In response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in the US grieve for those who lost their lives in this tragedy and stand with the surviving students and people from all corners of the United States who are demanding legislative action on gun control.
Doing nothing is not an option. We need our legislators to come together and engage in a process that results in passing and implementing laws that will address safety in our schools, workplaces and public spaces.
As educators of students from preschool through university and adult education in the United States we support the people of Parkland, Florida. We also empathize with students, parents, and administrators all across this country who on a daily basis face the potential for gun violence in their schools.
We agree with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, when in support of a ban on assault weapons they said. “We must respond. Violence in our schools, and streets, our nation and the world – is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers.”
As Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, we strive to be people of justice and peace in a world that is too often violent. We invite others to join us on this journey towards peace. Let us stand together to keep all who are suffering from the violence in Parkland in our hearts and prayer and let us take action now.
Please contact your legislators right now. Respectfully let them know that you expect them to immediately work with their colleagues to pass a bill that will address violence associated with guns in this country.
The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, has been embroiled in war and conflict for years.
The oil-rich nation – which won independence from Sudan in 2011 – descended into civil war in 2013, with tens of thousands of people killed and a third of the population forced to flee their homes.
Recent research found that extreme weather, such as prolonged drought, has increased competition between communities over dwindling resources like water and pastures.
Although data is hard to come by, historically conflicts frequently occur soon after a flood or drought, said a report by a group of NGOs and U.N. agencies.
For example, tensions between nomadic herders and settled farmers over water wells or poor harvests can lead to unoccupied and frustrated men being lured into militias.
“Climate change has a multiplier effect on the challenges experienced in South Sudan, specifically on localised conflict,” said Michael Mangano, country director of aid agency ACTED in South Sudan.
INVESTING IN RESILIENCE
So could building resilience against climate shocks help bring peace to South Sudan?
“There is a growing momentum on investing in resilience in South Sudan,” said Nellie Kingston of Concern Worldwide, a charity that works on the UK-funded Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme.
The project in the East African country set up early warning systems, weather monitoring tools, field schools to teach farmers best practices, and seed stores to preserve and exchange crop seeds in the event of climate shocks.
It also established 17 environment clubs in schools for students to discuss climate issues and plant trees, for example, with the minister of education keen to roll out such initiatives into the national curriculum, said Kingston.
An assessment of the project found that people felt more resilient to climate shocks after joining farmer groups, better managing their land and making savings, said Suzanne Philips of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
As well as equipping communities with better tools and responses to climate threats, the project sought to bring together tribes traditionally divided by conflict.
“It’s one of those things we can’t measure, but there are groups (taking part in the projects) that are made up of three ethnicities… so just the fact that they’re meeting on a weekly basis prevents more ethnic tension,” said Mangano.
Other outcomes of the project include communities becoming more self-sufficient and relying less on international aid, said Kingston, with other villages replicating some of the successful activities.
Although fragile states face huge social and economic problems, protecting people from natural disasters can be done and should be attempted despite the practical difficulties, U.N. officials have recently said.
Conflict-torn countries may lack functioning governments, but pockets can be identified where it is possible to work with communities to reduce the risks of floods, earthquakes and other hazards, according to Robert Glasser, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Despite these successes and improved resilience in South Sudan the country is still highly vulnerable to climate shocks, said Kingston.
“Resilience interventions are feasible in South Sudan,” she said. “But flexibility is needed to tailor them to the local context and adjust to changing circumstances.”
Jesus maps the path to peace, reconciliation, pope says
by Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
November 28, 2017
YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) November 28, 2017 — Jesus’ love “is like a spiritual GPS” that guides people past the everyday obstacles of fear and pride and allows them to find their way to a relationship with God and with their neighbors, Pope Francis said.
Christ’s message of “forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles. Yet his love, revealed on the cross is ultimately unstoppable,” the pope said Nov. 29, celebrating his first public Mass in Myanmar.
According to the Vatican, 150,000 people attended the Mass at the Kyaikkasan sports ground. Thousands of them had traveled hundreds of miles to be at the Mass, and many of them camped out on the sports field the night before the liturgy.
Pope Francis acknowledged the sacrifices made by the people as well as the struggles Catholics face as a tiny minority in Myanmar and as citizens of a country struggling to leave violence behind and transition from military to democratic rule.
“I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible,” the pope said in his homily. “The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom” or to think that “healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus.”
Pope Francis prayed that Catholics in Myanmar would “know the healing balm of the Father’s mercy and find the strength to bring it to others, to anoint every hurt and every painful memory. In this way, you will be faithful witnesses of the reconciliation and peace that God wants to reign in every human heart and in every community.”
Father Francis Saw from St. John Cantonment Church in Yangon said he had 400 guests at his parish. “Many people came from the hill towns. I welcomed them and fed them and then they came here at 10 p.m.” the night before the Mass.
“We are very happy and encouraged by the pope’s visit,” he said. “It is good for our country and for our church.”
Some people had reserved seats close to the altar. “Every parish got some VIP tickets for those who are very involved in the parish, very poor or sick,” said Noeli Anthony, a ticket-holder from the Myanmar Catholic community in Perth, Australia.
Salesian Father Albert “Sam” Saminedi, pastor of the Perth community, said the immigrants he ministers to “love their country” and “are very strong, very loud and full of faith.” More than 100 of them traveled home to be with the pope.
The “VVIP” section at the sports field was reserved for government officials, diplomats and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions.
The Rev. U Chit Toe Win, chair of the Myin Thar Baptist Church and deputy chairman of an interfaith dialogue group in Yangon, sat with the Anglican, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim members of his group in the very front row.
Like any Baptist minister, Toe Win said, “I believe in Jesus first,” but “these are my brothers. We are for unity.”
By Chelsea Purvis Chelsea Purvis is Policy & Advocacy Advisor, Mercy Corps IPS News
LONDON, Nov 23 2017 (IPS) – An estimated seven million refugees – about one-third of the global refugee population – are between 10 and 24 years old, yet this demographic is often overlooked in humanitarian and development responses. At a critical time in their lives, these young refugees experience the stress of displacement, which can impact their future development and success.
In 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a set of commitments to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants, which became known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. This declaration paved the way for the development of a Global Compact on Refugees by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Expected in 2018, the Compact will seek to improve the international community’s response to large movements of refugees and to protracted refugee situations around the world. We believe this is a vital opportunity for the international community to safeguard young refugees and partner more effectively with them to improve their lives.
Since 2010, Mercy Corps has worked with more than 3.5 million young people in crisis across 33 countries. Drawing on our extensive experience, we have published a report outlining key recommendations to protect young refugees and help them prove their potential.
Firstly, we urge the Compact to call on states and their humanitarian and development partners to promote young refugees’ wellbeing. Young refugees face the challenges of displacement at a time of intense cognitive, physical and social development.
On top of these challenges, young refugees are often dealing with significant psychological stress. Research shows that prolonged stress can change adolescent brain chemistry, inhibiting adolescents’ ability to assess risk and severely curtailing young refugees’ prospects for future development. A staggering 41 percent of Syrian refugee youth in Lebanon, for example, report having suicidal urges.
Any comprehensive refugee response with young people should thus view wellbeing as foundational to its approach. The Compact should encourage refugee-hosting states and their partners to provide young refugees with access to safe spaces and with opportunities to establish peer and mentor relationships that help them make better choices and cope with profound stress.
Secondly, the Compact should call on host states and their partners to provide young refugees with flexible education opportunities. Half of all primary-school aged refugee children and 75 percent of secondary-school aged refugees are estimated to be out of school.
Only one in one hundred refugees enrols in university or other tertiary education. Disruption to education has long-lasting consequences for these young people, who lose their chance to learn, grow and lay the groundwork for a strong future.
Throughout a refugee response, host states, international organisations, and other partners should provide formal and non-formal education for young refugees. It is essential that education programming for young refugees be user-centered, meeting young people “where they are at” in terms of physical location, work schedules and educational attainment. Otherwise, many refugees will be unable to take advantage of educational opportunities.
As a third measure to protect and empower young refugees, the Compact should urge states to ensure that young refugees have employment opportunities. States should also take steps to protect young refugees from child labour, exploitative conditions, and work that may cause harm.
Employment, entrepreneurship and other income-generating opportunities provide more than economic benefits—they give young people a purpose and a sense of status and belonging. A comprehensive refugee response should create avenues for older adolescents to gain skills and transition safely to decent and equitable work opportunities.
Donors, regional governments and NGOs should conduct value-chain and market analyses to assess potential areas for business growth and develop matched workforce programmes. Young refugees should then be linked to these job opportunities.
Our fourth key recommendation is that the Compact should encourage states to help give young refugees a voice in their communities. Young refugees often lack opportunities to participate in the decision-making and governance processes that affect their lives. There is tremendous benefit and opportunity, however, when young refugees do engage within their own refugee communities and with host communities.
When young people are able to participate in decisions that affect their lives, they gain confidence and status, and they strengthen their relationships with peers and adults. Moreover, communities ultimately benefit from young people’s bold ideas and openness to change.
Mercy Corps’ key final recommendation, which underlines all the above points, is that young refugees should be engaged as partners in designing and implementing any response. Conversations with young people about their priorities, fears, daily commitments and safe and unsafe places in the community should shape the design of any service or activity.
Humanitarian and development actors should account for sex- and age-specific vulnerabilities, needs and capacities, co-designing programme activities with young refugees accordingly. Once these activities have been designed, young people should be provided with opportunities to actively lead and take ownership of programme activities, not just show up and participate in activities led by adults.
As the UNHCR prepares its draft of the Global Compact on Refugees and accompanying Programme of Action, we have the opportunity to not just strengthen our response for young refugees but to invest in their future and the future stability of crisis-affected countries.
By Oyun Sanjaasuren IPS News Oyun Sanjaasuren is Chair of Global Water Partnership (GWP)
STOCKHOLM, Aug 28 2017 (IPS) – This week people gather from around the globe at the annual Stockholm World Week. If previous years are anything to go by, the “Water is life” cliché will be repeated endlessly. But the phrase is useful shorthand for this simple fact: water is the cornerstone of human health and economic development.If managed poorly, water is an obstacle to development; if managed well, it brings prosperity and peace.
Going from economic growth to sustainable development is the political imperative of our time. To do that, leaders have to deliver on water security. What does it take?
Everyone at the table
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for an “all-of-society engagement and partnership” to bring about the large scale transformational change needed to address the world’s challenges. This is particularly important in solving water problems, most of which stem from demands of competing users. Water is everywhere – in food, health, energy, migration, jobs, poverty, climate, disaster relief. Business as usual – a fragmented approach with each sector acting unilaterally – means we’ll need three planets worth of water!
GWP cheered when the 2030 Agenda adopted a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water: SDG 6 – “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” – and included a specific target for the implementation of integrated water resources management (IWRM). That target on the integrated approach (working across sectors) is now a global political commitment. A water secure world requires all users around the table, a multi-stakeholder approach of the kind urged by the last of the 17 SDGs: revitalizing a “global partnership for sustainable development.”
Money, money, money
“Water crises” is among the top-ranked global risks for the past several years in the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report. The 2017 report said, “…changing weather patterns or water crises can trigger or exacerbate geopolitical and societal risks, such as domestic or regional conflict and involuntary migration, particularly in geopolitically fragile areas.” Even though the Paris climate agreement did not make an explicit connection between climate breakdown and water, the link is a no-brainer. Which probably explains why water is the most-cited priority sector in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris agreement.
The New Climate Economy report estimates that to prevent the worst impacts of climate breakdown, net additional investment of $4 trillion will be needed (270 billion per year, a mere $36 per person). The UN Environment Programme’s 2016 Adaptation Finance Gap report suggests that annual adaptation needs are in the range of $140–300 billion by 2030, rising to $280–500 billion by 2050.
We know that not all this money is going to come from public funding. Fortunately, CEOs from a range of industries have stepped up their efforts to address climate breakdown, making commitments to decrease carbon footprints and engage in sustainable resource management.
The communities most in need of financing also need support in identifying and preparing projects for investment, especially adaptation. The challenge is to ensure that the notion of “bankability” is encompassing enough to include the poorest of the poor. For example, since 2014, GWP helped secure EUR 19.5 million in climate financing for vulnerable communities in Africa. The implementation of the resulting investment plans has the potential to protect nearly 74 million people from water crises.
With its new programme to meet the water-related SDGs, GWP is extending its support to develop investment plans to finance implementation of NDC roadmaps. To close the water adaptation financing gap, countries will be assisted in preparing proposals for submission to international climate funds such as the Adaptation Fund and Green Climate Fund.
Investments in water security are uniquely catalytic: a leverage point to alleviate poverty, improve access to clean water and sanitation, protect ecosystems, and enhance climate resilience for fragile communities in a way that is gender and socially inclusive.
Conditions for change Water problems are usually problems of management or governance: water policies, legal frameworks, and institutions. Even if all water problems are local, the solutions are similar: cross-sector cooperation, informed people, reliable information, competent institutions, fair decision-making, benefit-sharing, and, of course, technical expertise and financial resources. These governance solutions are called the “enabling environment.” Financing the enabling environment and all that constitutes sound water management is a good insurance policy for speeding up the achievement of a water secure world.
Strengthening institutions and actors to solve water problems not only creates an enabling environment for investments, but also provides a safe space for businesses to sustain their water management strategies and value chains. Investments in water security are uniquely catalytic: a leverage point to alleviate poverty, improve access to clean water and sanitation, protect ecosystems, and enhance climate resilience for fragile communities in a way that is gender and socially inclusive. After all, water is the cornerstone of human health and economic development or… water is life!
SANTIAGO, Aug 29 2017 (IPS) – “There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.
Since 1990, rural poverty in the region was reduced from 65 per cent to 46 per cent, while extreme poverty fell from 40 per cent to below 27 per cent.
But while the proportion of rural extreme poor decreased by 1 percentage point a year between 1997 and 2007, the rate of decrease was only 0.2 per cent a year between 2007 and 2014.
To break that pattern in the most vulnerable rural group, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are launching this last week of August in Santiago, Chile the “Alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America.”
“There is a strong deceleration in the reduction of poverty, five times slower than before, only just 0.2 per cent per year,” noted with concern Berdegué, who attributed the phenomenon, among other causes, to a regional economic slowdown which has had an impact on employment and incomes.
“The strong, sustainable, solid solution to rural poverty is economic development in rural areas. Quality jobs, better wages: that is the best strategy to reduce rural poverty,” said Berdegué, who is also FAO deputy director-general, in the body’s regional office in the Chilean capital.
For Berdegué, “social policies compensate for the effects of economic development, but what we want is for people to stop being poor because they have better jobs and not because of good social programmes…that is a second best option.”
In his interview with IPS, the Mexican senior U.N. official said the region has already done a great deal to reduce poverty and extreme poverty and what remains is to eradicate the most difficult part of poverty, harder to combat because it is structural.
He cited the example of Chile, where less than three per cent of the rural population suffer from extreme poverty, but the people affected are indigenous women in remote areas, which makes the task of rescuing them from deep poverty especially complicated.
According to Berdegué, the policies and programmes created and implemented in Latin America to eradicate poverty successfully served their purpose ,“but not necessarily the same strategies and same programmes are the ones that will work for us in the final push” of putting an end to hard-core, entrenched poverty.
Luiz Carlos Beduschi, a Brazilian academic and policy officer in the FAO regional office,pointed out to IPS that one of the most significant programmes to combat poverty in Nicaragua consisted of giving extremely poor people chickens, pigs or pregnant cows along with technical assistance.
Specific policies for women
“The same policies that help rural men move out of poverty don’t work for rural women,” said Julio Berdegué, who stressed that in the region “we have a generation of women with levels of education that their mothers never dreamed of.”
“We must soon achieve labour policies that allow these women to fully accede to formal employment. They are all working a lot, but on their farms or in unpaid, informal work,” he explained.
“These young rural women under 35 are going to stay on their farms producing food, but many of them are going to be employed in manufacturing and services, in nearby cities or in the rural communities themselves,” he added.
The FAO senior official stressed that “economic empowerment and autonomy are key, absolutely key, and this requires policies designed with a gender perspective. Without this, we are not going anywhere.”
Another thing that is essential, he added, is access to financing because “a poor woman farmer goes to ask for a loan and a poor male farmer goes, and the chances that the woman and the man get it are very different.”
“In all elements that are necessary for the development of family agriculture: access to markets, to technical assistance, land, etc, we need to multiply them by two, three or four in order to guarantee women equal opportunities,” he concluded.
“A woman from District 7, in the periurban area of Managua, discovered a dormant entrepreneurial potential. She was given a cow, and today, eight years later, she has 17 cows. Her oldest daughter left to study and graduated as a dentist. The woman sold three cows to finance a clinic (for her daughter) in the neighbourhood. She is now involved in the economic and social fabric of that area,” Beduschi said. Her second daughter is now studying medicine.
He added that the beneficiaries of this programme do not so much need advice as other elements such as credit at an interest rate lower than the 20 to 30 per cent offered by local creditors.
“We have to design a new plan for new times,” he concluded.
Launching the new Alliance
More than 25 experts, researchers and decision-makers are meeting Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 in Santiago, summoned by FAO and IFAD to seek new strategies and instruments to combat rural poverty.
In this new Alliance Launch Workshop, the participants are identifying and disseminating a politically viable and technically feasible package of proposals to be implemented by Latin American governments, for each country to face the challenge of ending rural poverty from an innovative perspective.
The activities of this initiative will be carried out from now until July 2019, and will count on FAO resources for the initial phase.
Berdegué said the first successful result of the Alliance was bringing together this group of experts with the commitment of “putting their shoulders to the wheel” in seeking innovative solutions to put an end to rural poverty.
“We want to release the 1.0 version of a proposal that we are going to offer to the countries. Not more of the same, because that has us at a five times slower rate. And we want to produce the first ideas, the best that we can, but we don’t want to spend the next six months writing documents. The best that we can, the sooner we can, and with those instruments we will go to the countries,” he said.
“The meeting will be a successful one if we come out of it with a very concrete working plan, detailed in such a way that the following week we can be going to the countries, as we have already started to do in Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he told IPS.
“We have a specific work agenda for collaboration to put these ideas into practice, with public programmes and policies,” he added.
Among the new tools that are being discussed in the world and in Latin America, Berdegué pointed out the concept of a universal basic income, which has its pros and cons, and is hotly debated.
There is also the issue of rural labour markets “which are in general in a state of true disaster, with high levels of informality and very low female participation rates, among them young women who have received 10 to 12 years of schooling and have no job offers in line with this human capital they have acquired.”
And a crucial issue in the new agenda, not taken into account in the past decades, is inequality.
“Many of these 33 million poor are poor because they are first victims of inequality. A rural indigenous woman, in a less developed area, is victim of more than four inequalities: gender, ethnicity, rural and territorial. Besides, economic inequality, on grounds of social class,” Berdegué said.
“Good quality employment, better wages, that is the best strategy for reducing rural poverty. And we have an accumulation of inequalities that, if we do not solve them, it will be very hard to return to the rate of one percentage point of reduction of rural extreme poverty,” he concluded.
Academics, as well as government officials and representatives of social organisations are taking part in the FAO and IFAD meeting, joining forces to think about how to keep on combating rural poverty with the goal of eradicating it.
“Always you will find it is people who are from the most impoverished and most disadvantaged communities, who are drawn into prostitution.”
NEW DELHI, Jan 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – From indigenous Canadians to tribal women in India, most victims of sexual exploitation are women and girls from the world’s most marginalised communities, activists said on Monday, calling for an end to prostitution and the global sex trade.
Sexual slavery is widespread in these communities, whether in poor districts of the United States or townships in South Africa, where deprivation leaves women and girls vulnerable to exploitation.
“Prostitution exists everywhere on this earth because of the male demand for it, and a woman’s position in prostitution is simply a response to these dire circumstances,” Rachel Moran, a sex worker-turned-activist told a conference on sexual slavery.
“Always you will find it is people who are from the most impoverished and most disadvantaged communities, who are drawn into prostitution,” said Moran from the charity SPACE International.
From a deprived community in Ireland, Moran was forced into prostitution at the age of 15 and held in sexual slavery for seven years.
While sex work is illegal in most countries across the world, it exists everywhere. There are an estimated 40 million sex workers globally, according to a 2014 report by the French charity Fondation Scelles.
Prostitution abolitionists say most are victims of human trafficking and have been lured, duped or forced into sexual slavery by pimps and traffickers, largely due to their poor socio-economic status.
Once victims become trapped in sexual slavery — be it in brothels, on street corners, in massage parlours, strip clubs or private homes, say activists, it is difficult for them to leave.
For many it is the threat of physical abuse from their pimp which keeps victims in prostitution, but some stay of their own accord – ostracised by their family and friends, and with no one to turn to for support.
“While we operate in different countries, very clear and common themes emerge,” said Sarah Benson, Chair of the Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution (CAP), an alliance of charities working in countries such as India, France, Ireland and South Africa.
“This include the background and profile of those in sex trade, the circumstances which draw them in, the tactics of pimps and traffickers, the patriarchy, the racism, the gender bias – all of which are sustaining a thriving global sex trade.”
The two-day conference is organised by CAP International and Indian charity Apne Aap, bringing together 250 civil society groups from 30 countries to share experiences and strategies to end prostitution across the world.
The conference had been titled “Last Girl First” because the most deprived and forgotten girls were victims of prostitution, said Ruchira Gupta, Apne Aap’s founder.
“It is always the most vulnerable person who is the victim. This is because she is a woman, she is poor, she is from a low caste or she is a teenager,” said Gupta.
“We want governments to acknowledge this and support their upliftment and their rights… We must put the ‘last girl first’ and there should no compromise on this.”
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)