Massacre of the Innocents: Whereto from Here?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Apr 30 2019 – We have been here before. This blooded precipice is familiar, this looming abyss. What is unfamiliar, what renders the Easter Sunday massacre most vile and truly nightmarish is the total absence of any knowable rationality.

There is no context to this horror, no back-story; it cannot be framed, politically or historically. Other massacres were presaged; this one fell on an unsuspecting people, a killer-bolt on a clear Sunday morning. It is the most heinous and the most incomprehensible act of violence in our violence-ridden history.

Every massacre of innocents leaves behind a heap of questions. The larger why, the philosophical, existential why might be unanswerable, but the smaller whys almost always are.

Whether it was Black July, the Anuradhapura massacre, or any of the civilian bloodletting that came afterwards, there was a discernible path to the outrage paved with a history of real or imagined wrongs.

Not so this massacre of innocents.

That the massacre is the work of an Islamic terror group is now certain, a conclusion made inescapable by the involvement of several suicide bombers. The attacks on the hotels are barbaric, but part of a comprehensible, global pattern. You want to hurt an economy dependent on tourism; you attack places where tourists congregate, from beaches and ancient ruins to hotels.

Not so the targeting of Catholic churches in Sri Lanka. That is where the utter incomprehension stems from. In Sri Lanka, there has been no history of violent animosity between Muslims and Christians/Catholics. Both communities have been targeted by Sinhala-Buddhists on multiple occasions. They were both victims of majoritarian violence, but never responded in kind.

Had the suicide bombers targeted state institutions, places of entertainment, Buddhist temples or even Hindu kovils, it would have made sense in terms of vengeance for a real or imagined wrong.

Why churches? Why only Catholic churches?

Churches have been targeted by Islamic terrorists elsewhere in the world, including Asia; the Surabaya bombings in Indonesia and the Jolo church attacks in the Philippines are cases in point. But every one of those attacks could be placed within a national politico-historical context. There is no such context here in Sri Lanka.

Attacks by a lone gunman or a lone bomber might have been comprehensible, the work of a clinically deranged man. But an operation of this complexity and magnitude, involving the willing and knowing cooperation of hundreds of people, is unfathomable.
The killers, the human bombs, are believed to be Lankan Muslim men.

For any terror organisation, suicide killers would be a valuable possession, something you don’t expend in vain. A suicide killer must be trained and groomed right up to the moment of murder, handled with meticulous care, kept on the pre-prepared path, shielded from every human emotion. Why use such valuable and not easily replaceable weapons on targeting a community that had not done you or your local co-religionists any harm?

Were the churches targets of opportunity? In Sri Lanka, churches (along with mosques and kovils) are relatively unprotected and vulnerable. But so are many other institutions and structures, both secular and religious. Was it to gain maximum publicity – bombing churches on Easter Sunday? That would have been a credible explanation had the authors rushed to claim responsibility.

** But so far, no organisation has claimed responsibility, another unusual occurrence. Generally, after a successful operation, the claim to own it is a race. Terrorists love publicity. That is how they gain new recruits and new resources.

So here we are, in a hell both familiar and unfamiliar. How not to plunge from this to a worse hell is the hardest challenge ahead, much harder than identifying, apprehending and punishing the guilty.

An Unforgivable Failure

There is one haunting truth about the Easter Sunday massacre – with a little more vigilance, it might have been prevented. A section of the security establishment seems to have known that an Islamic terror group was planning to target Catholic churches. According to reports, they even knew the names and other details of some of the attackers, possibly ten days ahead.

The speed with which the first arrests were made gives credence to these reports. Such speed by our police can be explained only by prior-knowledge. Greater the speed, greater the prior-knowledge. And the speed was great, unprecedentedly so.
That begs two critical questions.

Who knew? Why did those in the know do nothing with their knowledge?

If the known attackers had been arrested, the massacre wouldn’t have happened. And it could have been done under normal law. The Defence Secretary is lying if he claims that the information was vague and the absence of emergency regulations was a handicap.

If the churches were informed about their peril, they could have taken some precautions. That certainly didn’t require emergency regulations.

With either of those two measures, three hundred innocent lives could have been saved.

We, as a nation, need to know why those lives were wantonly sacrificed. The SLPP had predictably accused the government of not supporting the intelligence agencies, of persecuting and discouraging them. That is incorrect. The intelligence agencies are not the victims of this story. They received the information, and opted not to do anything with it. That was a severe dereliction of duty.

President Maithripala Sirisena must shoulder much of the blame. As the Minister of Defence, protecting the people was his responsibility. He failed abysmally. And he has not apologised for that failure. That doesn’t mean the UNP can exculpate itself from all responsibility, all blame.

The ‘we were not told’ excuse cannot hold water since one of the letters warning about impending terror attacks seems to have been circulating in the social media for days. If Minister Harin Fernando’s father knew about the danger, then the Minister, his cabinet and non-cabinet colleagues and his prime minister cannot plead ignorance.

The government’s failure to stop the massacre fits into a general pattern of indifference towards all forms of extremism. One week before the Easter Sunday massacre, on Palm Sunday, a Methodist church in Anuradhapura was attacked, reportedly by a Sinhala-Buddhist mob. The police refused either to apprehend the attackers or to protect the victims. The government didn’t condemn the attack, didn’t order the police to catch the culprits. All it did was to promise the church protection for Easter.

The promise reportedly came from the Prime Minister. There was not a hum from the President. Political leaders on all sides of the divide, including the minister in charge of Christian Affairs, acted blind, deaf, and mute.

Perhaps this blasé attitude of the political class percolated to the intelligence establishment. Perhaps those in the know thought that there was no need to act if the intended target was a church, or some other minority religious establishment. After all, thirteen months have passed since the anti-Muslim riots of Digana. Time enough for the main suspects to be tried in a court of law. Yet no one has been formally charged and every suspect is out on bail.

Had the government honoured its promise to end impunity and ensure justice, had it honoured the promise to combat extremism and promote moderation, the Easter Sunday massacre might have been avoided. This government did not promote extremism, like its predecessor. But it didn’t resist extremism either. It turned itself into a bystander. Three hundred innocent people paid for that cowardice, that indifference, with their lives.

The next vicious spiral

A new fault line has been created in Sri Lanka’s already seriously compromised societal fabric. A new enmity has been birthed. This is not the moment for anodyne slogans about unity and peace. The peril cannot be resisted, if its existence is unacknowledged.

Sri Lanka’s blood-soaked history provides us with ample warning of the dangers ahead.

Will the targeting of Catholics by Islamic terrorists create an endless blood feud between Lankan Catholics and Lankan Muslims? Will the wronged Catholics themselves do wrong by targeting innocent Muslims?

The fear that the Easter Sunday massacre will lead to a round of attacks on Muslim properties and religious establishments has so far not materialised. For this, the government, especially the UNP, deserves the credit. When the first attack on a mosque was reported, immediate action was taken, including the imposition of a curfew. That probably saved the country from another round of bloodletting. But the danger will not be over in a day, or even a year. Only constant vigilance can prevent another tragedy.

Terrorists of all kinds have two targets – one the purported enemy; the other, one’s own community. The authors of the Easter Sunday’s massacre of innocents would have known that they were placing their own innocent coreligionists in peril. They would have known that retaliatory attacks could happen, if not in the immediate aftermath, then someday.

And they wouldn’t have cared. That is a function of extremism. They not only hate their enemies. They don’t care about their own community. The cancer of extremism that is affecting Lankan religions must be combated, perhaps primarily from within.

The first step is to start criticising one’s own extremists. It is only by taking an unequivocal stand against extremists of our own community do we earn the moral right to criticise extremists of other communities.

Sinhalese and Tamils failed to take a stand against their own extremists; each community raged against the other’s tribalism while justifying one’s own. That failure caused both communities incalculable harm, and incalculable self-harm. Black July turned a marginal insurgency into a full scale war. The LTTE’s countless atrocities eventually contributed to its own shameful defeat.

When Sinhala-Buddhists attacked Muslims in Digana in the name of Buddhism, the absolute majority of Buddhist leaders remained mute. The Muslim leaders will hopefully set a different example, not just in the immediate aftermath, but continuously. The task would be long and hard.

Though Lankan Muslims have been the victims of both Sinhala-Buddhist and LTTE violence, the atrocities committed by Muslims elsewhere in the world have rebounded on them unjustly, enveloping them in a miasma of fear and suspicion. Easter Sunday’s massacre will worsen their plight.

There is a danger of Muslims being considered as enemies by all other communities. Extremists within the Sinhala-Buddhist fold will work towards such an outcome. One can almost hear the likes of Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara crowing. Forgotten will be the role played by anti-Muslim violence in fostering Muslim extremism.

But that too would be in accordance with the intent of the attackers. As Moroccan editor Ahmed Benchemsi opined, “…..spreading hate is the terrorists’ job. Hating you is not enough; they also need you to hate them, so the struggle goes unchallenged” (Newsweek – 20.11.2008).

Terrorists revel in hate, and they want that hate to be extended to their racial/religious community as well. They want their crime to become the crime of their entire community, falling even unto unborn children. When such hatred seeps into a national bloodstream, the terrorists achieve their final victory. That happened between Sinhalese and Tamils. It mustn’t happen between Lankan Catholics and Lankan Muslims.

Sadly, hate is easy to cultivate. It can flourish anywhere. All it needs is an inch, a second, a thought, a glance, one unguarded moment. And a destructive atom can always survive, waiting with endless patience until the next time.

So, we stand on a familiar precipice, staring at a familiar abyss. This time, the task of guiding us away from it, towards the plains of moderation and stability belongs to Muslims and Catholics. This is their moment to be what Sinhalese and Tamils were not at comparable moments in their histories.

This is their moment to place their humanity above every other consideration, in a way we, Sinhalese and Tamils, failed to. And it is for us, especially Sinhala-Buddhists, to prevent our own extremists from intervening to sow hate, to prevent healing, to peddle vengeance in the guise of justice.

As Aristotle said, “For the things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them… We become just by just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts…” (Necomachean Ethics). In this moment, grand gestures are necessary; but every little act of ordinary decency and kindness counts. If our leaders, elected and self-appointed, fail to stand against extremism, fail to build an alliance of moderates, perhaps we, the people, who are outraged by Easter Sunday’s massacre of innocents can.

*This analysis was written on April 23, two days following the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.
** Since then, there have been reports that ISIS has claimed responsibility for inspiring the attacks.

Coping With World Bank-Led Financialization

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, Apr 30 2019 – The World Bank has successfully promoted its ‘Maximizing Finance for Development’ (MFD) strategy by embracing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, internationally endorsed in September 2015.

It has also secured support from the G20 of twenty biggest economies, and effectively pre-empted alternative approaches at the third UN Financing for Development summit in Addis Ababa in mid-2015.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

As the main ‘show in town’, developing countries will need to address the MFD’s implications by responding pro-actively and collectively to address the new challenges it poses.

Managing new macro-financial challenges
As the MFD agenda privileges foreign investors and portfolio inflows, multilateral development banks (MDBs) should be obliged to clearly show how developing countries will benefit.

Greater vulnerability and other adverse implications of being more closely integrated into fickle global financial markets, which detract from the ostensible advantages of such integration, are now widely acknowledged.

The IMF and other international financial institutions (IFIs) should also advise on the efficacy of various policy instruments, such as macroprudential measures, including capital controls, to ensure central bank control of domestic credit conditions.

Although portfolio flows are generally recognized as pro-cyclical, IFIs reluctantly recommend capital controls, and even then, only after governments have exhausted all other monetary and fiscal policy options.

After experiencing repeated boom-bust cycles in capital flows, many emerging markets have learnt that they must manage such flows if they are to reap some benefits of financial globalization while trying to minimize risks.

Addressing systemic risks
In fact, many concerned economists believe that monetary and fiscal policies cannot adequately address such systemic fragilities, but may inadvertently exacerbate them, e.g., raising interest rates may attract more capital inflows, instead of just stemming outflows.

After effectively eschewing capital controls for decades despite its Article VI provisions, recent IMF advice has been inherently contractionary by raising interest rates and tightening fiscal policy instead of judiciously using ‘smart’ capital controls.

Anis Chowdhury

Development-oriented governments must include those familiar with changing securities and derivatives markets, who will have to work with central banks on regulating cross-border flows and managing systemic vulnerabilities.

It is difficult for development-oriented governments to be pragmatic and agile when they are subject to the dictates of private finance, especially when these appear to be rules-based, anonymous and foreign.

Financial systems are increasingly being reorganized around securities markets dominated by transnational institutional investors who have transformed financial incentives and banking business models.

Many banks have reorganized themselves around securities and derivative markets where short-term profit opportunities are significantly higher than traditional alternatives requiring costly nurturing of long-term, ‘information-intensive’ relations.

Stopping capital outflows from developing countries
International financial liberalization has enabled further capital outflows from most developing countries, depriving them of much needed resources to develop their economies.

The economic fiction that open capital accounts would result in needed net financial flows from ‘capital-rich’ developed economies in the North to ‘capital-poor’ developing countries in the South has been disproved.

Thus, a significant share of the money flowing into global shadow banking (institutional investors, asset managers) comes from developing countries. Such capital outflows are typically due to tax arbitrage and avoidance practices by transnational corporations and wealthy individuals.

There is also considerable capital flight by those who have accumulated wealth by corrupt and other dubious means. The illicit sources of such riches encourage storing such wealth abroad.

Effective cooperation to check and return such ill-gotten gains — often syphoned out using illicit means, such as trade mispricing and other forms of money laundering — can go a long way.

Equitable international tax cooperation would increase financial resources available all round, especially to developing country governments.

Instead, the IMF and others should enable developing country authorities to effectively implement policies to more successfully mobilize domestic financial resources for investment in developing economies.

Ensuring transparent government guarantees and subsidies
The MFD approach seeks to commit fiscal resources to ‘de-risking’ securities and other financial instruments to attract foreign institutional investments.

It is thus re-orienting governments to effectively guarantee profits for private investors from financing ‘development’ projects, effectively reducing public financial resources available for development projects.

To minimize abuses and to protect the public interest, MDBs should instead ensure the transparency and accountability of the framework by making clear the likely fiscal and other, including opportunity costs of de-risking projects.

Public interest agencies, civil society organizations and the media should help governments closely monitor such costs and make the public fully aware of the costs and risks involved.

Under Abiy, Ethiopia’s media have more freedom but challenges remain

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a press conference in Addis Ababa, in August 2018. Since Abiy’s election, conditions for Ethiopia’s journalists have improved, but some challenges remain. (AFP/Michael Tewelde)

By Muthoki Mumo
ADDIS ABABA, Apr 30 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(CPJ) – During a trip to Addis Ababa in January, it was impossible to miss the signs that Ethiopian media are enjoying unprecedented freedom. A flurry of new publications were on the streets. At a public forum that CPJ attended, journalists spoke about positive reforms, but also openly criticized their lack of access to the government. At a press conference, journalists from state media and the Oromia Media Network, an outlet previously banned and accused of terrorism, sat side by side.

Mesud Gebeyehu, a lawyer who heads the Consortium of Ethiopian Rights Organizations, an alliance of human rights groups, told CPJ he had been on television “many times” in the past year to speak about human rights, an issue that was previously taboo for the media.

Ethiopia, which was one of the most-censored countries in the world and one of the worst jailers of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, has gone through dramatic reforms under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office last April. In 2018–for the first time in 14 years–CPJ recorded no journalists behind bars in its annual census. And the country ended its block of over 260 websites and ban on media outlets forced to work in exile.

“I was fighting for [press freedom], but I did not expect it to happen in such a short time,” said Abel Wabella, a journalist who was detained and charged with terrorism under the previous government.

In May, Ethiopia will host UNESCO’s annual World Press Freedom Day: a reflection, UNESCO said, of the country’s commitment to democratic and media reforms.

Though the Ethiopian press is much freer today than before Abiy took power, CPJ spoke to over a dozen journalists and rights defenders who said that challenges remain, including the risk of attack and arrest, especially in restive regions; attracting advertisers in a market where businesses are wary of being seen to support critical publications; accusations of sowing divisiveness; and a proposed law that could curtail their newly found freedoms.

CPJ also attempted to reach the government for comment on conditions for the press. The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Billene Seyoum, acknowledged receipt but did not respond to CPJ’s emailed questions sent on April 24.

Perhaps most fundamentally, journalists told CPJ they are anxious for the freedoms they are enjoying to be rooted in law, rather than guaranteed only by the good will of the Abiy government.

The reforms “are not legally nor institutionally guaranteed until now. They are so because the leaders on top are willing, but neither their willingness nor their hold on power is permanent,” Befekadu Hailu, a journalist and social activist who edits the Addis Maleda weekly, told CPJ.

A council established under the attorney general’s office is reviewing a raft of laws including those previously used to restrict the press, such as the anti-terror proclamation and the mass media law, according to media reports.

Most of the journalists with whom CPJ spoke with said they were happy with the reform process, which included public consultations. Befekadu said he believes those involved are “independent.” Jawar Mohammed, executive director of the Oromia Media Network, said that those involved could move faster and communicate more frequently and clearly with the public.

However, a proposed law on hate speech is splitting opinion.

The government last year said it would draft the law in response to concern about toxic rhetoric online that some say amounts to incitement to violence or has the potential to exacerbate divisions, largely along ethnic lines, according to reports. The government has previously responded to tension by cutting off access to the internet. CPJ documented two such shutdowns under Abiy’s government, during unrest in Addis Ababa in September and in the Somali region during a crisis in August.

Yared Hailemariam, the executive director of the Swiss-based Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, told CPJ said that the media stand accused of “aggravating” tension. “It is a reflection of the political situation in the country, tension is high,” he said.

Most of those who spoke with CPJ said they felt there was a need for Ethiopian media to grow into “professionalism” and to act more “ethically” and “responsibly” within the newly opened space. But even so, some, like Befekadu, said they feared the hate speech law could have a “chilling effect on freedom of expression.”

“They want to give the government more power to regulate speech. Given the divisiveness in the country, it is understandable. But we need to be careful… we should not allow government to pass legislation which gives them reason to take down content they don’t like,” said Endalk Chala, assistant professor at Hamline University in Minnesota, who has studied Ethiopian media.

A copy of the draft law, viewed by CPJ, includes criminal penalties for hate speech and publishing “false news.” The privately owned Addis Fortune warned in an April 13 article that the draft law would not be a “golden bullet … to contain hate speech” and raised concerns that it harks back to laws Ethiopia previously used to suppress critical speech.

Eskinder Nega, who launched the weekly Ethiopis last year, months after he was freed from almost seven years in prison, said that ideas ought to be allowed to flourish, hate will be “filtered out”. Jawar said it was “dangerous” to invite government regulation of speech, suggesting instead a peer regulatory mechanism for the media.

Jawar and Eskinder are among the prominent media personalities whose work has been criticized for inflaming tensions, according to media reports.

Both strongly refuted these views. Jawar said that a strong political and advocacy position was being conflated with divisive speech. Eskinder said that while he has strong opinions, he has never advocated for violence. In a follow up email exchange on April 26, Eskinder told CPJ that the allegations of divisiveness were part of a “manufactured debate” and based on a misinterpretation of his work.

For the new papers that have mushroomed in Addis Ababa, financial concerns are urgent.

Abel can attest to that– he established the weekly Addis Zeybe in October, only for the paper to go out of print after four editions following financial pressures and distribution challenges.

Abel told CPJ that publications have a hard time attracting advertisers, whom he said can be shy of being associated with critical publications. This was a sentiment echoed by Jawar, who recently established a magazine, Gulale Post.

“Businesses are cautious. This is a popular government so they don’t want to be seen as being anti-government,” said Eskinder.

The government has also not been very open to the media, with Abiy hosting only a couple of press conferences with local journalists since he came to power, according to media reports and two of the journalists with whom CPJ spoke.

Journalists in Ethiopia also still face the risk of attack. CPJ has documented how mobs attacked a crew from the state-run Dire Dawa Mass Media Agency, in Meiso, in the Oromia region in July, in an incident that killed their driver, and how two journalists with the privately owned Mereja TV were briefly detained by police in Legetafo, in the same region, and assaulted by a mob upon their release in March. The regional government made initial promises to investigate, but Mereja TV chief executive Elias Kifle told CPJ in April that authorities had not investigated the crime.

Oromia government spokesperson Admasu Damtew did not answer CPJ’s phone calls or text messages on April 24 and April 27.

“They [have fulfilled] their obligation of respecting human rights, but the Abiy administration also has to protect people, to protect journalists, to protect human rights organizations from being attacked,” Yared, from the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, told CPJ.

The Economist reported last month that reform under Abiy “is not the first blossoming of free media,” pointing to how liberalization in the 1990s was followed by crackdowns in the 2000s. When CPJ asked Befekadu if he thought this current era of freedom would last he said, “I cannot say yes or no. But there is equal chance for the change to regress as it can progress. It needs collective effort of the media, civil society, and government to save it from falling into the vicious cycle.”

[Reporting from Addis Ababa and Nairobi.]

Muthoki Mumo is CPJ’s Sub-Saharan Africa representative. She is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and has a master’s in journalism and globalization from the University of Hamburg.

Rewriting the Rules on #MeToo Globally

Factory workers make sportswear for a U.S. brand at a maquila plant in El Salvador. Credit: Edgar Romero/IPS

Factory workers make sportswear for a U.S. brand at a maquila plant in El Salvador. Credit: Edgar Romero/IPS

By Nisha Varia
NEW YORK, Apr 30 2019 – I have been working to protect the rights of women workers for 25 years, and whether I speak to domestic workers, election workers, farmers, or activists, their experience of sexual harassment and violence has been a common thread. The other commonality? The almost complete absence of redress in any of those cases, spanning Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States.

This May Day, workers around the world are continuing the fight to be free from sexual violence and harassment. From multiple allegations against MJ Akbar, a veteran journalist and senior politician in India, to pending legislation in Texas, the #MeToo and #Time’sUp movements continue to expose the ubiquity of sexual harassment and drive public debate, scrutiny of workplace protections, and legal reform.

Discriminatory social norms and major legal gaps enable sexual violence and harassment at the workplace. A 2018 World Bank report found that 59 out of 189 economies had no specific legal provisions providing protection from sexual harassment in employment.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) found that when laws do exist, they often exclude categories of workers most exposed to abuse, for example, domestic workers, and have an overly narrow definition of “workplace.”

In other cases, legislation imposes criminal penalties for the worst forms of violence, but neglects preventive measures or remedies for the wide spectrum of abuse that can make a workplace hostile.

Nisha Varia

When the #MeToo hashtag exploded in October 2017, Facebook reported more than 12 million posts, comments, and reactions in 24 hours. Since then, women and girls in countries including France, India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and the United Kingdom have  come forward with personal stories.

Public attention has primarily focused on allegations against famous figures in politics and the media. But workers, activists, and donors have rallied around supporting workers out of the limelight, especially those in low-wage, women-dominated sectors where power dynamics can be especially distorted, sexual harassment may be rampant, and redress can feel—and be—out of reach.

This mobilization has spurred many businesses and governments to consider or introduce change. There is also an exciting initiative to create international legal standards on workplace violence and harassment.

In June, labor ministers and other government officials from countries around the world, national and international trade unions, and employers’ associations  will convene in Geneva to negotiate and finalize new standards on workplace harassment and violence.

Real change is within reach with the groundswell of public outrage and mobilization, media scrutiny, high-profile champions, potential alliances across diverse movements, and extensive evidence. If harnessed, these elements can translate into new international standards, ratifications, national law reform, implementation campaigns, and pressure on companies to adopt workplace policies to prevent and respond to harassment.

This tripartite process will hopefully conclude with the ILO adopting a “Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work”— a legally binding international treaty that will be  a powerful norm setter for countries that ratify it and even those that don’t.

The proposed treaty, and an accompanying, non-binding recommendation, would provide clear and specific guidance on the steps governments should take to protect workers from harassment and violence. It will integrate the role of anti-discrimination laws, labor laws, occupational safety and health laws, and other civil laws in protecting workers from sexual violence and harassment.

Civil laws can ensure prevention, monitoring, and remedies, to complement criminal law provisions that impose punishment for severe forms of workplace abuse.

The ILO negotiations are also thrashing out contentious issues that governments, workers, and businesses have grappled with at national and local levels, such as how a workplace is defined, who is a worker, what protection should look like, and how far responsibilities extend.

This includes the rights of workers in the informal sector, and the scope of employers’ responsibility, for example toward job-seekers and current employees  sexually harassed on their commutes. Another discussion has been what type of protections should be extended to domestic violence victims who might be stalked at work by their abuser or need time off to pursue legal redress.

Will yet another international treaty actually make a difference?

Not overnight.

But real change is within reach with the groundswell of public outrage and mobilization, media scrutiny, high-profile champions, potential alliances across diverse movements, and  extensive evidence.

If harnessed, these elements can translate into new international standards, ratifications, national law reform, implementation campaigns, and pressure on companies to adopt workplace policies to prevent and respond to harassment.

This type of change has happened before. Advocacy by domestic workers’ groups and labor unions around the 2011 ILO Domestic Workers Convention bolstered national campaigns and has helped spur reforms in dozens of countries—even among those that have not yet ratified the convention.

This has included new labor laws on domestic work in Argentina, Chile, Qatar, the Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates, incremental reforms in Bahrain, India, and the United States, and collective bargaining agreements in Italy and Uruguay. While exploitation of domestic workers remains a widespread and entrenched problem, significant and groundbreaking advances have taken place in the past eight years.

This could be the year that longstanding women’s rights and labor rights activism, along with the energy of the #MeToo movement, translates into new rights for workers under international law and a major global push to enforce those rights. The ILO negotiations deserve the same attention and enthusiastic support as the brave survivors of abuse who continue to speak up all over the world.

Benin’s Agriculture Has a Good Season, But it Wasn’t Easy

Felicienne Soton is part of a women’s group that produces gari (cassawa flour). She and her group in Adjegounle village have greatly benefited from Benin’s national CDD project. (Photo: Arne Hoel).

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
COTONOU, Benin, Apr 30 2019 – Théophile Houssou, a maize farmer from Cotonou, has spent sleepless nights lying awake worrying about the various disasters that could befall any farmer, often wondering, “What if it rains heavily and all my crops are washed away?” or “What if the armyworms invade my farm and eat up all the crops and I’m left with nothing?”

Maize crops in Benin, like in at least 28 other African countries, are being threatened by the Fall Armyworm (FAW), an invasive crop pest that feeds on 80 different crop species. Houssou is thankful to have missed an infestation and gives thanks to “God for the good season, but it was not easy,” he tells IPS.

Maize production in Benin reached a record 1.6 million tons during the 2017-2018 season, compared to 1.2 million tons two years ago, according to the ministry of agriculture’s figures.

In downtown Cotonou, the country’s commercial capital, five men are busy loading pineapples onto a 10-ton truck, while four more heavy vehicles wait to be loaded. The produce will be taken to several countries in the region, including Nigeria, which receives 80 percent of all Benin’s exports. Benin is Africa’s fourth-largest pineapple exporter, producing between 400,000 and 450,000 tons of pineapple annually. Exports to the European Union (EU) increased from 500 tons to 4,000 tons between 2000 and 2014, according to official figures.

Further away, the famous Dantokpa Market is flooded with agricultural products, including red tomatoes, okra, soya beans, mangoes, orange, green pepper, lemon and all sorts of spinaches and fruits. Competition is fierce and the selling price is very low, amid an excellent agricultural season.

Room for improvement
While the agricultural sector here may look lively, it boasts several fault lines.

Despite being mostly a subsistence sector, agriculture contributes about 34 percent to this West African nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Almost 80 percent of Benin’s 11.2 million people earn a living from agriculture, the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says. FAO adds that the country’s farmers face challenges such as include poor infrastructure and flooding, which can wipe out harvests and seed stocks.

In a document titled “Strategic Plan for Agricultural Sector Development (PSDSA) 2025 and National Plan for Agricultural Investments and Food Security and Nutrition (PNIASAN) 2017 -2021”, the Benin government has admitted that the agriculture sector’s revenues and productivity are low, and the labour force is only partially rewarded, making agricultural products less competitive.

“Most farmers have very little use of improved inputs and engage in mining practices that accentuate the degradation of natural resources,” the document states.

“We can do better than this,” Marthe Dossou, a small scale farmer supervising the offloading of thousands of boxes of red tomatoes from a rundown truck, tells IPS. These tomatoes will be exported to Nigeria but Dossou feels that considering the high quality of the harvest, Benin can produce more for export. “If we can be given a helping hand like more resources, including loans, new farming methods and how to master water control techniques,” she says.

Dr Tamo Manuele, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Benin country representative, tells IPS that agricultural innovation “is key to eradicating poverty, hunger and malnutrition, mainly in rural areas where most of the world’s poorest live.”
“Innovation can, first of all, increase small-scale farmers’ productivity and income, and secondly diversify farmers’ income through value chain development; and lastly create more and better opportunities for the rural poor,” he says.

“Farmers or at least actors in agricultural value chains need support for conservation and processing of agricultural commodities. With e-agriculture, farmers can better manage their production and especially be informed of market opportunities. Innovations such as warrantage system [an inventory credit system where farmers instead of selling their produce use it as collateral to get credit from a bank] and group selling can help solving this problem. NGOs and specialised experts in agriculture have to strengthen and support closely farmers,” Manuele urges.

Headquartered in Ibadan, Nigeria, the IITA has been present in Benin since 1985 and it supports national agricultural research and extension services.

“Research is one of the main links leading to innovation. Many studies have reported that communities living near the research centre are more informed, exposed to the innovations and more supervised by scientists. Therefore, their willingness to adopt innovation is very significant. So IITA-Benin is more present on fields through several on-farm-innovation testing managed by scientists,” Manuele says.

IITA launched a jatropha-based biofuel project in 2015 in Benin. This involved the development of a biofuel chain to create profitable and viable small businesses. These women make soap from the jatropha tree. Courtesy: International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Some farmers say they are aware of agricultural technologies, but complain about the lack of promotion of such innovations in the areas where they operate.
Koffi Akpovi Justin, a seasonal farmer, was introduced to the 4R method, where four scientific principles are used to ensure that the soil has the right levels of nutrients for planting.

“Everybody brags about how fertile the African land is…I used to be frustrated and almost gave up on farming because I strongly believed in the natural way of doing things. I would just labour the land, plant seeds (plenty of them) and start the painful process of watering it, and at the end I got mitigated results. But not anymore.”

But Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most expensive fertiliser market, where small scale farmers make up about 70 percent of the population. “If you will use it, use it carefully because not practicing the 4R method could see some of it spill all over the fields and pollute nearby water resources and groundwater. I experienced it many years ago, but now I’m wiser.”

He adds that many farmers who live in remote areas are unable to access information about agricultural innovation. “Many of them, who operate mostly in very remote places, always say ‘We know that these things exist and we would like to use it but where can we find it?’ Maybe the international organisations, like the UN and the IITA, could do more to make sure that as many farmers as possible get access to agricultural innovations to boost food production and fight hunger.”

Monique Soton is one such farmer. She lives in north-western Benin, about 500 km from Cotonou, the country’s commercial capital.

“We operate in remote areas and there our lives are concentrated only about leaving in the morning to work on the land and come back in the evening. There is no radio, no TV, no electricity. We may miss out on important information about new methods of farming or new developments going on in the sector, like if a census were to be held to determine the number of farmers who need financial support. It’s sad,” the tomato farmer tells IPS.

Another major obstacle facing small scale farmers in Benin is also the lack of market. “The only local market I use to sell my products is Dantokpa in Cotonou. Just imagine the distance from our area [about 500 km from Cotonou] to the commercial capital,” Soton says, adding that there aren’t adequate roads or vehicles to get the produce to the marketplace.
“There were many times the rundown vehicle we were using to transport our products broke down in the middle of a no man’s land at night and that’s very scary.”

Agricultural innovation
The IITA has been reaching out to various communities. In Benin it launched a jatropha-based biofuel project in 2015. This involved the development of a biofuel chain to create profitable and viable small businesses.

“Specifically, it is consolidating the profitability and sustainability of jatropha value chains through a public-private partnership approach that creates jobs for young people, women and men. The project is set up according to the value chain approach including jatropha production, jatropha oil extraction, soap making, grain milling and rural electrification, among others,” Manuele explains.

Since the start of the project some 2,050 producers, including 538 women, have benefitted.

Apart from this jatropha project, the IITA said that it has implemented several other projects that contribute to the food and nutrition security and income improvement of many rural households.

Magic solution?
While innovations in agriculture have proved successful, Dr Jeroen Huising, a soil scientist based in Nigeria, cautions that this is not the ‘magic bullet’ for Benin. “I do not believe in magic solutions and agricultural (innovation) is certainly not magic. The question about the rural poor has little to do with the agricultural innovations. There are economic factors that determine that,” he tells IPS.

“Also, if the ‘innovations’ would increase yield for the smallholder farmers, it would not solve their problems. The production has to do primarily with use of inputs and even then the prices are often too low to make a decent living.”

Soton agrees that economic factors pay a huge role in being a successful smallholder, explaining that “the lack of financial support is a serious problem.”

She says that banks do even consider small holder farmers for loans “because we don’t fulfil not even one of their requirements needed to lend us money. So, we invest our money we get from the tontines [an investment plan] and from selling some of our properties.”

“We have the land but we lack everything from seeds to fertilisers and cash to hire labourers.”

Trump’s Arms Control Gambit: Serious or a Poison Pill?

National Security Advisor John Bolton (R), listens to President Donald Trump during a briefing from senior military leaders, in the Cabinet Room on April 9, 2018. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 30 2019 – Smart U.S. leadership is an essential part of the nuclear risk reduction equation. Unfortunately, after more than two years into President Donald Trump’s term in office, his administration has failed to present a credible strategy to reduce the risks posed by the still enormous U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which comprise more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Instead, Trump has threatened to accelerate and “win” an arms race with nuclear-armed Russia and China as tensions with both states have grown. Trump has shunned a proposal supported by his own Defense and State departments to engage in strategic stability talks with Moscow.

Trump also has ordered the termination of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty without a viable plan B, and his national security team has dithered for more than a year on beginning talks with Russia to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) before it expires in February 2021.

Now, the president is dropping hints that he wants some sort of grand, new arms control deal with Russia and China. “Between Russia and China and us, we’re all making hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including nuclear, which is ridiculous,” Trump said on April 4 as he hosted Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office.

According to an April 25 report in The Washington Post, Trump formally ordered his team to reach out to Russia and China on options for new arms control agreements. The instructions on Russia apparently call for the pursuit of limits on so-called nonstrategic nuclear weapons, a category of short-range, lower-yield weapons that has never been subject to a formal arms control arrangement.

At first glance, that may sound promising. Bringing other nuclear actors and all types of nuclear weapons into the disarmament process is an important and praiseworthy objective. But this administration has no plan, strategy, or capacity to negotiate such a far-reaching deal. Even if it did, negotiations would likely take years.

China, which is estimated to possess a total of 300 nuclear warheads, has never been party to any agreement that limits the number or types of its nuclear weaponry. Beijing is highly unlikely to engage in any such talks until the United States and Russia significantly cut their far larger arsenals, estimated at 6,500 warheads each.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be open to broader arms control talks with Trump, but he has a long list of grievances about U.S. policies and weapons systems, particularly the ever-expanding U.S. missile defense architecture. The Trump administration’s 2019 Missile Defense Review report says there can be no limits of any kind on U.S. missile defenses—a nonstarter for Russia.

These realities, combined with the well-documented antipathy of Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, to New START strongly suggest that this new grand-deal gambit does not represent a serious attempt to halt and reverse a global arms race.

It is more likely that Trump and Bolton are scheming to walk away from New START by setting conditions they know to be too difficult to achieve.

With less than two years to go before New START expires, Washington and Moscow need to begin working immediately to reach agreement to extend the treaty by five years. Despite their strained relations, it is in their mutual interest to maintain verifiable caps on their enormous strategic nuclear stockpiles.

Without New START, which limits each side to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles, there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time in nearly five decades.

Extending New START would provide a necessary foundation and additional time for any follow-on deal with Russia that addresses other issues of mutual concern, including nonstrategic nuclear weapons, intermediate-range weapons, and understandings on the location and capabilities of missile defense systems and advanced conventional-strike weapons that each country is developing.

A treaty extension could help put pressure on China to provide more information about its nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles. China also might be more likely to agree to freeze the overall size of its nuclear arsenal or agree to limit a certain class of weapons, such as nuclear-armed cruise missiles, so long as the United States and Russia continue to make progress to reduce their far larger and more capable arsenals.

If in the coming weeks, however, Team Trump suggests China must join New START or that Russia must agree to limits on tactical nuclear weapons as a condition for its extension, that should be recognized as a disingenuous poison pill designed to create a pretext for killing New START.

Before Trump and Bolton try to raise the stakes for nuclear arms control success, they must demonstrate they are committed to working with Russia to extend the most crucial, existing agreement: New START.

Land Conservation: A Risky Business

The Mapuche, a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, celebrate their New Year. Indigenous and local communities are on the frontline to protect the land – a vital ecosystem. Credit: Fernando Fiedler/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 29 2019 – In light of land degradation and climate change, the protection of the environment is crucial—but the protection of the very people working tirelessly and with much risk to preserve nature should be just as important.

Forests have long been underestimated—they sustain biodiversity, regulate the world’s water and weather cycles, and even provide the air we breathe.

In fact, one third of the climate solution lies within the land-use sector, which includes the protection of forests, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has found.

And it is indigenous and local communities who are on the frontline in protecting this increasingly vital ecosystem.

“Thanks to us the forests are there, thanks to our blood and our fight we still have the Amazon. If we just depended on the economic model, the Amazon would be devastated,” said indigenous Kichwa leader Patricia Gualinga during the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

“Many people think that the problem of indigenous peoples are an isolated one. No—the Amazon is vital for humanity…our struggle is a global problem…destroy the Amazon and the world will be destroyed,” she added.

However, indigenous environmental defenders are facing growing threats as they are pushed off their own lands or are even killed simply for protecting forests.

“Criminalisation and violence against indigenous peoples and human rights defenders is a global crisis…[they] are intended to silence indigenous peoples’ protest,” said Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

According to international NGO Global Witness, 207 land defenders were killed in 2017. Most of these deaths took place in just four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines.

“At the root of this violence is systematic racism and the failure of governments to recognise and respect indigenous land rights,” Tauli-Corpuz said.

Killer Institutions

The Special Rapporteur found that a majority of those killed were defending their lands against extractive private sector projects.

In August 2018, the body of Jorginho Guajajara, the leader of the Guajajara people, was found in the Brazilian Amazon’s Maranhao state. Due to his work in protecting the forests, many suspect illegal loggers as the perpetrators.

After opposing mining activities in his community, Mexican indigenous rights activist Julian Carrillo was shot in October 2018.

“Our territories hold the resources that are so envied by the oil and mining concerns on which the global economic model is based. And in terms of human rights, economy wins out. Because our rights as indigenous peoples are not being respected and they never have been,” Gualinga said.

Such activities are often enabled by governments, and now the rise of populist governments threaten to reverse the little progress that has been achieved.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has long attacked indigenous rights and lands, saying that it is a “shame” that the Brazilian army did not exterminate indigenous communities like the United States of America and that indigenous-designated territories are an “obstacle” to agri-business.

Just hours after taking office earlier this year, Bolsonaro transferred the regulation and creation of new indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry and has since proposed to open up the Amazon and other indigenous territories to commercial farming and mining.

“Our fundamental rights is being destroyed by a…fundamentalist who adopted a hate discourse against indigenous people and denies people their territory rights. When they deny that, they are denying their original peoples,” said indigenous activist and national coordinator of Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB) Sonia Guajajara.

Guajajara has joined over 4,000 others in Brasilia for the ‘Free Land’ protest which is expected to be the largest indigenous protest in the South American nation.

“We are not going to go back, we are going to resist. It’s five centuries that we’re still here…we need to help the earth, we are responsible, we have to give hands and go together and say that the fight for mother earth is the mother of all fights,” Guajajara said during a UNPFII event.

In The Name of Conservation

Though a number of countries have recognised the importance of forest and land protection, some conservation policies have resulted in the exclusion and displacement of indigenous communities.

In Kenya, there has been an escalation of violence as the Forest Service has repeatedly evicted and burnt Sengwer homes in the Embobut forest and has even shot several community members.

Tauli-Corpuz found that the Kenya Forest Service is among the recipients of the European Commission-funded climate change project in the area.

Maridiana Deren, an environmental activist based in Kalimantan, Indonesia, was speaking in 2015 about how palm oil companies were destroying indigenous peoples’ ancient way of life. Indigenous environmental defenders are facing growing threats as they are pushed off their own lands or are even killed simply for protecting forests. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

While Indonesia has worked to drastically reduce deforestation, its conservation policies have also been detrimental to the livelihoods and well-being of indigenous communities.

In 1992, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry designated the Mount Salak-Halimun forests into a national park.

Prior to that, the area was indigenous Kasepuhan community land which was used to gather food and other subsistence needs but the group now face harassment and intimidation from the park rangers and struggle to survive.

Despite its protected status, the forests still sees illegal logging and deforestation. 

“The problem we are facing is because of the conflicting laws and also the conservation so far that has been very much dominated by non-indigenous paradigm that has also become the paradigm of the government,” said Secretary-General of Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), or the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, Rukka Sombolinggi. She noted that indigenous communities have already long been protecting their environment.

According to the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group, 80 percent of the world’s remaining forest biodiversity are in indigenous peoples’ territories, which only make up approximately 18 percent of the world’s total land.

And it is no coincidence.

Forest Trends found in 2004 that such communities invested between two to four billion dollars per year on resource management and conservation, equal to one-quarter of the amount spent by the conservation community on all public protected areas worldwide.

Forests managed by indigenous peoples are also found to have lower rates of deforestation and more climate benefits.

“When we protect the forests, we are protecting all of us. So when you are protecting indigenous peoples, you are also protecting yourself,” Sombolinggi said.

Providing land rights and titles can thus help in the fight to protect the world’s forests and lands from further degradation.

Bright Spots of Resistance

While indigenous communities customarily own more than 50 percent of the world’s lands, only 10 percent is legally recognised.

Launched by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility is the first and only multi-stakeholder financial mechanism focused on securing land and forest rights for indigenous peoples and local communities.

It provides grants to indigenous organisations to help scale up implementation of land and forest tenure reform policies as well as to map and register their lands.

For instance, the facility helped AMAN title over 1.5 million hectares of land belonging to 200 indigenous communities and achieved recognition of 230,000 hectares in Indonesia in just 24 months.

Sombolinggi also highlighted the need to provide technological support to indigenous peoples.

Already, governments and civil society have taken advantage of today’s technological advances by creating easily accessible monitoring and information services.

The Forest Watcher mobile application, created by the Global Forest Watch, helps monitor, act on, and prevent deforestation and illegal wildlife activities, which often take place away from the public eye.

However, the app gives information in real time to those on the frontline, including rangers and indigenous forest communities. 

But first and foremost, the international community must respect indigenous rights, including by working to protect land defenders and end impunity.

“I have hope that we will be able to stop this criminalisation and to ensure that indigenous people will continue to play their role in protecting the forests not just for themselves, but for the rest of the world,” Tauli-Corpuz said.

US Takes Back Signature on Arms Trade Treaty

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 29 2019 – The United States dropped a political bombshell when President Donald Trump announced his administration would withdraw from the historic Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which the former Obama administration signed in September 2013.

“We are taking our signature back”, said Trump April 26, addressing a meeting of the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the most powerful gun lobbies in the US.

The US, in effect, joins three other “rogue states” – North Korea, Iran and Syria – who voted against the treaty at the UN General Assembly back in April 2013, along with 23 countries that abstained on the voting, including China, Russia, India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs and ex-President of the Pugwash, told IPS that President Trump “continues to create mayhem in the field of disarmament by wrecking the legal regime created by the international community at the behest of vested interests in the gun lobby sacrificing the humanitarian norms of the world to which the US has contributed.”

The US, which has increasingly shown virtual contempt for multilateralism, has already scuttled the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran, refused to participate in the global migration compact, pulled out of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, abandoned the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and revoked the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Fellow and Adjunct Full Professor with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS President Trump is pandering to the National Rifle Association yet again.

She said his announcement that the United States is “un-signing” the Arms Trade Treaty is yet another example of this administration’s abdication of responsibility in the arms control sphere.

In the fact sheet announcing this decision, the Trump Administration stated, “The ATT is simply not needed for the United States to engage in responsible arms trade.”

“The Trump Administration has not been engaged in responsible arms trade in any way, shape, or form. There is indisputable evidence that Saudi Arabia, for example, consistently violates international human rights and humanitarian law”.

“But the Trump Administration continues to pursue arms sales agreements with the Saudi regime,” said Dr Goldring, who is also a Visiting Professor of the Practice in the Duke University Washington DC program.

She pointed out that the United States is the world’s largest arms dealer. It’s long past time for the United States to show leadership on the global arms trade, rather than merely treating arms sales as economic transactions, she added.

The ATT, which was adopted by the United Nations in April 2013 and entered into force in December 2014, was initiated by the UK, a NATO ally of the US.

As of last week, the Treaty has 101 state parties with ratifications, and 45 countries which have signed but not ratified.

Responding to questions at a press briefing April 26, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the Arms Trade Treaty is the only global instrument aimed at improving transparency and accountability in the international arms trade.

“It is a landmark achievement in the efforts to ensure responsibility in international arms transfers. This is particularly important in present times, when we witness growing international tensions and renewed interest in expanding and modernizing arsenals,” he added.

Credit: Sarah Myers

Rachel Stohl, Managing Director at the Stimson Center and a consultant who helped draft the text of the treaty, said that President Trump has “once again walked away from America’s leadership role in the world and undermined international efforts to reduce human suffering caused by irresponsible and illegal arms transfers”.

In statement released here, Stohl said “Un-signing the Arms Trade Treaty will undermine international peace and security, increase irresponsible and illegal sales of conventional weapons, and harm the American economy”.

A transparent, responsible arms trade fundamentally serves U.S. national security, promotes U.S. foreign policy objectives, and supports American values.

The ATT facilitates transparency and accountability in a global arms trade worth nearly $90 billion a year, building confidence among governments and ending decades of impunity, she declared.

Dr Goldring said the US government regularly claims to have the strongest global standards for arms transfers. Yet it seeks to abandon the only legally binding treaty that addresses these issues.

“This may seem like a symbolic step, because the Trump Administration had already made clear its lack of support for the treaty,” she added.

But this act has substantive implications as well.

It’s in the US interest to be part of the ATT and to work with other countries to increase their standards for importing and exporting weapons, she noted.

‘Unsigning’ the ATT decreases our leverage with these countries. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is a cynical and unpersuasive policy approach,” said Dr Goldring who also represents the Acronym Institute at the United Nations on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

Abby Maxman, President of Oxfam America, said Trump’s decision to un-sign the Arms Trade Treaty “is a reckless, self-inflicted wound that continues to demonstrate the Administration’s desire to turn its back on global norms, standards and US leadership. It is one more misguided step to dismantle the international partnerships that keep us all safe.”

Just last week, the Administration held hostage a UN Security Council resolution to address sexual violence in conflict– until language about the need for sexual & reproductive health services was removed.

And, it’s no coincidence that this comes on the heels of President Trump’s veto of the Yemen War Powers Resolution and continued military support for Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen, said Maxman.

President Trump is sending a clear message to civilians caught in the crossfire: “we don’t care.”

The United States will now lock arms with Iran, North Korea and Syria as non-signatories to this historic treaty whose sole purpose is to protect innocent people from deadly weapons.

“The Arms Trade Treaty was developed and signed by the US and others to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those who may use them to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The treaty has the power to save millions from death, rape, assault and displacement. Each year an estimated 500,000 people are killed as a result of the unregulated and under-regulated arms trade,” said Maxman.

“The Treaty does not infringe on Americans’ right to bear arms or hamper the country’s ability to defend itself or its allies, despite what groups like the NRA, and the Trump Administration may claim.”

Last week’s announcement, he said, “is an empty play to pander to those who resisted this Treaty from the beginning.”

Meanwhile, in a report released April 29, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said total world military expenditure rose to $1,822 billion in 2018, representing an increase of 2.6 per cent from 2017.

The five biggest spenders in 2018 were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, India and France, which together accounted for 60 per cent of global military spending.

Military spending by the US increased for the first time since 2010, while spending by China grew for the 24th consecutive year. The comprehensive annual update of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database is accessible from at

The report also said that US military spending grew—for the first time since 2010—by 4.6 per cent, to reach $649 billion in 2018.

The US remained by far the largest spender in the world, and spent almost as much on its military in 2018 as the next eight largest-spending countries combined.

‘The increase in US spending was driven by the implementation from 2017 of new arms procurement programmes under the Trump administration,’ said Dr Aude Fleurant, the director of the SIPRI AMEX programme.

Link to ATT Secretariat data on ratification:

The writer can be contacted at

Design Firm Zebra To Consolidate Business Systems & Manage Project Complexity with Deltek ERP

London, UK, April 29, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Deltek, the leading global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for project–based businesses, announced today that it has welcomed the Architecture and Interior Design firm Zebra to its global network of over 23,000 clients in project–focused industries.

Zebra is a team of 120 architects, interior designers and project managers, based in Dubai, London and Phoenix, with expertise in hospitality and retail design. Its collective experience spans the delivery of hundreds of interior design concepts and roll–out of global brand programmes in over 90 countries. For each project, no matter how large or small, Zebra partner closely with its clients to understand their vision and ensure each design delivers an immersive customer/guest experience. As such, having real–time visibility and control over all project aspects including financial, client and resource management is critical for Zebra to continue delivering high–quality projects to every client as the firm expands its global operations.

The Deltek enterprise resource planning (ERP) system will enable Zebra to manage the complete end–to–end workflow of its business. Core functionality includes business development, project and resource planning, reporting and dashboards, and multi–currency and multi–company financial management. Zebra selected Deltek as it was looking for an out–of–the–box ERP solution that is project focused and modular, to allow the firm to easily manage internal change, add functional capabilities and scale as the business grows.

“Ensuring we continue to deliver both quality and intricacy of detail on every project as our portfolio expands is critical to our long term success,” said Zachary Shirk, Principal in charge at Zebra Project INC (US based entity). “By consolidating our business systems to one global ERP we will have real–time control of all projects, from inception to delivery, and ensure every team member is enabled to deliver design projects on time and on budget. The local Middle Eastern and global client referenceability and the ability to deliver a project–centric solution with no customisation set Deltek apart from other ERP vendors.”

“We are proud to welcome Zebra to our client network of ambitious, client– and project–centric firms. As they consolidate their global operations and continue to deliver interior design projects of the highest–quality to their expanding client base, our ERP system will ensure they optimise internal processes. With full visibility of all project information and milestones, Zebra will be able to plan and manage their talent and resources to their full potential. We look forward to being their software partner as they continue to scale and grow a profitable business delivering world–renowned design projects,” said Fergus Gilmore, Deltek's VP and Managing Director, UK & CE.

About Zebra
Zebra is a team of around 120 architects, interior designers and project managers, based in Dubai, London and Phoenix USA, with expertise in hospitality and retail design.

About Deltek
Better software means better projects. Deltek is the leading global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for project–based businesses. More than 23,000 organisations and millions of users in over 80 countries around the world rely on Deltek for superior levels of project intelligence, management and collaboration. Our industry–focused expertise powers project success by helping firms achieve performance that maximises productivity and revenue.