Modern Conflicts Against the Backdrop of Climate Change, Inequalities, Injustice & Human Rights Violations

By Ambassador Jan Eliasson
STOCKHOLM, Oct 4 2019 – We will look at how modern conflicts will be affected by the recent unprecedented technological and societal developments. The nature of conflict is also changing. It is becoming more protracted, complex and unpredictable.

And let us not forget the wider picture – that modern conflicts are occuring against the backdrop of climate change, inequalities between and inside countries, injustice and human rights violations.

All this is already altering the way we live, work and relate to one another. It also profoundly impacts national and international security.

Artificial intelligence is all around us. From smartphones to smart cars, from drones to social media feeds, from streaming services to google translate software. In many ways, it does under the circumstances make our lives more comfortable.

Yet, the downside of advancing technology is the growing potential for harm. The same technology used in remote controls of home appliances may be used to “switch off” a power grid, a city or even a whole country.

“Cyber warfare”, “lethal autonomous weapons systems” – these expressions have already firmly entered our vocabulary. Even “space wars” might soon be more than just a product of once wild imagination.

Ambassador Jan Eliasson

In a way, this is not new. The history of warfare and international security is the history of technological innovation. From spear to rifle, from rifle to machine gun and from machine gun to drones. From conventional to nuclear. New technologies and new weapons have changed the conditions of warfare since prehistorical times.

As new technologies such as autonomous weapons become easier to use, small groups or even individuals may gain access to such weapons, using them to cause harm on a massive scale. This new vulnerability leads to new levels of risks and to new fears.

At the same time, advances in technology have the potential to reduce the scale or impact of violence through the development of new modes of protection. For example, greater precision in targeting should lead to less loss of civilian lives. Regretfully this is often not the case.

Digital connectivity, big data, high tech facial recognition technology – all these technologies are already used by humanitarian actors to provide a more efficient humanitarian response. Families separated by war have a chance to get reunited much faster thanks to new technologies.

So, is it a perfect storm or a window of opportunity?

Can the technological revolution bring us to catastrophes or will it offer innovative solutions? Will we lose human control over technology or will it become a tool of peace?

What if, one day human and artificial intelligence together could design formulas for prevention and conflict resolution?
Albert Einstein once said: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. As an optimist – even though, lately, a worried optimist – I hope that we, together, can prove this to be wrong. It is our humanity that must prevail.

In the end, it all comes down to people and to values. To the fundamental principle of humanity. To “We, the peoples, …”. The first three words of the UN Charter.

Before I pass the floor to our distinguished key-note speaker and a dear friend of mine, UN USG Izumi Nakamitsu, I would like to say a few words of gratitude.

I would like to say Thank You to our partners and co-organisers of today´s event – Munich Security Conference, Crisis Management Initiative, MSB – The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and Mercy Corps.

A special thanks also to the Swedish Parliament that founded SIPRI as an international, independent organization in 1966 and to the speaker Norlén for being present here today.

Finally, I would also like to thank a special friend of SIPRI, Baron Per Taube, for his generous support of this conference and many other SIPRI initiatives and dialogues.

Can We Feed the World and Ensure No One Goes Hungry?

Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS.

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2019 – Enough food is produced today to feed everyone on the planet, but hunger is on the rise in some parts of the world, and some 821 million people are considered to be “chronically undernourished”. What steps are being taken to ensure that everyone, worldwide, receives sufficient food?

Thanks to rapid economic growth, and increased agricultural productivity over the last two decades, the number of people in the world who aren’t getting enough to eat has dropped by almost a half, with regions such as Central and East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean making great strides in eradicating extreme hunger. However, that’s against a background of the global population rising by nearly two billion.

And now recent trends suggest that the hunger problem persists: particularly in Africa and South America, where there are new indications that undernourishment and severe food insecurity are on the rise.

In Sub-Saharan Africa the number of undernourished people has increased, from some 195 million in 2014, to 237 million in 2017. Poor nutrition causes nearly half of deaths in children under five in the region, some 3.1 million children per year.

Five solutions to Zero Hunger

Whilst there is no silver bullet to solving hunger, the World Food Programme has outlined a vision that breaks the issue down into five steps.

– More protection for the most vulnerable. Expanding social protection for the poorest would raise the purchasing power of the poorest two billion, kickstarting local economies

– Improve infrastructure. Ensure consumers and suppliers can more easily buy and sell, by building better roads, storage facilities and extending electrification

– Reduce food waste. Around one third of the food produced each year is loss or wasted, costing the global economy some $1 trillion per year

– Grow a wider variety of crops. Around 60 per cent of all calories consumed come from just four crops: rice, wheat corn and soy. Ensuring food access and availability in the face of climate change will require the production of a wider range of foods.

– Focus on child nutrition. Good health and nutrition in a child’s first 1,000 days is essential to prevent stunting and promote healthy development.

Achieving the 2030 goal of Zero Hunger, in other words ensuring that nobody goes hungry wherever they are in the world, remains a major challenge.

According to a recent World Food Programme (WFP) the causes of increased hunger include environmental degradation and drought – both of which are impacted by climate change – as well as conflict.

The lack of biodiversity in agriculture is also a cause for concern, and is held responsible for homogenous diets which limit access to food, leading to persistent malnutrition and poverty: current agricultural production revolves around just 12 crops, and around 60 per cent of all calories consumed come from just four crops: rice, wheat corn and soy, despite the wealth of potential foodstuffs around the world.

The good news is that, around the world, innovation and technology are being used to improve a wide range of food production challenges. Here are some examples:


Papuan Pigs in the cloud

In Papua New Guinea, where pigs play an important role in the country’s culture and economy, no celebration is complete without a pork roast. The rising global demand for the meat means that farmers now have the opportunity to sell to overseas, as well as local, markets.

However, to do so they need to prove that their livestock meets internationally recognised standards, and this is where the latest digital technology can help.

A digital tracking system has been deployed which for the first time, verifies important information about the pigs. It includes their pedigree, what they were fed and, if they feel sick, what medicines they were prescribed, giving importers and consumers confidence in the quality of the meat they buy.

The system, designed with the help of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and International Telecommunications Unit (ITU), is being piloted in the Jiwaka region.The broadband network there is being improved, so that farmers can more easily use subsidised smartphones to update livestock records, which is stored online, in the cloud.


Women farmers in India have made the shift to organic farming., by UNDP India.


Weeding out the chemicals in India

Although initially credited with boosting crop yields and saving millions from famine, fertilizers and other chemicals are now under scrutiny in India. Fertilizers are blamed with soil degradation, and resulting stagnant productivity; health issues; and high costs that push farmers into debt. A tragic consequence is the thousands of reported suicides each year in the farming community.

However, in Andhra Pradesh, the UN Environment Programme is supporting an initiative designed to remove chemicals from the farm, using a technique called “Zero Budget Natural Farming” (ZBNF) which it hopes will transform and protect local food systems, and the long-term well-being of farmers.

This form of agriculture takes advantage of the latest scientific knowledgeand eliminates the need for chemicals. The core principles of ZBNF involve coating seeds with formulas made from cow urine and dung; applying these ingredients to the soil; covering the ground with crops and crop residues; and ensuring the soil is aerated.

This reliance on home-grown and readily available resources, allows the farmers involved in the programme  to increase biodiversity and rejuvenate their soils, thus cutting costs and increasing incomes. The regional government of Andhra Pradesh plans to scale up the scheme to some six million farmers by 2024, which would make it India’s first “natural farming” state.


Waste not, want not in Egypt

Around one-third of all food produced globally is either lost or wasted, a staggeringly profligate situation that is estimated to cost the global economy some $1 trillion per year. WFP is trying to stem losses through initiatives such as its #StopTheWaste awareness campaign, launched in early October. The campaign aims to build a global movement and highlight simple solutions that we can all take to fight food waste.

In Egypt, where about half of tomatoes and a third of grapes are lost through inefficient practices before they reach the consumer, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has partnered with the Egyptian government and cooperatives to find ways to limit food losses caused by production surpluses and inefficient practices. This video outlines some of the pragmatic solutions that have resulted from this collaboration.



This story was originally published by UN News

Q&A: Holistic Land Management – Only a Movement can Prevent Desertification

The UNCCD says land degradation costs the global economy over 15 trillion dollars annually. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Oct 4 2019 – Desertification is not cheap. It has social, cultural, environmental and of course economic costs to reverse what it destroys.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) the scourge of desertification is costing the global economy up to 15 trillion dollars annually, making it urgent to restore degraded land to mitigate climate change. In August 2019, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s report  said better management of land can curb greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. IPCC scientists said tackling land degradation can help keep temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, a goal global governments are dithering to meet.

Holistic management, pioneered 50 years ago by acclaimed Zimbabwean ecologist, Allan Savory, is proving effective in the restoration of degraded land in many parts of the world where it is being applied.

The United States-based Savory is co-founder of the Savory Institute, a movement with a mission to regenerate the world’s grasslands through holistic management in order to address the global issues of desertification, climate change, and food and water insecurity. The Savory Institute is working along with its partner organisation, the Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM), located 36km from the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, to regenerate deteriorating land in this southern African nation.

“It is all about the decisions we make,” says Sarah Savory, who works with the ACHM Education and training team. “Every decision we make always affect something else, because everything is connected – all people, plants, land, waters and animals. Trying to separate any of them like we do and manage successfully is no different to trying to successfully separate and manage the hydrogen in water.”

Savory talked to IPS about the management framework. Excerpts from the interview:

Inter Press Service (IPS): What is holistic management all about?

Sarah Savory (SS): Holistic management is not a practise at all. It is a management framework and anybody in the world can use it. From an individual making a decision and wanting to improve things in their daily lives or governments or organisations can use it to form a policy. All human actions are based on needs, desires and wants to address problems. What the framework does is it asks you to change the reason you make decisions. 
Did you know that we could change our world by just changing the context, or reason, we make our decisions? And we can make the change as individuals wanting a better world, or as any organisation wanting to develop better policies.

IPS: What is the context and where do we start?

SS: First of all, we have to STOP blaming coal, oil and livestock for causing global desertification and climate change. Those are all natural resources so how can they possibly be to blame? Only our management of those things can be causing problems. 

It is our management that places millions of animals in barbaric, inhumane, force-fed factories at great cost to our health, economy and environment and it is our management that calls fossil resources fossil fuels and burns them at a destructive rate. We could turn everything around today. Context is the foundation of holistic management. It is a statement about your most deeply held values, it is how you want your life to be, and the behaviours that will bring that about.

IPS: How does holistic management work?

SS: Within the holistic management framework, once you have formed your context and the reason you are going to make your decisions, you then get on with deciding what actions to take, what practices to use. Many practices are good but holistic management helps people know which and where any practice or action is appropriate.  For example, while a practice might be appropriate for one farmer in his unique holistic context, it might be completely wrong for his neighbour who will be dealing with his own completely different and unique complexity. 
Anyone can use this framework but people who manage land are truly dealing with all social, cultural and environmental complexity, so in those situations, they get to learn about animal impact and the holistic grazing process, which is a new, biological tool that can be used, in the right situation, to regenerate land.

IPS: Your institute has devised the holistic planned grazing process, what is this about?

SS: All the world’s grasslands developed together with many millions of large herding animals that remained concentrated and moving in the presence of the pack-hunting predators that evolved with them. These grazing herds and their predators were vital to maintaining the health of the grasslands. The herds churn up and aerate the soil with their hooves while simultaneously grazing, trampling and fertilising the grass, forming protective mulch over the soil, preparing it for the next growing season. This mulched soil will hold our rain which will filter down into the soil, instead of running off, taking our precious top soil and silting up our rivers. 

The holistic planned grazing of livestock is a new, biological tool available within the Holistic Management Framework, which is used to help regenerate land, in certain situations. This process ensures that the livestock are mimicking nature, as closely as possible, in order to consistently regenerate land, reverse desertification and restore biodiversity for wildlife and the people who live amongst them. 

Holistic planned grazing is not a “grazing plan” because herds of wildlife would never follow a grazing plan – they would naturally and constantly shift and change their movements according to all the variables going on around them: we are always dealing with ever-changing social, cultural, economic and environmental complexity.

IPS: Why is this framework not being adopted widely by governments and organisations?

SS: History and research shows that people struggle to accept or adapt new thinking and counter intuitive insights and this the huge problem we face, as well as the fact that no organisation will ever lead a change – historically, it is only when enough of the public opinion shifts that an organisation will make a shift and start changing policies.

For the first time in history, we are successfully addressing the knock-on effects and damage of centuries of reductionist management, which now threatens humanity as a whole. Where holistic management has been properly practiced, there isn’t a single case of it not leading to improvement. 

Afghan War Deadly for Children Despite Peace Process: UN

A new United Nations report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan found that 12,599 youngsters had been confirmed killed or injured by fighting between 2015-2018 — 82 percent more than between 2011-2014. A mother and her children who live amid bomb rubble on Kabul’s outskirts in this picture dated 2008. Credit: Anand Gopal/IPS

By James Reinl
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2019 – The United Nations has warned that the past four years were among the deadliest for children in Afghanistan since the United States-led invasion of 2001, with nearly 13,000 youngsters killed and injured in that period.

U.N. secretary-general António Guterres’ new report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan found that 12,599 youngsters had been confirmed killed or injured by fighting between 2015-2018 — 82 percent more than between 2011-2014.

The report serves as a potent reminder that while peace talks between the U.S and the Taliban, a hardline Afghan militant group, have made fitful progress, life for ordinary Afghans remains blighted by violence and hardship.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres was “deeply disturbed by the scale, severity and recurrence of grave violations endured by boys and girls” in Afghanistan over recent years.  

“The recruitment of children, mostly by armed groups, including the Taliban and Daesh, continued to be documented, as were over 800 attacks on schools and hospitals,” added Dujarric, using an alternate name for the Islamic State (IS) group. 

The 17-page study, which bore Guterres’ name but was compiled by his special envoy on children in wartime, Virginia Gamba, said that youngsters made up almost a third of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan. 

They were mostly killed or maimed by fighting on the ground, improvised explosive devices, airstrikes, suicide bomb blasts, and from unexploded weapons that detonated unexpectedly after they were deployed. 

“Children in Afghanistan have known nothing but heartbreaking realities as a result of violence and war,” Gamba said in a statement accompanying her report.

“The number of child casualties is appalling, and I urge all parties to immediately put an end to the suffering of children.” 

The U.N. blamed the Taliban, Afghanistan’s branch of IS, and other armed groups for most (43 percent) of the 3,450 children who were killed and 9,149 others who were maimed in the 18-year-old war.

Still, 30 percent of child casualties were blamed on Afghan security forces, pro-government forces, the U.S. and other international partners — a large increase on the previous four-year period.

Gamba noted the growing civilian death toll since the Afghan Air Force became capable of launching aerial attacks in 2015. Since the beginning of that year, some 1,049 children were killed or injured in attacks from the skies.

In one extreme case, Afghan Air Force helicopters in April 2018 fired rockets and heavy machine guns at an open-air graduation ceremony at a madrasa in Dasht-e Archi district of Kunduz Province, killing at least 30 children and injuring 51 others, the report said.

The Taliban, IS and Afghan security forces continue enlisting children as soldiers, the report said. Once they are released from service in militant groups, youngsters frequently end up in jail on national security charges.

“While the protection and well-being of children can only be reached through long-term peace, we must seize all available opportunities to improve right now the protection of boys and girls in Afghanistan,” added Gamba.

The report comes after U.S. and Taliban negotiators struck a draft peace deal last month aimed at leading to drawdowns of the 14,000 U.S. troops and thousands of NATO troops in the landlocked, South Asian country.

U.S. President Donald Trump broke off talks after Taliban militants carried out a Sept. 5 bomb attack in the capital Kabul that killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier. Pakistan and the Taliban have since called for a fresh round of negotiations.

The Taliban currently controls more territory than it has since 2001, when the U.S invaded following the 9/11 attacks. The war has become deadlocked, with casualties rising among civilians and combatants despite fitful progress at peace talks in Qatar.