Category Archives: The World

Global sex trade thrives off indigenous, tribal and low-caste women

Monday, 30 January 2017 18:29 GMT
Trafficking - Reuters Foundation
Indian sex workers cover their faces as they react to the camera while watching a rally as part of the sex workers’ freedom festival at the Sonagachi red-light area in Kolkata in this archive picture from 2012. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

“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.

Global+sex+trade
Soni Sori, an Indian tribal rights activist, talks about the sexual exploitation of tribal women in the central state of Chhattisgarh at the Second World Congress Against the Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls in New Delhi on Jan. 30, 2017. Nita Bhalla/Thomson Reuters Foundation

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)

Nuclear Ban Approved, Now What?

IPS News
By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

pistol with knotted barrel
UN Photo/Pernaca Sudhakaran

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2017 (IPS) – More than seven decades after the deployment of deadly atomic bombs in Japan, the UN has passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons around the world. Though it has sparked hope for a future without nuclear weapons, uncertainty in the success of the treaty still lingers.

More than 122 countries, representing two-thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic treaty banning nuclear weapons after months of talks.

Elayne_2
Elayne Whyte Gómez. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

“We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons…the world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” said Elayne Whyte Gomez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica and the president of the UN conference which negotiated the treaty.

Nuclear Disarmament Program Manager for the civil society organization PAX Susi Snyder similarly highlighted the importance of the occasion to IPS, stating: “People have been working for decades on the issue, myself included, and to have a moment that you know, to the very tips of your toes, that history is being made? That’s a moment to feel all the feelings.”

There are approximately 15,000 nuclear warheads globally, more than 90 percent of which belong to the United States and Russia.

Unlike the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which allowed five countries to possess such arms, the new instrument is an explicit prohibition on the direct or indirect use, threat of use, possession, acquisition, and development of nuclear weapons.

It also for the first time includes obligations to provide assistance to victims of nuclear weapons testing and use as well as environmental remediation of areas contaminated a result of nuclear weapon activities.

“This normative treaty highlights the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons—it is a huge achievement especially for the Hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Arms Control Association’s (ACA) Researcher Alicia Sanders-Zakre told IPS.

Reference to such consequences can be seen throughout the treaty, including the deep concern “about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons” and the persistent risk to humanity posed by the “continued existence of nuclear weapons.”

Though the awareness of nuclear weapons’ devastating humanitarian ramifications is certainly not new, both Snyder and Sanders-Zakre noted that states still legitimize nuclear weapons in their security approaches.

“Some states negotiating the treaty would say that by having a security doctrine of nuclear deterrence, nuclear weapons states legitimize nuclear weapons and distract from their humanitarian consequences…which are often not in the forefront of the security stage,” said Sanders-Zakre.

The new treaty aims to strip nuclear weapons of their prestige by making them unacceptable under international law.

Not Without a Fight
The world’s nine nuclear-armed states as well as the majority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) members boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands which voted against the document.

Among the most vocal critics is the United States who, since the beginning of the talks, said that the process was not “realistic,” especially in the wake of rising tensions between the North American nation and North Korea.

“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclearweapons?” asked U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

In a joint statement, the U.S., United Kingdom, and France announced that they do not ever intend to sign, ratify, or become party to the treaty.

“A purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security,” they stated, reiterating their continued commitment to the NPT.

Snyder told IPS that it was not surprising that such nations did not participate due to a desire to retain the political power associated with nuclear weapons. However, she criticised the joint move as it may be in violation of the NPT.

Article 6 of the NPT, which the majority of member States have signed, states that each party must “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Snyder noted that negotiations were considered by the majority to be an “effective measure” in the pursuit of disarmament.

“While this prohibition is not the final effort to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world, it is certainly a key element of a world without nuclear weapons. It was an absence that is embarrassing for the nuclear armed states, demonstrating their commitment to inhumane weapons over humanity,” she continued.

However, nuclear-armed nations would argue that they are not violating the NPT as they do not consider that the prohibition will result in the elimination of nuclear weapons and is thus not an “effective measure,” said Sanders-Zakre.

The treaty reflects a growing divide between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states on visions of disarmament.

Between a Nuke and a Hard Place?
Additional frustrations have arisen concerning the treaty’s prohibition on the stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons on territories as it puts many NATO members in nuclear sharing agreements in a sticky situation.

Five nations, including Germany and Turkey, currently host U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing policy. In order for NATO members to join, they will have to reverse or withdraw from their obligations.

“One the one hand, the treaty seeks to be universal to include many members. But at the same time, it is a prohibition treaty and having a member of a prohibition treaty that has nuclear weapons on their soil would be contradictory,” Sanders-Zakre told IPS.

But can a nuclear ban treaty be successful without such nations? Snyder and Sanders-Zakre say yes.

“The treaty sets a norm, and the nuclear armed states have a history of following norms even when they don’t sign up to the treaties behind them,” said Snyder, referencing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which, despite not being ratified by all nations and not entering into force, has set a norm in which nuclear testing is condemned.

“That norm will grow from this treaty as well, and will likely result in ongoing substantive condemnation of the activities of the nuclear armed states that are not disarmament,” Snyder continued.

Sanders-Zakre noted that there might be some obstacles in the way before the treaty’s entry into force, including potential lobbying by nuclear weapon states to dissuade others from ratifying the instrument or a general decrease in political momentum.

But, with or without the nuclear weapon states, the treaty will mark a significant normative step towards disarmament if all 122 states which negotiated the instrument sign and ratify.

“My hope is that this treaty will be the first step towards more productive disarmament dialogue, and that it will serve as a wake-up call to nuclear weapon states that have not seriously been pursuing disarmament negotiations for quite some time,” Sanders-Zakre said.

Snyder similarly described the historic occasion as the first step of many, stating: “This treaty will help towards the elimination of nuclear weapons—it’s not the last thing that will get them out of the world forever, but it helps by reaffirming the complete illegitimacy of such inhumane weapons and offers a pathway for elimination.”

The treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be open for signature by member states on 20 September, marking the beginning of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly. It will enter into legal force 90 days after it has been ratified by 50 countries.

Earlier this year, atomic scientists set the Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes before midnight, reflecting a fear that the world is closer to a nuclear disaster than it has been since 1953 after the U.S. and Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs.
@tharanga_yaku

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We Have to Reclaim the Public Policy Space for SDGs

IPS News
By Jens Martens

Jens Martens is Executive Director of Global Policy Forum and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

opendrainage
Open drains in Ankorondrano-Andranomahery, Madagascar. Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakotondravony/IPS

BONN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS) – At the High-Level Political Forum which currently takes place at the United Nations in New York several events, for instance a SDG Business Forum, are devoted to the critical role of business and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

But many civil society organizations and trade unions warn in their joint report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2017 that the various forms of privatization and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its goals.

Weakening the State: A vicious circle
The trend towards partnerships with the private sector is based on a number of assumptions, not least the belief that global problems are too big and the public sector is too weak to solve them alone.

But why is it apparently a matter of fact that the public sector is too weak to meet the challenges of the 2030 Agenda? Why are public coffers empty?

In fact, the lack of capacity and financial resources is not an inevitable phenomenon but has been caused by deliberate political decisions. To give just one example, over the past three decades corporate income tax rates have declined in both countries of the global North and South by 15 to 20 percent. Hundreds of billions of US dollars are lost every year through corporate tax incentives and various forms of tax avoidance.

Through their business-friendly fiscal policies and the lack of effective global tax cooperation, governments have weakened their revenue base substantially. This has been driven not least by corporate lobbying.

A recent analysis by Oxfam America estimates that between 2009 and 2015, the USA’s 50 largest companies spent approximately US$ 2.5 billion on lobbying, with approximately US$ 352 million lobbying on tax issues. In the same period, they received over US$ 423 billion in tax breaks.

What we see is a vicious circle of weakening the State: the combination of neoliberal ideology, corporate lobbying, business-friendly fiscal policies, tax avoidance and tax evasion has led to the massive weakening of the public sector and its ability to provide essential goods and services.

These failures have been used by the proponents of privatization and PPPs to present the private sector as the better alternative and to demand its further strengthening. This in turn further weakened the public sector – and so on….

In parallel, the same corporate strategies and fiscal and regulatory policies that led to the weakening of the public sector enabled an unprecedented accumulation of individual wealth and increasing market concentration, often at the expense of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Concentrated power
According to various statistics of the largest national economies, transnational corporations, banks and asset management firms, among the 50 largest global economic entities are more private corporations than countries. The assets under management by the world’s largest asset management company BlackRock are US$ 5.12 trillion (end of 2016), thus higher than the GDP of Japan or Germany.

Large institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies are also the drivers of a new generation of PPPs in infrastructure, forcing governments to offer ‘bankable’ projects that meet the needs of these investors rather than the needs of the affected population.

Particularly alarming for the implementation of SDG 2 on food security and sustainable agriculture are the announced mega-mergers in the food and agriculture sector, especially the acquisition of Syngenta by China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont and the takeover of Monsanto by Bayer.

If all of these mergers are allowed, the new corporate giants will together control at least 60 percent of global commercial seed sales and 71 percent of global pesticide sales.

Devastating impacts
The Spotlight Report 2017 clearly shows, that privatization, PPPs and the rise of corporate power affect all areas and goals of the 2030 Agenda. One example is the mushrooming of private, fee-charging, profit-making schools in Africa and Asia.

Detrimental corporate influence occurs in the energy sector with the still dominant role of coal and fossil fuel industries, undermining effective measures against climate change and the transformation towards sustainable energy systems.

Studies by scholars, CSOs and trade unions like Public Services International (PSI) have shown that the privatization of public infrastructure and services and various forms of PPPs involve disproportionate risks for the affected people and costs for the public sector. They can even exacerbate inequalities, decrease equitable access to essential services, and thus jeopardize the fulfilment of human rights, particularly the rights of women.

Counter-movements and breaking ranks
Responding to the experiences and testimonies from the ground about the devastating impacts of privatization and PPPs, counter-movements emerged in many parts of the world. Over the past 15 years there has been a significant rise in the number of communities that have taken privatized services back into public hands – a phenomenon called “remunicipalization.” Remunicipalization refers particularly to the return of water supply and sanitation services to public service delivery. Between March 2000 and March 2015 researchers documented 235 cases of water remunicipalization in 37 countries, affecting more than 100 million people.

Furthermore, some pioneering companies are already on the path towards – at least environmentally – sustainable development solutions, for instance in the area of renewable energies.

The private sector is in no way a monolithic bloc. Firms in the social and solidarity economy, social impact investors and small and medium-sized businesses are already making a positive difference, challenging the proponents of global techno-fix solutions and the dinosaurs of the fossil fuel lobby.

Even the firm opposition to international corporate regulation in the field of business and human rights by those pretending to represent business interests is showing cracks. A survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that 20 percent of business representatives who responded to the survey said that a binding international treaty would help them with their responsibilities to respect human rights.

What has to be done?
To be sure, the business sector certainly has an important role to play in the implementation process of the 2030 Agenda, as sustainable development will require large-scale changes in business practices.

However, acknowledging corporations’ role should not mean promoting the accumulation of wealth and economic power, giving them undue influence on policy-making and ignoring their responsibility in creating and exacerbating many of the problems that the 2030 Agenda is supposed to tackle.

Instead of further promoting the misleading discourse of ‘multi-stakeholderism’ and partnerships between inherently unequal partners a fundamental change of course is necessary. In order to achieve the SDGs and to turn the vision of the transformation of our world, as proclaimed in the title of the 2030 Agenda, into reality, we have to reclaim the public policy space.

Governments should strengthen public finance at all levels, fundamentally rethink their approach towards trade and investment liberalization, reconsider PPPs, create binding rules on business and human rights, take effective measures to dismantle corporate power and prevent the further existence of corporate ‘too big to fail’ entities.

But why is it apparently a matter of fact that the public sector is too weak to meet the challenges of the 2030 Agenda? Why are public coffers empty?

Where the Islamic State gets its weapons

Syrian Kurdish fighters walk near unexploded and abandoned munitions in the Syrian city of Kobani on March 27. (Credit Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurdish fighters walk near unexploded and abandoned munitions in the Syrian city of Kobani on March 27. (Credit Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)

NYTimes.com
by C. J. Chivers April 27, 2015

Early one morning in late February, a European investigator working in Kobani, the northern Syrian city that for months had been a battleground between Kurdish fighters and militants from the Islamic State, stepped outside the building where he was staying and saw something unusual. A Kurd on the street was carrying a long black assault rifle that the investigator thought was an American-made M-16.  More

Search for Nigerian Girls May be Impeded by Government’s Longstanding Lack of Coherent Strategy

IPS

By Ini Ekott

Nigeria IPS 2
A meeting session of the #BringBackOurGirls daily protest campaigners at Maitama Amusement Park, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Credit: Ini Ekott/IPS

ABUJA, Jun 13 2014 (IPS) – The search for the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram, could be hampered by a series of policy and information flip-flops by the government, the latest one of them being a public disagreement on policy between the president and the military chief.

The extremist group abducted close to 300 school girls nearly two months ago on Apr. 14 in Chibok, northern Nigeria. The abduction triggered a global campaign and a massive social media movement under the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The United States, United Kingdom, France and Israel have sent experts to Nigeria to assist in rescuing the girls.
“If both sides say no force, no negotiation, that means no one is willing to do something. What we would like to see is all options are on the table- including negotiations.” — Ubong Ben, of Facts and Figures Continue reading Search for Nigerian Girls May be Impeded by Government’s Longstanding Lack of Coherent Strategy

The Not-so-Social Gospel

America Magazine

Author: James Martin, S.J.

The Lazy Paralytic

1. When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at his home.

2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.

3. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 

4. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 

5. When Jesus saw this he grew angry, “Why did you wreck my roof?  Do you have any idea how much that cost to install?  Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof?  The reeds alone cost five talents.  I had them carted in from Bethany.” 

6. The disciples had never seen Jesus so angry about his possessions.  He continued, “This house is my life.  And the roof is the best part.”  The disciples fell silent.  

7. “It’s bad enough that you trash my private property, now you want me to heal you?” said Jesus, “And did you not see the stone walls around this house?”  “Yes,” said the man’s friends.  “Are these not the stone walls common to the towns and villages of Galilee?”  

8. “No,” Jesus answered.  “This is a gated community.  How did you get in?”  The man’s friends grew silent. 

9. Then Jesus turned and said to the paralytic, “Besides, can’t you take care of your own health problems?  I’m sure that your family can care for you, or maybe the synagogue can help out.” 

10. “No, Lord,” answered the man’s friends.  “There is no one.  His injuries are too severe.  To whom else can we go?” 

11. “Well, not me,” said Jesus.  “What would happen if I provided access to free health care for everyone?  That would mean that people would not only get lazy and entitled, but they would take advantage of the system. 

12. Besides, look at me: I’m healthy. And you know why?  Because I worked hard for my money, and took care of myself.”  The paralyzed man then grew sad and he addressed Jesus.  “But I did work, Lord,” said the paralytic.  “Until an accident rendered me paralyzed.”  “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “He worked very hard.” 

13. “Well,” said Jesus, “That’s just part of life, isn’t it?”  “Then what am I to do, Lord?” said the paralytic.  “I don’t know.  Why don’t you sell your mat?” 

14. All in the crowd then grew sad.  “Actually, you know what you can do?” said Jesus. “You can reimburse me for my roof.  Or I’ll sue you.” And all were amazed. 

15. “We have never seen anything like this,” said the crowd. Continue reading The Not-so-Social Gospel