through a new partnership with AmeriHealth Caritas DC, a managed care organization, which has joined with GW-MFA to further deploy tech-enabled prenatal and postpartum care in the Medicaid population, a population often ignored by the technology community.Partnerships such as this one begin to solve some of the structural difficulties in coordinating care between insurance companies and doctors for Medicaid patients.It will focus on increasing access to tech-enabled pregnancy care that allows all patients, regardless of their socioeconomic status, to receive the benefits of remote monitoring and virtual care with the same privacy and security as a physical interaction at the doctor’s office.There is no excuse for the current statistics of maternal death.The healthcare industry has had the technology to impact care, but what has been missing is the combined vision to make these tools powerful agents of change.Mothers and infants in our communities have a right to a safe and healthy life, and partnerships such as this one have the power to be the difference. . The post Mothers in the US Are Dying: What Are We Doing to Save Them? appeared first on Inter Press Service . \t\t Excerpt: Juan Pablo Segura is Co-founder of Babyscripts, the leading virtual care platform for managing obstetrics. . The post Mothers in the US Are Dying: What Are We Doing to Save Them? appeared first on Inter Press Service .'

Empower Ocean Women

Community Inter Press Service

Our oceans play a major role in everyday life, but they are in grave danger.To protect the ocean, we must look to a crucial, largely overlooked component: gender.
'Women in the fisheries sector are largely concentrated in low-skilled, low-paid seasonal jobs without health, safety, and labor rights protections.Pictured here are Rita Francke and another fisherwoman at a jetty, in front of the old crayfish factory at Witsands, South Africa.Credit: Lee Middleton/IPS By Tharanga Yakupitiyage UNITED NATIONS, Jun 7 2019 (IPS) Our oceans play a major role in everyday life, but they are in grave danger.To protect the ocean, we must look to a crucial, largely overlooked component: gender.For World Oceans Day this year, which occurs every year on Jun. 8, the United Nations and the international community is shining a spotlight on the intersections between the ocean and gender—an often underrepresented and unrecognised relationship. “Gender equality and the health and conservation of our oceans are inextricably linked and we need to mainstream gender equality both in policies and programs and really in our DNA,” UN Women’s Policy Analyst Carla Kraft told IPS.Founder of Women4Oceans Farah Obaidullah echoed similar sentiments to IPS to mark the occasion, stating: “It’s a great step that the UN is recognising the importance of addressing gender when it comes to achieving healthy oceans.You can’t achieve healthy oceans without achieving gender equality.” Women make up approximately 47 percent of the world’s 120 million people, working in fisheries around the world, outnumbering men both in large-scale and small-scale fisheries.However, women in the fisheries sector are largely concentrated in low-skilled, low-paid seasonal jobs without health, safety, and labour rights protections.In fact, women earn approximately 64 percent of men’s wages for the same work in aquaculture.At the same time, women’s contributions both towards ocean-based livelihoods and conservation efforts remain invisible. “There’s a disproportion valuation or recognition of women’s work and skills in marine and coastal development and ocean and marine resources,” Kraft said. “Women’s economic empowerment is very much related to ocean activities and resources so it’s really about having gender equality as both a goal and a process through which we can conserve, preserve, and use the ocean in economic activity,” she added.As ocean degradation and climate change deepens, women are left with even less access to economic resources, protection, and stable livelihoods, which thus exacerbates gender inequalities.According to UN Women, women and children are 14 times more likely to die or get injured in natural disasters due to unequal access to resources.While women’s political participation is increasing, Obaidullah noted that women are still left out of the table in decision-making and lack recognition around fisheries and ocean governance, telling IPS of her own experiences as an ocean advocate. “It’s difficult—sometimes it’s because I’m a woman, sometimes it’s because of my ethnic background—to have my voice heard in certain settings.I’ll go to a conference and try to talk about serious topics with fellow delegates but [only to] be put down,” Obaidullah told IPS. “I have seen how women have left the conservation movement and academia because of being in the minority in the fields that they work.And that has to change because we are losing out on all this capacity, intelligence, and training because of the inequality in this sector,” she added.For instance, UN Women found that in Thailand men make 41 percent of decisions compared to 28 percent by women regarding fish farming.Such decisions are often related to establishing farms, business registration, feeding, and dealing with emergencies.Obaidullah highlighted the need to empower  and support women across the globe to ensure sustainable ocean governance, including at the UN. “Bringing in different voices from different backgrounds and from different genders is essential if we are going to set a healthier course for humanity…. we need to be making role models across geographies, across cultures if we are to get people motivated and inspired to take action for the ocean,” she said. “There are a lot of women and people from different cultures and countries that are really on the ground fighting the fight for our ocean but they don’t get the spotlight.” Women make up approximately 47 percent of the world’s 120 million people working in fisheries around the world, outnumbering men both in large-scale fisheries and small-scale fisheries.Credit: Lee Middleton/IPS Already, the work towards inclusive conservation has begun.In Seychelles, numerous organisations have put women and youth at the centre of efforts.One such organisation is SOCOMEP , a woman-run fisheries quality and quantity control company.In Kenya, women are promoting conservation education within the mangrove forests through the Mikoko Pamoja mangrove conservation and restoration project , helping contribute to ecotourism, better health care and education while generating an income.Kraft pointed to the need for data as the intersections between gender and the ocean still remain unexplored. “One of the biggest issues right now that we have is the lack of sex-disaggregated data so it makes it harder to make really adequate policy responses when we don’t know the exact status of where women are in the economic activities in ocean and marine-related fields,” she said.At the end of the day, the international community must also recognise that gender is related to and should be mainstreamed through all sectors. “We have gone too long without having a gender lens really used for all of these policymakers…gender equality will benefit sustainable ocean governance and sustainable ocean governance with a gender lens will contribute to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment,” Kraft said.Related Articles VIDEO: Seeking Ways to Include Women in the Blue Economy Women Must be at the Heart of Africa’s Blue Economy Q&A: All Sustainable Development Goals Relate in Some Way to the Oceans . 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