Thursday, 27 October 2011

Occupy George, occupy your bills at home

Following the demonstration of the "indignados" in Spain, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is an ongoing series of demonstrations that is taking place in New York City based in Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street financial district. People are mainly protesting against
  • Social and economic inequality, 
  • corporate greed, 
  • corporate power and influence over government (particularly from the financial services sector), and of lobbyists.

The participants' slogan "We are the 99%" refers to income inequality in the United States between the top 1%, who control about 40% of the wealth, and the rest of the population.
A website Occupy George  invites people to write messages about the disproportion of the distribution of richness in the US society. Below you can find some examples in the way they used one dollar banknotes...
In America, the average CEO earns 185 times more than the average worker.

The income growth disparity in America is wider than it was
pre-Great Depression.

And What about the developing countries and emerging economies?
India with 53 billionaires can claim the 4th rank in the world in the number of billionaires after the US, Russia and Germany and being ahead of China, UK, Japan and France showing the Indian is taking steps heading towards the big shoes to become one of the world’s superpowers. Sunil Mittal, Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Azim Premzi, K. Birla and many more. Huge FDI inflow, high market competition, increasing support for entrepreneurs, mall culture, designer accessories are all showing the bright side of the coin. But what about the grim side? What about the side-effects of this westernization?
Today the wealth of the top 35 billionaires exceeds that of 800 million poor people who are mainly poor peasants, rural population and slum workers. Maybe people soon will be encouraged to circulate Gandhi's banknotes with these alarming statistics...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Information on land grabbing

Cartoon from a post on the website
The alarming and growing phenomenon of land grabbing, according to numerous sources of information, boosted after the financial crisis of 2007-08 when a spike in food prices to record levels sparked a wave of land deals as food-importing countries and major agricultural businesses sought to increase their supplies and protect themselves from price volatility.
 Alarmed by exporters’ trade restrictions, food importing countries realised that their dependence on the agricultural market makes them vulnerable not only to a surge in prices but, more crucially, to an interruption in supplies.
Only a short time ago, farmland in Asia, Africa and South America seemed of little interest to outsiders. But the recent food crisis and water scarcity in many countries has changed foreigners’appetite with the result being that fertile soil in these regions are now sought by international investors with purchasing for hundreds of thousands of hectares.

UNCTAD  world map on land grabs for 2009
The cultivation of land (especially that of the South) recently increased its value guaranteeing to investors lucrative profits in the range of 6-12 % on the invested capitals.
The result of this new trend is the advent of a new form of colonialism that threatens to alter the international stability  (as evidenced by reaction to the recent North African revolts, related to the increase in food prices).
Investing countries’ desire to repatriate the crops to feed their own population in the name of self-sufficiency changes significantly the nature of such investment. In the 1950s and 1960s, ­international companies focused on making money by growing food for a global market.

Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a UN agency that fights rural poverty, says the world is witnessing an emerging trend. “The issue of food security is back on the political agenda and that is driving investment in agriculture,” he says.
The trend to outsource the provision of food security and to pursue self-sufficiency at home is hotly contested by agricultural companies and trade officials. Carl Hausmann, chief executive of Bunge North America, one of the world’s largest agricultural trading companies, echoed a view widely held among other executives and government officials at the World Agricultural Forum last week in St Louis.

“Many governments are rethinking their approach to food security and are saying we need more domestic production, we need to be domestically independent,” he said. “I would argue the exact opposite approach is better. Without the free flow of trade in agricultural commodities and food products the health of any given country in any given year is at risk.”

Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation, warned this month, that more trade rather than less was the solution to food security.

“If anything, international trade has reduced the price of food over the years,” he told a conference at the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council in Salzburg, Austria. Such concerns are, however, unlikely to stop the trend. With agricultural commodities prices on the rise again and some of the export restrictions imposed a year ago still in place, most experts argue that the impact in Africa and elsewhere is likely to be long-lasting.
What needs to be done:

To prevent financial speculators from generating profits at the cost of the poor, we need strong regulation of commodity derivatives markets. This includes:

• Trade on transparent exchanges or clearing houses
• High margin requirements for Over-the-counter trade
• Reporting and public reports
• Price oversight and price limits
• Prevention of excessive speculation through position limits
• Trading prohibition for institutional funds, mutual funds and for proprietary trading
• Control of the speculation by multinational commodity companies
• Transaction tax on commodity derivatives trading

The introduction of some guidelines could be a first step to make operational the principles exposed above. This issue have been discussed in the following three websites:
Other websites and documents:
UN efforts to control land grabbing delayed
A voluntary code of conduct has been in the works since 2008, driven by concerns that countries such as China and Gulf Arab states are buying swaths of land in Africa and Asia to secure their own food supplies, often at the expense of local people. Investors are now scrambling to possess land assets before the sector becomes more regulated, as uncertainty in financial markets makes land an increasingly attractive investment, De Schutter said.

Land Deal Brief: AgriSol Energy and Pharos Global Agriculture Fund’s Land Deal in Tanzania - Oakland Institute 2011 Information on a recent case of land grabbing affecting Tanzania where thousands of small farmers have been expropriated by force from their land.

Farm land grab website
This website contains mainly news reports about the global rush to buy up or lease farmlands abroad as a strategy to secure basic food supplies or simply for profit. Its purpose is to serve as a resource for those monitoring or researching the issue, particularly social activists, non-government organisations and journalists.

Land grabbing: Government school buildings being sold off - The express Tribune 20 October 2011
In Pakistan, the NGO United Human Rights Commission Pakistan (UHRCP) Secretary General Rana Faizul Hasan – not to be confused with the Human Rights Commission Pakistan – filed a petition with the Sindh High Court (SHC) asking for action to be taken against a group of alleged land grabbers who have set their sights on government buildings, particularly schools, and are converting them into businesses.

Honduran police burn community to the ground - Grain website (14 October 2011)
Homes, churches, schools, and crops all destroyed as the post-coup government continues to side with wealthy plantation owners over the country's organized farmers.

Regulate finance for development
This site is the common project of six European NGOs (BWP, CRBM, CCFD EURODAD; GLOPOLIS and WEED) who want to focus on the (re)regulation of financial markets at EU level. As of now, the EU is hardly present as a regulatory actorm but there are proposals for its role to grow substantially. Our project wants to contribute to a more coherent and common political approach for financial regulation and supervision inside the EU and for common positions in international processes of reform, such as G20, IMF, FSB and the UN.

The Vultures of Land Grabbing The involvement of European financial companies in large-scale land acquisition abroad - Rinoceros website document - 2009
List of main financial companies and funds involved in large scale acquisition of land farm in poor countries

Foreign land purchases for agriculture: what impact on sustainable development? - December 2010 United Nations
The UN document examines the implication of the phenomenon for the sustainable development of the African region.
Agricultural Land Redistribution. Toward greater consensus - World Bank document 2009
The World Bank outlines how it is important to ensure that contracts of all types promote shared food security interests. This is a critical need for these types of investments today. Developing and least developed states should not be asked to trade their food security for that of states with greater fiscal resources. 
Recognition of shared needs and a common agenda for food security is critical

Hedge funds 'grabbing land' in Africa - June 2011 BBC News
Hedge funds are behind "land grabs" in Africa to boost their profits in the food and biofuel sectors, the Oakland Institute, a US think-thank, said hedge funds and other foreign firms had acquired large swathes of African land, often without proper contracts

Land grab or development opportunity? Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa - IFAD/FAO 2009 Report by IFAD

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Congress to decide soon on 2012 budget cuts for the State Department and the Agency for International Development

US President
Barack H. Obama
There are two distant positions in the Congress. The Republican Party with the majority in the House of Representatives proposes a 20 percent reduction for the budget while the Democratic Party, controlling the Senate recommends a 10 percent cut from last year's total budget keeping the overall sum unvaried.
While Congress hardly proposes to dent the components of US aid that are tied to military programs, hardest hit will be food aid, global health programs, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and official development assistance (water filtration plants, etc).
When President Obama took office, the administration proposed a 10% increase in foreign aid for this budget cycle, up to $59bn – but still less than 2% of the total federal budget.A key part of the report on foreign aid the  First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review focuses on pursuing a long-term strategy rather than going with the latest development fad and constantly switching gears.
In an interview with The Associated Press, as reported by the Huffington Post, the Secretary State Hillary Clinton challenged the deficit-cutting reductions in foreign aid. The Secretary is waging a campaign to educate many in Congress about the work of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. She highlighted the department's significance in an economy hard hit by recession and she also drown attention to the common misperception that foreign aid accounts for 20 percent of the government budget. while in reality it accounts only for less than the 2 percent of federal spending.
Lawmakers say that in a time of increasing deficits and fiscal austerity, all federal spending faces the budget knife. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who heads the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the State Department's budget and foreign aid, said she understood Clinton's frustration, but all departments and government agencies are facing cuts.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left)
meeting with  Republican congresswoman Kay Granger last March 2011

Slashing aid may seem like a no-brainer for congressional budget-cutters, but aid isn't charity; it's business. Ask China. It's not every day that foreign aid is front page news in the United States, but it is because slashing foreign aid has become one of the few areas of bipartisanship in the US Congress. Such an act of retreat is short-sighted. Given that China and other emerging markets are ramping up their overseas development assistance, the US should be revamping and increasing aid, not cutting. US Congress, according to various opinion makers would show more strength if they trimmed the defence budget and passed the millionaire tax proposal.
While the United States is in the midst of reducing its foreign aid, China has been increasing its contributions. The Chinese Government has just released last April its much-awaited White Paper on foreign aid, marking the most comprehensive (official English) collation of information and an important step in China’s efforts towards greater transparency in its aid policy. China has lent at least $110bn between 2009 and 2010 – more aid than all World Bank loans combined during that period. Furthermore, China is implementing that longer-term strategy that Obama said the US needs.
Meanwhile, China has been building export-processing zones, ports, railways and other more growth- and job-friendly projects. What is more, China's aid has far fewer strings attached than the US's does, and is increasingly favoured abroad as a result. That is, in part, a pity, because according to a new report by US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China's aid to the developing world does not adhere to international standards such as governmental reform and human rights protection; this undermines efforts by the United States to initiate such reforms in Burma, Venezuela and Sudan.

More reading at
The Self-Inflicted Wound of US Foreign Aid Cuts
Financial Resources for Foreign Aid - China State Council Information Office
The real question about overseas aid - New Statesman
Foreign aid with Chinese characteristics: China releases first White Paper on aid
Hillary Clinton Challenges Foreign Aid Cuts - Huffington Post
Overseas contingency operations - White House website

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Deaths for malaria dropped of 20 % in last decade

Malaria is one of the deadliest global diseases, particularly in Africa. In 2009, 781,000 people died from malaria. The mosquito-borne disease is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 85% of deaths occurred, most of them children under five.

Registered cases and deaths:

2000: 233 million cases, 985,000 deaths
2009: 225 million cases, 781,000 deaths

The RBM Partnership was launched in 1998 by WHO, UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank, in an effort to provide a coordinated global response to malaria. RBM’s overall strategy aims to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality by reaching universal coverage and strengthening health systems. The Roll Back Malaria Partnership aims to eliminate malaria in another eight to 10 countries by the end of 2015, including the entire European Region. In 2010, the RBM Partnership is comprised of 500 partners that are organized in eight constituencies.

A new report said that one-third of the 108 countries where malaria was endemic were on course to eradicate the disease within 10 years. It has been eradicated from three countries since 2007 - Morocco, Turkmenistan and Armenia.
New RBM Report

The Global Malaria Action Plan to reduce cases and deaths defines two stages of malaria control:

(1) scaling-up for impact (SUFI) of preventive and therapeutic interventions, and

(2) sustaining control over time.

A global malaria eradication campaign, launched by WHO in 1955, succeeded in eliminating the disease in 16 countries and territories. But after less than two decades, the WHO decided to concentrate instead on the less ambitious goal of malaria control. However, another eight nations were declared malaria-free up until 1987, when certification was abandoned for 20 years.

In recent years, interest in malaria eradication as a long-term goal has re-emerged.The WHO estimates that malaria causes significant economic losses, and can decrease gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 1.3% in countries with high levels of transmission. In the worst-affected countries, the disease accounts for: Up to 40% of public health expenditures; 30% to 50% of inpatient hospital admissions; and up to 60% of outpatient health clinic visits.

Friday, 14 October 2011

15 October 2011 - World Rural Women’s Day

The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This new international day was established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007. This UN day aims at promoting awareness on the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which established the CEDAW convention in 1995, it was suggested that 15 October be celebrated as “World Rural Women’s Day,” on the the eve of World Food Day, in order to highlight the role played by rural women in food production and food security. “World Rural Women’s Day” has been celebrated, primarily by civil society, across the world for over a decade.

In accordance with its multi-year programme of work for 2010-2014, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will consider ‘The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges' as its priority theme during its fifty-sixth session in 2012.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

13 October 2011 - International Day for Disaster Reduction

With the entry into force of  Resolution 44/236 in December 1989, the General Assembly designated the second Wednesday of October International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction. The International Day was to be observed annually during the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, 1990-1999.
With Resolution 64/200 of 21 December 2009 the General Assembly decided to designate 13 October as the date to commemorate the Day and to change the Day's name to International Day for Disaster Reduction.
The objective of the observance is to raise awareness how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters. In 2011, the observance takes place within the framework of the "Step Up for Disaster Risk Reduction!" campaign, and its theme is “Making Children and Young People Partners for Disaster Risk Reduction”.
66.5 million children are affected annually by disasters. Because it is difficult for them to cope with unexpected and painful interruptions to their lives, they are often more affected than adults. Victims of disaster and climate change, children and young people can and should be encouraged to participate in disaster reduction and decision making.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Milestones of the aid effectiveness agenda

1996 DAC report entitled  Shaping the 21st Century:  the Role of Development 
Cooperation sets out the basic concepts of aid effectiveness.

2000 Millennium Declaration endorses MDG-8: A Global Partnership for Development.

2002 Monterrey Financing for Development Conference. Sets financing targets to achieve
the Millennium Development Goals; calls for a more effective way of giving aid to
ensure that these resources have the maximum possible impact on development.

2003 Rome High-Level Forum (HLF) on Harmonization: Donors agree to improve incountry coordination to reduce transaction costs for aid recipients.

2005 Paris HALF-2 and Declaration on Aid Effectiveness: Donors and developing countries agree on 56 action-oriented commitments to improve the quality of aid.
Commitments are monitored against 12 indicators in 2005, 2007 and 2010.

2008 Accra HALF-3 and Accra Agenda for Action: All development actors – DAC and non-DAC donors, developing countries, civil society organizations, parliamentarians and global partnerships – agree on actions needed to accelerate achievement of the Paris commitments.

2010 Istanbul Civil Society Development Effectiveness Principles 
         Dili Declaration: A New Vision on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding 
         Bogota Statement on Effective and Inclusive Development Partnerships

2011 The objectives of the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, to be held in Busan from 29 November to 1 December 2011, are as follows: (a) to assess global progress in improving the quality of aid against the agreed commitments; (b) to share global experiences in delivering the best results; and (c) to agree on a Busan Outcome Document to further enhance efforts globally and within countries to make aid more effective in reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals

In Nepal birth registration promoted through a cash grant programme for food

Birth registration is important for children to begin to receive governmental support, from health care to education. Birth registration is a priority for many international agencies working in Nepal, including UNICEF, Save the Children and Plan International.Proving individual's age without a birth certificate can be legally problematic, though citizenship is still possible without birth registration.A cash grant programme to promote the purchase of nutritious food for children in the remote Karnali region of Mid-West Nepal increased birth registration by 300 percent in the past year, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). In addition to the child grant programme, Save the Children has been mobilizing Hindu priests, who ceremoniously name babies on their ninth day, to also promote birth registration. The child grant programme, implemented by the government in October 2009, offers about US$2.75 each month to families with children under five throughout the five districts of Karnali, and also to poor Dalit families nationwide. Each family can receive up to two grants a month for their documented children. Prior to the implementation of the programme in Karnali, only 20,896 children had birth certificates, now 85,624 children do. The spending of the money is not tracked, but whether or not families are buying leafy greens, the increase in birth registration is a by-product to boast about according to UNICEF.
At the moment, mothers are receiving the grants in two or three lump sums per year, which might add to the temptation to spend the money elsewhere, aid workers say. While cash in hand is a great new incentive for parents to put their children on the books, in the past families were reluctant to spend the tiny sum it costs to register their newborn.

Map of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal

Monday, 10 October 2011

10 October 2011 - 9th World Day against the Death Penalty

 Responding to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty’s call for action, every year on October 10, citizens, national and international institutions and NGOs rally to oppose the death penalty and to unite behind the struggle for its universal abolition. The World Day has been first established in 2003 with hundreds of initiatives including debates, concerts, press conferences, demonstrations, petitions, and educational and cultural activities organised in more than 70 countries. This World Day is to raise awareness on the inhumanity of the death penalty throughout the entire process, from sentence to execution. The dreadful conditions on death row inflict extreme psychological suffering and execution is a physical and mental assault. Around the world there are death row inmates held in appalling conditions; the cells are not suitable for a human being, the dietary regime is inadequate and, access to medical care is lacking. Not only the physical state of the inmates placed in cruel and unusual circumstances but also their minds are greatly affected by their situation, with many death row inmates suffering from mental illness and mental disabilities as a result of their death sentence.
Executions, regardless of the method used, are cruel and inhumane and can and have gone wrong in many cases.

Brochure 9th World Day
against Death Penalty
In 2010, 23 countries around the world carried out executions with the highest number of executions in China, Iran, North Korea and the United States. According to Amnesty International, there were 2,024 death sentences imposed in 67 countries in 2010. There still remains much secrecy surrounding the accurate accounting of executions worldwide with many governments not disclosing information to international governmental institutions or non governmental organizations (NGOs).

Sunday, 9 October 2011

In Bangladesh mobile phones will be use to alert the population on natural disasters

In Bangladesh, at the end of August 2011, according to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, the number of active mobile phones subscribers has reached the 80 million.
The wide distribution of cellular phones will be used from the upcoming year to inform the population about the risk of natural disasters, like floodings. The Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) will team up with the country’s largest mobile phone provider Grameen phone, and the state-run mobile phone company Teletalk, to provide early warnings for cyclones and floods to all 14 coastal districts.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The 2011 edition of the Nobel peace price assigned to three women from Liberia and Yemen

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been honoring men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in the subjects of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace. The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was awarded jointly to three women Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkul Karman  and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  with the motivation for "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work". 

Leymah Gbowee
Ms Gbowee is an African peace activist, born in central Liberia, responsible for organising a peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.The Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement protested with the former president Charles Taylor and asked him to hold peace talks among the factions in Ghana. Through the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET), created with Comfort Freeman, she launched in November 2001 a program with the aim of strengthen the capacity of women to enhance their roles in peacebuilding and post conflict reconstruction in West Africa. Very popular became the statement of intent to President  Taylor in 2001: "In the past we were silent, but after being killed, raped, dehumanized, and infected with diseases, and watching our children and families destroyed, war has taught us that the future lies in saying NO to violence and YES to peace! We will not relent until peace prevails.This led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, the first African nation with a female president.

Tawakkul Karman
Tawakkul Karman, a 32-year old-Yemeni, member of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, the main opposition party and a human rights activist who heads the group Women Journalists Without Chains that she created in 2005 with the intent to promote the human rights in her country and particularly the freedom of opinion and expression, and the democratic rights". She organised demonstrations in the Yemeni capital Sana'a against Ali Abdullah Saleh, the prime ministers and his government.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
At the end of the Second Liberian Civil War and the establishment of a transitional government, Ms Sirleaf, who already served in various international organizations and covered different institutional roles in Liberia, was elected President of Liberia on 23 November 2005. The first African woman to become president in the continent. Within her mandate have been adopted a Freedom of Information Bill, which represent the first legislation of its kind in the region. She will be running for a second mandate in the upcoming presidential elections of next 11 October 2011.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Deauville Partnership - The Group of Eight (G8) establishes a partnership to support the development of democratic institutions in the Arab countries

The Deauville Partnership has been established by the G8 countries in the Member States meeting of last May 2011. The purpose of this partnership, set in the Declaration, is to support the transition to democratic societies in those Arab countries where recent demonstrations have deposed the old regimes.
The Prime Ministers of Egypt and Tunisia, the first countries to join the partnership, participated to the meeting together with the Secretary General of the Arab League.

Last 10 September 2011, within the G8 countries finance ministers’ meeting, also Libya was invited to join the partnership. In the meanwhile a number of international and regional financial institutions have decided to join and contribute to this partnership. Among these, the African Development Bank, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Islamic Development Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the OPEC Fund for International Development and the World Bank.

Member States of the Group of Eight (G8)
Canada,  France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States of America

On 20 September 2011,  New York hold the G8 Foreign Affairs Ministers’ meeting where it was circulated a statement, outlining the importance to promote and strengthen the rule of law in the target countries of the partnership, namely: Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Libya.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

3 October 2011 - World Habitat Day

UN General Assembly with Resolution 40/202 of 17 December 1985 designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day. In 2011, World Habitat Day is commemorated on 3 October.
In 2011, the theme of World Habitat Day is Cities and Climate Change and will focus on the dangerous convergence of the effects of urbanization and climate change. The results of this convergence threaten to have unprecedented negative impacts on quality of life, and economic and social stability.
United Nations Human
 Settlements Programme
However, alongside these threats is an equally compelling set of opportunities. Although urban areas, with their high concentration of population, industries and infrastructure, are likely to face the most severe impacts of climate change, urbanization will also offer many opportunities to develop cohesive mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with climate change. The populations, enterprises and authorities of urban centres will be fundamental players in developing these strategies.
World Habitat Day 2011 UNHABITAT Executive Director's Message