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Providing skilled support – as a refugee expert in Pakistan

GIZ Germany - 18. August 2022 - 16:01
: Wed, 16 Oct 2019 HH:mm:ss
International cooperation offers a wide range of employment opportunities. Judit Demjén has been working as a refugee expert in Islamabad since 2018.
Kategorien: english

Modern teacher training in Afghanistan

GIZ Germany - 18. August 2022 - 16:01
: Thu, 02 May 2019 HH:mm:ss
Teacher training is vital to a modern Afghan society. The professionalisation of training improves the career prospects of young Afghans.
Kategorien: english

‘Our work continues in Afghanistan’

GIZ Germany - 18. August 2022 - 16:01
: Fri, 24 Nov 2017 HH:mm:ss
GIZ has worked on behalf of the German Government to support reconstruction in Afghanistan for 15 years and has already achieved a lot for people there.
Kategorien: english

Electric power - driving development in Kundus, Afghanistan

GIZ Germany - 18. August 2022 - 16:01
:
18.11.2015 – Today some 200,000 Afghans can rely on a stable power supply
Kategorien: english

GIZ employee freed

GIZ Germany - 18. August 2022 - 16:01
:
17.10.2015 – The German employee of GIZ who was kidnapped in Afghanistan nine weeks ago on 17 August 2015 has been released. She is in good health considering the circumstances.
Kategorien: english

“Smallholder farms must benefit from innovations”

D+C - 18. August 2022 - 14:52
Research must pay more attention to family farms, says Hildegard Lingnau of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation

The UN’s second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG2) is to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Some 10 % of humanity are currently suffering hunger. While there is enough food in principle, it is not distributed equitably. Is SDG2 achievable at all?
Unfortunately, it will probably not be achieved, as the UN secretary-general’s recent report on SDG progress has noted. Indeed, the situation is set getting worse. In 2020, 161 million more people were affected by hunger than in 2019. Some 2.4 billion lacked food security. The conclusion of the UN document is that a global food crisis is likely. We’ll have to do much more than in the past to achieve SDG2 or at least make some progress towards doing so by 2030.

What needs to happen?
There are no simple solutions, but it is obvious that we must focus more on smallholders and family farms. They account for about 84 % of agricultural businesses and produce about 35 % of all food around the world. On the other hand, diets must change. Meat consumption, for example, must be reduced.

The mission of GFAR is to increase global food supply. What do you focus on for that purpose?
GFAR is a network of networks. We cooperate with hundreds of agencies and organisations interested in the transformation of the agri-food system, including farmers associations, research centres, civil-society organisations and the private sector. We help them to network, get heard and become more involved in global agricultural research. GFAR depends on members’ initiatives and supports their priorities. On that basis, we organise joint projects, which we call “collective actions”.

Please give examples.
One collective action of ours focuses on forgotten foods – traditional crops in which there is no investment. Thousands of these plants have been cultivated in history, and they have considerable advantages, such as high nutrient content and excellent adaptation to local eco-systems (see Rabson Kondowe on www.dandc.eu). Our members have adopted a global manifesto, demanding more investment in further cultivation of these landraces on smallholder farms. That is not what big agro corporations want. They focus on only a few plants such as maize, wheat and rice (in regard to maize cultivation in Zambia, see Derrick Silimina on www.dandc.eu). Another important issue is digitalisation. Its potential with regard to payment systems, marketing or weather reports is huge. However, a survey we did showed that industrial-scale farms benefit most. To change matters, we have launched another collective action. It is designed to provide smallholders with better access to regional markets and supply chains. If we manage to improve their business prospects, that will hopefully help to reduce climate-harming emissions as well. At this point, agriculture contributes at least 31 % to global greenhouse-gas emissions, and the share is growing.

Unhealthy and environment-unfriendly diets, especially in high income countries, are among the drivers. They include too much meat, sugar and heavily processed goods. Is this pattern spreading?
Habits may slowly be changing in the global north, where this kind of diet is currently not becoming more prevalent. However, things are different in large emerging economies like China or India with a huge share of the world population. The meat sector is forecast to increase there in coming years. One implication is that the demand for animal feed will increase too. Accordingly, experts expect the agriculture’s share in global climate emissions to increase by six percent in the next 10 years. Once more, we see things deteriorating instead of improving.

What must we do to change course?
It would make sense to eat less meat. Indeed, it would be possible to cut carbon emissions by 29 % internationally by 2050 with every person on earth getting a healthy diet including large portions of fruits and vegetables.

Doesn’t it seem cynical to people in developing countries and emerging markets when they get such advice from high-­income countries?
The global north is not in a position to tell the rest of the world what to consume. But it should try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The point, moreover, is not to forbid something, but to focus on health. The good news is that the more sustainable solutions are not only healthier, but also contribute to reducing poverty and hunger. These are the solutions we need to promote and invest in. In particular, it is essential to enable smallholders to produce highly nutrient food at regional levels. For that to happen, they must benefit from innovations.

Research is a driver of innovation. Do research institutes in the global south get the attention they deserve?
Our members say that they do not. There is a big global consortium, the Consultive Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It is a network of 15 multilateral institutions which are doing excellent work. In our experience, however, they tend to bypass partners in the global south and do not necessarily serve their interests. We want to see more involvement of our members and want partnership principles to become the global norm. One implication would be that there would be no more research about small scale producers from the global south without small scale producers from the global south.

How would that be feasible?
Smallholders always participate in our collective actions. I just mentioned the one regarding forgotten foods. In this context, we created a global manifesto for better utilisation of neglected crops. Now, we will implement it at regional levels, for example in cooperation with the Asian Farmers Association (AFA). Smallholder farmers are assuming roles of leadership, and we insist that other partners, such as academic researchers, corporations and civil-society organisations accept their leadership. We would like to see big business and multilateral agricultural research do so too. It is indispensable – the only approach that’ll allow us to really see and take into account the needs and ideas of smallholders. Solutions typically result from different parties interacting.

And you can help to spread good ideas?
If we see that something would make sense in other countries or contexts, we contribute to scaling that up in collective actions. What really matters, in our eyes, is not simply that something is new, but that it helps our members achieve the SDGs. In this sense, a technology invented somewhere in a lab is not necessarily an innovation, because innovation requires social concepts and processes. According to Harald Welzer, a German sociologist, essential progress in the course of civilisation was always brought about via improved interactions and institutions, and technology was only useful when people knew how best to exploit it. At GFAR, we agree. We are not interested in innovation for its own sake, but as an engine of progress. To emphasise that innovation must be related to values and fair, we plan to add an “I” to our name and become GFAIR.

What vision guides your work?
The SDGs, and – apart from SDG2, which we just discussed – in particular SDG17, international partnerships and cooperation for achieving all SDGs. The need for cooperation cannot be over-estimated, and we are currently seeing just how destructive narrow-minded nationalism and, even worse, warfare are on the northern shore of the Black Sea (see Jane Escher on www.dandc.eu). Anyone who is interested in cooperating with partners in the global south is welcome to get in touch with us. An email will do, we are an open forum.

 

Hildegard Lingnau is the executive secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR), which is hosted by the Rome-based FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) and funded by the EU.
hildegard.lingnau@fao.org

Kategorien: english

Social protection and social cohesion are key for climate action

EADI Debating Development Research - 18. August 2022 - 11:27
The current energy crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine has shown that long-term climate mitigation needs to be coupled with the reduction of poverty and inequality; it is obvious that climate change is a global problem, and one that needs to be addressed in combination with social justice. In a recent article in an …
Kategorien: english, Ticker

C20 Urges G20 to Stop Prioritizing Profit Over Humanity

#C20 18 - 18. August 2022 - 6:52

In response to the upcoming 3rd G20 Health Working Group Meeting, C20 Vaccine Access and Global Health Working Group (VAHWG) performed a meeting themed “Ensuring Access to Health and Covid-19 Tools through G20: End the Inequalities, Build Stronger Mechanism” from 11th to 13th of August 2022 in the Ashley Hotel, Jakarta to consolidate and finalize recommendations to the G20, particularly in the issue of vaccine access.

VAHWG Coordinators Agung Prakoso, Rachel Ong, and Daniel Marguari were among the thirty-five participants who attended in person. While Angela Taneja and other forty participants joined online. The first day of the meeting discussed vaccine access, challenges, and financing. Access on ARV and TB drugs in Indonesia, trips and access to medicine, and ensuring access and technology in therapeutic post Covid-19 were also discussed on the second day. The event was finished by a press conference on the third day.

In this meeting, C20 emphasized that all needs for prevention, containment, and treatment related to COVID-19 and all other health must become public goods and free from profit interests. For this reason, G20 countries need to be serious in providing for all the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic by placing the principle of people’s safety above profit interests. Pharmaceutical companies still monopolize, especially all the needs of COVID-19 through various intellectual property protection rules that make poor and developing countries unable to produce their own needs even though they have adequate manufacturing capacity.

C20 delivered that if the Indonesian government wants to expand manufacturing, intellectual property barriers must also be overcome. After the failure of the TRIPS Waiver negotiations at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, initiatives to overcome intellectual property barriers can be encouraged through maximizing the flexibility of TRIPS, including compulsory licensing and technology transfer. Manufacturing improvement can also be encouraged through continuous collaboration and collaboration outside big pharma’s domination.

Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) has become one of the concerning issues by C20 as FIF was agreed as financing for Prevention, Preparedness, and Response to Covid-19 pandemic. C20 urges transparency, inclusivity and accountability in the governance of these mechanisms. According to KOMPAS (2022/07/26), Sherpa of C20 Ah Maftuchan said that global funding commitments must be sustainable. Moreover, in the long run, the coverage is not only targeting G20 countries, but all countries in the world.

“To have a good impact, we propose that civil society organizations be involved in FIF governance, whether as a board member or supervisor group. Ideally, the CSO’s representatives have voting rights as well since they participate in the governance body of FIF. The G20 Leaders must keep the engagement and inclusion approach in the process and governance because it will be helping to ensure the equal benefits among citizens and stakeholders globally,” said Maftuchan at the Joint-discussion of C20 Vaccine Access and Global Health and SDGs & Humanitarian Working Group on July 26, 2022.

He recalled it on the first day of the meeting, “It is our challenge for today, and we should make some new efforts on how we reach our colleagues globally. For example, to push the G20 to open the governance of FIF for CSO representatives,”

Aired live on the Civil 20 YouTube channel, Agung appreciated the G20 Health Working Group who will conduct the 3rd meeting entitled ‘Expanding Manufacturing and Research Hub on Vaccine Diagnostic and Therapeutic’ on August 22-23, 2022. He on the one hand opined that expanding manufacturing is not easy.

“We appreciate the Government of Indonesia for bringing the manufacturing expansion initiative to the needs of Covid-19 through the G20. But, we remind you that this is not easy. Some developed countries in the G20 reject the TRIPS Waiver proposal, which can overcome intellectual property barriers for COVID products. For this reason, we must be firm, especially urging developed countries in the G20 to commit to humanity and stop prioritizing profit over humanity,” said Agung Prakoso, one of C20 VAHWG Coordinators.

Lanz Espacio, C20 member of the People’s Vaccine Alliance Asia, confirmed that Big Pharma like Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna actually make more than 4 million dollars in one hour just from vaccine profits. Yet more than 100 billion dollars of public funds have been invested into pharmaceutical companies for the development and production of vaccines.

            Lastly, Daniel Marguari, one of VAHWG Coordinators, sharply stated that the G20 momentum is the right momentum for the Government to re-engage with civil society. “With time remaining before the G20 Summit, we ask that our voices be heard by the G20, given the opportunity to speak in the discussion and implemented well by the G20 countries,”

writers: Ah Maftuchan, Agung Prakoso, Sita Mellia

Kategorien: english, Ticker

Training local artisans to produce school furniture

D+C - 17. August 2022 - 11:38
Hoping to improve school conditions in Zambia by producing locally made desks for students

The programme supported by the Solwezi Trades Training Institute (SOTTI) and Kansanshi Mines is creative because it will tackle multiple challenges in Zambia. Schools will be provided with the much-needed furniture for their pupils while the government will attain its objective for skilling citizens and creating much needed jobs.

Kansanshi Mining, a subsidiary of the global copper company First Quantum Minerals, has offered to supply steel and wood for the project. SOTTI on the other hand will train the artisans who will produce the desks for the schools. The institution is already training 80 women in various skills programs under the support of the Africa Development Bank (ADB).

“We should no longer import desks because as a country we have more than sufficient capacity and capability to be able to make our own desks. We are answering to that call saying that yes, we can,” said Felix Mutati, the minister of technology and science.

The 2,000 Desk project has so far absorbed 30 students in metal fabrication and 30 students in carpentry and joinery. The government sees the initiative as a reflection of its development objectives encompassed in the 2030 agenda and the revised 8th National Development Plan which are in line with SDGs.

Mutati believes the initiative can absorb thousands of unemployed youth who drop out of school due to various challenges. He says that SOTTI is providing training for youths with little or no education. Most of them will work as carpenters or metal fabricators in the formal and informal sectors.

North-western province minister Robert Lihefu described the project as a landmark aspiration of Zambia’s new government saying, “I am extremely excited to be part of this launch and I hope to see more youths benefit not only from here in Solwezi but also in other parts of the province because we have adequate land and forests to support the initiative.”

Kansanshi Mine General manager Anthony Mukutuma believes the project represents sustainable community empowerment. “On behalf of Kansanshi as well as my team, we are always very happy to take part in sustainable projects such as this one and we look forward to continued involvement in other programmes in the district,” he said.

“The school’s desk project will definitely enhance our local industrialisation agenda and create the much-needed jobs, reduce poverty, promote self-sustainability among the youth and economically empower them to play a more meaningful role in the development and uplifting of their communities and the nation at large,” Boyd Muleya, a Lusaka based economist says.

Derrick Silimina is a freelance journalist based in Lusaka.
derricksilimina@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

“A good life doesn’t have to cost the Earth”

D+C - 17. August 2022 - 11:25
British economist contemplates an economy in which the goal is not unlimited growth, but rather an equilibrium between people and nature

Jackson does not fundamentally reject growth. In those places where there are shortages, growth is entirely sensible and necessary, he writes. But he believes the situation is different in so-called affluent societies, which are characterised by excess. In places where there is enough, Jackson claims, “artificial shortages” must be constantly created in order to keep the motor of consumer society running. Doing so feeds a permanent sense of dissatisfaction; the old must always be replaced by the new, at the expense of resource and energy consumption. Jackson believes that the obsessive fixation on high growth rates and our consumer behaviour is leading to massive environmental destruction, the climate crisis and loss of biodiversity, with unforeseeable consequences.

GDP and prosperity

Jackson is interested in the question of what prosperity is. Since the 1950s, the gross domestic product (GDP) has been used to measure the size of a country’s economy and has been considered equivalent to social progress. But he doubts whether the GDP measures the right things and points to a quote from American politician Robert F. Kennedy, brother of US President John F. Kennedy, who said in a campaign speech as early as 1968 that the GDP counts too many things that detract from our quality of life and excludes too many things that people truly value.

According to Kennedy, the GDP “counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder,” but not “the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play”. Nor does it include the work of those who care for children or others at home. Kennedy concludes that the GDP “measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”. The message is that simply measuring economic activity and calling it progress is no way to achieve lasting prosperity.

The coronavirus crisis

The global coronavirus pandemic revealed the shortcomings of a capitalist economic system that is constantly striving for growth, writes Jackson. According to him, the system promotes short-term profit for few instead of the long-term well-being of a society. The pandemic clearly demonstrated, however, the importance of care work and the value of health care. Occupations such as nursing in hospitals or retirement homes in particular had been systematically devalued. As a result, underpaid people who were most exposed to the virus carried out their essential services on the brink of exhaustion, and others lost their jobs entirely, while a few rich and privileged people continued to earn a profit.

During the global lockdown, the fixation on growth was paused in order to protect people’s lives. Countries that prioritised the health of their people over productivity were able to minimise suffering, Jackson writes. Consumer habits took a backseat and we were reminded of what is most important in life.

Socio-ecological transformation

Jackson believes that especially the insights gleaned from the coronavirus and climate crises, as well as from social tensions and rising inequality, should change our way of thinking. The goal should be to develop sustainable principles for a good life and thereby usher in a socio-ecological transformation (for more, see Sabine Balk on www.dandc.eu).

Conversely, Jackson is sceptical of green deals and the corresponding green growth. According to him, it is difficult to imagine infinite growth in a finite world (see Praveen Jhan on www.dandc.eu). It is not only essential that we stop using fossil fuels, he writes, but also that we acknowledge the finite capacity of all ecosystems. Jackson calls on readers to fundamentally rethink how we deal with nature.

Balance instead of growth

The end of growth does not mean the end of social progress, according to the book. Its main message is that “a good life doesn’t have to cost the Earth”. Jackson counters the myth of growth with his vision of a society that makes us richer instead of poorer without growth, where balance is valued more than growth, and prosperity means more than material excess. “Post growth” is a continuation of his previous book, “Prosperity without growth”. It is a manifesto for a different economic system. The book does not offer any ready-made solutions. Instead, it relies on scientific, political, historical and philosophical insights and anecdotes to invite readers to reflect on what makes life worth living.

Book
Jackson, T., 2021: Post growth. Life after capitalism. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Dagmar Wolf is the editorial assistant at D+C Development and Cooperation / E+Z Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit.
euz.editor@dandc.eu

Kategorien: english

Trauma lingers on seven years after Gorkha earthquake

D+C - 16. August 2022 - 14:36
Nepal’s 2015 earthquake was an example of how natural disasters often deepen pre-existing social divides

On 25 April 2015, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal severely. The epicentre was Barpak in the historic district of Gorkha, about 76 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu. The disaster affected 37 out of 77 districts. Fourteen severely damaged districts were declared to be “crisis-hit”, which meant they were prioritised in regard to relief and rescue activities.

The Post Disaster Needs Assessment Report of 2015 showed that the earthquake affected approximately one-third of the country’s people. The majority of them were unaware the aftershocks could continue for months, so they were hit unprepared. Indeed, hundreds of aftershocks followed, including a major one.

About 9,000 people were killed and tens of thousands injured. Houses, heritage sites and schools were destroyed, and so were health centres, trekking routes as well as water supply systems and hydropower plants. Hospitals were filled with the dead and injured. Nepal’s emergency response was overwhelmed. This is a poor post-conflict country, and the impacts of decades of civil war still matter (see my contribution on www.dandc.eu). Public capacities generally tend to be rather weak.

Accordingly, masses of survivors were left to themselves for far too long in the disasters areas in 2015. They desperately searched for loved ones who were trapped under the rubble. Those who have not experienced such a scenario cannot imagine the pain it causes. Indeed, the fear and trauma of many survivors remain unaddressed. People in Nepali villages – and even in the cities – hardly have access to psychological support. The mental health of countless people has thus suffered long term.

Fortunately, it was a Saturday

And still, Nepal was lucky in a certain sense. The earthquake occurred on a Saturday. Had it happened during the week, the casualty numbers would certainly have been much higher. The official data shows that more than 7,000 schools were severely damaged. On a weekday, the buildings would have been full of students.

Moreover, the calamity struck in daytime. It destroyed over 800,000 houses, but many people were outside. At night, masses would have been in bed at home – and thus even more at risk. The full truth, however, is that not every structure that collapsed did so immediately. A lot of harm was done after the main event.

One lesson is that buildings in Nepal must be constructed in ways that make them withstand disasters. Indeed, legislation regarding earthquake resilience has been passed accordingly (see my contribution on building codes on www.dandc.eu). The new regulations make sense, but – as is typical of least-developed countries – cannot be stringently enforced and are bypassed, especially by informal economic activities.

The aftermath

After the earthquake, over 100,000 people were forced to live in temporary shelters. News reports suggested that women and children were at high risk of trafficking and abuse. Reckless criminals were exploiting the vulnerability of families in desperate need. Human trafficking is a long-standing problem (see my essay on human trafficking on www.dandc.eu). Because families lost their livelihoods, moreover, child marriages and child labour increased. Many peoples’ welfare was thus affected irreparably in the long run, with women and girls experiencing particular distress.

In the early days, the government did not play an effective role in coordinating various humanitarian agencies from Nepal and abroad. On top of private and public outfits from Nepal, UN organisations and international non-governmental organisations were involved. Nonetheless, many communities had to wait long before support arrived. Some injured people thus did not get the care they needed and died or remained more severely disabled than would otherwise have been the case.

Things were particularly bad where the earthquake had destroyed access roads. To reach indigenous mountain communities, humanitarian helpers needed helicopters, which were in short supply. This was particularly the case in Nepal’s remote mountainous north.

As days progressed, stories of discrimination spread. In a rapid assessment, the Dalit Civil Society Massive Earthquake Victim Support and Coordination Committee spoke of “willful negligence” and “cast prejudice”. Deep divisions mark society (see my contribution on www.dandc.eu), so some communities were prioritised over others.

It mattered that many people lacked the documents they needed to get assistance. In many cases, government agencies asked for citizenship cards or other legal documents, such as land-ownership certificates for example. Some people had lost those papers due to the earthquake, more disadvantaged people had never had them in the first place. Requests of this kind led to the further exclusion of people from poor and marginalised communities. The natural disaster thus deepened pre-existing social divides. The implication is that more equal societies perform better in regard to relief and reconstruction, so reducing inequalities should always be on the agenda.

Delayed reconstruction

On 25 December 2015, the government established the National Reconstruction Authority. Its mission was recovery and reconstruction. Nonetheless, reconstruction efforts remained slow for the next two years, as the Asia Foundation stated in a monitoring report it published in 2019. Masses of people had to stay in temporary shelters or damaged houses. There was no clarity concerning government assistance and financial aid.

To families whose homes were destroyed, the government provided reconstruction grants of 300,000 Nepali rupees (the equivalent of about $ 3000) in three instalments. This policy was quite helpful. However, government plans to offer low-interest loans through the banking system largely failed. The reasons included that:

  • the banks had requirements of their own that did not match the governments’ scheme and
  • many affected people did not have access to the financial industry at all.

Many families, however, could not wait for government money to flow. They started rebuilding houses informally, without complying with earthquake-resilient building codes. While government action did help, more would have been achieved if it had not set in so late.

Late, but significant progress

However, there was significant progress on reconstruction by the end of 2019, according to the Asia Foundation, with the majority of people moving back to rebuilt or repaired houses. In December 2020, the National Reconstruction Authority released a progress report. It claimed considerable progress in the reconstruction of private houses. Some 90 % of private houses were said to have been restored, but that figure is less convincing than it looks because it does not include a long list of heritages sites. While media reports show that there still are gaps, however, there certainly are examples of projects that worked out well. Integrated settlements with housing and infrastructure were completed and handed over to the earthquake-affected families.

In December 2021, the World Bank published an assessment of Nepal’s reconstruction efforts. It appreciated five approaches as good lessons:

  • using technology to understand reconstruction needs fast,
  • taking an owner-driven approach to building back,
  • providing targeted socio-technical assistance to the vulnerable,
  • investing in structural integrity assessments for school buildings and
  • sharing knowledge at both local and global levels.
Seven years later

Seven years later, people hardly speak about the disaster anymore. Their priorities have shifted, not least, because the coronavirus pandemic hit Nepal hard. The trauma lingers on nonetheless, and stark inequality persists.

The initial Post Disaster Recovery Framework after the earthquake spelled out a vision of building back better, not least by ensuring resilience, reducing landlessness and recognising women’s land rights. For many marginalised people, that has not come true. Had action started faster, more could have been achieved.

Due to its geography, Nepal will always be an earthquake-prone country. The first recorded earthquake was in 1255. Reports suggest it killed about one-third of the population of Kathmandu Valley. In the past 100 years, the country suffered major earthquakes in 1934, 1980, 1988 and 2011. Weather-related disasters are common too. Floods and landslides affect the country every year in the monsoon season, because of heavy rainfalls. Nepal therefore must certainly improve disaster preparedness, especially by boosting poor communities’ resilience.

References

Asia Foundation, 2019: Aid and recovery in post-earthquake Nepal.
https://asiafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/IRM-Nepal_Aid-and-Recovery-in-Post-Earthquake-Nepal-Qualititative-Field-MonitoringNovember-2019_EN.pdf

World Bank, 2019: Lessons in earthquake reconstruction: five proven approaches from Nepal.
https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2021/12/01/lessons-in-earthquake-reconstruction-five-proven-approaches-from-nepal

Rukamanee Maharjan is an assistant professor of law at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.
rukumaharjan@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

The first disabled member of Togo’s parliament

D+C - 16. August 2022 - 12:23
In Togo, activists have already achieved a great deal for people with disabilities

It took two attempts, and one failed. However, a man with a disability was indeed elected to Togo’s parliament in late 2018. Gaëtan Ahoomey-Zunu succeeded in convincing voters in the northern districts of Lomé, and now represents them in the National Assembly.

The fact that someone with such a handicap was elected to the National Assembly is noteworthy. Jérémie Vidja, another visually impaired politician, ran in 2013, but did not win a seat. How people perceive persons with disabilities has changed.

That is not true everywhere yet. As is true of many African regions, parents typically blame a child’s disability on a curse. They believe that is the reason why someone is born with a handicap or becomes physically or mentally impaired in the course of their life, even if the obvious cause is an accident or illness.

Disabilities as a burden

Children with disabilities are an enormous financial burden on a family. Governmental social-protection is inadequate in Togo, so parents get no material or financial support (see my previous contribution on www.dandc.eu). Very few have the courage to stand up to the discrimination their children face daily. Many struggle to give disabled children self-confidence. Parents thus often fail to ensure their kids enjoy social and professional inclusion.

Many children with disabilities do not even attend school, in spite of clear evidence of school benefiting both the children and their families. Attending classes boosts disabled children’s development, so they become less likely to end up as beggars on the streets of large cities.

Inclusive schools lead to political change

The first schools for children with visual and hearing impairments were established in Togo in the 1970s. German non-governmental organisations played a foundational role, helping to bring about an intellectual elite that today includes people with disabilities.

The outstanding academic achievements of the pioneers and their hard-won professional careers opened people’s eyes to the considerable potential of people with disabilities. In the past ten years, the government has begun to prioritise inclusive education as well as access to the labour market. That is part of the effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

In 2021, some 20 teachers with a command of sign language and Braille were assisting 7139 children with disabilities in school. Equipped with motorcycles, these teachers each visit four to five villages a day. They support disabled children in class for a few hours. If those kids are at risk of dropping out, the teachers reach out to the parents.

Unfortunately, dropping out is common. Relevant causes include long and difficult journeys to school as well as inadequate access to learning materials.

Not everyone benefits

So far, the number of mobile teachers is too small to support every child with a disability. Government statistics show that 13,282 children with disabilities were identified as being at risk of dropping out because their low-income parents cannot afford the high costs associated with sending a disabled kid to school.

Nonetheless, Togo’s government deserves appreciation for focusing on inclusion in education. It is a major progress that the budget now includes funding for school needs of children with disabilities. Parents – and, of course, graduates with disabilities – will have to keep campaigning to protect that budget item and, if possible, increase it.

The vision of an inclusive labour market

It would make sense to introduce a quota system for employees with disabilities in the public sector as well as large private-sector companies. Legislation will be necessary. In December 2020, a law took force that forbids employment discrimination against college graduates with disabilities. However, nothing guarantees employers’ compliance. The situation is difficult, given that the unemployment rate is generally high. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics, 35 % of the entire working-age population was unemployed in 2018.

The Covid-19 crisis and subsequent inflation have made matters worse. Many struggling companies have failed. Employers now do not prioritise hiring persons with disabilities. They prefer people who are not disabled, believing they will be more productive.

The public sector is currently hardly hiring either. In view of excessive sovereign debt, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is insisting on austerity.

College graduates with disabilities feel excluded from the labour market and there is no specific financing system to support their entrepreneurship. Accordingly, some are joining in protests against the government.

Social protest movements

Fovi Katakou, a young man with multiple disabilities, has become famous in West Africa for his opposition to Togo’s government. His ten-day imprisonment at the end of 2021 attracted attention. His offence was that he had dared to criticise the government on social media.

The son of a math teacher and a businesswoman, Katakou received support from his parents. Despite his handicaps, he manged to complete school and graduate from university. He has a degree in sociology. For ten years or so, he has been posting items on social media discussing poverty and political repression in Togo. He has become a media personality because many journalists have interviewed him.

As a high-profile activist, Fovi Katakou is exposed to repression. Togolese authorities do not shy away from imprisoning the wheelchair user for his statements or his participation in rallies. On the other hand, his bravery in confrontation with the state has indisputably made him popular in Togo.

He represents a new generation of people with disabilities. They no longer want to limit themselves to begging in the street or receiving aid from charities. In spite of their physical limitations, they want to use their intellectual capabilities. They want to build a free and just country in which no one is excluded because of poverty or disability.

Samir Abi works for Visions Solidaires, a non-governmental development organisation in Togo.
samirvstg@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

Rahman Abbas: South Asian lessons from Nazi Holocaust

D+C - 15. August 2022 - 14:55
Indian author’s dystopian novel warns of harm that identity politics may cause

Constant agitation against the Muslim minority is part of the BJP’s agenda. The BJP is the Hindu-supremacist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is recurring violence, which government agencies often tolerate or even endorse. What increasingly resembles pogroms, is then played down as “communal violence”. Abbas feels reminded of German Nazis’ brutal racism in the 1930s and 1940s.

In India, the tendency to marginalise not only Muslims, but other minorities too, has been gaining momentum in recent years. Aggressive agitation claims that minorities want to harm the nation, which, in the view of right-wing populists, must be defined by Hinduism. The BJP and its allies promote that kind of attitude (see Arfa Khanum Sherwani on www.dandc.eu). According to Abbas, a disaster like the Nazis’ Holocaust is looming. International experts such as Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch, the international civil-society organisation, share that concern.

“Heretic”

The title of the new novel is “Zindeeq”, which means “heretic”. The main protagonist is from an educated and liberal Muslim family. After succeeding in school, he rises fast in the ranks of the military. From that point on, the plot turns to other issues. The young man’s life is marked by unrest in Kashmir, growing nationalist and racist sentiments and increasing tensions with Pakistan. In both countries, minorities are hounded with diminishing restraint and escalating brutality. The protagonist, however, is appalled by Islamist extremism as well as Hindu supremacism.

In 2019, a grant from Robert Bosch Foundation and Literary Colloquium Berlin (LCB) enabled Rahman Abbas to come to Germany for a month. He visited former extermination camps and information centres dedicated to the Nazi genocide. He also talked with people who witnessed the Holocaust as well as descendants. Parts of the novel relate directly to Abbas’ experience in Germany.

Did the trip mitigate Abbas’ dreadful fears? Well, his novel is dystopian, and its ending is foretold at the very beginning: “The sky over the garrison, where he had last been stationed, was dark. Looking around, one saw, to one side, the sad sea, which sounded as though it were crying and thus reinforced the depressing mood. Some 600 kilometres away to the other side, the metropolis was now mostly in ruins. To the north and south, several cities were reduced to rubble. To the west – along the coast and in the dense forests – a few villages had been spared, but people there were suffering poverty, desperation and insecurity.”

More than politics

Zindeeq’s plot is gripping. The novel spells out a dire warning not to allow narrow-minded identity politics to suffocate a liberal and pluralistic social order. Nonetheless, the book tackles many things that are not of immediately political relevance, though they do have socio-political implications, such as sex, philosophy, drugs, a dose of Sufism and, not least, poetry. That will not surprise anyone who knows Abbas’ award-winning novel Rohzin (see Hans Dembowski on www.dandc.eu). 

Zindeeq was released in Urdu in 2021. By June 2022, the third edition was printed. Urdu is closely related to Hindi, but is written in the Urdu alphabet which is based on the Arabic one. Urdu is used as an official language in Pakistan and parts of India.

Novels by Rahman Abbas

Zindeeq, Urdu
– Delhi, Arshia, 2021 and
– Lahore, Aks Publications, 2022

Rohzin, English
– Delhi, Vintage Books, 2022

Rohzin, German
– Heidelberg, Draupadi, 2018 (The German title is: „Die Stadt, das Meer, die Liebe“)

Almuth Degener teaches Indian languages at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. She is currently preparing a German translation of Zindeeq and was previously responsible for the German edition of Rohzin.
degener@uni-mainz.de

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USA tops this year’s Financial Secrecy Index

D+C - 15. August 2022 - 14:15
According to the Tax Justice Network, G7 members are slowing down global progress regarding financial transparency

According to the Tax Justice Network (TJN), a Britain-based civil-society organisation, G7 nations are complicit in having allowed Russian oligarchs hide their wealth. At a time when they are trying to make sanctions effective in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, “they need to be looking at themselves”, says Alex Cobham, the Network’s chief executive. Financial secrecy facilitates tax evasion, corruption, money laundering and illicit financial flows in general. It also makes it harder to impose sanctions effectively.

The TJN uses 20 indicators to assess to what extent a country facilitates financial secrecy. The indicators include laws on banking secrets, registers of company ownership and cooperation on sharing tax information internationally. The more loopholes a country’s financial system has, the more it provides “financial secrecy services” in the FSI jargon.

According to the TJN, transparency is generally improving due to reforms in various countries and more international cooperation. However, it accuses five G7 nations of slowing down the trend. “The US, UK, Germany, Italy and Japan cut back that global progress by more than half,” Cobham stated in May.

According to this year’s Financial Secrecy Index (FSI), the top twelve sinners are:

  • The USA
  • Switzerland
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Luxembourg
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • United Arab Emirates
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • Guernsey
  • China
  • The Netherlands

Britain follows in the 13th spot, ranking below two of its dependent territories (Guernsey and Virgin Islands).

How countries foster financial secrecy differs, but there are common patterns. Transactions made by companies, which do not disclose their owners, help mafia gangs or corrupt politicians to launder black money. Real estate investments are a way to store hidden wealth, especially when shell companies make the payments. Where whistleblowers at financial institutions are penalised, moreover, illegitimate secrets are more likely to be kept. Lax law enforcement is another issue. The TJN explicitly accuses Germany of only “underwhelming implementation” of new transparency laws.

The FSI is compiled every two years. This time, 141 jurisdictions were assessed. The FSI includes estimates concerning how important a specific jurisdiction is to the world economy. The countries that top the FSI thus do not necessarily have the most secretive financial systems, but their impact on other countries is reckoned to be particularly strong.

Financial secrecy is an international issue because it helps super rich actors to escape regulations (see Hans Dembowski on www.dandc.eu). The TJN is in favour of establishing a global asset register. Such an institution could cover all individuals internationally who own assets worth more than € 10 million. The most prominent policymaker to endorse this idea is probably Mario Draghi, Italy’s prime minister and former president of the European Central Bank. Prominent economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty or Gabriel Zucman support the proposal as well.

Link
Tax Justice Network, 2022, press release: US tops financial secrecy ranking as G7 countries upend global progress on transparency.
https://taxjustice.net/press/us-tops-financial-secrecy-ranking-as-g7-countries-upend-global-progress-on-transparency/

Chimezie Anajama wrote this article as an intern at D+C/E+Z. She recently received her masters degree in development management from Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
vivienchime@gmail.com
Twitter: @mschimezie

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