Truth as War Causality? The Case of Ethiopia

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM, Jan 5 2022 – A brutal drama is unfolding in Ethiopia and it is difficult to find straightforward accounts of what is happening there. However, this does not prevent people from taking a unilateral stand for either of the factions involved in the disaster.

Since November 2020, a ruthless civil war has caused immense misery, especially in the northern parts of the country. Tens of thousands have been killed, about 2 million persons are left homeless, while famine affects 9 million. It has been extremely difficult for journalists to enter the affected areas and the outside world has to rely on information from the warring parties. As is the case of any armed conflict – propaganda, dubious reporting and outright lies are prevalent.

During World War I, the US Senator Hiram Johnson stated that “The first casualty when war comes, is truth” and any armed conflict seems to prove this fact with recent examples from the Gulf War, the conflict between NATO and Serbia over Kosovo, as well as the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Government manipulation is supported by media complicity, as evidenced by the embedding of reporters in military units and an uncritical, openly patriotic coverage of conflicts.

In his history of war journalism, The First Casualty, the Australian author Phillip Knightley stated that ”the age of the war correspondent as hero, appears to be over.” Even if global networks are becoming ever more efficient, making their presence felt all over the world, it is nevertheless extremely difficult to discern what is true or false. Too many vested interests are at stake, though no one can deny that every war is a disaster.

While ingesting scanty news from Ethiopia I am reminded of an interview I in 1997 did with Guatemala’s Archbishop Juan José Gerardi Condera. He was an open-minded and jocular man in charge of a project called Recovering Historic Memory, REHMI, which documented violence against civilians during Guatemala’s 36 years of civil war, in particular the ruthless killing of members of the country’s indigenous population.

One year after our meeting, Bishop Gerardi presented a report entitled Nunca Más, Never Again, which was notably damning to the Guatemalan military. Two days after the release of the report, Gerardi was found bludgeoned to death in the garage of his villa. His skull and face were crushed and it was only through his episcopal ring that he could be identified.

During our talk Bishop Gerardi had told me:

    I do not know if we were right or wrong when we began preaching a gospel highlighting human rights. We intended to preach not only through words, but through deeds as well. With the support of the local, rural population we organized development committees which constructed schools, clinics and community centres. I assure you that as soon as you try to improve the physical and psychological well-being of your neighbour, especially our most poor, vulnerable and humble sisters and brothers, you become defenselessly entangled in the nets of politics and are thus destined to make powerful enemies. We started a wildfire. Soon our catechists were being murdered. No respect and mercy whatsoever were shown to the clergy. They called us Communists and several of us were executed. The severed head of one of my priests was found on the steps to his church. If someone takes up arms … violence and injustice cannot be avoided. It does not matter whether murderous measures are considered to be fair or not. The result is always the same – death and misery for all involved, and especially for the wretched ones who happen to be innocent.

On 2 April 2018, Abiy Ahmed was by the Ethiopian parliament sworn in as Prime Minster of Ethiopia. His accession was greeted with cheers and a sense of relief. After three years of massive protests, the ruling political constellation EPRDF, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, had begun to crack. The head of government resigned and the old guard sought a replacement whom they assumed they could be able control. However, Abiy Ahmed surprised everyone when he signaled resolute action and initiated sweeping reforms. During his first months in power, Abiy’s popularity was tremendous, especially in the capital Addis Ababa. His inspirational speeches were applauded, while his picture could be seen almost everywhere; in shop windows, on restaurant walls, and taped to cars and lorries. Large crowds marched along the main streets, chanting his name, declaring that Ethiopia now had been redeemed after decades of oppression.

Abiy Ahmed appointed a new government with 50 percent women ministers. Thousands of political prisoners were released. The country’s anti-terrorism law, widely perceived as a tool of political repression, was amended. Opposition groups, including those who had fled the country, were welcomed to discuss Ethiopia’s future. A female president was appointed, while democratic elections and a new constitution were promised. The border between Ethiopia and Eritrea was opened and air services between the capitals were resumed.

However, by the beginning of 2020, the cheers had subsided. Pictures of the Prime Minister had been torn down and replaced by others that depicted ancient rulers; like the mythical hero emperor Tewodros, the last emperor Haile Selassie and, strangely enough, the blood-stained dictator Mengistu. What had happened?

During his acceptance speech, Abiy had promised political reforms and an active promotion of unity among the peoples of Ethiopia. He soon reached out to the Eritrean government to resolve the ongoing Eritrean–Ethiopian border conflict, a protracted strife that frequently had exploded in fierce warfare. A free press became permitted, while State monopolies in the telecommunications, aviation, electricity, and logistics sectors were being dismantled and industries were opened up to private sector competition.

Abiy’s attempts at comprehensive reforms was a risky balancing act. Ethiopia is not really a nation-state, it is more of a conglomerate of ethnic entities. Among the country’s 115 million inhabitants, 80 million consider themselves to belong to different ethnic groups. Members of the Amharic population group have, along with the closely related Tigrayans, since the establishment of the medieval kingdom of Abyssinia been state leaders. Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group – the Oromos – was incorporated into Abyssinia in the 16th century. Abiy Ahmed bridged ethnicities and religions. His father is Oromo and Muslim, his mother Amhara and Orthodox Christian, while he himself is member of The Ethiopian Full Gospel Believers’ Church, a Pentecostal Movement. He has a Master in Business Administration and a PhD in Peace and Security Studies.

Abiy was initially focused on dialogue between different ethnicities and political fractions, but in step with his reform attempts difficulties arose almost everywhere. Worst has been the situation in the Tigray region, situated along the border with Eritrea. Leaders from that area had for almost 30 years through a superior military power, authoritarian rule, censorship and a tight political system, which nevertheless allowed for a certain ethnical/linguistical autonomy, succeeded in stimulating economic growth and an expanding infrastructure. However after the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenaw in 2012, corruption increased and opposition grew stronger.

Abiy’s economic reforms, the release of political prisoners and limitations to censorship worried many of his Tigranian colleagues and some of them were directly affected by a crackdown on corruption. Realizing that Abiy could not be controlled, some Tigranian politicians began moving north to their home region, instead of awaiting trial in Addis Ababa. The Tigrayan suspicion of Abiy increased and the region’s leading party Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) refused to join Abiy’s Prosperity Coalition, accusing him of discriminating against Tigrayans and claiming that the agreement with Eritrea was a ”largely unimplemented” scam. When elections scheduled for August 2020 were postponed with reference to a menacing COVID situation, TPLF organized a regional election in Tigray, where they won a landslide victory.

On the night of November 4, 2020, TPLF forces broke into several military bases in Tigray urging soldiers and officers to join TPLF. Those who refused were overpowered, or killed. Weapon stockpiles were looted, among them long-range missiles. The federal government declared that TPLF had committed high treason and ordered the army to go on the offensive. Since then Ethiopia has been devoured by a cruel civil war.

Due to restrictions and censorship, evidence-based information barely seeps out, while a rich flora of rumors is dominating social media and the international press. It has become difficult to distinguish between factual information and abundant exaggerations and distortions. Nevertheless, it is evident that war crimes have been committed by both warring fractions.

The Ethiopian government has lost the information war. Communication to the international media has been scarce, with an emphasis on military success, while civilian abuses are blamed on the TPLF and Eritrean intervention is denied. This while TPLF during its years in government was able to build up a wide network of sympathizers around the world, which has been mobilized during the war, influencing foreign politicians and international media.

TLPF forces were close to reaching Addis Ababa, but in mid-December last year, the Government gained the upper hand, after deploying heavy weapons, including drones, provided by China, Russia and Turkey. On December 19, the TLPF declared itself ready to withdraw its forces to Tigray, hopes for peace negotiations are growing, together with wishes that the suffering of the Ethiopian people finally will come to an end.

I assume my summarized description of Abiy´s reform attempts and the war they resulted in is as flawed as most reporting coming out of Ethiopia, based as it is on media, my own perceptions and especially writings and reports by a friend whose knowledge and insights I esteem. Let us hope that peace is achieved and that the thorny issues that internally harass Ethiopia, as well as this nation’s relations with other countries might find a nonviolent solution.

 


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Discriminatory Sexual Violence Laws in Latin America Stigmatize Adolescent Victims of Abuse

By Barbara Jimenez-Santiago
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 5 2022 – Across Latin America and the Caribbean there is a culture of impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. Crimes against women and girls often go unpunished and under-reported due to societal misconceptions about victimhood and the nature of sex crimes.

The stigmatization of survivors and the permissive attitude toward abusers is reinforced by discriminatory laws that perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes.

Equality Now recently undertook an analysis of rape laws across the Americas region and what we found were woefully insufficient laws that failed to adequately prevent sexual violence and ensure justice for women and girls who have been violated. One of the most common yet insidious forms of legal loopholes that we found in Latin America specifically were so-called “estupro provisions.”

Estupro provisions, which provide for a lesser penalty for adults who rape adolescents above the legal age of consent than for children or adult women, are based on the idea that adolescents seduce and tempt older men into assaulting them or that older men seduce impressionable and naive teenagers into sexual acts.

This interpretation suggests a notion of a hierarchy of rape where some perpetrators are deemed less guilty than others for effectively the same crime and some victims are implied to be less harmed by the experience and so less deserving of justice.

These laws are rooted in outdated perceptions about chastity, morality, and female sexuality and enable prosecutors to argue that adolescent victims manipulated their aggressor into abusing them. Estupro laws and provisions perpetuate the idea that a victim is, at least partially, responsible for the crimes committed against her.

Estupro is often wrongly defined on the internet as “statutory rape,” but these two charges are not the same. Statutory rape, used commonly in penal codes of the United States of America, refers to what would otherwise be considered consensual sex, except that it involves a minor whose young age means that the law deems her or him incapable of being able to consent.

The penalty for statutory rape is often higher than for other categories of rape, whereas for estupro there is a lesser penalty.

For our report on rape laws in the Americas, Failure to Protect: How Discriminatory Sexual Violence Laws and Practices are Hurting, Women, Girls and Adolescents in the Americas, we interviewed Doña Petita, a woman whose daughter Paola was raped by a school vice principal in Ecuador.

Paola tragically killed herself after she became pregnant and was pressured by her abuser to have an abortion. Her femicide followed sustained abuse and grooming by an adult man who manipulated his position of power and her trust in him.

Doña Petita was unable to get support following the tragic death of her adolescent daughter. Not from the school, not from law enforcement, and not from the courts. Paola’s rapist was a very powerful man in the community who had access to lawyers, resources, and political connections that Doña Petita did not.

Additionally, Paola’s community did not perceive her as the victim that she was, but as an equally culpable actor in the abuse that she suffered. As Doña Petita told us: “Paola was a girl and he was a man in his 60s but people blamed my daughter, saying that she must have seduced him. They didn’t understand that he was an old man manipulating her and not the other way around. She was the victim.”

Estupro laws reinforce the concept of victim-blaming, thus it is not surprising that Ecuador is one of the 17 jurisdictions found in our report to have such provisions. In practice, estupro provisions are often used to circumvent application of the rape offense, thus minimizing the crime and implying that the sex act was not an act of violence.

By applying estupro provisions, prosecutors and judges perpetuate the myth that it is adolescent girls who are treacherously seductive and manipulative, preying on helpless adult men. As demonstrated by the case of Paola, these harmful myths and gender stereotypes have far-reaching impacts.

Justice was elusive for Doña Petita in her home country of Ecuador. She pursued three different courses of legal action, but in each instance her case was dismissed. Her daughter’s abuser fled the country and was never held accountable for his crimes.

Thanks to Doña Petita’s ceaseless determination and the efforts of the non-profit organizations Centro Ecuatoriano para la Promoción y Acción de la Mujer (CEPAM-Guayaquil) and the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held Ecuador responsible for failing to protect Paola and violating her rights to life, personal integrity, private life and dignity; her right to enjoy special protection from the State as a child; her right to equality and non-discrimination; her right to education; and her right to live free from gender violence.

The Court’s ruling is a victory not just for Paola and Doña Petita, but for girls throughout the region. However, Doña Petita should not have had to wait 18 years for justice – she should have been able to rely on national laws to protect her daughter and hold her daughter’s abuser to account. so that.

If that had happened, Paola would have been recognized for the exploitation she suffered and offered support services and she might still be alive today. But sexual violence laws across the region, like the ones that Paola encountered, are failing women, girls, and adolescents resulting in tragic outcomes.

Discriminatory laws, like estupro provisions, not only deny victims justice but they legitimize the practice of victim-blaming by suggesting that an adult perpetrator could be seduced or tricked into have sex with a minor. Latin American governments must act now to repeal any existing estupro provisions.

This reform must be complemented by a complete overhaul of sexual violence laws, including adopting consent-based definitions of rape, to ensure that adolescent girls and all survivors are protected from sexual violence in all circumstances.

Reforming sexual violence laws will both allow survivors of sexual violence access to dignified justice but will play a critical role in shaping the way that society understands sexual and gender-based violence.

Barbara Jimenez-Santiago is Latin American Regional Representative for Equality Now

 


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Conagen Successfully Develops Antioxidant Kaempferol by Precision Fermentation

Bedford, Mass., Jan. 05, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Conagen, the Massachusetts–based biotechnology innovator, announced the successful development of antioxidant kaempferol produced by state–of–the–art, proprietary, precision fermentation. As a biotechnology company specializing in developing commercially valuable molecules for its partners and clients, Conagen's kaempferol enables brands in nutrition, beauty, and personal care products to adopt a more natural position by formulating with clean and sustainable kaempferol.

Recognized as one of nature's most potent antioxidants, kaempferol is a flavonoid with health–promoting properties found in tea, fruits, and vegetables, especially rich in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.

Rising consumer awareness towards chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes drives the kaempferol market demand. The global kaempferol market may exceed $6.5 billion by 2025, according to a recent research report by Global Market Insights, Inc.

"We're bringing to market a pure and natural kaempferol at affordable prices that were not possible or available until now," said Casey Lippmeier, Ph.D. vice president of innovation at Conagen. "Conagen's scalable, precision fermentation for producing flavonoids like kaempferol is more efficient and sustainable than what can be achieved with the chemically–synthesized or botanically–sourced molecule.”

Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds commonly found in plants and are a significant part of the human diet. They are biosynthesized by plants and fungi as secondary metabolites and comprise a diverse group of phytonutrients.

Plants protect themselves and their fruits against biological intruders such as fungi and bacteria by using phenolic phytochemicals, including flavonoids. Accordingly, kaempferol provides powerful anti–microbial, anti–inflammatory, and immune system benefits to humans.

Dietary kaempferol in multiple studies has demonstrated a wide range of promising beneficial activities, primarily as an anti–inflammatory and antioxidant, for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, especially cancer.

Prolonged oxidative stress leads to premature aging and can trigger many degenerative diseases and cancer. Kaempferol's powerful antioxidant property can help the body's defense against free radicals that promote cancer development.

Conagen derived kaempferol from its molecular platform for flavonoid antioxidants, including the previously announced molecules: DHQ, also known as Taxifolin, p–coumaric acid, hydroxytyrosol, and rosmarinic acid. The development of natural kaempferol is good news for Conagen's commercialization partner, Blue California, as kaempferol will expand its offerings of specialty ingredient solutions.

“This launch further demonstrates our talent for delivering innovative compounds which are ideal for dietary supplements and "clean–label' ingredients for functional foods, beverages, and cosmetics,” said Lippmeier. "Our vision for promoting health and wellness is to continuously leverage our precision fermentation capabilities for high–quality phenolic and flavonoid phytonutrients, thus confirming our position as a leader in the development of strains and processes for making clean–label ingredients and nutraceuticals.”

Blue California has a long–standing partnership with biotechnology innovator Conagen. Conagen focuses on developing sustainable, nature–based ingredients that improve existing options in the market or represent completely novel ingredient solutions.

###

About Conagen

Conagen is a product–focused, synthetic biology R&D company with large–scale contract manufacturing capabilities. Our scientists and engineers use the latest synthetic biology tools to develop high–quality, sustainable, nature–based products by precision fermentation and enzymatic bioconversion. We focus on the bioproduction of high–value ingredients for food, nutrition, flavors and fragrances, pharmaceutical, and renewable materials industries. www.conagen.com

About Blue California

Blue California is a vertically integrated technology company providing innovative ingredient solutions to global partners. With more than 20 years of innovation success, our ingredients are used in commercial products and applications in nutrition, personal care, healthy aging and wellness, functional food and beverage, and beauty. www.bluecal–ingredients.com

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Environmental Disasters Creating More Migrants Within Countries – Podcast

By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Jan 5 2022 – In the final months of 2021 you likely saw countless media reports of migrant men, women and children getting blocked at borders trying to enter various countries. Two flashpoints were the Mexico-US border and the border between Poland and Belarus, but there were many others.

What you likely didn’t learn from the media was what happened to tens of millions of people who left home, often as a last option, because of conflicts or an environmental emergency but who relocated—at least temporarily—to another part of their own country. Nearly 40 million people in 149 countries made such moves in 2020, an astounding 75% of them for climate or environmental hazards. (The others were displaced by conflict). Today we’re speaking about this with Diogo Serraglio of the South American Network for Environmental Migration, or RESAMA.

Here in Nepal the annual monsoon usually spawns destructive and deadly floods and landslides that shatter the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of people. Many of them rig up temporary homes almost immediately or are housed in emergency shelters nearby until they can rebuild on their land. But in some cases the displaced simply give up and leave, hoping to recreate their lives in a new place. Eventually, if things go well, they will be absorbed into the neighbourhood and the larger community.

Diogo tells me this is a normal scenario globally—people who migrate to a new place within a country find themselves on their own to construct a new life. But, work IS happening to create international frameworks to provide direction on how displaced people should be treated; the challenge is to translate those peerless promises into hot meals and housing where people actually end up. Covid-19 has made that much more difficult, explains Diogo.

One note before we start—Diogo refers to the UNFCCC. That is the acronym of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that hosted COP26 last November and the 25 previous meetings.

Please listen now to my conversation with Diogo Serraglio.

 

 

people who migrate to a new place within a country find themselves on their own to construct a new life. But, work IS happening to create international frameworks to provide direction on how displaced people should be treated; the challenge is to translate those peerless promises into hot meals and housing where people actually end up.

Free at Last: Trafficked Woman’s Story a Warning to Other Vulnerable Job Seekers

Desperate for work Kamikazi put her faith in ‘agents’ to find her a job. Instead, she found herself working without pay as a domestic worker in Kuwait. Photo: Aimable Twahirwa/IPS

By Aimable Twahirwa
KIGALI, Rwanda, Jan 5 2022 – When Kamikazi * from Gisagara, a district in Southern Rwanda, was forced to quit her job due to COVID-19 last year, she desperately sought other employment.

A former co-worker in the food processing firm where Kamikazi once worked introduced her to “agents”. They assured her she would find decent employment in the Middle East, but little did she know her co-worker had delivered her into the arms of human traffickers.

The following day, with her passport in hand, the 22-year-old approached the agent, who told her to pay about 300 US dollars as a facilitation fee.

“One day, I received a call from the agent who told me that I had to travel to Kenya where I would secure my visa to Kuwait,” Kamikazi told IPS.

At the border between Tanzania and Kenya, the young woman met other members of the human trafficking syndicate who helped her to cross into Kenya unnoticed before travelling by road to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

In Nairobi, she and the ‘agents’ hid residential house with several other young women of different African nationalities. Driven by fear and desperation, she continued with the ruse until the group finally boarded a plane to Kuwait.

“I was told that domestic workers from our region (East Africa) were more highly valued in Kuwait than those from other countries,” she says.

Kamikazi recalls her arrival. The traffickers took their passports and held her and some other young women prisoner in an apartment.

“We believed them because my hope was that the new opportunity would help change my life for the better,” she told IPS.

However, her hopes for a better future were soon dashed.

She was “hired’ by a family – but found herself locked up and unpaid. And if it suited them, her employers would swap the domestic workers between themselves.

“I didn’t have any valid travel document, and I was treated like an animal being traded by one family to another,” she said. To make matters worse, she realised that her ex-colleague, whom she considered a close friend, was responsible for her situation.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in most countries in the Middle East, domestic workers are excluded from labour law, which means they have no social, health or legal protection.

Domestic workers suffer from particularly arduous conditions, and their situation is all the more vulnerable because most countries have no laws governing their employment, the report said. Because they are excluded from labour law provisions, written employment contracts are not required.

Victims of human traffickers often become sexually exploited, forced into labour, slavery and can become victims of organ removal and sale.

Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) has warned that thousands of people fall prey to traffickers who portray themselves as recruitment agents. Vulnerable young women seeking greener pastures fall prey to these traffickers.

Latest estimates by UN Women indicate that while it’s challenging to get exact numbers of victims, the vast majority of detected trafficking victims are women and girls, and three out of four are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Recent cases of maids being mistreated and assaulted by their employers in the Middle East have shone a light on domestic workers’ hidden and unregulated conditions.

In many cases, these women work illegally, which means they have little protection if their employers abuse them.

With tears in her eyes, Kamikazi remembers her first hours with her new employee.

“After confiscating my passport, I was told to stay at home (…) I was like in a cage,” Kamikazi said.

A typical working day started as early as 4 am and ended at midnight or later. There were no days off, and there was no going out unless to accompany the family somewhere.

“I had to take care of the house pets in addition to cooking, cleaning, washing clothes (…) I wanted to escape because I was abused by my employer but had no idea where to turn,” she said.

Whereas Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) findings indicate that the majority of the victims are intercepted at the point of exit – either at the airport or the different border points of the country – evidence shows there are cases where young women are trafficked to neighbouring countries as a transit for commercial sexual exploitation in the Gulf countries.

An investigation by law enforcement institutions in Rwanda found at least 47 local-based syndicate members were trafficking women from Rwanda to work abroad. As a result, 49 individuals, including company owners, were arrested and prosecuted in courts of law in 2018, according to judicial reports.

The trend shows an upward trajectory, with 131 trafficking victims identified in 2020, compared with 96 victims in 2019.

Like Kamikazi, most human trafficking victims are enticed from villages and towns with false promises of gainful employment abroad.

Studies have proven that when families are economically unstable, the vulnerability of children increases. Traffickers prey on such families by making false promises of a new job, augmented income, better living conditions and financial support abroad.

Even though Rwanda has a strict anti-trafficking law that penalises sex and labour trafficking with up to 15 years of imprisonment, the RIB Secretary-General, Jeannot Ruhunga, is convinced that trafficking, especially women and children, continues to be a serious challenge faced by the international community.

Speaking during the workshop ‘Law enforcement officers & Criminal Justice practitioners’ workshop under the theme: Combating Trafficking in Human Beings with a Multi-stakeholders’ approach for Central and East Africa, the senior Rwandan police investigator noted that organised trafficking in persons is transboundary. It’s a global problem but seriously affects Central and East Africa.

“The most important is about how countries work together to address challenges encountered during the investigation and prosecution of this transboundary offence and to strengthen cooperation and mutual assistance,” Ruhunga said.

According to data from the Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration, the majority of suspected human trafficking victims identified in Rwanda were from Burundi (62.7%), followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (15%) and Rwanda (13.6%).

Case data by the National Public Prosecution Authority reveal between 2016 and 2018, most perpetrators were male (63%), with females still comprising a substantial percentage of traffickers (37%).

The 2019 study conducted by Rwandan NGO Never Again Rwanda stresses that the effective management of national borders constitutes a critical component of inhibiting human trafficking because it functions to deter criminals and identify victims.

The research found that the primary transit countries for trafficking in East Africa are Uganda, Kenya, and, to a lesser extent, Tanzania. Uganda ranks first, followed by Kenya and Tanzania as destinations for trafficking.

Dr Joseph Ryarasa Nkurunziza, Executive Director of Never Again Rwanda, told IPS that awareness and education are key to beating human trafficking in Rwanda.

“Awareness is important considering that the pandemic has worsened the situation for many vulnerable groups which are now more prone to human trafficking,” Nkurunziza said.

For Kamikazi, her ordeal has come to an end. After being forced to work night and day and kept prisoner in her employer’s home, she was rescued after asking assistance from a businesswoman in Kuwait.

Her rescuer contacted the Rwandan Embassy in Dubai.

“It seemed like my employer didn’t want to give back my passport, but the Kuwait Police told them to give it to me.”

*Kamikazi’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

This is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN )  is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.
The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalization of indifference, such as exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking”.

 


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Population Ageing: An Inescapable Future

Population ageing is an inescapable demographic future, increasingly challenging governments and the public, who are by and large ill prepared for that certain future

Governments and the public need to recognize, understand and respond to the ageing of human populations in the 21st century, which is the inescapable demographic future of nations worldwide. Credit: Maricel Sequeira/IPS

By Joseph Chamie
PORTLAND, USA, Jan 5 2022 – The ageing of human populations is an inescapable demographic future. That evolving and universal future is increasingly challenging governments and the public, who are by and large ill prepared for that certain future.

Whereas the 20th century was one of record setting rapid population growth with world population nearly quadrupling, the 21st century is one of unprecedented population ageing with its economic, social and political consequences reverberating across countries worldwide.

Whereas the 20th century was one of record setting rapid population growth with world population nearly quadrupling, the 21st century is one of unprecedented population ageing with its economic, social and political consequences reverberating across countries worldwide

In addition to influencing the existing world order, population ageing is affecting fundamental aspects of human societies. Among those aspects are economic activities, investments, taxes, budgets, labor forces, politics, defense, education, housing, household structures, transportation, recreation, retirement, pensions, disabilities and healthcare.

Population ageing, which is taking place at a much faster pace than in the past, is basically the result of lower birth rates and increased longevity. While in the 1960s the world’s total fertility rate and life expectancy at birth were 5 births per woman and 50 years, current levels are 2.4 births per woman and 73 years for average life expectancy at birth.

Due to the fundamental changes in the levels of fertility and mortality, the age structure of the world’s population has aged significantly. In the 1960s, for example, the median age of world population was 22 years and the proportion aged 65 years and older was 5 percent; today the median age has increased to 32 years and the elderly are 10 percent of world population.

In addition, the proportion of the elderly aged 80 years and older has tripled since 1960, increasing from about 0.6 to 2 percent and is expected to double to 4 percent by 2050. Increased longevity has also resulted in significantly more centenarians. The number of centenarians is expected to more than quintuple over the coming thirty years, growing from approximately 600 thousand today to 3.2 million by mid-century.

Worldwide the current number of persons aged 65 years and older worldwide is approximately 750 million. That number is expected to more than double over the next three decades, reaching 1.5 billion older persons by 2050. As a result, the world’s proportion of older persons is projected to increase from 10 to 16 percent, or about one of every six people in the world will be in the age group 65 years and older.

At the national level, nearly all the G20 countries, which together account for more than 80 percent of world GDP, 75 percent of global trade and 60 percent of world population, are expected to have no less than one-quarter of their populations aged 65 years and older by 2100. And eight of those countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the Republic of Korea, are expected to have one-third or more of their population aged 65 years and older by the close of the century (Figure 1).

 

Population ageing is an inescapable demographic future. That evolving and universal future is increasingly challenging governments and the public, who are by and large ill prepared for that certain future

Source: United Nations.

 

Due to the increasing elderly retired population coupled with the relative decline of workers paying taxes and contributing to pension retirement systems, many countries are confronting difficult choices. Governments are being challenged by budgetary allocations, taxation levels, retirement benefits and provision of social and health services, especially for the growing numbers of those aged 65 years and older.

Aiming to avoid controversial budgetary reforms and unpopular tax increases, some governments are reducing expenditures and entitlements for the elderly and shifting more of the costs for support, care giving and health services to the individual and their families. In many instances, however, most households are unable or reluctant to take on the time-consuming responsibilities and considerable costs involved in caring for elderly family members.

The proportion of older persons who live alone has grown steadily over the recent past. Also, those 65 years and older are in the age group that is most likely to live alone. The average proportion of older persons living alone among OECD countries is about 33 percent, with highs of more than 40 percent among some countries, such as Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Sweden (Figure 2).

 

Population ageing is an inescapable demographic future, increasingly challenging governments and the public, who are by and large ill prepared for that certain future

Source: OECD.

 

Like the influenza pandemic in the early part of the 20th century, the current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in declines in life expectancy and significant increases in the numbers of deaths, especially among the elderly and those with health problems.

Although it is difficult to say precisely when the current pandemic will end, international population projections generally expect mortality levels to continue their declines in the coming years resulting in higher life expectancies during the 21st century.

The ageing of populations, especially among the militarily powerful nations, may possibly contribute to efforts to secure world peace. As governments face growing numbers and proportions of their citizens aged 65 years and older, the needs, concerns and perspectives of the elderly men and women may lead to reductions in military expenditures and increased spending on benefits, assistance and care for those in old age.

Given the population ageing of nations, governments need to adopt policies and establish programs to address the growing consequences of population ageing. In doing so, it is important to note that immigration is not a solution to population ageing.

Immigration can certainly increase the size of labor force and significant proportions of the labor forces in many countries are immigrants. However, immigration is not a solution to population ageing because the immigrants also age over time and eventually add their numbers to the retired elderly population.

In contrast, raising the retirement age for government benefits is an effective policy to address population ageing. Raising the retirement age to 70 years would increase the size of the labor force. At the same time, a higher retirement age would also reduce the number of recipients receiving government pension benefits.

The use of robots, artificial intelligence and advanced technology to assist and provide services, information and companionship to the growing numbers of older persons should also be expanded. Such an expansion would that reduce labor demands and costs of providing such care and assistance. Also, it would be more efficient and effective in addressing common health conditions of people in old age.

Public programs are also needed to educate and provide information to people about the need for life-long learning and preparing for retirement, especially developing a savings plan to meet their needs in old age. Such programs should also promote healthy ageing and encourage older persons to keep active and physically fit and remain socially engaged with others.

In sum, governments and the public need to recognize, understand and respond to the ageing of human populations in the 21st century, which is the inescapable demographic future of nations worldwide.

 

Joseph Chamie is a consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters.”