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Time for change – but how?

13. Dezember 2018 - 15:47
The majority of developing countries and emerging economies still lack quick, safe and affordable transport

Most people around the world don’t have access to mobility options that meet their needs. Commuters spend hours in endless traffic jams; alternative forms of public transport are often not available, while well-linked and well-synced networks are a mere pipe dream. In Sao Paulo, for instance, traffic jams can stretch over 300 kilometres on peak days. Poorer people are forced to rely on expensive mini-buses that don’t link up to existing transport systems and tend to be unfit for the road. A simple journey to work can therefore become an arduous and time-consuming exercise – as well as a daily risk for many women due to the potential for sexual assault.

As well as dealing with the direct costs involved (over-inflated ticket prices), travellers ultimately face lost time and economic losses. In the Cairo metropolitan area, traffic jams generate annual estimated costs of around EUR 8 billion – and then there are the indirect losses caused by traffic accidents and respiratory problems. In India alone, around one million people die every year as a result of diseases related to poor quality urban air.

While more and more large cities in Asia and Latin America are implementing their own underground rail networks, bus systems and even cable cars, there is still a great deal of pent-up demand in Africa, particularly in the Sub-Saharan region. Local public transport in this area still consists almost exclusively of mini-buses and (shared) taxis. Only Addis Ababa in Ethiopia has a tram network (built three years ago), while Dar es Salaam in Tanzania has had a modern Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for the past two years. BRT networks are also at various stages of development in a number of other major cities, such as Dakar (Senegal), Lagos (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya) and Kampala (Uganda).

So, despite the fact its population is set to undergo heavy growth in the next few decades, Africa is still limping along behind developments in Latin America. Countries there began creating special bus lanes and adding bus stops over 20 years ago, thus developing an effective, safe and convenient transport system. However, these BRT networks are now stretched to their limits in some cities, like Quito and Lima. These cities are now pumping additional funds into larger, rail-linked systems.

Since underground networks are expensive, difficult to plan and tricky to construct, solutions known as light railways (overground urban railways or trams) are seen as an interesting addition or alternative. Cities in India are also looking increasingly to these options. This type of railway network is also gaining ground in Tunisia (Tunis) and Brazil (Rio) – thanks to KfW support.

Whatever solution cities opt for, one thing is clear: developing countries and emerging economies need more mobility, not less. Simply building an ever-growing number of new lanes and ring roads is not the answer either. After all, these soon reach their limit in terms of strain on people and the environment.

Even now, around 25 per cent of all energy-relevant carbon emissions can be traced back to traffic. Mobility options therefore have to be expanded on a sustainable basis.

Climate protection is just one of the reasons why the age of the combustion engine is coming to an end in industrial countries. All major vehicle manufacturers are currently rushing to advance and expand their electric vehicle ranges. On top of this, there is also the topic of autonomous driving, which is due to start growing in 2025 thanks to digital development. As our system of values is shifting more towards a “sharing economy”, it is becoming easier to say goodbye to our own vehicles, ultimately encouraging the development of electrically powered vehicles that link and mix the concepts of public and individual transport.

However, these trends cannot simply be transferred directly to developing countries and emerging economies – not least due to the lack of power and effective infrastructure for charging electric vehicles. Most countries will have to wait years before electric-based individual transport becomes available to the mass market. Until that point, other solutions are needed to resolve mobility problems in emerging and developing countries, particularly in light of the huge wave of urbanisation currently approaching many cities in these areas.

A resolute strategy of expansion for planned and integrated public transport networks is therefore crucial for these countries. To make sure this comes about, KfW will be stepping up its work with its partner countries in future. The actual options available vary from city to city; there is no “one size fits all” answer.

Solutions need to be based around factors like size, settlement structure, urban topography and the city’s level of economic development. While suburban railways and underground trains are likely to be crucial for coping with traffic levels in megacities over the long term, smaller cities could also fare well with (energy-efficient) buses or cable cars. However, efficient and effective bus systems may also be a sensible initial (interim) response in larger cities.

This is why sound planning is particularly important so as to allow the various means of transport to be brought carefully in sync with one another and incorporate non-motorised forms of transport. How do people get to the suburban railway stations? Where can they park their bikes? While these questions may seem minor, they can be decisive in determining whether sustainable forms of transport are used or not in cases of doubt. Lots of routes around cities aren’t much longer than a few kilometres. If the infrastructure is in place, these journeys can easily be completed on foot or by bike.

Digitalisation also offers huge potential for new solutions. Traffic control systems, city toll roads, electronic bike rental services and apps can help to bring modes of transport in line with one another – and this is just the beginning in terms of how the digital world can change mobility patterns. And these solutions are often affordable and easily implemented, as well.

For KfW Development Bank, this means increasing its investments in public transport in future and promoting non-motorised, energy-efficient or electric drive systems – while keeping a firm eye on the future and all the potential systematic changes it holds.

Link

KfW supplement in D+C/E+Z
https://www.kfw-entwicklungsbank.de/PDF/Download-Center/PDF-Dokumente-Medienkooperation-mit-E-Z/2018_10_NachhaltigeMobilität_EN.pdf

Kategorien: english

Sex for fish

13. Dezember 2018 - 14:48
Poverty and desperation lead women in fishing communities in Kenya to trade sex for goods

On a late Friday evening in October 2017, I finally arrived in Mbita, one of the many fishing beaches on the shores of Lake Victoria. This will be my home for the next few weeks and I am looking forward to enjoying the delicious highly praised Tilapia and Omena (a type of sardine). Even though the area is not fully electrified, I noticed that on the far horizon there were many little lights and I wondered what city that was! My host informed me that actually that was no city, that was the mighty Lake Victoria and the lights were solar lamps that fishermen use.

Omena, the major catch in this region, is fished at night with the aid of solar lamps. Fishing is done with wooden boats and fishing nets that resemble mosquito nets. One fishing boat is manned by at least four muscular men who are employed by the boat owner. The fishermen spend most of their nights on the lake and they mostly sleep during the day. My host informed me with hard winds blowing, pulling fishing nets requires considerable physical strength, and only strong men can do the work.

Early Saturday morning, my host and I headed straight to the nearby fishing beach. Tired fishermen were pulling ashore the catch of the day. Some boats were half full and some full to the brim. Women were eagerly waiting to buy their share of fish for the day. Like in many other fishing communities, the division of labour in Mbita is traditionally defined and observed; the men fish and the women dry the fish and sell them at the local markets. Some sell them to middle men who collect and transport the Omena in large quantities to major markets as far away as Mombasa. As on many other inland fishing beaches, the fishermen sell less fish than the female fish traders want to buy.

At the beach, I met Akinyi (not her actual name). She is 26 years old and has three children. After the death of her husband, she left her husband’s home in the inland area and moved to Mbita because she did not want to be “inherited” by her brother-in-law. Wife inheritance is a custom of the Luo, who are the major tribe living on the Kenyan shores of Lake Victoria. Even though the custom is slowly fading away, there are some families that still uphold it.

Akinyi is not familiar with the term “sex for fish”, but she says that everyone knows the local term “Jaboya”. In the Luo language, Jaboya refers to a floater attached to a fishing net that helps the fishing net stay afloat even when loaded with fish. Fishermen who help female traders secure the catch are also called Jaboya because they are like a floater, they help the women secure access to fish. Akinyi says that due to the tough competition to secure access to the limited catch, a Jaboya is like a bridge between her and the merchandise. She says it is a common practice in Mbita even though people do not openly talk about it. In exchange for sex, female traders are given priority to buy Omena, and a woman without a Jaboya will have to wait and hope for the surplus in order to get some fish.

When asked if she has a Jaboya, Akinyi shyly nods. After relocating to Mbita, selling Omena was the only hope to earn a living in order to support herself and her three children. In the beginning she refused to join the Jaboya system, but after many days of disappointment and going home without any catch, she changed her mind. Stiff competition for the limited fish left her with no other choice. Like many other female fish traders, Akinyi opted for a sexual relationship with a fisherman due to poverty and desperation. She mentioned that she has multiple Jaboyas in different fishing beaches. During my stay, I spoke with some of Akinyi’s friends and other female fish trades, who narrated similar experiences with Jaboya.

While walking around Mbita one cannot miss to notice the many posters and billboards with information aiming to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. There are also several tents in strategic places and at the beaches where people can be tested for free and sent to a health facility for treatment. HIV awareness raising is also done through door to door campaigns, roadshows and on local radio programmes. Condoms are provided free of charge and placed in condom dispensers at the fishing beaches. How­ever, many women said that they do not use them. For example, even though Akinyi was aware of the condom dispensers, she has never picked a condom from them. She does not want to risk being seen collecting condoms. She fears people will look down on her and the community will consider her immoral.

Women also mentioned that it is very common for fishermen to consume a lot of alcohol and it is extremely difficult to negotiate condom use with a drunk fisherman. Many studies on sexual behaviours have linked alcohol consumption to risky sexual behaviour. Akinyi said that, on several occasions, she had to forgo the use of a condom because her Jaboya threatened not to sell the fish to her if she insisted on using condoms. For a long time, she was very scared of getting tested for HIV, but during of one of the door to door HIV testing campaigns, she decided to get tested. She tested positive for HIV and since then she has been enrolled in HIV care and treatment. However, in the past four months, while looking for fish, she has been moving between five fishing beaches. The frequent movement interferes with her appointments at the health facility. She sometimes misses appointments and fails to go to refill her medications.

Akinyi’s story is similar to those shared by many other female fish traders that I met. Even though most of them are aware of the availability of HIV prevention, treatment and care and understand the benefits, they did not make full use of them. Moreover, many of the women who had a Jaboya did not feel at high risk of contracting HIV. They did not consider themselves as being involved in a form of prostitution or transactional sex as they would commonly be labelled. Most of the women had long-term relationships with the fishermen and some mentioned that having a Jaboya was like having a boyfriend or a husband. Sometimes, fishermen would live with the woman for a few weeks and she would cook and wash for him. In such relationships, those involved did not see reasons to use condoms or even test for HIV.

In Kenya, sex for fish has been identified as one of the leading causes of the high HIV incidence among the fishing communities around the Lake Victoria region. According to the Kenya HIV County Profiles published by the National AIDS Control Council in 2016, HIV prevalence rates were highest in the counties around Lake Victoria. For example, in Homa Bay county (which includes Mbita) the HIV prevalence rate was 26 %, almost four times the national average of 5.9 %. The situation is similar in other fishing communities of some sub-Saharan African countries, especially among the inland fisheries. In spite of the vast HIV prevention and treatment initiatives, a number of studies have identified concentrated epidemics among fishing communities in Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi.

To achieve the Agenda 2030 goal on ending the AIDS epidemic, every country should work on reducing the HIV prevalence among its key populations and also offer care and treatment. There is need to develop and scale up innovative and target-oriented prevention, treatment and care services. In particular, the interventions need to respond to the needs of the local communities. For example, women in Mbita mentioned that sometimes there was “moonlight HIV testing”. People could get tested at night and without having to worry about being spotted by friends and family. However, such initiatives are not carried out regularly. Also, for a highly migratory community like the fishing communities, it is important to offer mobile health services so as to bring services closer to those in need. Scaling up of such interventions would go a long way in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Brenda Mbaja Lubang'a is a graduate from Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, where she earned a masters degree in development management. Her masters’ programme is affiliated to AGEP, the German Association of Post-Graduate Programmes with Special Relevance to Developing Countries.
mbajabrenda@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

Limited reach

13. Dezember 2018 - 13:36
The ICC reduces perpetrators’ hope for impunity, but for people to come to terms with atrocious crimes, more must happen

Cases before the ICC often drag on for a long time and then end with acquittals. Civil-society organisations and the media express criticism of the court. Is it fulfilling its mission?
Yes, the ICC is doing reasonably well given the difficult circumstances, but the expectations tend to be too high. The ICC considers individual cases and must find out whether a suspected person can indeed be proven to be responsible for an atrocious crime. The cases take a long time because the investigations take place in very difficult settings and the corroboration of evidence is a complex challenge. The criminal responsibility of the person concerned must be proven. It is important to involve victims in proceedings, and their personal satisfaction certainly matters, but the focus is on the accused person’s possible individual responsibility and guilt. An acquittal neither denies that there was a crime nor that victims have suffered. It only means that the judges are not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the accused’s individual responsibility.

It seems rather unsatisfying when someone like Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was convicted for war crimes in the Central African Republic after a long trial, is later acquitted by the Appeals Chamber.
When things like this happen, the victims and their relatives are obviously disappointed, but that does not mean that this particular acquittal was wrong. The Bemba decision was very close (three to two) and mostly based on procedural technicalities. Ultimately, the Appeals Chamber insisted on more convincing evidence for the crimes allegedly committed by the subordinates. One can certainly debate whether the Chamber asked too much, but the basis of any such debate is what is in the official Court records. It is impossible to assess that from outside. Even specialised lawyers cannot do so unless they attended each and every hearing. In a criminal case, the judgment results from what the judges learned from the evidence presented in front of them in an oral and adversarial fashion. People who have not followed that lack fundamental information and thus are not really qualified to comment. Sometimes, journalists observe a case from beginning to the end, and their impressions and insights can indeed be relevant. Without such an intimate knowledge, however, it is extremely difficult to decide whether a man like Bemba, as a military commander, could and should have intervened in a specific situation to prevent certain crimes. Unfortunately, civil-society activists and the media tend to simplify things excessively and to demonise the accused.

But the ICC is supposed to prevent impunity after the atrocities, and acquittals don’t do that.
Not all cases end with an acquittal. Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga were sentenced for crimes they committed during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In legal terms, it would be totally unacceptable to convict an accused person so that someone is punished. The job of the ICC is not different from that of any other criminal court. It must decide whether the specific accused is guilty or not. It must do so in a fair trial, relying on means that conform with the rule of law. It thus reduces, but of course cannot eliminate, the previously almost unlimited impunity of despotic leaders and militia commanders. The ICC is merely one component of an international system of criminal justice, and the main caseload rests with the domestic courts where the crimes were committed. We shouldn’t forget, moreover, that the reach and impact of criminal law is limited when it comes to societies coming to terms with atrocities. It must be complemented by other mechanisms, such as truth and reconciliation commissions for example.

In the recent criminal trial of the neo-Nazi NSU terrorists in Germany, many issues were not resolved either. Relevant questions included whether the police had failed and what role the Verfassungsschutz, Germany’s secret service, played. Its agents had obviously been in touch with terrorists in several instances, but they hardly submitted any useful evidence. Victims’ lawyers spoke of “institutionalised” racism and “state failure”.
Yes, and these are all relevant issues, but they go beyond the limited tasks and functions of criminal justice. Munich’s Higher Regional Court had to decide whether Beate Zschäpe and the other accused were guilty or not. Such a narrow focus cannot really satisfy all possible needs of victims. Zschäpe was found guilty, but for a society to come to terms with brutal violence, more is needed than criminal prosecutions. This is why the approach that Colombia is taking to building peace after decades of civil war can serve as a model. It includes a criminal justice component, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, that can sentence perpetrators up to 20 years. But the Colombian transitional justice system has several further components, especially a truth commission that is dealing with the historical narrative, developing a shared understanding of recent history. On top of that, the system has coherent national mechanisms for compensating victims and even a special unit for disappeared persons. This is a holistic approach, with the various components reinforcing one another.

Iván Duque, Colombia’s new president, has declared himself an opponent of the peace agreement. Has the peace process been institutionalised in a way that is strong enough to last?
Well, President Duque has actually made a commitment to the peace agreement and the said transitional justice system in principle. He wants to make some changes, but he does not have the legislative majorities to pass radical reforms or even abolish the system.

You just emphasised the national character of Colombia’s system for transitional justice. Do international courts have the same credibility as national ones?
The acceptance of international tribunals and courts is indeed a serious issue. Outreach programmes are designed to reduce the distance from the places where crimes are committed, but that is only possible to a limited extent. That was true of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which the UN set up in the early 1990s and which is currently wrapping up its work. There was a tendency of Croatians resenting judgments against Croatian war criminals, whereas Serbs resented judgments against Serbs. Because of such ethnic sentiments, national or regional tribunals are often more convincing. Just consider that the Nuremberg trials of Nazi criminals did not find much acceptance in Germany shortly after the Second World War. Today, the Nuremberg Academy is quite successful in promoting international justice and the underlying principles, but it was only established in 2014. The problem with national courts, on the other hand, is that they are not entirely independent and may become toys for powerful political interests to play with. In any case, it makes very good sense that nation states bear the main responsibility for criminal justice and the ICC only has jurisdiction if they are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute.

How do you assess the criticism expressed by African leaders who say that the ICC is only serving imperialist interests and is biased against Africa?

If leaders like the late Muammar al-Gaddafi, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir or Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta say these things, they are obviously not being objective and overstating matters. They are involved personally. People like them deny facts and invent alternative ones. They won’t even take into account that many ICC staff members are from sub-Saharan Africa, including top officials like the Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (Gambia), the Court’s President Chile Eboe-Osuji (Nigeria) and his deputy Joyce Aluoch (Kenya). It is not hard to see what is driving the African politicians concerned: they fear the court, so they discredit it. Their criticism does not really merit serious debate, but it does unfortunately have an impact on some people and in some countries. For this reason, it is good that the ICC has responded, not least by starting to take a closer look at other world regions. In this context, the investigations of crimes in Georgia deserve to be mentioned, as well as preliminary examinations concerning Iraq/UK, Colombia, Palestine/Gaza, Ukraine and Venezuela.

Kai Ambos is a professor of criminal law, procedure, international criminal law and comparative law at Göttingen University, a judge of the Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers and an amicus curiae of Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace. He is also the director of CEDPAL, a Göttingen-based research facility for criminal law and justice in Latin America.
kambos@gwdg.de

Kategorien: english

Fighting corruption in Africa

12. Dezember 2018 - 13:01
Despite big plans to fight corruption, bribes are still common in most African countries

While 43 % of Africans are living in poverty, corruption costs the continent $ 50 billion a year. According to Transparency International (TI), corruption “hinders development.” In the public sector, several professional categories have been identified as particularly corrupt, TI points out. They include:

  • the police,
  • elected officials, 
  • directors of agencies,
  • tax officials and
  • officials of the judiciary, including judges and magistrates. 

Religious leaders can be corrupt too. 

“Winning the fight against corruption” was a top item on the agenda of the 31st Summit of AU Heads of State and Government in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, in July 2018. Apart from statements, however, no firm commitment was made by the 24 presidents attending the summit.

A few days before the summit, Daniel Batidam, a Ghanaian member of the AU’s Anti-Corruption Advisory Council, resigned. He pointed out the bad governance, abuse of power and lack of transparency within the Council’s secretariat as well as several departments of the African Commission. “I denounce the mismanagement of the affairs of the African Union and within the secretariat of the Advisory Council against corruption,” Batidam lamented in an interview aired by RFI. 

Some problems are obvious. At the summit, the African Commission decided to suspend the budget of the Pan-African Parliament because of poor governance. “It is not possible to build a prosperous Africa when corruption is widespread within the very same organisation that is supposed to set a good example,” was the comment of Jean Baptiste Elias of Benin National Organisations against Corruption, a non-governmental umbrella agency.

The situation is not equally awful everywhere in Africa however. According to TI, five of  this world region’s countries are less corrupt than EU members Italy and Greece: Botswana, Seychelles, Cape Verde, Rwanda and Namibia. They show that the fight against corruption can be won.

In many developing countries, however, the situation remains dismal. José Ugaz of Transparency International says: “In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy a lavish lifestyle with impunity.” 

According to TI, Mauritania was the 4th most corrupt country in the Maghreb region in 2017, ahead of Libya, but far behind Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. The TI index is based on how corruption is perceived in expert assessments and opinion surveys. 

Ibrahim Orèd’Ola Falola is a journalist from Togo. He currently lives in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
ibfall2007@yahoo.co.uk

 

Kategorien: english

Pooling sovereignty is not surrendering sovereignty

12. Dezember 2018 - 12:51
Thursday, December 13, 2018 - 12:00Hans DembowskiWhy Theresa may could never negotiate a better Brexit deal British politics is currently a terrible mess because of Brexit. Nobody has a clear idea of what Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to achieve in her current burst of diplomacy. Most likely, she only has a vague idea herself. That she survived a no-confidence vote of her party's right wing does not make a difference.

The real problem is neither that the agreement she struck with the European Commission leaves the UK in a less influential position than it had been as an EU member, nor that the European Commission is not prepared to renegotiate it. The real problem is that no deal imaginable would have led to a result that would have put Britain in a stronger position.

Brexiteers keep pretending that a more determined British government could have made the EU agree to a deal that would allow the UK to enjoy all the benefits of membership without suffering any of the disadvantages of membership. Boris Johnson, the Brexiteer who served as May’s foreign secretary for about 2 years, famously acknowledged that his policy on cake was “pro having and pro eating”. The plain truth is that this proposition was always impossible, and that people like Johnson were always aware of it. There really are three options:

  •  Britain stays a full-fledged member of the EU.
  •  Some kind of compromise means that Britain enjoys some benefits of EU membership, but no longer has a say in defining EU rules.
  •  Britain leaves the EU entirely, disrupting the value chains that link the Britisch economy to those of its neigbouring countries. Brexiteers now like to call this hard break a "clean" break, but in actualy fact, it would be very messy.

Whether we like it or not, we live in an era of globalisation. The reason is that the great challenges humankind must rise to do not respect national borders and cannot be dealt with by national governments acting on their own. Relevant issues include trade, which affects the flows of goods, finance, data and people. Other relevant issues are climate change, peace, infectious diseases and organised crime. This list goes on.

To solve big international problems, we increasingly need big international solutions. Adopting them means that national governments have to give up some of their sovereign power. Doing so reduces their control of their country to some extent, but in exchange, they get a say in how the important matters are regulated in other countries. In truth, they are not surrendering, but pooling sovereignty. While reducing their domestic power, they are expanding their international influence.

This is basically what the EU is about. In recent decades, the UK was one of its most influential members. British governments promoted the establishment of the single market as well as fast EU expansion in Eastern Europe. They understood that large markets generally offer more opportunities than small ones, and that harmonised rules are needed to merge several small markets into a large single one. Conservative prime ministers – Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron - accepted that shared institutions and joint policymaking were needed. May knows this too, after all she supported the remain side in the referendum. 

Consecutive British governments, however, have failed to convince the British public of these necessities. Since the early 1990s, Euro sceptics have managed to increasingly discredit the EU in Britain. They gained evermore influence in the Conservative party. Before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, its right wing and the nationalist UK Independence Party claimed that Britain had much to gain from leaving the EU because:

  • it would be easy to secure all benefits of EU membership in negotiations since the EU would be keen to maintain unlimited access to Britain’s markets, and
  • the UK would be able to conclude many new promising trade agreements with partners around the world without having to comply with EU regulations anymore.

May became Prime Minister soon after the referendum. She did her best to fulfil the Brexiteers’ vision. To sober observers, it was no surprise that she failed. She had to fail. The Brexiteers’ vision was unrealistic right from the start. In the Brexit negotiations, “London” and “Brussels” were never going to be equal partners. The British government represents one country, but the European Commission represents 27. The UK is one of the world’s bigger economies, but only the EU’s second biggest, and the EU’s combined economy is of a much, much larger scale.

It takes a lot of post-imperial hubris to believe that London could tell the continent how things will be run. The EU does not take orders from any single nation. And no, EU governments were never prepared to let May - or any other British politician for that matter - play a game of divide and rule.

For good reason, most Britons and evidently the majority of the members of parliament find any compromise unattractive if it includes adhering to rules the EU defines. That means there are only two radical options. Britain can either stay a EU member, pooling sovereignty with the other members, or it can leave and give up all the benefits that go along with membership. These benefits include access not only to the single market, but also to all kinds of decision-making concerning the single market. Any kind of compromise between leaving and staying affiliated, which is what May is striving for, will only result in Britain becoming rule taker.

That was obvious from the start. The issue of the Irish border, however, makes things even more complicated. No party wants a hard border there, neither the Republicc of Ireland, nor the UK, nor the EU.  The Good Friday agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland is based on both the UK and the Republic of Ireland being EU members. Within the single market, a hard border was no longer needed. Moreover, regional planning was geared to building coherent regional infrastructures. Reintroducing a hard border would put fragile peace at risk. Brexiteers have not proposed any serious solution. That is bizarre because IRA terrorism affected the entire UK, and not only Northern Ireland. Bombs and bomb threats all too often disrupted daily life in London.

Brexit-promoting politicians have never told voters that a nation's border are not simply its own. That may be hard for an island nation to understand, but Brits are certainly intelligent enough to understand that land borders are always shared. The Irish border belongs to the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Border management is either shared - or both sides take control, ending openness on both sides. May cannot possibly rise to the challenge of negotiating a solution in which the border is managed exclusively in the way the Brexiteers prefer. Others have a say in the matter too.

The turmoil British politics has been going through since the referendum is not May’s fault. She was dealt impossible hand. It is the result of irresponsible politics and very sloppy media coverage. Too many British journalists filled too much space with unrealistic fantasies. Too few news organisations stuck to fact-based reporting. The idea of sovereignty they have been promoting was totally one-sided. They could and should have done better. The sober warnings expressed by the Financial Times, the Guardian or the Economist were not enough to stem the tide of disinformation.  

 

P.S.: It's worth mentioning that  the agreement that the May government struck with the European Commission is not meant to be the permanent solution. It is a temporary compromise that is only supposed to last until a permanent trade deal is struck. The British government and the Commission will thus have to go back to square one. The issue will again be what shared rules Britain will accept to get (and grant) market access. Nothing will change about trade-offs concerning either defining national rules or playing along with supra-national ones. If Britain wants to shape supra-national rules, EU membership will always be the best option. 

International relations and cooperation
Kategorien: english

Election drama

11. Dezember 2018 - 14:10
In Kenya, the fight for a clean and transparent election system continues

Most observers considered Kenya’s presidential elections in August 2017 fair. Uhuru Kenyatta was officially reported to have won 54 % of the votes. In view of opposition grumbling, however, he suggested that Raila Odinga, the main opposition candidate, go to court. Odinga kept stating that this was not an option, though international observers and church leaders urged him to either concede or turn to the judges.

Shortly before the final deadline, Odinga and his lawyers indeed appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing they had sufficient evidence of malpractice. The case was accepted, the Supreme Court heard both sides and finally decided in favour of the opposition. Due to many “illegalities and irregularities”, it declared the election null and void and ordered a fresh one to be held within 60 days.

At first, Kenyatta said that he accepted the decision, though he did not agree with it. In campaign mode, he later turned against the judges, calling them “crooks” and promising to “fix” something he considered “broken” in the judiciary. The fight for a fair and transparent election system was evidently not over.

The opposition raised a set of demands it wanted the electoral commission to fulfil, including the dismissal of some officials and measures to enhance transparency. It spoke of an “irreducible minimum”, and threatened to stay away from the rerun election, which was scheduled for 26 October. The electoral commission half-heartedly accepted some of the proposals, but made it clear that it considered the election’s credibility a matter of perceptions, rather than substance. The government, in turn, insisted that there was no time for major reforms. Its strategy was to press ahead with the elections fast.

The president’s party has a majority in the parliament. It changed the electoral law, deleting and watering down clauses that had led to the election annulment. Legal disputes erupted immediately. On 24 October, activists appealed to the Supreme Court, asking it to decide whether the election could take place as planned on 26 October at all. The government then declared 25 October to be a public holiday, but Chief Justice David Maraga announced the Supreme Court would sit nonetheless.

That evening, the car of Philomena Mbete Mwilu, the deputy chief justice, was shot at. The driver was injured; she remained physically unharmed herself. However, she did not show up in court the next day. Another judge was abroad for medical treatment, and yet another one missed an airplane to Nairobi. Two other judges did not appear, but did not offer excuses. Apart from Maraga, only one other Supreme Court justice was present. According to its quorum, the Supreme Court needs a minimum of five judges to take decisions. The meeting had to be aborted, and the elections took place as scheduled.

Odinga boycotted the event, so Kenyatta now won 98 % of the votes. Turnout, however, dropped from 79 % in August to a mere 38 % in October. In 25 constituencies, which are opposition strongholds, no vote was cast.

Protests erupted, but the security forces managed to suppress them, while the Kenyatta government agitated against the opposition and harassed some of its leaders and financiers. Some were charged with treason. One lawyer, who has the dual citizenship of Canada and Kenya, was arrested and forced to leave the country after he had dared to swear in Odinga as the “people’s president” during a protest rally in January.

Things have since calmed down, especially after Kenyatta and Odinga held a surprise meeting in March 2018. They shook hands and declared a ceasefire. Doubts linger on about the legitimacy of Kenyatta’s presidency, but it has not been questioned in court. The judges have, however, reversed most of the election law amendments which the parliament passed shortly before the rerun election. The fight for a fair and transparent election system is still not over. (as)

Kategorien: english

Chief of India’s central bank steps down

11. Dezember 2018 - 14:01
Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - 14:00Hans DembowskiBusiness media should finally see through Modi’s maskUrjit Patel has resigned as governor of the Reserve Bank of India yesterday. He says he did so for personal reasons, but it is no secret that the government of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lately been putting pressure on the central bank. I think Patel’s resignation should make international business media reconsider the distorted narrative they have been relying on for far too long.

Modi has successfully made foreign journalists believe that economic reforms are at the top of his policy agenda. Even before his party, the BJP, a Hindu-chauvinist outfit, won the general elections in 2014, they praised him for his pro-business stance. The background was that, as the leader of the state government of Gujarat, he had facilitated major industrial investments in that state. On the other hand, Gujarat’s human-development indicators were only average. The data showed that Moody’s pro-business attitude did not really translate into higher standards of life. Given that he was chief minister of his state for more than a decade, some of the benefits should surely have trickled down.

What international business journalists tend to neglect, by contrast, is that Modi also has a reputation of Hindu-chauvinism. In 2002, horrible anti-Muslim riots rocked Gujarat. The state government did not stop the Hindu extremists from perpetrating violence even though Modi probably could have made a difference. After all, he is a prominent member of the RSS, the parent organisation of the most important right-wing Hindu organisations, including the BJP. 

In the election campaign in 2014, Modi cultivated a double image. On the one hand, he promised to modernise the economy. On the other hand, he did not deviate from the idea that India should be a Hindu nation, with all minorities and lower castes supposed to accept the predominance of this faith. It is true that he did not promote Hindu chauvinism in a particularly aggressive manner, but the Indian public knows who he is and what the RSS stands for. International observers, however, largely failed to notice that Hindu chauvinism was still very much on the agenda.

India will hold general elections again next year. The atmosphere is becoming tense. Part of the problem is that masses of young people lack prospects. The livelihoods of 90 % of the people still depend on the informal sector and small-scale agriculture. Modi’s government has not delivered on the promise of large-scale, formal-sector industrialisation. Nor has it managed to improve infrastructure dramatically. The new value added tax it introduced makes sense and principle, but it its design is overly complex, considerably increasing the private sector’s bureaucratic burdens. 

The Modi government’s most decisive intervention in economic affairs was “demonetisation” in 2016. Banknotes with high denomination were suddenly made void. The step was supposed to force people to use bank accounts and to eradicate black money. One of the impacts was that the economy slowed down. Foreign journalists pointed out that the policy was unprecedented and problematic, but nonetheless praised Modi’s determination. 

They did not notice that it actually helped his party in important state elections a few months later. The reason is that all parties in India used to rely on black money. The BJP was able to prepare for demonetisation, while all the other parties were taken by surprise. In Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, a BJP leader with a long history of anti-Muslim agitation but no track record of interest in economic affairs became chief minister.

Indeed, Modi is a typical right-wing populist who pretends to be personally representing a homogenous nation. Of course, his idea of the nation expels anyone who disagrees with him. As Jan-Werner Müller elaborated in his excellent book “What is populism?”, leaders of his kind deny the legitimacy of all other political forces. Once in office, they do their best to manipulate institutions and modify legislation in ways that perpetuate their power. Modi’s attack on the central bank fits that pattern. Hindu chauvinists, moreover, are known to hound independent journalists. Moreover, hate crimes have increased, and not only Muslims have reason to feel threatened.

In recent weeks, the Modi government has made it clear that it wants the Reserve Bank of India to adopt a looser monetary policy, which would speed up economic growth in the short run. It also wants the central bank to be more lenient in regard to banks deal with bad assets and give more scope to non-bank financial institutions, many of which are under stress. Demands of this kind fly in the face of what international business papers appreciate. I wonder whether they will now see through Modi’s “reformer” mask.

As far as I can tell, there actually is a split among the journalists. Correspondents based in Delhi or Mumbai tend to be keenly aware of Modi’s populist arrogance, whereas news desks in Europe or North America tend to stick to the narrative of reforms only proceeding too slowly. They like to express the wish that the prime minister could do more.

Media coverage matters. The staff of major international development agencies are influenced by business papers for example. Their idea of India is shaped by what the editorial offices produce. Unfortunately, the reformer narrative is strong because it serves wishful thinking. The truth is that it distorts the international public’s understanding of what is happening in Indian politics.

Patel, by the way, was only in office as central bank governor for a little more than two years. Modi picked him, certainly hoping he would be subservient. However, Patel turned out to be a man of principle who did not want to do the government a few short-term favours in order to boost its chances in national elections. In this regard, he proved similar to his predecessor, Raghuram Rajan, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund and current professor at the University of Chicago. When Rajan was not reappointed, as he should have been according to Indian conventions in 2016, the international media regretted Modi’s decision – but did not point out that it fit a pattern. Will they notice now? 

Democracy and the rule of lawSouth Asia
Kategorien: english

Long road to independence

11. Dezember 2018 - 12:20
Kenya has made progress towards the judicial independence the new constitution promises

In 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution. The background was gruesome post-election violence in 2007/08, when members of different ethnic groups had turned on one another. The new constitution was designed to reconcile a deeply divided nation. One of the instruments for doing so is a strong and independent judiciary.

Since colonial times, Kenya’s law courts had previously mostly toed the government’s line. The new constitution has changed expectations, and efforts have since been made to ensure the courts’ independence. The reform process has gone on slowly but decisively for several years. It is radical and costs a lot of money. Last year, however, it was hit by a political whirlwind. The reason was that the Supreme Court annulled a presidential election (see box next page). The decision was politically controversial, of course, and sparked angry responses. On the other hand, many Kenyans appreciated that the judges were serious about enforcing constitutional standards.

Today, the reform caravan is trudging on in what remains an uphill struggle. Two key events have slowed it down somewhat. Both were obviously responses to the Supreme Court’s election nullification.

The Kenyan government has cut its ties to the International Law Development Organization (IDLO), an inter-governmental body that supports judicial reform processes. IDLO had funded the bulk of Kenyan capacity building in this field, including the training of judges, magistrates and judicial officers.

The government, supported by legislators, denied the judiciary more than half of the budget it had requested.

IDLO is a non-partisan organisation. It was launched by 34 governments of countries as different as China, Italy and Senegal. It is affiliated to the UN and gets funding from various parties, including the EU or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its mission is to promote the rule of law. Nonetheless, politicians and bloggers close to the government accused IDLO of meddling in Kenya’s judiciary after the election annulment. IDLO got abrupt shutdown orders. Judges were threatened and slandered in national newspapers. Judicial officers were publicly defamed.

As for the budget, the judiciary requested 31 billion Kenyan shillings (the equivalent of $ 310 million) for the current financial year. The treasury only allotted it 17.3 billion shillings, and the National Assembly reduced that sum to a mere 14.5 billion shillings – not quite half of the judiciary’s requirement.

David Maraga, Kenya’s chief justice, was not prepared to accept the cuts. “The Judiciary exists not for its own sake, but to serve the common person by ensuring the efficient administration of justice and facilitating smooth commercial interactions between business entities,” he said in July 2018, shortly after the budget was approved. He even spoke of “budgetary strangulation” and warned that the courts were about to become unable to do their work. His appeal to the public’s common sense compelled the treasury to draw up a supplementary budget, which was soon approved by the National Assembly. This raised the allocation to the judiciary by 1.5 billion shillings, which brought the total allocation to 16 billion shillings, which is just over half of the budgetary requirement and insufficient to cover the need.

It is no secret that Chief Justice Maraga’s relations with the administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta remain tense. As the incumbent, the head of state was confirmed in the second election held last year, but he ran unopposed since the opposition boycotted the polls. In political terms, many questions thus remain about the legitimacy of Kenyatta’s presidency as well as the opposition’s complicity in keeping him in office.

On the upside, Maraga has reassured the country that the constitution is designed to cope with tensions between different branches of government and that he is determined to fight for the judiciary’s independence. The judge’s authority has benefited considerably from the appreciation that the Supreme Court’s election decision got in other African countries as well as at the global level.

There actually has been considerable progress in recent years. The judicial infrastructure has improved slowly, but steadily. There are now more courts with more officers and better equipment. Codes of practice were published. The legislature has been reviewing Kenyan laws to ensure they comply with the new constitution and judges have been subjecting these laws to strict constitutional tests. The growing clout of independent courts, moreover, helped to attract international investors who appreciate predictable rule of law.

Long before the election annulment, the judiciary had begun to assert its rele­vance. In dozens of cases, judges nullified laws which the executive branch had rammed through the legislative branch. The courts thus prevented draconian amendments which threatened citizens’ liberty and privacy under the pretext of ensuring security and fighting terrorism. The courts also protected media freedom and the independence of the auditor general. The public generally appreciated these many small steps, which added up to a powerful trend in defence of constitutional principles.

The road ahead

There certainly is a need for the judiciary to do much more however. The big question is how to deal with corruption and impunity. These twin vices are prone to cause dangerous apathy among citizens. Even President Kenyatta has said that he wants the courts to fix the situation.

Chief Justice Maraga is aware of the challenge. The judiciary has set up a special division for corruption cases. In August 2018, the top judge told members of the country’s Law Society: “We either say no to impunity and prosper or keep quiet and perish.”

It is clear that the courts will have to work diligently and pass judgments based on solid evidence. In September 2018, the new Criminal Procedure Benchbook was launched. It is a jurisprudential manual for implementing the young constitution. Maraga considers it yet another step towards a “purposive, robust, indigenous and patriotic jurisprudence that reflects the values, principles and aspirations of all Kenyans”.

Maraga knows that leaders must be held accountable, and he has appealed to all Kenyans to contribute. He made a pitch for eternal vigilance against corruption and impunity, declaring that the media, civil society and the citizens themselves are important partners in such efforts. Moreover, the top judge has warned that the constitution would be “hollow” without respect for human rights, including socio-economic rights.

Paul Kihara, Kenya’s attorney general, basically endorses this vision. “The judiciary must be given constitutional and operational independence,” he has said. “The decision of the court must be respected by all, no matter how powerful or influential they may be.” The attorney general emphasised that judges and magistrates “must be let to make decisions on the basis of law and law alone.”

Recent experience, however, shows that politicians are often vindictive. There can be no doubt, moreover, that the judiciary is fighting deep-seated systemic issues and that it made itself new enemies by annulling the election. On top of all this, the backlog of cases is a serious problem. At the last count, at least 110,000 cases had been pending for more than five years. It was hoped that the number would be reduced to zero by the end of 2018, but the budget cuts made that improbable. Currently, the expansion of infrastructure – establishing new law courts all over the country and improving the information technology networks – slowly hobbles on amid financing gaps.

The greatest challenge, however, may be that the judiciary itself must be seen to be clean. It does not help that Philomena Mbete Mwilu, the deputy chief justice, is accused of graft and must stand trial.

Noordin Hajj, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), brought criminal charges against her. Mwilu insists that she is innocent and the alleged corrupt transactions were merely commercial and above-board.

This case is a nightmare for the Judicial Service Commission, which has oversight over the courts. To many people, the top prosecutor’s action reeks of vendetta after the election annulment. Moreover, his initial plan looked ridiculous: he wanted low-ranking magistrates to try the deputy chief justice. In the end, Chief Justice Maraga decided that a special five-judge bench would do the job. The proceedings are odd, nonetheless, because the judges concerned must decide the case of a judge who is formally their superior.

Kenya’s people are paying close attention to how the judiciary handles the trial of one of its own leaders. They want to see fairness, fidelity to the law and – ultimately – justice.

Alphonce Shiundu is a journalist, editor, and fact-checker in Nairobi
https://twitter.com/Shiundu

Kategorien: english

Climate summit success will depend on political will to act upon scientific findings

7. Dezember 2018 - 12:37
Friday, December 7, 2018 - 12:30Katja DombrowskiTime to put words into practiceClimate change is making big headlines. World leaders, scientists and climate activists are currently convening at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland. It’s the 24th Conference of the Parties – thus called COP24 – since yearly meetings began in 1995 in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the goal of establishing obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This year’s summit is especially important: first, because it is high time to act with determination if we want to prevent the worst, and second, because the Paris Agreement, that was seen as a breakthrough in international climate policy when adopted in 2015, urgently needs a rulebook to make it work. If the international community is able – or rather politically willing – to reach a consensus on the worked out draft, COP24 will be seen as successful.

However, real progress must be measured by actions. Climate talk has overall been on the right track for quite some time – but the necessary decarbonisation of economies remains a mere dream. Carbon emissions reached a record high in 2017, which will probably be topped this year.

In theory, most of the relevant players are committed to energy transition. At the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, 19 of the group’s members, that produce 80 % of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, just reaffirmed their pledge to fight climate change, leaving US President Donald Trump isolated. On the other hand, no G20 country is on course to fulfil the Paris Agreement’s aspiration to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to Climate Transparency, an international NGO alliance, only India is on course to keeping the rise below two degrees, the upper limit set in the treaty. Eighty-two percent of the G20’s energy supply still comes from fossil fuels. No doubt, action is needed fast.

The EU is a good example of strong talk and weak action. The EU Commission has recently raised its ambitions in the run-up to COP24 and now wants the union to be carbon neutral by 2050. But the EU can only do what its members endorse – and the new target is far more ambitious than the national targets set so far by the majority of the 28 member nations. Poland, the COP host, is the EU’s biggest coal mining country, and President Andrzej Duda declared during the COP opening ceremony on Monday: “As long as I’m president of Poland, I will not allow anyone to kill the Polish coal industry.”

Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, is causing worries too. Once a global frontrunner on renewable energies, the country is still Europe’s biggest coal user and will miss the federal government’s official reduction target for 2020. The government looks half-hearted, to put it mildly, though people are rallying for phasing out coal fast. The government has set up a commission to draft the phase-out plan, but it will not be able to comply with the end-of-year deadline.

Meanwhile, protests against planned fossil-fuel taxes in France make clear how important the social dimension of climate protection is. Putting a price on dirty energy is useful – but must not exacerbate inequality.

The good news is that most scientist argue that global warming can still be kept within a tolerable limit. The special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in October, clearly explains what governments must do to deal with climate change. The success of COP24 will depend to a large extend on the major emitters’  will to act accordingly.

 

Sustainable business and sustainable environmentEmployment and the fight against poverty
Kategorien: english

A reform agenda for the ILO

7. Dezember 2018 - 10:56
The tripartite setting of the ILO was useful in the past, but it does not represent the world of work adequately today

Typically, the informal sector dominates the economies of low-income countries. Even in India, a giant among emerging markets, the informal sector accounts for about 90 % of employment. Trade unions, however, normally only represent workers in formal employment. Compounding the problems, such employment is often closely linked to public enterprises and governmental organisations in developing countries.

So far, the ILO is thus incapable of dealing with labour issues in low-income countries appropriately. That will not change unless the informal sector is properly taken into account. It would therefore make sense to include non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in ILO meetings and proceedings. Many NGOs are dealing with social-justice issues, and they are independent from governments. Given that their role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals is generally appreciated, NGOs should also be made constituents of the ILO.

For similar reasons, cooperatives should become involved as well. In many countries, cooperatives generate seven to 14 % of gross domestic product. Owned by their staff, they do not only contribute to employment, but also promote social inclusion and social cohesion. Cooperatives differ fundamentally from other private-sector enterprises, and they are not part of the public sector. Involving them in the ILO would make this organisation more comprehensive and help to counter-balance the employers’ dominant power.

Tripartism was a major social invention when the ILO was created. However, if one of the three parties refuses to engage in discussions on specific issues, no discussion takes place. This was apparent over the last two years with employers’ representatives blocking debate on important matters, including the living wage. As digitalisation and globalisation are changing labour relations, such debates are important, and they would benefit from broad-based participation. Cooperatives and NGOs should be involved.

In any case, the ILO must become more democratic. Its Governing Body is composed of 56 permanent members (28 governments, 14 employers’ associations and 14 trade unions) plus 66 non-permanent members (28 governments, 19 employers and 19 workers). One problem is that the human-rights track record of ten of the permanent member governments are unconvincing. Moreover, there is a lack of transparency concerning how delegates who represent either employers or workers are chosen. A more democratic and more representative governance system would help the ILO face the challenges of a rapidly changing international environment.

So far, the implementation of the ILO core labour standards remains inconsistent around the world. Some member countries have not ratified all relevant conventions, and many do not fulfil duties they have signed up to.

Member states must report regularly to the ILO on their rule compliance. A Committee of Experts (CoE) reviews those reports and compiles a black list of the 30 worst offenders. Apart from such naming and shaming, however, the ILO has no means for enforcing its rules. There is no judicial process that might result in sanctioning offending countries. The WTO does not even facilitate public debate on member countries’ track record as the UN Human Rights Council does. More media outreach in these matters might make a difference too.

The ILO certainly needs an effective complaint mechanism, moreover. People whose rights have been infringed upon should be able to make appeals. The ILO’s Multinational Enterprise (MNE) Declaration is a starting point. It was adopted in 1977 and is currently being revised. It is basically a summary of the ILO rules plus recommendations on applying them to major enterprises. People who suffer rule violations, however, cannot turn directly to the ILO, but must revert to a tripartite “national focal point”. This body will hear the case, decide on the case’s merit and subsequently submit the case for ILO review. However, employers’ associations are constituents of the national focal points, and they can block proceedings and veto. (rs)

 

Kategorien: english

Labour is not a commodity

7. Dezember 2018 - 10:26
The ILO was established to promote social justice 100 years ago – and that mission stays relevant

In the first four months of 1919, a commission representing nine countries drafted a constitution for the new agency. Having lost the war, Germany and Austria were not involved. The text subsequently became Part XIII of the peace treaty signed in Versailles. The first annual conference of the newly created ILO was held in Washington in October 1919. Since 1920, it has been based in Geneva.

For tangible political reasons, social justice was the dominant topic in 1919. Europe was facing revolutionary unrest. The war had caused horrific destruction and suffering. After four years of bloodshed, workers unions went on strike. Compounding the problems, however, they were split between those who had joined their respective country’s war ambitions and those who had opposed the war.

In late 1918, revolutionary uprisings toppled the emperors of Germany and Austria. In Russia, the Bolsheviks had ended the czar’s rule one year earlier. Industry leaders wanted the upheavals to end. In their eyes, it made sense to improve working conditions by taking steps towards more social justice. Indeed, there were even proposals to call the new institution the International Organisation for Social Justice.

There were competing ideas on what an international body should do. Socialists and Social Democrats were keen on establishing an international trade union.

By contrast, Samuel Gompers convinced US President Woodrow Wilson that an international agency was needed to tackle social problems in ways that were consistent with market economies. A former member of the British parliament, Gompers had moved to the USA and become the first leader of the American Federation of Labour (AFL). His views were resolutely anti-communist and anti-socialist, so he did not want to leave labour issues to leftists.

Tripartite approach

Indeed, the ILO always rejected socialist ideas of nationalising industry. From the start, its approach was tripartite, involving governments, labour unions and employers associations. The idea was that social justice would result from the cooperation of these three parties, which make up the membership of the ILO.

They debate issues and then propose solutions which can either be achieved through new legislation (concerning governmental health insurances, for example) or by the collective bargaining of labour unions and industry associations (concerning things like wages or the duration of vacations). In the early 20th century, the tripartite setting was innovative. It fast proved useful to involve all relevant parties in the social-justice debate.

Of course, the ILO had to face many political challenges. For example, free-trade unions clashed with those from totalitarian regimes, including the Stalinist Soviet Union, Fascist Italy and from 1933 on Nazi Germany. After World War II, tensions between east and west marked the cold war era. The tripartite approach actually delivered good results in western Europe and North America. In the cold war era, workers tended to be more prosperous in western than in eastern Europe.

As overthrowing capitalism was not on its agenda, the ILO was an ally of the west in the ideological battles of the cold war. The top leaders of the ILO were former government officers or policymakers from western countries. That only changed when Guy Ryder was elected director general of the ILO in 2012. He is a trade-union leader and had served as the general secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

Today, the ILO has 187 member states. Its most important achievements are the core labour standards which are spelled out in several international conventions. The standards include:

  • freedom of association and the right to collective wage bargaining,
  • the elimination of forced and compulsory labour,
  • the effective abolition of child labour,
  • the elimination of discrimination in respect to employment and occupation and
  • internationally recognised labour rights, including the right to a living wage, a regular working week of not more than 48 hours, no forced overtime, safe and healthy workplaces as well as a recognised employment relationship with social protection.

For practical purposes, however, the standards remain aspirational in many countries. Important powers such as the USA, China and India have not ratified all of them. Moreover, various countries do not comply with obligations they signed up to. Internationally, moreover, labour unions have been losing influence for decades, and social-protection policies have been weakened. The reasons include the success of market-orthodox ideology, globalisation and – more recently – right-wing populism.

In the advanced economies, the distinction between employment and self-employment have been blurring, and in recent years, digitalisation became an important driver of this trend. Platform economies, part-time jobs, flexibilisation, renewed pauperisation and de-industrialisation mean that masses of people in rich nations no longer enjoy the kind of social protection that was taken for granted a generation ago. A new understanding of social justice and labour relations is needed. In developing countries and emerging markets, moreover, informal employment means that masses of people have no social safety nets apart from the support their families and communities grant them.

The World Bank has discussed these issues in its most recent World Development Report, and one of its proposals is that, in the future, state agencies should provide universal social protection regardless of a person’s employment status (see Hans Dembowski in focus section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2018/11). Obviously, the ILO must rise to these challenges too.

The missing partners on the GB (Governance Board) are the cooperatives and civil society. In many countries, cooperatives generate between seven to 14 % of GDP, have impressively high levels of employment and contribute to social inclusion and social cohesion. The ILO is the only international organisation which has a unit that is devoted to cooperatives, but the cooperatives are not included in the GB as equal partners together with governments, employers’ associations and labour unions.

Huge challenges thus lie ahead for the ILO. To remain relevant, the ILO needs to rethink and redefine its structure, mission and advocacy role. The reform agenda must have several items that regard the organisation’s governance, membership and means of rule enforcement (see box next page).

Limits of tripartite action

The most important question is probably whether the tripartite setting is still adequate. It was an important innovation initially. It proved a useful setting not only for discussing issues of labour rights and social justice, but also for negotiating legal standards. The approach’s limits are becoming ever more evident, however.

Part of the problem is that it is ill-equipped to deal with informal employment, which is not registered by government agencies, not provided by regular companies and hardly represented by trade unions. Moreover, experience shows that the tripartite setting has increasingly become skewed to the benefit of employers. The most important reasons are that:

  • governments are keen on low labour costs in order to keep economies competitive and attract foreign investors,
  • labour legislation thus makes it hard for trade unions to organise and go on strike, and
  • social protection is often considered a reward for successful development rather than an important foundation of development (see Markus Loewe in focus section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2018/11).

Indeed, some even think that some core labour standards have become issues of controversy. Employer associations increasingly oppose workers’ right to go on strike, for example. Employers’ representatives, moreover, are becoming ever more unwilling to discuss matters like the living wage even though the concept itself was mentioned in some of the earliest ILO documents.

As the ILO gets ready to celebrate its 100 year anniversary, it makes sense to reconsider why it was established in the first place. Social justice is indeed the foundation of peace. The ILO vision was depicted in paintings and frescos in its original building, which today serves as headquarters for the World Trade Organization (WTO). The old images have recently been restored. Their style and subjects reflect the early 20th century, showing workers and farmers living decent lives. And the inscription on the large monument in front of the building states that labour “is not a commodity” (Le travail “n’est pas une merchandise”).

Raymond Saner is the director of the Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development (CSEND) in Geneva. He also teaches international relations at the Sciences Po University in Paris as well as the University of Basle.
saner@csend.org

Kategorien: english

Good enough governance

6. Dezember 2018 - 15:52
According to the World Bank, the quality of governance depends on people’s policy acceptance

The topic of this WDR is governance and the rule of law. It wants governance to be geared to development, which it does not define in economic terms but as “the removal of various types of unfreedoms”, referring to Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate. The report then goes on to state the objectives of development as minimising the threat of violence (security), promoting prosperity (growth) and ensuring that the prosperity is shared (equity). Moreover, sustainability for future generations must be ensured.

The WDR points out that policies that should lead to positive development are often either not adopted at all or poorly implemented, and may even end up backfiring over time. Its guiding question is why this is so – and points out that this is an issue of governance, which the WDR defines as the process through which state and non-state actors interact to design and implement policies. They all act within a given set of formal and informal rules that shape power – but are also shaped by power.

To gear governance towards development, the WDR makes a passionate case against the “best practice” approach, arguing that “best fit” is more important. Adopting an implementable second-best policy is preferable to a seemingly perfect, but un-implementable one. The WDR argues that three principles should guide attempts to improve governance:

  • distinguishing the forms of institutions from their functions,
  • building capacities in ways that reduce power asymmetries, and
  • focusing not only on the rule of law, but just as much on the role of law.

For two decades, the World Bank has been calling for “good governance”. This was basically a “best practice” approach. Critics pointed out, however that the list of normative requirements was long and apparently unrealistic. Instead, the World Bank is now focusing on “good enough” governance. The first principle means that results matter more than the perfect institutional design.

It is noteworthy that the World Bank considers power asymmetries in the context of capacity building. In the past, it promoted technocratic solutions that were seemingly beyond politics and supposedly transcended power relations. By contrast, the WDR now admits that policies may be ineffective simply because groups with enough bargaining power oppose them. They may even fail when such groups merely lack incentives to cooperate. The second principle thus is about these issues being considered when investments in capacity building are made.

The third principle is to focus on the role of law, which is to settle conflicts peacefully in accordance with norms that society generally appreciates. Such norms develop historically, with legitimacy depending on people’s acceptance and their sense of justice. The rule of law thus results from a home-grown process of contestation that shapes societies. Such processes can take a very long time, according to the WDR.

The three “cos”

As stated above, governance for development means that policymaking reduces “unfreedoms”. According to the WDR, commitment, coordination and cooperation are essential prerequisites of effective policymaking. Apart from government institutions, a wide range of interest groups have roles to play in governance. For example, various non-governmental organisations, including business associations or faith-based institutions, have a bearing on governance.

The success of development policies depends on three “cos”:

  • Commitment can ensure that policies are consistent and continuous over time.
  • Coordination implies that diverse beliefs and preferences are aligned.
  • Cooperation means that compliance is voluntary and no freeriding occurs.

In real life, none of the three can be taken for granted however, and if one or more are faulty, the result is policy failure. According to the WDR, it is essential to identify the functional problem in such cases. On that basis, the authors recommend, policymakers can find solutions. To better gear governance to development, they can take several approaches:

  • the policy arena can be made more “contestable” by involving additional interest groups in decision making,
  • parties can be given incentives to cooperate, and
  • actors can appeal to people’s preferences and beliefs.

The WDR wants systems of governance to become more contestable in the sense of all people concerned and affected becoming involved in the policy process. In any given country, power is typically distributed according to some kind of elite bargain that safeguards the status quo. Citizen engagement can challenge and change that constellation. International interventions can help to make that happen. Donor agencies, in other words, do not have an unpolitical role. They should design interventions in ways that lead to development results.

Governance for development ultimately depends on all parties being empowered to express their interests and exert influence. The more interest groups are involved, the better policies will reflect their needs, and, as a result, cooperation will become more likely. Incentives can help to commit actors to policy compromises and facilitate effective implementation. Finally, participants’ preferences and beliefs matter in terms of shaping decisions.

On this basis, reforms can be agreed and implemented. They can concern specific laws, programmes or organisations. They can also lead to adopting entirely new rules. Not only the drafting of laws benefits from broad-based participation, policy implementation and the management of state agencies improve too.

As policy processes are complex and involve many parties, prudent policymakers must anticipate opposition. They must also assess reforms’ unintended consequences. The important thing is to achieve consensus or compromise concerning policy goals and then find ways to make those goals come true.

Historically, the World Bank basically equated development with economic growth, but that stance has become untenable. The WDR 2017 shows that politics matter because politics shape policies. It is most welcome, moreover, that the World Bank is now looking for “best fit” instead of promoting “best practice” with the implication of one size fitting all. The WDR thus shows that the bank appreciates the ownership of the developing countries rather than proposing technocratic blue prints.

Lingering ambiguity

Nonetheless, a sense of ambiguity persists. On the one hand, the WDR points out that the quality of governance and the rule of law depend on people’s acceptance, but on the other hand, it wants international partners to have a bearing on making the policy arena more “contestable”. The irony of the matter is that while human rights were conceived as universal principles, they cannot be taken for granted everywhere.

Rural communities who live according to tradition in developing countries, for example, mostly do not have notions of men and women having equal rights. The World Bank wants these communities to be heard. At the same time, it wants the women to have equal rights and be heard. Indeed, both the community’s empowerment and women’s empowerment are ultimately rooted in western ideas of human rights. Strengthening one, however, may not lead to the strengthening of the other.

Either way, the WDR suggests ways to enforce ideas of human rights in countries that it concedes may not be ready for them. If the rule of law results from long periods of inner-society contestation, we cannot assume that any multilateral organisation’s ideas on these matters seem valid to all people in all countries. Ultimately, the World Bank thus still claims to express a universal truth.

The WDR 2017 is a culmination of the last two decades of the bank’s steady attempt to reposition itself and its policies as pro-poor, inclusive and participatory. The report consists of a rich synthesis and illustrated analysis to make the case for ‘good fit’ approaches to development. It has potentially far reaching implications for not only how the bank operates, but for other international development agencies as well. To what extent that happens remains to be seen.

Kategorien: english

African heritage belongs to Africa, but some items could be repaid in kind

30. November 2018 - 12:20
Friday, November 30, 2018 - 11:30Hans DembowskiUnderstanding one's own culture and history is not enoughYes, cultural artefacts that were robbed by colonial powers should be returned to former colonies. In our globalised era, however, it would make sense to strike deals according to which some of them should be repaid in kind. African museums should be able to put valuable items from other world regions on display.

In an official report to French President Emmanuel Macron, two scholars last week recommended sending back African cultural objects from French museums to the countries of origin. Such a policy would fit in well with Macron’s intention to come to terms with colonial history. The Financial Times reported: 

“The authors, Felwine Sarr, a Senegalese economist, and a French historian, Benedicte Savoy, reiterated a finding that more than 90 per cent of the ‘material cultural legacy’ of sub-Saharan Africa — including palace doors, thrones, carved heads and bronzes — was outside the continent. Europeans, it said, were straining to justify their continued possession of such treasure, while ‘Africans find themselves struggling to recover the thread of an interrupted memory’. France alone, the report said, had at least 90,000 African objects, including from modern-day Chad, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Ivory Coast, Benin, Republic of the Congo, Senegal and Guinea. French collections also had artefacts from Ethiopia and the former British colonies of Ghana and Nigeria. Many items labelled as ‘gifts’ were the spoils of war, it said.” 

These are steps in the right direction. Now action must follow words. Destructive colonial legacies must be tackled, and D+C/E+Z took a look at some of the related issues in a focus section one year ago. 

According to the FT, the report also stated that museums with large African collections are parts of “a system of appropriation and alienation” that deprives Africans of the “spiritual nourishment that is the foundation of their humanity”.

The first point is correct, the second one is incomplete. It suggests that all that is needed to improve matters is to return objects that represent African heritage. Problem runs deeper, however. African societies tend to be highly diverse, and conflicts often erupt between people who speak different languages, believe in different faiths and are raised according to different traditions. To promote a healthy sense of nationhood and diversity, all people would have to recognise their personal roots in whatever way the artefacts would be put on display in Africa. If historic artefacts are used to endorse the view of dominant communities, museums may actually do more harm than good.

Given that diversity is important, I think it would actually be better to only return 50 % of the artefacts concerned to the countries of origin, and pay for the others in kind. African countries should be given valuable European art in return for some of the artefacts that were taken away. They should also be given art from other world regions. Museums around the world should not only inform people about domestic cultures and histories. They should convey ideas that span the globe. Religions have always inspired artists. Hindu, Buddhist or Jewish artefacts deserve as much attention as Christian or Muslim ones do. Ancient artefacts from China or Egypt represent humankind’s heritage just as much as Greek or Roman ones. One obvious implication is that museums in India or Mexico should have relevant African items.  

Among other things, a sense of global diversity helps to put into perspective the position of locally dominant communities. In any case, we are living in an era of globalisation, whether we like it or not. The reason is that humankind is facing serious challenges that nation-states on their own cannot rise to. These challenges include global warming, financial stability, international terrorism, migration, the spread of diseases and many others. We need international solutions because the problems are international. 

In this setting, it is important to have an understanding of one’s own nation’s history and the cultural roots of its diversity. However, we also need an understanding of other countries and world regions. Equipping museums around the world to convey insights accordingly about the history and the great cultural diversity of our species would make sense. Moreover, museums should lend their items to museums in faraway countries for special exhibits. As in other politically relevant fields, we need more cooperation, not more exclusiveness.

 

Civil society and local governmentInternational relations and cooperationPhysical and social infrastructures
Kategorien: english

African countries at risk

27. November 2018 - 13:48
Both borrowers and lenders must contribute to preventing debt crises in sub-Saharan Africa

In the 1990s, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa saw debt ratios decline. The reasons were debt relief and economic growth. From the late 1990s on, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) reduced low-income countries’ debt burdens. The idea was to free up resources for infrastructure investments and social spending, Mustapha and Prizzon write.

In the current decade, however, public debt and debt-service ratios have been rising again. According to the scholars, they are now higher than they were in 2006 when the MRDI started. Moreover, ratings by the World Bank and IMF suggest that low-income countries are now at high risk of debt distress, which occurs when a country struggles to service its debt.

The number of countries at risk in sub-Saharan Africa has more than doubled from eight countries in 2013 to 18 in 2018. Eight countries – Chad, Mozambique, Republic of the Congo, São Tomé and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan, The Gambia and Zimbabwe – are already in distress. According to the authors, borrowing is driven by the desire to mobilise resources for reaching global goals, implementing national development plans and turning low-income countries into middle-income ones.

The authors caution that even though borrowing is often seen as necessary for growth, unsustainable debt burdens may undermine progress. It is unhealthy that some governments are now pending more money on debt servicing than on their education or health sectors. High debt levels make them less able to attract investors and innovators.

Policymakers and practitioners need to pay more attention to the changing composition of debt and its accompanying risks, Mustapha and Prizzon demand. Three trends matter in particular:

  • The share of multilateral and concessional debt has declined. For example, sub-Saharan multilateral debt has fallen from 53 % in 2005 to less than 40 % of the region’s external debt in 2016. One reason is that, as countries become middle-income countries, they are no longer eligible for multilateral and bilateral donors’ programmes.
  • New bilateral sovereign creditors have increased their share in total public external debt from 15 % in 2007 to 30 % in 2016. For example, Chinese institutions are increasingly financing large-scale infrastructure projects in the region. These loans may lead to repayment problems if they do not generate sufficient returns.
  • Sub-Saharan countries increasingly raise funds on international capital markets. They are thus exposed to risks regarding volatile exchange rates and interest rates. Investor interest may shift too.

The new finance landscape may render past debt-relief mechanisms obsolete and exposes countries to more financial risks (also note Jürgen Zattler in Focus section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2018/08). Both borrowers and lenders could do more to make debt more sustainable. The authors recommend reforms in three areas:

  • building the capacity of borrowing countries to manage debt responsibly,
  • enhancing transparency for all parties involved, and
  • developing state-contingent debt instruments (SCDIs) which would link debt service to pre-defined macroeconomic variables, such as GDP growth: in the case of a downturn, the debt-service burden would thus be reduced automatically.

In many sub-Saharan countries, institutional capacity for effective debt management is weak. Shortcomings include the fragmentation of debt management responsibilities across several government entities, lack of political commitment, high staff turnover in debt management units as well as unreliable debt recording systems and data gaps, according to Mustapha and Prizzon. However, improving debt management is not a panacea and has to be supported by sound macroeconomic, fiscal and tax policies.

Lenders need to promote responsible lending too. The authors argue for improving transparency and information-sharing among creditors and borrowers. The World Bank and the IMF should reach out to emerging-market creditors for better coordination. New approaches such as SCDIs might also help.

Link
Mustapha, S., and Prizzon, A., 2018: Africa’s rising debt. How to avoid a new crisis.
https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/resource-documents/12491.pdf

Kategorien: english

Linking policies on development and trade

27. November 2018 - 12:39
Private-sector involvement is vital for Africa’s world-market integration

Poor infrastructure is a major obstacle to doing business in African countries – both for local and for international enterprises. But infrastructure – for transport, energy or water, for instance – costs a lot of money. It cannot be financed solely from national budgets or official development assistance (ODA). Private investment is needed for local economies to grow, livelihoods to be generated and people to lead independent lives.

Foreign direct investment does not automatically result in more local jobs, of course. Even so, it is absolutely essential. In 2017, € 36 billion were invested in African countries, mostly in Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Morocco. That sum was a mere 2.9 % of global foreign investment. By contrast, € 434 billion flowed into Asia. The major corporate investors in Africa are based in the US, UK and France as well as in China and South Africa. Even firms based in the city-states Singapore and Hong Kong invest more in Africa than Germany’s private sector, which still hesitates to engage with Africa. A lack of suitable financing options, risk protection and political support are bemoaned by many German companies, especially small and medium-sized ones.

Many of the thousand German companies which are active in Africa are actually very successful. Interest in Europe’s neighbouring continent certainly exists. At the end of October, the German-African Business Association (Afrika-Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft) staged an investor conference in cooperation with the Sub-Saharan Africa Initiative of German Business (SAFRI). The event attracted a hundred companies. Between them, they plan projects worth an investment volume of € 500 million. The projects will create 13,000 jobs in eleven partner countries of the G20’s Compact with Africa. They are Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia. Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports some of the ventures through its Special Initiative for Training and Employment.

And yet German involvement does not reflect the country’s economic weight. Smart action could increase the € 1 billion worth of projects currently in the pipeline across Africa several fold. For that to happen, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) need to see Africa as an attractive investment destination. The Development Investment Fund could offer the right leverage, making a key contribution to creating more jobs for African youth. Items that have long been on the SME wish list include accessible and less expensive guarantees for exports, for project development and for investments. It is good that governmental Hermes export-credit guarantees will become available for additional countries. To better cushion investors’ risks, it equally makes sense to reduce Hermes’ costs and client excesses. It is helpful, moreover, that the Fund will make financing available for smaller projects than in the past. This will not only benefit German companies; African enterprises will also be able to access capital and grow.

Africa needs private-sector involvement to leap out of poverty and become integrated into the global economy. We must support the continent’s catch-up process, harnessing the current momentum. Judiciously linking policies on development and foreign trade is the right way forward – for better infrastructure and more investment in African countries.

Christoph Kannengießer is the chief executive of the German-African Business Association (Afrika-Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft).
voss@afrikaverein.de

Kategorien: english

Insights into a war-torn country

27. November 2018 - 10:22
Journalist lets the victims of the war in Syria tell their stories and the history of the country

Only in people’s memory and history books does Syria still exist as a coherent state. In its place, there are now several Syrias, argues the award-winning Abouzeid, who lives in Beirut. In an attempt to understand the tragedy, her book “No turning back” spells out the views of many different people.

It all started in 2011 with peaceful protests, when some youngsters wrote graffiti on walls, but it escalated into war and ultimately dissolved an entire nation. As the author reports, the UN stopped counting victims in 2013 because reliable information proved impossible to get. Experts now estimate that half a million have died, and that half of Syria’s 23 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Abouzeid regrets that the western public has lost interest in one of our age’s worst humanitarian and geopolitical disasters. The images are too horrific, the scenario is too complex, and an end is not in sight. At the same time, the war has impacts on Syria’s neighboring countries, and even on the EU, where millions of refugees have arrived.

For five years, Abouzeid has been traveling to Syria repeatedly. She visited the front lines, but she also went to Turkey, Washington and various places in Europe. In her many conversations with Syrian people, she wanted to find out why the situation kept getting worse. Her book consists of moving stories and vivid portraits, it does not offer sanitised coverage from a safe distance.

Abouzeid tells the story of Suleiman, who was a prosperous business man with family ties to autocratic President Bashar al-Assad. He saw no reason to protest and knew the rules of the game. But the courage of the activists and the prospect of a lasting political settlement fascinated him. He began to film the protests and post videos online. Assad’s security forces became aware of him and he underwent the ordeal of prison and torture.

Another important person Abouzeid writes about is Mohammad, who already opposed the regime before the Arab spring started and who basically identifies with radical Islam. He spent years in Syrian prisons, which have a reputation of torture, and became increasingly radical. Abouzeid neither spares readers the atrocities he witnessed nor the brutal violence he later perpetrated as a commander of the Al Nusra militia.

All of the book’s episodes have one thing in common: they show how people’s lives were turned upside down at some point during the war. In contrast to conventional war reporting, Abouzeid does not tell us what she saw and witnessed herself. Instead, she lets people tell their stories. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the episodes add up to one big picture that illustrates the tragedy of Syria’s war.

The book spells out that there can be no victors in this war. No matter on which side people stand, they all lose. It also shows how diverse political forces incrementally usurped an initially peaceful protest movement. Nonetheless, it becomes clear that none of the country’s main political players are in control anymore.

The news for Syria stay alarming; the human-rights situation is depressing. The big question is whether peace will get a chance in some kind of reunited Syria. According to a recent report issued by Germany’s Foreign Office, the police, security forces and secret service in Syria are systematically torturing members of the opposition and people suspected of supporting it. Even women and children are tortured.

Abouzeid’s impressive book can contribute to raising fresh awareness of the Syrian drama. Reading “No turning back” changes one’s perception of the news. It calls attention to the people affected.

Book
Abouzeid, R., 2018: No turning back: Life, loss and hope in wartime Syria. London: Oneworld.

Kategorien: english

“Gravest social malady”

27. November 2018 - 9:59
Why Iran’s government has made its anti-drug legislation less draconian

The local reports and statistics indicate that Iran’s government has failed to adequately address what has become a looming crisis. The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes considers the situation to be one of the most serious internationally. Opiates are the main cause of concern.

Every once in a while, drug-related issues in Iran make local or even international headlines. The complex drugs crisis has many aspects. In June 2017, Iran’s Drug Control Headquarters reported that, according to a representative survey, the number of drug addicts was between 2.8 million to 3 million people of the ages 15 to 65 years. Observers believe the real number to be even higher, but the official data indicated that narcotics abuse had doubled in six years. In August 2018, a member of the Iranian parliament’s Social Affairs Committee revealed that some addicts in Iran are merely 11 years old.

Indeed, one trend is that drug abuse is spreading among women and children. Sometimes, addicted women even give birth to addicted infants. The newborns tend to live very short lives or struggle with the difficult recovery process.

Typically, older addicted children are from poor families who live in impoverished areas on the outskirts of metropolitan cities. They are constantly exposed to narcotics, and some of them are used by their families to sell drugs or procure them for their parents.

Poverty probably pushes many people towards narcotics abuse, but not all addicts are poor. The escalation of Iran’s drug problem seems like a national epidemic, affecting people of different backgrounds. To some extent, the middle classes may use drugs for recreational purposes, but hopelessness seems to be an important issue. Despair is widespread and believed to be growing because people lack economic and political prospects. Economic hardship, which is believed to result from decades of mismanagement and corruption as well as international sanctions, has a strong psycho­logical impact on society.

Another important factor is Iran’s geographical location. The country is close to the hub of the world’s opium production. Afghanistan has about 90 % of the world’s poppy harvest, and opiates are smuggled from there to all other countries. Iran shares 921 kilometres of porous borders with Afghanistan. Transit routes run through Iran, and various narcotics are easily available.

According to Parviz Afshar, the spokesperson of Iran’s Drug Control Headquarters, opium is the most widely used narcotic in Iran, accounting for about two thirds of the amounts consumed. Marihuana and its derivatives have replaced methamphetamine in second place with about 12 % of drug use.

It is believed that cannabis and its offshoots are more commonly used by younger people, who also seem to speak more openly about it than those who use other drugs. Abbas Deylamizadeh, the head of the Rebirth Charity Society, believes that the open discussions about cannabis on social media and legalisation in parts of the western world have contributed to its popularity in Iran. Another reason may be that people can grow marihuana plants at home.

Policy changes

Since the revolution in 1979, the Iranian government has been trying to eradicate the production and use of narcotics as well as alcoholic beverages. They are all forbidden under the country’s Islamic laws. The laws are tough and have been enforced vigorously. Until last year, the zero-tolerance policy against drug-offenders officially included capital punishment for anyone possessing even small amounts of hard drugs like heroin or cocaine. In the past decades, thousands of criminals were arrested and executed. Recent statistics and reports show, however, that this rigid policy was not successful.

Indeed, the drug crisis only became worse.

In the late 1990s, non-governmental organisations began to deal with drug-related issues as social and medical problems rather than as criminal offenses. At the time, Mohammad Khatami, the reformist president, was in office. More recently, the government itself has begun to take a similar approach. For example, it has now allocated budget money for setting up rehabilitation centres for children. Iran probably needs more rehab facilities, but these are steps in the right direction.

Last year, the government of President Hassan Rouhani got the Parliament and the Guardian Council to pass an amendment to the existing drug laws. This reform abolished the death penalty for some drug-offenders. According to estimates, the lives of about 4,000 prisoners on death row were thus saved. Nonetheless, capital punishment is still in place for offenders who possess or traffic at least two kilos of hard drugs or 50 kilos of opium or cannabis. Repeat offenders will also be sentenced to death.

Another change is that the government may now distribute diluted drugs to addicts. Hassan Norouzi, the spokesperson for the Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission, emphasised the need to “cut off the relationship between drug-addicts and narco-traffickers”. The idea is that addicts will gradually give up their addiction instead of staying dependent on criminals. Similar rules were in force before the revolution, according to Norouzi.

All in all, Iran’s drug crisis seems to have its roots in the country’s economic, social and cultural problems. If it is to be dealt with properly, the government may need to address those issues first. As Saeid Sefatian, a member of Iran’s Expediency Council, which gives advice to Supreme Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, has put it: “Drug addiction is Iran’s gravest social mala­dy and the government should treat it with a more serious and professional approach.”

Mitra Shahrani is a master’s student in International Migration and Ethnic Relations at Malmö University, Sweden. She is also a freelance journalist.
mitra.mshahrani@gmail.com

Kategorien: english

Health care by donations

27. November 2018 - 9:33
Zimbabwe’s government asks citizen to donate money in order to combat cholera

In early September this year, cholera broke out in Zimbabwe. It started only a few days after the inauguration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

As the number of cholera deaths kept rising, Mnangagwa bragged that his country had made strides towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, more than 8,500 people were soon infected. In response, the government declared an emergency and banned public gatherings to prevent the spread of the infectious disease.

For doctors like Letiwe Siziba, who is based in the capital Harare, the country’s authorities never seem to learn from their past experiences with the disease. “In 2008, over 4,000 people succumbed to cholera,” she recounts, “owing to the same problems that have caused the latest bout of the same disease.” The reasons are poor sanitation and dirty water contaminated with faecal matter, the physician points out.

As Zimbabwe’s government tried to contain the cholera outbreak, Mthuli Ncube, the finance minister, suggested to start “crowdfunding” to fight the disease. The minister appealed for donations from citizens to help the government. A twitter message of his read: “Together with my colleagues at the Ministry of Health, we have set up an auditable emergency crowdfund to further efforts to fight cholera to date. Together we can win!”

Many citizens were livid. Theo Moyo was one of them. His response on twitter was: “This is morally and financially bankrupt; the deceitful Zimbabwe government wants us to donate money to help tackle cholera pandemic through crowdfunding. They should be ashamed!”

Kate Bartlett called the crowdfunding attempt “an insult”. Her point was that citizens pay taxes which are supposed to keep the health services running. “On top of that, I have to donate to crowdfunding too?” Many people now demand that Robert Mugabe, the former president, should be made to pay back ill-gotten gains, so that the government would have more money.

Denford Ngadziore belongs to the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, the opposition party. He maintains that “our government is notorious for spending tax payers’ money on buying vehicles for cabinet ministers.”

International agencies like the World Health Organization and UNICEF have had to step in with emergency help. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s newly appointed Health Minister Obadiah Moyo has been on record pinning the blame for the cholera outbreak on the opposition-led Harare City Council. He said the municipal body had “failed its residents by not providing clean water and proper sanitation.”

Jeffrey Moyo is a journalist and lives in Harare, Zimbabwe.
moyojeffrey@gmail.com

 

Kategorien: english

Bamboo means water

27. November 2018 - 9:01
Forests can store water for droughts – for example in Indonesian villages

Ever since 2005, the local villagers of Sumbermujur village in East Java have been systematically taking care of 14 hectares of bamboo forest. This forest is dense, and the plants grow up to a height of 10 to 20 metres. The plants surround a water source and cause it to never run dry. The water flow rate reaches 600 litres per second in the dry season between April and October. In the rainy season, between November to March, it increases to up to 800 litres per second.

The source provides safe drinking water to 7,000 villagers. It also facilitates the irrigation of 436 hectares of rice fields. In the dry season, some of the water is channelled to three other villages, which would otherwise suffer drought.

The village actually inherited the forest from previous generations. But between 1980 to 2000, the forest kept shrinking because people were cutting too much bamboo for housing and crafts purposes. As the forest became smaller, water became scarcer. Suharsih, a farm woman, remembers that villagers needed more water: “We had to drill our own wells.”

Realising how precious clean water is, the villagers started to plant bamboo on the previously deforested land. Water supply improved fast. In the past two years, the water resources once again have become as abundant as they were in the past. “It is now sufficient for our agriculture,” says Suharsih, who owns one hectare of land.

To protect the forest, the local government prohibits bamboo cutting for commercial purposes. Private companies were interested in starting a bottled-water business, but they did not get permissions.

According to data from Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), the 2018 dry season caused more than 4,000 villages to experience drought, crop failure and a lack of clean water. Almost 4.9 million people were affected. Water poverty results from many problems that range from deforestation to global warming.

Purnawan Dwikora Negara, who belongs to the non-governmental Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), explains that “bamboo is the right choice to conserve water sources”. The reason is that the plants absorb water and store it in their hollow spaces. “They release water in the dry season,” Purnawan says.

The diversity of bamboo plants is quite high. In Indonesia alone, there are 135 species. Some 1,250 bamboo species are found internationally. Community-owned forests are valuable, but increasingly under threat. Part of the problem is that there is no tradition of taking care of them. Doing so was not necessary in the past. In view of population growth and increasing  resource demand, however, the forests can no longer be taken for granted. They need sustainable management.

Purnawan, the environmentalists, says: “The efforts of Sumbermujur Village to protect bamboo forests deserve to be replicated.” Other villages would benefit from similar approaches.

Ika Ningtyas is a freelance journalist based in Java, Indonesia.
ika_bwi@yahoo.com

 

Kategorien: english

It is a phantasy to believe national sovereignty can apply to everything

26. November 2018 - 15:07
Monday, November 26, 2018 - 15:00Hans DembowskiWhy populists struggle to form cross-border alliancesInsisting on national sovereignty is not the key to solving international problems. That is evident in world regions as different as Europe and the Middle East. While right-wing populists are good at challenging the status quo, they do not offer long-term solutions. Let me explain.

The British government and the EU have now reached a formal agreement on how Britain will exit the EU. Nobody in Britain likes it. The Brexiteers had promised to “take back control”, especially of their borders. They obviously failed to consider the logical implication of the EU taking control of its borders too. The promise to the British public was to keeping all the benefits of EU membership (especially the single market) whilst getting rid of all the downsides. That was always nonsense.

The underlying issue is that no country can handle all major challenges on its own. Trade policy requires partners, and partners have ideas and interests of their own. Britain’s Remainers are right to point out that the Brexit agreement reached now is detrimental to British interests compared to the status quo. For the time being, their country will have to follow rules that it has no influence on, and that will stay that way until the EU and Britain conclude a new trade agreement. And no, that new trade agreement will not set Britain free to do as ever its government pleases at any given time. There will again be common rules that bind all partners, and once again the EU will prove to have the stronger hand in the negotiations.

The right-wing phantasy of national sovereignty applying to all matters is indeed a phantasy. It is shared by many populists internationally, however, and some observers believe they will somehow all team up. I don’t think that will happen. The obvious thing is that the vision of populists from one nation will clash with those of its neighbours. Its already happening in the EU context.

Germany’s political parties are preparing for the European election next year. Some argue that the respective parties from various member countries will join forces, and the populists themselves love to pretend they will do so. I recently heard a leader of Germany’s AfD on the radio. He said he was looking forward to cooperating with Italy’s Lega party, arguing that it had a similarly “modern approach” to European affairs.

In truth, the two parties are worlds apart on an essential issue. The Lega is part of the coalition that is currently governing Italy, and it wants to increase the nation’s deficit spending in order to end the economic slump. The AFD, by contrast, is fundamentally opposed to any member of the euro zone borrowing more money. The Lega and AfD may agree that they don’t want people from Asia or Africa to come to Europe, but that is about it. They do not share a vision concerning Europe’s future.

The Lega, moreover, is involved in a tough dispute with the FPÖ, the Austrian populist party. The reason is that the FPÖ wants to grant the Austrian citizenship to the members of Italy’s German-speaking minority. Of course, the mere idea offends Italian populists.

There are many more such frictions in Europe. Poland’s populist PIS government wants the rights of Polish migrants to be protected in Britain, but masses of Polish migrants were one reason why British populists voted to leave the EU. No, the PIS will certainly not forge a lasting alliance with Brexiteers. By the way, neither the Polish government nor its equally populist Hungarian counterpart really want borders to be closed. That would stop masses of young people from  migrating from their countries. Oh, and a majority of Polish people actually appreciates the EU very much and are proud of their country’s membership. 

Germany’s AFD, moreover, tends to belittle our country’s disastrous Nazi past. The crimes committed by the Nazis, however, are perhaps the most important reason that allows the PIS to claim that its country is entitled to European subsidies. Xenophobia simply does not constitute a shared agenda, especially when mutual resentments are becoming spelled out more frequently.

The great challenge today is to draft international policies in ways that serve the interests of all nations. And yes, nations actually share many interests. We all need peace, for example. Another global financial crisis will hurt everyone, and so will unmitigated climate change. Putting the national interest first, does not solve any of these problems. International cooperation can make a difference, however, but it won’t work with everyone putting narrowly understood national interests “first”.

This is not only true in Europe, of course. If it weren’t so serious, it would actually be amusing to watch the confusion US President Donald Trump’s “America first” approach is causing in the Middle East. Claiming to fight Islamist terrorism, he reinforced the USA’s Alliance with Saudi Arabia. The problem is that Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian monarchy has a history of sponsoring Islamist terrorism. That served its national interest as understood by the monarchy. Trump’s insistence that Iran is the hub of Islamist extremism is wrong.

Iran is merely centre of Shia fundamentalism, whereas Saudi Arabia is historically the centre of a specific kind of Sunni fundamentalism. It is true that it has, in recent years, disowned Al Qaida and ISIS, but we should not forget that it was the Saudis’ extremist Wahhabism that spawned them.   

Making matters more complicated, the Wahhabism ideology is at loggerheads with the Muslim Brothers, who promote the other important kind of politicised Sunni Islam. Before the Arab spring, the Saudis were happy to support the Muslim Brothers, but the monarchy was terrified when they actually rose to power in Egypt. The reason was that the Muslim Brothers do not care much for Saudi Arabian claims to faith leadership. They have their own reading of the Scriptures, know their region’s colonial history and winning elections made them self-confident. By contrast, the Saudis insist on running a monarchy by Allah’s grace rather than thanks to voters’ choices. The resent the mere idea of elections.   

The Muslim Brothers were only in power for one year in Cairo. They were then toppled by the military, and the Saudis supported that coup. The Muslim Brothers were declared terrorists, and some of them have since indeed joined extremist militias. It is nonetheless absurd to claim that all Muslim Brothers are terrorists.

Making matters more complicated, Turkey’s governing party AKP has its roots in the brotherhood. President Recep Tayyep Erdogan is just as fond of displaying his solidarity with the victims of Cairo’s coup as he is proud to demonstrate his distance from Saudi Arabia. The national interest of Saudi Arabia in Syria’s Civil War is to topple or at least diminish the power of president Bashar Assad, who belongs to a sheer minority. Erdogan’s priority is to keep the check on the Kurdish minority in Syria, because he feels threatened by Kurdish nationalism.

Long before Jamal Kashoggi, the exiled journalist, was murdered in the Saudi Embassy Istanbul, observers knew that Turkish and Saudi interests are very hard to reconcile, and that the shared Sunni religion does not make a difference. The atrocious murder has nonetheless made it obvious that the Saudi government has no intention of respecting American values such as the freedom of the press. Given that Kashoggi was a legal resident of the USA, killing him was a sign of disrespect towards Washington. President Trump is facing serious criticism because of it now, and he is being ridiculed for still insisting that he is putting America first while refusing to take a stand on what happened in the embassy. Does anyone really believe encouraging dictators to perpetrate murders in NATO countries serves the interests of the USA?

I could go on like this for a long time, pointing out why Qatar and Turkey get along quite well with one another, and why their approach to Iran is totally different from Saudi Arabia’s. Discussing to what extent Turkey, a NATO member, has become a difficult non-democratic ally, would be interesting too. Another relevant aspect is that it is now the Russian government that all Middle Eastern countries can relate to. That used to be the role of the US administration. All of these issues are quite complex and interrelated, but I guess you get my point anyway: Simply putting the “national interest” as imagined by leaders first, does not lead to lasting solutions.

International relations and cooperationMENA Middle East North Africa
Kategorien: english

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