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Women in African Music: A virtual museum celebrating empowerment

BBC Africa - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 08:18
Women in African Music is an immersive virtual exhibition celebrating performers and those behind the scenes.
Categories: Africa

The 21st Century Nuclear Arms Race

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 07:12

Credit: US government

By Joseph Gerson
NEW YORK, Jun 9 2021 (IPS)

A new report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)—focusing on nuclear weapons spending– following on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recent decision that their Doomsday Clock, should be set as close as it has ever been to nuclear catastrophe. should serve as a wake up calls for humanity.

Preparations for genocidal or omnicidal nuclear war are undeniably suicidal madness. Worse, with provocative military actions by the U.S., Russia, and China in the Baltic, Black, South and East China Seas, and in relation to Ukraine and Taiwan, an accident or miscalculation could all too easily trigger a life ending nuclear cataclysm.

At a time when scientific, financial, and diplomatic cooperation are desperately needed to stanch and reverse the climate emergency and to overcome and prevent the current and future pandemics, 21st century nuclear arms races are already claiming lives and threatening our future with national treasures being wasted in preparations to end all life as we know it.

There had been hope that US President Joe Biden would apply the brakes to the massive $1.7 trillion U.S. upgrade of its nuclear arsenal and its triad of delivery systems.

Instead, the Biden budget released last week reflects no change from the Trump era nuclear weapons buildup, including funding for the first strike “money pit” ICBM replacement missiles, “more usable” battlefield weapons to be deployed in Europe, and SLBM’s and so-called missile defenses to the Asia-Pacific.

Those, in turn, are leading China to increase the size of its deterrent nuclear forces and to reconsider its no first use doctrine.

How to remove the existential nuclear threat?

Disarmament! popular movements, like those which brought the Treaty for Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) into being, and which in the United States, are pressing to halt spending for new nuclear weapons and for the Biden Administration to adopt a no first use doctrine, are essential.

In the very near -term political leaders and civil society must press Presidents Biden and Putin not to waste the opportunity inherent in their forthcoming summit. They should rise to their historic and existential responsibilities and emulate the 1989 Malta Summit in which Presidents Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev jointly declared an end to the Cold War.

Among the actions that the two presidents should take are:

    • Declare that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
    • Commit to adopting no first use nuclear doctrines and near-term negotiation of verifiable agreements to eliminate the danger of first strike nuclear war fighting.
    • Restore the INF Treaty limitations and prohibit deployment of “more usable” battlefield nuclear weapons.
    • Renew their commitments to Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and publish a timeline for the fulfillment of commitments made during previous NPT Review Conferences.
    • Announce commencement of negotiations to eliminate the danger of cyber hacking of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and their infrastructures essential for human security.
    • Halt provocative military U.S., NATO, and Russian military exercises in the Baltic and Black Seas and the Arctic Ocean and along the NATO/Russian border.
    • Halt shipment of arms supplies to the warring parties in Ukraine and renew their commitments to fulfilling the Minsk agreements.
    • Commit to jointly provide vaccines and necessary materials for more than a billion Covid-19 shots via COVAX, and to future joint research for pandemic prevention.
    • Commit to joint initiatives to reverse climate change.

More than five decades ago, at the height of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, two moral and intellectual paragons of the 20th century, Lord Russell and Albert Einstein warned that “We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?”

Their answer: “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

 


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Excerpt:

The writer is President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, and Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau.
Categories: Africa

Twitter ban in Nigeria: Can you be arrested for tweeting?

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 23:16
Many people are circumventing the ban, despite government threats to arrest and prosecute tweeters.
Categories: Africa

Letesenbet Gidey: Ethiopian breaks two-day-old women's 10,000m world record

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 23:04
Ethiopia's Letesenbet Gidey breaks the women's 10,000m world record by more than five seconds - just two days after it had previously been smashed.
Categories: Africa

Tigray conflict: ‘We have no food, we face death’

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 16:42
Residents in war-torn Ethiopia tell of looted crops and cattle and no aid as the UN warns of famine.
Categories: Africa

Yusupha Njie: Gambia forward on being the son of the legendary Biri Biri

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 16:33
The Gambia's Yusupha Njie is now part of Boavista history and he says his late father the legendary Biri Biri is still an inspiration.
Categories: Africa

Education Cannot Wait Investments Transform Children’s Lives in Somalia

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 16:08

Girls in rural Somalia spend a large portion of their time helping with household chores. But thanks to Education Cannot Wait funding many girls are now able to receive an education. Credit: Save the Children

By Abdalle Ahmed Mumin
MOGADISHU, Jun 8 2021 (IPS)

Ten-year-old Sabah Abdi from Ali Isse, a small rural village on the Somaliland-Ethiopian border, scored well in her recent exams, placing third overall in her local village school of 400 students.

Yet is was just three years ago Sabah spent her days helping with household chores and herding goats, rather than studying because her pastoralist family could not afford her school fees.

“I’m very glad to be among the top three students in the village school. I am hoping to be a doctor and cure sick people in the village when I grow up,” Sabah told IPS.

Droughts, food insecurity prevent Somaliland children from attending school

Recurrent droughts, food insecurity, water shortages, poverty and inequality hinder efforts to get more Somaliland children in schools. Families in this part of Somaliland are dependent on their livestock for basic food and income, with many moving from place to place in search of good rains and pasture.

In July 2019, the Somaliland Government, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – and UNICEF Somaliland launched a multi-year resilience programme to increase access to quality education for children and youth impacted by ongoing crises in Somaliland.

The Somaliland national primary net attendance ratio is estimated at 49 percent for boys and 40 percent for girls. Only 16 percent of children who are internally displaced and 26 percent of children in rural communities are enrolled in primary schools. 

If fully funded, ECW’s $64 million three-year education programme will reach 198,440 (out of whom 50 percent are girls) children by end of the third year, including 21,780 supported through ECW’s seed funding. Currently 18,946 students – 46 percent of whom are girls – have benefitted from the programme in 69 targeted schools in six regions. Out of these, a significant number of out of school children 6,342 (3,074 girls) have been enrolled in schools.

In addition, ECW has also launched two other similar multi-year investments in Puntland and in the Federal Government of Somalia and Member States in the amounts of $60 million and $67.5 million, respectively. The three programmes are aligned in outcomes and focus on increasing access to free education for the most marginalised children and youth, including for pastoralist communities.

“The positive impacts of ECW’s multi-year investments in Somalia and the tangible difference we are making together with our partners in the lives of Sabah and so many other marginalised girls and boys are heartwarming and inspiring. For the first time, many of these children and youth can learn and develop themselves in a safe, protective and inclusive environment,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Yet, so much more remains to be done. I call on strategic donor partners to join our efforts and fully fund the three programmes. Together, we can restore the hope of a better future for Somalia’s most vulnerable children and youth.”

The Hani school in Sanaag region, Somalia. Credit: Save the Children

Free schooling thanks to ECW funding

The primary school Sabah attends offers free schooling thanks to support from ECW. It has enabled her and other kids from this rural community to start learning.

Sabah’s mother, Anab Jama, said she is now able to keep her children in the village school while her husband travels with the animals in search of fresh forage and water. “I stayed behind to take care of the children at school. I don’t want them to miss the free education,” Jama told IPS. 

Last year, ECW funding supported the distribution of education kits by local partners and the Somaliland Ministry of Education during the COVID-19 lockdown so children could continue their studies until schools reopened at the end of 2020. The kits included books and solar lamps.

“When the pandemic hit Somaliland, we closed down the school and sent kids back home,” Mohamed Abdi Egal, the headteacher of the Ali Isse primary school, told IPS. “There was not any other option we could provide to continue students’ learning. That was the biggest disruption we saw. When we resumed late 2020, we started to maintain social distancing and hand-washing.”

“Education is considered a vital element in the development of the community but when emergencies unfold like COVID-19 it shows how it hampers provision of essential services, including education,” Egal told IPS.

Thanks to funding 11,052 students, 4,568 of whom are girls, were able to sit for their grade 8 centralised final examinations in Puntland State, Somalia. Credit: Save the Children

Schooling tailored to pastoralist families’ needs

A year after the 2019 programme launched, the number of enrolments of children in the pastoralist community increased substantively – from 12 percent to 50 percent due to the programme design – said Safia Jibril Abdi, UNICEF Education Specialist in charge of managing the ECW-funded programme in Somaliland.

“Education always needs long-term planning. In the drought-affected areas families are on the move and besides that the children do the hard work, such as grazing animals. Girls are core for rural families when it comes to household chores,” continued Abdi.

“We started afternoon classes during the beginning of the school year [in August 2019] and teachers were hired. When the education timing matched the rural families’ lifestyle it brought impact and is much better for rural children.”

The programme targeted children 10 years and above and those who would be able to successfully complete their secondary education in five years within the constraints of their nomadic lifestyles.

Local community members in 15 locations across Somaliland have established education committees to ensure the long-term sustainability of providing education here.

“The goal was to increase access of children to the education with a safe environment. Also, the most important is to make the project sustainable for the local community,” Abdi told IPS. “Girls in school have certain needs, such as sanitary pads, which we provide to them. This helps teenage girls not miss ongoing classes during their periods.”

The UNICEF Education Specialist said that the benefits of the collaborative approach that saw the various actors, including the Ministry of Education, rural communities and civil society organisations, working alongside and with funding from ECW to deliver education for crisis-affected children made the initiative successful.

“It is a sad reality that one in every two children in Somaliland doesn’t have the opportunity for free education. With the launch of the ECW programme we are now able to reach these marginalised children many of whom are in the conflict affected and rural areas,” she said.

Meanwhile, Save the Children, an ECW partner working in Somalia’s Puntland State, has launched multiple distance learning initiatives, including uploading lessons online to help students continue their studies despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

As a result, 11,052 students, 4,568 of whom are girls, were able to sit for their grade 8 centralised final examinations.

“We have created an online learning programme under the ECW fund that targeted primary schools in Puntland. Currently 15,604 students, among them 6,924 girls, have access to education with the support of ECW in Puntland,” Ahmed Mohamed Farah, Save the Children’s ECW Education Consortium manager in Puntland, Somalia, told IPS.

As an ECW implementing agency, Save the Children aims to strengthen the Puntland government education system and enhance the quality by monitoring students’ dropout as well as managing the education system in the four regions it targets in the northeastern Somalia.

According to Farah, ECW funding also paid for the exam fees of 1,000 students from 51 target schools across Somalia.

“Certain students from the low-income families and those in the remote areas could not register for their national primary school exams due to the registration fees therefore we were able to cover for their exam fees.

“Six out of the 10 top grade students were girls. That is the impact,” Farah said.

 

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To learn more about Education Cannot Wait’s work for children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises, please visit: educationcannotwait.org and please follow @EduCannotWait on Twitter.

 


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Categories: Africa

Time to End Generational Injustice with a ‘Global Blue New Deal’ to Protect Oceans

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 08:18

Credit: Australian Institute of Marine Science

By Mark Haver and Marina Porto
PARIS, Jun 8 2021 (IPS)

Increasingly, youth are rising up to declare that they’ve had enough of the cyclical exploitation of the environment that jeopardizes their own future.

Youth activism through the Global Climate Strikes and Fridays For Future protests have helped spur revolutionary policy frameworks, like the Green New Deal championed by U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

International organizations and sovereign governments have now interpreted the Green New Deal into frameworks and policies of their own; it’s clear that environmental policy led by youth has energized the discussion on global decarbonization and the social impacts of climate change.

However, the Green New Deal only mentioned the ocean once. We need to insert more Blue into the green transition.

Earth’s vast oceans are humanity’s single most important climate regulation tool. As governments coalesce around plans to quite literally save our species, we must recognize that there is no future without understanding the role the ocean has to play.

Beyond human life support, the ocean economy contributes to ecosystem services, jobs, and cultural services valued at USD 3-6 trillion, with fisheries and aquaculture alone contributing USD 100 billion per year and 250+ million jobs.

Our ocean, however, is overfished, polluted with plastic, and exploited for non-renewable resources like minerals and fossil fuels. This perpetuates a cycle of generational injustice and leaves youth to inherit an increasingly degraded environment with less and less time to restore it. Not only is this detrimental to progress at large, but our most vulnerable global communities, who contribute the least to global emissions, will feel the effects of our degraded environment the most severely.

Youth not only need to be proactive advocates for the SDGs, we need to hold the global community accountable to commitments they have made between nations and to youth as the greatest stakeholders in the future health of our environment.

Creating the “Global Blue New Deal”

In 2019, the Sustainable Ocean Alliance distributed surveys across its network to identify the key youth policy priorities for a healthy ocean and just future. We received 100+ responses from 38 countries in 5 languages.

Over the past year, SOA’s Youth Policy Advisory Council synthesized these into a youth-led, crowdsourced ocean policy framework: the Global Blue New Deal.

The first public draft of our Global Blue New Deal is being launched now, at the dawn of the UN’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which aims to gather global ocean stakeholders behind a common framework to deliver “the ocean we need for the future we want.”

Youth want to contribute to the success of the Ocean Decade and call on the international community to recognize our policy suggestions as part of the solutions our planet needs.

The vision of the Global Blue New Deal is to “outline an ocean policy framework that integrates crowdsourced youth priorities that will be proposed to governments on international, national, and local scales for implementation.”

It is organized under four pillars, each containing specific ocean policy solutions.

In brief:

Pillar 1
Carbon Neutrality: Transition to a Zero Carbon Future

    1. End offshore drilling and invest in renewable ocean energy
    2. Decarbonize the shipping industry
    3. Reduce land-based marine pollution
    4. Transition to a circular economy
    5. Strengthen legislation and enforcement against ocean contamination

Pillar 2
Preserve Biodiversity: Apply Nature-based Solutions to Promote Healthy Ecosystems and Climate Resilience

    1. Support the global movement to protect 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030
    2. Enforce against non-compliance in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
    3. Establish a global moratorium against deep-sea mining
    4. Transition from “gray” manmade infrastructure like culverts and seawalls to nature-based blue carbon infrastructure including the restoration of wetlands, mangroves and marshes

Pillar 3:
Sustainable Seafood: Match Increasing Global Demand Sustainably

    1. Encourage sustainable governance of capture fisheries
    2. Enforce against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing
    3. Eliminate capacity-enhancing fisheries subsidies
    4. Provide a sustainable path for aquaculture
    5. Fund research and development of plant-based and cell-cultured seafood

Pillar 4:
Stakeholder Engagement: Include Local Communities in Natural Ocean Resource Management

    1. Ensure the sustainability of coastal ecotourism
    2. Promote ocean research and innovation, with a goal of mapping 100% of the global seafloor by 2030.
    3. Emphasize ocean literacy and capacity building
    4. Build stakeholder participation in ocean governance

We invite like-minded youths, scientists, policymakers, and other ocean stakeholders to visit https://www.soalliance.org/soablog/youth-led-blue-new-deal and help as we finalize the Global Blue New Deal ocean policy framework during our public comment period throughout July.

Each generation has inherited an increasingly degraded ocean environment with the poorest, most vulnerable communities feeling the impacts the most severely. This is our opportunity to rewrite the long history of compromising our ocean.

Mark Haver and Marina Porto are Chair and Co-Chair respectively of the Youth Policy Advisory Council of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, the world’s largest youth-led network of ocean allies.

 


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Categories: Africa

G7 Summit: Time to put Women Front & Centre of the Global Economic Recovery

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 07:38

Nurses greet visitors at a clinic set up at a hospital in Thailand to treat people with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. Credit: WHO/P. Phutpheng

By Fatou Haidara and Helen McEachern
VIENNA/LONDON, Jun 8 2021 (IPS)

The leaders of the G7 group of nations will soon gather in Cornwall, United Kingdom, (June 11-13) to devise plans to ‘build back better’ from the COVID-19 pandemic. The summit takes place in the wake of a crisis that has both revealed and further exacerbated existing economic and social inequalities, including gender inequalities.

This meeting and the run-up to the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in November 2021 provide an opportunity to put women front and centre of global economic plans.

This crisis should be used as a wake-up call to evolve from business-as-usual. It is time for governments and the international community to embrace measures to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs and ensure their knowledge, experience and great untapped potential are at the forefront of national economic recovery plans, including for sustainable, green and inclusive economies and societies.

Impact of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs

For women entrepreneurs, the pandemic has meant reduced incomes, temporary and permanent business closures, the dismissal of employees, missed business opportunities and reduced access to often already limited finance and capital.

Women-owned enterprises are overrepresented in sectors most vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of COVID-19 – such as retail, hospitality and tourism, and services, as well as manufacturing such as in the textile industry.

With children being homeschooled and heightened care needs for older people, there is also an increasing amount of unpaid care work which is disproportionately carried out by women. (Even before the pandemic, most women-owned businesses were on average smaller and had less capital than those owned by men – which results in limited resilience to the economic hit created by the pandemic.)

Data analyzed by the COVID-19 Gender and Development Initiative suggests that in every region of the world women are more likely to have been forced to close their businesses because of the pandemic.

Recent research by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, based on responses from 125 women entrepreneurs in 32 low- and middle-income countries, provides critical insights into women entrepreneurs’ experiences and challenges in 2020.

Most women entrepreneurs responding to the survey reported that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their businesses, and nearly four in ten responded that their business may have to close as a result.

Over a third of these women reported they would struggle to afford necessities like food if their business closed down, and almost half of them reported that they have lost out on formal financial investment opportunities due to the pandemic.

With regard to the type of support required, a UNIDO survey1 on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on women and youth entrepreneurs in the manufacturing sector and manufacturing-related services recorded responses of more than 1100 entrepreneurs (759 of them women) from 34 countries.

It showed that access to finance, customer retention, market diversification and product development are the areas where women entrepreneurs need the most assistance to recover from the economic repercussions of the pandemic. Also, women entrepreneurs indicated more need for support than men entrepreneurs, again suggesting that the pandemic has had a disproportionately negative impact.

Investing in women entrepreneurs critical

The playing field for women entrepreneurs already needed levelling before the pandemic. The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2021 report shows that laws and restrictions continue to prevent women from entering the workforce and starting businesses.

Around the world, women still have only three-quarters of the legal rights afforded to men on average.2 Women entrepreneurs are also less likely to have access to human, financial and social capital, and globally, only one in three businesses are owned by women.3

In addition, women are less likely than men to start and operate a business, both in OECD4 and low- and middle-income countries5.

While investing in women entrepreneurs is first and foremost a critical issue of economic justice and women’s rights, there is also a strong economic incentive. Joint research by the Boston Consulting Group and the Cherie Blair Foundation from 2019 found that if women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, global GDP could rise by 3-6%, boosting the global economy by USD 2.5-5 trillion.

Unlocking the untapped potential of women entrepreneurs to boost the world economy should therefore be a priority in the post-pandemic recovery.

Time to step up commitments to support women entrepreneurs

Gender-neutral macroeconomic policies and recovery packages will not reach those most in need. In fact, they continue to reinforce existing gender inequalities and contribute to the discrimination against women in economic participation and entrepreneurship. This will leave women – and their families, communities and wider societies – worse off.

Since the Leaders Declaration of the G7 Summit of 7-8 June 2015 identified women’s entrepreneurship as a key driver of innovation, growth and jobs, and respective commitments were formulated in the G7 Roadmap for a Gender-Responsive Economic Environment in 2017, successive G7 Presidencies have continued to advance this cause.

The meeting in Cornwall is an opportune moment to further strengthen these commitments and adopt concrete measures for a green economic recovery that empowers women and benefits all. Both national policies and international cooperation should prioritize building more gender-responsive, just and resilient economies, with policies and fiscal packages that address deeply-ingrained inequalities.

In particular, we call on leaders at the upcoming G7 Summit to ensure that post-COVID-19 recovery efforts and fiscal packages support sectors where women are strongly represented and that have been hit hard by the pandemic, such as hospitality and tourism, manufacturing, retail, health and social care. We need concrete budgetary commitments. In addition, measures need to be put in place so that women entrepreneurs have equal access to market opportunities, such as through public procurement, as well as access to finance.

Yet, even these actions will not be enough if structural inequalities persist and discriminatory social norms and legal barriers are not tackled through transformative policies. There is a further need to ensure more gender-targeted and universal social protection mechanisms which are missing in so many countries around the world, and to ensure that macroeconomic policies recognize and address the gender inequalities in unpaid care and other domestic responsibilities.

It is also essential that the voices of women entrepreneurs and their organizations are heard by the international community, including the G7, and that women entrepreneurs are involved in any policy negotiations seeking to ‘build back better’.

Today, women make up only 24% of governmental COVID-19 task forces globally,6 thus creating the risk of perpetuating gender inequalities and leaving women’s needs unattended.7

The international community faces a unique opportunity to shape a post-COVID-19 economy to which women and men have equal access and can equally contribute to through their businesses. Our organizations stand ready to collaborate on this endeavour.

1 UNIDO, “Assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on women and youth entrepreneurs in the manufacturing sector and manufacturing-related services”, 2020.
2 World Bank ‘Women, Business and the Law 2021’, 2021
3 World Bank Enterprise Surveys. Retrieved from The World Bank Gender Data Portal: Share of small, medium, and large firms with a woman among the principal owners (%), latest data available for 2019
4 OECD (2019). The Missing Entrepreneurs 2019 – Policies for Inclusive Entrepreneurship.
5 World Bank Enterprise Surveys, World Bank Data Portal, as presented in the World Bank Blog of Daniel Halim (5 March 2020): Women entrepreneurs needed—stat!
6COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker”, UNDP
7 Further reading: “Vienna Discussion Forum 2020 – The future is gender-inclusive: Global responses in crisis management and recovery”, 27 November 2020, UNIDO.

Fatou Haidara is Managing Director, Directorate of Corporate Management and Operations, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); Helen McEachern is Chief Executive Officer, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

 


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Excerpt:

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on women and girls, and the fallout has shown how deeply gender inequality remains embedded in the world’s political, social and economic systems, says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Categories: Africa

Paltry International Support for Spending Needs Sets South Further Back

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 07:06

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 8 2021 (IPS)

With the pandemic setting back past, modest and uneven progress, huge disparities in containing COVID-19 and financing government efforts are widening the North-South gap and other inequalities once again.

Developing country pandemic
Developing countries are struggling to cope with their generally feeble health systems. These had been weakened by funding cuts and privatisation policies prescribed by both Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs): the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has become a “developing-country pandemic”.

Anis Chowdhury

Developing countries – especially lower middle-income countries (MICs) and low-income countries (LICs) unable to afford diagnostic tests, personal protective and other equipment, medical treatments and vaccines – now account for much more and still fast rising shares of worldwide deaths and infections.

With grossly uneven vaccination, death and infection rates in high-income countries (HICs) have dropped as LIC and MIC (LMIC) shares have spiked. The Economist estimates much higher mortality rates in developing countries than suggested by official data: 12 times more in LMICs, and 35 times greater in LICs!

Greater global divergence
The COVID-19 pandemic and policy responses have further set back Agenda 2030 for global sustainable development. UNCTAD estimates developing country output fell by 2.1% in 2020. To make matters worse, progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was poor even before the pandemic.

The world now faces greater divergence, as developing countries fall further behind due to the pandemic and disparate responses to it. The IMF management proposes US$50bn can accelerate vaccination to end the pandemic worldwide, with benefits worth US$9 trillion!

The IMF estimates average LIC growth declined sharply to 0.3% in 2020 from over 5% in the previous three years. It also projects 33 developing countries – including 15 in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and nine small island developing states – will still have lower per capita incomes in 2026 than in 2019.

Constrained fiscal space
Most developing countries faced constrained ‘fiscal space’ even before the pandemic. The average tax/GDP ratio in 2018 was 12% in lower MICs and 13% in LMICs, compared to 25% in developed countries.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Developing countries’ poorer fiscal means are often due to weaker revenue collection, lower incomes and larger informal sectors. They also lose between US$49bn and US$194bn yearly to illicit transfers, e.g., to corporations’ ‘trade mis-invoicing’ or ‘transfer pricing’.

Africa loses about US$89bn, around 3.7% of African output, to illicit capital flight yearly. This revenue loss is almost equivalent to the total inflow of official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment African countries received during 2013-2015.

Developing countries are typically caught in harmful tax competition in a ‘race to the bottom’ following ‘neoliberal’ advice from the BWIs and others. Thus, statutory corporate tax rates declined from 39% in MICs and 46% in LICs in 1990 to 24% and 29% in 2019 respectively.

From frying pan into fire
Developing countries have long faced limited fiscal capacity and policy space or choice, worsened by decades of neoliberal policy conditionalities and advice. Donors and the BWIs have also urged LMICs to borrow from international capital markets rather than official sources.

Meanwhile, ODA increasingly supports private businesses. Such new mechanisms, e.g., ‘blended finance’, promised to turn aid ‘billions into trillions’ of private finance for Agenda 2030. The promise has failed spectacularly, depriving countries relying on declining ODA while advancing the interests of private finance.

Thus, LMIC debt surged before the pandemic. Total (public and private) debt reached over 170% of emerging market and developing economies’ output and 65% of LIC GDP in 2019. The increase in EMEs involved almost equal shares of both external and domestic debt.

This bad situation has worsened – with less tax revenue, reduced exports and ODA cuts – due to the pandemic as government spending needs rise sharply. In April 2020, UNCTAD called for US$1tn in debt relief of developing country obligations – estimated at between US$2.6tn and US$3.4tn in 2020 and 2021.

Donor support unlikely
However, rich countries, especially G20 members, have responded frugally to this call, while private commercial lenders have rejected all debt relief initiatives so far. This poor country predicament has been worsened by World Bank refusal to supplement IMF debt service cancellation for the most vulnerable LICs.

Meanwhile, ODA has remained below half the donor aid commitment, made half a century ago, of 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI). The aggregate ODA/GNI ratio fell from 0.31% in 2017 to 0.29% in 2019.

The IMF estimates LICs need around US$200bn for relief and recovery up to 2025, and another US$250bn to resume development progress. It projects another US$100bn will be enough to cover ‘downside risks’, e.g., due to delayed vaccination and more lockdown measures.

However, some major donors have already cut their already modest aid budget allocations. Meanwhile, no rich country has yet pledged to transfer its unused new IMF special drawing rights (SDRs) to provide more recovery finance for developing countries through the 15 designated multilateral financial institutions which can so use SDRs.

Financing relief, recovery, reform
Fiscal measures of around US$16tn have already been rolled out globally, with HICs accounting for more than 80%. In contrast, fearing the macroeconomic consequences of borrowing and spending much more, developing countries have committed much less.

While developed countries have deployed 28% of their much higher national incomes, the ratios are only 7% for EMEs, 3% for SSA and 2% for LICs. Besides urgently containing the pandemic and its consequences, developing countries must quickly, effectively and adequately finance relief and recovery from COVID-19 recessions.

Cooperative efforts to secure much more tests, equipment, treatments and vaccines must be quickly stepped up. Meanwhile, the UN system, including the BWIs, needs to urgently expand developing countries’ means to finance measures to ‘build forward better’.

 


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Categories: Africa

Ethiopian elections 2021: Fact-checking Abiy's record

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Categories: Africa

TB Joshua: The Nigerian outsider who became a global televangelist star

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/08/2021 - 03:29
TB Joshua, who has died aged 57, was one of Africa's most influential preachers.
Categories: Africa

Kelvin Odenigbo: Nigerian footballer's drowning in Belarus an accident says club

BBC Africa - Mon, 06/07/2021 - 17:38
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Categories: Africa

Death toll of Burkina Faso Attack Reaches 160

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 06/07/2021 - 15:28

Members of civilian militias gather in Zagtouli for a rally. Credit: Henry Wilkins

By Henry Wilkins
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, Jun 7 2021 (IPS)

On the night of Friday 4th June, a group of unidentified armed men stormed the village of Solhan in the north of Burkina Faso, shooting indiscriminately, looting the market and burning homes. A report by RFI, the French radio station said there could have been as many as 200 attackers by some accounts of survivors.

Security sources confirmed children were targeted, with 7 minors killed according to official figures. Now, the total number of dead stands at, at least 160 – a massacre.

The extent of the carnage is still unknown as figures for the dead and injured continue to rise. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Heni Nsaibia, a senior analyst at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, pointed out, “The massacre in Solhan is the single deadliest attack recorded in Burkina Faso. The only comparable event at this scale was the massacre in Yirgou, in January 2019.”

The attack marks a recent surge in violence after a period of declining attacks from March 2021, in part brought on by negotiations between the government and the armed groups which have plagued Burkina Faso since 2015.

The government of Burkina Faso has been battling armed groups including Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), Al Qaeda’s local affiliate, with assistance from French and US troops, but is struggling to contain the violence.

On May 17th, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, Cherif Sy visited Sebba, the nearest town to Solhan. He told reporters, “We can say that the situation is favorable and peace has returned to Sebba.”

On Saturday Sebba’s hospital was overwhelmed by victims of the Solhan attacks.

In May, some twitter users complained such rhetoric could lead to a retaliation by terror groups, while others called for Sy’s resignation on Sunday. Analysts said the attack was a demonstration of force by terror groups.

IDPs travelling with their possessions along the road from Barsalogho to Kaya. Credit: Henry Wilkins

Lassane Sawadogo, executive secretary of the ruling People’s Movement for Progress Party, admits that more needs to be done to stem the violence. He told IPS, “We are faced with the phenomenon of insecurity which is observed over a large part of our territory. Since then, efforts have been made to overcome this phenomenon. But we must admit that these efforts are not bearing the expected fruits.”

The attack was carefully planned and coordinated. The armed group carried out a simultaneous attack on the nearby army base and placed IEDs on the road between it and Solhan in order to stop security forces responding to the massacre.

Mahamadou Sawadogo is a Burkinabe security analyst and former military police officer. He says the tactics used give clues as to which group carried out the attack. “According to the modus operandi, that could lead us to believe it’s ISGS. But it is an area of influence of JNIM as well,” he told IPS.

Sawadogo says he believes the attack is related to the recruitment of Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland, a civilian militia set up by the government in 2020 to assist the military in operations.

“Through this attack, the other message is that the VDPs have become a targeted group of these terrorist groups. This attack was partly made to discourage the VDPs, so that they do not continue to enlist and help [the military],” Sawadogo said.

Solhan, is also the site of an informal gold mine which terror groups frequently exploit for funding. Large numbers of children frequently work the sites.

On Sunday, fake news of further attacks in the vicinity of Solhan and beyond began to spread on social media and in local media outlets. The military were forced to release a communique to deny the attacks, while the editor of a local radio station owned by Burkina Faso’s foreign minister was sacked for disseminating fake news.

Apart from a statement on Twitter, the president, Roch Kabore, is yet to speak publicly about the attack. Three days of public mourning have been declared.

The humanitarian fallout from the attack is also likely to be significant, causing displacement of families fleeing the violence. 1.2 million people are already displaced in Burkina Faso.

A statement by the Norweigan Refugee Council said, “While each attack is measured by its death toll, there are more elusive counts to keep: the number of families forced into hurried escapes, or the number of weeks, months and years they will spend away from home. And let’s not forget what can’t be quantified at all: the trauma of children witnessing such horrifying violence.”

As three days of national mourning was declared, the streets of Ouagadougou took on a somber atmosphere. Citizens gave prayers for the families of the victims, but will no doubt be wondering what happens next as security continues to deteriorate.

 


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Categories: Africa

Is the UN Fighting a Losing Battle Against World’s Corrupt Leaders?

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 06/07/2021 - 14:48

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 7 2021 (IPS)

A hilarious anecdote, recounted in the New York Times years ago, related to the widespread corruption embedded in the political culture of a Southeast Asian country where crooked politicians were willing to provide receipts every time they received a bribe—big time bribes.

And in Africa, the late Mobutu Sese Seko, president of former Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), was often described as one of “the world’s most corrupt leaders”.

Asked at a press conference whether he was the world’s second wealthiest political leader, a seemingly outraged Mobutu shouted back: “It’s a lie. It’s a lie,” and then added with a straight face, “I am only the fourth richest.”

In an October 1991 report, the Washington Post quoted Mobutu as laying down one of the basic principles of corruption: “If you want to steal, steal a little cleverly, in a nice way. Only if you steal so much as to become rich overnight, you will be caught.”

A former UN Secretary-General, the outspoken Kofi Annan of Ghana, once said that “billions of dollars of public funds continue to be stashed away by some African leaders — even while roads are crumbling, health systems are failing, school children have neither books nor desks nor teachers, and phones do not work.”

And, when the UN General Assembly held its first-ever, three-day special session against corruption last week (June 2-4)—over 120 were listed as speakers, including multiple foreign ministers, three deputy prime ministers and 10 heads of state and government, mostly addressing via video messages to a world body locked down by the pandemic.

But one of the questions posed at the UN’s daily press briefing was subtle but right on target.

Asked what the President of the General Assembly (GA) Volkan Bozkir of Turkey hoped to achieve when “so many Heads of State who talked this morning are corrupt”, his Spokesperson, Brenden Varma, told reporters the President’s goal was always to create a forum where member states could come together –- to discuss topics that mattered to the world and share with each other ideas, best practices and lessons learned”.

The GA President’s ultimate aim, the Spokesperson said, was to move forward in the global fight against corruption and see progress in that regard.

Bozkir told delegates that corruption corrodes public trust, weakens the rule of law, seeds conflict, destabilizes peacebuilding efforts, undermines human rights, impedes progress on gender equality and hinders efforts to achieve the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “It also hits the poor, the marginalized and the most vulnerable the hardest,” he added.

The outcome of the special session is reflected in the text of an action-oriented political declaration adopted by consensus. But history has shown that the fight against corruption is a long-drawn-out losing battle with no end in sight.

In July 2019, Transparency International compiled a list of 25 of “the biggest corruption scandals that shook the world and inspired widespread public condemnation, toppled governments and sent people to prison”—extending from Azerbaijan to Peru and from Nigeria to Equatorial Guinea.

These scandals involved “politicians across political parties and from the highest reaches of government, staggering amounts of bribes and money laundering of epic proportions,” Transparency International said.

The degree of corruption– both in the developing and the industrialized world—is so vast, particularly among politicians and heads of government, that a cynic might be right in declaring: if there is no corruption, there would be no politicians.

In the industrialized world, bribery is euphemistically called “kickbacks”, mostly on multi-million-dollar deals, largely for commercial aircraft and weapons systems.

According to one published report, some of the world’s most corrupt leaders included: Sani Abacha (Nigeria); Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire); Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines) and Suharto (Indonesia).

In a televised debate on the New York city Mayoral elections last week, one candidate publicly reminded one of his rivals of multiple corruption charges he had once faced.

“We all know that you’ve been investigated for corruption everywhere you’ve gone— in a trifecta of corruption investigations. Is that what we really want in the next Mayor?”

The UN, which says that corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust, welcomed the new anti-corruption network, as ‘important step’ to build trust, promote justice. Credit: UN News/Daniel Dickinson

Mandeep S. Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, told IPS it’s great that the General Assembly organised a session on fighting corruption which is major scourge on our societies and a driver of inequality.

However, any meaningful debate on corruption would be incomplete without an interrogation of how the present emphasis on market-oriented policies is creating avenues for corruption on a grand scale by enabling the siphoning off of public resources to private companies, he argued.

As part of the dominant market discourse, he pointed out, states are being encouraged to retreat from public services and cede space to profit driven private entities.

“A lot of corruption thereby emanates from inappropriate awards of government tenders to cronies of political elites and the so-called incentivizing of certain businesses through backroom deals on tax breaks and privileged concessions to certain politically connected businesses,” he noted.

“Illicit financial flows and money laundering are all part of the mix and need to be addressed through emphasis on transparency and accountability supported by vibrant civil societies and media watchdogs”, Tiwana said.

Addressing delegates last week, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, and current President of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said corruption, which leads to massive outflows of illicit finance, is among the main reasons for the economic underperformance of developing countries and for rising inequalities across the world.

Stressing that corruption stifles opportunities for the poor, while condemning them to a life of misery and inequity, he said an estimated $2.6 trillion — or 5 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) — is lost annually to such behaviour.

Developing countries lose $1.26 trillion — nine times all official development assistance (ODA), he noted.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told delegates the administration of President Joe Biden is committed to taking special aim at corruption.

And that starts with building on the U.S. government’s existing anti-corruption tools, obligations, and commitments, including steps to vigorously enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which strengthens business environments around the world by prohibiting U.S. persons from bribing foreign officials.

It also means strengthening the U.S. Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, she said.

Since 2019 alone, U.S. asset recovery efforts have led to the transfer of more than $1.5 billion to countries harmed by corruption, she added.

Tiwana of CIVICUS said a debate on corruption should logically include focus on creating enabling environments for civil society organisations and independent media entities to shine a spotlight on corrupt practices and collusion between political and economic elites.

“Our research at CIVICUS shows that 87 per cent of the world’s population live in countries with serious restrictions on the civic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression”.

He said civil society activists and journalists are being attacked on a colossal scale across the globe.

“If governments in the Global North and South are truly serious about tackling corruption, they should take action on reversing civic space restrictions and ending persecution of activists and journalists,” he declared.

In a joint statement released last week the G7 ministers (of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, US, and the High Representative of the European Union), said they recognize that corruption is a pressing global challenge.

As the UN Convention against Corruption notes, corruption threatens the stability and security of societies, undermining the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice, and jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law.

The ministers said corruption presents serious threats for individuals and societies and often enables other forms of crime, including organized crime and economic crime, including money laundering. These threats have been heightened by COVID-19.

“As the world continues to recover, it is critical that we do not let corruption threaten our efforts to build back better and address global challenges especially the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals”.

“We are looking forward to the G7 ministerial meeting in September this year, where there will be a discussion on our joint efforts to address corruption”, the ministers declared.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the creation of the Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities – or GlobE Network – as a step in the right direction.

He said the Network will enable law enforcement authorities to navigate legal processes through informal cooperation across borders, helping to build trust and bring those guilty of corruption to justice.

*This article contains extracts from a newly-released book on the United Nations titled “No Comment – and Don’t Quote Me on That.” Authored by Thalif Deen, Senior Editor, Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, the book is peppered with scores of anecdotes– from the serious to the hilarious– and is available on Amazon worldwide and at bookshops in Sri Lanka. The links follow: https://www.rodericgrigson.com/no-comment-by-thalif-deen/ https://www.vijithayapa.com/

 


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Categories: Africa

Why We Need More Women in Power

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 06/07/2021 - 12:23

Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim

By Sania Farooqui
NEW DELHI, India, Jun 7 2021 (IPS)

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the words, women and power? The accepted wisdom is that women can be powerful, but not without the constant reference to their gender – which is often based on a set of unconscious biases towards them. Is she competent enough, effective, articulate without being too assertive or too aggressive. Is she a straightjacket, is she too emotional, will her family life impact her work or vice versa. Is she smart enough to camouflage her intelligence, is she ready for a key position, is it worth making her powerful?

Across the world we do see powerful women, but ‘women in power’, remain significantly underrepresented across a variety of professional fields, in business, academic, politics and media. The goal is to challenge the perception of fixed gender roles, which is often internalized.

“We need more women in power,” says Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, 6th and First Female President of Mauritius and Biodiversity Scientist in an interview given to me.

“We need women in political positions because when an important decision is taken it is usually bent towards better equity in the family and society. This can happen when women are there and that’s why we make a case for women to be in that position of power,” says Dr. Gurib-Fakim.

During the recent Covid-19 crisis, multiple reports and studies stated that women were doing a better job in running their country through the crisis, including the number of cases and deaths, which were systematically better in countries led by women.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) calls for women’s equal participation and leadership in political and public life which it states as an essential to achieving the SDG goals by 2030.

However, according to this report by UN Women, women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 22 countries, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader. Just 10 countries have a woman Head of State, and 13 countries have a woman Head of Government. Data from 133 countries shows that women constitute 2.18 million (36 percent) of elected members in local deliberative bodies. “At the current rate of progress, gender parity in national legislative bodies will not be achieved before 2063,” the report states.

It has been 26 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, called the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. 189 governments committed to the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights, including women in power and decision-making, women and the economy and women and poverty.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Progress towards equal power and equal rights for women remains elusive.” Women need to have a more prominent role, in power and decision-making, states this report by the United Nations.

In one of my earlier pieces for IPS News, I wrote, power is the ability to influence the behaviour of others to get what you want. Power distribution is usually visible in most societies when there is a clear and obvious division between the roles of the men and expectations from women.

The power construct is often created keeping the roles of the men in mind, and not women. Studies have shown and proven the potential of women and their leadership style, yet despite that women are still minority groups when it comes to holding powerful positions. Men are often hired or placed in top positions based on their potential, and women based on a check list. Constituents don’t trust female politicians that are too “ambitious,” and powerful women are “unlikeable,” a few explanations for the astounding gender gap we see in politics.

This study by the Council on Foreign Relations states that “holding political office is just the first step to wielding political power, in many countries, institutional structures and political systems still limit women’s ability to influence policy. Being the first woman elected to a leadership position often means navigating previously male-dominated structures, which can translate into political caution rather than policy change. Regardless of outcome, as the number of women leaders increases, more women will likely be inspired to become politically engaged.”

Looking into women’s participation in political and public life – there are multiple barriers that hold them back, including cultural biases and traditional gender stereotypes. Gender inequality lives and breathes in the 21st century, and needs to be addressed in order to get more women in politics or in positions of power.

“The political arena is very brutal and women, very often, don’t have self-confidence. Society puts a lot of pressure on women and they tend to conform. By conforming, they do themselves a very big injustice and do not take the risk,” says Dr. Gurib-Fakim.

Dr. Gurib-Fakim has been amongst the few Muslim women who shattered multiple glass ceilings and challenged stereotypes by becoming the first woman to serve as president of Mauritius and one of only four women presidents in Africa. Along with this, Dr. Ameenah is also a scientist who has been a dedicated advocate for engaging women and girls in STEM innovation.

Nothing is more powerful than your influence when it is led by purpose. As seen in the case of Dr. Ameenah, it takes a lot of grit, resilience, courage and responsibility to be a ‘woman in power’. “We don’t provide sufficient role models for women who have made it as an entrepreneur, scientist, even as a Nobel prize winner. There are a lot of stereotypes that need to be addressed.”

“For me, the journey all the way through the Statehouse was a message to that girl growing up in my village. That she can wake up one day and say I too can make it because someone else has done it through hard work and through taking risks. Women have to dream big and they have to sustain the vision, goal and passion,” said Dr. Gurib-Fakim.

The author is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The Sania Farooqui Show where Muslim women from around the world are invited to share their views.

 


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Categories: Africa

African Athletics Championships: 'Delays will hit athletes chances of qualifying for Olympics'

BBC Africa - Mon, 06/07/2021 - 12:17
Botswana's Isaac Makwala says delays to the African Athletics Championships will leave many athletes struggling to qualify for the Olympics.
Categories: Africa

The Ocean’s Silent Killer: Breaking Down Overfishing

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 06/07/2021 - 11:54

The UN commemorates World Oceans Day on Tuesday June 8. And on June 5, the UN commemorated the International Day for the “Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing”. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities represent up to 26 million tonnes of fish caught annually. Credit: Creative Common License C00

By Coty Perry
SCRANTON, USA, Jun 7 2021 (IPS)

You don’t have to look too hard to find some news network or media outlet talking about water pollution, plastic waste, CO2 emissions, and climate change.

Yes, of course, our plastic bottles are blowing into the ocean and it’s all our fault. We need to start using paper straws and paper cups because we’re to blame for our polluted and uninhabitable waters.

The reason you see and hear about these factors all the time is because it puts it on your back. Media tells you, it’s your fault, you need to do better, you need to make a change.

While I sit here casting my ultralight spinning reel, they’re pumping billions of dollars down the throats of commercial fishermen all over the world.

The biggest threat to our oceans is the very people put in place to protect them. It’s believed that globally, more than $30 billion goes to the commercial fishing industry per year.

This money is intended to offset the costs of operating their megaships and paying their deckhands in an industry that has been hit hard by climate change and regulation.

But, what does that money actually do? It supports overfishing by giving the large ships the ability to outfish the little guy. The offshore communities that rely on fish for commerce and food can’t keep up with the mega ships that have advanced technology, massive trawling nets, and a team of 25 people aboard.

Some might say that this is just a natural reaction to the need for more fish. We’re consuming nearly twice as many fish as we were 50 years ago, so it’s classic supply and demand paired with the dog eat dog nature of commercial fishing.

I say that it’s not all about the fishing and even the communities that rely on it, it’s about the quality of our oceans and the impact overfishing has on them. The reason you don’t hear about these types of things is because it’s the governments of the world fanning the flames behind the scenes.

More than 60% of the world’s fish stocks are fished out of existence. That’s 60% of our fish population, completely gone, never to return. How can you recover from something like that? Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

That said, while I have spoken primarily of the United States as the main offender, they pale in comparison to the People’s Republic of China. China is above and beyond the biggest culprit of overfishing in the East and the West.

Many times, overfishing, water pollution, and plastic waste are all seen as a lapse of judgment or a “miscalculation.”

This isn’t the case with China. They’re not simply failing to control their fishermen, they’re promoting overfishing and spending an astronomical sum of money to make it happen. In fact, in 2018, they spent $7.2 billion to support the crime of overfishing. This country alone makes up 21% of the entire world’s subsidies.

This country and many others are fishing at biologically unsustainable levels. Take the Pacific bluefin tuna for example. This species alone has seen a 97% drop in population. You’re probably thinking, “who cares if that tuna population dies off, what’s the big deal”?

It’s not just about the fish population, it’s about the landscape of the sea as a whole. Overfishing causes a ripple effect that impacts not only the water but everyone who feeds off the water.

China has as many as 800,000 fishing vessels fishing illegally all over the world. Who is likely fishing on these ships? I doubt they’re paying living wages and providing comfortable conditions and accommodations for the people onboard.

They’re likely living in extremely cramped quarters, being fed the bare minimum, and forced to work around the clock for next to no money.

But I digress, it’s not all about China and it’s not all about the United States either. It’s not all about politics and not everyone is out to fish the waters into extinction. In many cases, it’s policy and procedure. There are additional specific reasons behind overfishing:

Regulation – Many countries including the United States have regulations in place to prevent overfishing. The problem is, these regulations are loosely put together and don’t apply across international borders so other countries can come into our water and fish however they please. Even with the regulations, the agencies put in place to enforce them don’t have the time, money, or resources to do so.

Unreported Fishing – Fishing is not an easy industry and it gets more and more difficult for commercial fishermen to make a living. As a result, they do what I would probably do as well. They fudge the numbers and cook the books to turn a profit. This happens most frequently in developing nations and among small fishing communities.

Mobile Processing – A large portion of fish go in a can to be preserved and shelved for years. This process actually happens at sea which means that the fish will never even see land. It’s difficult for enforcement agencies to identify the amount of fish caught because of this process.

So, what are the solutions or alternatives? What can be done to stop overfishing so we can save marine life from extinction? Awareness comes at a premium when the media controls everything you see and hear.

The good news is that there are plenty of organizations out there putting technology in place to help combat overfishing. Fishtek Marine is a great example of this. Bycatch is a huge issue as well which happens when fish and sea mammals are caught in giant mile long trawling nets that commercial fishermen use to save time and money.

Dolphins, seals, and other creatures get caught in the net and many of them will die trying to get out.

Fishtek created a small device that is placed in fishing nets. The device emits a sound that only larger sea mammals can hear so it deters them from swimming near the nets. This is such a simple concept with the potential to make a tremendous difference.

Shared catch is a strategy with potential. The way fishing seasons are structured now promotes rushing and corruption because it’s like an all you can eat buffet for a certain amount of months.

Instead, putting catch limits in place and sharing the water based on seasonal fishing will provide more structure while limiting the need to chase as many fish as possible in a short amount of time.

An American/British Columbian study focused on this and noted that shared catch actually increased the total catch while reducing bycatch by 66%. This will reduce the amount of waste and even though fishermen are catching more fish, it won’t have an adverse effect on the ocean.

There are many opinions in the overfishing debate and with more than three billion people relying on fish as their primary protein source, it’s a discussion we need to have. No one country is to blame and no specific agency is to blame but awareness is key. We need to do something before it’s too late.

The best way to solve the problem is by getting as many people as possible talking about it.

Coty Perry is Editor-In-Chief of YourBassGuy.com. As a third-generation angler, he has a plethora of knowledge and experience on the water, and loves sharing what he knows.
https://yourbassguy.com/author/coty/

 


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Categories: Africa

India’s COVID-19 Vaccine Drive Is Excluding Millions of Citizens

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 06/07/2021 - 11:41

An SOP to vaccinate vulnerable groups without access to any kind of ID card is a much needed step, and one in the right direction. | Picture courtesy: Flickr

By External Source
MUMBAI, India, Jun 7 2021 (IPS)

In May, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) uploaded a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) related to ‘COVID-19 Vaccination of Persons without prescribed Identity Cards through CoWIN’ on its website.

The SOP reiterates that the recipient of the vaccine must register on the Co-WIN portal and that the vaccinator must verify the recipient with one of seven prescribed photo identity cards:

  • Aadhaar card
  • Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC)–Voter ID
  • Passport
  • Driving License
  • PAN Card
  • National Population Register (NPR) Smart Card
  • Pension document with photograph

This article aims to unpack the SOP, and argues how the government’s efforts, though a step in the right direction, are grossly inadequate to help the most vulnerable.

Key issues with the clauses outlined in the document:

 

Vulnerable populations seem to be an afterthought, at best

The system of vaccination assumes universal access to the internet, smartphones, Aadhaar, OTP, English, and digital literacy. The reality is that in 2020, smartphone penetration rate in India was only around 42 percent, while the internet was accessible to 45 percent

According to the 2011 Census, India has 400,000 houseless families, and 17,73,040 homeless people. Civil society estimates that this number could be much higher, as high as 3,000,000. While the SOP does identify certain vulnerable groups such as ‘nomads, prison inmates, inmates in mental health institutions, citizens in old age homes, roadside beggars, people residing in rehabilitation centres, or camps’ (sic), it does not set any date or timeline for its operations to help these populations, which is intriguing, given the current threat of the pandemic and the extent of vulnerability of the identified groups.1

Doing so sets the narrative that these groups are often an afterthought, which was evident even earlier when 16 states that account for 40 percent of the total homeless, did not feature that in their relief circulars last year during the lockdown.

While the SOP acknowledges that it received several representations from various state and governments and organisations, the timing of the release of the SOP leaves much to be desired. As of May 25th, 2021, there are more than 2,500,000 active cases in the country.

 

The scale of exclusion must not be ignored

Even going by the 2011 Census figures, which are a decade old and have a net omission rate of 2.3 percent, 0.15 percent of the country’s population are categorised as homeless. In addition, it is estimated that there are more than 11 million street children and about half a million transpeople in India. In all, considering the estimated population growth trajectory, today we could be talking about people in excess of 31 million,2 if not more, who do not exist in the government registers.

Just to get a sense of that number, let’s consider this: One hundred and forty-nine countries in the world have a population which is less than 31 million. That is the size of the population missing from our radar today, and this includes semi-nomadic tribes, de-notified groups, transpersons, and migrants, among others. Imagine the significance of this omission in the context of COVID-19.

There is little clarity on the ID cards too. Of the seven photo IDs prescribed for the Co-WIN registration and vaccination, Aadhaar is comfortably the most ubiquitous. As of February 2020, the government said that more than 90.1 percent of the country had been issued Aadhaar cards. However, the State of Aadhaar 2019 report said that among the homeless, the percentage of people not having Aadhaar is as high as 30 percent. There is no clarity as to how the rest are supposed to access vaccines.

 

No clear budgetary allocations

While there are some provisions in the SOP for people without the prescribed ID cards, the document falls short on many levels; importantly, there are no budgetary allocations for the tasks outlined. For instance, according to the SOP, a District Task Force should identify vulnerable groups locally, so they may be vaccinated even without having any of the seven prescribed cards. However, there are no mentions of any budgetary allocation for this process.

This leads to questions such as: Who will take up the task of identifying these groups? How and when will this be done? How will the exercise of identifying, mobilising, and ensuring vaccination for people without ID cards, be carried out without the allocation of any monetary resources? Where will this sit among the priorities of state governments needing to carry out vaccinations for all their people?

Perhaps most strangely, the SOP is completely silent on follow-ups that need to be done with the ‘cohort’—a term used in the SOP but not defined—that are essential to ensure both rounds of the vaccination process are conducted. Given the risk of forced displacement due to their homelessness, how will the District Task Force ensure full vaccination for all people without ID cards?

 

The Co-WIN System

The decision of the government to centralise vaccine registration on a single portal has received enough criticism already. The process of booking a vaccine slot has become as difficult as winning a lottery; the Ministry should be taking all efforts to simplify this process.

The details about the creation of additional features on Co-WIN is shrouded in technical legalese (‘subject to the limit of session capacity’) and makes no commitments on timeline of delivery.

The system of vaccination assumes universal access to the internet, smartphones, Aadhaar, OTP, English, and digital literacy. The reality is that in 2020, smartphone penetration rate in India was only around 42 percent, while the internet was accessible to 45 percent.

The Co-WIN portal was launched in January 2021, to coincide with the rollout of the vaccine. However, it is only now in May, that the Ministry seems to have woken up to the idea of making the portal accessible in other Indian languages.

The last bullet point of this section of the SOP reads like a cruel joke. It says digital vaccination certificates will be provided to recipients, preferably at the vaccination centre itself. The Ministry might do well to recognise that if people had the capacity to receive digital certificates on smartphones, they probably wouldn’t need to be beneficiaries of this SOP in the first place.

An SOP to vaccinate vulnerable groups without access to any kind of ID cards is a much-needed step, and one in the right direction. However, the manner in which it has been conceptualised makes it seem more like a half-step than a full one. It attempts to locate the recipients but not the context in which they live in society; it urges them to get vaccinated but does not make any firm commitments; it delegates responsibility but does not accept any accountability. The social sector also seems to be completely consumed by the prevailing medical narratives, ie, lack of oxygen, ventilators, plasma, and so on. It is sadly yet to articulate the concerns of those on the margins. ­­

Footnotes:

  1. In West Bengal, the government has decided to vaccinate groups that are “forcibly exposed to public mingling” on a priority basis. This includes transgender people and sex workers. While this a welcome move, it still leaves a significant proportion of the homeless and the vulnerable out of this exercise.
  2. In 2011, 2.3 percent was the net omission rate of the Census. Assuming the same omission rate if Census happened in 2021, the number of unenumerated people would amount to at least 31 million.

 

 

Raghunandan Hegde works with Apnalaya as the director of impact. With more than a decade and a half of experience across programme strategy, operations, and monitoring and evaluation, Raghu’s current interest lies at the intersection of technology and social justice, and it’s potential to challenge structural inequity.

Arun Kumar has worked with social purpose organisations for more than two decades. Through the lens of social justice and non-violence, Arun has engaged with issues of marginalisation, both, in urban and rural spaces. He develops programmes and strengthens organisations invested in holistic development of communities on the margins. A student of Historical-Sociology, Arun obtained his doctorate from Binghamton University, USA; has authored three books and several articles. He writes stories for children and poems for adults, and makes documentary films.

 

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

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