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For People with Disabilities, COVID-19 Lays Bare the Weaknesses in Social Safety Nets

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 06:04
The 14th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was held this week, with participants urging policymakers to address the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on people with disabilities.
Categories: Africa

US Supreme Court blocks child slavery lawsuit against chocolate firms

BBC Africa - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 03:50
In their lawsuit, a group of men say they were forced to work on cocoa firms in Ivory Coast.
Categories: Africa

Ethiopia election: A sham or democratic rebirth?

BBC Africa - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 01:10
Why the stakes are so high in the nation's first attempt at free and fair elections.
Categories: Africa

Africa's week in pictures: 11-17 June 2021

BBC Africa - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 01:04
A selection of the week's best photos of Africans from across the continent and elsewhere.
Categories: Africa

Kenneth Kaunda: Zambia's first president dies aged 97

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 21:45
Kaunda, 97, was one of the last of the generation of African leaders who fought colonialism.
Categories: Africa

Abubakar Shekau: The mastermind behind the Chibok kidnappings

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 18:31
Nigeria's Boko Haram confirms that its leader Abubakar Shekau has been killed.
Categories: Africa

Kenneth Kaunda: Zambia's independence hero

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 16:57
The first president of an independent Zambia, who became one of Africa's elder statesmen, dies at 97.
Categories: Africa

Call for Political Belt-tightening to Prevent Drought Becoming the Next Pandemic

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 15:51

In India's Eastern Ghats indigenous communities direct a perennial hill stream under the rural employment programme to run through the middle of their village helping them access household water needs at their doorstep. Downstream water is collected in a pond for farm irrigation and bathing cattle. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
BHUBANESWAR, India, Jun 17 2021 (IPS)

“Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it.”

“Drought has directly affected 1.5 billion people so far this century and this number will grow dramatically unless the world gets better at managing this risk,” said Mami Mizutori, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). Mizutori was speaking before launch of the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction’s (GAR) Special Report on Drought 2021, released today Jun. 17.

Climate change, overuse and conversion for agriculture, cities and infrastructure, which also drive drought and desertification, have already degraded one fifth of the planet’s land area.

This damage harms the livelihoods of almost half the planet’s population. As of 2018, 170 countries were affected by desertification, land degradation and drought according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Desertification and Drought Day is celebrated every Jun. 17 by UN member nations. The 2021 theme calls for investing in activities that protect and restore natural ecosystems to boost the recovery from COVID-19 for communities, countries and economies worldwide.

“A land-centred approach to COVID-19 recovery can change the world,” said Executive Secretary of the Bonn-based UNCCD Ibrahim Thiaw. “So far, the world’s largest economies have already spent $ 16 trillion in post-COVID recovery efforts. Investing a fifth of that amount, collectively, per year, could shift the world’s economies to a sustainability trajectory. Within a decade, the global economy could create close to 400 million new green jobs, generating over $ 10 trillion in annual business value,” he said.

The scale of the land degradation challenge

Since 2015, when only three countries had comprehensive, effective drought-response plans, today 73 countries are working with the Desertification Convention developing a policy to ensure drought is survivable, not a disaster. At the start of the 2021–2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration over 115 countries have pledged to restore one billion hectares of degrading land by 2030 at a cost of $1.67 trillion.

While this is progress, it is clearly not enough. As of 2018, 70 countries are affected by drought regularly, costing lives, while 170 countries were affected by either desertification, land degradation or drought or both.

A report by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, released early June, draws a stark picture if current land-use policies are not changed. Between 2015 and 2050 without land restoration measures, and combined with farming intensification, soil productivity is projected to go down on 12 percent of the global land area.

To meet growing food demand, cropland expansion by about 20 percent or 300 million hectares of land would be cleared by 2050 at the expense of natural ecosystems. As a result, global biodiversity would decline six percent with 32 gigatons of carbon released to the atmosphere and marked decline in soil health and its ability to hold water would lead to increased drought and floods.

India’s drought deaths

In a country of 1.4 billion, 70 percent of its rural households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, 8 out of 10 farmers are small and marginal and with 60 percent of cropland depending on monsoon for irrigation, drought can kill, quite literally.

Abinash Mohanty, researcher-author of a 2020 study mapping India’s extreme climate hotspots, told IPS that “more than 68 percent of the Indian districts are currently drought hotspots.” The study, from Delhi-based research non-profit Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), finds the Indian subcontinent has witnessed more than 478 extreme events since 1970 whose frequency has accelerated after 2005. 

Post-2005 period, 79 districts in India witnessed extreme drought events year-on-year affecting over 140 million people. With microclimatic zones shifting across various regions due to global warming, drought events are becoming more intense, some parts of India which were historically otherwise, are increasingly drought-prone, even flood-prone areas are becoming drought-prone, Mohanty’s study finds.

A summer of extreme heatwaves followed by a deficient monsoon is turning out deadly droughts as in 2018.

As drought’s stranglehold creeps over more and more land in India, agricultural uncertainties are claiming rural livelihoods and lives.

Crops fail year after year and rural farmers make desperate bids to dig deeper borewells and take on untenable debts in hope that one good crop could salvage it all. These skyrocketing farm costs and their inability to pay off debts have forced many farmers, share-croppers and daily-wage farm labourers in India to take their own life over this last decade.

In 2019, many as 10,281 persons involved in the farming sector (5,957 farmers and 4,324 agricultural labourers) have committed suicide, accounting for 7.4 percent of total suicides according the government’s National Crime Records Bureau.

Activists say this is a huge under-estimation. A majority of the 32,559 daily wage earners’ suicides are none other than migrant rural farm workers driven out to urban centres. Stigma forces families to not reveal suicides, and on the other hand local governments declare suicides as deaths for health, spurious liquor or other reasons.

In India’s Eastern Ghats the indigenous Kondh small-holders build high water storage tanks through the rural employment programme, to conserve water. Water from a pond is pumped to these storage tanks for drip irrigation instead of pumping higher outflow wastefully directly to crops. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Solutions exist if there is political will

More than five billion hectares of land around the world can be restored with a combination of restoration and protection — an improvement in land management.

“These are not utopian scenarios,” Thiaw said, “it is fully within our abilities to reach this most ambitious scenario. But it takes determination among the world’s leaders to do so.”

Speaking at the GAR 2021 pre-launch hybrid media briefing, Head of Geneva-based UNDRR, Mizutori told journalists, “Science tells us the prevention cost for drought or any other disaster is much lower than reacting after. Putting that extra dollar in resilience by governments is not happening because politicians see their policies more in the short span of their election cycles.”

“And there is no glory in prevention. When successful in preventing a hazard becoming a disaster, you really can’t show it,” she said. “Which is why we (UNDRR) are now saying, for complex disaster like drought we need a comprehensive governance system, (firm) rules and regulations.”

India builds drought resilience with pandemic migrant returnees

When India went into a complete lockdown in March 2020, a mass reverse migration of an estimated 23 million migrant labourers  (this estimation varies widely) returned to their rural homes, they were immediately employed under the rural job guarantee programme. From March 2020 till March 2021, 3.44 billion person-days of work was generated, 44 precent higher than the corresponding period pre-pandemic. A good chunk of this mass labour was employed in building rural water conservation and irrigation infrastructure.

That such community-built drought adaptation assets are effective, is established by a country-wide 2021 study by Delhi-based non-profit research organisation Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). As per government records, over the last 15 years, more than 30 million water conservation-related ecological assets have been created totalling some 50 water structures in every Indian village. Calculations show that these structures have potentially conserved roughly 29,000 million cubic meters of water in this period and have the potential to irrigate some 19 million hectares, the study says. Maintenance of half of these water structure have been neglected however, cutting utility long-term.

“Droughts are among the most complex and severe climate-related hazards encountered, with wide-ranging and cascading impacts across societies, ecosystems and economies,” Mizutori said.

“Droughts are disasters but they do not have to be devastating,” she said.


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Jun. 17 is World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. A new report shows that climate change, overuse and conversion for agriculture, cities and infrastructure, which also drive drought and desertification, have already degraded one fifth of the planet’s land area.
Categories: Africa

'Afcon ready to deal with Eriksen-like collapse'

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 15:20
Ghanaian sports medicine expert Dr Prince Pamb is confident a collapse like Christian Eriksen's could be dealt with similarly at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Categories: Africa

Stanley Eguma: Nigerian league's longest serving coach abducted

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 11:45
Rivers United boss Stanley Eguma, the longest serving coach in the Nigerian Professional Football League, has been abducted.
Categories: Africa

The Caribbean Looks to Research for Answers to COVID-19, NCD’s and Climate Change Challenges

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 10:23

A COVID-testing health care team in the community in Dominica. The 65th Health Research Conference in the Caribbean aims hoping to build on cooperation in health and arm policymakers with the latest research findings to tackle the region’s most pressing health challenges. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

By Alison Kentish

In 1956, the Caribbean held its first major scientific meeting, organised by the Standing Advisory Committee for Medical Research in the British Caribbean. At the time, the Mayaro Virus, a dengue-like viral disease often called ‘jungle flu’ had just been identified as a new human disease agent by W.G Downs and G.H Wattley in Trinidad.

Fast forward six decades and this week, the Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is hosting the 65th Health Research Conference, in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has stretched public health institutions, upended businesses and crippled regional economies.

A pandemic that brought the world to its knees would spell hardship enough, but it is part of a triple threat that public health officials say demands evidence and research-based responses.

According to CARPHA, Non-communicable Diseases (NDCs) are the leading cause of death in the region and make up the greatest cost to health systems and economies.

Member states are also vulnerable to the environmental, economic and health impacts of a changing climate. With many small island states grappling with increasingly intense storms, the region is on the frontlines of the climate emergency.

“We cannot forget the La Soufriere Volcanic explosion, we have had flooding in Guyana, Dengue outbreaks, economic standstills, all at once. The public health challenges have been unceasing,” says Dr. Joy St. John, CARPHA Executive Director.

“So, this year’s research conference presentations are even more important, as we search for evidence to inform policy and programming, that combat climate change, in this new world COVID-19 is forcing us to create.”

“NCDs have also caused deaths among the younger persons with chronic disease. We are therefore happy that in 2021, the 65th conference, which is the longest-running in the Caribbean, will be distinguished by the scientific ingenuity and innovation of some of this world’s most resilient, and determined people — the people of the Caribbean.”

The four-day research forum which started on Jun. 16 will feature the latest health research findings from the Caribbean.

Organisers are hoping it will guide member states coping with the shocks of the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, but concede that even as the region leans heavily on research and science for recovery, push back remains. This includes what they describe as the ‘ever-present vaccine hesitancy.’

CARPHA has been tweaking its communication messages, hoping to win over those who are reluctant to get vaccinated.

“With the return to cruise tourism and some cruise lines not requiring immunisation of passengers, the speed of delivery of vaccines will be critical to slowing the disease as well as ‘variant-of-concern’ transmission. Economic downturn will not be halted if the Region is plagued by repeated outbreaks in the tourism sector. No one wants another regional lockdown 2.0,” said St. John.

Public health officials say successful vaccination campaigns are a cornerstone for reopening, but some states appear to be hitting an inoculation plateau.

Antigua and Barbuda is among the CARPHA member states recording success in its vaccination campaign. 59 percent of its adult population has received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Being responsive to vaccine demand, creating ease of access by utilising mobile services in the community in addition to static public vaccination sites in strategic locations. Heightened traditional media and social visibility including the use of influencers. We have weekly strategy meetings to respond to issues arising at various levels of the process,” Chair of the Public Education Sub-Committee of the National Coordinating Committee for the COVID-19 Vaccine Dr. Janelle Charles-Williams told IPS.

The conference is hoping to build on cooperation in health and arm policymakers with the latest research findings to tackle the region’s most pressing health challenges.

From a survey that seeks to understand the rationale for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, studies on diabetes, physical activity, cancer health services, maternal and child health, rainwater harvesting and lectures from renowned scientists, the goal is to also prepare for the next pandemic and bolster regional public health care systems.

“Although many Caribbean states have successfully avoided wide-spread transmission of COVID-19, I know the pandemic has hit you hard in other ways such as lower revenues from tourism. Even when/once the pandemic subsides, we know that you will still face many of the same health challenges you had before including climate change and non-communicable diseases,” World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus told the conference on Wednesday. 

Thirty-two research papers were presented at that first scientific meeting in 1956. That figure has grown to an average of 92 a year. CARPHA is hoping that cutting-edge research on the Caribbean’s trio of threats will spur evidence-based decisions on healthcare delivery and programming. 

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The Caribbean Public Health Agency is banking on high-quality research to inform policy, programming and clinical practice, amid ‘unceasing’ public health challenges.
Categories: Africa

Apocalypse Now? Christian Fundamentalists and COVID-19

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 09:44

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Jun 17 2021 (IPS)


Getting hard to breathe
hard to believe in anything
at all, but fear.
Peter Gabriel, Mother
of Violence
Like most male Swedes of my age I had to enter obligatory military service for almost a year. In my barrack was a “born-again-Christian” who when he became angry shouted “Now you mock me, but when the Last Judgement has come I will sit in heaven and smile down at you while you burn in Hell!” Since then I have wondered about the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. It was written by a frustrated Christian man who by the end of 100 CE by Roman authorities had been deported to an isolated island where he wrote a long letter to Christian congregations in Asia Minor.

After rebuking his Christian brethren, John’s language became increasingly bewildering, telling the receivers of his letter that a gate had opened in the sky, while a mighty voice commanded: “Come up here and I will show you what happens next.” Standing by God’s throne John witnesses his wrath striking the earth. Four demonic riders sweep down. One of them, “followed by the Kingdom of Death”, is given power over a quarter of the world, killing its inhabitants with famine and plague.

We are far removed from the teachings of the carpenter from Nazareth, the Jesus who preached love and compassion, answering violence by turning the other cheek and declaring that: “All those who draw the sword will die by the sword.” However in the Book of Revelation he is depicted as carrying a scythe which he uses “to cut down his harvest”. Blood flows across the earth “in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle.” The sea turns into blood, while the sun scorches the earth. In anguish humans bite their tongues into bleeding flesh, while carbuncles cover their bodies. The earth is cracked open by earthquakes, hail mixed with blood rains down and falling stars kill off the suffering humans.

Page after page is filled with horrors, while the “saved ones” rejoice. Not without reason, scholars who during the second century CE selected books to be included in the Christian Bible had serious doubts about this vengeful scripture. Dionysus, patriarch of Alexandria, wrote by the beginning of 200 CE: “Some before us have set aside and rejected the book altogether, criticising it chapter by chapter, and pronouncing it without sense or argument, and maintaining that the title is fraudulent. For they say it is not the work of John, nor is it a revelation, because it is covered thickly and densely by a veil of obscurity.”

It is difficult to understand how nice and pious people actually believe that this abominable and spiteful book is the unequivocal “Word of God”. I am familiar with otherwise sensible persons who believe that the vindictive Revelation advices them to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine and thus expose themselves – and even worse – their fellow human beings to mortal danger.

On web sites fundamentalist pastors and doomsday prophets refer to their favourite scripture – the Book of Revelation – in particular its thirteenth chapter, which among many oddities proclaims that “the second Beast” will force “all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so they could not buy or sell unless they had the Mark, which is the name of the Beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the Beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.” It is doubtful if this statement really “calls for wisdom”, for sure it has called for idiocy.

For more than two thousand years people have counted letters in innumerable names to prove that the bearer actually is an incarnation of the Beast. Someone even assumed that former U.S. president Ronald Reagan was the Beast, since a letter count of his complete name – Ronald Wilson Reagan, resulted in 666, while his private home address had been 666 St. Cloud Road. It is not only persons that are associated with 666 – Corona has six letters and the bill presented to the U.S. House of Representatives for providing funds for COVID-testing was coincidentally labelled H.R. 6666. Anyone might find strange coincidences by combining numbers and accordingly some people has tried to find the hidden message of the Number of the Beast. They have for example pointed out that if 666 is written with Roman numerals it becomes DCLXV and thus contains every Roman numeral except M (1000) while their value decreases from 500 to 1, D = 500, C = 100, L = 50, X = 10, V = 5, I = 1. Does it mean anything? I don’t think so.

Almost any symbol has by one or another crank been interpreted as the Mark of the Beast. During the last fifty years any serial number; social security numbers, credit card numbers, passport numbers, post codes, bank accounts, SIM cards, as well as bar codes like the Universal Product Code (UPC), and a wide variety of similar markings like the Aztec Code, data matrices, QR codes and a host of designations and symbols with similar functions, have been interpreted as Marks of the Beast.

It is almost inconceivable how religious fundamentalists prefer implausible delusions and deceptions instead of simple explanations. As any other letter, John’s Revelation was written within a specific temporal and geographical context. If we look at the Greek word charagma, which John uses for “mark”, it equalled any mark engraved, imprinted, or branded, as well as stamped documents and coins.

During John’s lifetime, Christians were persecuted for not making offerings for the welfare of the emperor, who officially was considered as a divine being. John’s contemporary emperor and fierce persecutor of Christians was undoubtedly an insensitive “beast”. Suetonius (70-122 CE) described Domitian, Roman emperor 81-96 CE, as being “hated and feared everywhere”. A megalomaniac who demanded to be referred to as “Lord and God”. Once he wined and dined with his palace steward, lavishing him with kindness, only to crucify him the day after, just to prove that “he could do so”.

With reason John and his fellow Christians considered Domitian as “Anti-Christ” and worshipping him would be to worship the Beast. When John writes that people “could not buy or sell unless they had the Mark”, it might actually mean the Roman coins, which were stamped with Domitian’s picture, as well as official documents and contracts bearing his seal. However, John furthermore stated that the “mark” would be placed on the “right hand or the forehead.” This prophesy finds its source in the Jewish scripture Psalms of Solomon, which mentions how a mark is being stamped on evil people, though visible only to God and his angels.

How can these ancient notions be connected with a COVID-19 vaccine introduced in April 2021, while the concept “vaccine” did not exist before 1796, when Edward Jenner used it to denominate his cure for smallpox? The allure of the Mark of the Beast is that it may be applied to almost anything, something that the Church Father Irenaeus had discovered already by the end of 100 CE. Any enemy, any fear, may be connected with it, most recently the so called RFID.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) has quite recently made it possible to, at a distance, read information contained in a tag. A tag may be a microchip small enough to through a syringe be injected under the skin. Such a chip can be used to track a person and may also contain essential information about her/him – an extremely advanced improvement of social security numbers and UPCs. RFID chips were originally operated into hands, but can now be injected in almost any body tissue. This while Neuralink Corporation, a neurotechnology company founded by centibillionaire Elon Musk, is developing a “sewing machine-like” device to implant microscopically thin threads into the human brain to create a “digital layer above the cortex”. This addition to the brain is supposed to enhance brainpower through a “symbiosis” between biological and artificial intelligence. For a Christian fundamentalist these endeavours may undeniably be connected with the Revelation’s prophecy about the Mark of the Beast as being placed on the “right hand or the forehead.”

However, microchips have nothing at all to do with vaccinating against a killer like COVID-19. To connect nanotechnology with a sentence in a two thousand years old, extremely convoluted text, which furthermore rambled against enemies of the true faith, is a harmful way of applying twisted and outright dangerous beliefs to health issues. To connect conspiracy theories with unproven, vindictive musings, which furthermore were considered as spurious by several founding fathers of Christianity, borders on criminal behaviour since it may lead to the death of at least thousands of people.

For thousands of years, bigots have imaginatively connected the Book of Revelation with current issues, which today happen to be vaccines, chip implants, and SIM cards. For the benefit of humanity we ought instead of falling victims to ridiculous speculations, be careful not to confuse personal convictions with the assumed meanings of an ancient, religious text. If we are religiously inclined it would be better to adhere to the Golden Rule of treating others as we want to be treated ourselves. A notion that actually is common in Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and many other religions.

Bauer, Luce Oliver and E. Marshall Wilder (2020) The Microchip Revolution: A Brief History. Piscataway NJ: IEEE Xplore. Bohlinger, Tavis (2020) Eusebius (1990) The History of the Church. London: Penguin Classics.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.


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Categories: Africa

Ivory Coast's ex-President Gbagbo to return home after ICC acquittal

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 09:06
Laurent Gbagbo was taken to the ICC in 2011 on charges of crimes against humanity.
Categories: Africa

Let’s up Lift Efforts to Restore Our Pacific Lands as We Mark Desertification and Drought Day

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 08:58

Degraded land in Labasa, Fiji

By Jamie Kemsey and Jalesi Mateboto
SUVA, Fiji, Jun 17 2021 (IPS-Partners)

As the UN and communities worldwide mark Desertification and Drought Day, the Pacific Community’s Land Resources Division (LRD) is strengthening its support for the sustainable restoration and management of Pacific countries’ landscapes, keeping in line with this year’s theme “turning degraded land into healthy land”.

This year’s Desertification and Drought Day takes on increasing significance as the region and countries worldwide recover from COVID-19. The goal is to demonstrate that investing in healthy land as part of a green recovery is a smart economic decision – not just in terms of creating jobs and rebuilding livelihoods, but also for insulating economies against future crises caused by health pandemics such as COVID-19, as well as climate change and nature loss. Healthy land initiatives can act to accelerate progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals as well.

In the Pacific, Desertification Day is an opportunity to promote awareness on efforts to tackle land degradation. We must remind everyone that reversing land degradation is achievable. It will require landscape approaches that recognise the importance of sustainable systems and practices, community engagement and the participation and cooperation of all those that work the land and depend on it for ecosystem services such as food, medicine and climate regulation.

Soil erosion and sedimentation are major problems in the Pacific. The steep land topography on most islands, in addition to highly erosive rainfall, contribute to high natural erosion rates. The past 30-50 years have seen substantial areas of sloping land converted to agricultural production. This extension of agriculture, as well as increased logging of rainforests, has caused considerable erosion.

The effects of this erosion are destructive, including land degradation and decreased productivity, sediment deposition in rivers with a subsequent increase in flooding, and damage to coastal ecosystems by transported sediment. The land tenure system, increasing demands for cash income, and the lack of awareness and commitment to protection and conservation contribute to the continuing problems of soil erosion and sedimentation.

The Land Resources Division, in collaboration with development partners including the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), German International Co-operation (GIZ), European Union (EU), Land Care NZ and Land care Australia, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), has worked with other regional organisations such as the University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to assist member countries and territories to restore their landscapes. LRD provides support through technical expertise and research assistance in the agriculture, livestock and forestry sectors.

As LRD advances its focus on this year’s Desertification and Drought Day theme, we should keep in mind the statement from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification that success in this arena will bring economic resilience, create jobs, raise incomes, and increase food security. It will also help biodiversity to recover and lock away atmospheric carbon warming the Earth, slowing climate change.

In launching the 2021 theme, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said “Land restoration can contribute greatly to post-COVID19 economic recovery. Investing in land restoration creates jobs and generates economic benefits and could provide livelihoods at a time when hundreds of millions of jobs are being lost.” Desertification and Drought Day is important for the Pacific as well, as land restoration is essential to building thriving societies for all in the region. Let’s increase our respect and stewardship for our amazing, yet fragile, land. It is the key to our future.

Jamie Kemsey, Information Communications and Knowledge Management Adviser, Land Resources Division (LRD) at SPC

Jalesi Mateboto, Natural Resource Management Adviser, Land Resources Division (LRD), SPC

Source: The Pacific Community (SPC)

Categories: Africa

Will a British ICC Chief Prosecutor be Brave Enough to Investigate UK & its Allies?

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 08:10

Karim Asad Ahmad Khan was elected on 12 February 2021 as the new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). On 16 June, he formally took office during a ceremony held at the Seat of the Court in The Hague, The Netherlands. A national of the United Kingdom, he is expected to serve a nine-year term in office. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Agnès Callamard
LONDON, Jun 17 2021 (IPS)

As British barrister Karim Khan QC begins his term as ICC chief prosecutor, his first steps should be to proceed with investigations into alleged war crimes involving UK allies in Afghanistan and Palestine.

Last month, following months of heightened violations of the human rights of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups into Israel, Israeli forces carried out airstrikes targeting residential buildings in Gaza, killing entire families.

The attacks by Israel and Palestinian armed groups may well amount to war crimes under the Rome Statute.

Tragically, and to the shame of the international community, this pattern of likely war crimes is nothing new. But where previously the international community had ignored the evidence of its own eyes, this time the incoming prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will presumably have been watching events unfold with a view to gathering evidence and bringing perpetrators to account.

Following the Israel-Gaza ceasefire, Dominic Raab spoke of the need to “break the cycle of violence that has claimed so many lives”. But how? Surely, it can only come through proper accountability. That’s why the ICC’s investigation in Palestine, opened in March, is so important, especially to long-suffering victims.

Israeli air strikes destroyed buildings and infrastructure in Gaza. Credit: UNOCHA/Samar Elouf

After decades of injustice, this investigation offers the first genuine prospect for justice for victims in Palestine and Israel. Break the cycle of impunity and you have hope for the future.

It’s tremendously worrying, then, that Boris Johnson has voiced his opposition to the ICC’s Palestine investigation, calling it “a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s”.

And unfortunately, the UK’s opposition isn’t unique. Other supposed supporters of a “universal ICC” are unwilling to extend this universality to Palestine. Of course, under Donald Trump, the USA went further, imposing sanctions on then ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and members of her prosecuting office.

Though President Biden has lifted sanctions, the US remains opposed to any investigation in Palestine or into any alleged crimes by US nationals around the world.

The prime minister said he hopes Khan would work for “reform” at the ICC. This is reasonable.

The ICC has not – yet – lived up to the expectations of the victims of some of the world’s worst atrocities. The prosecutor’s office in particular has faced numerous valid criticisms, especially related to the length of its investigations and the relatively few results it has to show for nearly 20 years’ work.

Amnesty, which played a crucial role in the development of the court, continues to press for reforms that serve the interests of justice and victims. Greater speed is one.

However, reforming the ICC should not mean that allies of powerful countries are given a free pass.

Khan will need to demonstrate he’s not afraid to pursue justice close to home. The UK itself has a poor record in bringing its forces to justice for crimes under international law.

There have been glaring failures to ensure effective investigations – let alone secure prosecutions – into alleged crimes committed in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq. In December, the ICC decided not to investigate war crimes committed by the UK military in Iraq.

Even though there has only been one prosecution out of the large number of alleged war crimes committed by UK forces in Iraq, the chief prosecutor was willing to accept the UK had not been “inactive”.

Despite clear examples of unwarranted delay and obstructive behaviour from the UK authorities, the ICC prosecutor said she could not substantiate allegations that the UK’s investigative and prosecutorial bodies had engaged in “shielding” perpetrators from justice. This raises clear concerns over the court’s willingness to take on powerful states.

The investigation in Palestine represents perhaps the first big test for Khan. The chief prosecutor needs to demonstrate his steadfast commitment to impartiality by pressing ahead with it, possibly in the teeth of opposition from Israeli allies like the UK and USA.
Karim Khan will need to be unphased by any attempts to strong-arm him.

The personal and professional consequences of pursuing investigations into powerful states, including the UK’s allies, may be heavy. It will require courage. Victims who are placing their hopes in the new ICC prosecutor will demand nothing less.


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The writer is Secretary General of Amnesty International
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‘Prison was Horrible but I Will Still do my Work as a Journalist’ – Jeffrey Moyo Upon Prison Release

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 06/16/2021 - 17:03

Jeffery Moyo was reunited with his wife, Purity, and young son, after his release today, Jun. 16, from prison in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He said his incarceration would not deter him from doing his job as a journalist. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jun 16 2021 (IPS)

International correspondent Jeffrey Moyo, who was a released from detention today after being arrested for breaching Zimbabwe’s Immigration Act by helping two foreign journalists work in the country, says press freedom is undermined when journalists cannot work undeterred.

“I feel relieved as it was so horrible inside for 21 days without my freedom,” Moyo told IPS upon his release from Bulawayo Prison today, Jun. 16. “The detention is a complete infringement of press freedom in Zimbabwe.”

Moyo (37), a correspondent for Inter Press Service (IPS), the New York Times and other media, was arrested in Harare on May 26 and detained at Bulawayo Prison. He was released after 21 days when he was granted ZWL5000 bail unopposed by the state, which admitted to erring in finding him a threat to national security.

In May, Bulawayo Magistrate, Rachel Mkanga denied Moyo bail on the grounds that the journalist was a threat to national security and the county’s sovereignty. Moyo has been charged with violating Section 36 of the Immigration Act, based on an allegation that he made a false representation to immigration officials. This pertains to the accreditation of two of his colleagues, Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva from the New York Times.

Fight for press freedom

The accreditation of journalists should not offend anyone or any authority in the country, Moyo said, arguing that the accreditation of journalists in Zimbabwe should be a right and not a difficulty.

“Journalists are not dangerous and do not cause any harm to any particular individual or government,” said Moyo, who was welcomed by his wife, Purity, and son outside Bulawayo Prison. “I am scared about what happened but I will not stop my work. …I am committed to doing my job as journalist no matter what the authorities say to me as long as I tow the line in terms of the law. I will continue to do my job.”

Moyo was granted bail on Jun. 14 and was set to be released on Jun. 15 but an error with his release papers at the Bulawayo prison resulted in him spending another night in jail.

“I am just happy that he has been released, I am relieved,” Purity Moyo, Jeffery’s wife, told IPS. She was prevented from seeing her journalist husband in prison and had communicated with him via letters.

“I thank my wife who brought me something to eat every day,” Moyo told IPS. “The letters my wife communicated to me gave me hope as did visits from colleagues from the media. I thank God that I am out and united with my family.”

Jeffery Moyo was overcome with emotion after his release from Bulawayo Prison today, Jun. 16. The international correspondent, who works for IPS and the New York Times, among others, was detained for 21 days when the state refused to grant him bail, calling him a threat to national security. Moyo was arrested on May 26 on charges relating to the accreditation of his New York Times colleagues. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Horrible prison

Moyo was arrested in May 26 and detained in Central Police Station in Harare. He was later moved to the city of Bulawayo, 400km from Harare, and detained at the Bulawayo Central Police Station under conditions he described as horrible and traumatising.

“I was detained overnight at the Bulawayo Central Police Station under horrible conditions; no bedding, no blankets and I was sleeping on the concrete floor and there was no food at the police station.”

It was only to get worse. 

Moyo said conditions at the Bulawayo Prison were inhumane. He said he was placed in a crowded prison cell with 18 other people. The food was bad.

“Health wise I am okay but the food in prison is horrible,” he said explaining that he was served porridge with no sugar or salt, plain sadza (a type of maize or cassava porridge) and dried vegetables and beans without cooking oil.

Violated rights

Moyo’s lawyer Doug Coltart told IPS that his client’s detention was a series of appalling violations of his human rights. The state, after three weeks of opposing bail, made a turn around to say it had no case against Moyo and that the grounds it cited for opposing his bail were baseless.

This demonstrates precisely how the denial of bail at the magistrate’s court is being used to punish innocent people, Coltart said. He also noted that in being denied the right to see his wife and relatives as well as his extended detention, despite being granted bail, were all violations of Moyo’s rights.

“The prison officials continue to refuse to show us the purported error in the warrant of liberation and this raises our strong suspicion that it was all a lie and an abuse of the detention process to keep him for an extra night,” Coltart told IPS.

Moyo is set to appear in court on Jun. 24 in preparation for trial. If convicted he could face 10 years in jail. Media rights organisations have welcomed Moyo’s release.

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