Emovis wins Utah’s Road Usage Charging for Alternative Fuel Vehicles Project

NEW YORK, May 20, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The State of Utah officially announced the award of its Road Usage Charge for Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs) project to emovis. AFVs eligible for Utah's program include gas hybrid, plug–in hybrid, and electric vehicles.

While beneficial for the environment, the rapid spread of hybrid and electric vehicles is posing financial issues to Transportation Authorities who heavily rely on gas tax revenues to maintain their road networks. In order to tackle this issue, the State of Utah has decided to implement an innovative Road Usage Charge (RUC) program for eligible AFVs. emovis is selected to serve as the commercial account manager.

Under this program, eligible vehicle owners will be given the choice during the annual vehicle registration process to pay a flat fee in lieu of fuel tax or opt for a pay–per–mile charge. The per–mile charges accumulated will be capped at the equivalent of the annual flat fee. The project is expected to go live on January 1, 2020.

Drawing from its long–standing RUC expertise, emovis' solution encompasses a wide range of Mileage Reporting Options to best fit with different vehicles, including:

  • In–vehicle Telematics
  • Bluetooth Low Energy On–Board Diagnostic II Devices
  • Smartphone Apps
  • Odometer Capture Technology

emovis will record mileage data and manage accounts for billing as a third–party vendor using state–of–the–art privacy protections.

Leader in Road Mileage Collection in the U.S.
After providing RUC services in Oregon and Washington, this contract in the State of Utah makes emovis the leading provider of pay–per–mile mobility solutions in the United States.

These emerging road usage charge programs may soon pave the way for a fundamental change in the U.S.'s approach to tackling urban congestion and road funding. Indeed, charging vehicles according to their actual mileage usage of the roads provides the basis for a fairer way of generating sustainable revenue streams, while encouraging road users to opt for alternative modes of transportation.

This trend is not confined to the U.S. Earlier this month, emovis sponsored a report ("Green Light: Next generation road user charging for a healthier, more liveable London") authored by the Centre for London advocating for the replacement of London's Congestion Charge and other charging programs in the city with a single distance–based road user charging system in order to curb growing traffic in the center of London and improve the city's air quality.

For more information:

Commenting on this contract award, Anthony Alicastro, emovis CEO, said: "Although modest in size, this project constitutes a major milestone in the transformation of the road mobility landscape. I am pleased that our company plays a leading role in this new market which is important to the Abertis group."

About emovis

emovis is currently engaged in two Road User Charging pilots in the states of Oregon (www.myorego.org) and Washington (www.waruc.org).

emovis (www.emovis.com) is Abertis' smart mobility solution provider. With over 600 employees worldwide, the company operates some of the world's largest free–flow tolling infrastructure in the UK, Ireland, U.S., and Canada, helping millions of motorists travel seamlessly along some of the world's busiest roads.

emovis is 100% owned by Abertis (www.abertis.com), the international market leader in the management of toll roads, managing over 5,300 miles (8,600 kilometres) of high capacity and quality roads in 15 countries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

Corporate Contact
Benot ROSSI "" Director Marketing & Business Development (EMEA)

Follow Us: LinkedIn/company/emovis

Long Life to Their Majesties, the Bees!

Amazingly organised social communities, bees ensure food chain. ‘Bee’ grateful to them… at least in their Wold Day!

Credit: UNDP-Guatemala/Carolina Trutmann

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, May 20 2019 – Amazingly organised social communities, bees ensure food chain. ‘Bee’ grateful to them… at least on their World Day!

While the (surprisingly) still called homo sapiens continues to destroy Mother Nature, bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, carry on performing their vital role as one of the most marvellous, unpaid, life guarantors.

See what the world community of scientists and specialised organisations tell about them.

Pollinators allow plants, including food crops, to reproduce. In fact, 75 percent of the world’s food crops owe their existence to pollinators. But they not only do contribute directly to food security: they are key to conserving biodiversity–a cornerstone of life.

And they also serve as sentinels for emergent environmental risks, signalling the health of local ecosystems.

In the specific case of bees, the product that most people first associate with them is honey. However, bees generate much more than that: they contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity as well as the pollination of crops, these being perhaps their most valuable services.

Pollinators allow plants, including food crops, to reproduce. In fact, 75 percent of the world’s food crops owe their existence to pollinators

In short, honey is just one of several different products that can be harvested—in fact there are many others such as beeswax, pollen and propolis, royal jelly and venom, and the use of bees in apitherapy, which is medicine using bee products. Good to remember that pollinated crops include those that provide fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils.

In charge of all the vital missions, there are more than 20,000 species of wild bees alone, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals that contribute to pollination.


The dangers

Quite dramatically, in spite of their vital function, scientists and world bodies continue to ring strong alarm bells about the growing threats to bees.

In fact, they are increasingly under threat from human activities–pesticides, land-use change (and abuse), and mono-cropping practices that reduce available nutrients and pose dangers to them, the whole thing motivated by the dominating voracious production-consumption-based economic model.

Pollinators are also threatened by the decline of practices based on indigenous and local knowledge. These practices include traditional farming systems.

The risk is big: close to 35 percent of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, and about 17 percent of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, face extinction globally.


The ‘B’ Day

In a symbolic recognition of their indispensable role as life transmission chain, specialised organisations commemorate on 20 May each year the World Bee Day.

As a way to get you a bit more familiarised with these wonderful creatures, here go some key facts and figures about bees:

  • 20,000 – Number of species of wild bees, only 7 of them are honeybees There are also some species of butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other vertebrates that contribute to pollination.
  • 75% – Percentage of the world’s food crops that depend at least in part on pollination.
  • 235 billion dollars–577 billion dollars – Annual value of global crops directly affected by pollinators.
  • 300% — Increase in volume of agricultural production dependent on animal pollination in the past 50 years.
  • Almost 90% — Percentage of wild flowering plants that depend to some extent on animal pollination.
  • 1.6 million tons – Annual honey production from the western honeybee.
  • 16.5% — Percentage of vertebrate pollinators threatened with extinction globally.
  • +40% – Percentage of invertebrate pollinator species –particularly bees and butterflies– facing extinction.
  • In addition to food crops, pollinators contribute to crops that provide bio-fuels (e.g. canola and palm oils), fibers (e.g cotton), medicines, forage for livestock, and construction materials. Some species also provide materials such as beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts.
  • Every third bite of food you eat depends on pollinators.


Amazingly organised social communities, bees ensure food chain. ‘Bee’ grateful to them… at least in their Wold Day!

Credit: FAO/James Cane


A wonderful social community!

The related article: To Bee or Not to Bee… Again!, compiles 13 big amazing facts the United Nations provides about how perfectly organised our bees are. Here is a short reminder.

Honeybees are social insects that live in colonies, each consisting of:

  • The queen, whose main activity is egg-laying, up to 2,000/day,
  • 20,000–80,000 workers, all of which are females and
  • 300–1,000 males (drones), whose sole responsibility is fertilisation.
  • The queen will normally live for between 1 and 4 years, while a worker bee will live for 6–8 weeks in the summer and 4–6 months in the winter.
  • Without a queen, the colony will eventually die.
  • The workers perform a multitude of tasks, including tending to the queen, feeding larvae, feeding drones, nectar ripening, producing heat, collecting water, beehive-cleaning, guard duty, and field collection of pollen and nectar. A single honeybee may collect 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  • The “drones” would die of starvation if the workers stopped feeding them.
  • Bees have personalities! Despite the phrase “busy as a bee”, even within a colony there will be workers and shirkers!
  • Honeybees’ wings beat 11,400 times per minute, this making their distinctive buzz.
  • Bees can recognise human faces.
  • Bees are nature’s most economical builders – honeycombs are among the most efficient structures in nature; their walls meet at a precise 120-degree angle, making a perfect hexagon.
  • Bees fly outside the hive normally when temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
  • Honeybees do not hibernate, but cluster for warmth. They remain active all winter.


Bee grateful!

Now that you know them a bit better, please take due note of the fact you can do something to protect the bees and, by the way, a key ring in the life transmission chain

There would be many ways how to show gratitude to bees. Why not just click here and take a quick look at the six big ways how to do so that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization provides.

Please love bees, don’t panic if they fly close to you, they would not harm you unless you attack them.

And always remember that they are working to ensure your food, your health and, by the way, alleviate the huge suffering that homo sapiens is causing to Mother Nature!


Baher Kamal is Director and Editor of Human Wrongs Watch, where this article was originally published.

Siemplify Closes $30M in Series C Financing

NEW YORK and TEL AVIV, Israel, May 20, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Siemplify, the leading independent provider of security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR), today announced that it has secured $30 million in Series C funding led by Georgian Partners.

Siemplify will use these new funds to drive significant expansion of its global go–to–market strategy, as well as further enhance its market–leading security operations platform. Siemplify's existing investors "" 83North, G20 Ventures and Jump Capital "" also participated in the round. The Series C investment brings Siemplify's total funding to date to $58 million, a testament to the company's growing dominance in the SOAR space.

"Siemplify is rapidly solidifying its position as the leading independent SOAR provider, with a differentiated offering and a clear vision of enabling organizations to manage security operations from end to end," said Steve Leightell, partner at Georgian Partners. "We are excited to lead the Series C funding round and to support Siemplify as it continues its fast growth."

This funding round comes amid rapid growth of the SOAR category and on the heels of Siemplify's market–leading momentum, which includes:

  • 1,000% year–over–year growth in 2017 and 280% growth in 2018, further outpacing the competition.
  • 250% growth in annual recurring revenue in the first quarter of 2019.
  • Continued success with leading global enterprises, underscored by recent wins with a Fortune 50 logistics giant, a Fortune 100 media and entertainment conglomerate, a Top 20 European bank and a Fortune 100 technology distributor.
  • Widening leadership in the managed security service provider (MSSP) segment. Siemplify now serves 24% of the companies featured in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Managed Security Services, Worldwide.

Faced with a steady increase in the volume of security alerts, disparate security tools not designed to work together and a global cybersecurity talent shortage, security teams are constantly under pressure to do more with less. Siemplify serves as a 10x force multiplier for security teams: the Siemplify platform is an intuitive workbench that enables them to manage security operations from end to end, automate repetitive tasks and integrate security tools to respond to cyberthreats with speed and precision, while getting smarter with every analyst interaction.

"Our security operations platform alleviates the most pressing pain points faced by security operations teams," said Amos Stern, CEO and co–founder of Siemplify. "This significant investment and expertise from Georgian will allow us to expand our global presence and drive further innovation to make security operations smarter, more efficient and more collaborative. And as we continue our journey, nothing makes us more grateful than working alongside and solving challenges for the people to whom we owe our success: our customers and partners."

About Siemplify
Siemplify, the leading independent security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) provider, is redefining security operations for enterprises and MSSPs worldwide. The Siemplify platform is an intuitive workbench that enables security teams to manage their operations from end to end, respond to cyberthreats with speed and precision, and get smarter with every analyst interaction. Founded in 2015 by Israeli Intelligence experts with extensive experience running and training security operations centers worldwide, Siemplify has raised $58 million in funding to date and is headquartered in New York, with offices in Tel Aviv. Visit us at siemplify.co or follow us on Twitter at @Siemplify.

About Georgian Partners
Georgian Partners is a thesis–driven growth equity firm investing in business software companies leveraging applied artificial intelligence, trust and conversational AI. Founded by successful entrepreneurs and technology executives, Georgian Partners uses its global software expertise to directly impact the success of companies. For more information, visit www.georgianpartners.com or follow us on Twitter at @GeorgianPrtnrs.

Products, service names, and company logos mentioned herein may be the registered trademarks of their respective owners. All rights reserved.

Michael Becce
MRB Public Relations, Inc. (for Siemplify)
+1 732.758.1100 x104

UN’s Mandate to Protect Human Rights Takes Another Hit

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 20 2019 – The UN’s longstanding mandate to promote and protect human rights worldwide –- undermined recently by right-wing nationalist governments and authoritarian regimes – has taken another hit.

The Geneva-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says six of the UN’s 10 treaty bodies are being forced to cancel their sessions this year due to financial reasons.

The situation has been described as “an unprecedented consequence of some UN member States delaying payments due to the Organisation.”

Anna-Karin Holmlund, Senior UN Advocate at Amnesty International (AI), told IPS: “Amnesty is deeply concerned by member states’ delay in paying their assessed contributions, which will have a direct effect on the ability of the UN to carry out its vital human rights work.”

Without these funds, the UN’s human rights mechanisms and International tribunals could be severely affected, she warned.

By 10 May, only 44 UN member states – out of 193 — had paid all their assessments due, with the United States owing the largest amount.

“Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a worrying trend of reduction in the UN budget allocated to its human rights mechanisms. To put this in perspective, the budget of the OHCHR is only 3.7 % of the total UN regular budget,” she pointed out.

In addition to the possible cancellation of sessions of the treaty bodies, mechanisms created by the Human Rights Council such as Fact-Finding Missions and Commissions of Inquiry may be hampered in carrying out their mandate of investigating serious human rights violations.

The OHCHR said last week the cancellations meant that reviews already scheduled with member states, as well as consideration of complaints by individual victims of serious human rights violations — including torture, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances -– will not take place as scheduled.

“The cancellation of sessions will also have numerous other negative consequences, and will seriously undermine the system of protections which States themselves have put in place over decades,” said a statement released by the OHCHR.

The chairpersons of the 10 Committees are deeply concerned about the practical consequences of cancelling these sessions and have sent a letter to the UN Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, requesting they, together with Member States, explore ways of addressing this situation, “as a matter of urgency.”

Alexandra Patsalides, a Legal Equality programme officer at Equality Now, told IPS that it is deeply concerned that UN Treaty body review sessions have been postponed for financial reasons, including the Committee to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), with its focus on ending all forms of discrimination again women and girls.

She said the crisis comes particularly at a time when women’s rights are continuously being undermined and eroded around the world– and civil society organisations are operating in a space that is increasingly under attack and shrinking.

The UN should strongly call on state parties to prioritise their international human rights obligations, she added.

“The UN treaty bodies are vital to holding states accountable to their commitments on women and girl’s rights — and now is the time to increase the international response, not cut back,” said Patsalides.

These review sessions offer civil society organisations a vital opportunity to hold their governments to account for their international human rights commitments and raise awareness of human rights violations in their countries.

But with the backsliding on women’s rights across the globe, it is now more urgent than ever that the various mechanisms stand up to defend hard won gains, she noted.

“The UN treaty bodies are often the only mechanism for women and girls to hold their countries to account for violations of their rights. We cannot allow these voices to be silenced and call on the UN to prioritize the protection of women and girls’ rights and ensure these treaty bodies have appropriate and sustainable funding.”

The 10 UN human rights treaty bodies are: the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee against Torture, the Committee on Migrant Workers, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities And the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.

Meanwhile the budget cuts come at a time when the UN is battling a series of setbacks in the field of human rights.

The UN Human Rights Office in Burundi was closed down last February at the insistence of the government, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressing “deep regrets” over the closure, after a 23-year presence in the country.

A UN Commission of Inquiry has called on Eritrea to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings by its security forces, including torture and enslaving hundreds of thousands, going back to 2016.

And under the Trump administration, the US has ceased to cooperate with some of the UN Rapporteurs, and specifically an investigation on the plight of migrants on the Mexican border where some of them have been sexually assaulted—abuses which have remained unreported and unprosecuted.

The government of Myanmar has barred a UN expert from visiting the country to probe the status of Rohingya refugees.

On the setbacks in Colombia, Robert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said May 10: “We are alarmed by the strikingly high number of human rights defenders being killed, harassed and threatened in Colombia, and by the fact that this terrible trend seems to be worsening”

“We call on the authorities to make a significant effort to confront the pattern of harassment and attacks aimed at civil society representatives and to take all necessary measures to tackle the endemic impunity around such cases.”

In just the first four months of this year, he pointed out, a total of 51 alleged killings of human rights defenders and activists have been reported by civil society actors and State institutions, as well as the national human rights institution.

The UN Human Rights Office in Colombia is closely following up on these allegations. This staggering number continues a negative trend that intensified during 2018, when our staff documented the killings of 115 human rights defenders.

According to a press release from the OHCHR, the 10 United Nations human rights treaties are legally binding treaties, adopted by the UN General Assembly and ratified by States.

Each Treaty establishes a treaty body (or Committee) comprising elected independent experts who seek to ensure that States parties fulfil their legal obligations under the Conventions.

This system of independent scrutiny of the conduct of States by independent experts is a key element of the United Nations human rights system, supported by secretariats in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

Does God Hate Women? A Bangladeshi Murder Case

Credit: Jason Beaubien/NPR

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, May 20 2019 – On 6 April, nineteen-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi was by a fellow student brought to the roof of their school. She told Nusrat that a friend of hers was beaten up there. Unknown to Nusrat, Moni who was four months pregnant at the time, had earlier bought burqas and gloves for three of the men who were awaiting them on the roof. Another girl, Umma, was already there beckoning Nusrat to come up. However, when Nusrat entered the roof Umma threw her down and tied her legs. The burqa-dressed men surrounded the defenseless Nusrat, demanding her to withdraw accusations of sexual harassment against the schools´headmaster. When Nusrat refused to give in, one of the men held her head down, while another poured kerosene over her and set her on fire.

The killers wanted it to look like suicide, but were surprised during the murderous act and fled the scene. Nusrat was rushed to hospital with 80 percent of her body severely burned. In the ambulance, she recorded through her brother´s mobile phone what had happened. He had ever since his sister approached the police on 27 March to raise her complaint, been worried about her safety. When Nusrat returned to school to sit her final exams her brother accompanied her, but he was not allowed to enter and did not see his sister until she was brought out of school with lethal injuries. Nusrat died four days later and was followed to her grave by thousands of shocked citizens from her small hometown of Feni, 160 km south of Dakha. Even if it was committed in a madrassa, a Muslim school, it is doubtful whether the murder actually had anything to do with religion. It was more likely connected with power, manipulation, and corruption.

Siraj-ud-Daula, the headmaster accused of inciting the murder, had molested Nusrat at least three times before her family told her to file a sexual harassment case. It was far from the first time Siraj-ud-Daula was accused of sexual assault and unethical behaviour. Three years before Nusrat´s accusation Siraj-ud-Daula had after several allegations been expelled from Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party. However, he joined the Awami League instead, becoming a member of its local administration. It has been reported that the ruling party accepted Siraj-ud-Daula after it had received ”some financial benefits through him.” Police witnesses stated that over the last 18 years, at least 15 locally influential people had received money and gifts from the regularly incriminated Siraj-ud-Daula.[1]

Siraj-ud-Daula´s local influence may have been one reason for the police´s reluctance to act upon Nusrat´s complaint. The local police force ought to have provided her with a safe environment to recall her traumatic experiences. Instead, the officer in charge filmed her statement with his mobile phone and later leaked the video to local media. The police first stated that Nusrat´s complaint was ”no big deal” and delayed the arrest of Siraj-ud-Daula, who after being taken into custody even was able to mobilize a protest demanding his release. One of the accused murderers, Hafez Abdul Kader, was a teacher by the madrassa headed by Siraj-ud-Daula. This teacher had earlier been active in Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing organization of Jamaat-e-Islami.

The murder of Nusrat and its connection with corrupt political and religious leaders raises questions about rampant misogyny, patriarchalism, the connection between religion and politics and many other sensitive issues that for decades have plagued Bangladesh. Nevertheless, massive demonstrations following upon the murder indicate a strong tradition of diversity and inclusion, a will to progress and change. The story of Bangladesh is not the story of a secular country turning to Muslim radicalism, it is about a country that against all odds has survived almost unbelievable hardships and appears to be prepared to take a stand against religious bigotry, and hopefully rampant corruption as well.[2] Twenty-three persons have been arrested in connection with the heinous crime in Feni, several police officers have been transferred and suspended from service, while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has visited Nusrat´s family, promising that ”None of the culprits will be spared from legal action.”

Sheikh Hasina´s political career may serve as an illustration to Bangladesh´s difficult transformation since its dependence in 1971, which followed upon a nine-month war that have caused three million deaths, including the mass murder of civilians. The numbers of victims, through declassified documents from the Pakistan government provide clear evidence of a campaign of genocide ordered from the top down. The scars have not been properly healed and religious conflicts tend to rip them open.

Awami League, the party headed by Sheikh Hasina´s father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won the general elections of 1973. Two years later members of the armed forces murdered Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family, including his wife, two adult sons, their newly wed wives and their 8 year old small son. Being in Germany at the time saved the lives of Sheikh Hasina her sister Sheikh Rehana The murders were part of a coup mainly carried out by soldiers with a Pakistani training, who disliked Sheikh Mujibur Rahman´s move towards a secular form of government. Among other actions, he had been instrumental in banning Jamaat-e-Islami, a movement that had opposed the independence of Bangladesh.[3]

Sheikh Hasina, one of the world´s most powerful women, has been in and out of power, in and out of prison. She has survived assassination attempts. Several members of her party have been murdered and its meetings interrupted by lethal grenade attacks.

It is no coincidence that Feni´s madrassa was established by Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political movement founded in British India to develop “an ideology based on a modern revolutionary conception of Islam,” intending to educate an elite able to amend ”erroneous ways of thinking” from the top down.[4] About 90 percent of Bangladesh´s population define themselves as Muslims and the nation´s various governments have been involved in a precarious balancing act involving an extreme fundamentalist minority and a huge population striving for general well-being.

Sheikh Hasina´s administrations have on several occasions tried to curb upheavals fuelled by Islamist opposition. For example, in 2010 the governing Awami League established a war crimes tribunal to address atrocities perpetrated during the War of Independence. Several Muslim leaders were convicted, causing a wave of Islamist terrorism, peaking between 2013 and 2016 when secularist activists, homosexuals, and religious minorities were viciously targeted. The Government’s eventual successful crackdown in June 2016 resulted in the arrest of 11,000 persons, within a little more than a week´s time.

However, horrific incidents like the one in Feni indicate a fault line in the Bangladeshi Constitution stating that in family matters religious law trumps civil law. Thus, when it comes to divorce, inheritance and child custody, the law overwhelmingly favours men. This basic differentiation filters through the entire society, making violence against women almost omnipresent, though hidden and largely unpunished. Nevertheless, progress is being made. Girls and boys have achieved parity in primary school admissions. After decades of investment in public health, great strides have been taken in reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to village-level health programs.

There is hope that a general misconception that religion is beyond respect for human rights will eventually disappear. Fundamentalism indicates an avoidance of personal responsibility by clinging to what is assumed to be the literal words of God. However, any text is subject to human interpretation. Accordingly, human fallibility tends to distort what is written, making it impossible to irrationally adhere to words of God. All that may be achieved is a limited human interpretation of God’s will. Religious experience is dynamic and effervescent and furthermore influenced by politics, power, and greed. It cannot be bottled up and fixed for all times. Any offender of human rights has thus to be judged in accordance with human law and not by what is perceived as divine law. Accordingly, those who instigated and committed Nusrat´s murder, as well as those minimizing and defending their crime, should not be allowed to place judgment in what they assume to be divine justice.

[1] Information in this article is based on reporting from BBC and Dhaka Tribune.
[2] Anam, Tahmima (2016) ”´Is Bangladesh Turning Fundamentalist? – and other questions I no longer wish to answer,” The Guardian 16 May.
[3] Jamaat-e-Islami was re-established after the coup.
[4] Adams, Charles J. (1983) “Maududi and the Islamic State,” in Esposito, John L. (ed.) Voices of Resurgent Islam. Oxford University Press.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

Cyclones and Struggling Economy Could Impact Mozambique’s Elections

Cyclone Idai made landfall on Mar. 14 and 15, in Mozambique’s Sofala, Manica and Zambézia provinces. It was followed by Cyclone Kenneth on Apr. 25 which affected the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Recent data from the World Food Programme (WFP) indicates that more than 2.1 million of the country’s 31 million people were affected. This, coupled with the country’s economic downturn, could affect the elections planned for later this year. Credit: Andre Catuera/IPS

By Amos Zacarias
MAPUTO, May 20 2019 – Mozambique, which was affected by an unprecedented two tropical cyclones over a matter of weeks, is still reeling from the impact a month after the latest disaster. But resultant devastation caused by the cyclones could impact the country’s elections as concerns are raised over whether the southern African nation can properly hold the ballot scheduled for later this year.

Currently, Mozambique does not have sufficient funds to go to the polls on Oct. 15, with the national electoral body only having 44 percent of the required 235 million dollars needed to hold the election.

Cyclone Idai made landfall on Mar. 14 and 15, in Mozambique’s Sofala, Manica and Zambézia provinces. It was followed by Cyclone Kenneth on Apr. 25 which affected the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

The cyclones have also made it difficult for the National Commission of Elections (CNE) to complete the process of voter registration. Apr. 15 to May 30 was set aside for this but in the regions affected by Cyclone Idai the census have not yet begun and in Cabo Delgado voter registration was interrupted.

The damage caused by the two cyclones is enormous. Recent data from the World Food Programme (WFP) indicates that more than 2.1 million of the country’s 31 million people were affected. Of these, at least 60,000 people in the country’s central and northern regions are still living in makeshift housing centres created by the government and aid partners. While 1,67 million people are still receiving food assistance, health care and water from the government and NGOs, according to WFP.

Official data points to the death of more than 1,000 people and schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and many public buildings were destroyed.

Many have lost everything, including their proof of identity, as researcher and social activist Jessemusse Cacinda explains to IPS: “Many people have lost their documents, and the possibility of being registered to vote is greatly reduced.”

Originally the CNE had aimed to register some 14 million voters this year, up 3 million from the country’s previous national elections. This year will be first time that Mozambicans will vote for provincial governors.

But CNE president Abdul Carimo has acknowledged that the electoral body is far from registering 14 million voters.

Though Mozambique’s Minister of Economy and Finance Adriano Maleiane said in an interview with STV (Mozambican private television channel) that the government and the CNE would find ways to make the elections possible.

“If the solution is reorientation of the expenses within the limit that has been fixed, we probably don’t have to go to make an international [appeal],” said Maleiane.

Economist Manuel Victorino recognises that the difficulties in spending money on the elections and on relief efforts. He tells IPS that the country’s public accounts should also not be ignored.

At the beginning of May, the World Bank announced 545 million dollars in support for those affected by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Of this, 350 million dollars is allocated to Mozambique.

According to World Bank President David Malpass the money will be used to re-establish water supply, for disease prevention and reconstruction, among other things. It is also intended to ensure food security, provide social protection and provide early warning systems in the communities affected by the cyclones.

Rebuilding will not be easy.

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth made landfall amid an economic downturn that has affected the country since 2015 when the government’s programme partners decided to withdraw their support for the state budget, due to the discovery of hidden debts.

The World Bank stated before the cyclones that, “Mozambique continues to be in default of its Eurobond and the two previously undisclosed loans.”

Mozambique has a “real gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimated at 3.3 percent in 2018, down from 3.7 percent in 2017 and 3.8 percent in 2016. This is well below the 7 percent GDP growth achieved on average between 2011 and 2015,” according to the World Bank.

In addition, the Mozambique Tributary Authority says that between 2016 and 2017, more than 2,900 companies closed their doors due to the economic crisis and unemployment has risen. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the rate of unemployment in Mozambique is around 21 percent. But since the cyclones a number of private business have also closed.

Despite the sharp rise in debt, the Mozambican economy was expected to rise around 4 percent this year, against 3,3 percent of 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country expects to generate 95 billion dollars of natural gas revenue over the next quarter of a century.

Until then, however, ordinary people are struggling.

“The situation of the country is bad. The cost of living is too high, and the purchasing power of the citizens is dropping a lot. And it has become worse due the cyclones Idai and Kenneth,” António Sabonete, a trader who sells clothes in Tete, central Mozambique, tells IPS.

Sabonete has three children and says he decided to become trader because he lost his job in 2016.

Cacinda says that the economic situation could impact the ruling party’s reputation in the next general elections

The Mozambique Liberation Front, known by it’s Portuguese acronym, FRELIMO, has dominated the polls since the first multi-party elections in 1994.

“From this high cost of living and the purchasing capacity of people has lowered. It can weaken and penalise FRELIMO [in the elections],” says Cacinda, underlining that, “the opposition parties will use all these elements linked to the crisis to build their own speech to try to convince the voters. And it’s obviously going to reduce the number of votes for FRELIMO.”

Cacinda adds that the economic crisis should create opportunities for Mozambican opposition parties to have a stronger showing in the upcoming polls, “Because for this year’s elections we feel that there is some balance.”

But FRELIMO recently publicly condemned corruption and accusations of such from within the party, appealing to justice authorities to continue investigating these cases.

But in addition to clamping down on corruption, Cabinda says that it is time for Mozambican politicians to prioritise the impact of climate change on the country.

“Mozambique and many of the Africans countries are not prepared to deal with climate change.”

“Our politicians must have a clear view of the kind of country they intend to govern and they want to leave for the future generations. Because locals development plans should be made that include issues of climate change as a priority approach,” Cabinda tells IPS.

In the meantime, others worry how they will start again from scratch.

Beira, the capital city Sofala province, was razed by Cyclone Idai. But people have started to return to the devastated city and are picking up the pieces of their lives.

Gervasio John is one of them.

In a telephonic interview with IPS, John says that he and his family returned to his home in Manga Mascarenha, a neighbourhood in Beira.

John is rebuilding his house. He is one of many who are doing so at their own cost as the government does not have the resources to directly support the reconstruction of homes.

“It’s not easy, but I need to do something to restart life after Idai, despite the fact that there is no money,” John says.

**Writing with Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg

Putting Water at the Heart of Sustainable Fashion

By Lisa Greenlee
LONDON, May 20 2019 – The Copenhagen Fashion Summit celebrated its tenth anniversary last week. The summit, which is often referred to as the Davos of fashion, is a key date in the fashion diary for those businesses with a pioneering vision to highlight issues and create solutions for a more sustainable industry.

And solutions are very much needed. The global garment sector accounts for two percent of the world’s GDP and has the capacity to make a huge impact both positive and negative upon environmental, economic and social issues.

Figures suggest that the fashion industry contributes more to climate change than sea and air travel due to the current throwaway clothes culture and labour rights are in many places in need of a dramatic overhaul.

In Bangladesh, for example, where the garment industry dominates the economy, many workers both live and work in inadequate conditions without any clean water to drink, a decent toilet, or somewhere to wash their hands.

WaterAid welcomes the commitment of the businesses attending the summit to ensure the positive impact of the industry which has vast potential to be a powerful force for change.

Changes which may well appear to be happening slowly but are being noticed. Much has changed across the world over the last ten years in terms of trends in the fashion industry – and not just fashion style.

There is much talk of an awakening within both business and consumers for more ethical and environmentally friendly products.

Eva Kruse, founder and CEO of Global Fashion Agenda, the organisation behind Copenhagen Fashion Summit, acknowledged that there were few industry leaders who recognised the importance of changing the way the industry produces, markets and consumes fashion at the time of the first summit; now, a decade later, more companies are beginning to integrate sustainable practices.

A Bangladesh garment factory.

Business leaders and key fashion brands such as H&M and Nike took steps towards better working conditions at the World Economic Forum at Davos in January, when they signed up to the CEO Agenda 2019 which upholds human rights in the workplace.

However, the agenda omitted access to water, toilets and hygiene for workers from one of its core pillars, which is a crucial oversight. The role that these three facilities play in ensuring ‘respectful and secure working environments’ is a fundamental human right – without them, any positive changes will be seriously diluted.

WaterAid attended the summit to support the trend for more sustainable fashion and promote the business value that can result from investing in and improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene for workers throughout the supply chain.

Our partners HSBC and WWF joined us as part of our combined action to support garment factories, tanneries and mills in China, India, Vietnam and Bangladesh to shift towards more sustainable production.

But still we don’t have enough action and especially not enough integration between environmental and social issues in the fashion sector – ‘the only constant is change’ let’s get ahead of the curve and consider these issues in an integrated way.

At our stand, people were very receptive to hearing about how social and environmental issues are interlinked and why a holistic approach is the best approach.

We all have a role to play in making access to these essentials normal for everyone, everywhere by 2030, and businesses are crucial in bringing about the step change needed to meet this global challenge.

Our aim is to ensure all business, no matter what sector they are in, are aware of the value that can result for enhance productivity and business continuity from investing in water, sanitation and hygiene for both their workers and surrounding communities.

Steps recommended by WaterAid’s new guide – ‘Strengthening the business case for water, sanitation and hygiene: How to measure value for your business’ – are being piloted by Diageo, Gap Inc. Unilever and HSBC to assess the financial return on investment.

In June 2018, as part of the ‘Sustainable Supply Chains Programme’, WaterAid and HSBC launched a new three-year project to deliver essential water and sanitation services in 24 apparel factories and the communities where the workers live in Bangladesh and India, from small artisanal workers to large-scale textile and leather factories.

In addition to improving living and working conditions for employees, the funding from HSBC will enable WaterAid to provide vital evidence about how the reliable provision of clean water, decent sanitation and hygiene is essential for the long-term sustainability of business and prove the financial return on investment.

The outcomes of this work will to encourage other companies to invest in these basics and take action in their supply chains.

In just over ten years’ time the world’s governments and international community will be held accountable for the meeting, or not, of the Sustainable Development goal of access to and management of clean water and sanitation for all.

WaterAid’s aim is to continue to raise awareness and support of fashion industry initiatives such as the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, HSBC and all businesses to recognise the human right of access to clean water and the broader business benefits – financial and reputational – that come from providing decent facilities for their employees.

Key Stats:

There are 4 million garment factory workers in Bangladesh, and 12 million in India.
• Women make up 80% of the workforce.
• WaterAid’s HSBC-funded ‘Sustainable Supply Chains Programme’ will improve the lives of approximately 11,000 people working in the garment industry in Bangladesh and India