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Chad: Dictatorship Continues by Other Means

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 19:43

Credit: Joris Bolomey / AFP via Getty Images

By Inés M. Pousadela
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, May 31 2024 (IPS)

On 6 May, people went to the polls in Chad, ostensibly to elect a president who’d usher in democratic civilian rule. Ten days later, the Constitutional Council confirmed there’d be no change: the elected president was the leader of the military-backed transitional government supposedly handing over power, Mahamat Idriss Déby.

In 2021, Déby took over from his father, who’d held power since 1990 but had just been killed in a rebel attack. It was a coup; he wasn’t in the line of succession. At the head of a Transitional Military Council (CMT), he was in charge of leading the transition that hasn’t happened.

According to the official count, Déby won 61 per cent of the vote, easily securing the outright majority needed to avoid a runoff. There were widespread allegations of fraud. The campaign was marked by the assassination of a prominent opposition leader and the repression and killing of protesters. Civil society fears the results will legitimise authoritarian rule, deepening human rights abuses and further restricting civic space.

No democracy in sight

Since independence from France in 1960, Chad has experienced several coups and a long spell of authoritarian rule. General Idriss Déby, Mahamat’s father deposed the previous president in 1990 and had his autocratic reign rubber-stamped by six ritual elections between 1996 and 2021. Immediately after the 2021 election, rebels killed him on a visit to government troops, leading to his son installing himself as ‘interim leader’, perpetuating a political dynasty into its fourth decade.

The military initially said the transition would end with elections in October 2022, but as the date approached, instead it launched a ‘Sovereign Inclusive National Dialogue’, which extended Déby’s rule by over two years. Following the dialogue, the CMT was dissolved and Déby became head of a new transitional government, with a former opposition leader as prime minister.

The new timetable called for elections by November 2024. More than 60 people were killed in the protests that greeted this announcement, which the government denounced as an attempted coup. Numerous protesters received jail sentences. The government imposed a curfew and a three-month ban on political activity, arrested prominent opposition leaders and intimidated and harassed critical voices and journalists. Activists were detained or disappeared, with some forced to flee.

In November 2022, the government banned Wakit Tama (‘the time has come’), a coalition of civil society groups, trade unions and opposition parties, which first mobilised to demand democracy when Idriss Déby sought a sixth term. Any similar attempt at broad-based coordination was subsequently banned.

If something came out of the national dialogue, it was the need to decide whether Chad should be organised on federal or centralised lines. But the referendum held in October 2023 didn’t put this to a vote. Instead, it sought to validate a new constitution tailor-made to make the interim president’s rule permanent. Civil society and opposition groups called for a boycott, but as with every vote ever held in Chad, the dice were loaded.

Reportedly approved by 86 per cent of voters, the new constitution lowered the age required to run for president, enabling then-38-year-old Mahamat Déby’s candidacy, and required both the president’s parents to be Chad citizens, something his main rivals couldn’t easily prove. All junta and transitional government members were allowed to compete in elections.

As part of a deal to pave the way to a minimally competitive election, the government then issued a general amnesty for those involved in the 2022 protests and allowed exiled leaders to return and run. Among them was Succès Masra, who’d fled persecution and then came back after signing an agreement that made him prime minister. He ran for the Transformers party, coming in a distant second.

Third place was taken Albert Pahimi of the National Rally of Chadian Democrats, who served as prime minister between 2016 and 2018, and again between 2021 and 2022, but who now presented himself as the one who could stop the incumbent pushing the country over the edge.

Conspicuous by his absence was someone who’d been expected to be the main challenger. Yaya Dillo was killed on 28 February when security forces forced their way into the headquarters of his Socialist Party Without Borders. This happened days after a violent attack on the headquarters of the National Security Agency that the government blamed on Dillo and his party.

With an incomplete slate, a playing field heavily tilted in the regime’s favour and an election day plagued by violence and fraudulent practices that proliferated in the absence of independent observation, the results were predictable.

The international picture

There’s no pressure for democracy from Chad’s foreign partners.

Oil-rich Chad has long been a key ally of western states in their fight against jihadist insurgency, working with France and the USA against Al-Qaeda and ISIS operations in the Sahel. While other francophone countries under military rule – Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – have kicked western powers out and pivoted towards Russia, Chad has so far remained in the fold.

In March 2024, Chad’s air force asked the USA to withdraw its troops – fewer than 100 – from a French military base. It was unclear why, but the USA retreated, at least temporarily. However, everything else, including France’s 1,000 or so troops, has remained in place.

France – a long-time enabler of Chad’s authoritarian rulers – has been careful not to stir things. In March, France’s special envoy to Africa met with the two ‘official’ candidates, Déby and Masra, and confirmed that French troops would stay.

Because Chad’s authoritarian rulers have long been backed by France, democracy activists have increasingly turned their anger on the country. Protesters have set fire to French flags and targeted buildings belonging to the French oil company TotalEnergies. Wakit Tama increasingly denounces the presence of French troops.

This backlash strengthens French support for the authoritarian regime, out of fear of the alternatives. The French government has consistently backed leaders who underpin its position in the region. This makes it inconsistent in its support for democracy, condemning military coups by anti-French forces in Burkina Faso and Mali but supporting the manoeuvring to keep friendly faces in charge in Chad. As long as this situation continues, there seems little hope for genuine democracy in Chad.

Inés M. Pousadela is CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


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Categories: Africa

Why Protection & Participation of Children Must be Elevated at the UN Summit of the Future

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 14:25

By Kul C Gautam and Mustafa Y Ali

The United Nations will hold the Summit of the Future on September 22—23 this year, during its annual General Assembly. Heads of state and government and their representatives will gather at the UN headquarters in New York, to discuss, agree on, and endorse a multilateral, action-oriented “Pact for the Future” intended to “protect and enshrine the rights of future generations”.

With the draft document of the pact already detailing fifty-two sets of actions around sustainability, peace and security, science and technology, youth, and governance, the Summit is being called a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

Indeed, with post-pandemic political, economic, security, and social dynamics (and realignments) redefining world order, torpedoing trust in multilateral organizations and exposing the limits of international law, urgent action is needed to put humanity on a path to justice and equity.

The world is at a tipping point and multilateralism — the very vehicle of the Pact for the Future — is at risk of being ditched for expediency.

As advocates for a better world for children, including through interfaith collaboration, we applaud the worthy intentions behind both the Summit and the pact. However, the current draft of the pact leaves much to be desired. Children — the very essence of the future — are acknowledged only tangentially or conflated with young people, youth, and future generations.

The pact focuses squarely on adults, youth and young people. The protection and wellbeing of the most vulnerable infants and young children who are unable to articulate their unique needs and rights are not prioritized explicitly.

The fact that children make up a third of the world’s population and that 4.2 billion children are expected to be born over the next 30 years, ought to make it self-evident that protecting their rights and promoting their wellbeing must be at the very heart of any pact aimed at ensuring a better future humanity.

No future without children

We live in a world of incredible scientific breakthroughs, tremendous economic prosperity, and greater gender equality than ever before. Yet the number of children globally who are hungry, displaced and in desperate need of protection, has never been higher.

According to UNICEF, nearly one billion children live in multidimensional poverty with another 333 million children living in extreme poverty. These shocking, historically unprecedented figures are being exacerbated by growing inequality, the COVID-19 pandemic, devastating food and energy crises, a climate emergency, and new and protracted conflicts.

In the last year alone, more than 10.5 million children were forced to flee their homes mainly due to conflict and violence. The number of displaced children around the world is now estimated to be over 50 million, while the number of those living in conflict zones exceeds 460 million.

Even in supposedly “normal,” stable, and peaceful settings, children are routinely exposed to the dangers of a rapidly expanding digital environment, discrimination, inequality, abuse, and exploitation, some of it in the name of religion.

Without explicit mention of children in the Pact for the Future, their specific rights and unique perspectives risk being forgotten. As the former Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasized in February, “If the UN is truly committed to becoming a more inclusive multilateral platform for partnership and solidarity having people at center (…) – children cannot be excluded from the process for the Summit of the Future (…). Children should be both subjects of the Summit and the resulting Pact for the Future, and active participants before, during and after the Summit.”

The child is calling

Shortly after the UN Summit for the Future, leaders from major world faiths and spiritual traditions and representatives of governments and international organizations will convene in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 19 to 21 November for the Sixth Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children.

Hosted by the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities, the forum will amplify the voices and rights of children — the architects of the future — as it tackles the issues of building a safe, secure, and sustainable world for children from an interfaith perspective.

With the greatest tragedy in recent memory involving children unfolding in Gaza, there could not be a more fitting theme or a more appropriate place for the world’s religious and secular leaders to congregate, offer prayers and catalyze action to “never again” allow the senseless killing and maiming of children we are witnessing today.

The forum’s ‘building a safe world’ theme will cover the dignity of the child in the digital world; role of families and collaborative communities; building resilience; and strengthening mental health in the face of global shocks, emerging crises, and pandemics.

Under ‘building a secure world’, the forum will address the root causes of conflicts, wars, xenophobia, hate crimes, and extremism; building resilience to conflict; the impact of conflict and war on children; and building a peaceful and inclusive world for children. The last theme – ‘building a sustainable world’ – will tackle responsible lifestyles; hunger, child poverty, and inequality; ethical values and education; and climate-conscious stewardship.

The forum is expected to foster intergenerational dialogue, mutual understanding, collaboration, and adaptive capacity to advocate for and with children for a future where children can grow and thrive without fear or limitation, regardless of their faith, cultural, racial, economic, or social backgrounds.

If we fail to put the rights and voices of children at the heart of the Pact for the Future, we will be failing one-third of the world’s population today and billions of children who are born in the future. The child is calling! We must unite our efforts, intensify our actions, and put the child’s voice at the center as we all come together to build a safe, secure, sustainable, and hopeful world for all.

Kul Gautam is a former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, the Chair of the Arigatou International Advisory Group, and the Chair of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) Sixth Forum International Organizing Committee.

Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali is the Secretary General of the GNRC and Executive Director of Arigatou International – Nairobi.

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

Who's up, who's down in South Africa's election - and why

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 12:17
The ANC's free-fall, the return of Jacob Zuma and a new era of coalitions.
Categories: Africa

Who's up, who's down in South Africa's election - and why

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 12:17
The ANC's free-fall, the return of Jacob Zuma and a new era of coalitions.
Categories: Africa

Maggot Farming Creates Entrepreneurs, Saves Farming Costs in Zimbabwe

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 11:38

The maggots that are making animal feed more affordable in Zimbabwe come from the black soldier flies. These are being used in several countries in Africa. Credit: IITA

By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, May 31 2024 (IPS)

Three years ago, 43-year-old Benard Munondo was an “ordinary” Zimbabwean teacher at a local primary school, but now he has turned maggots into gold.

Thanks to maggot farming, Munondo, who has never owned a home nor driven a car, now has both.

In 2020, a week’s training on maggot farming changed his world.

One of the maggot farming trainers posted an advertisement on social media that lured Munondo in.

“Discover the Fascinating World of Maggot Farming! Whether you’re a farmer looking to boost your livestock’s nutrition or an entrepreneur seeking a unique venture, this training is for you! Fee: USD 30. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to revolutionize your farming practices,” reads the advertisement. This seized his attention.

Since then, he has not turned back and maggot farming has become a way of life in a country with 90 percent unemployment, according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

Instead, Munondo, like several other maggot entrepreneurs, has become more of an employer after he set up a maggot plot of land just a year after he received training in farming the worms.

He has not, however, quit his teaching job, saying maggot farming, thanks to his workforce of 14 people at his plot outside the Zimbabwean capital Harare, has become his side job.

In fact, maggot farming, which involves breeding and harvesting maggots for various purposes such as producing cheap, high-protein animal feed, composting, and waste management, has become a big hit in Zimbabwe.

Many Zimbabweans, like Munondo in the capital, Harare, who are involved in maggot farming, are using the maggots to feed their own home-grown chickens.

For Munondo, that has helped cut costs for the over 800 chickens he rears in his backyard.

It now costs just USD 3.50 for entrepreneurs like Munondo to fully breed one chicken using maggots, compared to USD 6.50 using soy-based feed.

Thanks to maggot farming, Munondo claimed he was raking in 70 to 80 dollars a day from selling maggots alone, which he said at the end of the month exceeded the total he earns from his teaching job.

An average school teacher in Zimbabwe earns about USD 200 every month after tax deductions and for many, like Munondo, maggot farming has come in handy to supplement his meagre earnings from his government job.

With garbage going uncollected for long periods across Zimbabwe’s towns and cities, thanks to poor service delivery by council authorities, Munondo said some residents are buying maggots to destroy uncollected waste.

“The same maggots that are feeding my chickens are being used to get rid of uncollected waste.”

As maggot farming gains traction in Zimbabwe, even young people like 23-year-old Jonathan Pamhare in Harare have found something to gain from the maggots.

“I don’t really do maggot farming, but I’m interested in them and I started a training company that offers agricultural training, and among the trainings is maggot farming,” Pamhare told IPS.

Well versed in all the procedures related to maggot farming, Pamhare also said, “It (maggot farming) is the most profitable business because your expense is mostly your time.”

As such, added Pamhare, they (the maggots) feed on just anything rotten that comes within their reach.

This, Pamhare said, is cheap, coming more often than not at zero cost, with the maggots maturing in a period of about two weeks.

From his training venture, Pamhare made his money, charging between USD 30 and 40 per head for all the trainees that he recruits.

In high-density areas of Harare like Sunningdale, five kilometers east of Harare, thanks to maggot farming trainers, several homes boast of rearing chickens for sale and feeding them using maggots.

Battling high prices for chicken feed has become a thing of the past, as many urban chicken farmers now switch to maggots to fatten their chickens.

But these are no ordinary maggots, according to many, like Munondo, who has made a name for himself as a thriving maggot farmer.

Maggots begin as what Munondo called black soldier flies—literally giant black flies—which, through metamorphosis, turn into maggots. Pig farmers have also embraced them and are now feeding their pigs the protein-rich maggots.

The black soldier flies, popularly known as BSF here, have a four-stage life cycle from egg to larvae to pupa to adult fly.

The BSF deposit their eggs near a food source and after about three to four days, the flies grow into larvae that feed on the waste prior to being harvested.

There are no latest official statistics about maggot farmers in Zimbabwe, but the Zimbabwe Organic and Natural Food Association has been on record in the media, claiming that of late the number of maggot farmers has been growing.

The reason, said Munondo, is that maggot farming is the easiest.

“Maggots don’t require much land, while they need neither chemicals nor lots of water in order to be reared. Just a small land piece, flies, and waste, which are the most crucial components, are all one requires in order to kickstart maggot farming,” said Munondo.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Categories: Africa

Brass bands and ballot boxes: Africa's top shots

BBC Africa - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 01:22
A selection of the best photos from across the African continent this week.
Categories: Africa

Kenya hears 'heartbreaking' claims against UK soldiers

BBC Africa - Thu, 05/30/2024 - 20:28
Witnesses at public hearings in Kenya make allegations against British soldiers at a base in Nanyuki.
Categories: Africa

Plastic Soup, Plastic Islands: How Small Island Developing States can end Plastic Pollution

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 05/30/2024 - 14:53

If not stopped, the annual flow of plastic into the ocean will nearly triple by 2040, to 29 million metric tonnes per year, 50 kilgrammes of plastic for every metre of coastline worldwide. Credit: UN Development Programme (UNDP)

By Sulan Chen, Inka Mattila and Vera Hakim

Scattered over the vast area of our oceans, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are often pictured as blue, serene and beautiful paradises. However, we are risk losing the beauty of these islands, due to the triple threats of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution, especially marine plastic debris.

If business continues as usual, the annual flow of plastic into the ocean will nearly triple by 2040, to 29 million metric tonnes per year, equivalent to 50 kilogrammes of plastic for every metre of coastline worldwide. Soon, the ocean will turn into plastic soup, and islands will be covered in, and surrounded by, plastic waste.

Despite their small land areas, some SIDS have identified themselves as large ocean states due to their large exclusive economic zones. Their economies are dependent on fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. They contribute to less than two percent of mismanaged plastic waste, yet are disproportionately impacted by both land- and sea-based plastic waste through leakage at every point along a plastic production and supply chain. Washing far ashore from where the waste is generated, plastic waste ends up on the coastlines of SIDS and in our food supply.

Lack of land often means waste is often burned or dumped into the sea. Most islands do not have waste management facilities. Waste management has become a complicated issue. SIDS’ remote locations constitute a significant challenge in organizing inter-island logistics, and limited resources lead to bigger challenges regarding the management of plastic litter.

Many plastic products, especially single use packaging, cannot be recycled due to the additives and variety of plastics, the prohibitively high cost of sorting and collection, and the low cost of new plastics. The first measure is to identify what is of essential use and eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastics.

A national multi-stakeholder process should be established to assess the status of plastics consumption, backed up with solid scientific data and analysis. National policies should ban the import of certain problematic materials based on scientific assessment and public consultations. Field experience evidence has demonstrated the effectiveness of grass-root initiatives both for community level awareness building and for circular economy initiatives.

Given the challenges of recycling in SIDS, it is essential to use less plastics to reduce the burden of waste management. Ecological alternatives using traditional materials can be promoted. Eco-design should be piloted and scaled up to focus on reducing environmental impact at every step of a product’s life cycle that designs out toxins or promotes reuse/refill and recyclability.

Governments can provide subsidies, tax credits, and other incentives to remove market barriers for the adoption of ecological alternatives and eco-design products, and to promote circular economy initiatives.

Small island economies dependent on the health of oceans, for fisheries, aquaculture and tourism and their ecosystems and economies are particularly vulnerable to plastic pollution. Credit: UNDP

Most SIDS import plastics from overseas, but the post-consumer products and waste are not shipped out, which makes accumulation of plastic waste unavoidable. As SIDS do not have the facilities and capacity for recycling, policies should be developed to ensure exporters of materials to SIDS to take post-consumer products back for recycling.

Governments should consider the development of extended producers’ responsibilities that collect taxes and fees from importers and/or exporters for waste management, and implement circular economy practices and policies.

International cooperation is essential for SIDS to deal with plastic pollution. SIDS are at the receiving points of marine debris (of which 75 percent are plastics) as they are near ocean gyres. Unless the world ends marine plastic pollution once for all, SIDS alone will not be able to deal with it, as ocean currents will continue bringing it ashore.

For example, in the Comoros, if waste continues unchecked, the island of Moheli risks losing its fragile ecosystem and its UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status.

In Seychelles, UNDP has supported a national campaign “The Last Straw” to stop the use and sale of single use plastic straws, which directly reduce the leakage of plastic waste. It has resulted in a national ban on plastic straws and balloons.

In the Dominican Republic, UNDP has worked with the central and local government, private sector, academia and civil society organization and community organizations to tackle plastic pollution with a life cycle approach, including exploration of local, scalable solutions for plastics waste management with the support of UNDP´s Accelerator Lab. UNDP has partnered with the Ocean Cleanup on an automatic plastic collection system, which has reduced the plastic waste entering the ocean, increased the public awareness of plastic pollution, and inspired national policy conversations.

With the support from the Global Environmental Facility, the Dominican Republic will reduce single use plastics in food and beverages, and scale up circular solutions with policy change, demonstration of innovative models, public-private partnerships and awareness raising.

In Comoros, UNDP and UNEP have formed the Comoros Integrated Waste Management Alliance to address waste management and work with municipalities and communities. This alliance builds upon the shared commitment by UNDP and the United Nations Environment Programme, made in October 2023 to focus on plastic pollution and integrated waste management.

As the SIDS leaders and international community gathered early this week in Antigua and Barbuda to review SIDS progress towards Sustainable Development Goals it is critical to reaffirm our collective commitment to take drastic and urgent actions to turn off the tide of plastic pollution.

The ongoing plastics treaty negotiations should also consider SIDS special conditions and agree upon special measures addressing SIDS challenges, and aim for an ambitious and effective global legal instrument to end plastic pollution.

Together, we must stop the trajectory of our Earth turning into plastic ocean, plastic islands and plastic dumps. There is no time to waste, and no action is not an option. We must stop plastic pollution to secure a clean and sustainable planet for ourselves, our future generations, and all other lives that share this precious planet.

Sulan Chen is Principal Technical Advisor and Global Lead on Plastics Offer, UNDP; Inka Mattila is Resident Representative, UNDP Dominican Republic; Vera Hakim is Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP, Comoros.

Source: UNDP

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

UN, International Partners Coordinate Aid to Papua New Guinea Landslide Disaster

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 05/30/2024 - 10:49

The local community from Yambani in Papua New Guinea assess the damage of the May 26, 2024, landslide. Credit: UNICEF

By Naureen Hossain

As the communities of Enga province in Papua New Guinea contend with the landslide that has devastated the residents of Yambani, the United Nations and its partners have been active on the ground addressing the immediate humanitarian needs, according to agencies. 

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister, James Marape, says “extraordinary rainfall” and weather pattern changes were responsible for multiple disasters in the Pacific Island nation this year, including the landslide last Friday.

“Our people in that village went to sleep for the last time, not knowing they would breathe their last breath as they were sleeping peacefully. Nature threw a disastrous landslip, submerged or covered the village,” Marape told parliament on Wednesday.

Since the May 26 disaster, the United Nations has been actively supporting Papua New Guinea’s government in coordinating humanitarian support, search and rescue operations and the initial needs assessments of the thousands of locals who have been impacted by the devastating landslide. The UN is also coordinating the response efforts of all partners, both at the national and provincial levels, with the National Disaster Centre and the Enga Provincial Disaster Management Team.

UN agencies present on the ground to address immediate humanitarian needs include the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). UN-Women, UNFPA, and UNICEF are also coordinating with local emergency response teams to provide relief supplies, such as emergency health kits, tents, and psychosocial support.

Rescue efforts in Yambani, Papua New Guinea, after the May 26, 2024, landslide. Credit: UNICEF

UNICEF’s involvement has included the distribution of at least 50 hygiene and dignity kits, containing multipurpose cloth, soap, buckets, and reusable sanitary pads. They are also working to establish the broader needs of the affected communities, including child protection, health and sanitation, and nutrition needs.

“We are working closely with Papua New Guinean authorities and community organizations to provide vital support to the survivors of this terrible disaster,” said UNICEF Representative Angela Kearney.

“The challenges we face in the aftermath of this tragedy are immense,” said Serhan Aktoprak, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Papua New Guinea. “The area remains extremely dangerous due to ongoing land movement, and access is hindered by blocked roads, damaged infrastructure, and adverse weather conditions.”

The total affected population is estimated at 7,849 individuals, according to their 2022 common roll. Among the population, at least 42 percent are children aged 16 years or younger. So far, only six bodies have been retrieved from the rubble, with the numbers likely to increase as rescue and recovery efforts continue. The death toll is likely to be high. However, no official number has been confirmed yet. Though earlier reports indicated that anywhere from 670 people to over 2,000 have perished,.

“While the death toll is expected to be high, we refrain from stating exact numbers until the search operations are completed,” Juho Valka, Head of Communications, UNDP PNG, told IPS by email. Valka further explained that, as a result of the landslide, a total of 150 structures are estimated to have been buried. Evacuation centers have been set up between both sides of the debris, which is up to 8 meters, or 26 feet, high.

Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Centre made an official request for international assistance through a letter to the UN Resident Coordinator. The UN is expected to coordinate assistance from local partners and individual member states.

Authorities in the Enga province have also called on international assistance for the deployment of geotechnical engineers to conduct a geohazard assessment. As of Tuesday, Australia, one of the country’s closest neighbors, has sent over a disaster response team, which includes a geohazard assessment group. The Australian government has also pledged over 2.5 million Australian dollars in aid efforts.

The situation is not without its complications. On Tuesday morning, a bridge collapsed in the Western Highlands province, which cut off the main Highlands highways just before Enga. This has disrupted communications between Enga and the rest of the Highlands. An alternative route to Enga is through the Southern Highlands Highway, which adds an additional two-three hours in travel time. The PNG Defense Force is currently making an effort to fix the bridge as soon as possible.

There is also a growing concern over a disease outbreak, as underground water flowing downward will likely contaminate local drinking water sources. Furthermore, locals are worried over the possibility of a second landslide, and a further 8,000 people may need to be evacuated, as Aktoprak told the Associated Press.“If this debris mass is not stopped, if it continues moving, it can gain speed and further wipe out other communities and villages further down the mountain,” he said.

According to an AP report, a team of 40 military engineers and medical personnel reached Yambali village on Tuesday night to negotiate with the villagers to begin digging efforts. Heavy earth-moving equipment, such as excavators, is expected to reach the scene by Thursday. However, villagers are divided on whether to use heavy-grade equipment, fearing that this could potentially further damage the bodies of their buried relatives. Villagers have been using shovels and farming tools to find bodies, with some even using their bare hands to dig through deep mud and debris.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Categories: Africa

Explainer: Why Is It Important for Venezuela to Adopt Escazú Agreement in the Coming Year?

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 05/30/2024 - 09:10

Alejandro Álvarez says the Latin American region is dangerous for environmental defenders. Credit: Margaret López/IPS

By Margaret López
CARACAS, May 30 2024 (IPS)

Venezuela is one of the few countries outside the Escazú Agreement, a treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean ratified by 16 member countries that guarantees access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decisions, and environmental justice.

“The failure to sign the Escazú Agreement is a symptom of this general situation of lack of environmental rule of law in the country,” said Erick Camargo, researcher of the Observatory of Political Ecology, in an interview with IPS.

For the past seven years, the Observatory of Political Ecology has been part of a group asking the Venezuelan State to embrace this international treaty. The petition of civil organizations aims to ensure that the environment and threats such as illegal mining, deforestation, or the murder of indigenous defenders are not forgotten, amid a complex humanitarian emergency that this Caribbean country is experiencing.

What is the Escazú Agreement?

It is the first treaty on environment and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its full name is Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. Although it is better known by the name of the place where it was signed on March 4, 2018: Escazú, Costa Rica.

The Escazú Agreement ratifies that all Latin Americans have the right to know if the water they receive in their homes is potable, if the air they breathe daily is safe for their health, or if a community should have a veto over companies for activities such as mining, oil exploitation, or tourism in biodiverse areas.

Its 26 articles entered into force in 2021. This treaty is also a recognition of the role played by Latin American environmental defenders in the preservation of nature and the problem of violence experienced by these defenders in the region.

“Latin America is the most dangerous area in the world to defend environmental human rights. These are not only people who work for environmental organizations, but also environmental journalists and people from indigenous communities who defend the territory and habitat where they live”, explained Alejandro Alvarez, biologist and coordinator of the non-governmental organization Clima 21, in an interview with IPS.

Statistics compiled by Global Witness, an independent organization that monitors deaths in defense of the environment, speak of 1,335 environmental defenders murdered in Latin America between 2012 and 2022. That is, 70 percent of all killings of environmental defenders in that decade. In the Venezuelan case, 21 people were killed defending nature in the same period, most of them belonging to Indigenous communities.

For researcher Liliana Buitrago of the Observatory of Political Ecology, the central point of this treaty is that it helps to “make visible a fundamental narrative in the climate crisis (…) because environmental defenders are decisive actors to protect, fight, and stop environmental and ecological collapse.”

What benefits do Venezuela bring to this agreement?

As with other international environmental bodies, the Escazú Agreement provides for a Conference of the Parties (COP) to be held every year. At COP 3, its most recent edition held in Santiago, Chile, the Regional Action Plan on environmental human rights defenders was approved.

The implementation of this special plan for environmental defenders will take six years. This is the first multilateral agreement that requires States to ensure that the defense of the environment can take place in freedom and its implementation will strengthen the protection of environmental defenders in the Latin American region. This environmental protection plan is part of what Venezuelan organizations want to obtain with the country’s adhesion to this agreement.

“Venezuela has quite robust environmental legislation for the protection of its natural areas or its defenders, but it is neither complied with nor known. The importance in the Venezuelan case is that the Escazú Agreement would give us an international tool to put pressure on our state,” said Camargo.

If Venezuela were to adopt the Escazú Agreement in the coming year, this would give an international legal instrument to organized groups to demand greater security for indigenous peoples defending their territories in the Venezuelan Amazon. This is an area that is now threatened with deforestation for the establishment of new illegal mining sites for the extraction of gold, according to the independent organization SOS Orinoco.

Another benefit would be the establishment of an updated environmental information system. Such a public and accessible environmental system should include, for example, key data on the impacts of climate change in the country as well as a list of the most polluted areas, as established in Article 6 of the Escazú Agreement.

Transparency in the environmental field, not in vain, is one of the most common requests from Venezuelan organizations such as Clima 21, the Venezuelan Society of Ecology, the Observatory of Political Ecology, and Espacio Publico.

“There is no guarantee that the Venezuelan state will comply with environmental commitments. Many international agreements were signed and the standards have not been met, but their signature is already a step. The signing of the Escazú Agreement would show a certain willingness to be transparent in environmental management and, therefore, it would be good to sign it,” explained Carlos Correa, executive director of Espacio Público, in an interview with IPS.

Now, the Venezuelan government has 10 months ahead of it to evaluate its position and join the next COP of the Escazú Agreement as another of the countries in the region that are truly committed to the defense of nature amid the climate crisis.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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

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In this explainer, IPS looks at the Escazú Agreement, which aims to guarantee the rights of Latin American citizens to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making processes, and access justice in environmental matters. Why is it important that Venezuela signs the agreement?
Categories: Africa

South Suffering Due to Powerful Nations’ Policies

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 05/30/2024 - 07:18

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, May 30 2024 (IPS)

The World Bank expects the international economic slowdown to be at its worst in over four decades in 2024. This is mainly due to powerful Western nations’ contractionary macroeconomic and geopolitical policies.

Dismal outlook
According to the Bank’s last Global Economic Prospects report, world economic growth will be weakest by the end of 2024. Only the US economy’s strength will statistically prevent a world recession.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

World economic growth was expected to slow to 2.4 per cent in 2024. But even the US-controlled World Bank acknowledges growing geopolitical tensions are the main threat.

Medium-term prospects for most developing economies have worsened due to slower growth in most major economies. This has been exacerbated by tighter monetary policy and credit, sluggish trade and investment growth.

2024 would be the third year of economic slowdown due to tighter monetary policies supposed to rein in inflation. Central banks are fixated on bringing inflation below their two per cent target by tightening credit.

Worldwide growth was expected to slow from 2.6% in 2023 to 2.4% in 2024 – well below the 2010s’ mean. Developing economies would only grow by 3.9% in 2024, more than a percentage point below the previous decade’s average.

World Bank Chief Economist Indermit Gill feared, “Near-term growth will remain weak, leaving many developing countries – especially the poorest – stuck in a trap: with paralysing levels of debt and tenuous access to food for nearly one out of every three people.”

Gloomy prospects
The Bank projected that developed economies would slow as most developing economies outside Asia recover. It also acknowledges precarious prospects for vulnerable developing economies due to much higher debt financing costs.

At the end of 2023, the Bank expected things to worsen due to the Gaza invasion, related commodity market pressures, financial stress, more indebtedness, higher borrowing costs, persistent inflation, China’s weak recovery, trade disruptions, and climate disasters.

US unwillingness to broker a ceasefire in Ukraine or to stop the Gaza massacre or South China Sea militarisation has worsened geopolitical risks and recovery prospects while diverting more resources for war.

Financial stress and higher interest rates have exacerbated inflation and stagnation. Meanwhile, the new Cold War has slowed growth in China and much of Asia by worsening ‘trade fragmentation’ and global heating.

The Bank urges multilateral cooperation to provide debt relief, especially for the poorest countries, address global heating, enable the energy transition, revive trade integration, address climate change, and reduce food insecurity.

The world economy has lost $3.3 trillion since 2020. Yet, instead of strengthening developing countries’ recoveries, the Bank still urges fiscal austerity and financialization.

A quarter of developing countries and two-fifths of low-income countries (LICs) would be worse off in 2024 than in 2019, before the pandemic. With limited fiscal space, developing nations with poor credit ratings are especially condemned.

With rich economies expected to slow from 1.5% last year to 1.2% in 2024, demand for primary commodities will further dampen. Despite other dismal projections, the Bank wishfully projected LICs would grow by 5.5% in 2024!

But instead of prioritising economic recovery, finance ministers and central bank governors agreed to continue policies worsening the situation by suppressing demand and ignoring ‘supply-side disruptions’ responsible for inflation.

Fiscal follies?
For decades, the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions urged developing economies to be much more open and market-oriented. Unsurprisingly, the global South now faces problems due to earlier procyclical policies.

The report advises commodity exporters – two-thirds of developing nations – how to cope with price fluctuations. Breaking with past advice, the Bank now calls for a more counter-cyclical fiscal policy framework.

Fiscal policies in recent decades have often been procyclical, overheating economies and deepening slumps. The Bank found fiscal policy in commodity-exporting nations 30% more procyclical and 40% more volatile than in other developing economies.

It argues commodity exporters’ fiscal policies have worsened price vicissitudes. It estimates that when commodity price increases enhance growth, government spending increases can boost growth by an additional fifth.

Greater fiscal policy pro-cyclicality and volatility amplify business cycles, hurting economic growth in commodity-exporting developing economies.

The Bank argues this should be addressed with “a fiscal framework that helps discipline government spending, by adopting flexible exchange-rate regimes, and by avoiding restrictions on the movement of international capital”.

The report claims such policy measures will help commodity-exporting developing economies boost per capita growth by about 0.2% annually.

Misrepresenting statistical correlations, the Bank urges easing restrictions on international financial flows, claiming this would “help reduce both fiscal procyclicality and fiscal volatility”.

Ignoring developing countries’ experiences, it urges the adoption of developed-economy “exchange rate regimes, [lack of] restrictions on cross-border financial flows, and … fiscal rules” as part of a “strong commitment to fiscal discipline.”

The report ignores overwhelming evidence of fiscal austerity and capital account openness exacerbating procyclicality and volatility.

Clearly, Bank advice has not changed much since the 1980s, when such policy recommendations worsened Latin America’s and Africa’s lost decades.

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

Africa's new F1 fans who want a race on the continent

BBC Africa - Thu, 05/30/2024 - 01:56
The historically Eurocentric sport has found a new and growing fanbase in Africa.
Categories: Africa

South Africa votes, here's what people had to say

BBC Africa - Wed, 05/29/2024 - 20:47
After nearly 30 years in power, the ANC ruling party faces its toughest challenge yet in this year's polls.
Categories: Africa

South Africa votes, here's what people had to say

BBC Africa - Wed, 05/29/2024 - 20:47
After nearly 30 years in power, the ANC ruling party faces its toughest challenge yet in this year's polls.
Categories: Africa

People at Risk Need Protection Before Another Hot Summer

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 05/29/2024 - 17:59

Last summer Spain recorded four heat waves, with a total of 24 days of extreme heat. Credit: Shutterstock

By Jonas Bull
BRUSSELS, May 29 2024 (IPS)

Spring has traditionally brought a welcome new beginning: daylight increases, flowers bloom and temperatures are pleasantly warm. However, in recent years, it’s also brought justified fears about extreme heat with summers in Southern Europe getting increasingly hot because of climate change. Older people, children, people with disabilities, and people with mental health conditions are among those at higher risk.

Leo, a 10-year-old boy from Seville whom I met while investigating the impacts of extreme heat on people with disabilities in Andalusia, has epidermolysis bullosa, or “butterfly skin,” a rare genetic condition in which the skin can blister at the slightest touch. In the summer heat, sweating can lead to more blisters while open wounds can lead to dehydration.

Unlike most children in Andalusia, for whom summer means spending time at the beach with friends and family, for Leo, summer is agonizing. The past summers, hotter than average, were incredibly difficult for Leo, who had to stay indoors for several weeks.

It is increasingly clear that people should not be left alone to deal with the climate crisis and that governments need to do their part to ensure their protection. This is certainly the case for Andalusia, and the rest of Spain, as we head into another hot, potentially record-breaking summer

Last summer Spain recorded four heat waves, with a total of 24 days of extreme heat. Climate scientists have confirmed that increased temperatures in Spain are linked to climate change, and projected that heat waves will increase in frequency and intensity. That means that Leo may have to spend even more time indoors this summer.

The people with disabilities I met last year told me that in addition to feeling the physical and psychological effects of the heat, they felt abandoned by their government and lacked outside support. Lidia, Leo’s mother, said the local authorities did not contact their family or provide specific information on how to protect themselves during heat waves.

This should have happened as the government of Andalusia, like those of other regions in Spain and the national government, created heatwave action plans mandating health and social services to undertake specific measures between mid-May and September to respond to and mitigate the impact on groups at risk, including reaching out and offering support to those at risk.

City officials and Health Ministry officials I spoke to admitted the information they provided about heat measures was not provided in formats that would be accessible to people with various disabilities.

And they didn’t have an overview of what emergency measures had been activated across Andalusia, including where and how many cooling centers were opened. Nor does the national government collect data on deaths of people with disabilities due to extreme heat.

Heat already affects people’s mental health, and a lack of meaningful outreach can worsen feelings of isolation and abandonment at a time, coinciding with a long summer period where schools, and many shops, and offices close down.

In other words, it’s a lonely period for those unable to leave their homes. I worry about a 75-year-old woman I met who has a psychosocial disability and lives alone in Córdoba. “When it gets hot, I have anxiety and feel irritable,” she told me. “In those stages, you feel like you want to kill yourself.”

Fortunately, governments have begun to realize they need to boost efforts to fulfill their human rights obligations to protect populations at risk. The Andalusian government has made considerable efforts to improve its annual heat wave protection plans.

In January 2024, it told us that it would establish a system to monitor all heat-wave-related measures this summer and that it aims to work closely with civil society groups to better connect with communities, especially people at risk. These steps seem promising.

The national government is taking steps to better protect people at risk as well. At the height of last summer’s heat wave, Spain announced a new body, the Observatory on Climate Change and Health, created to develop strategies to help protect people from climate disasters, such as heat waves, through better warning systems, strengthening health systems, and improving awareness across society.

How these activities will be carried out and whether they lead to better protection for the people at risk remains to be seen. It is increasingly clear, however, that people should not be left alone to deal with the climate crisis and that governments need to do their part to ensure their protection. This is certainly the case for Andalusia, and the rest of Spain, as we head into another hot, potentially record-breaking summer.


Jonas Bull is with the disability rights division at Human Rights Watch.
Categories: Africa

Uniting for Climate Action: UN, World Bank and UNDRR Leaders Push for Climate Finance, Justice and Nature-Based Solutions for SIDS

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 05/29/2024 - 17:37

Panelists at SDG Media Zone at SIDS4, Antigua and Barbuda. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

By Alison Kentish
ANTIGUA & BARBUDA, May 29 2024 (IPS)

As leaders of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) meet for the 4th International Conference on SIDS in Antigua this week, top United Nations and World Bank officials are calling for urgent action to help SIDS tackle their unique challenges and plan for the next decade.

Selwin Hart, UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General of the Climate Action Team, had a frank assessment for a United Nations SDG Media Zone event on the sidelines of the conference, known as SIDS4

“The international community has failed to deliver on its commitments to these small nations, but it’s not too late to make amends,” he said.

Hart says the world has the ‘tools, solutions, technologies, and finance’ to support SIDS, but change lies in the political will of  the countries with the greatest responsibility and capacity, particularly G20 nations, which account for almost 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“A mere USD 3 billion of the USD 100 billion goal has been mobilized annually for the small island developing state and you compare that to the USD 36 billion in profit that Exxon Mobil made last year. It represents a tenth of the climate finance that SIDS are attracting and mobilizing. We need to correct these injustices and that has to be at the root of the global response to the demands and needs of  small island developing states.”

Nature-Based Solutions for Nations on the Frontlines of Climate Change
“Both natural and man-made disasters hit SIDS first,” the World Bank’s Global Director of Environment, Natural Resources, and Blue Economy, Valerie Hickey, told the Media Zone. She said that for this reason, the international lending body describes SIDS as “where tomorrow happens today,” a nod to small islands’ role as ‘innovation incubators,’ who must adapt to climate change through the creative and sustainable use of natural capital, biodiversity, and nature-based solutions.

She says nature capital also shifts the narrative, focusing less on the vulnerabilities of SIDS and more on their ingenuity.

“We don’t talk enough about the fact that small islands are where natural capital is the engine of jobs and GDP,” she said. “It is fisheries. It is nature-based tourism. These are critically important for most of the small islands and ultimately deliver not just jobs and GDP but are going to be the only technology for adaptation that is available and affordable, and affordability matters for small islands.”

For small island states seeking to adapt to a changing climate, nature-based solutions and ecosystem based adaptation are essential, but it is also necessary to tackle perennial problems that hinder growth and access to finance. That includes a dearth of current, relevant data.

“The data is too fragmented. It’s sitting on people’s laptops. It’s sitting on people’s shelves. Nobody knows what’s out there and that’s true for the private sector and the public sector,” she said.

“In the Caribbean, where there is excess capital sitting in retail banks, USD 50 billion of that can be used to invest in nature-based solutions judiciously, to work on the kind of longer-term infrastructure that would be fit for purpose both for disaster recovery and long-term growth—it’s not happening for lack of data.”

As part of SIDS4, the world’s small island developing states appear to be tackling this decades-long data problem head-on. At the event’s opening session, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said a much-promoted Centre of Excellence will be established at this conference and that this Global Data Hub for Innovative Technologies and Investment for SIDS will use data for decision-making, ensuring that SIDS’ ten-year Antigua and Barbuda Agenda (ABAS) is led by ‘accuracy and timeliness.’

Reducing Disaster Risk and Early Warning Systems for All

A discussion on SIDS is not complete without acknowledging the disproportionate impact of disasters on the island nations. Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Kamal Kishore, says mortality rates and economic losses from disasters are significantly higher in SIDS than the global average.

“If you look at mortality from disasters, the number of deaths normalized by the population of the countries, the mortality rate in SIDS is twice that of the rest of the world. If you look at economic losses as a proportion of GDP, globally it is under one percent; in SIDS, in a single event, countries have lost 30 percent of their GDP. SIDS have lost up to two-thirds of their GDP in a single event.”

Kishore says the ambition to reduce disaster losses must match the scale of the problem. He says early warning systems are a must and have to be seen by all not as generosity but responsibility.

“It is not acceptable that anybody on planet Earth should not have access to advanced cyclone or hurricane warnings. We have the technical wherewithal to generate forecasts and warnings. We have technologies to disseminate it. We know what communities need to do and what local governments need to do in order to respond to those warnings. Why is it not happening?”

The Early Warning for All initiative was launched by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in 2022. Kishore says 30 countries have been identified in the initial stage and a third of those countries are SIDS. Gap analyses have already been conducted and a road map has been prepared for strengthening early warning systems. The organization needs money to make it happen.

“The world needs to show some generosity and pick up the bill. It’s not in billions. It’s in millions and it will pay for itself in a single event. You invest in early warning in a country and one major event happens in the next five years, you’ve recovered your investment. The evidence is there that it makes financial sense, but we need to mobilize resources to close that gap.”

The Road Ahead

Thirty years since the first International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the three leaders agree that there is hope, but that hope is hinged on action—an approach to development in SIDS that involves financial investment, comprehensive data collection and management and nature-based adaptation measures.

“It’s not too late,” says Selwin Hart. “What we need now is the political will to make things right for small island developing states.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Categories: Africa

To Tackle Climate Crisis, the World Bank Must Stop Financing Industrial Livestock

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 05/29/2024 - 08:18

By Carolina Galvani and Monique Mikhail
WASHINGTON DC, May 29 2024 (IPS)

Last week, the World Bank Group released a new report that highlights the urgent need to drastically reduce GHG emissions to address the climate crisis and calls on countries to act. However, while the World Bank’s acknowledgment of the damaging climate impacts of industrial agriculture is a crucial step forward, it’s simply not enough.

To address the climate emergency, the World Bank must walk the talk and take action on its own portfolio – which currently has billions invested in livestock production – by halting all financing for the global expansion of factory farming.

First, the climate consequences of industrial livestock are staggering. As the World Bank’s report points out, the global agrifood system accounts for approximately one-third of all global greenhouse gas emissions, and industrial livestock production accounts for the lion’s share of these.

Research has shown that livestock production alone will consume nearly half of the world’s 1.5°C emissions budget by 2030 and a staggering 80% by 2050. The World Bank’s report aptly states that “the system that feeds us is also feeding the planet’s climate crisis.”

The World Bank cannot effectively tackle the climate crisis without a significant shift in lending away from high-polluting industrial livestock and toward a more sustainable food system.

Second, the World Bank’s continued financing for industrial livestock starkly contradicts its own commitments, spanning from the Paris Agreement targets to the Sustainable Development Goals to the Bank’s biodiversity policies, and even its own mission statement.

The World Bank itself says that “the world cannot achieve the Paris Agreement targets without achieving net zero emissions in the agrifood system.” Yet, the Bank continues to finance the expansion of industrial livestock – putting the Bank’s financing at odds with its commitment to align its strategies, activities, and investments with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Bank’s financial support for industrial livestock goes against other obligations as well, including the Bank’s commitment to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A 2019 report from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development highlights the adverse human health and environmental impacts of industrial agriculture, including livestock and feed production, and the ways in which it undermines several SDGs, including poverty eradication (1), zero hunger (2), good health (3), clean water (6), decent work (8), responsible consumption and production (12), and climate action (13).

Adding to this, despite the World Bank’s claim that it is “putting nature at the core of development efforts”, the Bank is continuing to undermine biodiversity by supporting the expansion of industrial livestock production when this sector, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), is the primary threat to over 85% of the 28,000 species at risk of extinction.

Beyond global commitments, financing industrial livestock is also at odds with the World Bank’s own mission statement. World Bank President Ajay Banga took the reins at the World Bank a year ago with a mandate to help countries mitigate the climate crisis.

As part of that mandate, the World Bank updated its mission statement, stating it will work “to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity on a livable planet.” To achieve this mission, the World Bank must reassess its investments and immediately cease financing the expansion of industrial livestock.

Finally, like all development institutions, the World Bank has limited resources and must carefully choose the best projects to achieve its overall mission. In practice, this means that every dollar spent on industrial livestock is a dollar not invested in what the World Bank itself has acknowledged is the necessary just transition to a sustainable agrifood system. The Bank must redirect its support toward transitioning to a just and sustainable global food system.

As the Bank rightly points out in its recent report, “[T]he world has avoided confronting agrifood system emissions for as long as it could because of the scope and complexity of the task…now is the time to put agriculture and food at the top of the mitigation agenda. If not, the world will be unable to ensure a livable planet for future generations.”

It’s past time for the Bank to heed its own warning.

The World Bank must immediately cease its support for industrial livestock — a primary driver of climate change, biodiversity loss, public health crises, and food insecurity — and direct the Bank’s resources and considerable influence toward reforming and reshaping agriculture and food systems.

Our future on a livable planet depends on it.

Carolina Galvani is the executive director of Sinergia Animal, an international animal protection organization working in the Global South to end the worst practices of industrial animal agriculture. Monique Mikhail is the Agriculture and Climate Finance Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth U.S. Sinergia Animal and Friends of the Earth are members of the Stop Financing Factory Farming coalition.

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

Is Nigeria on the right track after a year of Tinubu?

BBC Africa - Wed, 05/29/2024 - 02:09
A year of the presidency of Bola Tinubu has left many worse off and worried about their next meal.
Categories: Africa

Reclaiming the Narrative in African Philanthropy: A Community-Based Organization’s Perspective

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 05/28/2024 - 19:35

Reclaiming the narrative in African philanthropy is not just about changing perceptions; it is about shifting power and fostering a more inclusive and equitable approach to development. Credit: Shutterstock

By Tafadzwa Munyaka
NEW YORK, May 28 2024 (IPS)

In recent years, the African philanthropy landscape has been undergoing a profound transformation. Or has it? Historically, the narrative of aid and development in Africa has been dominated by external donors and International Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The role of African giving has largely been silent. However, a new paradigm is emerging—one where community-based organizations (CBOs) are reclaiming the narrative and driving change from within.

Drawing on years of traditional giving, it is time we dispel the notions of African philanthropy as having been constrained or colonized. This shift is not only reshaping how philanthropy is and has been practiced in many communities on the continent but also redefining the very concept of development.


Of grassroots initiatives, families, and the community

It is time we dispel the notions of African philanthropy as having been constrained or colonized. This shift is not only reshaping how philanthropy is and has been practiced in many communities on the continent but also redefining the very concept of development

At the heart of African philanthropy is grassroots initiatives, families, and the broader community. The people leading this transformation are the same agents that have pioneered giving throughout time, not only in emergencies.

The common feature of these agents is that they are deeply embedded within communities and possess an intimate understanding of the local context, needs, and aspirations. For instance, extended families will chip in to send children to school or ensure a relative has access to healthcare.

For example, in Zimbabwe historically in times of uncertainty, the village head or chief kept grain given to them in trust by the community for rainy days known as isiphala senkosi in IsiNdebele or dura rashe in ChiShona which means the chief’s granary. Unlike external entities, these agents are not merely visitors; they are stakeholders with a vested interest in the well-being and prosperity of their communities as illustrated.

In the case of CBOs, I can point out that they are uniquely positioned to address issues in a way that is culturally sensitive and sustainable. They can mobilise local resources, engage community members, and implement solutions that are tailored to the specific challenges and opportunities of their environments.

This localised approach ensures that interventions are relevant and have a lasting impact. In this way, they tend to do away with elaborate explanations of how the resources are going to be used because everyone is in on it and knows. This is not to say there is no accountability.

Rather, no stringent conditions or agendas are attached to the aid which ends up drawing superficial impact since much of it is bogged down in bureaucracy.


The narrative of aid

The traditional narrative of African philanthropy has often portrayed the continent as a passive recipient of aid. In this instance, aid is viewed in monetary terms or whatever can be quantified, usually in dollar terms.

This perspective not only undermines the agency of African communities but also perpetuates a dependency syndrome.

For the Global North, philanthropy means one has acquired a new status of wealth and suddenly has extra to give which is in contrast to African giving that is embedded in the need to help or contribute towards a solution despite one’s wealth status.

However, CBOs, families, and communities have continuously challenged this narrative by showcasing the resilience, ingenuity, and resourcefulness of African communities through everyday giving. The Covid-19 pandemic provides a clear example of this as “calls for a paradigm shift in the philanthropic sector gained momentum” in the Global North.

By taking the lead in development initiatives, CBOs have long demonstrated that African communities are not helpless but are, in fact, capable of driving their own progress, ceteris paribus.

This shift is crucial in changing the perception of Africa from a continent in need to a continent of opportunity. It highlights the importance of partnership and collaboration, where external support complements rather than dictates local efforts.

It should be noted, these partnerships should not be “entrenched in unequal power relations” denoted by directing every minute detail of who benefits, what should be done, and where, inter alia, defeating the purpose of sustainable philanthropy.


Of storytelling

A critical component of reclaiming the narrative in African philanthropy is storytelling. CBOs are increasingly using storytelling as a tool to highlight their successes, share their challenges, and amplify the voices of the communities they serve.

These stories are powerful because they provide a firsthand account of the impact of community-led initiatives and offer a more nuanced and accurate portrayal of African development.

These stories are told by people at the center of whatever challenges, opportunities, or development they are undergoing not because they have to fulfill and comply with grant agreements but expressing their lived realities and experiences.

Through storytelling, CBOs can humanise their work, making it relatable and compelling to a broader audience. So many children and people have accessed healthcare, education, evaded poverty and gone on to provide the same opportunities to others within their communities or villages and these stories are known.

These stories and realities could only be possible because there were people who gave towards these causes – ensuring the adage it takes a village to raise a child, for example, all true to the dot! It also helps to build a sense of pride and ownership among community members, reinforcing the idea that they are the architects of their own future.


Local private sector giving

An essential yet often overlooked player in the evolving landscape of African philanthropy is the local private sector. Businesses and entrepreneurs across the continent are increasingly recognizing their role in fostering social and economic development.

Through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, direct investments in community projects, and strategic partnerships with community-based organizations, the African private sector is contributing significantly to philanthropic efforts.

These businesses bring not only financial resources but also expertise, innovation, and a results-oriented approach to development initiatives. By leveraging their networks and influence, local companies are helping to scale impactful projects, support sustainable local enterprises, and create job opportunities, thereby strengthening the economic foundation of communities.

This engagement from the local private sector not only supplements traditional philanthropic efforts but also ensures that development initiatives are deeply rooted in the local economic context, enhancing their sustainability and effectiveness.


Challenges and opportunities

While the shift towards community-driven philanthropy is promising, it is not without challenges. CBOs often operate with limited resources and face structural barriers that can impede their effectiveness.

Additionally, the existing funding models are still largely skewed towards international organisations, making it difficult for CBOs to access the necessary financial support as local funding is negligible.

However, these challenges also present opportunities. There is a growing recognition among donors and development partners of the value of supporting grassroots initiatives. By investing in capacity building and providing flexible funding, donors can help to strengthen the infrastructure of CBOs, enabling them to scale their impact.


Bringing it home

Reclaiming the narrative in African philanthropy is not just about changing perceptions; it is about shifting power and fostering a more inclusive and equitable approach to development. Community-based organisations are at the forefront of this movement, demonstrating that sustainable change is best achieved when it is driven from within.

As we look to the future, it is essential to continue supporting and empowering CBOs, recognising their vital role in shaping the destiny of their communities. By doing so, we can build a new narrative of African philanthropy—one that celebrates the strength, resilience, and potential of African communities as it should be.


Tafadzwa Munyaka is a nonprofit/social change professional with crosscutting expertise in fundraising, program management, and child rights advocacy.

Categories: Africa

Explainer: Why GLOFs Are Growing Concern in the Himalaya

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 05/28/2024 - 16:17

The Imja river in Khumbu region with village in the left, these rivers could experience floods if a GLOF happened. Credit: Tanka Dhakal/IPS

By Tanka Dhakal
KATHMANDU, May 28 2024 (IPS)

Phu Chhettar Sherpa, who worked as an icefall doctor (a Sherpa who fixes ropes for climbers) for seven years from 2015 to 2021 on Mt. Everest, vividly recalls his fear of possible flash floods after the huge earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

“I was at the Everest base camp when it started shaking, and within moments, dead bodies were in front of my eyes,” Sherpa, who now works as a trekking guide in the region, shared. “After some time, there was fear of possible Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) from the Imja Glacial Lake, and I was thinking about my family downstream. Thankfully, GLOFs didn’t happen.”

Like Sherpa, millions of people who live in the Himalayan and downstream in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya (HKH) region, including Nepal, are at risk of possible flash floods that can be unimaginably destructive within a short span of time if the outburst of potentially dangerous glacier lakes occurs, which can be triggered by earthquakes, avalanches, or the accumulation of excessive amounts of water from melting ice.

So, what exactly are GLOFs?

In general, GLOFs refer to the sudden release of water from a glacier lake, which is formed by meltwater from a mountain glacier (river of ice in the mountains) and is held back by rocks, sediment carried by the glacier, known as moraine, or a combination of ice and moraine.

Scientists with extensive experience in understanding glacier and mountain systems also say, in general terms, GLOFs refer to any flood of water that originates from a lake associated with a glacier.

Dr. Miriam Jackson, Senior Cryosphere Specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), explained, “The lake can be beside the glacier, in front of it, under it (subglacial), or actually on the glacier (supraglacial).”

She added, “The term is even used when the lake is in a glacier valley, but a few hundred meters from the glacier.”

As climate change affects glaciers, many of them are shrinking, leading to the formation of lakes.

“In the Himalayas, many lakes are formed in front of the glacier and are blocked by a small ridge called a moraine, which is made of material that the glacier pushed forward when it was much larger,” Jackson explained.

What causes the outburst of these lakes?

The main causes of GLOFs are earthquakes, avalanches, and the buildup of water in lakes as a result of glaciers melting quickly. The root cause of these phenomena is the rising temperature, with researchers noting a relatively high impact of climate change in the Himalayas, where glacier melting is occurring at an accelerated pace, leading to the creation of new lakes and the expansion of existing ones.

A research paper published in the Nature in 2023 suggests that glaciers may melt even faster than expected, potentially contributing to sea-level rise at a quicker rate than previously thought. Another study, published in Nature Climate Change in 2020, analyzed more than 250 thousand satellite images, revealing a rapid growth of glacial lakes around the world over the last three decades, indicating the impact of increased meltwater draining from melting glaciers.

Ines Dussaillant, a glaciologist at the World Glacier Monitoring Service who was in the Mt. Everest region in the first week of May, expressed concern about glacier melting in the Himalayan region. She explained, “Because the geography here is more fragile, mixed with ice and moraine, and these newly formed or expanding glacial lakes have weakly formed dams,” She added, “If events like avalanches, earthquakes, or water accumulation exceed the capacity of the dams, outburst floods can occur.”

How can avalanches trigger GLOFs?

In third week of April 2024 Nepal experienced a trigger of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) as Birendra Lake, a glacial lake in the Gorkha district, flash-flooded downstream communities because of splashed water. This was caused by an avalanche on Mt. Manaslu, which led to a sudden release of water from Birendra Lake and resulted in flooding in the downstream community.

According to Jackson, an avalanche is a sudden fall of material on a steep slope, and could be a snow avalanche, ice avalanche, or rock avalanche.

“Glacial lakes are usually in steep terrain so are prone to avalanches into the lake,” she explained, “An avalanche can trigger a GLOF, either by causing a small displacement of water due to the material landing in the lake (probably the case for the recent GLOF at Birendra Lake), or this could trigger a much bigger event, say by causing moraine collapse.”

Why is the Hindu-Kush Himalaya region important?

Scientists say 54,000 glaciers are in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region and almost all of them are getting smaller due to climate change.

“This means that lakes can form (usually beside or in front), and that existing lakes may get bigger,” Jackson said. “The rivers coming down from the high mountains often flow along very narrow valleys. People may live in a valley where a GLOF could occur and not even know about the glacier and lake status as they are so far upstream.”

The floods come down these narrow valleys and may also bring a lot of rock and sediment with them. For example, the GLOF in Sikkim last October caused huge damage, including to a large hydropower facility at Chungthang.

“People should be aware if they live somewhere (or frequently travel) where a GLOF could take place,” Jackson, who is also a scientist for IPCC reports. “If there is an early warning system, then they can support this by making sure it is well-maintained and attend any training offered that is related to it.”

A glacial lake inventory report published in 2020 has identified 47 potentially dangerous glacial lakes (PDGLs) within the Koshi, Gandiaki, and Karnali river basins of Nepal (21 in Nepal), the Tibet Autonomous Region of China (25 in China), and India (one in India). The report says these moraine-dammed glacial lakes are at risk of breaching, which would result in glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs).

Water level lowering is one way to mitigate potential hazards that may be caused by GLOFs, as has been done in Imja Tsho (Imaja Lake) glacial lake in the Khumbu region. But experts believe the role of local communities is extremely important for reporting potential hazards and any significant changes.

“If they (local people) think there is a danger of a GLOF but there is no early warning system, this should be raised with their local representatives,” Jackson said. “If people are sometimes in high areas where they see glaciers and glacial lakes and see that things are changing (such as the lake getting bigger), then this should be reported as soon as possible.”

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

IPS UN Bureau Report


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In this explainer, IPS looks at Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) and the danger they pose to communities when many of the 54,000 glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region are getting smaller due to climate change.
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