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Mass wedding for Nigeria orphans sparks outcry

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 18:31
Nigeria's women's minister says she has filed a court order to stop the ceremony planned for next week.
Categories: Africa

Bekele & Kipchoge - will Paris 2024 be final showdown?

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 14:17
Kenenisa Bekele will face fellow all-time great Eliud Kipchoge at the Olympics, 21 years on from their first meeting in a final.
Categories: Africa

Israel accuses South Africa of false claims at ICJ

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 12:27
Israel's lawyers push back against South Africa, which is trying to get its Rafah offensive stopped.
Categories: Africa

Ndou 'shares Mandela's dream' in fight for SA office

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 11:17
Former boxing world champion Lovemore Ndou compares himself to Nelson Mandela before he runs for election in South Africa.
Categories: Africa

What did ICJ ruling mean in South Africa's genocide case against Israel?

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 10:58
The ICJ ruling has come under intense scrutiny, centring on the word "plausible". What did the court mean?
Categories: Africa

Rising Temperatures Drive Human-Wildlife Conflict in Zimbabwe

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 10:05

Dry conditions and extreme heat are changing natural wildlife habitat and behavior. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, May 17 2024 (IPS)

Rising temperatures are being blamed for an increase in human-wildlife conflicts in Zimbabwe as animals such as snakes leave their natural habitat earlier than usual.

High temperatures have also given rise to early fire seasons, driving wild animals into human-populated areas, authorities say, placing the lives of many in danger in a country with already compromised health services.

This is also happening at a time when agencies such as the World Health Organization are highlighting the link between climate change and health and calling for increased research.

Globally, unprecedented high temperatures are being blamed for devastating wildfires, and low income African countries such as Zimbabwe that are bearing the brunt of climate change have not been spared.

At the beginning of the year, Zimbabwe’s health ministry reported a spike in the number of snake bites as snakes moved into areas inhabited by humans.

Residents witnessing the upsurge of snakes within residential areas say this has coincided with extreme heat being experienced across the country, while snake catchers in the country’s cities are also recording booming business.

Wildlife authorities say disappearing natural habitat for wildlife has led to increasing endangerment for humans, while climate researchers have noted a link between rising temperatures and snake attacks.

The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks) says brumation, the period snakes spend in hibernation, has been shortened by extended, unusually high temperatures as snakes move from their hiding places earlier than during normal seasonal temperatures.

Shorter winters and longer days have also become normal in a rapidly changing global climate, researchers note, forcing wildlife to adapt and, in some circumstances, move to human-populated areas.

This has led to a record number of snake bites, says Tinashe Farawo, the parks and wildlife spokesperson.

High temperatures in Zimbabwe are also being blamed for extended fire seasons as dry conditions provide ideal conditions for the spread of veld fires.

And as the veld fires spread, dangerous wildlife such as snakes seek safety elsewhere, further endangering the lives of humans, Zimparks officials say.

Affected communities, however, find themselves in a fix regarding how to deal with this climate driven phenomenon.

It is a punishable offence in Zimbabwe to kill wildlife and protected snake species even when humans feel their lives are threatened, highlighting the impact and complexity of climate change on biodiversity and ecological balance.

“As ecosystems change, people and wildlife roam farther in search of food, water and resources. The issue of human-wildlife conflict in Zimbabwe is increasingly gaining traction,” said Washington Zhakata, climate change management director in the environment ministry.

“Rising temperatures are affecting vegetation, food sources, access to water and much more. Ecosystems are gradually becoming uninhabitable for certain animals, forcing wildlife to migrate outside of their usual patterns in search of food and liveable conditions,” Zhakata told IPS.

Zimbabwe has in recent months registered record high temperatures that have affected everything from crops to people’s health, at a time when global temperatures have also soared, triggering a raft of environmental, social, economic, and health challenges.

Researchers have noted that global warming has over the years disrupted biodiversity, forcing wildlife to move to more habitable regions, and, in the process, upsetting natural ecosystems.

“In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, during periods of drought, people and their livestock are competing with wildlife for diminishing resources,” said Nikhil Advani, senior director of wildlife and climate resilience at the World Wildlife Fund.

Amid the challenges brought by climatic shifts, experts say improved interventions are needed to navigate increasing human-wildlife conflict.

Despite all evidence, least-developed countries such as Zimbabwe have struggled to mobilize and channel resources towards climate management programmes, exposing both humans and wildlife to open conflict.

“There are a number of interventions that can help mitigate human-wildlife conflict, for example, predator-proof bomas (safe areas) and early warning systems for wild animals in the area. One key thing is that communities need to see the benefits of living with wildlife,” Advani said.

While Zimbabwe has the Communal Areas Management for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) aimed at helping address issues such as human-wildlife conflict, broader issues that include the impact of climate change on ecology remain unaddressed, affected communities say.

“Initiatives like eco-tourism are an excellent way for communities to see the benefits of living with wildlife, as long as the tourism ventures have strong inclusion of local communities throughout the value chain,” Advani added.

With climate researchers warning that the globe will continue warming, concerns linger about the long-term impact of climate change on human-wildlife conflict as communities struggle to normalize cohabiting with dangerous animals.

“Already today we face an exponential increase, compared to 30 years ago, in climate and weather-related natural disasters. These disasters are causing catastrophic loss of life and habitat for people, pets, and wildlife,” Zhakata said.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Categories: Africa

Women Organize to Fight Coastal Erosion in Southeastern Brazil

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 09:13

A view of the port of Atafona's fishing boats on the Paraíba do Sul River. The sedimentation of the mouth of the river makes it difficult for larger vessels to enter and they have started to operate in ports in other locations, with additional costs and losses for the economy of Atafona. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ATAFONA, Brazil , May 17 2024 (IPS)

Coastal erosion has been aggravated by climate change and has already destroyed more than 500 houses in the town of Atafona in southeastern Brazil. Movements led largely by women are working to combat the advance of the sea and generate economic alternatives.

Atafona, one of the six districts of São João da Barra, a municipality of 37,000 inhabitants, is 310 kilometers by road northeast of Rio de Janeiro. It is a town with its own identity. Fishermen, who were joined by middle-class families from nearby large cities, built their vacation homes there.

Sonia Ferreira did so in 1980, when she lived in Rio de Janeiro. She moved permanently to Atafona in 1997, when she witnessed the disappearance of the three blocks that separated her house from the beach. In 2008, she saw the town’s tallest building—four stories—collapse across the street from her house.

She has photos recording the downfall of the building that housed a supermarket and a bakery on the first floor and a hotel upstairs. Her house would have been the next victim, but the sea granted her an 11-year grace period. “I will only leave when the wall around the house falls,” she would tell her family when they pressured her to move to a safer place.

Sonia Ferreira, 79, the president of SOS Atafona, stands next to the remains of a four-story building that the sea toppled in 2008. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

But from 2019 to 2022, the sea level started to rise again. “In 2019, the first piece of the wall fell. I fixed up the little house at the back of the lot and moved in, but I kept the big house with the furniture until 2022, when the water reached the house and the floor gave way,” she told IPS at her current home, near her daughter’s house.

“The sea does not hit in overpowering waves, but erodes the sandy soil, infiltrates underneath the buildings, undermines their structures, and the house is basically left hanging in the air,” she described.

In late 2022, she decided to demolish the “big house” in a painful process after sadly seeing the wall fall down in pieces. But then she could not live in the small house in the backyard, which was invaded by a large amount of sand, so she was taken in by her daughter. Widowed, she has two other children who live abroad.

At the age of 79, Sonia Ferreira channels her love for the area as president of SOS Atafona, an association with about 200 active residents, mostly women, who debate and lobby the public authorities for solutions to stop the advance of the sea and other problems in the neighborhood.

Sonia Ferreira stands in front of what was left of her home, which she decided to demolish in 2022 after coastal erosion knocked down its outer walls and washed out the sandy base, leaving just columns. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Fishermen Suffer Climate Injustice

“Fishermen have been hit the hardest,” she said, as vacationers have resources such as other homes.

The original settlers are the main victims of climate injustice in Atafona. The rising sea level and the intensification of the northeast wind not only destroyed their houses but also exacerbated the siltation at the mouth of the Paraíba do Sul River, limiting the access of boats to the fishing port on the river through a narrow channel.

Faced with the difficulties, the larger vessels prefer to deliver their fish to distant ports, some 100 kilometers to the north or south, at the expense of the local economy, lamented Elialdo Mirelles, president of the São João da Barra Fishermen’s Colony.

The president of the São João da Barra Fishing Colony, Elialdo Meirelles, is photographed at the repair port for fishing boats on the Paraiba do Sul River, near its mouth. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Meirelles estimates that about 400 fishing families lost their homes on Convivência Island, which was in the Paraíba do Sul River delta, where the problems began.

Only 200 families were given new houses by the government, while the rest were dispersed or have been living for years with the benefit of “social rent,” a small sum from the municipality to help pay for rental housing.

That is why he believes that the houses engulfed by the sea in the entire area numbered much more than the 500 or so estimated by the city government and that the erosion actually began before the 1960s, which is the time frame indicated by researchers.

Dunes are growing and threatening the streets and coastal housing in a part of Atafona Beach after the sea and sand destroyed more than 500 houses on the beach closest to the mouth of the Paraiba do Sul river. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“I was born on Convivencia Island in 1960, where my grandfather and father lived. My father lost two houses there, I lost two, and two of my brothers lost one each. The northeast wind was the cause,” he said. In 1976, the government began to remove settlers from the island, and the last ones left in the 1990s.

Then many families living in Pontal, the end point of the river’s right bank, also lost their homes. “Five streets were submerged,” he noted. As the island disappeared, that mainland area lost a barrier against the wind, he said."The sea does not hit in overpowering waves, but erodes the sandy soil, infiltrates underneath the buildings, undermines their structures, and the house is basically left hanging in the air." —Sonia Ferreira

Meirelles, who sought a new home away from the shoreline on his own, represents 680 registered fishermen in his entire municipality of São João da Barra, 56 percent of whom are from Atafona.

Causes of coastal erosion

“Climate change definitely aggravated the problem unleashed by several factors, especially human action that reduced the river’s flow,” said Eduardo Bulhões, marine geographer and professor at the Fluminense Federal University.

The main factor was the transfer of water from the Paraiba do Sul river to the Guandu river system, which supplies nine million inhabitants of outlying areas of Rio de Janeiro and was inaugurated in 1954. Since then, there have been expansions that have drastically reduced the flow of water in the river that runs into Atafona.

The river rises near São Paulo and crosses almost the entire state of Rio de Janeiro—in other words, a densely populated area of 1,137 km. Its waters, destined for other cities, industries, and hydroelectric generation, lost the volume and strength to carry sediment to the delta at the mouth as a barrier against the sea.

In addition to engulfing Convivencia Island and many blocks of Atafona, the sea advanced upstream, salinizing many kilometers of water table and affecting the municipality’s water supply.

The collapse of houses due to erosion is also caused by their irregular construction on dunes that have always existed in the town and are growing on part of the beach, said Bulhões.

The northeast wind, which is intensified by climate change and pushes the waters that erode the constructions and the sands that threaten to clog the coastal road and nearby houses, contributes to this, he said.

A solution to coastal erosion depends on studies to identify long-term feasibility and effectiveness, and the city government is preparing terms of reference to contract the studies, reported Marcela Toledo, São João da Barra’s secretary of environment and public services.

Women-led projects

This municipality is also located in an area impacted by oil exploration in the Campos basin, offshore Rio de Janeiro state. Due to environmental requirements, the state-owned oil company Petrobras, the main explorer, is financing the Pescarte Environmental Education Project to mitigate and compensate for these impacts, carried out by the North Fluminense State University (UENF).

In the project, which is focused on fishing as the most affected activity, women constitute the vast majority. The main proposals approved were refrigeration plants, industrial kitchens, fishmeal factories and processing plants, said Geraldo Timoteo, a professor at the UENF and the head of Pescarte.

In the Pescarte team, initially looking at environmental education and now at production, 48 out of a total of 59 employees are women. Of the 14 supervisors, 11 are women.

Fernanda Pires, an activist seeking solutions that add value to fish, runs the Arte Peixe cooperative, which produces eight types of fish and shrimp snacks in Atafona, Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS.

The organization of artisanal fishermen and their families is the central objective of the long-term (2014–2035) project. It also seeks to increase income through expanding the use of fish and providing better access to markets and cooperatives.

Now the idea is to promote aquaculture based on experiments conducted at the UENF.

Pescarte has also accumulated knowledge about the world of fishermen. It conducted two censuses in the 10 participating municipalities in 2016 and 2023, Timoteo told IPS.

In the second one, 46 percent of the people interviewed were women and 21 percent of them were responsible for 100 percent of the family income. In 37.9 percent of the cases, they shared this responsibility with their husbands.

Fernanda Pires is one of the participants of Pescarte in Atafona. Her activism for fish processing as a way of adding value is reflected in her practice as leader of the Arte Peixe cooperative, which produces eight types of fish and shrimp snacks.

Founded in 2006 by her mother, Arte Peixe has 20 female members, seven of whom work directly in production. The profits are limited, serving as a supplement to the main income obtained from other work or employment. Pires is a municipal employee, but new markets open up prospects for better profits in the future.

The leading role played by women in overcoming the problems in Atafona, threatened by coastal erosion and the decline in fishing, is perhaps due to the fact that “they study more, and have greater concern for the future, and a stronger sense of community,” said Bulhões.

In Pescarte, its directors observe that while men prioritize fishing in itself, upgrading their boats and equipment, and are absent from the city, spending more and more time at sea every day, women take care of processing the fish, sales and adding value; that is, they focus more on the future of the activity and of their lives.

IPS UN Bureau Report

Note: This feature is published with the support of Open Society Foundations.

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Sonia Ferreira watched as the sea toppled buildings all around her for years. Finally, the impact of the rise in sea levels wrecked her home in 2019. Fishermen find their access to a fishing port limited, affecting their livelihoods. The residents of the coastal town of Atafona in southeastern Brazil count their losses due to rising sea levels and climate change.
Categories: Africa

More Diversified Trade Can Make Middle East & Central Asia More Resilient

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 08:13

Credit: WTO

By Jihad Azour
WASHINGTON DC, May 17 2024 (IPS)

Dislocations from the pandemic, geoeconomic fragmentation, and Russia’s war in Ukraine have shifted world trade dynamics. While this has created challenges, the redirection of trade has also generated new opportunities, particularly for the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Since the war began, the region’s economies have shown continued resilience and trade activity in many countries has surged, fueled in part by alternative trade routes. In 2022, Armenia, Georgia, and the Kyrgyz Republic saw their share of trade excluding oil and gas with major partners such as China, the European Union, Russia, and the United States rise as much as 60 percent.

Hence, despite some moderation, gross domestic product growth in the Caucasus and Central Asia is projected to remain robust at 3.9 percent in 2024 before picking up to 4.8 percent in 2025.

Trade volumes between China and Europe via Central Asia have more than quadrupled. Though this route, known as the Middle Corridor, represents a small fraction of overall trade between China and Europe, it holds significant promise for economic development in the Caucasus and Central Asia and its integration into global supply chains.

Shifting trade patterns have also opened opportunities elsewhere. For example, countries in the Middle East and North Africa, such as Algeria, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, roughly doubled their energy exports to the European Union in 2022–23 to meet surging demand for non-Russian oil and gas.

More recently, Red Sea shipping attacks stemming from the conflict in Gaza and Israel have not only disrupted maritime trade and impacted neighboring economies but also increased the level of uncertainty.

Suez Canal transits are down more than 60 percent since the conflict in Gaza and Israel began as ships are rerouted around the Cape of Good Hope. Cargo volumes also have contracted sharply in Red Sea ports such as Jordan’s Al Aqaba and Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah. However, some trade has been redirected within the region, including to Dammam, Saudi Arabia, on the Persian Gulf.

Persistent Red Sea disruptions could have sizable economic consequences for the most exposed economies. An illustrative scenario in our most recent Regional Economic Outlook shows that countries on the Red Sea (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen) could lose about 10 percent of their exports and close to 1 percent of GDP on average if disruptions continue through the end of this year.

In the current uncertain landscape of international trade, strategic foresight and proactive policy reforms will be the key factors enabling countries to achieve trade and income gains. Addressing the challenges posed by these shocks and seizing the opportunities ahead will require that countries tackle longstanding trade barriers arising from elevated nontariff restrictions, infrastructure inadequacies, and regulatory inefficiencies.

Targeted policy reforms can help do this, though preparation is crucial. Reducing nontariff trade barriers, boosting infrastructure investment, and enhancing regulatory quality could help increase trade by up to 17 percent on average over the medium term, our research shows, while economic output could be 3 percent higher. This would also enhance resilience against future trade shocks.

Past reforms show effective action is possible. Uzbekistan has enhanced its attractiveness to foreign investors and deepened its integration into the global economy eliminating currency controls and improving the business environment. Saudi Arabia grew its non-oil economy and attracted international businesses through its Vision 2030 reform plan, which included easing regulatory constraints on trade and investment.

Azerbaijan’s investment in the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, a key segment of the Middle Corridor, highlights the potential of infrastructure investment, increasing cargo capacity between Asia and Europe. These initiatives underscore the transformative power of targeted policy reforms in adapting to and thriving within the global trade landscape.

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa can mitigate ongoing shipping disruptions by improving their supply chain management, securing new suppliers in the most affected sectors, seeking alternate shipping routes, and assessing air freight capacity needs.

In the medium term, countries can increase their resilience to trade disruptions by strengthening and expanding regional linkages and connectivity. In turn, investing in transportation infrastruc¬ture, including by developing innovative sea–land routes, would be important.

Building a more diversified trade profile—spanning partners, products, and routes—would significantly bolster the region’s ability to withstand disruptions. Shifting trade patterns present a unique opportunity for countries to redefine their place in the global economic framework.

This IMF blog reflects contributions by Bronwen Brown and other staff across the Middle East and Central Asia Department. It is based on Chapter 3 of the April 2024 Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia, “Trade Patterns amid Shocks and a Changing Geoeconomic Landscape.” The authors of the chapter are Apostolos Apostolou, Hasan Dudu, Filippo Gori, Alejandro Hajdenberg, Thomas Kroen, Fei Lui, and Salem Mohamed Nechi.

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

South African photographer wins top prize

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 05:09
Lebohang Kganye has won the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize for her exhibition Haufi nyana? I've come to take you home
Categories: Africa

Scientists may have solved mystery of Egyptian pyramids' construction

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 04:28
Scientists say the ancient wonders are likely to have been built along a now-dried up branch of the River Nile.
Categories: Africa

Meghan mania and big skirts: Africa's top shots

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 02:14
A selection of the week's best photos from across the African continent.
Categories: Africa

Afghan Women Struggle with Soaring Mental Health Issues

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 05/16/2024 - 13:14

Since the Taliban's return to Afghanistan in 2021, numerous women grapple with profound mental health challenges, often in silence, fearing repercussions for speaking out. Credit: Learning Together

By External Source
May 16 2024 (IPS)

Afghanistan is grappling with a growing crisis of mental illness, particularly among its women, as highlighted in a United Nations report. Officials from the mental health department at Herat regional hospital have observed a concerning uptick in the number of women afflicted by psychological disorders in the province.

According to these officials, nearly eighty percent of individuals seeking treatment for depression are women and girls. The medical center witnesses a daily influx of one hundred patients seeking assistance.

“Every day, 100 people come for treatment, and more than two-thirds of them are women”, according to one of the doctors of the Association of Clinical Psychologists in Herat, who did not want to be named in the report due to security issues.

Nearly 400 people have been sent to further treatment within one month and the numbers continue to increase daily. Most patients are given psychological counseling but those with severe illness are referred to the regional mental hospital in Herat.

Several factors contribute to the surge in mental illness among women. Economic hardships have intensified, while the oppressive rule of the Taliban has cast a shadow over their future prospects. Additionally, a widespread increase in domestic violence against women, coupled with restrictions on female education and employment, compounds the issue.

“I often experience sudden panic attacks,” shared Marjan, a patient at the hospital. “My heart feels weak, and I constantly battle lethargy. The ban on my education has plunged me into depression,” she lamented.

With tears in her eyes and pain in her voice, she complained how long she and other women would continue to be imprisoned within the four walls of their homes and live with uncertainty of the future.

Marjan continues, “I am the third wife of my husband, and I am always subjected to violence and beatings by my husband or my husband’s wives.”

In some regions, such as Herat, polygamous marriages are common, leading to intra-family conflicts where women bear the brunt of the repercussions.

Marjan, a victim of such a marriage, disclosed her failed suicide attempts and attributed her plight to the Taliban. Forced into marriage by her father during the Taliban regime, she was compelled to relinquish her role as a civil activist and former employee of a human rights organization under the previous government.

“Now, I am left with mere memories of a life that no longer exists,” she lamented bitterly.

Nafas Gul, a mother of five also in Herat Province narrates her story. Her daughter, sixteen-year-old Shirin Gul, is severely depressed, judging from her regular cries and calling her home prison, her mother explains. Shirin no longer attends school.

Memories have made most girls and women depressed. A large number of them have stayed at home, unable to work or acquire education.

In Afghanistan, many victims of domestic violence struggle to find assistance in overstretched healthcare systems. Credit: Learning Together

With the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2021, women have been deprived of their rights, especially the right to work and education. The majority of women in Herat are against recognizing the legitimacy of the Taliban government, rather they say that recognition should be given in return for improving the status of women. 

Doctors caution that without intervention, the number of individuals suffering from depression, particularly in Herat province, will continue to escalate.



The author is an Afghanistan-based female journalist, trained with Finnish support before the Taliban take-over. Her identity is withheld for security reasons
Categories: Africa

Solomon Islands: A Change More in Style than Substance

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 05/16/2024 - 08:21

Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

By Andrew Firmin
LONDON, May 16 2024 (IPS)

There’s change at the top in Solomon Islands – but civil society will be watching closely to see whether that means a government that’s grown hostile will start doing things differently.

Jeremiah Manele is the new prime minister, emerging from negotiations that followed April’s general election. He’s part of OUR Party, led by outgoing four-time prime minister Manasseh Sogavare. The party came first, winning 15 of 50 constituencies, but several incumbents who stood for it lost their parliamentary seats, and Sogavare only narrowly held his. Weakened, Sogavare stood aside to allow Manele to prevail as the consensus candidate of the post-election coalition his party stitched together.

China in the spotlight

Voters had to wait to have their say. The election was supposed to be held in 2023 but the government postponed it. It claimed it couldn’t afford to hold the election and host the Pacific Games in the same year, and temporarily suspended constitutional provisions through a parliamentary vote. The opposition accused Sogavare of a power grab and questioned his commitment to democracy.

Political debate in recent years has been dominated by the government’s relations with China, a major funder of the 2023 Pacific Games. Sogavare pivoted towards China shortly after becoming prime minister for the fourth time in 2019. Until then, Solomon Islands was among the small number of states that still recognised Taiwan instead of China. The move was controversial, made with no consultation after an election in which it hadn’t been an issue.

Sogavare then signed a series of agreements with China, including a highly secretive security cooperation deal. For civil society, this raised the concern that Solomon Islands police could be trained in the same repressive techniques used in China, and Chinese security forces could be deployed if unrest broke out. The country has experienced several bouts of conflict, including ethnic unrest and violent protests started by young unemployed men, with some violence targeting people of Chinese origin. Such conflict followed controversial post-2019 election manoeuvres that returned Sogavare to power, and surged again in 2021 over the government’s relations with China. Sogavare blamed ‘foreign powers’ for the 2021 unrest.

China is making extensive economic diplomacy efforts to encourage states to switch allegiance and has developed a keen interest in Pacific Island nations, long neglected by western powers. Its efforts are paying off, with Kiribati and Nauru also abandoning Taiwan in recent years. The Pacific Islands cover a vast oceanic territory, and a major Chinese foreign policy objective is to break up the island chains it sees as encircling it and constraining its reach. It’s long been suspected of coveting a naval base in Solomon Islands.

Further, while the populations may be small, each state has an equal vote in the United Nations, and the more allies China has, the more it can shield itself from criticism of its many human rights violations.

China didn’t just help pay for the Games. It provides direct funding to pro-government members of parliament, and has been accused of outrightly trying to bribe politicians. Daniel Suidani, a strong opponent of deals with China, claims to have been offered bribes to change his position. Suidani was premier of Malaita Province, until 2023, when he was ousted in a no-confidence vote following the central government’s apparent intervention. Police then used teargas against protesters who supported him.

China’s attempts to exert influence extend to the media. Last year, it was reported that the Solomon Star newspaper had received funding from the Chinese state in return for agreeing to publish pro-China content.

Disinformation favourable to China also circulated during the campaign. A Russian state-owned news agency falsely reported that the US government was planning what it called an ‘electoral coup’, a lie repeated by the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper. During the campaign, Sogavare also doubled down on his support for China, heaping praise on its political system and suggesting that democracy might open the door to same-sex marriage, which he portrayed as incompatible with his country’s values.

At the same time as China’s media influence has grown, the Solomon Islands government has gained a reputation for attacking media freedoms. It took full control of the public broadcaster, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, giving itself the power to directly appoint the broadcaster’s board, and made an attempt to vet all of its news and current affairs programmes, which it dropped after backlash. Following an investigation of relations with China by Australia’s public broadcaster, the government threatened to bar foreign journalists from entering the country if they run stories it deems ‘disrespectful’, accusing media of spreading ‘anti-China sentiments’.

Following criticism, the government also threatened to investigate civil society and accused civil society organisations of fraudulently receiving funds. It’s clear that the other side of the coin of closer relations with China has been growing hostility towards dissent.

Looking forward

China was far from the only issue in the campaign, and many voters emphasised everyday concerns such as the cost of living, the state of education, healthcare and roads, and the economy. Some criticised politicians for spending too much time talking about foreign policy – and will be judging the new government by how much progress it makes on these domestic issues.

The good news is that the vote appears to have been competitive, and so far there’s been no repeat of the post-election violence seen after the 2019 vote. That’s surely a positive to build on.

But Sogavare isn’t gone from politics, taking a new position as finance minister. Meanwhile, Manele, foreign minister in the old government and viewed as another pro-China figure, is unlikely to take a new foreign policy direction. But there’s some hope, at least for civil society, that he’ll be a less polarising and more conciliatory politician than Sogavare. The first test will be how the new government handles its relations with civil society and the media. The government should prove it isn’t in China’s pocket by respecting civic freedoms.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


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Categories: Africa

The US a Direct Partner in the Israeli War

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 05/16/2024 - 07:18

Gazans are on the move again as Israeli forces intensify bombardments. 13 May 2024. Credit: UNRWA

By Ramzy Baroud
SEATTLE, Washington, May 16 2024 (IPS)

A major mistake we often commit in our analysis of the US political discourse on the Gaza war is that we assume that the US and Israel behave as if they are two political entities with separate agendas and sets of priorities.

Nothing could be further from the truth. From the start of the war, top US officials including President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken saw themselves as the guardians of Israeli interests. Blinken attended Israel’s first War Council meeting as if an Israel official, and Biden carried on reiterating that he is a Zionist.

Despite purported difference on various matters between Tel Aviv and Washington, for example, the nature and size of Israel’s military operation in Rafah, their interests remain identical: defeating Palestinians, restoring Israeli so-called deterrence, returning to the status quo in the region, and reigning in Israel’s enemies, including Iran, Hezbollah and Yemen’s Ansarullah.

The US is a direct partner in the Israeli war: defeating any UN attempt at calling for immediate, unconditional, and binding ceasefire, arming Israel with billions of dollars of the deadliest weapons and fighting, directly – as in the case of Yemen – or indirectly against Israel’s regional enemies who are showing solidarity with the Palestinians.

That context in mind, the dangerous comments by Senator Graham are consistent with the Biden’s administration actions regarding Gaza.

Sure, Israel is yet to drop a nuclear bomb, but it has dropped enough US bombs over the besieged Strip to create the impact of nuclear weapons. 75 percent of Gaza has been destroyed, and about 5 percent of the population have been killed or wounded. This was done by Biden and his supposedly softer approach, if compared to Graham, to the war.

This is indeed madness, but, in a sense, it also reflects a degree of desperation.

Israel is losing in Gaza. Not ‘losing’ as in failing to achieve its objectives, but losing militarily against Palestinian groups who are employing successful guerrilla warfare tactics.

After over 7 months of war, the fighting is back exactly where it started; and while Palestinians are perfecting their resistance craft, Israel is losing more soldiers at a much higher rate.

Comments about nuclear bombing Gaza comes within this context, that of Israel’s failure, if not desperation. US and Israeli officials know well that the war has been lost, or, at best, cannot be won.

But also losing the war means a fundamental shift in the power paradigm in the Middle East, the kind of change that neither Netanyahu, Graham nor their ilk can afford.

On November 5, Israel’s minister of heritage also spoke about the possibility of nuking Gaza, using Israeli mainstream media to communicate his ideas. Graham is now saying the same thing, using US mainstream media as an outlet to convey the same notion.

There is much to learn here about the nature of the relationship between both countries, but also this language teaches us that top politicians in Tel Aviv and Washington realize that the limits of traditional warfare have been reached yet failed to alter the reality on the ground in any way, aside from massacring tens of thousands of innocent civilians.

Dr Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). The link to his website follows:

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

US Senators Threaten Criminal Court & Advise Israel to Nuke Gaza

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 05/16/2024 - 07:08

By Thalif Deen

As the ancient Greek saying goes: those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first drive them mad. Perhaps destruction is too far-fetched here, but madness is closer home—in Washington DC

With the 7-month-old Israeli-Gaza conflict showing no positive signs of a permanent solution, there is a lingering sense of growing political craziness in Capitol Hill, the seat of the US government, once described as Israeli-occupied territory.

Last week Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican senator from South Carolina, who once chaired the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, implicitly advised Israel it should drop nuclear bombs over Gaza—perhaps ignorant of the fact that a nuclear fallout will also destroy parts of Israel.

In a TV interview, Graham advised Israel: “Do whatever you have to do to survive as a Jewish state”—as he compared Israel’s war on Gaza to the US war with Japan during World War II.

“When we were faced with destruction as a nation after Pearl Harbor, fighting the Germans and the Japanese, we decided to end the war by bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons,” Graham said in an interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press.

Meanwhile, Tim Walberg, a Republican House member said wiping out Gaza “should be like Hiroshima and Nagasaki” “Get it over quick”, he advised Israel.

Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and Editor of The Palestine Chronicle told IPS: “Sure, Israel is yet to drop a nuclear bomb, but it has dropped enough US bombs over the besieged Strip to create the impact of nuclear weapons.”

He pointed out that 75 percent of Gaza has been destroyed, and about 5 percent of the population have been killed or wounded. This was done by Biden and his supposedly softer approach, if compared to Graham, to the war.

“This is indeed madness, but, in a sense, it also reflects a degree of desperation,” said Baroud.

Meanwhile, 12 US Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have openly threatened the International Criminal Court (ICC) with sanctions if they target Israeli officials.

The threat is directed at both ICC officials and their family members — if and when, the Court moves forward with international arrest warrants against Israeli leaders over the war in Gaza.

“Target Israel and we will target you. If you move forward with the measures indicated in the report, we will move to end all American support for the ICC, sanction your employees and associates, and bar you and your families from the United States,” read the April 24 letter.

“You have been warned,” the letter added.

Norman Solomon, executive director, Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS the goal posts on the USA’s political field have been dragged rightward since last autumn by the combined forces of standard militarism, craven political jockeying, biased mass-media coverage and ferocious pro-Israel messaging.

The countervailing force in the United States is coming from grassroots opposition to Israel’s mass murder and rejection of its support provided by the U.S. political establishment.

Often led by activists in such organizations as Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now, the highly visible protests last fall and winter seeded the ground for the upsurge in student-led protests in recent weeks on U.S. college campuses, he said.

This nonviolent grassroots resistance to Israeli genocide and oppression of Palestinian people has shocked the traditional American Zionist establishment and its allies in the leadership of the Democratic Party.

“The growing resistance has also provoked an extreme reactionary response from right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and many dozens of Republicans in Congress who have vocally and mendaciously denounced efforts to end the slaughter, which is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers to the benefit of both the fascistic Israeli government and military contractors based in the United States”, he argued.

“The flagrantly racist and ethnocentric reactions of Republican leaders, combined with the rhetorical Democratic vacillation that continues to support the Israeli-inflicted carnage in Gaza, comprise the two wings of U.S. governance. Most young Americans, in particular, are now emphatically opposed to both wings enabling the genocide,” he noted.

This is an ongoing political struggle over whether the U.S. government will continue to support Israel as it pursues its systematic slaughter of civilians in Gaza, declared Solomon, national director, and author of, “War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine.”

Meanwhile, according to the World Nuclear Association, the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.

The resulting steam explosion and fires released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the environment, with the deposition of radioactive materials in many parts of Europe.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation concluded in 2006 that, apart from some 5000 thyroid cancers (resulting in 15 fatalities), “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident.”

“And some 350,000 people were evacuated as a result of the accident, but resettlement of areas from which people were relocated is ongoing”.

In their letter to Karim A. Khan, ICC Prosecutor, the 12 Senators say: “We write regarding reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may be considering issuing international arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials. Such actions are illegitimate and lack legal basis, and if carried out will result in severe sanctions against you and your institution”.

By issuing warrants, you would be calling into question the legitimacy of Israel’s laws, legal system, and democratic form of government. Issuing arrest warrants for the leaders of Israel would not only be unjustified, it would expose your organization’s hypocrisy and double standards.

“Neither Israel nor the United States are members of the ICC and are therefore outside of your organization’s supposed jurisdiction. If you issue a warrant for the arrest of the Israeli leadership, we will interpret this not only as a threat to Israel’s sovereignty but to the sovereignty of the United States.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Categories: Africa

From Dorms to Demonstrations

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 10:58

Protesters demonstrate outside the Columbia University campus in New York City. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
The campus protests across the US aren’t primarily about the Israel-Hamas war but stem from other, deep-seated issues: alienation and radicalisation.

By Jeremi Suri
AUSTIN, Texas, May 15 2024 (IPS)

The campus protests that have spread to universities in every part of the United States are not about the war between Israel and Hamas, despite the heated rhetoric around this topic. Most of the students who are protesting know little about the conflict, its history and its ramifications for international politics.

Few of them cared deeply about the issue before the horrifying Hamas attack on Israelis on 7 October 2023 and the militaristic response of Israel’s government. What motivates the protests are two historical dynamics that long pre-date the current moment: alienation and radicalisation.

College students in the United States and other countries are more alienated from older generations than their recent predecessors. Crucial years in their social and emotional development were distorted by Covid-19, when they were forced to connect digitally rather than in-person.

They formed bonds with other young people in similar circumstances, but they did not build relationships with teachers, coaches, employers or other adult mentors. Many feel on their own, abandoned.

And the collective desire in so many societies to forget about Covid-19 means that they cannot talk about how it affected them. The denial of their reality by most adults makes students cynical. I see it in my own students who are talented, but somewhat hopeless.

Under attack

Cynicism and hopelessness have seeded anger (and sometimes violence) because struggling students feel that they are frequently under attack from politicians in the US. As I have written elsewhere, the Republican Party has waged a war on universities for at least a decade.

Elected officials like House Speaker Mike Johnson, Representative Elise Stefanik, Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have attacked faculty and students for pursuing racial and gender justice, for demanding forgiveness of exorbitant tuition loans and for seeking access to safe abortions. Republican policy positions run against the views of the vast majority of college students.

For this reason, Republicans across the United States have created barriers to political participation for young people. Republicans simply do not want them to vote, and when they vote, Republicans often allege ‘fraud’. Some obvious examples of voter suppression stand out.

States like Florida and Texas require voters to register a month in advance with a proof of permanent address, which is often difficult for students to document. These and other states also place voting locations close to older voters, farther from universities and downtown residential areas.

Gerrymandering means that rural areas with older voters are overrepresented; dense urban areas with younger voters are underrepresented. And Republicans across the United States are seeking to limit early and absentee voting — flexible voting options that young people who work and study full time value.

Alienation from Republican politicians has contributed to widespread student distrust of university leaders who frequently succumb to the pressures of Republicans (as happened with the firing of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania) or the demands of donors aligned with Republicans. Students almost universally blame university leaders for giving in to the interests that have disrespected and disenfranchised young, educated citizens.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has failed to draw the support of young people either. For the Democrats, the problem is not offensive positions, but a party structure that is dominated by older, mainstream politicians. They are boring for young people, they lack any connection to their world, and they seem too compromised and unprincipled.

In the case of President Biden, students see a decent but old man who is more of a political operator than a moral leader on issues that matter to them — including climate change, social justice and humanitarianism.

A feeling of homelessness

That is where the Israel-Hamas war influences the protests so urgently. Despite the extreme violence and suffering in the Middle East, many college students see a consistency in US support for Israel, with few conditions, that frustrates them. Why isn’t a Democratic president able to exert more influence to change the behaviour of the Israeli government in Gaza, where civilians are currently starving?

Why isn’t a Democratic president able to press Arab allies, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to help civilians? For students who do not appreciate the complexities of foreign policy, the White House appears to be playing an old game in a world with urgent new problems.

Between Republicans and Democrats – the only two choices in the US political system – young people feel homeless. They have become radicalised because they believe that they must find new ways to get around the parties and express their demands. Campus protests today, as in the 1960s, are a form of extra-political opposition.

The students want to side-line Republicans and force Democrats to move far left. The arguments for ‘divestment’ are efforts to reduce the power of banks and financial interests in the Democratic Party and restore influence to ordinary citizens.

The demands for abandoning support to Israel are part of an agenda to shift US foreign policy away from traditional allies and Realpolitik.

Tragically, the radical impulse frequently manifests itself as anti-Semitism, which is reprehensible. In their naivete, many of the campus protesters see American Jews as a central element of the mainstream Democratic Party and, therefore, a source of the party’s resistance to their more progressive impulses.

Biden’s long ties to Israel appear to corroborate this mistaken point of view. Jews appear to be the powerful people in Washington and Jerusalem, and, therefore, they are to blame, according to protesters, for blockage on change that young people so desperately want. Students often articulate this judgement with language that is personal, offensive and threatening to all Jews.

Liberal and conservative Jews are revolted by what they see from campus anti-Semitism. Republicans take advantage of protester anti-Semitism to condemn, yet again, students and universities as a whole.

They pressure campus leaders to deploy force against the protesters, and they extol the bravery of police officers who break-up student encampments. The crackdowns lead to further student alienation and radicalisation, and the cycle of protest and reaction continues to spiral toward more anger, anti-Semitism and violence.

For historians, this is all very familiar. The cycles of protest and reaction are common in moments, like our own, when the basic conditions for the rising and educated members of society do not match established institutions of power and influence. Young people feel locked out, unrepresented and trapped.

They feel they can only make change by challenging institutions. And that is what they are doing. The older, established figures in society might sympathise at times, but they still hold tight to existing institutions, they resist major reforms, and they ultimately call in the police.

The cycle only breaks when a new generation gains power and pursues real reforms, as happened in numerous societies after the 1960s — with the end of the Vietnam War and the rise of détente and Ostpolitik. We need comparable reforms in policy and power today. We cannot turn back the clock to before Covid-19 or October 7.

Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin. He is a professor in the University’s Department of History and the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Professor Suri is the author and editor of several books, most recently: Civil War By Other Means: America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy.

Source: International Politics and Society (IPS)-Journal published by the International Political Analysis Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

Chronicle of a Catastrophe Foretold

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 10:41

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia , May 15 2024 (IPS)

The IMF warns of a decade ahead of ‘tepid growth’ and ‘popular discontent’, with the poorest economies worst off. But as with inaction on Gaza, little is being done multilaterally to avert the imminent catastrophe.

Grim IMF prognosis
Noting the world economy has lost $3.3 trillion since 2020, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva announced this grim warning before last month’s Spring meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Instead of prioritising economic recovery, finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington agreed to continue policies worsening the situation. After all, curbing inflation helps preserve the value of financial assets.

Current policies suppressing demand are justified as necessary for financial stabilisation. They do nothing to address the various ‘supply-side disruptions’ mainly responsible for ongoing inflationary pressures.

These include the ‘new geopolitics’, the COVID-19 pandemic, wars, illegal unilateral sanctions, and market manipulation. Thus, ostensibly counter-inflationary measures have worsened pressures perpetuating stagnation.

Brave new world!
The new Cold War of the last decade and other geo-political considerations increasingly shape economic and financial policies worldwide. Powerful nations have weaponised their formulation, implementation and enforcement.

Years of economic stagnation have diminished productive and competitive capabilities. Meanwhile, recent geopolitics has changed geoeconomic relations, hegemony and its discontents. Laws, regulations and judicial processes are increasingly deployed for political – and economic – advantage.

Thus, Western governments have generated inflationary pressures with their economic and geopolitical policies, even if inadvertently. Perceptions of strategic decline are mainly attributable to the ostensibly market-based policies pursued.

The European Central Bank has followed US Fed interest rate hikes from 2022. Both still maintain high interest rates, ostensibly to keep inflation in check. Unsurprisingly, most developing country monetary authorities have had to raise interest rates to reduce capital flight and bolster their exchange rates.

Such interest rate hikes by central banks have raised the costs of funds, squeezing both consumption and investment. Raising interest rates has proved blunt and limited, while more appropriate measures have curbed inflation more effectively.

Instead of checking inflation due to supply disruptions, higher interest rates have squeezed both investment and consumption spending by both the private sector and government. Such cuts have hurt demand, jobs and incomes worldwide.

Although interest rate hikes worldwide have been contractionary, other US macroeconomic policies since the 2008 global financial crisis have maintained full employment in the world’s largest economy, with limited gains for most others.

Policymakers’ hands tied
Many developing country governments borrowed heavily in the late 1970s, mainly from Western commercial banks. But after the US Fed sharply raised interest rates from 1979, severe sovereign debt distress paralysed many heavily indebted governments in Latin America and Africa for at least a decade.

Much more government borrowing, increasingly from bond markets in the decade before 2022, exposed many developing economies to debt stress. This can be much worse than in the 1980s, as debt levels are higher, with more diverse creditors.

With borrowing exposure much higher and more market-based, with less from banks, debt resolution is much more difficult. Many governments have also guaranteed state-owned enterprise borrowings, with some even doing so for well-connected private enterprises.

Meanwhile, policymakers in developing countries today are even more constrained by their circumstances. Vulnerable to market vicissitudes and with fewer macroeconomic policy instruments available, they face pro-cyclical policy biases due to market pressures and supportive institutions.

Besides financial market pressures for fiscal austerity, multilateral financial institutions like the IMF impose such conditions on countries seeking emergency credit and other debt relief.
All this has led to deep government expenditure cuts, especially for public investments, crucial for recovery of the real economy. Hence, governments commit not to spend despite the urgent need for such counter-cyclical expenditure.

Voluntary vulnerability?
Central bank independence typically implies greater sensitivity to market pressures and private financial interests rather than national and government policy priorities.

Instead of strengthening national capacities and capabilities, central bank independence and autonomous fiscal policy authorities have disarmed developing country governments in the face of greater external vulnerability.

This toxic mix may well keep vulnerable governments in protracted debt peonage, unable to free themselves from its yoke, let alone give them the room to create conditions for renewed growth.

Economic liberalisation and globalisation have irreversibly transformed developing economies, with lasting consequences. Export opportunities have become more limited, not least due to the weaponisation of economic policies.

Meanwhile, most developing countries have turned to private creditors despite higher interest rates and borrowing costs. But even private market lending to the poorest nations has dried up since 2022 after the US Fed raised interest rates sharply.

With higher Fed interest rates, finance has abandoned developing countries for ‘safety’ in US markets. As debt service costs soared, distress risks have risen sharply.

Hence, many economies in the Global South are barely growing, especially after earlier collapses of commodity prices, which later worsened due to falling demand as supplies rose due to earlier investments.

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

Ocean Action on Global Agenda as Negotiations to Save Biodiversity Deepen

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 04:07

Delegates say the survival of humanity is interlinked with the sustainable use of ocean and marine biodiversity resources. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

By Joyce Chimbi
NAIROBI, May 15 2024 (IPS)

The oceans are as fascinating as they are mysterious. Home to the largest animals to ever live on Earth and billions of the tiniest, the top 100 meters of the open oceans host the majority of sea life, such as fish, turtles, and marine mammals. But there is another world far below the surface. In the belly of the ocean, there are seamounts—underwater mountains that rise 1,000 meters or more from the seafloor.

It is within this context that negotiations on critical science, technical skills, and technology deepened on the second day of the 26th session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Putting ocean action on the global agenda is a top priority to ensure conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity. Emphasizing an urgent need for further work on ecologically or biologically significant marine areas.

“The survival of humanity is interlinked with the sustainable use of ocean and marine biodiversity resources. We rely on the ocean for food, relaxation, and inspiration. But now the ocean is under threat, and that threat is being passed on to our lives on land. We have to invest time, money, and every resource possible to save our oceans and, by doing so, save ourselves. Our biggest revenue comes from fisheries, and now we have to worry about rising sea level as we are a low-lying island,” Eleala Avanitele from the Forest Peoples Program in Tuvalu told IPS.

Scientists warn that Tuvalu, the fourth-smallest country in the world, is sinking due to its vulnerability to rising sea levels, as the nation comprises nine low-lying coral atolls and islands. Across the globe, the world is in a crisis as oceans provide 50 percent of all oxygen on Earth and 50 to 80 percent of all life on Earth. This life is now at stake.

Thus far, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, also known as the Biodiversity Plan, has been front and centre during ongoing negotiations, as it is a strategic plan for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a global agreement that covers all aspects of biological diversity and is considered a framework for governments and the whole of society.

Harrison Ajebe Nnoko Ngaaje from Ajemalebu Self Help (Ajesh) in Cameroon told IPS that his organization is a CSO registered in Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania, and the USA to create synergies and collaboration within and beyond the continent for the restoration, protection, and sustainable management of key biodiversity areas.

“Conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity is very critical to Cameroon due to its vast and unique ecosystem and biodiversity. Limbe Beach, for instance, has shiny black sandy beaches made of lava sand from the Mt. Cameroon eruptions, an active volcano in the south-west region of Cameroon. We have mangroves under serious threat of degradation. Ajesh is strongly focused on marine protected area management and the conservation of marine aquatic ecosystems.”

More than half of all marine species could be in danger of extinction by 2100. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s marine ecosystems have been altered or handled unsustainably. Marine, coastal, and island biodiversity were discussed within the context of the Biodiversity Plan. Target 3 of the Plan aims to ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas, and of marine and coastal areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed.

The main goal of the SBSTTA discussions was to find and fix areas that need more attention under the Convention in order to help carry out the Biodiversity Plan for marine, coastal, and island biodiversity.

Despite the Conference of the Parties adopting the program of work on marine and coastal biological diversity at its fourth meeting in 1998 and the program of work on island biodiversity in 2006, the world is significantly behind schedule when it comes to the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity. Nevertheless, CBD continues to prioritize and facilitate cooperation and collaboration with relevant global and regional organizations and initiatives with regard to marine and coastal biodiversity.

“It is very important that civil society, youths, and Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) are part of the SBSTTA process, observing and being allowed the opportunity to make remarks. Parties make decisions but these actors also implement and are at the forefront of facing the consequences of biodiversity loss,” Ngaaje says.

Onyango Adhiambo, a youth delegate from academia and research under the International University Network on Cultural and Biological Diversity, supported Ngaaje’s remarks.

“Young people will need to understand the science, technical skills, and technology at play in saving our planet, for soon we will need to step in and step up. The future, which is now at stake, belongs to us, and when called upon to intervene on what the parties agree to, we must do so efficiently, effectively, and sustainably to save natural resources for future generations,” Adhiambo said.

Highlights from the session included a recognition of the importance of science for decision-making and that there are many areas of the programmes of work on marine and coastal biodiversity and on island biodiversity that have not been fully implemented and for which enhanced capacity-building and development, in particular for least developed countries and small island developing states, are needed.

The 2022 Biodiversity Plan says that we can get back on track by creating “ecologically representative, well-connected, and fairly governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, recognizing indigenous and traditional territories, where applicable, and integrating them into larger landscapes, seascapes, and the ocean, while ensuring that any sustainable use, where appropriate in such areas, is fully consistent with conservation outcomes, recognizing and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including over their traditional territories.”

Equally important is the agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, which was adopted on June 19, 2023.

Collaboration in ocean conservation beyond national boundaries was strongly encouraged on issues such as marine genetic resources, including the fair and equitable sharing of benefits; measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments; and capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Categories: Africa

Educating the Mind Without Educating the Heart is No Education at All

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 19:34

By Yasmine Sherif
NEW YORK, May 14 2024 (IPS)

The words above, by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, serve as a reminder that we still have a long way to go to in educating ourselves. In doing so, we will naturally ensure that the young generation can access an inclusive quality education and use their knowledge to build a world of justice, equity, peace and security.

Yet, with brutal atrocities and horrific conflicts relentlessly spreading in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gaza, the Sudan and Ukraine – in addition to another 50 devastating conflicts taking place around the world – we cannot say in all honesty that we are using our hearts. It would also be dishonest to claim that since the proclamation of the UN Charter in San Francisco we have built a world based on human rights, peace and security.

Instead, the gulf between the rule of law and today’s wicked reality is only widening. In this dark abyss, millions upon millions of vulnerable and innocent children and youth are pleading for humanity and crying out for respect of their inherent human rights, starting with the foundational right to an inclusive quality education in a protective learning environment.

We have created a divided, bitter world reminiscent of a bloody battlefield. A world of destruction, disregard for human life and the earth itself. One begs to ask the question whether it really matters if we have advanced in technology while we are losing our humanity. Or, as Martin Luther King Jr said: “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Consequently, over 226 million children and adolescents currently living in these battlefields cannot access a quality education – with many also losing their mothers, fathers, siblings, limbs, homes and future. It is quite astonishing how destructive the mind can be in the absence of emotional intelligence or the education of the heart.

Schools, teachers and students are purposely and blatantly targeted, adolescent girls are subjugated and pushed into the shadows, and both girls and boys are victimized by wars and systematic violations of their inherent human rights. It has been going on for so long now that the abnormal has almost become normal. This cannot continue.

When will we respond to the universal and collective commitments outlined in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals? When will we realize the right of every child to an education in a safe learning environment?

It will only come the day that we begin to educate our hearts as well as our minds.

An educated heart cannot turn a blind eye to the unrelenting destruction of human life or nature. An educated heart acts to prevent the growing inequities in the world. An educated heart finds it unbearable to ignore the right of 226 million children to a quality education.

According to Education Cannot Wait’s strategic partner Educo, humanitarian appeals to meet education demands have dramatically increased more than sevenfold in the last decade – from US$517 million to US$3.785 billion – while contributions have only increased fourfold over the same period, from US$190 million to US$805 million.

The gap is daunting and the consequences for children caught in emergencies and protracted crises are beyond devastating. Indeed, this growing funding gap will result in dangerous consequences for the world. According to Educo’s analysis, “88% of the countries and territories in humanitarian crises have significant or fundamental challenges for achieving the SDG goal (SDG4) for education.”

In forgotten crises, such as Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Chad, Lebanon, Yemen and beyond, we have instead contributed to creating a generational gap and perpetuating cycles of violence, poverty, forced displacement and further inequality.

There is also a significant gap between the Global North and Global South. In OECD countries, around 7% of GDP is spent on primary and secondary education per student every year. In some countries, such as Luxembourg, it rises to as much as US$25,000 a year per student.

On the other hand, according to the IMF: “In sub-Saharan Africa, the median education budget was equal to about 3.5% of GDP in 2020 – below the international recommendation of at least 4% of GDP. Recent IMF analysis reveals that achieving the key Sustainable Development Goal of universal primary and secondary school enrollment by 2030 may require doubling education expenditures as a share of GDP, including from both public and private funding sources.”

An educated heart cannot accept these figures and leave millions of young lives and the potential of their futures behind. The resources exist. Referring to Martin Luther King Jr’s quote above, the question is how we choose to use these resources. We can either continue on the path of destruction or take a more constructive and responsible approach.

By crowding in resources from the public and private sectors, we have the chance to educate both the hearts and the minds of an entire generation. A generation that may be the one establishing human rights, peace and security for all, while creating a world of shared values that rests on the rule of law, rather than the rule by force.

In this month’s high-level interview with Amy Clarke, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer for Tribe Impact Capital LLP, we explore a promising new modality to connect private sector capital to sustainable results, environment and building a better world. In joining forces with Education Cannot Wait, Amy Clarke says: “As ECW works tirelessly to address the immediate educational needs of these children, it’s crucial we also forge a path toward a future that promises fairness, justice and equity.” As such, Tribe Impact Capital LLP stands out as one of our private sector partners that lead with both their heart and mind. They show us that it is indeed possible.

It has been said that the longest journey we can make is the one between the mind and the heart. At this point in time, when the world is engulfed in utter destruction, when nearly a quarter of billion children and teachers are losing limbs, life and hope under the rubble of their targeted schools, it is time for us all to set sail on that journey.

Yasmine Sherif is Executive Director Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

'This is where I need to be’ - Stevie Wonder becomes Ghanaian

BBC Africa - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 16:15
The American music icon has long been an admirer of the west African country.
Categories: Africa


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