Category Archives: The World

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis

Trees Redwood trees in Guerneville, California. Photograph: Gabrielle Lurie/The Guardian

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.

The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.

“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

Crowther emphasised that it remains vital to reverse the current trends of rising greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and forest destruction, and bring them down to zero. He said this is needed to stop the climate crisis becoming even worse and because the forest restoration envisaged would take 50-100 years to have its full effect of removing 200bn tonnes of carbon.

But tree planting is “a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere”, Crowther said. “It is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.” Individuals could make a tangible impact by growing trees themselves, donating to forest restoration organisations and avoiding irresponsible companies, he added.

Other scientists agree that carbon will need to be removed from the atmosphere to avoid catastrophic climate impacts and have warned that technological solutions will not work on the vast scale needed.

Jean-François Bastin, also at ETH Zürich, said action was urgently required: “Governments must now factor [tree restoration] into their national strategies.”

Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief and founder of the Global Optimism group, said: “Finally we have an authoritative assessment of how much land we can and should cover with trees without impinging on food production or living areas. This is hugely important blueprint for governments and private sector.”

René Castro, assistant-director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, said: “We now have definitive evidence of the potential land area for re-growing forests, where they could exist and how much carbon they could store.”

The study, published in the journal Science, determines the potential for tree planting but does not address how a global tree planting programme would be paid for and delivered.

Crowther said: “The most effective projects are doing restoration for 30 US cents a tree. That means we could restore the 1tn trees for $300bn [£240bn], though obviously that means immense efficiency and effectiveness. But it is by far the cheapest solution that has ever been proposed.” He said financial incentives to land owners for tree planting are the only way he sees it happening, but he thinks $300bn would be within reach of a coalition of billionaire philanthropists and the public.

The research is based on the measurement of the tree cover by hundreds of people in 80,000 high-resolution satellite images from Google Earth. Artificial intelligence computing then combined this data with 10 key soil, topography and climate factors to create a global map of where trees could grow.

This showed that about two-thirds of all land – 8.7bn ha – could support forest, and that 5.5bn ha already has trees. Of the 3.2bn ha of treeless land, 1.5bn ha is used for growing food, leaving 1.7bn of potential forest land in areas that were previously degraded or sparsely vegetated.

“This research is excellent,” said Joseph Poore, an environmental researcher at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford. “It presents an ambitious but essential vision for climate and biodiversity.” But he said many of the reforestation areas identified are currently grazed by livestock including, for example, large parts of Ireland.

“Without freeing up the billions of hectares we use to produce meat and milk, this ambition is not realisable,” he said. Crowther said his work predicted just two to three trees per field for most pasture: “Restoring trees at [low] density is not mutually exclusive with grazing. In fact many studies suggest sheep and cattle do better if there are a few trees in the field.”

Crowther also said the potential to grow trees alongside crops such as coffee, cocoa and berries – called agro-forestry – had not been included in the calculation of tree restoration potential, and neither had hedgerows: “Our estimate of 0.9bn hectares [of canopy cover] is reasonably conservative.”

However, some scientists said the estimated amount of carbon that mass tree planting could suck from the air was too high. Prof Simon Lewis, at University College London, said the carbon already in the land before tree planting was not accounted for and that it takes hundreds of years to achieve maximum storage. He pointed to a scenario from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5C report of 57bn tonnes of carbon sequestered by new forests this century.

Other scientists said avoiding monoculture plantation forests and respecting local and indigenous people were crucial to ensuring reforestation succeeds in cutting carbon and boosting wildlife.

Earlier research by Crowther’s team calculated that there are currently about 3tn trees in the world, which is about half the number that existed before the rise of human civilisation. “We still have a net loss of about 10bn trees a year,” Crowther said.

Visit the Crowther Lab website for a tool that enables users to look at particular places and identify the areas for restoration and which tree species are native there.

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions

 

‘Reaching end game’: New paper on climate change raises alarm

Climate changeProtesters march demanding urgent measures to combat climate change in Kolkata, India last week [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]

A climate change paper grabbed headlines this week with its terrifying prediction of what the world will be in 30 years’ time – absent drastic and immediate change to human societies.

“World of outright chaos,” “Climate apocalypse,” “We’re all gonna die,” the media banners blared.

The sobering headlines and equally disconcerting stories beneath described a “scenario analysis” by an Australian think-tank, Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration.

The paper portrayed what the year 2050 will look like if urgent action to build carbon-neutral energy systems around the world fails to come to fruition in the next 10 years.

It’s worse than any of the apocalyptic Hollywood horror films making the rounds.

One billion people displaced and fighting desperately for survival, with half the world’s population subjected to “lethal heat” conditions for more than 20 days a year – “beyond the threshold of human survivability”.

Drought, wildfires, and floods collapse entire ecosystems as two billion people struggle for potable water. Mega-cities such as Mumbai, Hong Kong, Lagos, and Manila are largely abandoned because of massive floods.

“This scenario provides a glimpse into a world of ‘outright chaos’ on a path to the end of human civilisation and modern society as we have known it,” said the paper, co-authored by Ian Dunlop, a former chair of the Australian Coal Association, and David Spratt, a long-time climate researcher.

‘The end game’

Spratt told Al Jazeera the eye-catching headlines were “somewhat over the top”, but he maintained the dire warnings were legitimate.

“We are reaching the end game, there are not a lot of pieces left on the chess board. We have to take action really fast,” said Spratt.

He challenged climate scientists, including those from the leading Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to be more forthright with the global public about the calamity awaiting humanity if nothing is immediately done to halt the pumping of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The planet is currently on track for a 4.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperature as CO2 emissions continue to rise each year.

Dunlop noted the IPCC set a target of staying below a 1.5C increase in the coming decades. “This IPCC analysis assumes only a 50-66 percent chance of meeting the targets. Not good odds for the future of humanity,” he wrote this week.

Asked about the criticism, IPCC’s Nina Peeva responded: “We can’t comment on individual papers on climate science. Our job is to inform policymakers about the current state of knowledge on climate change… If this paper was published in a peer-reviewed journal, it will probably be considered in the next assessment appearing in 2021.”

US intelligence warnings

Congressional testimony from two US government intelligence analysts on Wednesday seemed to corroborate Breakthrough’s grim climate change analysis.

Peter Kiemel, from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told a House committee investigating the global effects of climate change on national security that it played a role in the bloody civil wars in Syria and Libya, and will do the same in the future.

Just prior to the outbreak of Syria’s devastating war in 2011, the region suffered one of the most severe droughts in its history, quadrupling rural-to-urban migration and causing food riots.

Climate change impacts on food and water systems were also “catalysts for social breakdown and conflict” in the Maghreb and the Sahel, contributing to the European migration crisis, Breakthrough’s paper said.

“We already have seen water crises exacerbate social unrest in and emigration from fragile states in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Kiemel.

“As the climate changes, disputes over water and access to arable land are likely to grow, prompting more such local conflicts.”

Rod Schoonover, a senior State Department analyst, told members of the House Intelligence Committee no nation would be immune from the ravages of climate change.

“Most countries, if not all, are already unable to fully respond to the risks posed by climate-linked hazards under the present conditions,” said Schoonover.

“Absent extensive mitigating factors or events, we see few plausible future scenarios where significant harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change.”

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Trump administration officials ordered the words “possibly catastrophic” erased from Schoonover’s written statement.

What can’t be deleted is a 2007 climate change security report titled The Age of Consequences, co-authored by former CIA director James Woolsey. Its wording leaves no doubt about the threat to the human species.

“Armed conflict between nations over resources, such as the Nile and its tributaries, is likely and nuclear war is possible. The social consequences range from increased religious fervour to outright chaos,” the study warned.

Race against time

While the immense challenge of abruptly ending fossil fuel use seems extremely daunting, there are reasons for hope.

Spratt and others noted the technology to shift away from fossil fuels to clean energy is already in place, and more could be done if government budgets were allocated towards decarbonisation.

“We have the technological and economic capacity. If we would have made the shift in 2009, we would be all right today,” said Spratt.

Climate watchers say what is desperately needed is political leadership worldwide to rein in C02-burning corporations and shift the global economic system to green technology.

Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told USA Today the technology for a carbon-free economic system is already in place.

“We’re not waiting for solutions. We’re simply waiting for political will to understand that the solutions are here. Clean energy is not a matter of waiting, it’s a matter of implementing,” said Patz.

But with US President Donald Trump, who denies human-induced climate change and oversees the world’s largest economy, there is ample reason for serious concern.

The winds of change are blowing, however, as climate change protest movements sprout up worldwide.

In the US, the world’s second largest CO2 emitter after China, presidential candidate Joe Biden announced a $5 trillion climate proposal on Tuesday as part of his campaign for 2020. The same day, Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr said he would launch a new hi-tech venture called the Footprint Coalition to combat climate change.

On Thursday, US billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would spend $500m in the “fight of our time” to move the US away from carbon energy.

Breakthrough’s paper stated “a massive global mobilisation” of resources was needed in the next decade to build a zero-emissions industrial system.

So can humanity save itself with the clock ticking down fast?

Admiral Chris Barrie – the former chief of Australia’s defence forces who wrote the foreword to Breakthrough’s paper – said human societies must act collectively to survive.

“A doomsday future is not inevitable, but without immediate drastic action, our prospects are poor.”

Russian parliament approves bill to isolate country’s internet

Russian photoThe bill passed its first reading by 334 votes to 47 in the Russian parliament [File: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters]

Russian legislators have given tentative approval to a draft legislation that could cut off Russia from the global internet.

The bill, co-authored by Andrei Lugovoi – one of the main suspects in the 2006 murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in the UK – passed its first reading in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday by 334 votes to 47.

A heated debate preceded the vote with many legislators from minority parties criticising it as too costly and argued that it was not written by experts.

Authors of the initiative say Russia must ensure the security of its networks after US President Donald Trump unveiled Washington’s new cybersecurity strategy last year, which threatened to respond to any cyber attack both offensively and defensively.

Russia’s new bill proposes creating a centre to “ensure and control the routing of internet traffic” and requires that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) install “technical measures to withstand threats”.

It also mandates regular “drills” to test whether Russia’s internet can function in an isolated mode.

Taking questions on the floor, the authors were unable to estimate the long-term costs, what threats it would repel or even how it would work. They, however, said expert opinions could be incorporated into the bill for its second hearing.

One of the authors dismissed all criticism, citing the scale of the potential threat from Washington.

“This isn’t kindergarten!” shouted Lugovoi. “All of the websites in Syria” have been turned off by the US before, he claimed.

Internet freedoms
Critics say the bill shows the authorities’ continued efforts to limit internet freedoms despite the huge public and private cost.

“This is very serious,” said Andrei Soldatov, who co-authored a book on the history of internet surveillance in Russia. “This is a path towards isolating Russia as a whole… from the internet.”

Russian internet providers have reportedly been tasked by April 1 to come up with a way that the country could reliably shield itself from cyberattacks.

The concept appears similar to China’s Great Firewall, which regulates internet operations in view of reinforcing national sovereignty.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/russian-parliament-approves-bill-isolate-country-internet-190212134228143.html

Women at the front can help defeat global warming, say leaders

Women at the front can help defeat global warming, say leaders
by Sophie Hares | @SophieHares | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 01:23 GMT

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, speaks next to Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera during a news conference within the framework 2018 Women4Climate Summit in Mexico City
Mayors of cities and participants pose for a photo at the end of the Women4Climate conference in Mexico City, Feb. 26, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero

“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors”

MEXICO CITY, Feb 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Cities will be the battleground and women can be effective warriors on the frontlines in the fight against climate change, activists and leaders said on Monday.

Investing in the education and leadership of women and girls will provide a much-needed boost in efforts to slow global warming, said attendees at the Women4Climate conference organised by C40, a global alliance of cities, in Mexico City.

“For thousands of years we’ve been investing in the education of men, in the professional capacities of men, in their rise to positions of leadership and decisions,” Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told the group.

“We haven’t done this investment with women,” said Figueres, who now leads “Mission 2020,” a global initiative to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The Women4Climate conference brought together mayors, business leaders and leaders working to curb climate change. It was the second such conference held since world leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 on a goal of slowing the rise in average global temperatures.

“It is clear the battle will be fought especially in urban areas,” said Patricia Espinosa, the current UNFCCC head.

“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors,” she said. “We have little time left.”

Extreme weather related to climate change is hitting urban areas, said Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

She said the western U.S. city is warming at double the global rate, affecting the snowfall it depends upon for water.

Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi said her city planned to ban diesel-fueled cars from its centre, plant thousands of trees and invest in zero-emissions buses.

“Cities can do a lot to make a difference on climate, but just like women, cities can’t be expected to change the world all by themselves,” said Andrea Reimer, a Vancouver, Canada city official.


(Reporting by Sophie Hares, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/)

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.

Understanding Child Soldier Recruitment Needed to Help Curb Crisis

By Will Higginbotham
Inter Press News

child-soldier_-629x419
Former child solider Mulume (front left) feels hopeless about his future. Credit: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS

 

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 23 2018 (IPS) – It is not known exactly how many child soldiers there are in the world, but current estimates tell us that in 2018, the number is likely to be in the tens of thousands.

Children have been used in hostilities – including as human bombs –by state and non-state groups in at least 18 conflicts since 2016 alone.

Today, a staggering 46 nations continue to attract and enlist people under 18 into their militaries.

These are some of the statistics from the Child Soldiers World Index – a newly released database that examines UN member states for their use of child soldiers in the armed forces and non-state groups.

The statistics are indeed concerning, with even the UN declaring that the number of at risk children is increasing at an “alarming rate.”

So what exactly is driving children to become involved with armed groups? And, what can be done to get a grip on the crisis?

These are the questions that the United Nations University (UNU), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Luxemburg and Switzerland have been working to answer by conducting field research on child recruitment practices in Mali, Iraq and Nigeria.

THE ROLE OF “RADICALISATION”

According to the report, entitled ‘Cradled by Conflict: Children in Contemporary Conflict’, a mistake that policy makers are making is focusing too much on the idea that child soldiers join armed groups because they have been ‘radicalised.’

“Currently there is a tendency to attribute child involvement in conflicts to them becoming radicalised and swept up in this violent ideology… but this is rarely the primary factor motivating child association in armed groups,” the project’s leader researcher Siobhan O’Neil told IPS.

For example, the report found that ideology was hardly a factor in Mali where child solider recruitment is often paired with a narrative of radicalisation.

“In Mali, the intercommunal conflicts over resources and cattle, issues made worse by climate change and state corruption– were far more likely to drive children to armed groups,” O’Neil said.

Even in cases where ideology does play a role in a child’s trajectory towards an armed group, it is usually only one of a number of motivating or facilitating factors.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has conflated its religious ideology with a rejection of the Nigerian state, the latter of which, the report found “may be the greater driver of association with Boko Haram for Nigerians who have experienced state oppression and violence.”

“NO CHOICE BUT TO JOIN”

UNU’s research also challenges a re-occurring perception that children can simply avoid joining armed groups.

The report stressed that for many children, especially those living within an occupied territory, neutrality is not an option.

“That’s a fallacy. It’s virtually impossible for children to remain unaffiliated in a war zone,” Kato Van Broeckhoven, a co-author of the research, told IPS.

“When an armed group is the only employer – like they are in parts of Syria and Nigeria – and they have physical control of a region, joining may be the only realistic way to survive,” she continued.

“PRO-SOCIAL REASONS TO JOIN”

The report also found that for some children, armed groups are attractive because they offer a sense of ‘community’, a sense of ‘significance’, and a feeling of ‘order amid chaos’.

For example in both Mali and Nigeria, where strict hierarchical societies are the norm, armed groups can provide a way for young people to express themselves and attain a level of status beyond what society would usually allow someone of their age.

Addressing what this research means for policy makers and programs on the ground, O’Neil told IPS that “ultimately, what we see is that there is no mono-causal reason for children getting involved in armed groups.”

“It’s important any intervention programs geared towards preventing them becoming involved, assisting them with release and reintegration recognise that and take a holistic approach to addressing children’s needs and risks,” she continued.

The report argues that many current interventions aimed at assisting child soldiers have leaned towards an ‘ideological approach’ – one that aims to ‘prevent’ and ‘counter’ violent extremism.

In the absence of evidence that links radical ideology to children becoming involved in armed groups, O’Neil and her fellow researchers say that any ‘ideological approach’ to intervention should only be used when there is clear evidence that it would be preventative.

Otherwise, as the report noted, “it’s a one size, fits none’ approach.

In the report, researchers urged for more effective international efforts to prevent and respond to child recruitment and use by armed groups including:

(1) avoid programmes focused primarily on ideological factors; (2) only incorporate ideological components where individually necessary and where they can be embedded into larger, holistic efforts to address the needs and risks of children; (3) ensure all interventions are empirically based; (4) rigorously assess interventions over the long term; and (5) engage children not just as beneficiaries, but as partners.

The ‘Cradled to Conflict’ report and the Child Soldiers World Index data was launched on the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, and the anniversary of the OPAC treaty – the world’s first international treaty wholly focused on ending the military exploitation of children.

Three Solutions for Water and Sanitation for All

By Oyun Sanjaasuren
IPS News  Oyun Sanjaasuren is Chair of Global Water Partnership (GWP)

worldwaterweekgrenada
Primary School students in Grenada are seen here working together to promote awareness on water conservation on World Water Day. Credit: Global Water Partnership

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.

Oyun-Sanjaasuren-GWP-Chair
Oyun Sanjaasuren is Chair of Global Water Partnership (GWP)

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!

 

 

 

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)