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Involving men to change gender stereotypes

D+C - 5. August 2022 - 9:30
In many African countries males are often unwilling to get involved in reproductive health issues of their partners

Men are often brought up in a gender-stereotypical way which takes on negative and dangerous interpretations. Many men feel shy, embarrassed and uncomfortable to talk about and get involved in reproductive health issues. Moreover, most communities in Ghana raise males with a mindset of “manhood” rooted in male chauvinism. For many young men, their understanding of masculine gender roles revolves around a show of macho and some degree of violence and aggression.

A 24-year-old Ghanaian male who prefers anonymity says that “women should know themselves and how to take care of themselves. We are troubled with our jobs, how to make money to support the home and make ends meet.” He thinks that reproductive health is a women’s issue, that they can handle themselves. He adds: “In fact, there are many health experts today who can help the women while exercising confidentiality.”

There is need to change this mindset and encourage males to be more involved in reproductive health, which extends to maternal and child health. Women and girls face multiple challenges because males who are the salient drivers in reproduction and sexuality avoid responsibility. Many females complain of lack of emotional and financial support from their male partners during pregnancy, family planning, prenatal and postnatal care. Pregnant women and girls still must do their domestic work which endangers their health.

Sandra Waterwood, a 23-year-old female university student at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology says: “As women, we build trust with our partners without shame or prejudice and get assisted. However, most men pretend ignorance when our reproductive concerns are raised. They feel it makes them pliable and judge themselves as misfits leaving the burden on us alone.”

There is need for sensitisation to encourage men to become open and overcome gender stereotypes. Moreover, male involvement in women’s health would help reduce prevalent challenges such as spread of sexually transmitted infections and diseases like HIV/AIDS. “Menstrual health and ‘safe periods’ as well as family planning need male involvement in order to build support systems for women and girls,” Sandra says.

UN agencies continue to encourage state parties to fight gender stereotypes. Historically, the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo drew attention to the need for male involvement in maternity care. It called for the inclusion of men as partners and role players in maternal health care. The recommendations of the conference were adopted by the Ghana Health Service in a strategic plan. It involves males especially in programmes aimed at promoting maternal health at the household and community levels. Despite this efforts, much more needs to be done.

Bismark Acheampong is a Ghanaian writer.
bismarkacheampongkwasi@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

On the way to a multipolar world order

D+C - 5. August 2022 - 9:06
China's rise means the US and Europe need to adjust their foreign policy to avoid losing geopolitical influence

The balance of power between the world’s political systems is shifting. The trend is towards a multipolar world order, with geopolitical influence spread over a number of actors. Countries and institutions will need to reposition themselves. That is the conclusion we reach in our book “Global Perspectives on Megatrends” (Kuhn, Margellos, 2022). We have cooperated with scholars and political analysts from various parts of the world to assess geopolitical trends and their implications for multilateral cooperation.

We completed the manuscript shortly after Russia started its war on Ukraine. We see our views concerning the emergence of a multipolar world confirmed. So far, the course of the war and its consequences show how much geopolitical powers’ interests currently diverge.

The US and EU have to date not succeeded in isolating Russia completely, and there is no realistic prospect of that happening in the foreseeable future. China, India, South Africa and other countries of the global south did not join the West’s sanctions regime, even though an overwhelming majority of UN members adopted a resolution deploring the humanitarian situation in Ukraine at the UN General Assembly meeting in March (see Imme Scholz on www.dandc.eu). It was clearly directed against Russia.

Obviously, strong cooperation of EU and US will significantly hurt Putin’s regime in the medium term. It may also make China’s ascent more difficult. Nonetheless, western allies must come to terms with their influence becoming increasingly limited.

The trend towards a multipolar world order is being discussed in the think-tank community under the keyword “hegemonic shift”. The issue has figured prominently in high-level conferences. The Munich Security Report 2020, which was published after the 56th Munich Security Conference, coined the term “westlessness”. In November 2021, the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore addressed Asia’s growing share of global GDP and its increasing stock-market capitalisation.

New investment in infrastructure

Western influence is expected to diminish in the global south. The G7 leaders announced the intention to invest more in global infrastructure at their summit in Bavaria in June. Among other things, they promise to support developing and emerging economies’ progress towards climate neutrality and strengthen health infrastructure in Africa. However, this is a very late response to China’s global infrastructure programme, the “Belt and Road Initiative”. China’s influence in many developing countries is not going to be significantly scaled back by new G7 efforts in this field (see Charles Martin Shields on the “Digital Silk Road” initiative, on www.dandc.eu).

Developing countries could actually benefit from the hegemonic shift. Parag Khanna, an Indian-American political scientist and global strategy advisor, has stated that neither the USA nor China will emerge as winners from the present global rivalry. Other countries should be able to benefit by cooperating selectively with both of them. A number of Asian countries, including Singapore and Malaysia, for example, are trying to build relationships with both super powers, balancing ties to maximise their own advantages.

Pay more attention to China

Since Donald Trump’s presidency, China has been a primary focus of US national-security thinking. Trump’s decisions, which were declared to “make America great again”, intensified tensions. The trade war between the two countries culminated in escalating tariffs and a dispute over the World Trade Organization (WTO) after it ruled that the US had violated its rules.

At times, moreover, it seemed that China was more successful than the US or the EU in dealing with Covid-19. In the medium term, however, it may have paid a very high economic price for its zero-Covid strategy. The massive restrictions on personal freedom imposed in spring 2022 have severely tarnished the public image of China and especially the Shanghai Economic Region.

President Joe Biden is trying to get his country more involved in multilateral affairs and improve relations with the EU. Towards China, his administration is signalling that it will not accept co-leadership in global affairs – with one notable exception: climate policy. The hope to limit cooperation with China to climate matters seems unrealistic.

China has expanded its investment across various sectors in recent decades and has sought to forge new alliances. It has been successfully wooing partners in the global south for cooperation. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) are examples. Moreover, the BRICS alliance with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa is useful in the pursuit of foreign-policy goals. It is also running an international finance institution of its own: the Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB). However, expert opinions differ to which extent China can capitalise on such cooperation formats which tend to lack features of deep political and economic integration (see Praveen Jha on www.dandc.eu).

China is also vigorously promoting the renminbi as an international trading currency and trying to expand its stock markets. Related efforts to weaken the role of the US dollar will add to the tensions. After all, the hegemonic position of the United States is due largely to the dollar’s dominance in international trade and the country’s huge stock markets.

China’s rise will continue for a while

Looking ahead, China’s rise is expected to continue for a number of years. However, it will not go unchallenged, not least by China’s neighbours. The Taiwan conflict may also cloud relations with the US. Scholars disagree on the extent to which future multipolarity will be more unstable than the bipolarity of the Cold War or the unipolar dominance the USA in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

NATO is currently experiencing a marked resurgence. Moreover, the US will becoming more engaged in foreign policy again, especially in Europe and Asia. The EU looks largely united in its solidarity with Ukraine. However, disengagement from Russia will take its toll. Energy prices are rising. On the other hand, efforts to transition to clean energy will pay dividends in the long run.

G20 meetings will continue to attract political attention, despite the difficult question of Russian participation. However, even western governments will not want to lose the G20 channels for dialogue. Multilateralism is thus not in decline. It is transitioning and adapting to an increasingly multipolar global order.

Tough climate negotiations

The United Nations will continue to broaden and deepen its climate agenda with an eye to mitigation and sustainability. Related negotiations will remain very difficult, however. One of the most controversial issues is the extent to which vulnerable countries can claim financial compensation for losses caused by climate change. This will be a bone of contention at the upcoming UN climate summit in Egypt in November.

The USA and the EU still have a great deal of power to shape many areas of international cooperation. To retain that power, they should:

  • sustainably modernise their economies in the sense of implementing something like Green New Deals,
  • adapt their foreign policy to the conditions of an increasingly multipolar world order and,
  • develop a prudent strategy for building alliances with other strong and reform-minded economies.

If they succeed in these things, Russia is likely to emerge from the war against Ukraine severely weakened in geopolitical, economic and military terms. China’s chances of dominating the global economy and politics might also be reduced.

Reference
Kuhn, B. M., Margellos, D. L., 2022: Global perspectives on megatrends. Hanover, Ibidem Publishers. New York, Columbia University Press.
https://bit.ly/megatrends-book

Berthold M. Kuhn is a political scientist and adjunct professor at Freie Universität Berlin. As a consultant, he advises international organisations and think tanks.
berthold.kuhn@fu-berlin.de

Dimitrios L. Margellos is a student of political science at the Freie Universität Berlin.
dimitriol35@zedat.fu-berlin.de

Kategorien: english

More lifesaving grain shipments authorized to leave Ukraine

UN ECOSOC - 4. August 2022 - 23:53
Three more ships have been given the green light to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Friday, carrying just over 58,000 tons of corn, in a move that will raise hopes further for the success of a UN initiative aimed at lowering prices of essential foods and easing the global crisis.
Kategorien: english

UNFPA global innovation awards: 10 projects that will change lives of women and girls

UN ECOSOC - 4. August 2022 - 21:24
The UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, has announced the ten winners of its first ever Joint Innovation Challenge; a cutting edge competition to provide funding for social enterprises with innovative solutions that advance the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
Kategorien: english

Unprecedented global challenges are ‘not insurmountable’ – UN chief

UN #SDG News - 4. August 2022 - 19:52
Nearly a year ago, the UN chief released his report, Our Common Agenda (OCA), a blueprint for global cooperation moving forward, and reinvigorated multilateralism. On Thursday, he updated the General Assembly on progress made so far, saying the need for the report’s proposals “has only increased.”
Kategorien: english

Unprecedented global challenges are ‘not insurmountable’ – UN chief

UN ECOSOC - 4. August 2022 - 19:52
Nearly a year ago, the UN chief released his report, Our Common Agenda (OCA), a blueprint for global cooperation moving forward, and reinvigorated multilateralism. On Thursday, he updated the General Assembly on progress made so far, saying the need for the report’s proposals “has only increased.”
Kategorien: english

Is the Sri Lankan debt crisis a harbinger?

Brookings - 4. August 2022 - 19:09

By Shanta Devarajan, Homi Kharas

      
Kategorien: english

How The Global Food Crisis is Impacting People and Politics in the Middle East

UN Dispatch - 4. August 2022 - 17:10

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Middle East was heavily dependent on importing food from Ukraine and Russia. The disruption of grain exports from the Black Sea region has had a profoundly negative impact on food security in the Middle East.

I’m joined today my Arnaud Quemin, Middle East regional director for Mercy Corps. We kick off discussing what the food security situation in the region looked like before the war and then have an extended conversation about how the global food crisis is impacting people and politics in the Middle East.

Apple Podcasts  | Google PodcastsSpotify  | Podcast Addict  |  Stitcher  | Radio Public 

 

The post How The Global Food Crisis is Impacting People and Politics in the Middle East appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Thousands of people missing in Mexico

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 15:01
Gang violence and the war on drugs costs many lives every day in Mexico and causes a lot of suffering

According to the National Register of Missing or Not Located people, in the last 58 years more than 100,000 people have gone missing and 97 % of those registered refer to cases after 2006. The numbers of unreported cases are almost certainly much higher.

After 2006, the Mexican government started the so-called war on drugs and a militarised public security model. Since then violence has increased and people are afraid of the continuous disappearance of individuals that occurs daily in the country. Crime rings use disappearance of persons as a strategy to extort families and spread fear.

The country’s growing population amidst socioeconomic challenges such as the lack of access to quality public services, unemployment and poverty have worsened the situation of inequality in many communities. Crime has therefore become lucrative and many see it as the only way to survive.

Ana Fatima López Iturríos, a feminist lawyer and human-rights activist, says: “For families whose loved ones have gone missing, there is endless anxiety and frustration.” They find themselves in a kind of limbo, with no certainty of finding their missing persons. “The state has not offered any kind of support to these families even when some lose their breadwinners,” she adds.

Many women across Mexico are suffering. They find themselves in the position of having to manage their households after the disappearance of a son, husband, or father. “When my husband disappeared, I was left with nothing, no house, nothing. I couldn’t solve anything, because my husband was missing and there was no deceased body, therefore I still can’t solve anything about my house. My children don’t even have insurance, and I was left wondering what I should do,” recounts a female entrepreneur from the state of Jalisco in western Mexico.

This woman, a mother of three children, one of whom has a psychomotor disability and autism, has had her husband missing for seven years. She decided to start a business to raise money to take care of her family.

Several activists and human-rights advocates fault the state for failing to end disappearance of persons in the country. They believe that the government has failed to fulfil its obligation of providing security of person and guarantee of rights.

Mexican authorities have for long failed to clamp down on criminal gangs that operate in several territories. “These crimes are so latent and frequent that people cannot go out on the street without harbouring fear that they may not return home,” says Fatima López.

Whether it is an unwillingness on the part of politicians or institutional failure, more crime rings continue to spring up and thrive in the country. Cries from communities, families and individuals who fall victims to these saboteurs continue to fall on deaf ears. In some cases, blame is heaped on the persons who have been kidnapped by the criminals.

 

Pamela Cruz is the Special Projects Coordinator at Comunalia, a network of community foundations in Mexico and Strategic Advisor at MY World Mexico.
pamela.cruzm@gmail.com

 

Kategorien: english

Experiences from Zimbabwe's regime of repression

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 14:53
A media conference in Hamburg will examine false information, hate speech and the role the media plays in this context

In the 1980s, the regime of autocratic President Robert Mugabe had over 20,000 members of the Ndebele people murdered. They belonged to the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and were therefore Mugabe's political opponents. The atrocities became known under the name Gukurahundi and are classified as a genocide. Even today, it is dangerous in Zimbabwe to report on this event and give a voice to witnesses and the families of the victims.

Activist Zenzele Ndebele from the media organisation Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE) in Bulawayo says: “We have been trying for several years, through documentation and public discussions, to unearth and record the horrors of that time. The families of the victims have a right to know what happened.” Ndebele and his fellow activists at CITE give very little advance notice of the locations and times of their activities in order to avoid being harassed by the state. The Zimbabwean security forces keep a close watch on the organisation because the governing party has no interest in coming to terms with the past.

In researching the Gukurahundi, Ndebele discovered the extent to which the Mugabe regime distributed false information four decades ago in order to conceal the scope of the genocide and justify the actions his own supporters. “It's like on social media today: false information stokes hate, and hate leads to violence,” Ndebele explains. For that reason, CITE has begun a large project on media and information literacy. Since 2021, the organisation has been training volunteers to improve the media literacy of the people in their communities.

Ndebele and some of his team members will explain in detail what exactly that looks like and what contribution CITE is making to accounting for the Gukurahundi at this year's symposium of the Forum Media and Development (fome22) in Hamburg. And there will be other speakers from all over the globe who will share their experiences.

Editor-in-chief Soe Myint from Myanmar will report on how the media organisation Mizzima pre-emptively prepared for crises and therefore was able to respond quickly to the military coup in the Southeast Asian country last year.

A representative from Rappler, the critical Philippine news outlet of Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, will report on how her editorial office is preparing itself for attacks by the state. Bosnian experts will describe what lessons their media has learned from dealing with the past. Other topics will include the communication strategies of truth commissions, as well as efforts to better prosecute offences against journalists. Participants will also discuss how media development organisations can better assess their activities in the context of violent conflicts and the situation of the media in Ukraine.

The title of the symposium, which will take place on 13 and 14 September in Hamburg, is "Media Development: Dealing with the Past – Preparing for the Future". Workshops, presentations and discussions will be devoted to the question: what role can the media play in dealing with past armed conflicts and preventing future armed conflicts, and what contribution can media development cooperation make?

Link
Programme, tickets and tips on the symposium
www.fome.info

www.interlink.academy

Werner Eggert is the director of the Interlink Academy for Dialog and Journalism, which is organising this year's symposium.
werner.eggert@interlink.academy

Kategorien: english

American joy and sorrow

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 14:45
The novel "Behold the Dreamers" scrutinises the "American dream" based on the experiences of an immigrant family from Cameroon

Jende Jonga came to the US from Cameroon as an asylum seeker and is hoping to obtain a residence permit. While American authorities review his application for asylum, he is able to bring his wife and son over from Cameroon. In a particular stroke of luck, his cousin helps him get a well-paying job as a chauffeur for a wealthy banker at Lehman Brothers. Jende seems to have arrived in the country of his dreams.

While Jende's employer Clark Edwards and his family recreate the dream of American success, Jende and his family experience the typical lot of an immigrant family: they live in a small, shabby apartment in Harlem, New York's historically Black neighbourhood, and work every day until late at night. But Jende and his wife Neni firmly believe in the American dream that through hard work, anything can be achieved. And Neni has big plans in America. She wants to become a pharmacist. Every minute that she is not working or taking care of the household she is studying for college, hoping that her degree will gain her admission to pharmacy school. Even at night she hardly lets herself sleep.

The Jongas admire the Edwards' wealth and lifestyle, which is so different from their own. The Edwards live in a large mansion with servants and the wife, Cindy, can buy everything she can dream of. Neni is also able to work there as a housekeeper occasionally. In time, the Jongas recognise that the lives of their rich employers are not as perfect as they seem. Clark Edwards works around the clock and enjoys the company of prostitutes in hotels for hours on end, while Cindy is depressed and prone to abusing alcohol and drugs.

Then the crash comes. When Lehman Brothers goes broke and triggers a global banking crisis, the American dream comes to an abrupt end for both families. Clark loses his position and fires Jende, who now struggles to support his family with poorly paid temporary jobs. The authorities then deny his application for asylum. As deportation looms, he suffers a physical and psychological breakdown. He resolves to return to Cameroon.

Neni is completely opposed to this idea and their marriage is almost torn apart. After an excruciating process, Neni finally concedes, as she believes a good Cameroonian wife should. The book does not close with a hopeless, destructive ending – quite the opposite. Both families are able to find hope in the crisis. Clark Edwards recognises how valuable time with his family is, and Jende and Neni look forward to a pleasant life in Cameroon. With the thousands of dollars they have saved, they are wealthy by Cameroonian standards, and hope to acquire a large house and send their children to a good school.

The author, who was born in Cameroon in 1982, put much of her own biography into her debut novel, for which she won the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award in 2017. At the age of 17, she herself came from Cameroon to the US, where relatives financed her education. She graduated from Columbia University in New York and subsequently worked in market research for a media company. Following the American financial crisis, Mbue lost her job and was unemployed for a year and a half. According to her, she was disillusioned about life in the US and the American dream, which is not accessible to everyone. She toyed with the idea of returning to Cameroon.

In contrast to the characters of her novel, however, Mbue found success in the US. She has held American citizenship since 2014 and her novel, which was published in 2016, was a surprise hit.

Book
Imbolo Mbue, 2016: Behold the Dreamers. Random House, New York.

Sabine Balk is editor of D+C/E+Z.
euz.editor@dandc.eu

Kategorien: english

Two multilateral banks based in China

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 14:41
What the NDB and AIIB have in common – and how they differ

The Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB), also known as the BRICS Bank, was founded in 2014. It is a significant institution, but not a big player among the multilateral development banks. So far, the NDB has disbursed about $ 15 billion in infrastructure financing. The World Bank Group, by contrast, disbursed more than $ 60 billion in 2021.

The major shareholders of the NDB are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The governance system is well designed. The BRICS members are in control. The bank is a worthy start, but not making a difference in global affairs yet.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is another new international financial institution. It is headquartered in Beijing. With total disbursements worth about $ 20 billion so far, it is not a big player either. China is the dominant power, though the AIIB now has 103 member states, including major EU countries such as Germany, France and Italy. Beijing took the initiative to start the AIIB before the NDB was even discussed in the BRICS context. There is no resident board of directors, so the president has a lot of leeway. Rules concerning social or environmental protection are quite loose, and efficiency and flexibility have been declared to be the top priorities.

It is quite obvious that the AIIB is more important in the eyes of China’s leaders. To a large extent, it supports the regime’s foreign policy, including its massive international infrastructure programme called the Belt and Road Initiative. Moreover, China is running many other international funding programmes which are geared to forging partnerships with countries in several world regions, including Africa, Central Eastern Europe or Latin America. Region-specific summits are held in Beijing regularly as well.

Praveen Jha is a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

praveenjha2005@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

A brief history of the BRICS

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 14:30
Why Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as a group are no real counterweight to the US-led G7

Two decades ago, Jim O’Neill, a manager at Goldman Sachs, the New-York based investment bank, coined the acronym BRICs. It stood for Brazil, Russia, India and China. In his eyes, these four emerging economies stood out due to high growth rates and large populations. The political systems, however, were very different, ranging from representative democracy to full-blown dictatorship. The economic models were very different too, and so were history, culture and geography. Russia spans half of the Arctic Circle, while India and Brazil are mostly tropical countries.

Nonetheless, the new term became popular, including in the countries concerned. In 2006, the four foreign ministers of the BRICs met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. In 2009, the inaugural BRICs’ summit took place in Yekatrinburg, Russia, and annual summits have taken place ever since. The latest one was a digitised event, hosted by China’s president Xi Jinping in June.

Capitalising the “s”

When South Africa joined in 2010, the “s” in BRICS was capitalised. By that time, the global context had changed considerably. In 2008, Lehman Brothers, another New York investment bank, had collapsed, triggering a financial crisis which spread around the globe. The G7 (Group of seven major high-income economies) had been hit especially hard. That emerging economies were faring better bolstered their international standing. From late 2008 on, the top leaders of the 20 largest economies (Group of 20 – G20) had begun staging annual summits. They involved the G7, what was yet to become the five-member BRICS as well as several other nations.

The BRICS account for roughly one quarter of global GDP in dollar terms and one third in purchasing power parities. About 40 % of the world population lives in a BRICS country. The latest annual summit was a digitised event, hosted by China’s president Xi Jinping in June.

Group’s appeal is not based on common agenda

Several other developing countries and emerging markets have stated their interest in joining the group. They include Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and Argentina. Given that the BRICS do not have a clear agenda, its appeal seems awkward. What it shows, however, is that many governments are uncomfortable with the US-led G7 dominating the global arena. Quite obviously, they see the BRICS as a potential counterweight.

So far, however, the BIRCS have not been able to play such a role. They lack a coherent agenda. There has been a lot of talk regarding various economic issues, of course, but apart from one exception, big announcements did not result in tangible projects or meaningful multilateral initiatives. So far, the BRICS have only one new joint institution: the Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB). Other announcements concerned things like an innovation partnership, a contingent foreign-exchange arrangement or a BRICS credit rating agency. None of them materialised.

Awkward allies

Part of the problem is that the BRICS do not agree on much apart from not accepting a unipolar world and rejecting US hegemony. As the macroeconomic situations of the five countries and their strategic interest diverge considerably, they struggle to find common ground. In particular, India and China are not natural allies, but rather fierce competitors. The security situation along the Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas is tense, and soldiers are indeed killed occasionally.

India, moreover, is largely bypassed by China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive international infrastructure-investment programme which has financed projects in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In view of mounting sovereign-debt problems, however, it is not clear that they are really beneficiaries. In any case, the Belt and Road Initiative shows that Beijing sees New Delhi as a rival and that it is dealing with international debt issues on its own and not in concert with BRICS partners.

Trade between the five countries has actually been in decline, and the Covid-19 pandemic is not the only reason. Trade frictions between India and China are becoming increasingly evident.

The G7 are eager to exploit tensions within the BRICS. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa were both invited to the recent G7 summit in Bavaria. They attended a side-event, and that must have made alarms ring in Beijing. China has indicated an interest in expanding the BRICS, but other members seem to prefer keeping it small. All five are doing what suits their national interests.

Disappointment in the G7

International Disappoint in the G7 has many reasons. For the purpose of this essay, I will restrict myself to pointing out that the global South has heard many long lectures on prudent macroeconomic management and fighting corruption. We notice, however, that no one is held accountable when reckless Wall Street speculation plunges the world economy into recession. Nor is anyone held accountable when German automobile manufacturers cheat customers around the world by systematically manipulating the documentation of car emissions. G7 hypocrisy did not start with US President Donald Trump. It was evident long before him – and it has not left the global state with him either.

In the current multilateral system, the G7 are aligned with financial capital and wield disproportionate power. It would be good to have a counterweight. The BRICS are too disparate to serve that function. So far, their big announcements have even largely neglected important issues like the climate crisis. They are unlikely to adopt the kind of coherent agenda that would be needed, not least, because they all want to benefit as best they can from the currently prevailing order. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, moreover, has made things even more difficult than they already were.

Increasingly unstable global order

On the one hand, the other four BRICS members have all condemned Moscow’s aggression. On the other hand, they are eager not to make things difficult for Russia. To some extent, they are trying to benefit from Russia’s isolation, for example by importing its commodities at discount prices. At the same time, the NDB has frozen its Russia programme. The reason is that it wants to keep its western AA+ rating, which shows how limited the BRICS’ range of action really is. How the BRICS as a group will cope with an increasingly unstable global order remains to be seen.

Praveen Jha is a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
praveenjha2005@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

What Ukraine war has meant for Libya so far

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 14:23
When world-market prices soared, oil production went down in strife-torn North African country

Ukraine was one of Libya’s major grain suppliers in the past and perhaps even the most important one. Michel Cousins, the British editor of the Libya Herald, and online newspaper, has said that the disruption of those imports hurt the country. However, he insists that it does have the funds to cope with higher commodity prices, in contrast to other countries in North Africa that do not benefit from the same kind or resource revenues

Jamal Alzaidy, the editor-in-chief of the state-run newspaper Al-Sabah, agrees. In his eyes, it helps that Libya’s population of 7 million is comparatively small. Neighbouring Egypt has more than 100 million, and Tunisia 12 million. Both must do without revenues from oil exports. That makes their foreign-exchange situation more difficult, so they are less able to adjust to higher costs of importing vitally needed grain. Nonetheless, Libyans were angry about higher bread prices.

In late July, however, grain was internationally trading at about the same price level as it did when the war began. Prices had initially risen fast, and then slowly dropped again from June on. Reasons included that harvest forecasts in several world regions have improved, that Russia started selling stolen Ukrainian grain and that, in late July, a deal was struck that was expected to facilitate grain shipments on the Black Sea once more. At the beginning of August, the situation did not look tense from the Libyan perspective. The scenario may, however, change fast again.

Oil prices increased too, when the war began, and they are still about 10 % higher. The bad news for Libya is that it did not benefit, because the leaders of various armed groups have been blocking oil fields, so production stalled. The national Oil Corporation had to suspend shipments for reasons it could not control and thus referred to “force majeure” clauses. According to Cousins, “Libyan production plummeted, losing Libya billions in exports, just when that money was most needed”. The implication was that other oil-exporting countries, including Russia and Arab Gulf states, of course, wreaked in higher profits than they would have had Libya kept selling.

Fragile peace

Various militias control different parts of the country. Peace is fragile, and the country only has an interim government. The armed groups, moreover, generally depend on support from abroad. There are reasons to suspect that the sabotage of oil production was indeed meant to do more than only strengthen the hand of the commanders concerned. To some extent, it may have served the interests of those who back those commanders. Quite obviously, the persons in charge do not say so in public. The armed groups do not appreciate transparency and, beyond propaganda, do not give account to Libya’s people.

Russia, Turkey and Arab Gulf States are known to have a bearing on militias concerned. Arms have been shipped in from these countries. Moreover, the Wagner Group, a prominent Russian military service provider with a long track record of interventions in civil wars, is present in Libya. According to reports, some of its mercenaries were transferred to Ukraine when Russia launched the invasion.

According to Cousins, however, several hundred Wagner fighters are still in Libya, controlling places like Jufra airbase in the Sahara desert. Alzaidy, his fellow journalist, adds that the limited presence serves Russia’s strategic interests. After all, Libya is often called the “flaccid flank of Europe” in geo-political jargon (for more on EU and African security, see Julian Bergmann and Niels Keijzer on www.dandc.eu).

Moutaz Ali is a Libyan journalist.
ali.moutaz77@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

Over 100 million people belong to India’s scheduled tribes

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 14:17
India’s Adivasi communities’ have traditional norms - and a special legal status

To an outsider’s eye, the lifestyle of an Adivasi forest village may look unorganised, but it is based on carefully crafted customary laws. For example, villages in the Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh depend upon forest produce for their income. In March and April, they collect mahua flowers, with people plucking blossoms seemingly at random. However, there is a set of rules which govern what they do. According to their custom, each tree is allocated to a specific household, the members of which may collect its flowers.

Adivasi customs often diverge considerably from what is considered normal in Indian mainstream society. In the Bastar district of Chattisgarh, for example the tradition of Ghotul allows unmarried men and women to explore their compatibility before marriage. The couple can spend a fortnight together getting to know each other in a domicile they share. Afterwards, they may marry or go separate ways. This practice is far more liberal than arranged marriages with husband and wife often meeting for the very first time on their wedding day.

104 million people  

According to India’s 2011 census, 104 million people belong to the country’s scheduled tribes. They constituted almost nine percent of the total population and more than 11 % of the rural population. They speak more than 100 languages and vary in terms of their social structure, customs, language, religion, food habits, dress, economic sustenance and cultural manifestations.

Even in densely populated areas, Adivasi communities tend to live in separate villages, though they interact regularly with others. In forest areas, however, tribes are largely left to themselves. Conflicts arise when corporate powers with government backing want to extract resources from their lands (see main story).

In late July, Droupadi Murmu, was elected Indian president by the parliament. She is the first one from a tribal community, but is known as a well-aligned politician in her party, the Hindu-supremacist BJP. The president’s role is largely symbolic, so she will not make a major difference to forest villages in central India.

Suparna Banerjee recently obtained her PhD in development studies from Bonn University. Her book on forest-related conflicts in central India will be published by Routledge soon.

mail.suparnabanerjee@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

Position of the WHO at the beginning of the pandemic

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 13:16
Nationalist and authoritarian tendencies call into question the principle of human rights-based multilateralism

This trend is weakening the authority of the WHO. For example, its recommendations regarding the 2014 Ebola epidemic, a serious international health crisis, were implemented only insufficiently or not at all. Moreover, the WHO has long been chronically underfinanced and understaffed by member states.

The geopolitical climate at the beginning of the pandemic was marked by economic and political tensions between the USA and China. They led to an early and pronounced politicisation of the Covid-19 debate and affected the work of the WHO.

The architecture of the WHO is conflict-prone too. There are inherent tensions between the independent work of the secretariat, the executive and the sovereign interests of the 194 member states. The duty to take care of all people’s health rights is enshrined in the WHO’s constitution, but it must also navigate centres of power in nation states. All too often, however, national governments focus more on corporate interests than on public health even in their own country.

This dualism is also evident in how the normative function of the WHO on health issues diverges from its tangible work in member countries. Things are particularly striking when it comes to declaring a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). In such emergencies, local operations of WHO country offices and onsite teams often have a bearing on national sovereignty. The dualism was obvious before the pandemic. The authority of the WHO and its ability to criticise members states in the name of global health are limited by its financial and political dependence on member nations.

Andreas Wulf is the Berlin representative of medico international, a civil-society organisation.
wulf@medico.de

Anton Sundberg is a student assistant at medico international.

Kategorien: english

C20 Sous Sherpa Reveals How the G20 Should End Poverty 

#C20 18 - 4. August 2022 - 13:07

After the plenary talk show “Questioning the G20 Recovery Strategy When the Brink of Global Recession is Inevitable” at the C20 Policy Dialogue Meeting on July 27, 2022, Sous Sherpa of C20 Indonesia Risnawati Utami Richard delivered the importance of decent work for persons with disabilities in order to end poverty.

Risna said that the G20 presidency this year is actively involving persons with disabilities in their discussions. “I see that civil society, especially organizations of persons with disabilities, have been involved in the discussion process in the mainstreaming of persons with disabilities, one of which has been strengthened is the inclusive labor market,”

Despite that, she found the labor market is still not open inclusively, “However, there is no provision of adequate accessibility and accommodation, disabilities especially women will find it difficult to get decent work.” she continued. Besides, women with disabilities will face multiple discriminations due to their gender, their disabilities, the lack of access, or their poverty.

“People with disabilities, both men and women so far, can only work in the informal sector. G20 policies in the future may provide jobs in the informal sector and formal ones and they must provide access and reasonable accommodations in the workplace. For example, for people using wheelchairs like me, there must be a path for a wheelchair, accessible toilets, and an accessible workplace such as a desk and place to work that supports wheelchair users to work equally,” she added.

Risna wishes G20 to eradicate poverty through giving decent work to persons with disabilities. “As poverty for people with disabilities is very high compared to non-disabled, the G20 policy, which focuses on economic growth, can help reduce social-economic inequalities by giving them access to employment. People with disabilities, especially women, should get decent employment and decent work as one of their fundamental rights. ‘Decent’ here means quality and improves their welfare,” she said.

 According to her, people with disabilities are more thorough and diligent as they want to show excellence. It has been proven that once they find their passion, they will have an extraordinary career.

Writer : Sita Mellia
Contact : sitamellia01@gmail.com

Kategorien: english, Ticker

WHO deserves more independence and more money

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 12:36
National politics often hamper multilateral WHO efforts – as Covid-19 has clearly showed

When the pandemic began in 2020, the WHO was accused of reacting too slowly. Critics stated that it waited too long to declare a public health emergency and recommend the wearing of masks. Its constitution and the International Health Regulations (IHR) require the WHO to fight pandemics. The IHR are a legally binding WHO agreement to prevent and combat the spread of diseases across national borders.

Independent experts have indeed determined in retrospect that the WHO should have declared a public health emergency not on 30 January 2020, but a week earlier. The delay was likely of a political nature. Evidence was mounting that the virus spreads easily between people even if they are not in close contact, but China’s leaders continued to deny it. WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus thus felt the need to invest in a “charm offensive”. Visiting Beijing on short notice, he explicitly praised the crisis management of this powerful member state. He then got the Chinese government’s permission to carry out an initial WHO mission in the country.

Loss of the largest donor

Critics saw this move as an unacceptable politicisation of the WHO leadership. Donald Trump, then the US president, used the tensions to advance his “America first” policy. He announced the withdrawal of the USA from the WHO, blocking financial commitments that the US had already made. He had withdrawn from other multilateral institutions previously. The WHO lost its most important donor in the middle of the world’s worst public health crisis since the Spanish flu after World War I.

Whether a recommendation to wear medical masks is needed, essentially depends on how easily the virus spreads through the air. The WHO hesitated for several weeks. Apart from inconclusive data, a likely reason was panic buying in affluent countries would restrict the supply of personal protective equipment to medical staff, and that would especially affect poorer countries, where shortages were already evident. This concern was sensible, even though mask wearing was ultimately found to be scientifically correct and essential to pandemic containment. Things were similar in the second year of the pandemic when the big issue was equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

The WHO’s achievements

In spite of its limited resources, the WHO actually did remarkable work, serving its normative function early on. In the initial weeks, it informed the public through regular press conferences. In six world languages, it offered free online lessons on Covid-19 for health-care workers. Its science division was processing the latest insights. The WHO also put together a model for the targeted and coordinated research of SARS-CoV-2. What’s more, regular reports issued warnings about the increased risks faced by vulnerable groups, such as refugees, prisoners and staff in certain low-wage sectors with precarious working conditions.

Early on, the WHO insisted on transparent cooperation in regard to the development and production of vaccines, medical technology and equipment. In April 2020, it issued a joint statement with the World Trade Organization regarding this matter. However, this episode showed how limited the WHO’s power is in regard to enforcing its norms.

In 2021, over 100 countries supported a waiver of intellectual-property rules for Covid-19-related innovations (see Max Klein and Jörg Schaaber in the E+Z/D+C Digital Monthly edition, 2021/07). The result is sobering. Instead of an agreement to rapidly waive patents, only a weak compromise was reached. At its core, it merely eases export restrictions and is limited exclusively to vaccines. Negotiations regarding medication, diagnostic tools and other necessary medical technology are expected to last at least another six months.

Many initiatives – limited success

Intellectual property is formally beyond the WHO’s jurisdiction. However, the agency’s enforcement powers also proved limited in regard to other things. It started many initiatives and pursued parallel approaches in order, for instance, to provide rapid and equitable access to medical technologies. Politics often hampered implementation however.

 As early as May 2020, the new COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) was launched. Costa Rica had made this proposal with an eye to coordinate research on Covid-19. Scientific insights and resulting products were supposed to be accessible to all, so the C-TAP would facilitate the voluntary transfer of knowledge. Two years later, the results are disappointing. Only two government-run institutions from Spain and the US have shared licenses. In terms of implementation in summer 2022, the license from the Spanish institute for the production of a Covid-19 antigen test by a South African firm has made the most progress. This is too little, too late – even though it does amount to small steps towards equity and accessibility.

The “mRNA Technology Transfer Hub” has the potential to become more relevant in the medium and long term. The WHO is creating it with support from South African biotech companies and universities. The idea is to give manufacturers in the global south access to this advanced technology without depending on corporations such as Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech. After all, mRNA technology could prove key in the development of vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and various neglected infectious diseases. Efforts to create vaccines against these diseases have been largely unsuccessful so far, but mRNA technology might make a difference. By promoting this cause, the WHO could indeed do greater justice to its mandate “Health for All” and its mandate as the representative of all people than it can in various public-private partnerships (PPPs).

For over 20 years, many actors in global health have joined forces in PPPs, often outside the WHO. They are challenging the WHO’s leadership in important health issues. The problem is that businesses with influence in such PPPs are maximising profits, not striving to improve public services.

In future, the WHO will have to choose. It can either support all initiatives, including PPPs, or get serious in a political sense about pursuing the goal of health equity. Recent decisions taken by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva in May offer a glimmer of hope. The WHO will get more independent funding, and the director-general was re-elected for another term. Whether the WHO will become able to make its normative goals come true, remains to be seen.

Andreas Wulf is the Berlin representative of medico international, a civil-society organisation.
wulf@medico.de

Anton Sundberg is a student assistant at medico international.

 

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Kategorien: english

Sri Lanka’s new president is well known, but not popular

D+C - 4. August 2022 - 10:53
After dominating politics in Colombo for a long time, the Rajapaksa brothers have lost their grip on power

Sri Lanka’s economy is in freefall. It has been severely mismanaged. In May, the country defaulted on most of its international debt of close to $ 51 billion. The government sought and received support from India, Bangladesh and China. It has also been in talks with the International Monetary Fund. Prices are rising fast and an increasing number of families are forced to skip meals. According to the UN, 4.9 million people urgently need food aid.

After months of angry protests, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to Singapore in July and declared his resignation there. His family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for a long time. His brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was president from 2005 to 2015, and Gotabaya served as defence secretary under him. Both have strong authoritarian leanings. When Gotabaya became president after winning the general election in 2012 with 52 %, he made Mahinda prime minister. Other siblings have held government offices too.

A clan loses its grip on power

The clan’s grip on power loosened in May, when wide-spread protests forced Mahinda to resign. Wickremesinghe became prime minister – not for the first time. He has had several stints in this office since 1993 under different heads of state. He is well-known, but not popular. He lost his Colombo constituency in the parliamentary elections of 2020. The United National Party (UNP), which he led, suffered a crushing defeat. Its share of votes was so small that it did not win a constituency, but only gained one single seat thanks to rules meant to ensure some proportional representation. Defying convention, Wickremesinghe decided to occupy that seat himself.

Wickremesinghe is seen as an ally of the Rajapaksas. He became president thanks to legislators close to them. Their party had won a two-thirds majority in 2020. Many believe that the new head of state will protect the clan. Its members face potential prosecution not only for fraud and corruption, but even for alleged assassinations and war crimes. Mahinda and Gotabaya played decisive roles when Sri Lanka’s decades-lasting civil war ended in a pool of blood.

Under Gotabaya, the constitution was amended, giving the president untrammelled power. His leadership was poor however. After promising farmers free chemical fertiliser, he decreed in view of dwindling foreign-exchange reserves that they had to switch to organic farming almost overnight. His tax cuts benefited the rich, but drained government finances. Already burdened with considerable foreign debt, his administration found it increasingly difficult to get new loans. Bonds were downgraded to junk status. Eventually, even public servants could no longer be paid, so the  central bank started printing money.  

Costly vanity projects

To a large extent, the debt results from vanity projects launched during Mahinda’s presidency. Chinese institutions provided generous loans for building a major harbour, an additional airport, a huge cricket stadium and other prestigious facilities. None of them is generating revenues anywhere close to the credit-servicing need.

Opposition parties have refused to join any government headed by either Gotabaya or Wickremasinghe. Large demonstrations demanded that both step down and that the presidency be stripped of executive powers again. The official residencies of both the president and the prime minister were stormed.

As people’s standard of life collapsed, members of the middle classes joined the protesting urban youth. Civil-society groups backed the agitation, and so did clergy of all religious denominations. Opposition political parties have shown tacit support at the least.

Wickremesinghe now holds the office he always aspired to, but he is a president without popular mandate. He is considered to have good international connections and even a vision for the country, which, however, voters so far did not appreciate. Can he succeed? The odds are against him.

Arjuna Ranawana is a Sri Lankan journalist.

arjuna.ranawana@outlook.com

Kategorien: english

PHOTO GALLERY: CPDE Asia Regional Meeting and Workshop

CSO Partnership - 4. August 2022 - 4:29

 

CPDE Asia held its Regional Meeting and Workshop at Jakarta, Indonesia on July 27 and 28, with the theme: “Forging through Crises, Fostering Solidarities”

The post PHOTO GALLERY: CPDE Asia Regional Meeting and Workshop appeared first on CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

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