World’s Youth Are Being Left Behind

Rohingya girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Globally, 75 percent of refugees of secondary education age are not in school. In Bangladesh, Kenya, and Pakistan, the figure is closer to 95 percent. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Globally, youth are being left behind in education and employment, threatening the future vision of sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous societies.

In a new report, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) highlight the need to pay attention to and invest in youth as they are critical to building the world’s future including by helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Youth are being referred to as the “torchbearers” of the 2030 Agenda and have a pivotal role to play both as beneficiaries of actions and policies under the Agenda and as partners and participants in its implementation,” the report states.

“A few years into the implementation of the Agenda, unacceptably high numbers of young people are still experiencing poor education and employment outcomes, and future prospects remain uncertain,” it adds.

Today, there are 1.2 billion young people between 15 to 24 years, representing 16 percent of the global population. Despite advances in technology and information dissemination, attending school remains elusive to many.

Around the world, over 260 million children under the age 19 were out of school in 2014. Of them, 142 million were of upper secondary age.

The disparities between and within countries are even more stark—84 percent of youth in high-income countries are able to complete upper secondary education while the figure is only 14 percent for low-income countries. Additionally, almost 30 percent of the poorest 12 to 14 year olds have never attended school and many others do not have access to primary education.

Displaced and refugee children face particular challenges and are quickly becoming a “lost generation.”

“A lost generation is not only identified by empty classrooms, silent playgrounds and short, unmarked graves. A lost generation is one where hope dies in those who live,” said U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown.

Globally, 75 percent of refugees of secondary education age are not in school. In Bangladesh, Kenya, and Pakistan, the figure is closer to 95 percent.

In Nigeria alone, where conflict has ravaged the north, over 13 million children are out of school, the highest proportion in the world.

If nothing changes, approximately 80 percent of refugee teenagers will never get a secondary school education, and 99 percent will not be able to access higher education.

With no hope for a formal education or future prospects, some children have turned to suicide.

At the Moria refugee camp in Greece, Medicins Sans Frontières (MSF) found that a quarter of children had self-harmed, attempted suicide, or thought about committing suicide.

“At 10, when life should be in front of you – full of hope and excitement at every new dawn – young boys are so devoid of hope that they attempted to take their own lives,” Brown said.

“These young people are no longer only the lost generation, they are the invisible generation. And we must do more,” he added.

Without accessible and quality education, youth also end up being left out of the world of work.

Youth unemployment has worsened in recent years, with 71 million young people unemployed around the world.

Even those that are employed often find themselves living in poverty.

U.N. DESA pointed to the need to ramp up action on youth education and employment, especially as it relates to all of the SDGs including gender equality, health, and inequality.

However, such policies and programmes must address specific individual and socioeconomic contexts.

“It is important to recognise that the flourishing of youth is about more than successful transitions to employment. Young people have aspirations that are far broader and need to be valued and supported,” the report states.

“Rather than rating the success of programmes on narrow measures of educational or employment attainment, it is crucial that institutional, programme and policy evaluations be more firmly grounded in young people’s own accounts of what they value for their human development and for the sustainable development of their communities and this shared planet,” it adds.

For instance, the Young Rural Entrepreneurs Programme in Colombia helps aspiring entrepreneurs set up innovative, productive, and sustainable businesses in rural areas.

The programme provides targeted skills development and vocational training to unemployed youth in high-demand sectors, particularly targeting vulnerable groups such as displaced persons and indigenous communities.

The report highlighted the need to invest in such capacity building, providing youth with life skills such as effective communication and problem solving as well as skills that match the demands of the job market.

Lebanon has seen success in the double-shift school system which helps provide education to Syrian refugees. Of the 400,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon who are in school, 300,000 attend double-shift schools.

“The only way to reach the SDG of every child at school is for a child’s real passport to the future stamped in the classroom – and not at a border check post,” said Brown.

“The 2030 Agenda offers a positive vision for youth development; however, a great deal of effort will be needed to realise this vision,” U.N. DESA said.

The Unwanted People of Myanmar: A Tropical Srebrenica in the Land of the Golden Pagodas

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Feb 22 2019 (IPS)

The massacre of Srebrenica will enter human history as one of our darkest chapters. From 11 to 22 July 1995, Bosnian Serb military forces massacred approximately 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks. It became the largest massacre committed on European soil since the end of the Second World War. In November last year, the Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic was convicted of war crimes and of genocide. This constituted relief for the victims of the Srebrenica genocide and a victory for international justice after 22 years.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Although the European Parliament denounced this gruesome crime in 1995 stating that “such horrendous crimes must never happen again”, atrocious crimes are once again inflicted on civilian populations. In Myanmar, systematic and grave human rights violations and campaigns of ethnic cleansing brought bereavement to the Rohingyas. As a result of the military clampdown in September/October 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingyas fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the brutal suppression. In the words of the United Nations, the situation in Myanmar constituted “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Or a tropical Srebrenica that we were promised would “never happen again”.

The euphoria that prevailed following Myanmar’s decision to open itself to the world was ambiguous. Although Myanmar’s reforms have brought some measure of change, the systematic human rights violations of the Rohingya did not come to an end. The human rights situation of the Rohingyas in Myanmar is a result of enduring denial of basic human rights. The international community has also remained silent on this issue for too long.

In Myanmar, the Muslim Rohingya population are denied the “right to have rights”. They are denied these rights as non-citizens in their own land. Indeed the 1982 Citizenship law and the 2008 Constitution impede the realization of full citizenship rights for the Rohingya people unless they have lived in the country for the past three generations. They are also being denied the right to enjoy full and unconditional legal protection and fundamental freedoms in violation of international human rights standards.

The disturbing testimonies of the Rohingyans fleeing Myanmar confirm that serious human rights violations are being carried out against the civilian population. Atrocities, massacres, looting and rape of innocent civilians confirm that appalling human rights violations are inflicted on the Rohingyas. Satellite imagery likewise reveal that dozens of Rohingya villages have been razed and burned to the ground in a deliberate attempt to once and for all erase their identity, culture and history.

The violent turmoil in Myanmar in 2012 is a legitimate struggle for justice, freedom and dignity reminiscent of the popular resistance in South Africa to tear down the Apartheid system. The government of Myanmar must review and revoke the 1982 Citizenship law that degrades the status of the Rohingya people and other minorities to at best that of second-class citizens. The gross violations of human rights must come to an end. The discrimination against the Rohingyas cannot continue unabated. In the words of the Roman philosopher Seneca “Injustice never rules forever.”

According to research carried out by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, the international community has “turned a blind eye” to the human rights violations of the Rohingyas. The UN Security Council is yet to address the human rights situation in the Rakhine State. Although the UN General Assembly expressed concern about the human rights situation in the country in 1991, it failed to mention the grave injustices inflicted on the Rohingyas.

It was only after the adoption of the 2008 Constitution – which was supposed to herald a new era of democracy – that the UN became more vocal. In 2009, the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolutions 10/27 and 64/238 respectively to express concern over the situation of the Rohingya ethnic minority. Although a Special Session was held on 5 December 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of the Rohingyas, the international response has trailed “one step behind reality.”

In this regard, the Geneva Centre is proud to have successfully campaigned for the holding of a Special Session at the United Nations Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar after sending out individual letters to the Permanent Representatives of the members of the Human Rights Council on 12 October appealing for the holding of an urgent Special Session.

Addressing the fate of the Rohingyas is therefore a moral responsibility for world society. Bismarck’s idea of realpolitik must not be left to rear its head letting politics prevail over values and human rights. The efforts of the international community to address the situation in Myanmar will be in vain if their actions are limited to the adoption of resolutions and declarations. The momentum of 5 December 2017 has decreased as other humanitarian crises enter into and exit from the agenda of decision-makers. The planned repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar from Bangladesh – as stipulated in the 2017 bilateral arrangement on return of displaced persons from Rakhine state – will hardly be of any value if the central government fails to allow for the safe return and reintegration of Rohingya refugees.

The lack of livelihood options and economic development might trigger another exodus in which the Rohingya community may decide never to return which is the objective pursued by their tormentors. The international community must therefore work for the recognition of the human rights of the Rohingya community to avoid that the world’s most unwanted people becomes the forgotten people of the 21st century.

Local School Is a Model for Energy and Water in Rapa Nui

The roof of the original headquarters of the Toki Foundation on Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, located 3,800 kilometers from the Chilean coast, is also used to collect rainwater, which runs into eight large storage ponds, and to generate electricity by means of 18 solar panels. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The roof of the original headquarters of the Toki Foundation on Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, located 3,800 kilometers from the Chilean coast, is also used to collect rainwater, which runs into eight large storage ponds, and to generate electricity by means of 18 solar panels. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
HANGA ROA, Chile, Feb 22 2019 (IPS)

A school in the capital of Easter Island (Rapa Nui, in the local indigenous tongue) gives an example of clean management with the use of solar energy, rainwater recovery and an organic vegetable garden, as well as rooms and spaces built with waste materials.

Rapa Nui is a Chilean territory in the Polynesian triangle of Oceania: Hawaii to the north, New Zealand to the south, and Maori and Rapa Nui to the east. The island has about 8,000 permanent residents, most of them families from the Rapa Nui indigenous people. In addition, some 120,000 tourists visit the island every year.

With an area of 163.6 square kilometers and a triangle-like shape, the island is nicknamed the “navel of the world” in the Rapa Nui language. It is 3,800 kilometers from Chile.

On Easter Island, formally classified as a “special Chilean territory”, the Toki Foundation emerged seven years ago, created by 11 young people, including award-winning local pianist Mahani Teave, 35, the daughter of an American woman and a local artist.

Thanks to the Foundation’s school, located three kilometres from Hanga Roa, the island’s capital and only town, hundreds of Rapa Nui children have taken music workshops.

Some study classical music (violin, piano, cello or trumpet) and others traditional music, playing the popular ukulele. Children from the age of six attend the workshops in the afternoon, after school.

Michael Reynolds, an American nicknamed the garbage architect, designed the 850-square-meter Toki school house with eight classrooms plus a small auditorium and a roofed terrace.

Reynolds spent about two months in Hanga Roa building the unique facility with 80 volunteers, using tires, glass bottles, cardboard, cans and compacted earth.

“They built the main structure using garbage,” Carla León, 30, coordinator of the Foundation’s school, told IPS. Last year it served 120 students, who will return to the classrooms in March after the southern hemisphere summer vacation.

For the last three years, the house has had 18 solar panels on its roof to take advantage of the island’s strong sunlight and convert it into electric power. The panels generate 10 kVA and supply all of the electricity required by the school.

But Enrique Icka, 34, director of the Foundation and Mahani’s partner, told IPS that they want to extend the experience to a nearby site where the cultural organisation will operate, thus creating a microgrid.

In its organic garden, the Toki Foundation in Chile's Rapa Nui or Easter Island is researching the most efficient way to recover ancestral crops of the Rapa Nui indigenous people, with minimal labour, taking best advantage of the soil and rescuing the stone garden technique that prevents erosion and maintains moisture. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

In its organic garden, the Toki Foundation in Chile’s Rapa Nui or Easter Island is researching the most efficient way to recover ancestral crops of the Rapa Nui indigenous people, with minimal labour, taking best advantage of the soil and rescuing the stone garden technique that prevents erosion and maintains moisture. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The generation of solar power is important on this island, where the electricity supply depends on the 300,000 liters of oil that tankers bring each month from the continent to meet the consumption needs of the local population: 2.5 megawatts (MW).

The generation and distribution of electricity is the responsibility of the company Sasipa, which in November 2018 inaugurated the first solar power plant, Tama Te Ra (which means “first rays of the sun”, in Rapa Nui), which only generates power in the daytime, using 400 photovoltaic panels to produce 105 kilowatts.

It covers between two and eight percent of Rapa Nui’s energy needs.

The Toki Foundation is also a pioneer in rainwater recovery. The curvilinear rooftop collects rainwater, which runs into eight ponds in the shape of stone towers, each of which has a capacity of 5,000 litres.

“It’s time to take care of the water,” Easter Island Mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa told IPS.

“Since four governments ago (for 16 years) I have been calling for metering wells to know how much water we have and how dangerous is the way we are getting it. That information is important today and the investment is not being made,” he said.

“In the meantime, we started our own awareness-raising theme by working with fairy tales so that children understand the value of water, take care of it and tell their parents not to water when it rains, for example,” Paoa said.

Drinking water in Rapa Nui is also provided by Sasipa which has six wells, from which water is channelled to six ponds to treat it and make it potable.

Meanwhile, the Toki Foundation’s rainwater harvesting system began to be replicated in some houses on the island, and the model is expected to continue to expand.

That is important for the island because in the future “we are going to have a great shortage of water resources,” Tiare Aguilera Hey, 37, an attorney who is an expert in urban and territorial planning, told IPS.

Carolina Campos, 42, the executive director of the Foundation, highlighted the promotion of an agro-ecological garden with drip irrigation using well water “that seeks to rescue traditional crops like taro root (Colocasia esculenta).

The garden is on part of Toki’s 2.5-hectare arable land, and will require about 700,000 litres of water for irrigation.

The initiative received a positive assessment from the government’s Foundation for Agrarian Innovation, which supported it with 90,000 dollars over two years.

Diego Valenzuela, 29, who has been working with the Foundation’s crops for six months, proudly showed IPS their tomatoes, lettuce, lemons, oranges, custard apples and 80 banana trees, which will soon be producing fruit ready to harvest.

They are also using manavai or stone gardens, which facilitate agriculture because the stones protect the crops from erosion, preserve moisture, maintain the temperature and provide the plants with minerals.

The Rapa Nui used these gardens to make it through tough times, Valenzuela pointed out.

In the future, the gardens will be used to help recover other ancestral species, such as the Toromiro (Sophora toromiro), an endemic tree of Rapa Nui that today is only found in the nurseries of the state-run National Forestry Corporation.

Four youngsters from the Rapa Nui Educational Village High School were invited to participate in the last Conference of the Parties on climate change, in Poland, to describe how the gardens work.

“We have several focuses. The first was music and art school, to give children opportunities that didn’t exist before,” Teave told IPS.

“If they are practicing music, coming to classes and taking part in group activities after school, they’re not on the streets using drugs,” she said. “Here they learn about respect: if you can play next to a woman cellist, listen to her and be on an equal footing, you probably won’t hit her when you’re married.”

According to Teave, Toki seeks “to make a contribution here on the island which, because it is so visible worldwide, can have an impact elsewhere, inspire other people and serve as a model.”

Icka told IPS that all these initiatives in Toki “are born out of the Rapa Nui worldview and the motivation of young people on the island.”

He also highlighted “the participation of more than 1,000 volunteers in all these years.”

Teave stresses the need to rescue the roots of the Rapa Nui people, including the language, “which is the root of this culture.”

“We need to do everything we can to recover that ancestral worldview that has to do with respect and a lot of knowledge that was being lost and that some people here are also trying to rescue,” she said.

The pianist also believes that recovering species that are not currently being planted, by using more efficient systems, can result in “producing here, on the island, what we ourselves eat.”

The President of the United States Is More the President of My Country Than the President of My Country

Oswaldo Guayasamín, The Workers, 1942.

By Vijay Prashad
Feb 22 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(Tricontinental) – As the United States and its allies put pressure on Venezuela, a poem by the Salvadoran radical Roque Dalton (1935-1975) clarifies the structure of politics in Latin America. Dalton came from one of Latin America’s smallest countries, El Salvador, which he used to call the little finger (pulgarcito). A deeply compassionate poet, Dalton was also a militant of the People’s Revolutionary Army, whose internal struggles claimed his short life. El Salvador, like so many other Latin American states, struggles to carve out its sovereignty from the tentacles of US power. That hideous Monroe Doctrine (1823) seemed to give the US the presumption that it has power over the entire hemisphere; ‘our backyard’ being the colloquial phrase. People like Dalton fought to end that assumption. They wanted their countries to be governed by and for their own people – an elementary part of the idea of democracy. It has been a hard struggle.

Dalton wrote a powerful poem – OAS – named for the Organisation of American States (founded in 1948). It is a poem that acidly catalogues how democracy is a farce in Latin America. It is from the poem that we get the title of our newsletter this week.

The president of my country
for the time being is Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez
but General Somoza, president of Nicaragua
is also the president of my country.
And General Stroessner, president of Paraguay,
is also kind of the president of my country, though not as
much as the president of Honduras,
General Lopez Arellano, but more so than the president of Haiti,
Monsieur Duvalier.
And the president of the United States is more the president of my country
Than is the president of my country,
The one whose name, as I said,
is Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez, for the time being.

Rafael Enriquez, Foreign Debt, OSPAAAL, 1983.

Is the President of Venezuela the President of Venezuela or is the President of the United States the President of Venezuela? There is absurdity here. Collapsed oil prices, reliance upon oil revenues, an economic war by the United States and complications in raising finances has led to hyperinflation and to an economic crisis in Venezuela. To deny that is to deny reality. But there is a vast difference between an economic crisis and a humanitarian crisis.

Most of the countries on the planet are facing an economic crisis, with public finances in serious trouble and with enormous debt problems plaguing governments in all the continents. This year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos (Switzerland) focused attention on the global debt crisis – from the near-trillion-dollar deficit of the United States to the debt burdens of Italy. The IMF’s David Lipton warned that if interest rates were to rise, the problem would escalate. ‘There are pockets of debt held by companies and countries that really don’t have much servicing capacity, and I think that’s going to be a problem’.

Hyper-inflation is a serious problem, but punitive economic sanctions, seizure of billions of dollars of overseas assets and threats of war are not going to save the undermined Bolivar, Venezuela’s currency.

European Parliament, Strasbourg, 2015.

Eradication of hunger has to be the basic policy of any government. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, 11.7% of the Venezuelan people are hungry. Hunger rates in other parts of the world are much higher – 31.4% in Eastern Africa. But the world’s attention has not been focused on this severe crisis, one that has partly generated the massive migration across the Mediterranean Sea. The picture above is from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where – in 2015 – activists laid out the 17,306 names of people who have died attempting that crossing (the number is now close to 40,000 drowned). Members of the European parliament had to walk to their session over these names. They are harsh in their attitude to start a war against Venezuela, but cavalier about the serious crises in Africa and Asia that keep the flow of migrants steady.

The government of Venezuela has two programmes to tackle the problem of hunger:

    a. Comité Local de Abastecimiento y Producción (CLAP). The Local Committees for Supply and Production are made up of local neighbourhood groups who grow food and who receive food from agricultural producers. They distribute this food to about six million families at very low cost. Currently, the CLAP boxes are being sent to households every 15 days.
    b. Plan de Atención a la Vulnerabilidad Nutricional. The most vulnerable of Venezuelans – 620,000 of them – receive assistance. The National Institute of Nutrition has been coordinating the delivery of food to a majority of the country’s municipalities.

These are useful, but insufficient. More needs to be done. That is clear. Through CLAP, the Venezuelan government distributes about 50,000 tonnes of food per month. The ‘humanitarian aid’ that the US has promised amounts to $20 million – which would purchase a measly 60 tonnes of food.

1st US PSYWAR (Psychological War) battalion hands out anti-communist posters in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), 1965.

On the issue of ‘humanitarian aid’ to Venezuela, the international media has become the stenographers of the US State Department and the CIA. It focuses on the false claims made by the US government that it wants to deliver aid, which the Venezuelans refuse. The media does not look at the facts, even at this fact – that $20 million is a humiliating gesture, an amount intended to be used to establish the heartlessness of the government in Venezuela and therefore seek to overthrow it by any means necessary. This is what the US government did in the Dominican Republic in 1965, sending in humanitarian aid accompanied by US marines.

Democracy Now, February 19, 2019.

The US has used military aircrafts to bring in this modest aid, driven it to a warehouse and then said that the Venezuelans are not prepared to open an unused bridge for it. The entire process is political theatre. US Senator Marco Rubio went to that bridge – which has never been opened – to say in a threatening way that the aid ‘is going to get through’ to Venezuela one way or another. These are words that threaten the sovereignty of Venezuela and build up the energy for a military attack. There is nothing humanitarian here.

If you don’t let us breathe, we won’t let you breathe. Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2019. Photograph: Hector Retamal.

The term ‘humanitarian’ has been shredded of its meaning. It has now come to mean a pretext for the destruction of countries. ‘Humanitarian intervention’ was the term used to destroy Libya; ‘humanitarian aid’ is being used to beat the drum for a war against Venezuela.

Meanwhile, we forget the humanitarian solidarity offered by the Venezuelan government to the poorer nations and to poorer populations. Why is Haiti on fire now? It had received reduced price oil from Venezuela by the PetroCaribe scheme (set up in 2005). A decade ago, Venezuela offered the Caribbean islands oil on very favourable terms so that they would not be the quarry of monopoly oil firms and the IMF. The economic war against Venezuela has meant a decline in PetroCaribe. Now the IMF has returned to demand that oil subsidies end, and monopoly oil firms have returned to demand cash payments before delivery. Haiti’s government was forced to vote against Venezuela in the OAS. That is why the country is aflame (for more on this, please read my report). If you don’t let us breathe, say the Haitian people, we won’t let you breathe.

In 2005, the same year as Venezuela set up the PetroCaribe scheme, it created the PetroBronx scheme in New York City (USA). Terrible poverty in the South Bronx galvanised community groups such as Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, Green Youth Cooperative, Bronx Arts and Dance, and Mothers on the Move.

The PetroBronx Story (Spanish).

They worked with CITGO, the Venezuelan government’s US oil subsidiary to develop a cooperative mechanism to get heating oil to the people. Ana Maldonado, a sociologist who is now with the Frente Francisco de Miranda (Venezuela), was one of the participants in the PetroBronx scheme. She and her friends created the North Star to be a community organisation that helped deliver the resources to the very poorest people in the United States. ‘People had to wear their coats inside their homes during the winter’, she told me. That was intolerable. That is why Venezuela provided the poor in the United States with subsidised heating oil.

Josh MacPhee, Malcolm X, Just Seeds.

The South Bronx and Harlem, the privations produced by racism – all this is familiar territory in Latin America. In 1960, Fidel Castro came to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. He was refused a hotel in the city. Malcolm X, a leader of the African American community, came to his aid, bringing the Cuban delegation to Harlem’s Hotel Theresa, whose owner – Love B. Woods – warmly welcomed Fidel and his comrades. Four years later, at a meeting in Harlem, Malcolm X said in connection with his meeting with Fidel, ‘Don’t let somebody else tell us who our enemies should be and who our friends should be’.

The Future of Urbanism: Is the UAE Pioneering it?

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Masdar

By Rabiya Jaffery
ABU DHABI, UAE, Feb 22 2019 (IPS)

According to data from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Arab world is one of the most urbanised areas in the world, with more than 70 per cent of the population of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)— Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)– living in urban areas.

In 2018, about 93% of the population of the UAE lived in urban cities – and it is expected to continue rising in the coming years. Dubai, the largest city in the country, has a population of over 3 million people, one-third of UAE’s 9.3 million, and is expected to double by 2027.

As the country’s cities continue to expand and grow, the challenge of civic authorities to provide adequate living conditions, water, sanitation, public transportation, and waste management features becomes more important to address.

“One of the direct results of the increase in UAE’s population, nearly all who live in urban cities, is the huge expansion in construction, facilities, and infrastructure,” says Habiba Al Marashi Chairperson of the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), one of the most active non-government organization (NGO) based in the UAE.

“While construction is a major contributor to UAE’s economy, it is also amongst the most resource intensive sectors. Thus, growing cities such as Dubai need to plan along sustainable lines in order to reduce their negative environmental impacts and natural resource depletion,” she adds.

EEG mounted an awareness campaign to popularize the concept of green buildings in an environment that was still unfamiliar with the imperative for sustainable development and energy transition several years ago.

And Al Marashi states that a change – an understanding of the importance of sustainability – has begun to roll out.

The UAE sits on eight percent of the world’s oil reserves, meets most of its energy demand through fossil fuels, and has had a history of having one of the largest carbon footprints in the world but it seems to now be taking active measures to change this.

In 2017, during the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, the country announces its intentions to transition to at least 44% renewable energy by 2050.

“Our aim is to balance our economic needs with our environmental goals,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, said on Twitter to accompany the announcement. “The plan aims to increase usage efficiency by 40 percent and increase clean-energy contributions to 50 percent.”

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Masdar

This includes making sustainable development one of the key goals of its ‘Vision 2021’, including a focus on ‘green’ urban development.

“Cities are at the heart of any country’s development and define the direction of its growth and innovation and this is especially relevant in the Arab world where nearly all people are urbanized,” explains Al Marashi. “And the the future of urbanism is in sustainable cities and UAE wants to be a pioneer.”

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is one of UAE’s most ambitious sustainable urban development projects that was built to be amongst the world’s “most sustainable developments” and “serve as a green-print for the sustainable development of cities through the application of real-world solutions in water, energy efficiency and the reduction of waste.”

The residential and retail development that is housing thousands was developed by Masdar, a renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi, to be one of the region’s first entirely sustainable, mixed-use, low-carbon development that relies on solar and other renewable energy sources.

It is also home to Masdar Institute, the Gulf’s first research institution dedicated to advanced energy and sustainable technologies that, to date, has secured 14 US patents.

One of Masdar’s projects, in cooperation with Bee’ah, is spearheading waste-to-energy production in Sharjah that is currently generating enough power to supply to 28,000 residential complexed. Due to the facility, the rate of diversion of waste from landfills has gone up from 20% in 2009 to 70% in 2016.

The project’s goal is to eventually reduce the Sharjah’s landfill contribution to zero.

And on-site in Abu Dhabi, Masdar has developed a residential eco-villa, which aims to consume 35 percent less water and 72 per cent less power than a typical villa of the same size.

The prototype is being monitored for its energy, water, and waste management performances and the data will then be used to refine the eco-villa to support the eventual commercialization of the building concept.

Abu Dhabi also has a mandatory sustainable development framework for all its buildings. Developed by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), Estidama, Arabic for “sustainability’, was introduced in 2009 and was amongst the first sustainability initiatives in the region.

The framework establishes a clear vision for sustainability as the foundation of any new development occurring in UAE’s capital.

Estidima imposes sustainability requirements in the planning process and imposes a green building code with the classifies development projects under a ‘pearl’ rating system. All public buildings must have a minimum two pearl rating and all other new buildings must meet a minimum one pearl rating criteria.

“Right now, the focus of Estidama is on new developments, however, there are talks – and we are hoping – that it will be expand to include already existing buildings be retrofitted to meet the new standards,” says Al Marashi.

Dubai’s municipality also introduced its ‘Green Buildings Specifications’ in 2011 which were immediately mandatory for all new government buildings and then, in 2014, became a prerequisite on all new building developments.

“In practice this means goals of reducing energy and water consumption, the use of environment-friendly materials, renewable energy characteristics, alternative energy sources and increased efficiency,” says Al Marashi.

DRC’s First Peaceful Transition of Power Was At Expense of Women

Justine Masika Bihamba at the UN Security Council in 2018.

By Justine Masika Bihamba
GOMA, DR Congo, Feb 21 2019 (IPS)

When Felix Tshisekedi, the 55 year old son of the former opposition leader, won the recent presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it should have felt like a new dawn for many of us living here.

This was nothing less than a monumental event – the first time since our country’s independence that a peaceful transition of power took place between an outgoing and an incoming president.

I was born in the city of Goma in the Eastern DRC, close to the border with Rwanda. I set up Synergie des Femmes, an organization that gives a lifeline to Congolese victims of sexual violence.

I have spent over 30 years doing my best to improve the lives of women in extremely challenging circumstances and to ensure that women can be part of a fair and transparent political process.

In the last couple of years, I have also co-ordinated the Congolese Women’s Forum, a network of 65 women from across the country, who are calling for women to be part of politics and peace-building in this country.

Despite its relatively peaceful passing, I have many concerns surrounding the recent elections. Tshisekedi’s political experience appears to be limited to being the son of a politician from a party that has languished in opposition for several decades.

Rumors are that the previous president, Joseph Kabila, made some sort of unofficial back room deal with him, which would ensure political benefits for both. It would not surprise me if this turned out to be true.

This is the type of political wrangling that Congolese people have become all too familiar with. Kabila has always played the political game – including when it causes harm to our citizens – and women in particular.

Informal political agreements by a small circle of men behind closed doors have tended to not only exclude women from the political process, but also perpetuate harm against us. This time again, when political capital was at stake, women were sacrificed.

We have demanded to be part of the political process – to have our voices heard and included – but we have nowhere near equal representation. Out of 535 parliamentarians in the National Assembly there are only 50 women.

Considering the obstacles we have had to face to even take part, this could have been even worse. The discriminatory electoral law meant that anyone proposing themselves as a candidate needs to come up with a deposit of $1,000.

This is simply impossible in our country where men can use their political networks to raise funding and trade “favors”, where women do not have the same political capital. They do not tend to have much control over their own finances either.

This December, the voting process was fraught with difficulty. The Electoral Commission ignored the fact that many people in the DRC – women in particular – are illiterate and had no idea how to use the electronic voting machines that were shipped in for the event.

These machines were sometimes moved at the last minute and breakdowns were common. No funding was given towards educating voters in advance.

Electoral lists also posed a problem on voting day. Even some of those who could read were not able to find their names, which were sometimes categorized in a confusing way – and regularly included people from the wrong constituencies, so some voters simply did not know where to go.

Delays in opening certain polling stations affected things too. In a handful of areas it was not possible to vote at all. Voter turnout was directly affected by this and many chose to stay at home, after hearing about the challenges. From what I have seen, once again, this disproportionately affected women.

Congolese women have faced decades of being victims of sexual violence in conflict, where rape was regularly used as a weapon of war. What has happened to women here has often caused outrage for a few moments and is then quickly forgotten about.

The best solution to this is ensuring that women – the most negatively affected by the status quo – are active decision makers in government.

Those of us who speak out publicly about this live with constant worry. My own home and office have been attacked because I spoke out. I am forced to continue doing so even though I am at risk every single day. I have had dozens of threats to my life, but I am not giving up.

Women have been left out of this latest political transition, but there is a lot that we have learned too. The first peaceful transition in politics in our country has shown the Congolese Women’s Forum that maybe one day we can peacefully achieve equal representation, where we are finally listened to, and where we are able to make decisions on our own futures.

A World Party

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Feb 21 2019 (IPS)

I have been a member of the first international party: the Transnational Radical Party, founded in 1956 by Marco Pannella and Emma Bonino. Then in 1988, I was a wetness of the large protest, in Berlin West, against the meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, a precursor of the “Battle of Seattle” in 1988, where 40.000 protesters disrupted the annual meeting of the two world’s financial institutions. I was even detained for a day by the police, even if was just a witness: my condition of foreigner made me automatically suspect.

Roberto Savio

And I was a witness of the Nobel prize Joseph Stigliz address to the protesters of “Occupy Wall Street”, in 2011. In the same year, I was part of the creation of the Word Social Forum, in Porto Alegre. And I have been carefully following the arrival of the new International nationalist and populist wave, since Orban’s arrival in Hungary in 2019, Kaczynski in Poland in 2015, Brexit in 2016, Trump in 2016, and totally different movements like now the Yellow Jackets in France.

Therefore, I have decided that I can be more useful as a practitioner than as a theoretician in the cultured an interesting debate that Paul Raskin has opened on a world political party. But I still remember that during the debate on the New International Information Order in the seventies, at a very important conference in Berlin of academicians, I spoke as practitioner (I was the founder of Inter Press Service, the fourth international news agency), and when I finished, the German chairman of the conference observed: “what Roberto had said works in practice. But the question is: would it work in theory”?

The Transnational Radical Party choose a human rights agenda, as Pannella did in Italy with the Italian radical party. The abolition of the death’s sentence, the depenalization of light drugs, the freedom of medical choice, including euthanasia, the end of female mutilation in Africa and Arab countries, the importance of scientific research free of religious dogma as part of bioethics, the creation of the United States of Europe, a multicultural, inclusive and environmentally concerned Europe. It called for the inclusion of Israel in the European Community, and made public campaigns on Tibet, the Uighurs, the Montagnard (a Vietnamese Christian minority), and the Chechens. This agenda of Human Rights was able to link intellectuals and activists from many countries (especially Europe and Latin America). But it never became a mass movement, and it dissolved itself in 1989. It was highly affected by the May 68, which fought against centralizing structures, and indicated that the fights should become individual, and free from any command.

The World Social Forum was the closest thing to a world movement. It was based on a much broader agenda, which was the build up an alternative to what the World Economic Forum, Davos, represented. Global finance, unchecked capitalism, economic agenda over the social agenda, the alliance of corporations to control politics and governance: a Forum where unelected people met to take decisions over the course of the world. It come out from a visit in 1999 in Paris by two Brazilian activists, Oded Grajew who was working in the field of social responsibility of companies, and Chico Whittaker, who was in the Social Network of Justice and Human Rights, an initiative of the Brazilian catholic Church. They were incensed by the tv coverage of Davos, and the following day the went to meet Bernard Cassen, coordinator of of Le Monde Diplomatique, who encouraged them to organize a Counterdavos, but not in Europe, but in the South. They came back, organized a committee of eight Brazilian organizations, in February if 2.000, got the support of the government of Rio Grande do Sul, and in the 2001 the first Forum was held in Porto Alegre, at the same time of Davos. We were thinking that 3.000 people would come (the equivalent of Davos), instead there were 20.000 participants.

The impact was so great, that the Brazilian committee organized a consultative meeting the following year in Sao Paolo, about the continuation of the WSF. They invited a number of international organizations, and at the second day they appointed all of us as the International Council. The Council was born, therefore, not out of a planning to organize a really representative structure. The efforts done to rebalance the composition, never went far. Lot of organizations wanted to be member of the Council, without any criteria of representative and strength, and the Council become soon a large list of names, with few participating, and changing at every council, which left to the Brazilians (Chico Wittaker especially), the de facto ability to have a heavy weight in the process.

The WSF had a large number of meetings. There was the yearly WSF itself, who always had close to 100.000 participants (the one of 2005 150.000), The WSF moved out of Latin America, first in Mumbai, with the participation of 20.000 Dalits (the untouchables). Then in Africa and so on. The march against the American invasion in Iraq, saw a march of 15 million people all over the world.

George Bush dismissed that as a focus group, and the war went on. In addition to the yearly WSF, two other main events were created. The regional WSF, and the thematic Wsf, where under this umbrella people could meet beside the central one Then, local WSF could be held in any country, as part of the general WSF process. A most probable estimate is that the WSF, from 2001. Has joined together over 1 million people, who paid their travel and lodging costs, to share experiences and dream together for a better world.

Some points of this enormous process (that I do not see now replicable to the idea of a party), must be kept into account for our debate.

Civil society is made by many threads. We have no time to go over this, but Boaventura de Sousa Santos, the Portuguese sociologist and anthropologist who has more studied the WSF (and he is also departing in disagreement with the inability of updating from Chico Wittaker and others) has written an interesting study on the “translation” which was necessary to put together those threads.

Woman organizations, for instant, are concerned about the patriarchal society. But indigenous organizations are worried about the exploitation by white colons. Human rights organizations, have different agenda from those dealing with environment. To understand each other, and share and work together, a process of translation of those priorities, to think holistically, went on. It is what is called now identity. Any world party has to answer this question, because there are no indigenous organizations in Europe, and there are no activists on the impact of infrastructures in Asia or Africa. In other worlds, while it is easier to build a mass participation against a common enemy, it requires a lot of dialogue for building up a movement. Certainly, the WSF was fundamental for creating the awareness that a holistic approach is necessary to fight injustice, climate change, an uncontrolled finance, the growing social injustice, etc. And that is an important point in the creation of a world party.

All over those 63 years, from the creation of the Transnational Radical Party, in all movements which have been created, and now in the Yellow jackets, there is a common.

Fact. For the immense majority of the participants, the notion of a party is linked to power, corruption and lack of legitimacy. In the WSF it was its final irrelevance. As the Talmudist, led by Chico Wittaker have opposed: any political declaration from the WSF, because it could divide the movement; any creation of spokesman on behalf of the WSF; the idea of horizontality as the main basis for the governance of the WSF, the WSF as a space for meeting, not for organizing actions. Actions could be done by those participating making up alliances, but the WSF could not make declarations or plans of action. The International Council was not a governing body, but just a facilitating structure. The lack of organizations made that media did not come any longer, as they had no interlocutors, as spokesman were forbidden. Even a declaration on something which could not create any scission, like condemnation of wars, or appeals on climate action were forbidden. The result is that the WSF become like spiritual exercises: useful for those who participates, they come out with more individual strength, but without any impact on the world.

This is an extremely important handicap for a world party. Those who would be in principle its largest constituency, reject the notion of a part, which automatically creates structures of power, opens to corruption od ideals, and leave Individuals without participation and representation. The Yellow Jacket Is a sobering lesson of this. The political world has lost legitimacy, participation, and young people. It is totally separated from culture, research, and intellectualism. A world party, to be real, cannot be based on a few people. It must address and solve those issues.

For these among many, three considerations are important.

The first, Internet has changed the participations in politics. Space and time ae not the same. Tine has become fluid and short. Tweets, Facebook, etc. are much more important than media. Bolsonaro was elected through social media. This is a general phenomenon, from Salvini in Italy, to the Arab Spring, to Brexit. All American media have 62 million copies. Of these, quality papers (WSJ, NYT, WP,etc.), have just ten million copies. Trump tweets have 49 million followers. We know that only 4% buy newspapers, and they look only Fox news, which is an extension of his tweeters. So, when Trump makes absurd claims, like that when he visited Queen Elizabeth, he could not go to the center of London, because there were so many people waiting for him, that this was the advice of the Police, when in fact there were 200.000 people in the streets protesting his visit, those 49 million believed him blindly. The quality media publish a fact checker, which has dramatic figures about his lies and misguided truth. His followers will never read those, and if they see it they will not believe them. We need to be able to get into this kind of mobilization. I, for one, I am not able to use efficiently Twitter. And Aldo Moro the Italian PM assassinated by the Red Brigades (which were used by a stronger force), would not be able either. And politics jump from a short period on an item, to another one. Gone is the ability to follow process. We only follow events. And the same is happening with media.

The second, as a consequence of this, Internet went the wrong way, as far as politics are concerned. Instead of becoming an element of participation, has become an element of atomization. A whopping 73% of its users declare that they carve their own world, a virtual world, that they can build on their wishes. As a result, debate among people (especially young people), has waned. Users go into Internet, dialogue with like-minded people, and insult others. The result is that young people vote less and less, with results like Brexit, where 88% of adults voted, against 23% of young people, who demonstrated against the result of the referendum the day after, with onlookers shouting them: you did not vote and now you protest?

The third, there is now a divide between towns and country side, which is just the point of the iceberg of a much significant divide: between those who feel left out by globalization, and think it went in favor of those living in towns, the elites (intellectuals are considered a part), and those who were not victims. It is just enough to look where Trump got his voters in 2018, and no significant support in the towns. He lost the popular vote by two million. But the peculiar American voting system, a heritage of the process of unification of American states, gives today a disproportionate representation to the smaller and least developed American States. But the same was behind Brexit, and it is happening worldwide.

This has brought an unprecedented situation. Those who feel left behind, are now legitimized to mistrust elites. Ignorance has been for a long time a reality in every country.

But now there is the arrogance of ignorance. Yellow jackets revolt against elites, with Macron as a symbol, is shared by the followers of Trump, Salvini, Le Pen, Bolsonero, etc.

And is ironic that the political system, considered everywhere the main enemy, is in fact the most ignorant in modern times. Once, if Nelson Mandela, Adlai Stevenson, Olaf Palme, Allende and Aldo Moro would meet, they would have some books on which to talk. It would be highly improbable among even parliamentarians, let alone Trump, May and Merkel…

This bring us to a consideration, and the conclusion. The consideration is to reflect what happened to degrade politics and policy. My own reading: there were a sum of factors, all at the same time. The Berlin’s wall fall, brought to the Tatcher’s Tina (there is no alternative). It was the end of ideologies (the end of history), those cages that brought us to wars. The cry was to be pragmatist. But when politics become just the solution of a single problem, without a long term and organic vision of the step you are taking, you are being utilitarian, which is a different perspective. At the same time, we had the Washington Consensus, among the IMF, the WB, and the American Treasury, of how to run the world. The benefits of globalization would lift all boats. Anything which was not productive, was to be curbed: social costs, education (Reagan even wanted to abolish the Ministry), health, which were unmovable and should be privatized. The public system, the state, all what was movable (trade, finance, industry) was to be globalized. Microeconomies were out. It took 20 years for the IMF and the WB, to belatedly restore the role of the state as a regulator, beyond the market. But by now the genie is out of the bottle. Finance has taken its own life, is over the economic production. And the unprecedented concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands is just a symbol, which adds the exasperation of the losers.

But very important was the Third Way theory of Tony Blair, who decided that as globalization was inevitable, the left could ride it, and give to it a human face. The result is that the left lost his constituency, and workers now vote for the new populist parties, which are growing everywhere. The debate left-right, which was largely an ideological debate, has disappeared. Why people should feel passionate about a politic which has become basically an administrative matter?

And this brings us to the conclusion. To create a world party, we must find a banner under which people would come. I think that, in today world, the right does not need to structure Bannon attempt to join all populist and xenophobe parties, is valid as long they have a common enemy: Europe, the multilateralism. But if you push people to nationalism and competition, it will go the way of the much proclaimed unity between the Austrian Prime Minister, Sebastian Kurz, and Salvini, who declared themselves brothers, united against the common enemy, the European Union. But as soon they come across a concrete theme, how to deal with immigrants, their competing interests was the of their brotherhood. I have no doubt that next European elections in May, will see a strengthening of the anti-European forces. But from that to the end of Europe…

Therefore, this growing tide will exhaust itself, when it will be clear that their program of making the national past the future, will last until they take the power, and will become visible that they have no answers: this is what the Italian government is proving now.

Echoing Gramsci, a party should be able to rally masses, for a common goal. This goal, according the reality, should be able to interpret and rally the majority of people. Today, the common denominator has been globalization. Many historians think that the engines for change in history have been greed and fear. Since 1989, we have been educated to greed, which has become a virtue: and since the crisis of 2008 (a direct result of greed), fear has become a strong reality. Immigrants are now the scapegoats, when they have always been a resource. When, in American history, a wall with Mexico could have justified the longest government’s shutdown?

What bonded people together, until 1989, were values it is enough to read any constitutions to find those values: justice, solidarity, ethics, equality, law as the basis of society, and so on. Today we live in a world where nobody speaks of values (unless you take market as a value), and less of all the political world. It would be a long walk, but a world party should be based on values, the defense of international cooperation as a warrant for peace, and on the fact that competition and greed make few winners, and many losers.

We must think that there are millions of people in the world engaged at grassroot level, hundreds of times more than the WSF. Our challenge is to connect with them. This, I am afraid, is a long walk. But unless se connect with those who are working to change the present trend, and we must simply made clear that we are not the elites, but we consider us equally victims, and we share the same enemy. Finally, those are people who read and reflect..And we share the same values…But can we find the language to do that? Communication is the basis for participation…

How Development Excludes Adivasi Peoples

Failing to understand the Adivasi world view and imposing the dominant development paradigm on Adivasi peoples is affecting their identity and well-being

Local governance structures—in which every individual has the right, capacity, and opportunity to take part—must be kept alive | Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

By Debjeet Sarangi
ODISHA, India, Feb 21 2019 (IPS)

Failing to understand the Adivasi world view and imposing the dominant development paradigm on Adivasi peoples is affecting their identity and well-being. The mainstream development paradigm has aggravated discontent among Adivasi communities. The reasons are not difficult to recognise—it encourages the siege of native resources, drives competition, is surplus-driven, instils private ownership, and consequently, is affecting the cultural identity of Adivasi peoples.

Adivasi thought leaders believe that the root causes for the failure of development lie in a failure to understand their world view, and the continued imposition of the dominant development paradigm is significantly affecting the of well-being of Adivasi peoples.


Land and forest

The process of pushing Adivasi communities from their traditional homelands to distant frontiers is not new. Historical research shows that the eviction of Adivasi peoples is an age-old process. Their geographical history has been one of incessant displacement and relocation—often with the use of force and violence—deeper and deeper into inhospitable terrain.

Data shows that the proportion of rural Adivasi households that do not own any land (not even homestead land) increased from 16 percent of all Adivasi households in 1987–88 to 24 percent in 2011–12.

When it comes to forest land, the usage and access of resources by Adivasi peoples has been considered to be ‘encroachment’ by the government. In 2006, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, tried to amend this by recognising the customary rights of forest dwellers, including the right over commons areas, as well as the right to manage and sell forest produce. However, implementation of this Forest Rights Act (FRA) has been unsuccessful, with inadequate community awareness, conflicting legislations, lack of dedicated structural implementation, administrative roadblocks, and government deficit.

Adivasi thought leaders believe that the root causes for the failure of development lie in a failure to understand their world view, and the continued imposition of the dominant development paradigm is significantly affecting the of well-being of Adivasi peoples

The forest bureaucracy, reluctant to give up control, has misinterpreted the FRA as an instrument to regularise ‘encroachment’. This can be seen in its emphasis to recognise individual claims while ignoring collective claims (Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights, as promised under the FRA).

To add to this,  the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has reportedly been pushing for a new set of rules that would dilute the FRA, and limit the power of local governing bodies like Gram Sabhas, despite objections raised by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA).

What can be done?

Local governance structures and systems where decision-making starts at the smallest unit of human settlement—in which every individual has the right, capacity, and opportunity to take part—must be kept alive. Communities should mobilise to file their community forest rights claims under the FRA, and facilitate community-led regeneration and conservation of natural biodiverse forests.


Culture and education

While Adivasi parents do feel that education and literacy are important, sending children away to residential schools also means that an entire generation will not learn their way of life, and will be alienated from agriculture, forests, and their parents’ livelihoods.

Children studying in residential schools are allowed to go home only once in a year, and struggle to bridge two totally different and disconnected worlds together. In an attempt to be mainstreamed, many lose their Adivasi identity.

“Without this knowledge, in the future we will have a weak education without memory. We will have a sick society where our generations to come will have no traditions—an empty space in history. We need to pass on our customs and law and way of life just as our grandparents did. We need to pass on the pride of being an Adivasi,” says a mother.

“The dominant education system in India is top-down. In this system, everything is de-contextualised,” says an Adivasi youth.

What can be done?

Facilitating dialogue on the implications of emergent ‘development’ paradigms, deliberating possible alternatives, and supporting efforts of Adivasi communities to envision their future is extremely necessary today.

Spaces need to be created for inter-generational learning for young Adivasi peoples, where adults in the community can play the role of ‘teachers’, impart local knowledge and reclaim the culture of communitarian living. To build curricula, traditional experts and thought leaders should interface with scientists and academicians from mainstream institutions. Curriculum should be contextual, and based around local issues—Adivasi agriculture, architecture, agro-ecology, food sovereignty, direct democracy, PESA and FRA.


Agriculture and livelihoods

Traditional Adivasi food systems tie together ecological realities, Adivasi identity, indigenous knowledge, social meanings, health, nutrition, and economics. Production practices are grounded in ecological principals like sustaining soil fertility, sustaining biodiversity, and conserving energy through practising poly-cultural farming, with numerous crops growing in tandem.

However, in recent years these self-reliant, biodiverse agricultural practices have been under threat. The green revolution model of agriculture, in the name of modernisation, has been characterised by the imposition of alien agricultural technology, ‘high-yielding’ varieties of seeds, the chemicalisation of farming, and the growth of commercial mono-cultural plantations, all of which have endangered the farms and forests of Adivasi peoples.

What can be done?

Livelihoods based on the essence of the agro-ecology, in keeping with the non-accumulative attitude of Adivasi peoples must be created.

Democratising production and consumption, involving clusters of villages with common ecological features to enhance local self-reliance in which tribal villages can trade goods and services with each other would reduce dependence on the outside market and government.


Health and nutrition

Although only 8.6 percent of the Indian population, Adivasis disproportionately represent people living below poverty line, and suffer from poor physical health.

When it comes to food and nutrition security, Adivasi areas have been identified as high-risk areas. Several factors have contributed to the increasing food insecurity, ranging from loss of traditional food sources in the forest, and decreasing size of land holdings, to a shift from self-sufficient agriculture to chemical-intensive agriculture, and increasing land alienation.  All this has rendered a considerable part of Adivasi communities as food insecure, with growing numbers falling into food scarcity and starvation.

What can be done?

To address changing diets influenced by external culture, local food systems need to be reoriented to produce safe, nutritious food, promote dietary diversity, and ensure balanced diets, along with revival of local health traditions and health security.

Modern doctors should be exposed to local health traditions—working with healers, midwives, traditional birth attendants, and so on—in order to sensitise them regarding local practices, and to come up with a framework to distinguish between ailments that require traditional healthcare and those that require clinical assistance.

To address malnutrition, the core existential issues that affect Adivasi peoples and other rural marginalised communities need to be examined. Poverty, indebtedness, food insecurity, lack of control over productive resources, and so on, all significantly impact nutritional outcomes. With critical reflection of these underlying structural causes, the communities themselves should undertake the responsibility of addressing them and decide the next course of action, as opposed to approaches where outsiders ‘consult’ communities, with no assurance that they will actually do anything.


Debjeet Sarangi has been involved with Kondh community in Odisha in building narratives of self-reliance that are primary to their way of life. This includes putting in practices and knowledge to reclaim the shared spaces, strengthen internal solidarity within the community, reclaim control over local food systems, and defending cooperative modes of living with humans and nature. He works with Living Farms, a nonprofit organisation in Odisha.


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

Maldives Reiterates Commitment to ‘Free, Open Indo-Pacific Region’ & Democracy

By Arul Louis
NEW YORK, Feb 21 2019 (IPS)

Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has reiterated his nation’s commitment to a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region and to democracy.

During his meeting with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington Feb 20, Shahid “underscored the importance of his government’s reform efforts to (ensure) the vitality of Maldives’ democracy,” the department’s Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid

The two leaders spoke of their “common interest in deepening bilateral ties between the United States and Maldives, and their shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” his statement added.

Pompeo appreciated the Maldives’ commitment to judicial reform, transparency, and rule of law, Palladino said.

Their statements on democracy and rule of law were a boost to the Indian Ocean nation’s fragile democracy.

Maldives had fought back a challenge to its democracy in September when the opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assumed the presidency after defeating President Abdulla Yameen, who had declared a state of emergency and arrested Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed when the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of nine opposition leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The US-Maldives declaration of commitment to free and open Indo-Pacific region has added significance because of the China factor

Yameen, who had moved closer to China and Pakistan, sent emissaries seeking support from them after the emergency declaration that India and the US criticised.

China sent warships to the Indian Ocean region near the Maldives after the emergency was proclaimed in February last year. Beijing is also major investor and aid-giver to the Maldives.

Palladino said that Pompeo undertook to work with Congress to provide $9.75 million in additional aid to Maldives.

David J. Ranz, the deputy assistant secretary for Central and South Asian affairs, announced in December an aid package for Maldives comprising $7 million in military aid for maritime security and $3 million for supporting civil society and environmental programmes.

According to Maldives Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, the country owes $1.4 billion to China.

The State Department said that the Treasury Department would help the Maldives government with developing a debt strategy and with domestic debt management.

Arul Louis can be reached at and followed on Twitter @arulouis

‘No Way to Defend Ourselves Against the Onslaught of Climate Change’

Suriname’s First Lady Ingrid Bouterse-Waldring says the Caribbean nation has been affected by climate change as it has experienced many destructive floods. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
PARAMARIBO, Feb 21 2019 (IPS)

Two of the most prominent women in the Caribbean nation of Suriname are speaking out about developed countries that release large volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

First Lady Ingrid Bouterse-Waldring and Speaker of the National Assembly Jennifer Geerlings-Simons say Suriname and other countries in the region are feeling the brunt of the effects of climate change.

“If we go to the interior of our country, then we see that we have had a lot of floods in those areas. These floods are destructive for the people who are living there. The effects are clearly noticeable especially to the women and the children,” Bouterse-Waldring told IPS.

“In the coastal area . . . we have had a lot of very strong winds. These winds, actually we never had them before, so it’s also new to us. These are all things that we are facing now with climate change.”

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma that devastated Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and others in 2017, many countries are still struggling to recover.

Geerlings-Simons told IPS: “Some of our countries have seen devastation and we have seen examples in 2017 and 2018 of what will happen to our countries if at any point in time, a hurricane or any other type of disaster happens.”

“You can start rebuilding your economy . . . but next year another hurricane might come and wipe you out again. Did you contribute to clime change? No, you just get hit by it. How would Suriname recover from one hurricane? Seventy-five percent of our people live on the coast and 75 percent or more of our economy is right here. How will we recover? Our homes are not built for hurricanes,” Geerlings-Simons said, adding that

The Speaker of Suriname’s National Assembly said that more than 1,000 homes lost their roofs in extreme weather conditions over the last 10 years. Previously, this sort of destruction to homes due to the weather was unheard of.

“So, we’re feeling the effects right now,” she said.

Jennifer Geerlings-Simons Suriname’s Speaker of the National Assembly says poor and even highly forested countries have no way to defend themselves against this onslaught of climate change which is already happening. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Geerlings-Simons said countries like Suriname, whose forests are actually aiding many other parts of the world, should get something in return. Not only do forests provide oxygen to the world, but according to the World Wide Fund For Nature two billion people either directly or indirectly rely on them for food, shelter and food security etc.

“We have no way as poor countries or even a highly forested countries to defend ourselves against this onslaught of climate change which is already happening, and which is actually threatening our future in the relatively short term of a few decades,” Geerlings-Simons told IPS.

“We as highly forested countries should . . . have an international fund in which we put some money if we push carbon into the air, and we get some money if we take it out of the air.”

Geerlings-Simons said this has already been tried and proven in Costa Rica. Twenty-two years ago, Costa Rica was the first in the world to start a nationwide scheme for compensating landowners for preserving their forests when it embarked on its national programme of payment for environmental services (PES).

“If you pay someone to keep the forest standing, they will keep it standing because they don’t have to give it to someone to cut it down to get something to eat,” Geerlings-Simons said.

“I am sure that if Europe, the United States or China would develop some kind of mechanism, some kind of machine, everybody would gladly be paying for it because it would strengthen their economy.

“But now, finally after a few hundred years, some money has to come to this part of the world, at this moment where we are facing a very dire situation. The [International Panel on Climate Change] IPCC is not some kind of scaremongering organisation and they really gave us a stern warning. You do something, you get paid for it. Why is this an exception?” she added.

Last year, the IPCC released a report assessing the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees C.

But as global emissions continue to rise, hopes of containing the planet’s warming well below 2 degrees C–the headline target of the Paris Agreement–are fading.

“Why do we have to beg for money while delivering a service that put carbon into the air? The only way that some people will start reducing their carbon is when they have to pay. This is the way this world works,” Geerlings-Simons said.

High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations hosted a major conference in Suriname earlier this month.

The conference ended with the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration on HFLD Climate Mobilisation. Krutu—an indigenous Surinamese word—means a gathering of significance or a gathering of high dignitaries, resulting in something that is workable.