Children Now More Than Half of the 65 Million Displaced

IPS
By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

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Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS) – Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world.

“We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to be made in terms of conflict and violence that is producing people who have had to flee,” said the Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, ahead of World Refugee Day.

In just two decades, the population of forcibly displaced persons doubled from 32 million in 1997 to 65 million in 2016, larger than the total population of the United Kingdom.

Of this figure, almost 23 million are refugees while over 40 million are displaced within their own countries. Approximately two-thirds of refugees have been displaced for generations.

Despite the slight decrease in displacement in the last year, the numbers are still “depressing” and “unacceptable,” Kelley told IPS.

“Each individual number really reflects a deep level of human loss and trouble and is experienced every minute and every second of every day,” she stated.

Much of the growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, and driven largely by the Syrian conflict which, now in its seventh year, has forcibly displaced over 12 million representing over half of the Middle Eastern nation’s population.

However, the biggest new concern is now South Sudan where renewed conflict and food insecurity is driving the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

At the end of 2016, 3.3 million South Sudanese were displaced, equivalent to one in four people, and the figures have only continued to rise in 2017.

Continue reading Children Now More Than Half of the 65 Million Displaced

The current situation on iIDPs in Africa

June 20, 2017
www.afjn.org
By Kpakpo Serge Adotevi (AFJN Intern), Edited by Yashi Gunawardena (AFJN Intern)

In Africa, more than 13 million people are currently on the run in their own countries. We at Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) refuse to stand by and let this crisis remain silent much longer. Despite the obvious link between internal displacement and refugee flows, policymakers tend to focus mainly on refugees while internally displaced people (IDPs) remain largely neglected.

The Current Situation on IDPs in Africa
Photo source: UNHRC

According to the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IMDC), there were 3.5 million new displacements linked to conflict, violence and disasters in 47 African countries in 2015. That is an average of over 9,500 people per day losing their livelihoods and being uprooted from their homes and communities. Africa currently has many more internally displaced persons (IDPs) than refugees. In fact, there are nearly five times as many IDPs as refugees in Africa and they are found all over the continent. The countries with the most internally displaced persons are:

  • Sudan: 3,300,000
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: 2,350,000
  • South Sudan: 2,100,00
  • Somalia: 1,300,000
  • Central African Republic: 415,000
  • Burundi: 100,000

Internal displacement has reached daunting proportions in Africa as a result of protracted conflicts, massive human rights violations, natural disasters (flooding, famines and drought), urban renewal projects and large-scale development projects. Meanwhile, conflicts remain the number cause of displacement in Africa. To better understand the causes of conflict in Africa, please read the article “Triggers of Conflict in Africa” by AFJN Policy Analyst Jacques Bahati.

An emerging driver of displacement in Africa is land grabbing. At AFJN, we have witnessed first-hand how land grabbing causes people to be displaced, relocate, and have trouble adjusting to their new environments. Land grabbing creates unintended tensions and conflicts in communities that were once peaceful and sustainable. This issue is one of our focus campaigns. Click here to learn more about land grabbing. We also invite you to join us in this cause by donating on our site. We thank you for your contribution.

When women have land rights the tide begins to turn

IPS
By Manipadma Jena

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Women’s secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India’s Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2017 (IPS) – In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.

Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management. Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

Continue reading When women have land rights the tide begins to turn

In a “World of Plenty,” G7 Must Fight Famine

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
IPS

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A child from drought-stricken southern Somalia who survived the long journey to an aid camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2017 (IPS) – World leaders must step up and take action in fighting famine to prevent further catastrophic levels of hunger and deaths, said Oxfam.

Ahead of the 43rd G7 summit, Oxfam urged world leaders to urgently address the issue of famine, currently affecting four countries at unprecedented levels.

“Political failure has led to these crises – political leadership is needed to resolve them…the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch,” said Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

“If G7 leaders were to travel to any of these four countries, they would see for themselves how life is becoming impossible for so many people: many are already dying in pain, from disease and extreme hunger,” she continued.

In northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, approximately 30 million people are severely food insecure. Of this figure, 10 million face emergency and famine conditions, more than the population of G7 member United Kingdom’s capital of London.

After descending into conflict over three years ago, famine has now been declared in two South Sudan counties and a third county is at risk if food aid is not provided.

In Somalia, conflict alongside prolonged drought – most likely exacerbated by climate change – has left almost 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Drought has also contributed to cholera outbreaks and displacement.

Byanyima pointed to the hypocrisy in a “world of plenty” experiencing four famines.

These widespread crises are not confined to the four countries’ borders.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, almost 2 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Due to the influx of South Sudanese refugees, the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is now the largest in the world, placing a strain on local services.

Escaping hunger and conflict, Nigerians have sought refuge in the Lake Chad region which shares its borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger only to once again face high levels of food insecurity and disease outbreaks.

Among the guest invitees to the G7 meeting are the affected nations, including the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Oxfam called on the G7 countries to provide its fair share of funding. So far, they have provided 1.7 billion dollars, just under 60 percent of their fair share. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of a 6.3-billion-dollar UN appeal for all four countries has been funded. If each G7 country contributed its fair share, almost half of the appeal would be funded, Oxfam estimates.

In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition. Oxfam noted that they should thus uphold their commitments and focus on crisis prevention.

However, some of the G77 nations’ actions do not bode well for accelerated action on famine.

For instance, the U.S. government has proposed significant cuts to foreign assistance, including a 30 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The proposal also includes the elimination of Title II For Peace, a major USAID food aid program, which would mean the loss of over 1.7 billion dollars of food assistance.

Former US Foreign Disaster Assistance chief Jeremy Konyndyk noted that the cuts are “catastrophic.” “So bad I fear I’m misreading it,” he added.

International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) President David Miliband highlighted the importance of continuing U.S. foreign assistance in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering abroad and protect the interests and security of the U.S. and its allies.

“Global threats like Ebola and ISIS grow out of poverty, instability, and bad governance. Working to counteract these with a forward-leaning foreign aid policy doesn’t just mean saving lives today, but sparing the US and its allies around the world the much more difficult, expensive work of combating them tomorrow,” he stated.

President Trump also called for the elimination of the U.S. African Development Foundation which provides grants to underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has suggested cutting funds to climate change programs such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund which aims to help vulnerable developing nations combat climate change.

Meanwhile, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May has already abolished its climate change department.

In addition to scaling up humanitarian funding, G7 nations must commit to fund longer-term solutions that build resilience and improve food security to avoid large-scale disasters, Oxfam stated. This includes action on climate change, “no excuses,” said Oxfam.

President Trump is expected to announce whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris climate agreement after the G7 summit.

“History shows that when donors fail to act on early warnings of potential famine, the consequence can be a large-scale, devastating loss of life….now clear warnings have again been issued,” Oxfam stated.

“The international community have the power to end such failures—if they choose to—by marshaling international logistics and a humanitarian response network to work sustainably with existing local systems to prevent famine and address conflict, governance, and climate change drivers,” Oxfam concluded.

The G7 summit is hosted by Sicily, Italy and will be held from 26-27 May.

Brazil police killing of 10 Amazon regional land activists under probe

Reuters: World News
Friday May 26, 2017

Brazilian authorities said on Thursday they were investigating a police raid that ended with 10 land activists killed in the Amazon region, the deadliest such conflict in over two decades.

(Use link for photo) Forensic police work in the Santa Lucia farm, where a group of landless activists were killed in the municipality of Pau D’Arco, Para state, Brazil, May 25, 2017. Picture taken on May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Nine men and one woman were killed when police arrived at the Santa Lucia farm on Wednesday, which a group of landless activists that included 150 families had invaded two years ago.

Para state security officials said in a statement the police were fired upon as soon as they arrived. No officers sustained any injuries during the conflict. Leaders of the land activists were not immediately reachable for comment.

Para state police said in a statement that they were acting on a local judge’s order to remove the families from the private land, and also carry out 14 arrest warrants in connection to the murder last month of a security guard employed by the ranch owner.

Federal and state prosecutors said they were investigating the killings. Police said they, too, had started an inquiry into the officers’ actions.

Landless activists routinely invade massive ranches and farms in Latin America’s largest nation, where there is deep inequality in land distribution. Brazilian law allows for landless activists to occupy and eventually take ownership of land determined to be not actively used for agricultural purposes.

For decades, the fight over Brazil’s vast tracts of land have repeatedly led to murders, most often by rich ranchers and farmers’ hired gunmen, federal prosecutors have said.

The Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission, which tracks the conflicts, said in an emailed statement on Thursday that 61 people were killed in such rural conflicts last year, the most since 2003. The group said 26 people have been killed in such conflicts this year.

Wednesday’s deaths were the most in a land conflict since 1996, when Para state police shot and killed 19 land activists who had blocked a highway to protest their right to remain on a ranch that 3,000 families had occupied.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Richard Chang)

New scandal erupts that threatens to force out Brazilian President Temer

May 18 at 3:07 PM
 Brazilian President Michel Temer defied calls for his resignation Thursday, a day after a bombshell report alleged that he had been secretly recorded discussing bribe payments during an investigation into a sprawling corruption probe that has shredded the country’s political class.
Speculation that Temer would step down intensified throughout the day, with Brazil’s highest court ordering an investigation and two members of Temer’s cabinet abruptly quitting. Prominent leaders of Temer’s centrist PMDB party also distanced themselves from him, leaving the unpopular leader looking more and more isolated.But Temer refused to fold. Speaking on national television, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong and would not step down. “In no moment did I authorize a payment to anyone for their silence,” he said. “I have nothing to hide.”In a brief statement, Temer said his government had just started pulling Brazil out of its prolonged economic slump, the worst in 80 years. “We cannot throw so much progress into the bin of history,” he said.

But with Temer girding for a fight and the possibility that explosive new allegations could surface at any time, the chances of a return to economic and political stability looked even more remote for South America’s largest nation, which was rocked less than a year ago by the impeachment of the previous president in a ­different scandal.

Brazil’s financial markets plunged Thursday amid concerns that the political crisis would derail economic reforms that Temer had championed to boost the economy. The country’s currency, the real, closed down 8 percent, erasing its gains this year, and the Brazilian stock market fell 9 percent, its worst daily loss in nine years. State-controlled companies lost about 20 percent of their value.

“I don’t see how Temer survives more than a few weeks,” said Brian Winter, a Brazil expert and the editor of the New York-based Americas Quarterly journal, adding that Temer appears to be “in denial,” given the evidence against him and his evaporating political support.

Through plea bargains, in which defendants provided prosecutors with information in exchange for more-lenient sentences, authorities have been able to trace a major kickback scheme from a Brasilia carwash to the highest echelons of the ­government.

Temer had managed to mostly avoid being tainted by the probe. But the spotlight fell on him Wednesday, after Brazil’s O Globo reported that Temer had been the target of a police sting operation in which he was allegedly recorded condoning a hush-money payment by a Brazilian business tycoon to the jailed former leader of congress, Eduardo Cuhna, who is serving a 15-year term for negotiating millions in bribes.

Cunha had been one of the country’s most powerful men, and is believed to have compromising information on several top politicians who have not been formally accused.

 When the executive told Temer that he was paying the former politician a monthly stipend to keep him quiet, the president allegedly said, “You need to keep that up, okay?” according to the newspaper, citing the recording. The recording was made public by O Globo late Thursday.

Temer has acknowledged meeting with the executive who is the alleged source of the recordings, meatpacking tycoon Joesley Batista. But the president insisted Thursday he hadn’t broken the law and the investigation would exonerate him.

Opposition lawmakers attempted Thursday to open impeachment proceedings against Temer, which may increase pressure on authorities to release the allegedly incriminating tapes.

A new impeachment push would come less than a year after the last president, Dilma Rousseff, was forced out on charges of violating budget laws, bringing Temer to power through a process that many Brazilians view as ­politicized

Temer’s ministers of culture and city planning resigned Thursday, but the president was reportedly encouraged to hold onto power by his closest allies and key members of his inner circle.

Continue reading New scandal erupts that threatens to force out Brazilian President Temer

Kenya arrests suspects in shooting of conservationist

World News – REUTERS| Mon Apr 24, 2017 | 10:20am EDT

Italian-born conservationist Gallmann poses for a photograph during the Highland Games in Laikipia Kenya
Italian-born conservationist Kuki Gallmann poses for a photograph during the Highland Games in Laikipia, Kenya, September 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer.

Kenya has arrested an unspecified number of suspects and recovered a gun linked to the shooting of Italian-born conservationist Kuki Gallmann at her conservation park over the weekend, the interior minister said on Monday.

The 73-year old author of the memoir “I Dreamed of Africa” was shot in the stomach on Sunday in her 100,000-acre (400 square km) ranch and nature conservancy in Laikipia in the north.

Gallmann was recovering in intensive care at a Nairobi hospital, where she underwent a seven-hour operation, after being airlifted from Laikipia, her family said on Monday.

“We have recovered a gun which is now undergoing ballistic tests to confirm whether it was the gun used to shoot Kuki,” Joseph Nkaissery, the interior minister, told a news conference.

He did not say how many suspects the police were holding. He described the attack on Gallmann, who was in a vehicle at the time of the attack, as an “isolated” act of banditry.

A wave of violence has hit Kenya’s drought-stricken Laikipia region in recent months. Armed cattle-herders searching for scarce grazing land have driven tens of thousands of cattle onto private farms and ranches from poor-quality communal land.

At least a dozen civilians and police officers have been killed in the violence.

Kenya dispatched its military to the area last month to help restore calm and disarm communities. The minister said the operation was going as planned.

Many residents of the area accuse local politicians of inciting the violence before elections in August. They say the men are trying to drive out voters who might oppose them and win votes by promising supporters access to private land.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Larry King)