The Superfoods of the Andes and the Himalaya

Just like the Andes, the Himalaya has its own superfoods like chino (Proso millet) and kaguno (Foxtail millet) which have similar nutritional value to quinoa, but very few know of their existence.

Amaranth cultivation in Jumla district in Nepal. Credit: LI-BIRD

By Sonia Awale
KATHMANDU, Oct 9 2019 – The nutritious grain that mountain peoples of the Americas and high Asia cultivated were displaced by wheat and rice, but they are staging a comeback thanks to growing public consciousness about health.

Food items like pickled potato, roasted corn, tomato in curry and chilli paste are as Nepali as you can get. But few here know that these staples of our food heritage have their roots in the Andes, and were actually brought to Europe and Asia only in the last 500 years.

Just like the Andes, the Himalaya has its own superfoods like chino (Proso millet) and kaguno (Foxtail millet) which have similar nutritional value to quinoa, but very few know of their existence

Now, there is growing demand for other lost crops of the Incas like amaranth and quinoa among urban Nepalis. These grains are high in protein, low in carbohydrates, gluten-free and rich in micronutrients and minerals.

In fact, amaranth and quinoa are healthier alternatives to rice, particularly for diabetes and hypertension patients. Another South American fruit, the gooseberry, is much sought after for its fibrous and antioxidant properties.

“We might cater to a limited market, but there is a growing demand for superfoods. In fact more and more of our customers prefer to eat quinoa instead of rice,” said Roseeta Raymajhi of Fresh Shelf and Beverage in Baluwatar that has been supplying quinoa for two years.

The Incas grew a variety of crops and vegetables, exotic fruits, beans and tubers. But with the Spanish conquests, native crops were replaced with European foods and many were lost. However with better understanding of their nutritional value, some of the lost crops of the Inca are being rediscovered.

Amaranth is now also cultivated in Nepal’s Jumla and Humla districts, where the arid mountains have a similar soil and climate to the Andes. Iron-rich amaranth leaves (latta ko sag) are eaten as a vegetable, and larger-scale amaranth cultivation in Doti and Achham districts cater to a rising demand in India.

“Many mountain crops like amaranth had been neglected but these are climate smart superfoods and that is where the future is,” explained Rita Gurung of LI-BIRD, the Pokhara-based agro-biodiversity research organisation.

She says the crops need commercial-scale production and an campaign to promote their nutritional value by recipe generation so that Nepalis will make them a regular part of their diet.

Just like the Andes, the Himalaya has its own superfoods like chino (Proso millet) and kaguno (Foxtail millet) which have similar nutritional value to quinoa, but very few know of their existence.

“We have so many highly nutritional foods, but we have abandoned them for processed and packaged foodstuff and vitamin capsules,” laments public health expert Aruna Uprety.

It has been over four years since Saurav Dhakal started Green Growth, an online shopping portal for organic produce in Kathmandu. He has seen gradual increase in demand for locally grown organic and nutrient rich produce, but says farmers have to be first convinced that there is a market for them.

“There are traditional recipes to all of our indigenous foods that we have to relearn and propagate,” Dhakal says.

This Dasain, let us replace rice with kodo (millet), phapar (buckwheat), jau (barley), til (sesame), aalas (flax seed) so that when we eat, drink and make merry, we also become healthier.

This story was originally published by The Nepali Times

UN Faces its Worst Cash Crisis in Nearly a Decade

By Stéphane Dujarric
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 9 2019 – The Secretary-General wrote to Member States about the worst cash crisis facing the United Nations in nearly a decade. The Organization runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors.

Stressing the Charter obligation of Member States, the Secretary-General thanked the Member States who have paid their regular budget assessments, which is now 129, and urged those who have not paid to do so urgently and in full.

This is the only way to avoid a default that could risk disrupting operations globally. The Secretary-General further asked governments to address the underlying reasons for the crisis and agree on measures to put the United Nations on a sound financial footing.

By the end of September, Member States had paid only 70% of the total assessment for the regular budget, compared with 78% at the same time last year. The Secretariat had put in place multiple measures since the beginning of the year to align expenditures with cash inflows.

These included adjusting hiring and other non-post expenses based on expected cash availability. Had it not contained expenditures globally from the beginning of the year, the cash shortfall in October could have reached $600 million and the Organisation would not have had the liquidity to support the opening of the General Assembly debate and the high-level meetings last month.

To date, we have averted major disruptions to operations.

These measures are no longer enough. The Secretariat could face a default on salaries and payments for goods and services by the end of November unless more Member States pay their budget dues in full.

The Secretary-General has therefore requested additional steps be taken immediately, including further reductions in official travel; postponing spending on goods and services; and discontinuing events scheduled outside official meeting hours at headquarters duty stations.

In addition, conferences and meetings may have to be postponed or services be adjusted. He is reviewing further options.

The Secretary-General noted that this is a recurrent problem that severely hampers the Secretariat’s ability to fulfil its obligations to the people we serve.

We are now driven to prioritize our work on the basis of the availability of cash, thus undermining the implementation of mandates decided by inter-governmental bodies.

The Secretary-General therefore looks to Member States to resolve the structural issues that underlie this annual crisis without further delay.

The Secretary-General has also kept the staff informed of these developments.

Footnote:

As of Tuesday 8 October 2019, 129 Member States have paid their regular budget dues in full. For a list of those countries, see http://www.un.org/en/ga/contributions/honourroll.shtml.

At this time, Member States have paid US$1.99 billion towards the 2019 regular budget assessment. The outstanding amount for 2019 for regular budget is US$1.386 billion.

The 64 states that have yet to pay regular budget dues in full for 2019 are: Afghanistan, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, Eritrea, Gambia, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Israel, Kiribati, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tajikistan, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) and Yemen.

Meanwhile in a letter dated 7 October addressed to all UN staffers, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says: I am writing to update you again on the troubling financial situation facing the United Nations. As you know, I have been working closely with Member States and managers over the past few months to solve the liquidity crisis facing our regular budget.

The ultimate responsibility for our financial health lies with Member States. Most of them have fulfilled their Charter obligations and have paid in full and some even on time. We are regularly engaging those who have not yet paid in full and will continue doing so.

With your help, we have been containing expenditures globally from the beginning of this year to align it with our liquidity. Without these measures, we would not have been able to meet payrolls and fulfil our obligations towards vendors this month.

To date, Member States have paid only 70 per cent of the total amount needed for our regular budget operations in 2019. This translates into a cash shortage of $230 million at the end of September. We run the risk of depleting our backup liquidity reserves by the end of the month.

I want to assure you that we are in this together. I have made every effort to protect staff from this crisis and I will continue to do so. I wrote to Member States on 4 October 2019 to explain that we are at a critical juncture for regular budget operations and that I must now take additional stop-gap measures to ensure the salaries and entitlements of staff will be paid as usual.

The Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance will meet with senior managers tomorrow to explain these measures.

I have asked the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance to continue to work with the various departments and offices to further contain non-post expenditure wherever possible.

Managers will be asked to explore avenues to further limit expenses during the last quarter, including postponing conferences and meetings or seeking ways to reduce related expenses by adjusting services.

I am also directing them to limit all official travel to the most essential activities and to further reduce all other non-post expenses. This includes postponing purchases of goods and services, implementing energy saving and other measures to reduce utility bills and temporarily curtailing expenses on managing facilities.

Everything is being done with the major objective: To protect staff from the impact of our liquidity problems. I ask you to engage with your managers if you have any concerns. Please also share with them your ideas for curtailing expenditures in your areas of work. Together, we will manage in these difficult times.

I will continue to work with Member States to solve this problem to enable the United Nations to carry out its vital work.

Thank you for your cooperation and your service during these challenging times.

Abortion Remains an Unresolved Issue: ICPD25 Meeting next Month

Osamu Kusumoto is Secretary General and Executive Director of Asian Population and Development Association (APDA)

By Osamu Kusumoto
TOKYO, Japan, Oct 9 2019 – Currently, the topic of abortion as human rights leaves the world bustling. When the state of Alabama1 in the United States enacted a very strict ban on abortion, it shocked the world. This prompted so-called conservative movements, led by female business owners, to make a full-scale advertisement in the New York Times claiming abortion is a human right2 ; hence the global debate between pro-life and pro-choice.

Osamu Kusumoto

This discussion is a remnant of the debate at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994. Twenty Five years into the ICPD and the struggle between opposing views persists, causing the continued disruption in the accessibility of women to reproductive health. This is especially true in developing countries.

The purpose of this paper is to show that pro-life and pro-choice are actually following the same logical development despite failing to arrive at the same conclusion.

Current Status of ICPD and Reproductive Rights

As its name suggests, ICPD is a conference that places population issues in the context of sustainable development, which served as the basis of the current Agenda 2030. However, the population problem has been treated as a value and not a scientific issue. Following this paradigm, possible solutions are unattainable.

Efforts are being made to include abortion in the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA), particularly in paragraphs 5.5., 7.3. and 7.36, which defines Reproductive Rights. The principles behind such effort are that:

    A) Reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents.

    B) These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so.

The concept of the reproductive right is not included in the human rights defined by the UN CESCR.

Pro-choice advocates aim to expand the definition of reproductive rights in the ICPD PoA and position the right to abortion in 7.3, which refers to the number of and spacing of children. As such, the right to abortion is not an infringement to self-determination, which is central to the concept of human rights.

Pro-life advocates, on the other hand, regard abortion as infringing on the right to existence of another life, which is a gift from God.

However, it must be recognized that unplanned and unwanted pregnancies also happen. One case in point is the Yazidi girl who got pregnant as a result of sexual assault by members of ISIS. She was alienated from her community causing further victimization of the child. This is just one case and many more are happening in different parts of the world. Such abuse put women and girls in difficult position. How can this kind of problem be addressed?

The basis of human rights is respecting the dignity of human life as part of society regardless of one’s race, religion, or culture. Therefore, this contradicts the concept that abortion is a human right. Obviously, no matter how extensive the discussion on this problem could go, no logical solution can be reached. Ergo, it is meaningless to engage in an argument that will always end up in a stalemate.

Possible solution

Reproductive Rights as defined in the ICPD PoA intends to prevent pregnancy in situations where self-determination is not possible – these cases must be devoid of theological debates. Serious discussions and negotiations had been made during the formulation of the ICPD PoA and it can be assumed that a reasonable conclusion was drawn because it was adopted and ratified by many countries.

The debates on abortion may be addressed through a democratic decision-making mechanism. Unless the conditions for achieving reproductive rights are there, such as the meaningful empowerment of women, access to education, improved socioeconomic status, advancement in the field of health – especially in family planning – and full dissemination of reproductive health services, women cannot be held accountable.

Abortion is not a matter that should be recognized as a right yet, but it is an issue that should be treated with the utmost care. Appropriate medical measures must be put in place for situations where the conditions for reproductive rights cannot be met, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. Otherwise, prolife means denying the life and dignity to human beings who are victims of circumstances.

The suggestion is to separate the issue of abortion from reproductive rights. This way, it will be possible to present a more realistic, reasonable and relevant solution that could be more commonly acceptable.

1 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/alabama-senate-abortion-bill-passes_n_5cd9fba1e4b073aa0b3266d9?guccounter=1
2 https://forbesjapan.com/articles/detail/27402?utm_source=owned&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=mailmagazine_0522_1461&utm_content=art1

“Window of Opportunity to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change is Fast Shrinking”

By Stella Paul
INCHEON, South Korea, Oct 9 2019 – “The window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic climate change is fast shrinking,” executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Yannick Glemarec, tells IPS.

He was speaking at the GCF Private Investment for Climate (GPIC) Conference, which took place in Incheon, South Korea, from Oct. 7 to 9. The conference has been an important platform to encourage greater dialogue among investors on the barriers they face, share past and current investment experiences and exchange innovative ideas while assuring them of all assistance and support by GCF.

“When I started my career 30 years ago though we had 80 years before we would cross the 2 ° Celsius threshold. Today we face the real risk of crossing it within 20 to 30 years or 40 years,” Glemarec says.

Executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Yannick Glemarec speaks to IPS from the GCF Private Investment for Climate (GPIC) Conference, which took place in Incheon, South Korea, from Oct. 7 to 9 about the need for scaling up private investment for climate projects. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

“In addition what we have found over the past fews years is that 2 ° Celsius might be already far too much for a number of countries for a number of communities for a number of ecosystems. We thought, for example, that we would not see major threats to ecosystems before an increase of temperature to 3, 4, 5, 6° Celsius. Today we believe that coral reefs could be wiped out by the time we reach 2 ° Celsius,” he says.

In this interview with IPS, Glemarec candidly shares his views on the urgency of more actions in both climate mitigation and adaptation and also the urgent requirement of more finances to make these actions possible.

He also shares some details about how GCF is working to mobilise these finances, especially from private investors as public money is not enough to meet the massive needs. Finally, he shares some examples of positive leadership by GCF in developing countries where private investment helped set up and run energy projects with great success.

“Window of Opportunity to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change is Fast Shrinking’

By Stella Paul
INCHEON, South Korea, Oct 9 2019 – “The window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic climate change is fast shrinking,” executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Yannick Glemarec, tells IPS.

He was speaking at the GCF Private Investment for Climate (GPIC) Conference, which took place in Incheon, South Korea, from Oct. 7 to 9. The conference has been an important platform to encourage greater dialogue among investors on the barriers they face, share past and current investment experiences and exchange innovative ideas while assuring them of all assistance and support by GCF.

“When I started my career 30 years ago though we had 80 years before we would cross the 2 ° Celsius threshold. Today we face the real risk of crossing it within 20 to 30 years or 40 years,” Glemarec says.

Executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Yannick Glemarec speaks to IPS from the GCF Private Investment for Climate (GPIC) Conference, which took place in Incheon, South Korea, from Oct. 7 to 9 about the need for scaling up private investment for climate projects. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

“In addition what we have found over the past fews years is that 2 ° Celsius might be already far too much for a number of countries for a number of communities for a number of ecosystems. We thought, for example, that we would not see major threats to ecosystems before an increase of temperature to 3, 4, 5, 6° Celsius. Today we believe that coral reefs could be wiped out by the time we reach 2 ° Celsius,” he says.

In this interview with IPS, Glemarec candidly shares his views on the urgency of more actions in both climate mitigation and adaptation and also the urgent requirement of more finances to make these actions possible.

He also shares some details about how GCF is working to mobilise these finances, especially from private investors as public money is not enough to meet the massive needs. Finally, he shares some examples of positive leadership by GCF in developing countries where private investment helped set up and run energy projects with great success.

The Most Important Meeting You’ve Never Heard Of — & the Grand Challenge on Inequality

Credit: United Nations

By Ben Phillips
MEXICO CITY, Oct 9 2019 – Last month 195 world leaders once again met in New York for big speeches and grand events. But on inequality, when all is said and done, more has been said than done.

Four years after governments across the world committed to fight inequality as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, far too little has been seen in the way of government action. That’s not the verdict of critical NGOs – that’s the official assessment of UN Secretary-General António Guterres himself.

As Guterres told countries, adding only the thinnest diplomatic coating, “the shift in development pathways to generate the transformation required to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required.”

Indeed, he noted, “the global landscape for Sustainable Development Goal implementation has generally deteriorated since 2015”. It is in this context that the UN has called for a “decade of delivery” following five years in which we the people have been able to feast on words whilst fasting on action.

For years, grassroots organisations have been sounding the alarm about the damage being caused by widening inequality. More recently, the formal debate on inequality shifted and the accepted mainstream normative position has become that inequality is dangerous and needs to be reduced.

The UN has also stepped up in providing coordination and advice. But governments have not shifted in recognition of the new consensus. Cynicism about whether anything will be done has taken root amongst even the most hopeful observers.

And the big headlines from this year’s UN General Assembly did very little to counter that cynicism, dominated as they were by the world’s loudest leaders, who seem to make up for an absence of substance with a surfeit of bombast.

Quietly, on the sidelines, however, another group met to plan not a communique on the stage but a series of actions at home. It was not a huge group of countries, just a dozen, but it included countries from every region of the world and every income level.

They met not because they think they have the answers, but because they are keen to learn from each other and to act. From Indonesia to Sierra Leone to Sweden to Mexico, they and others gathered in the first heads of state and government meeting of the Grand Challenge on Inequality, a new multi-stakeholder initiative to support vanguard governments, committed to tackling inequality, in finding the path by walking it.

Then, even more crucially, these same leaders mandated senior leaders and officials – the doers – to gather just after the New York meetings in Mexico City, and then in a few months in Jakarta, and onwards, to plan the implementation of a series of practical country-specific policies to narrow the gap between the runaway few and the many pushed behind.

You haven’t heard about this meeting because the leaders don’t believe that they have yet earned the right to declare themselves the leaders. Saint Francis of Assisi said “Preach the Gospel, and if you must, use words.”

In a similar spirit, the country leaders in the Grand Challenge on Inequality recognized, in the New York and in Mexico City meetings, that the power of their commitment to tackling inequality will be shown not in what they say but in what they do.

They recognized that there is no single policy that on its own can beat inequality, and so a series of complementary policies year on year is needed. They recognized that tackling inequality means taking on vested interests: that it means progressive tax and universal public services, it means protected workers and regulated corporations, it means designing policy from the bottom-up not the top-down, and it means tackling the wealth and power of the very wealthy.

As part of that, they opened themselves up to forthright challenge from grassroots social movements and trade unions, and shared what they as leaders were finding most challenging and the lessons they had learnt from their mistakes. It was, I’ll confess, something of a shock to hear leaders start off not with justifications but with self-criticism.

It was a world away from the (in)famous “Big Men Who Strode New York”. In a world saturated by the fake, to witness sincerity was disorientating.

It is early days for the pioneer governments Grand Challenge on Inequality, but, as a witness and as someone who has spent years bluntly challenging governments for their failures, here’s why it matters: social transformation doesn’t happen when people recognize that ther society is unfair – it happens when people also recognize that it can be fairer.

And that depends on people witnessing change, somewhere. Cynicism and despair are ultimately tools of the status quo. There is nothing more dangerous to those who would keep things as they are than the threat of a good example.

And, quietly, this group of countries, of leaders who do not call themselves leaders, are starting to build that good example. Oxfam have started to call this group of governments the “axis of hope”. Perhaps these governments could be more prosaically named the “axis of action”.

Grassroots organising will remain essential to help foster leaders’ determination, and to push back against the pressures that will continue to be exerted by economic elites. There is no certainty that change is coming. But there is no longer certainty that it isn’t. And the sound that accompanies this change is not the bang of fireworks. It is a quiet whirring of hard work.