Nothing For Us, Without Us – Hansen’s Disease-Affected Tell International Gathering

Jennifer Quimno of the Coalition of Leprosy Advocates of the Philippines (CLAP) (centre) is joined by Sri Lanka’s Shagana Thiygalingam (L) and Amarasinghe Manjula (R) after Quimno delivered the recommendations presented by the Global Forum of People’s Organisations on Hansen’s Disease to the International Leprosy Congress in Manila on September 11. Credit: Ben Kritz/IPS

By Ben Kritz
MANILA, Sep 11 2019 – Stronger government action to fight stigma and discrimination, more government funding for health and non-health support programmes, and a larger role for people’s organisations in developing policy towards Hansen’s disease treatment and eradication are still needed for eliminating the disease.

This was some of the recommendations made by participants of the first ever Global Forum of People’s Organisations on Hansen’s Disease today, Sept. 11 during a presentation to global academics, scientists, researchers, health staff, partners and those affected by the disease at the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC).

Jennifer Quimno, secretary of the Coalition of Leprosy Advocates of the Philippines (CLAP), was chosen by the forum participants to represent the group.

“I really felt I was carrying everyone’s voices with me,” Quimno told IPS.

Ending stigma, improving cooperation

The ILC, which is currently being held in Manila, Philippines, is hosted every three years and was last held in China in 2016.

Prior to the start of the congress, Japan’s Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF) and The Nippon Foundation (TNF), which support elimination of the disease as well as various organisations of persons affected by the disease, held a global gathering from Sept. 7 to 10. For the first time, organisations of those affected by Hansen’s disease from 23 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean met to share their know-how and experiences in eliminating Hansen’s disease.

Along with recommendations for eliminating discriminatory laws and practices, including social, psychological, and economic support in Hansen’s disease management programmes, and giving people affected by the disease a greater voice in policy formulation, the forum debated that a shift in terminology from “leprosy” to “Hansen’s disease” be promoted to help combat the historic stigma associated with the disease. No consensus was reached, however.

The recommendations called for comprehensive action and the involvement of non-health agencies and other stakeholders, because areas such as clean water and sanitation, proper housing, education, and dignified work are all, in the view of people’s organisations, critical to efforts to stamp out the disease.

The forum also called for a much greater role for people’s organisations in sustaining Hansen’s Disease treatment, rehabilitation, and services, and in promoting dignity, equality, and respect for human rights.

“Hansen’s disease is more than a disease caused by a bacterium. Poverty, institutional, social and political neglect, complacency and the structural invisibility of vulnerable populations contribute to the perpetuation of Hansen’s disease,” the final draft of the forum’s recommendations read.

Other key recommendations presented to the ILC by the forum include: More funding for research to fill scientific knowledge gaps that still exist (much remains unclear about the transmission of the disease); greater focus by national programmes on case detection, disability prevention, and rehabilitation during treatment; and more funding for “care after cure” programmes, including psychological, social, and economic rehabilitation.

To combat the stigma associated with the disease, the forum urged the widest possible dissemination and adoption by governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders of United Nations guidelines for the elimination of stigma and discrimination. 

The conclusions also made a firm demand for the elimination of all existing discriminatory laws and practises globally, saying that this would further require “affirmative and reparation policies,” in order to be truly effective in promoting equality.

The people’s organisations also made a call for a greater role in government policy-making toward leprosy. They did not neglect improvements in their own capabilities as well. While calling on governments to develop measurable action plans, the people’s organisations noted they must improve their effectiveness by through strengthening networks, and engaging more productively with governments.

Hope for the future, but a few uncertainties

Participants at the global forum who attended the first day of the ILC expressed hope the recommendations would lead to positive action, but noted uncertainties remain.

“Being able to do this at the ILC is a milestone for us, to have our perspective heard,” Frank Onde, president of CLAP, told IPS. While people affected by Hansen’s disease have regularly participated in the ILC, Onde felt this was the first time recommendations were presented in an organised way.

For Indonesia’s Ermawati, a member of PerMaTa, “Attending this congress is like a dream, to come from my village to be involved in a gathering like this,” she told IPS. “It’s inspiring, and I hope it would inspire others [affected by leprosy] to join us and help others.” 

Ermawati was hopeful the recommendations would lead to greater awareness and reduce stigma, particularly the discrimination against women in her country. “I hope it leads to greater acceptance, particularly of us women. In my country, the stigma is very great.” One problem faced by Indonesian women afflicted with leprosy is that they cannot marry; if laws in an area do not actually prohibit it, the culture in most places encourages men to shun these women.

Shagana Thiyagalingam, who is from Sri Lanka, felt that Quimno’s presentation was inspiring. Quimno spoke of how after both she and her father had contracted the disease, but how she still continued her studies currently works with the government health department. “Her story was so motivational,” Shagana told IPS. “It should encourage other women to come forward and feel less stigma.”

Thiyagalingam’s traveling companion Amarasinghe Manjula was likewise inspired by Quimno’s personal story.

While optimistic about what lies ahead, CLAP’s Onde, and his Indonesian counterpart Paulus Manek, the president of PerMaTa, expressed a few reservations. “The barriers [between people’s organisations and government agencies] really need to be minimised,” Onde said.

Manek saw the size of the ILC gathering itself as a sort of barrier to effective action. “It’s almost too big,” Manek said. “I see people here, they are interested in one or two issues only. Maybe there should be a closer focus on fewer issues at once.”

He also suggested that new guidelines from the United Nations Human Rights Council would be useful.  

“It would help us,” Manek said. “I think the media can also help to spread awareness and stopping discrimination.”

Quimno for her part was hoping to see some concrete actions taken as a result of her presentation on behalf of the global forum. “There are so many gaps to fill, so I would hope these people here would commit to studying and planning actions to take on the things we recommended. That would be progress.”

Ministers Call for Coalition to scale up land restoration massively worldwide

By UNCCD Press Release
NEW DELHI, Sep 11 2019 (IPS-Partners)

1. On the road to the Climate Action Summit, the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India and President of COP14, His Excellency Mr. Prakash Javedkar, and the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Her Excellency Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, hosted a high-level luncheon on land and climate on 9 September 2019, on the margins of the UNCCD Fourteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP14). The event was co-facilitated by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

2. During the meeting, participants underscored that land resources are the basis for human health, livelihoods, food security, and for our economic, cultural and spiritual well-being. Some 25 per cent of the world’s land is degraded (IPCC, 2019), affecting the lives of 3.2 billion people, particularly smallholder farmers, those in rural communities and the world’s poorest populations (IPBES, 2018). Women in particular are on the daily frontline struggle to salvage the large area of agricultural land already affected by land degradation. And the stewardship of indigenous peoples is essential to safeguard the world’s remaining biodiversity. All vulnerable groups who depend on sustainable land management and who can contribute to land restoration need our support.

3. Participants welcomed the IPCC’s special report on Climate Change and Land which constitutes the first comprehensive study of the entire land-climate system. As such, they agreed that it is a fundamental contribution to global negotiations on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable land management, and calls for synergies between the Rio Conventions. The report provides a sound basis for ambitious actions contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation as well as to combat land degradation and enhance food security.

4. Participants stressed that restoring degraded lands and achieving land degradation neutrality (SDG 15.3) provided an integrated solution to increase ecosystems and populations resilience as well as to enhance the capacity of our land for carbon sequestration. Land use must therefore be an integral part of the climate solution, rather than a cause of GHG emissions. This will strengthen biodiversity conservation, increase livelihoods and human security. It will also curb emissions from degrading lands and help close the projected emissions gap between Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the Paris Agreement objectives. Most importantly, land degradation neutrality will improve the living conditions of affected populations and the health and productivity of their ecosystems.

5. Participants agreed that land restoration will deliver co-benefits to many Sustainable Development Goals and that the three Rio Conventions can actively work together to support restoration activities as an important contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

6. Participants agreed that the critical role of land restoration for climate mitigation and adaptation must be visible. The Climate Action Summit will send a strong political signal for more public funding and private investments to enable land restoration for impact at the scale needed, through gender-responsive, transformative projects and programmes that seek to generate and sustain fundamental and sustainable positive change. Every 1 USD invested in land restoration is expected to generate up to 10 USD in returns for society through more efficient agricultural practices, integrated water management, and vital ecosystem functions (GPFLR, 2018).

7. Participants indicated that time had come to turn the vicious circle between land and climate into a virtuous one by reinforcing the positive elements of the relationship, helping to manage emissions on the one hand and adapting to climate impacts on the other. Participants therefore called for more concerted policy action, more investments, and more capacity to scale up land restoration to achieve land degradation neutrality. They expect the Nature-Based Solutions Coalition to propose concrete and ambitious actions at the Summit.

8. Participants supported the global effort to achieve land degradation neutrality through ambitious initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge target of having at least 350 million hectares of degraded land under active restoration by 2030 and the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative. Participants also welcomed the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 (UN General Assembly resolution 73/284) as a unique opportunity to galvanize political will, increased investments, and action on the ground for land restoration at massive scale across the world.

9. Participants called for the UN Climate Action Summit to be the starting point for the establishment of a coalition of countries, to accelerate massive scaling up of land restoration activities worldwide, and to act as the building block of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030). A coalition of active countries could federate and accelerate the achievement of existing ecosystem restoration goals of all into the UN Decade – a decade of action and impact on the ground for the planet, for the people and for prosperity.

10. Participants included Armenia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Haiti, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Republic of Korea, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, South Africa, Tajikistan, The United Kingdom, the European Union as well as CBD, GCF, GEF, FAO, IPBES, IPCC, UNCCD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFCCC, UNRC India and the World Bank.

For further information, please contact:

    • Ms. Wagaki Wischnewski,, Cell: +91 74284 94332/+49-173-268-7593
    • Mr. Tim Christophersen,, Cell : +254706044045

The Push for Peace-From the Global Village to the Global Neighborhood

Hiroshima, Japan. Photo: Internet Archives 1945

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 11 2019 – From the ashes of a tragedy that wiped out almost 90% of the city of Hiroshima on 5 August 1945, an institute called the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center (HPC) rose like a phoenix of hope that is pioneering the creation of a global pool of peacebuilders. It is driven by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declaration that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.”

Hiroshima underwent miraculous post-war reconstruction after World War II, and it epitomizes speed, innovation, technology and efficiency which marks the Japanese character of utter discipline and loyalty to the vision. An architectural and engineering feat of reconstruction.

Today HPC supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, trains professional peacebuilders to assist war – torn societies and they are doing a remarkable job. I have seen this first hand and I have had the privilege of facilitating two mid-career courses which brings together Japanese and non-Japanese United Nations professionals who work in different conflict affected parts of the world.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres once made a profound remark- “the world is in pieces and we need world peace”. With over 65 million people displaced, due to conflict, instability, climate shocks and sheer degrading poverty, the message from the UN Secretary General is a clarion call to action. Japan has stepped up. In fact, Japan’s pacifist constitution may hold the key to a world free of conflict, violence and instability.

At the HPC, various programmes are being implemented to develop practical knowledge, skills and experience in peacebuilding and development among civilians, an important contribution towards transforming conflict-prone countries into peaceful nations engaged in the pursuit of SDG 16.

With Dr Shinoda, Director of HPC and mid-Career professionals in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: HPC 04 September 2019

Having seen both worlds – as a former combat veteran and later as an international civil servant, where I have been working to bring dignity to people ravaged by war in various countries – I know the importance of such institutions. For instance, the many years of my UN career spent in Somalia, South Sudan Iraq, Darfur, between 1997 to date, will always remain a poignant reminder of the disparate harm that women and children are predisposed to whenever one form or other of humanitarian crisis arises.

With recent technological advances on one hand giving a leg-up, and on the other rolling back progress on the United Nations Charter’s vision of getting the peoples of the world ‘to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours‘, institutions such as HPC are increasingly needed.

The strings of guilt have continued to pull at the collective global heart after the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In subsequent years, the world has drafted the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as numerous treaties and conventions, all seeking to ensure global peace.

By telescoping distance and time, scientific advances have given us the ‘global village’, yet the more people have of things that bring them together, the more they have tended to invent others that divide them.

One such development is the indisputable evidence that all of humanity is vulnerable in current rates of ecological degradation. However, while the web of interdependence continues to thicken, debates about what needs to be done and by whom rages, delaying consensus on remedial action.

The reasons we need citizens to drive global neighbourhood are legion: maintaining peace and order, expanding economic activity, combating pandemic diseases, deterring terrorists and sharing scarce resources are just a few of them.

We cannot have any illusions about the scope of the challenge ahead. As we move towards working with others, clashes between the familiar and the different are expected. Stresses will result from people having to come to terms with new circumstances.

A transformation of the mindset will be a key driver of the triple nexus of peace, security and development as the world seeks to draft a post-conflict agenda. To achieve this, a critical mass of leaders who can push countries to adapt universal norms of good neighborhoods is needed, which is what institutions like HPC are helping to build.

Former Prime Minister and Nobel laureate Mr Eisaku Sato. Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

While human survival and resilience against new diseases must depend on scientific discoveries, there must be a part of humanity that checks the temptation to turn those same discoveries into ever more efficient killing machines.

More international institutions that work to create a generation of citizens as the dynamos of the vehicle of peacebuilding need to be established. That one of the leaders towards that vision is a region that carries the scars of the worst devastation caused by war provides inspiration that a moral revolution is possible, even as the scientific revolution continues.

Japan’s former Prime Minster and Nobel laureate Mr. Eisaku Sato once said, “Japan is the only country in the world to have suffered the ravages of atomic bombing. That experience left an indelible mark on the hearts of our people, making them passionately determined to renounce all wars”.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

‘Conference Emphasises Need for Partnerships to Create a World Without Leprosy’

Yohei Sasakawa, chair of The Nippon Foundation and World Health Organisation (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, delivered a keynote address at the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC). Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
MANILA, Sep 11 2019 – Forty years ago, Yohei Sasakawa saw his father moved to tears after meeting and witnessing the suffering of people affected by leprosy – also known as Hansen’s disease. Not only did the patients have a physical illness, but they also suffered from social exclusion and discrimination. It made the young Sasakawa vow to work for the elimination of leprosy from the world – just as his father had been doing.

Decades later, after visiting 120 countries and having meetings with countless policy makers and state leaders, Sasakawa – now the World Health Organisation (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador  for Leprosy Elimination – is delivering on his promise.

At the first day of the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC), being held in Manila, Philippines, the chairperson ofThe Nippon Foundation (TNF) called for activists, scholars and those affected the globe over, to rally behind the goal of a world free of  stigma, discrimination and violation of human rights of those affected by leprosy. The ILC, which ends Sep 13, is supported by TNF sister organisation the Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF).

Sharing his experiences, he recalled how he, TNF and SHF lobbied the United Nations to recognise the elimination of stigma against leprosy-affected people as a human rights issue.

Sasakawa reminded delegates that it was a tough journey against several odds as policy makers and diplomats  showed little interest in the human rights of leprosy-affected people. He told the congress how during a 2003 U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, only five members attended the event to discuss stigma as a human rights violation in a room that could accommodate 50.

Not one to give up, Sasakawa kept pursuing the issue until finally in December 2010 the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members and accompanying principle and guidelines was passed.

“I believe the elimination has been an important milestone in my journey,” Sasakawa said.

But despite the U.N. resolution and various local laws at country level worldwide abolishing policies like segregation and isolation of the leprosy-affected, society still stigmatises and discriminates against Hansen’s disease patients as well those who work within the field, like health care workers etc.

He said one example of this remains is the classification of leprosy as a neglected tropical disease.

“I would like to express my opposition to leprosy being considered as one of the neglected tropical diseases. Leprosy has never been neglected even for a moment by both persons affected and by people who have worked hard for their betterment. In my opinion, this medical terminology feels like it is looking down on the patients and also shows a lack of respect towards those are fighting against leprosy today. Leprosy is an ongoing issue.”

However, Sasakawa also acknowledged that in other areas — such as the partnerships and networking — there has been great progress. The Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy network was a significant step forward.

“The  collaboration will greatly enhance our work towards achieving ‘Zero Leprosy,’” he said, adding that the strengthening of these partnerships, especially with the governments, was crucial to reach the common goal of a leprosy-free world.

“Whenever I go abroad, I always meet with the national leaders of the countries. We cannot solve the issue of leprosy without their understanding and support. Without their support, we cannot secure the budget for activities to eliminate leprosy and the associated discrimination,” he reminded the congress.

Rachna Kumari, of International Federation of Anti-leprosy Associations or ILEP, who is based in Munger in Eastern India’s Bihar state, told IPS: “We cannot end stigma just by treating leprosy as a health issue.”

If only health workers are assigned to work on leprosy, they will work on medication. That is not enough to solve the problem we face. So, we need education. Government must include information on leprosy in school books. There must be billboards and large posters which can educate both patients and healthcare workers. Only with such a holistic approach we can win this,” Kumari said.

Earlier, delivering the keynote speech, the Philippine Secretary of Health Francisco Duque asserted that his government remains serious about respecting the rights of leprosy-affected people.

“The vision of our Universal healthcare for the Filipino people is deeply tied to the aspirations of the 2016-2020 global strategy for the leprosy and goal number 3 of the SDGs or the sustainable development goals. We remain committed to these goals and aspirations. We are committed to zero stigma, zero disability, zero transmission and  zero disease,” Duque told the congress.

Duque also stressed the importance of partnerships to achieve the goals yet unmet.

“We are only a  few months away form 2020 and our midterm strategy is only getting underway. We must work together. This year’s conference emphasises the need for partnerships to create a world without leprosy. And our success and your success may define the relations we have made and continue to make.

Acknowledging stigma as a “barrier for early detection and treatment“ of leprosy, Huong Thi Giang Tran, WHO’s Director for Disease Control in the Western Pacific also said that stigma limits the opportunity for life and leads to social and economic exclusion. She called for the addressing of stigma at the policy level.


Let’s Get Climate Action into Traction with Gender Equality

Credit: UN Women

By Ulrika Modéer and Anita Bhatia
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 11 2019 – Climate change is already altering the face of our planet. Research shows that we need to put all our efforts over the coming decade to limit warming to 1.5°C and mitigate the catastrophic risks posed by increased droughts, floods, and extreme weather events.

But our actions will not be effective if they do not include measures to ensure social justice, equality and a gender perspective. So, how do we integrate gender equality in climate change actions?

The impact of climate change affects women and girls disproportionately due to existing gender inequalities. It also threatens to undermine socio-economic gains made over previous decades.

With limited or no access to land and other resources including finance, technology and information, women and girls suffer more in the aftermath of natural disasters and bear increased burdens in domestic and care work.

Women and girls have also seen their water collection time increased and firewood and fodder collection efforts thwarted in the face of droughts, floods and deforestation, occupying a significant portion of their time that could have been used for their education or leisure.

This is not only theory. For example, women and children accounted for more than 96 per cent of those impacted by the flash floods in Solomon Islands in 2014 and in Myanmar, women accounted for 61 percent of fatalities caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Women and girls also remain marginalized in decision-making spheres — from the community level to parliaments to international climate negotiations. Global climate finance for mitigation and adaptation programmes remain out of reach for women and girls because of their lack of knowledge and capacity to tap into these resources.

Despite these challenges, women and girls play a critical role in key climate related sectors and have developed adaptation and resilience-building strategies and mitigation techniques, such as driving the demand for renewable energy at the household and community levels for lighting, cooking and productive use solutions that the international community must now support.

Women are holders of traditional farming methods, first responders in crises situations, founders of cooperatives, entrepreneurs of green energy, scientists and inventors, and decision-makers with respect to the use of natural resources.

Women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural work force in developing countries1 and manage 90% of all household water and fuel-wood needs in Africa. Some studies have shown that if women were afforded equal access to productive resources as men, their agricultural outputs would exceed men’s by 7 to 23 percent. It is therefore imperative to embrace and scale-up the initiatives of the 51 per cent of the world’s population.

In recent times, women and girls have used their knowledge and experience to lead in mitigation efforts. From developing apps to track and reduce the carbon emitted as a result of individual consumption, to reducing food by connecting neighbors, cafes, and local shops to share leftover and unsold food 2.

Young women scientists, like South-African teenager Kiara Nirghin, are making a difference in the fight against climate change. They are building on the legacies of women and girls such as Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who empowered communities to manage their natural resources in a sustainable way.

At the same time, UNDP and UN Women have been collaborating to advance gender equality and women’s leadership on climate change. For example, in Ecuador, the two UN agencies have teamed up with the government to support the inclusion of gender in the country’s climate action plans.

UNDP and UN Women have also collaborated globally to ensure that gender remains a key factor when world leaders make critical decisions on climate change.

If policies and projects take into account women’s particular roles, needs and contributions to climate action and support women’s empowerment, there will be a greater possibility to limit warming to 1.5°C in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must continue to engage women and women’s organizations, learning from their experiences on the ground to build the evidence for good practices and help replicate more inclusive climate actions.

The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23, 2019 is a unique opportunity to elevate at the highest level the need for substantive participation of women and girls in efforts against climate change.

At the Summit, there will be several initiatives put forth to address climate change, including one focusing on gender equality. The initiative recognizes the differential impact of climate change on women and girls, and seeks support for their leadership as a way to make climate actions more effective.

It calls for the rights, differentiated needs and contributions of women and girls to be integrated into all actions, including those related to climate finance, energy, industry and infrastructure. It promotes support for women and girls in developing innovative tools and participating in mitigation and adaptation efforts and calls for accountability by tracking and reporting progress towards achieving these goals.

For climate action to get more traction and be effective, we need a critical mass of Governments and other stakeholders to sign on to the Climate Action Summit’s gender-specific initiative. The world cannot afford to keep limiting the potential of women and girls in shaping climate actions, as all evidence points towards the benefits of their involvement.

There is already interest by United Nations Member States, as shown in the increased integration of gender considerations in their national climate plans, but a broader movement is needed. We need multi-stakeholder partnerships and engage a critical mass of supporters – governments, UN entities, financial mechanisms, and civil society organizations to support the gender-specific initiative of the SG’s Climate Action Summit.

The time for gender-responsive climate action is now.

1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The State of Food and Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development (Rome: FAO, 2011a).
2 Olio, a food-sharing app was founded by women from Sweden, the UK and USA. For more info:; One Million Women was founded by a woman in Australia to get one million women to change their lifestyles to mitigate climate change. The group has an app that provides the tools to cut carbon pollution in home energy savings and clean energy options, minimising food waste, reducing over-consumption, investing and divesting (your money) wisely, sustainable fashion, low-impact travel, etc. For more info: