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Japan and South Korea Are Locked in A Bitter Dispute With Global Implications

UN Dispatch - 5. September 2019 - 16:48

Japan and South Korea are in the throws of a dispute – and its getting worse. What was a trade war escalated to the security realm last month when the South Korean government announced that it was pulling out of a key intelligence sharing agreement with Tokyo. This agreement enabled the real-time sharing of key intelligence as it related to common threats, including from North Korea.

Needless to say, amid a growing threat from North Korea, which is regularly testing missiles that could reach both countries, this dispute between South Korea and Japan poses a big risk for international security.

So why are two key US allies that share a common adversary at such loggerheads? And what does a frayed relationship between Seoul and Tokyo mean for regional security and international relations more broadly?

On the line with me to answer these questions and more is Andrew Yeo, associate professor of politics at the Catholic University of America. We kick off talking through the World War Two era origins of this conflict before having a longer conversation about the global implications of a dispute between Japan and South Korea.

If you have twenty minutes and want to learn why historical grievances have become hyper-relevant in East Asia — and why relations are poised to get worse between these two countries, have a listen.

 

Get the Global Dispatches Podcast Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  Stitcher  | Google Play Music​  | Radio Public

Read Andrew Yeo’s Washington Post piece. 

The post Japan and South Korea Are Locked in A Bitter Dispute With Global Implications appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Yet another economic tsunami

D+C - 5. September 2019 - 15:01
Inflation is once again plunging masses of Zimbabweans into poverty

When consumer prices rise so fast, people`s savings lose their value. Poverty is worsening once again. Inflation was actually even worse a decade ago. Back then, money was being devalued at an astronomical rate of more than 200 million per cent. The authorities only got a grip on the problem by entirely abandoning the national currency. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai adopted the US dollar instead. He was serving an awkward coalition government under then-President Robert Mugabe, the independent leader who recently passed away. He was a an autocratic strongman who had stayed in power for almost four decades.

Zimbabwe has not had the currency of its own since 2009. Nonetheless, problems are increasing again. Two years ago, Mugabe was ousted by the military. The reason was that he had tried to install his wife Grace as his successor. Emerson Mnangagwa, his deputy of many years, and other leading members of ZANU-PF, the ruling partner, disagreed. Mnangagwa is now president.

Earlier this year, the government banned the use of the dollar. The main problem was that it had been becoming scarce quite some time. At the end of Mugabe's reign, the government had introduced dollar-denominated bonds to make up for the shortfall, but as people preferred real greenbacks to those bonds, the latter's black market exchange-rate kept deteriorating. The government later introduced a digitised equivalent called RTGS dollar, with RTGS standing for real-time gross settlement. The exchange-rate problem persisted. The US dollar kept appreciating.

Therefore, the government this year decided that neither the dollar nor other foreign currencies should be used for payments in Zimbabwe. That decision accelerated the crisis, so the country is now engulfed in another economic tsunami, which still seems to be gathering momentum. It is making headlines and repelling potential foreign investors. People are angry, with many struggling to afford even the most basic food. At the same time, the government is showing ever less respect for human rights and desperate attempts to stay in control of things. Violent force has been used to crush protests, with people being killed and wounded. 

One thing that is particularly awkward, is that Zimbabweans do not know what currency they are supposed to be using. Neither the bond notes nor the RTGS dollar are a real currency. The first exist on paper, the second is electronic. The government has announced that they will reintroduce the Zimbabwean dollar, but so far, that has not happened. For the time being, the authorities consider the bond notes and the RTGS dollar Zimbabwe's legal tender.

In spite of the ban, the US dollar and other foreign currencies are still being used in secret. Not only informal traders prefer it to the domestic alternatives. About 90% of employment is in the informal sector, which only allows most people meagre livelihoods, but is largely unsupervised by government agencies. It also matters that many consumer goods are imported, either from neighbouring countries or further beyond. The dollar prices are comparatively stable, so nobody really wants to be stuck with fast depreciating monetary items of merely national relevance.

The government, of course, uses those items, and that means that its workers’ wages have been rendered worthless. Civil servants have heard promises that they will get better pay, but so far that has not happened. The situation is similarly tough for people in formalised private employment.

Back in 2009, the response to hyperinflation was the shift to the US dollar. In a similar setting today, the government is commandeering the public to revert to a so far only improvised local currency. The policy is unconvincing, to put it mildly. As John Robertson, an economist who writes the Zimbabwe Situation blog, has stated: “The value of the currency is supported by its exports and foreign currency reserves which we do not have.” Unless the country shores up its act on both fronts, he warned, “we will not be able to support a currency.” Tendai Biti, a former finance minister, agrees: “There are no fundamentals for a new currency.”

Zimbabwe's economic troubles do not look as though they will be over soon.

Jeffrey Moyo is a journalist based in Harare.
moyojeffrey@gmail.com

 

Kategorien: english

Northern Bahamas ravaged by ‘terrible devastation’ as UN supports rescue and relief efforts

UN ECOSOC - 4. September 2019 - 22:29
Following the “terrible devastation” of parts of the northern Bahamas in the Caribbean caused by Hurricane Dorian, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday he “remains deeply concerned” for those thousands impacted by the giant storm.
Kategorien: english

Activist Greta Thunberg gets preview of UNHQ ahead of climate summit

UNSDN - 4. September 2019 - 21:18

The 16-year-old and two other teens got a preview of the UN General Assembly Hall, where all 193 of the entity’s Member States gather every year to discuss a wide array of international issues, and where Ms. Thunberg is scheduled to speak during the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit next month.

The Swedish youth activist was greeted by General Assembly President, María Fernanda Espinosa, who tweeted:

Welcome, Greta Thunberg and climate activists to the UN in New York. Your determination for climate action  has shaken the world and we join you in holding leaders accountable. “Science, not Silence” #ClimateActionNow.

She also received praise from UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a Twitter message:

“I’m far from New York, but I’m happy to know that young people came to the UN once again to express their commitment in the fight against climate change. I encourage them to keep pushing for stronger #ClimateAction.”

Ms. Thunberg, who sailed from Europe to curb carbon emissions from air travel, will attend UN climate summits in New York in September, and in Santiago, Chile, in December.

Her 60-foot Malizia II racing yacht, equiped with solar panels and underwater turbines for electric power, docked in New York City on Wednesday, where she was welcomed by a flotilla of  17 sailboats, each representing one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The young environmental advocate has gained media attention since waging a “school strike” for climate action last August.

At just 15, she stood alone outside of Swedish Parliament in demostration, calling for drastic change. Since, other impassioned youth have followed her lead and skipped school for the cause.

“I would love not to have to do this and just go to school,” Ms. Thunberg told journalists upon arriving onto dry land, “but…I want to make a difference.”

Source: UN News

The post Activist Greta Thunberg gets preview of UNHQ ahead of climate summit appeared first on UNSDN - United Nations Social Development Network.

Kategorien: english

‘Digital divide’ will worsen inequalities, without better global cooperation

UN ECOSOC - 4. September 2019 - 19:34
Inequality will worsen unless the so-called “digital divide” – the gap between under-connected and highly digitalized countries – is not addressed, warns a new report released on Wednesday by the UN trade body, UNCTAD.
Kategorien: english

FROM THE FIELD: Balancing act for Philippines farmers

UN #SDG News - 4. September 2019 - 16:52
An effort to reverse land degradation in the Philippines and boost sustainable agriculture as well as the livelihoods of farmers, is being supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
Kategorien: english

FROM THE FIELD: Balancing act for Philippines farmers

UN ECOSOC - 4. September 2019 - 16:52
An effort to reverse land degradation in the Philippines and boost sustainable agriculture as well as the livelihoods of farmers, is being supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
Kategorien: english

New UN book club helps children deal with global issues

UN #SDG News - 4. September 2019 - 15:10
For children in Chad, getting an education can involve manual labour. That’s because, every year, there’s a chance that the rainy season will destroy their school, and they will have to join their teachers in rebuilding it. This is the story recounted in the children’s book “Rain School”, which is on the reading list of the UN's SDG Book Club.
Kategorien: english

Dirty Tricks Behind Conservation U-turn for World’s Rarest Ape

#ALERT - 3. September 2019 - 22:22

Scientists and conservation organizations are deeply concerned after an ally in an ongoing campaign to halt a destructive hydropower project in Sumatra, Indonesia, has flipped their position and announced a partnership with the company behind the dam.

Swiss-based PanEco Foundation, which manages the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, has for several years been a fierce opponent of the hydro-dam project, which is under construction in the core habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan—the world’s rarest species of Great Ape.

Enormous Loss of Credibility for PanEco

Fewer than 800 of the apes survive today, living only in the Batang Toru ecosystem in north Sumatra—an area just a tenth the size of Sydney, Australia.  And the new hydro-project is being built in the ape’s most critical habitat, which has by far the highest density of orangutans (according to the company’s own Environmental Impact Statement).

As a result, the hydro-project has been stridently denounced by scientists and conservationists in Indonesia and globally as a disaster for the Tapanuli orangutan

Fragmentation and Extinction

One of the many negative impacts of the project will be permanent fragmentation of the apes and their ecosystem, making it all but inevitable that isolated subpopulations will be condemned to functional or actual extinction.  Around a quarter of the surviving population would be trapped by the hydro scheme, drastically reducing its survival chances as well as for the overall population of the Tapanuli orangutan species.

PanEco announced a partnership with the Indonesian hydro company, PT North Sumatra Hydro Energy, on August 23.  At that time, their website stated “A newly planned hydro-electric dam along the Batang Toru River is the greatest threat to the long-term future of the Tapanuli orangutan.” 

PanEco further said, “The constructiuon of the hydrodam and related infrastructure, powerlines, and associated land speculation will cause severe fragmentation of the rainforest and isolation of sub-populations of the Tapanuli orangutan, making them prone to extinction.”  

But astonishingly, by August 28, the dam had been fully removed from the list of threats to the Batang Toru ecosystem on PanEco’s website—a stunning about-face. 

Beyond speaking out against the hydro-project via their website, social media, and press releases, PanEco staff have been key authors of peer-reviewed scientific papers that cite the hydro-project as a dire threat to the Tapanuli orangutan. 

Now, PanEco is painting the hydro-project as the species’ greatest hope, rather than its greatest threat—leaving scientists and conservationists around the world feeling utterly mystified and betrayed.

What Happened?

It is thought that the abrupt U-turn by the Board of the PanEco Foundation has been caused by a series of underhanded tactics by the hydro-dam company, including threatening law suits against its Sumatra-based staff, and proposals to deport PanEco and other visiting scientists who have spoken out publicly against the dam. 

In open letters delivered to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, ALERT members and other leading scientists have previously decried a wide range of illicit and even illegal tactics being used by the Indonesian dam company to help silence its critics.

Notably, a senior member of PanEco staff implored his colleagues, just a few days before the partnership announcement, to stay quiet about the issue as he feared it would have “serious consequences for me personally”.

Scary Precedent

The announcement of the broken partnership between PanEco and other scientific and conservation groups sets an extremely worrying precedent for silencing opposing voices in development and conservation debates, and is a classic case of aggressive greenwashing. 

PanEco’s public justification for the move appears to be based on the assumption that the campaign to halt the dam project is futile—a position not shared by many other authorities and conservationists. 

Worse, PanEco’s partnership may make the dam a self-fulfilling prophecy, as its endorsement is likely to be used by the dam company to try to secure funding for the dam.  

Financing from the Bank of China is looking tenuous thanks to intense dialogue between nongovernmental groups, scientists, and the Bank to put the project’s many environmental, social, and reputational risks under the spotlight.  

Despite PanEco giving in to the bullying tactics of the dam company, a broad coalition of Indonesian and international scientists and conservationists continues to sound the alarm about the Batang Toru dam. 

A Cry for the Tapanuli Orangutan

We are calling on the Indonesian government to robustly evaluate the impact of the project on the Tapanuli orangutan and other protected species, before any further developments take place, as is required under Indonesian environmental laws. 

Websites like PanEco’s can be altered, but the facts and the science haven’t changed: this dam project remains a massive threat to the survival of the Tapanuli orangutan. Halting the project’s development remains an absolute priority to secure a safe future for the species.

The hydro-project would generate only a modest energy supply (510 mega-watts), which could easily be generated via expansion of the nearby Sarulla Geothermal Plant.

This is not a question of development versus conservation.  North Sumatra can have both increased electricity and a future for the Tapanuli orangutan—but only if the Batang Toru Dam is halted before it is too late.

Kategorien: english

War Crimes in Yemen

UN Dispatch - 3. September 2019 - 19:38

The United Nations Human Rights Council has released a devastating new report on war crimes in Yemen. The report was released today by an independent panel of experts empowered by the Human Rights Council to identify major human rights violations that have occurred during Yemen’s long and ongoing war.

Though this is ostensibly a civil war, outside powers are both direct and indirect belligerents that are responsible for widespread war crimes.

The report finds a litany of crimes committed by the Saudi led coalition, which has engaged in a brutal campaign of air strikes, the targets of which were mostly civilian non-combatants, including many children.  “In the incidents investigated, it found concerns with coalition processes and procedures for target selection and execution of airstrikes based upon the apparently disproportionate impact on civilians,” the report said. 

In what the report says was emblematic of this pattern of attacking civilians though coalition airstrikes, the report listed the following incidents.

The report also found a similar pattern of total disregard for civilian safety by the opposition Houthi forces, which receive the backing of Iran.

The Report Strongly Suggests that Saudi Arabia’s Western Backers, including the USA, France and the UK bear responsibility for war crimes.

The United States, the United Kingdom and France are backing Saudi Arabia’s war efforts in Yemen. These countries have both supplied Saudi Arabia with arms, and in the case of the United States have provided technical assistance to Saudi Arabian forces as they have carried out their bombing campaign in Yemen.

 

Meanwhile, this conflict continues to exact a huge toll on civilians, tens of thousands of whom have been killed since 2014. In an unprecedented move, the Human Rights Council also released this video to coincide with the release of the Panel of Experts report.

 

To Learn More About the Yemen Crisis, Listen to this Global Dispatches Podcast episode. 

How Shipping Containers Explain the Conflict in Yemen

Get the Global Dispatches Podcast Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  Stitcher  | Google Play Music​  | Radio Public

The post War Crimes in Yemen appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Urban Up Launches “Expedition: Space Station”

SCP-Centre - 3. September 2019 - 13:32

Most companies, organisations, entrepreneurs, and politicians work in ‘regular’ office spaces situated in ‘regular’ buildings. What would happen if they had an opportunity to switch their workplace to a shipping container for a few weeks? This is now a reality with the launch of the Expedition: Space Station (“Expedition: Raumstation”) in Utopiastadt, Wuppertal – a collaboration with Utopiastadt.

Utopiastadt has been offering workspaces to various enterprises such as businesses and voluntary work in the Wuppertal Nordbahntrasse. Between July and October, 2019 organisations have the opportunity to test their business ideas in the newly set up “Expedition: Space Station” shipping containers. These containers are an open laboratory module which can be rented for 1 Euro for a period of up to four weeks.

The “Expedition: Space Station” is being implemented by the Utopiastadt as a practical partner within the framework of Urban Up, a joint project of the Wuppertal Institute, the University of Wuppertal and the CSCP. The project is located at TransZent (the Centre for Transformation Research and Sustainability) which was founded by the Wuppertal Institute and the University of Wuppertal.

The shipping containers are located in the Nordbahntrasse, which is Wuppertals bike highway in a former train station. Utopiastadt also has a repair café, free bike rental, open workshop space, community garden, co-working space, a café as well as a concert location with a lot of free space surrounding it. Here, everything is shared and everyone is welcome to be part of it.

This summer a new area outside the former train station, Mirker Bahnhof, is being used to provide space to several actors and initiatives. Shipping containers will be the temporary home for a free cargo bike rental, an aquaponics farm, a caterer and others.

Out of these, two containers are rented by Urban Up and can be used by organisations and companies who want to create real impact in this unique environment and experiment with their way of doing business and work. Those interested in using this setting as a testing bed for new ideas can apply to work in these containers.

Additional information about the application process can be found here.

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as a junior research group within the framework of social-ecological research.

Please contact Alexandra Kessler for more information.

Der Beitrag Urban Up Launches “Expedition: Space Station” erschien zuerst auf CSCP gGmbH.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

DR Congo President and UN chief meet at a ‘historic moment’ for democracy in the country

UN ECOSOC - 2. September 2019 - 20:17
On the third and final day of his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), UN chief António Guterres declared that the country is experiencing a historic moment, which could herald the development of democratic institutions.
Kategorien: english

IISD 2019: Asia-Pacific Climate Week (APCW)

Women - 2. September 2019 - 19:27
IISD 2019: Asia-Pacific Climate Week (APCW)

APCW is part of Regional Climate Weeks that are held annually in AfricaLatin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and Asia-Pacific. Regional Climate Weeks are organized by the Nairobi Framework Partnership (NFP), which supports developing countries in preparing and implementing their NDCs. The events’ global partners are the UNFCCC, Word Bank, UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UNEP Partnership with the Technical University of Denmark (UNEP-DTU Partnership), Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). Regional partners include the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Africa, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in LAC and Asian Development Bank (ADB) and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Asia-Pacific”.

Dates: 2-6 September 2019
Location: Bangkok (Krung Thep), Thailand

Access the schedule here.

Kategorien: english

Protecting ancestral land

D+C - 2. September 2019 - 15:23
Indigenous people of Ecuador fight to keep oil companies off their ancestral land

The Waorani have taken the Ministry of Energy, the Secretary of Hydrocarbons and the Ministry of Environment to court for violating their rights. They claimed that the consultation process conducted before putting their territory up for an international oil auction was flawed.

Over the past two decades, Ecuador has divided a large portion of its Amazon forests into blocks to lease the mineral rights, specifically for oil, in international auctions. Oil plays a very important part in Ecuador’s economy. It has contributed to most of the country’s growth between 2006 and 2014, before the oil prices collapsed. On the other hand, the oil-rigging activities negatively affected indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest: their habitat was contaminated, and communities were displaced.

Both national and international laws state that a free, prior and informed consultation process must be conducted before the planning of any extraction process on or near territories belonging to indigenous groups. In 2012, the consultation process – which never mentioned the expected environmental effects –with several indigenous groups including the Waorani had led to the division of the Amazon rainforest area in Ecuador into 16 different oil blocks for sale purposes.

Nemonte Nenquimo, one of the Waorani plaintiffs and representative of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality Ecuador Pastaza (CONCONAWEP), says that the consultation process was conducted “for the sake of being conducted” and that it was “tokenistic”. “We fought in court so that no one can enter our territory for petrol. We want to save our territory and our jungles. They are our children’s heritage,” Nenquimo says. 

Due to the recent ruling in favour of the Waorani, 52 mining concessions along the Aguarico river were cancelled. This helps to protect half a million acres of Waorani territory in the Amazon rainforest from being earmarked for oil drilling.

According to the local non-governmental organisation Amazon Frontlines, which had provided legal support to the Waorani, the verdict provides an “invaluable legal precedent for other indigenous nations across the Ecuadorian Amazon”. However, the Ministry of Energy plans to appeal against the decision.

In the meantime, the Waorani people keep on fighting. They have been organising regular protests in Quito, the capital city, and recently launched “Waorani Resistance”, a global campaign to get 500,000 people to sign a declaration to defend the rainforest. That would be one person for every acre that the Waorani are protecting.

Link
Amazon Frontline – Waorani Resistance:
https://waoresist.amazonfrontlines.org/

Roli Mahajan is a freelance journalist and photographer. She lives in New Delhi, India, and has recently spent some time in Ecuador as a Rotary Peace Fellow.
roli.mahajan@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

Dangerous food

D+C - 2. September 2019 - 14:52
Ghanaians are afraid of poisonous mould in grains and cereals

Aflatoxins are poisons naturally produced by mould. They develop when food is not harvested or stored in the right manner. They are odourless, colourless and flavourless and commonly found in maize and beans, but also in nuts, cereals and derived products, dairy products, poultry, dried fruits, spices, unrefined vegetable oils and cocoa beans. Humans should try to avoid aflatoxins.

Abdullai Bamunu, a trader at the grains market of Tamale in Northern Ghana, is separating bad maize from good one. She explains: “If there are bad grains, customers won’t buy it, because they are not good for our health. So I always have to sort them out first.” Bamunu has been selling grain all her life. Now, she often runs out of it due to mould infection.

Scientists say that grains infested with mould can cause cancer, damage the liver and the immune system. Other known effects include weight loss. Aflatoxins can also cause stunting growth among children, nutritionists say. Richard Oteng-Frimpong, a research scientist with the Savanah Agriculture Research Institute, explains that in the past two to three years, several studies showed that aflatoxins were very widespread in Ghana, including in supermarket products. “We have taken samples from these places and analysed them. We have seen that they contained unacceptable levels of aflatoxins,” he says.

Aflatoxins effect millions of people in developing countries. Ghana is now educating farmers and processors to reduce the menace. The Food and Drug Authority is one of the organisations leading the campaign. Northern Regional director Martin Kusi explains: “When you come to this part of the country, most farmers and traders don’t observe good practices.” A lot of farmers store their harvest in poorly shielded and ventilated barns.

That makes the products susceptible to aflatoxins contamination. “That is why public education is very necessary to make sure that the products are harvested well, transported well, stored well and processed in a way to avoid the emergence of aflatoxins,” Kusi adds. This means, the grains must be protected from moisture, and farmers and producers need an adequate number of silo and dry warehouse facilities.

Madina Issahaku is preparing a meal called Tuo Zaafi or TZ for short. TZ is a popular corn meal for people of northern Ghana. Corn is the main staple crop cultivated by the majority of Ghanaian farmers for decades. But Issahaku, unlike many Ghanaians, knows little about aflatoxins. “But I am worried. So when I buy my cereals, I check them out carefully.”
Eating staples infested with mould is not the only source of health problems, Oteng-Frimpong stresses: “When animals eat contaminated food, they can get infested. And when you eat their meat, you are also at risk to get affected.”

Maxwell Suuk is a journalist in Northern Ghana.
suuk.max@gmail.com

 

Kategorien: english

Self-pitying majority

D+C - 2. September 2019 - 11:09
K.S. Komireddi argues stringently that India's current government is driven by a dangerous Hindu-supremacist ideology

The situation in Kashmir remains tense. In early August, India's Hindu supremacist government cancelled the special rights Kashmir, the country's only predominantly Muslim region, had in the past. Parliament fast approved this constitutional change. Kashmir is no longer an Indian state, but has been declared a union territory. Union territories are under the rule of the central government.

Due to decades of troubles, Kashmir is a heavily militarised area. In August, however, even more troops were sent in. So far, the policy change has not triggered militant unrest, but my hunch is that violence will erupt sooner or later. The greatest danger is that Hindu fanatics will then launch pogroms against the Muslim minority in other parts of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to tell by the experience of the Gujarat riots of 2002 , will neither overtly endorse such action, nor will he disown it. Under his leadership, the government of India is unlikely to deploy security forces to protect minorities.

Not all of my dark fears come true, of course, and I sincerely hope this one will not. The danger is real, however, as I found confirmed in K.S. Komireddi's recently published book “Malevolent republic”. It was written before Modi was reelected in May. With about 45 % of the vote, his party, the BJP, and its allies won more than 50 % of the seats in the national parliament.

Modi's election campaign was marked by aggressive Hindu nationalism. His Kashmir policy fits that pattern.

At the international level, however, Modi has so far managed to cultivate the image of a business-oriented reformer. Even in development circles, western experts tend to expect him to endorse prudent economic policies. They should read Komireddi, who criticises Modi harshly, whilst basing his essay solidly on facts. The book is thoroughly referenced.

The journalist argues convincingly that Modi and his government are not interested in modernisation of either state or economy. They are driven by an aggressive and vindictive ideology. According to their world view, Hindus are now finally striving for world leadership after centuries of humiliation and oppression. That is the core issue, and the Gujarat riots in 2002 proved it early on. They happened when Modi was that state's chief minister.

In that position, he nonetheless earned his reputation as an economic moderniser. He basically did it by simply approving any application made by an industry leader, as Komireddi points out. He facilitated fast investment, but achieved very little in terms of reducing poverty. To judge by the relevant statistics, Gujarat stayed an average Indian state and never became a beacon of human development.

Chaotic demonetisation

At the national level, Modi's economic reform promises have not come true either. The greatest disaster was "demonetisation". Komireddi has dedicated an entire chapter to the annulling of most of India's banknotes on short notice in 2016. The chapter's fitting headline is: “Chaos”. The idea was to thwart corruption and get a grip on black money. Neither goal was achieved. The economy slowed down, and the lives of smallholder farmers, informal entrepreneurs and people who depend on them were disrupted seriously.

Komireddi only mentions in passing that the jobs wonder that Modi promised to bring about by promoting manufacturing never happened. The author does not assess minor achievements such as Modi's reform of the goods and services taxes, which was overly bureaucratic, but nonetheless a step in the right direction. In view of the damage the government is doing, these episodes actually do not deserve all that much attention.

What is far more important is how the Hindu supremacists are undermining the independence of important institutions such as the judiciary, the central bank or the election commission is as accurate as it is scary. Komireddis gives account. He also does an excellent job of explaining how Modi is increasingly politicising the military. Most mainstream media, in the author's eyes, have caved into government propaganda and pressure. He bemoans an empty personality cult that is typical of dictatorial rule. He makes it quite clear that speaking of India as the world's largest democracy only makes sense if one endorses the crudest form of majoritarianism.

The outlook is terrifying. The author sees India turning into “a make-believe land full of fudge and fakery, where savagery against religious minorities is among the therapeutic options available to a self-pitying majority frustrated by Modi's failure to  upgrade their standard of living”. With statements like this, Komireddi confirms Jan-Werner Müller's assessment of populist leaders: unable to fulfil the unrealistic promises they constantly reiterate, they can only thrive by hounding scapegoats once they have risen to power.

Modi, however, is worse than a typical right-wing populist, as Komireddi elaborates. The reason is that he is supported by a vast network of Hindu-supremacist groups. This network has evolved over many decades. At its centre is the RSS, an organisation that was originally inspired by Italy's fascists and Germany's Nazis. Modi himself rose through its ranks.

What facilitated Modi's rise to power

“Malevolent republic” does more than dissect Modi and his government. The first part of the book assesses what made his rise to power possible. It tells the story of how the Congress party, led by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, lost people's trust in decades of bad governance.

Inner-party democracy ended under Indira Gandhi. Her emergency rule was brutal, and the forced sterilisation of masses of men was probably the worst excess. She was later killed by her Sikh bodyguard after her opportunistic support for Sikh extremism had backfired terribly. She had hoped to weaken a regional party, but instead fostered a terrorist outfit. Her son Rajiv Gandhi, who also served one term as prime minister, suffered a similar fate. He was killed by a Tamil suicide bomber after involving India opportunistically in Sri Lanka's civil war.

Komireddi excels at describing the Congress party's decades-long decline and how the RSS and its satellites managed to take advantage of that trend. Massive corruption became ever more obvious, so people had every reason to be angry.

A minor shortcoming of Komireddi's book, however, is that it fails to explain why Manmohan Singh, so far the last Congress prime minister, could be triumphantly reelected after a first term. The most likely reason is that his government had devised a surprisingly effective programme to fight rural poverty. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was very popular.

Unfortunately, the Congress party entirely failed to introduce anything of similar impact in the years 2009 to 2014. One reason was probably that its majority had become so big that it no longer needed the support of leftist parties that were keen on pro-poor policies. The other reason was perhaps that Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv's widow and the successor as head of the Congress party, was ill. However that may be, Komireddi's judgment that the Congress had gambled away its credibility by 2014 is irrefutable. That is why Modi could become prime minister.

P.S.: I've checked out some Indian reviews of the book on the internet. The disturbing trend is that they tend to only commit rather few sentences or paragraphs to Modi. Their focus is on lambasting the Congress party. The reason is obviously that it has become very risky to discuss the prime minister's shortcomings in public. Piling blame on his predecessors is safer – not least, because Modi loves to do that himself. Sadly, what I read confirms Komireddi's assessment of the media having become docile.

 

Reference

Komireddi, K.S., 2019: Malevolent republic. A short history of the new India. London: Hurst / Delhi: Context.

 

 

Kategorien: english

SDSN Member Conference: Universities Implementing the SDGs in Afghanistan

UN SDSN - 30. August 2019 - 21:06

On August 29th, SDSN member Kateb University hosted the Conference on the Role of Universities in Implementing the SDGs in Afghanistan.

The event was support by the national Ministry of Higher Education, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Finance, and was co-organized in partnership with national and international development organizations and key stakeholders working on the SDGs in the country. As author of the “Getting Started with the SDGs in Universities” guide, Dr. Tahl Kestin from SDSN Australia, NZ & Pacific, tuned in to deliver a speech on this important field of work.

Overall objectives of the conference were:

  • To provide an overall update on the current status of SDGs progress in Afghanistan
  • To discuss possible actions by Afghan universities to help achieve the SDGs by 2030
  • To explore opportunities of synergies and collaboration
  • To highlight lessons learned from universities around the globe and discuss their applicability to the Afghan context

This first-ever conference on the SDGs in Afghanistan brought together universities and other stakeholders to discuss the impact of tertiary education institutions on the achievement of Agenda 2030 in the country. The major expected outcomes were:

  • To enhance understanding of the SDGs and their status in Afghanistan
  • To create partnerships among universities to advance SDG implementation in areas of education, research, creation and dissemination of knowledge
  • To explore partnership opportunities between universities and other stakeholders by offering synergies to achieve the SDGs in Afghanistan
  • To produce a comprehensive conference report to be shared with stakeholders
  • To develop a policy note to highlight the SDGs status in Afghanistan from different stakeholders’ perspectives and propose policy recommendations for better implementation of the SDGs in Afghanistan

Other key takeaways from the conference include:

  • UNDP Afghanistan will share the Meta Data document with universities and ask them to work together on data analysis.
  • The Minister of Economy encouraged universities to focus on localization, costing and national strategies for the SDGs during the 2020-2030 period.
  • Professor Jeffrey Sachs encouraged Kateb University to take the lead in creating a national network of universities, research centers, and think tanks by establishing SDSN Afghanistan.

Kategorien: english

Parliament, shut up!

D+C - 30. August 2019 - 18:25
Leaders like Boris Johnson make it increasingly difficult to promote democracy

In recent weeks, the British government has been telling China's communist leadership that it must respect citizens' rights in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests have been attracting masses of people. Beijing was not impressed, not least because Hong Kong was not a democracy while it was still a British colony.

It now seems ever more likely that the Chinese regime will send in the military. In any case, repression has been intensifying in Hong Kong, so the protest movement cancelled protests planned for this weekend. Leading activists have been arrested. Nonetheless, people rallied yesterday, there were burning barricades and the police clamped down harshly. I am not sure that the British government has responded to this most recent development. What I do know is that it is now in an even weaker position to express criticism than it ever wasr. The Chinese authorities can now simply say: "Why are people demonstrating for democracy in London, Glasgow and even Exeter? And what exactly is democratic about closing down parliament in a period of important political decision-making?"

In strictly formal legal terms, Britain's prime minister is allowed to prorogue parliament. Prorogation means that the parliament is suspended for a brief period of time and all incomplete legislation is cancelled. A new session of parliament then begins with a Queen's speech in which she outlines the prime minister's policies. In normal times, prorogation lasts for one week or so. Fow it is scheduled for five weeks. It normally happens when no urgent decisions are on the agenda. In the next few weeks, important decisions must be made.

Not normal times

The United Kingdom is currently not experiencing normal times. It is about to leave the European Union on 31 October. Johnson's decision is undermining the ability of his people's elected representatives to deliberate precisely at a time when deliberation is needed. Moreover, they will not be able to do oversight of government action as they normally do.

Some British papers have done an excellent job of arguing this case. The Guardian, for example, has written: “The prime minister is fooling no one in claiming that he can do in two months what Theresa May could not do in two years. More plausible is that he’ll press ahead, if necessary, with a no-deal Brexit against the express wishes of the Commons. This is an affront to democracy.”

The Financial Times (paywall) states: “Boris Johnson has detonated a bomb under the constitutional apparatus of the United Kingdom. The prime minister’s request to the Queen to suspend parliament for up to five weeks, ostensibly to prepare a new legislative programme, is without modern precedent. It is an intolerable attempt to silence parliament until it can no longer halt a disastrous crash-out by the UK from the EU on October 31.” 

The Economist (paywall) warns that Johnson's “actions are technically legal, but they stretch the conventions of the constitution to their limits. Because he is too weak to carry Parliament in a vote, he means to silence it. In Britain’s representative democracy, that sets a dangerous precedent.”

As a German observer, I find especially infuriating that Johnson and his team are adopting rhetoric that resembles how the Nazis spoke. The Brexiteers are now arguing that the government must take decisive action because MPs have so far not adopted any clear policy on Brexit. In the early 1930s, the Nazis belittled Germany's parliament as a mere talking shop that did not get things done. Johnson and his supporters are now taking that stance in the UK. According to media reports, Johnson is even preparing an election campaign that would pit “the people” against “the parliament”.

Causes of disarray

It is worth bearing in mind why exactly the British parliament is in disarray over Brexit. Yes, a majority of British citizens voted to leave the EU in the referendum 2016, but it was not defined clearly what leaving the EU would actually mean. It may mean cutting all ties with the EU. It may mean staying in the customs union. It may mean staying in Europe's single market. When the referendum was held in 2016, the Brexiteers promised  “frictionless trade”. Now they argue that sacrifices are justified and may  be needed.

After the referendum, Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May only involved the MPs from her conservative party in the debate on how to define Brexit. They were – and are  – deeply divided. That is why May ultimately failed. The plain truth is that conservative Brexiteers contributed to the dysfunction of parliament that they now bemoan. The democratic way forward would be further debate, now involving all parties and assessing all options.

Johnson knows that he does not enjoy the support of the majority of members of parliament. Even worse, he isn't even supported by all conservative MPs. In this setting, the prorogation of parliament is plainly not normal, no matter what his team says. He claims to hope for a last-minute deal with the EU, gaining concessions the EU will only grant if it fears Britain will actually crash out. He does not deserve much trust. Action speaks louder than words – and so far he has not made any tangible proposals for what a good agreement would look like. He’s been in office for five weeks now,  and spent four of them without even reaching out to his European counterparts.

What makes everything even more bewildering is that one of the Brexiteers' most prominent goals was “to restore parliamentary sovereignty”. It is sometimes necessary to destroy a village to save it, a leading US military officer allegedly said during the Vietnam war. In a similar vein, Johnson's latest approach to empowering sovereign legislators is to shut them up. 

 

Kategorien: english

Leaving no one behind in private sector engagement

Effective Co-operation - 30. August 2019 - 18:17

Civil society organisations (CSOs) recognise the importance of effectively engaging all stakeholders in the pursuit of sustainable development. The rise of private sector engagement is a trend that demands our close attention. In truth, for the most part, we have yet to see the positive impacts of private sector engagement; whether their efforts truly make a dent on poverty and inequality. However, we also believe that some members of the private sector – especially the national micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) – have the potential to become real partners for development, and create good, lasting impact for the benefit of communities. 

If they are to truly contribute towards sustainable development and help alleviate global poverty and inequality, private sector operations must demonstrate such objectives, and be open to monitoring efforts. They must be held accountable for their commitments and roles as development actors. 

Establishing PSE principles

The GPEDC recently developed the Kampala Principles, a set of principles for Private Sector Engagement(PSE) through development cooperation. Underpinning this initiative, and drawn from the effectiveness principles, are five mutually reinforcing principles: inclusive country ownership; results and targeted impact inclusive partnership; transparency and accountability; and leaving no one behind. 

The principles provide standards that businesses ought to abide by in their operations. Furthermore, their future operationalisation will provide criteria for the actions that each stakeholder group should take to ensure that the efforts of the private sector contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

To us in the development world, we appreciate this initiative as a significant first step to make sure that we are all working towards a common vision – sustainable and transformative development. 

Civil society’s role

Civil society plays a critical role in ensuring that PSE responds to the needs of those who are often in the margins of society.

At CPDE, we have relentlessly rallied CSOs around the world to exercise vigilance in holding the private sector accountable to communities, governments, and other regulatory and policymaking bodies. 

For us, it begins with learning to ask the tough questions: are private sector actors truly willing to accept responsibility for many cases of rights violations, environmental destruction, and other negative impacts of their operations? If so, how will they rectify these errors (or, in economic-speak, how will they try to internalize these ‘externalities’)? Moving forward, how can the private sector improve their accountability? Perhaps even more importantly, are these players keen on changing their business models, in order to create truly inclusive markets that endeavour to contribute to the achievement of SDGs? 

As we ask these questions, we also bring with us the demands of the people. For example, as articulated by trade unions, for: better business practices; the provision of decent work and living wages; the promotion of women-friendly workspaces; and, the reduction of companies’ negative impact on the environment.

Over the years, we have been equipping CSOs, campaigners, and advocates around the globe with the requisite knowledge and skills for waging awareness campaigns, as well as policy advocacy efforts around the notion of effective development cooperation. Through these efforts, our message of effectively engaging the private sector is amplified many times over, and brought to global, regional, and national policy arenas.

We believe that systems must be in place to make sure that both public and private actors are complying with existing frameworks. These include International Labour Organisation(ILO) and United Nations (UN) Conventions and protocols, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, OECD Guidelines on Due Diligence, and now, the provisions under the Kampala Principles.

Furthermore, we advocate for involving communities and people’s organisations in the decision-making process for development, so that all risk factors can be addressed. For instance, CSOs have been pushing for a people-powered view of sustainable consumption and production, which puts people’s rights at its core. According to a research study by CSO IBON International:

‘[p]utting people’s rights at the centre of the whole production and consumption chain stresses that every aspect of the system should be guide[d] by the concept and principles of people’s rights….People’s rights highlight the role of a community or social group asserting their rights in a collective way to ensure a truly sustainable consumption and production system.’[1]

Through practices and policies that put emphasis on people’s rights, we can take care of the most vulnerable segments of our population, and reach the furthest behind first, as we pursue development initiatives.

‘Leaving no one behind’ and other Kampala principles

Leaving no one behind is the critical complement to the aforementioned guidelines in private sector engagement. We promote democratic ownership in view of what development means to a nation’s people. We define the success of development outcomes based on its impacts for all. We foster partnerships that include all sectors,while pursuing our crucial role demanding transparency and accountability, keeping in mind the welfare of those furthest behind and at the margins, who stand to suffer from any failures in accountability. 

We hope that members of the private sector will be truly open to hearing people’s voices, and consider our criticisms, inputs and recommendations to improve the way they do business. Moreover, we call on governments and multilateral bodies to strictly implement the pertinent laws and regulations governing the operations of businesses in development. For instance, we advocate for the institutionalisation of mechanisms to penalise companies whose interventions cause negative social, environmental, and economic impacts. 

Over the next period, we look forward to engaging with the operationalisation of the Kampala Principles. And CPDE will remain vigilant in making sure that the poor and marginalised are not be left behind in these development discussions, and that we are working toward truly sustainable, and transformative, development.  

[1]IBON International, 2019. People-powered Sustainable Consumption: A visioning & mapping study. Manila: IBON Books

Kategorien: english

Mexico and El Salvador: Energy expertise made in Germany

GIZ Germany - 30. August 2019 - 17:59
: Wed, 21 Aug 2019 HH:mm:ss
Making the most of wind and solar power is possible thanks to accurate weather forecasts. A German company is providing the expertise required.
Kategorien: english

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