Wednesday - April 26, 2017

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

(Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi. © AP)For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in poverty (15)


Guyana, Suriname elected to key UN Committees for upcoming United Nations General Assembly (REPORT) 

(SOURCE: WorldAtlas) (September 4, 2012) - Set to make history, today both Guyana and Suriname were selected to chair two of the most important committees at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting.

Guyana will serve as Chair of the Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee) of the United Nations General Assembly for the 67th Session, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced.

In a related development, Ambassador of Suriname to the UN, His Excellency Mr. Henry Mac Donald, was today also elected to chair the Third Committee, making this the first time that two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) representatives will chair Main Committees of the General Assembly during the same session.

The General Assembly body stated:

"The Assembly today elected Guyana's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador George Talbot, by acclamation to chair the Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee).  Ambassador Talbot is the first Representative of a CARICOM Member State at the United Nations to hold the position."

The Second Committee, which deals with a wide range of development matters, will have a full agenda of issues to consider, among them:  macro-economic policy questions, sustainable development issues, including follow-up to the Rio+20 conference, challenges associated with poverty eradication, globalization, international migration and development, and the situation of countries in special circumstances such as Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States.

(Video: UN promo for upcoming 67th UNGA meeting, 2012)

Guyana’s priorities for the upcoming session will include a focus on: food security and agriculture, poverty eradication, climate change related issues, and the developmental impact of inequalities both within and across countries as well as on greater effectiveness and efficiency in the conduct of the work of the Committee.

During Guyana's tenure, the Committee will also undertake the first quadrennial comprehensive policy review of the UN's operational activities for development.  Ambassador Talbot was nominated and endorsed for the post by CARICOM and by the Group of the Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) which include 33 countries, equaling 17% of all UN members.

Additionally, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bangladesh were also elected to the Bureau of the Committee.

Ambassador Talbot, who holds a Bachelor's degree in Modern Languages from the University of Guyana and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, is a career diplomat with vast experience in multilateral affairs.

This year's gathering of the UN's world body of 193 nations will is set to convene in New York City on September 18, and will run for two weeks. According to earlier voting, Serbia's Vuk Jeremić was elected president of the United Nations General Assembly; and Jamaica was chosen as the first seat in the General Assembly Chamber meaning they will lead the chamber in order of speeches.

(This article first appeared in Demerara Waves.)


Hult Global Case Challenge 2011-Winners Announced (NEWS)

(PHOTO: Fmr US President Bill Clinton/HUMNEWS)(HN, 4/27/12) - Former US President Bill Clinton, whose organization the Clinton Global Initiative is partnered with the Hult Global Case Challenge, announced this year's winning student teams at last nights finals at the New York Public Library.  The winners are:

Energy: Team NYU Abu Dhabi to be partnered with SolarAid

Education: Team Carnegie Mellon to be partnered with One Laptop Per Child

Housing: Team Hult Business School, Boston campus to be partnered with Habitat For Humanity International

Stay tuned for a more comprehensive report on the ideas behind the students `step-change' innovations and for full follow-up coverage of the projects and NGO partners as they move forward.



Bruce Springsteen's Call to Battle (ANALYSIS)

Picture credit: Lord Henry/Flickr

By Richard Pithouse

In 1975 Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen's magnificent third album, crashed on to American radio with a dramatic lyrical intensity riding a rushing wall of rock and soul. Time and Newsweek put him on their covers in the same week and at 26 he found himself, along with Bob Dylan, as the newest avatar in the tradition of popular artists that, beginning with Walt Whitman and rolling on through Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly and John Steinbeck have brought a sympathetic poetic attention to the lives and struggles of ordinary Americans.

Springsteen has redeemed that promise for almost forty years with a rare ability to match artistic integrity with popular success. He's brought an astonishing commitment to three hour long shows that offer audiences a sense of community and solidarity rather than the spectacle into which popular music has often descended. And his abundance of albums and songs have often allowed audiences to feel that the music is about them and for them, or about people who may seem different but are ultimately like them, rather than an invitation to worship at the alter of celebrity. Springsteen is cited as an influence by filmmakers, writers, actors and musicians from Run-D.M.C. to Ani diFranco.

Springsteen has twice recorded albums that have become part of the collective experience and memory of a generation. In 1984 Born in the USA, with the rousing chorus of the title track famously misunderstood by Ronald Reagan, became a national soundtrack to a moment. And in 2002 The Rising, drawing on Sufi devotional music and informed by conversations with families who had lost relatives to the attacks on the World Trade Centre, became the definitive popular attempt to make sense of 9/11. Springsteen has also recorded albums that were never designed for the charts but have an integrity and creative intensity that gives them a slow burning power that inspires people, and all kinds of new artistic work, year after year.

Nebraska, released in 1982 is a lyrically and sonically stark take on the underside of Regan's America. In 1995 The Ghost of Tom Joad, an exquisite album initially inspired by John Ford's classic cinematic interpretation of John Steinbeck's great novel, The Grapes of Wrath, marked a shift in the staging of Springsteen's characters from the streets of New Jersey to Southern California. The Marys gave way to Marias and the strategy for getting out changed from a fast car out of small town New Jersey to a slow walk across the desert and from Mexico into California.

Springsteen has become more politically committed as he has got older. His 2006 album, The Seeger Sessions, a rambunctious foot stomping jol of a collection of old folk songs that had been recorded by the communist folk singer Pete Seeger, was an important moment in that trajectory. Forging a direct connection to the popular radicalism of the folk tradition, often linked to the labour and communist movements, has enabled Springsteen to, like all the figures in the tradition stretching back to Whitman, develop a vision of America that is inclusive and directly committed to the struggles of ordinary women and men to win and hold a place in America. This willingness to contest the meaning of the American promise is critically important in a time when conservative elites are, in a manner that has collapsed into straight-up lunacy in the Republican Party, trying to tie patriotism into militarism, war, religious fundamentalism and the vicious scapegoating of blacks, gay people, migrants, single mothers and anyone else on to whom they can deflect popular anger.

But Springsteen's new album, Wrecking Ball, released on the 6th of March, marks a decisive shift in his public politics. It includes elements that have long marked his work - laments for stillborn dreams and lives that haven't been able to come to bloom as well as hymns to endurance and solidarity. But there are also striking differences with his earlier work. For one thing the musical pallet that he draws on in this album – which includes gospel, country, Irish jigs, hip-hop, drum loops and samples from Alan Lomax's recordings of American roots music - is broader than on any previous album. And this album, which is largely about men and work, is also a straightforward call to battle in the tradition of the radical popular culture of the 1930s. Springsteen has written martial calls to overcome before but they've taken the form of a call to personal escape or perseverance and community in difficult times. Here he issues a direct call to arms against a system where 'The gambling man rolls the dice/Working man pays the bills':

"Send the robber barons straight to hell,  The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found, Whose crimes have gone unpunished now"

In 'Jack of All Trades' he sings to keep up the faith of a man willing to do anything for a buck while 'The banker man grows fat, the working man grows thin'. But there's also a new and more directly confrontational sentiment:

"So you use what you've got and you learn to make do
You take the old, you make it new
If I had me a gun, I'd find the bastards and shoot 'em on sight"

Springsteen's work has been preoccupied with war since the drummer in his first band was sent to Vietnam and didn’t come back. He's often contrasted the prospects of returning veterans with the promise of America to implicitly raise the question of exactly who is fighting for what and for whom. In Youngstown, a lament to the world lost with the deindustrialisation of America on The Ghost of Tom Joad album, he had observed that 'Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do'. On Wrecking Ball this idea is fleshed out. He returns to his song My Hometown, another lament, this time off the Born in the USA album in which he sang that:

"They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back"

This time around, in Death to My Home Town, the lament has turned into an Irish rebel song, a war song backed by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine on guitar that declares that:

"No shells ripped the evening sky, no cities burning down
No army stormed the shores for which we'd die, no dictators were crowned
I awoke from a quiet night, I never heard a sound
The marauders raided in the dark and brought death to my hometown, boys
Death to my hometown
They destroyed our families, factories, and they took our homes
They left our bodies on the plains, the vultures picked our bones"

But while this album is a call to arms its militant will to confrontation, to ensure that 'the money changers in this temple will not stand', is also, in some respects, a symptom of regression. In Darkness on the Edge of Town, Springsteen's sublime fourth album released in 1978, dreams and desires for a better life are posed against work. Factory, based on his father's experience of factory work, gives, in a little over two minutes, a searing critique of alienated labour:

"End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes.
And you just better believe, boy,
Somebody's gonna get hurt tonight,
It's the working, the working, just the working life."

Just over thirty years later Springsteen is singing that:

"Freedom, son, is a dirty shirt
The sun on my face and my shovel in the dirt...
Pick up the rock, son, carry it on
What's a poor boy to do but keep singing his song"

He's not alone in this nostalgia for work as it used to be for people in union jobs before capital extracted itself from social obligation by stepping into a global arena while unions and elected representatives were left, at best, on a national stage. He used to lament exploitation and drudgery.

Now he sings a lament to the lives lost to the monster whose taste for flesh has no regard to skills or faith:

"We've been swallowed up
Disappeared from this world"

In the face of social abandonment exploitation often seems attractive and Springsteen's nostalgia is certainly not his alone. But this nostalgia is a mark of how much has been lost to the marauding alliance of politicians and capitalists that promised a brave new world for everyone and left devastation for the majority while they grew fabulously rich behind botox, designer labels, high walls and increasingly brutal police.

Springsteen supported the Obama campaign in 2008. He's indicated that he's unlikely to do the same this year and has made it clear that this album is both inspired by and for the Occupy movement. It's too early to say whether or not Wrecking Ball will become one of the Springsteen albums that marks a moment in time. But the first performance of some of the new songs at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem over the weekend was received with rapturous acclaim.

The bankers, who are still taking their bonuses but are starting to show some signs of panic – like paying universities to tell students that Ayn Rand is a philosopher and an important contributor to American literature, must be starting to get the sense that the tide is turning against the lie that we all have a stake in their wealth.

- Richard Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University. Originally published by The South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS) under a Creative Commons License


G20 foreign ministers meet in Mexico; say `World is failing' (NEWS)

(PHOTO: Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano speaks during the opening of the G20 Foreign Ministers Informal Meeting in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur state, Mexico, 2.19/Xinhua, Shi Sisi)LOS CABOS, Mexico -- Foreign ministers of the Group of 20 (G20) on Sunday convened in Los Cabos, a resort town in northwestern Mexico, to discuss important issues including global governance, food safety, climate change and green growth.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, host of the meeting, said that frank and open dialogue would be held among G20 foreign ministers and officials from other invited countries at the two-day meeting from Sunday to Monday.

Mexico, which holds the G20 presidency this year, planned the meeting to "stimulate ideas" to promote the changes the world needs, said Espinosa.  "There are many important issues that affect the lives of billions of people across the world, on which the international community is failing to make any discernible progress," she said.

She called for progress to be made on issues such as eradicating famine and illiteracy, promoting green growth and sustainable development, and enhancing the rule of law.

The Mexican official, however, said the meeting, given its informal color, would not lead to any official documents.

"At this stage any results arising from these sessions will be mere recommendations for policy coherence among our countries and we do not intend to develop guidelines or formal documents to negotiate at the G20 Summit," she said.

According to the minister, the meeting have four major topics, namely the multilateral trade system, current global challenges, green growth and human development.

The meeting brought together 10 foreign ministers of G20 member economies, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. The Chinese delegation is led by Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu. Mexico also invited representatives from non-G20 economies and international organizations to participate in the meeting.

Los Cabos, the coastal resort where the G20 Summit will take place in June, has adopted strict measures to beef up security. More police and soldiers have been deployed at the airports and along the major roads to maintain order and check the vehicles.

--- this article first appeared on Cam11


Mexican Presidency of the G20

Mexico will chair the G20 in 2012 and host the Leaders’ Summit in June of the same year. By assuming the annual Presidency of the G20, as the second emerging country to do so at the Leaders’ level, and the first in Latin America, Mexico confirms its role as a responsible and constructive actor, both regionally and globally.

Mexico is firmly committed to achieving a successful Summit in regards to the agreements reached and their positive impact on the world economy. The Mexican Presidency will seek to follow up the agreements reached previously and will also work to make important contributions to these and other issues of the agenda of the G20. Moreover, Mexico will promote an active and engaged participation of non-members, international organizations, think tanks and the private sector in order to make the G20 dialogue as inclusive, open and transparent as possible.

With this goal in mind, Mexico has established the following priorities:

1. Economic stabilization and structural reforms as foundations for growth and employment.

2. Strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion to promote economic growth.

3. Improving the international financial architecture in an interconnected world.

4. Enhancing food security and addressing commodity price volatility..

5. Promoting sustainable development, green growth and the fight against climate change.


Employing the Poor: What Can South Africa Learn from India? (PERSPECTIVE)

A construction site near Cape Town. Job growth is slowing in most sectors in South Africa. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSBy Saliem Fakir

(HN, August 20, 2011) One can take a cynical view of the world. In the absence of a fundamental restructuring of the economy, all we end up doing is tinkering with the art of state philanthropy both on the side of social safety nets and as far as job creation goes.

If the market is unresponsive to job creation due to its interest in rent seeking, then our government will have to continue doing what it has been doing for the last 10 years: escalate the level of public sector employment. This is more than the private sector is willing to commit to.

The public sector in South Africa is witnessing the largest growth in jobs relative to other sectors. According to the Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2011, the state, at all three tiers of government, employs about 1.9 million people or 14.1% of the working population. This is up from 1.7 million in 2008 or 12.6% of the working population.  

As job growth is slow in other sectors, it appears that the state is, by default, becoming the employer of last resort.

So serious is the situation that the state has had to, as of this year, create a special jobs fund to incentivise the private sector to employ more people who are mainly young black job seekers.

Whether it will work remains to be seen.

If South Africa is to go in the direction of the state being the employer of last resort and extend this beyond the professional class, we should be mindful of the lessons being learnt in India at present.

India has similar challenges to South Africa. It is also a country where a minority cashes in on economic growth while the majority trails behind barely making it from one day to the next. India’s problems are structural. Ownership and economic power is one-sided.

Close to 300 million people are excluded from the benefits derived from the country’s booming economic growth. 

Structural problems such land ownership, inequality, the inability of the poor to gain access to credit, wage disparities and barriers to entry into the job market still persist.

India’s problems are also exacerbated by its history of religious conflict, ethnic, caste and class divisions that reinforce the structural patterns, which continue to plague the country’s ability to create an economy that includes its poor in a meaningful way.

India has faced high growth but a slow down in employment growth.  For instance, at average growth rates of 6.7% in India in the 1990s, the rate of growth of employment was only 2.7%. Moreover, this still doesn’t tell us whether employment creation was permanent or not.

This gap between economic growth and the number of jobs created is an ongoing challenge for both India and South Africa, as it perpetuates the “growth with no jobs” scenario. Or to put it more starkly: growth accompanied by the destruction of jobs.

Where South Africa has used various grants and public works programmes and Brazil the Bolsa Familia, India has crafted a macro-intervention that is not too far off, yet somewhat different.

India came up with what is called an employment guarantee scheme or the employer of last resort. An explicit admission, at least, that capitalist industrial economies are unable to ensure total inclusivity into the mainstream economy.

Full employment schemes have been worked out before. One of the early pioneers was the economist John Pierson. In the 1940s, Pierson designed the US government’s employment of last resort scheme. Thus, India’s scheme was tailored using an old idea, but within an emerging economy context.

In 2005, India enacted the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The law guarantees 100 days of employment per year to a member of a household on a rural public works project. The scheme was initially targeted at 200 of India’s 600 districts, but was later expanded.

The cost to the Indian government was estimated to be about 1.3% of GDP. The wages set under the MGNREGA are according to the minimum wage standards of the country.

The main areas of target have been labour intensive work in environmental programmes like watershed management (similar to South Africa’s Working for Water programme), soil erosion prevention and similar initiatives.

India opted for the MGNREGA as it found that non-guaranteed public works wage schemes did not create a sustainable situation for individual or family oriented economic progress. Neither did it create greater inclusion into the mainstream economy. Its successes with regard to this were, at best, minimal.

Under India’s MGNREGA, the work secured on public works programmes is casual and manual. In rural areas, it is meant to fill a seasonal unemployment problem.

Work has to be provided within 15 days of a person requesting employment and it should be located within 5km of the distance from the project. If the work is beyond the 5km zone, the employee is given a travel and living allowance.

If no work is provided, the job seeker qualifies for an unemployment allowance, which is usually set at a third of the minimum wage.

The introduction of such a scheme has led to policy shifts in several areas. The first is creating the political demand for the right to work. Secondly, it forces state allocations to be made in the right place and with the correct audience because of legal obligation. Thirdly, the scheme allows some transition into the mainstream economy as those covered by it can borrow from banks or micro-finance institutions. Fourthly, the scheme expands household enterprises and builds assets. And finally, the right to work, in a sense, also forces more rapid deployment of funds and the building of infrastructure, which acts as a positive stimulus on the economy of rural areas.

This is the case because the state is in one way or another legally obligated to provide employment.

However, there are also challenges and problems that come with such macro-economic interventions, as India currently runs the largest programme in the world.

India’s employment guarantee scheme faces the same constraints as our proposed Basic Income Grant, which other centrally managed grant systems also face.

These programmes require good co-ordination and planning. Local demand from recipients has to be persistent and organized. And, local authorities have to be capable and properly governed.

Thirty years of prior experience in the State of Maharashtra has shown that while such schemes provide relief for the poor they have not led to fundamental shifts in the economy.

The level of poverty in the State of Maharashtra, compared to other states, remains persistent. Demand for unskilled wage work under the scheme has not subsided but rather increased, which further points to systemic problems within the economy.

The design of such a scheme has to answer two fundamental questions: Does it provide relief during difficult times or does it push people further behind the poverty line?

Given the complexities of implementing such a scheme without a fundamental restructuring of the economy, it is likely that such schemes will serve more as state welfare rather than a bridge into the mainstream economy.

One can tell a lot about whether a MGNREGA-like scheme will succeed by looking at what the poor are able to own in terms of land and other assets as well as the quality of educational and health services they have access to. In this respect, the MGNREGA and similar schemes are no silver bullet solution. 

Thus, in all this there is a crucial dilemma that cannot overlooked: this is the general problem of boxing poverty as a welfare issue, as well as the settling in of policy complacency and not doing enough to change the structure of the economy. If MGNREGA-like schemes are to succeed as transition tools, then economic restructuring must also happen simultaneously.

Fakir an independent writer based in Cape Town. This article is republished with permission from the South Africa Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS).


International Women's Day (Report) 

File photo (HN, March 8, 2011) -- Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, which was held by only a handful of  European countries in 1911 – where more than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, hold public office and end discrimination.

Themes on politics, human rights, and gender equality continue to create social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide.

In the past century much progress has been made in gender equality – in 1911 only a few countries in the world allowed women to vote – New Zealand, South Australia (both self-governing British colonies) and the Grand Duchy of Finland - today that right is practically universal.

However, there are still many challenges for women and girls around the world. According to UN Women, the Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment for Women, almost two out of three illiterate adults are women, girls are still less likely to be in school than boys, and every 90 seconds of every day, a woman dies in pregnancy or do to childbirth-related complications.

Women, around the globe, continue to earn less than men for the same work. In addition and despite many high-profile advances, women still make up only 19 percent of legislatures, 8 percent of peace negotiators, and 28 women are heads of state or government.  

The International Labour Organization (IOL) Director General Juan Somavia has said that “achieving gender equality remains a major challenge for the labor movement in the world because securing sustainable and equitable recovery and a fair globalization demand gender-aware responses.” Somavia made the statement while reacting to ILO’s latest report which disclosed that both women and men continue to feel the impact of the economic crisis, with the global unemployment rate for men standing at 6 percent in 2010 and at 6.5 percent for women.

Afghan women demonstrate for equal rights, photo courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk

In some countries IWD is designated as a national holiday - Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia

In Armenia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, IWD celebrations were abandoned. Instead, April 7 was introduced as a state holiday for “Beauty and Motherhood”. The new holiday immediately became popular among Armenians, as it commemorates one of the main holidays of the Armenian Church, the Annunciation.

To celebrate IWD, Italian men give yellow mimosas to women. Yellow mimosas and chocolates are also among the most common March 8 presents in Russia and Albania. The mimosa’s bright yellow is seen as a symbol of vitality, joy, wisdom and warmth.

In Pakistan, working women celebrate IWD to commemorate their ongoing struggle for due rights, despite facing many cultural and religious restrictions.

In poor developing countries, especially is where we most often see gender inequality and abuses facing women daily.

photo courtesy of listgalorNicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn expose major abuses of women in developing countries in their book Half the Sky. They tell stories of women being victimized by their government, by their communities, by relatives, strangers until there is no where left to turn. However, what is inspiring about this book is that women who survived became business owners, activists, community organizers teachers, teachers, surgeons, and mothers who could show their children an example of a strong, valuable woman who is making a living, participating in household decisions, and respected by her husband and community.

60 percent of the worlds one billion poorest people are female; women work two-thirds of working hours but earn only 10 percent of the income.

Dr. Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE, a humanitarian organization working to end global poverty points out that “women and girls bear the brunt of poverty and it is clear that women are our greatest hope for ending it.”

Gayle goes on to say that “for every year of education that a woman can have, she is more likely to have good health, to give birth to a child who survives and to send that child to school.”

Many organizations, such as the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect, Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 women and Exxon Mobil’s Women’s Economic Opportunity and more believe that investing early in a girl’s life, before she becomes a woman, only amplifies the potential of what she can do in life and yields a greater return for everyone around her. 

- HUMNews Staff 


Adolescents Neglected and Vulnerable Group - UNICEF (Report)

(HN, February 25, 2011) - While the world has seen impressive gains for young children, there have been too few gains in areas critically affecting adolescents.'The State of the World's Children 2011,' which is dedicated to investing in the development of adolescents to help break the cycles of poverty and inequity

More than seventy million adolescents of lower secondary age are currently out of school, and on a global level girls still lag behind boys in secondary school participation.

The findings are contained in the State of the World's Children Report (SOWC) - the flagship publication of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) released today. There are currently 1.2-billion adolescents - which the UN defines as anyone 10-19 years old - in the world today, and most are in Africa.

The demographic group has become much more visible due to the "youth bulge" in most regions - especially the Middle East and North Africa. Many find that by the time they reach working age, there are no jobs or few opportunities for waiting for them.

In fact, the continent has the largest proportion of children, adolescents and young people in the world. Almost half its population is younger than 18 years and almost two-thirds are younger than 25 years.

In Nairobi, UNICEF's regional director for eastern and southern Africa, Elhadj As Sy, said: "As the gap between rich and poor, men and women, urban and rural keeps widening, and inequality generates a 'nothing to lose' generation, paying more attention to adolescents and young people is especially critical for the African nations. ."

The report argues that without education, adolescents cannot develop the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the risks of exploitation, abuse and violence that are at height during the second decade of life.

In Brazil for example, UNICEF says the lives of 26,000 children under one were saved between 1998 and 2008, leading to a sharp decrease in infant mortality. In the same decade 81,000 Brazilian adolescents aged 15-19 were murdered.

“We need to focus more attention now on reaching adolescents -- especially adolescent girls -- investing in education, health and other measures to engage them in the process of improving their own lives," said UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake.

The vast majority of today’s adolescents (88 per cent) live in developing countries. Many face a unique set of challenges. Although adolescents around the world are generally healthier today than in the past, many  health risks remain significant, including injuries, eating disorders, substance abuse and mental health issues; it is estimated that around 1 in every 5 adolescents suffers from a mental health or behavioural problem, according to the SOWC.

With 81 million young people out of work globally in 2009, youth unemployment remains a concern in almost every country. An increasingly technological labour market requires skills that many young people do not possess. This not only results in a waste of young people’s talents, but also in a lost opportunity for the communities in which they live, UNICEF says. In many countries large teenage populations are a unique demographic asset that is often overlooked. By investing in adolescent education and training, countries can reap a large and productive workforce, contributing significantly to the growth of national economies.

Adolescents face numerous global challenges both today and in the future, among them the current bout of economic turmoil, climate change and environmental degradation, explosive urbanization and migration, aging societies, the rising costs of healthcare, and escalating humanitarian crises.

“Adolescence is a pivot point – an opportunity to consolidate the gains we have made in early childhood or risk seeing those gains wiped out,” said Lake.

The choice of adolescents for this year's SOWC is a departue from UNICEF's long-standing focus on child survival - child and maternal health. UNICEF argues impressive gains have been made in that phase of the life cycle. UNICEF says there has been a 33% drop in the global under-five mortality rate.

"This shows that many more young lives have been saved, in most of the world ‘s regions girls are almost as likely as boys to go to primary school, and millions of children now benefit from improved access to safe water and critical medicines such as routine vaccinations."

Adolescents face numerous global challenges both today and in the future, UNICEF says, among them the current bout of economic turmoil, climate change and environmental degradation, explosive urbanization and migration, aging societies, the rising costs of healthcare, and escalating humanitarian crises.

To enable adolescents to effectively deal with these challenges, targeted investments in the following key areas are necessary:

  • Improving data collection to increase the understanding of adolescents’ situation and meet their rights;
  • Investing in education and training so that adolescents have the means to lift themselves out of poverty and contribute to their national economies;
  • Expanding opportunities for youth to participate and voice their opinion, for example in national youth councils, youth forums, community service initiatives, online activism and other avenues which enable adolescents to make their voices heard.
  • Promoting laws, policies and programs that protect the rights of  adolescents and enable them to overcome barriers  to essential services;
  • Stepping up the fight again poverty and inequity through child sensitive programs to prevent adolescents from being prematurely catapulted into adulthood.



Eliminating poverty in Latin America one house at a time (Report) 

(HN, November 29, 2010) -- Today in Haiti there are 800 new homes that have been built since the devastating earthquake 10 months ago. All over Latin America slums are being turned into functioning communities.

The group making this all happen is Un Techo Para Mi Pais (in English ‘A Roof for My Country’)

UTPMP working in Chile (photo: UTPMP) Founded in 1997 by a group of university students in Chile who were appalled by the country’s deplorable slum conditions and were compelled to take an active role in denouncing extreme poverty, Un Techo Para Mi Pais has grown and works in 18 countries today: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

UTPMP invites the society they work in to recognize the injustices of poverty and acknowledge its responsibility to address the lack of opportunities of the most marginalized families in Latin America and the Caribbean.

UTPMP headquartered in Chile coordinates the efforts of local offices, each of which shares basic goals and methods, while adapting the project to the particular challenges of poverty in each country working with local and regional government and community leaders.

The goal is economic empowerment. The “Trojan Horse” as director of UTPMP, Marisol Alarcon calls it, are the pre-fabricated modular homes that are each built in 2 days by 8-10 volunteers.

The modular homes, which are 18m2 (3m x 6m), with wood floors and sides and a zinc roof, are a way into the slums and provide a concrete solution that allows a family to benefit from a dignified and protected living space, which also generates a sense of property and motivation for saving money. UTPMP works with other organizations, different in each country, for clean wanter and proper sanitation in the homes or in the area. Additionally, the construction process builds bonds of trust between families and volunteers. Families participate in the construction of their own homes 100 percent.

UTPMP volunteers in Brazil (photo UTPMP) Volunteers, most of which are university students are from within the country that UTPMP works in. Marisol says “the idea is that the volunteers be from the country where the poverty is around them so that they want to continue to work with these communities – we are not interested in social tourism we are interested in eliminating poverty from within the countries we work in where the people who live in the country have an invested interest in seeing the change they bring about”.

In order to do this the homes are but the first phase leading to the second which is social inclusion through the implementation of training programs led by volunteers in areas such as education, healthcare, economic development, microfinance vocational training legal aid and others. Through this settlers begin to believe in themselves and in the strength of community organization allowing them to overcome their learned helplessness and participate in formal networks and democratic space.

The final phase is for UTPMP to help families, living in slums to develop their own sustainable community, with bonds between neighbors and links to external  networks. The community then works to prioritize needs, elect representatives, and brainstorm to find solutions they need to have for their own needs.

The current construction in Haiti is the first time UTPMP has ever worked in an emergency response environment.

UTPMP in the Dominican Republic (photo: UTPMP) The biggest challenge for UTPMP, when first arriving in Haiti, was getting enough volunteers. It is very difficult to ask people to help build a house for someone else when most don’t have a home themselves says Marisol Alarcon. She adds, “Haitians are used to not having a government work for them and are used to poverty even before the earthquake so getting them to volunteer to help others was a challenge.”

At the beginning, most of the volunteers came from the Dominican Republic and surrounding Central American countries to build homes in Haiti. Recently however, more volunteers are Haitian and they are seeing the difference they are making in their own country helping their neighbors and building a community.

In remembrance of the earthquake one year ago, UTPMP will build 1000 homes from January 7-17. “We will do this with 1000 Haitians and 700 other volunteers from countries all over Latin America and the Caribbean”, Marisol says.

The funding for the homes in Haiti and for all of the 18 countries UTPMP works in are financed from partnerships with businesses, international nonprofit foundations, and individuals. Some of their most important partners are the Inter-American Development Bank/Multilateral Investment Fund, Deloitte, Banco Santander, LAN Airlines, Chevron, Arauco, Dakar, and Young & Rubicam.

-          HUMNEWS Staff


(PEACEMEAL) `Tackling World Hunger Can Be Confusing. Addressing the Problem with Small Bites Might Make it More Manageable’

--- Commentary by Cynthia Thomet

You may not have heard about an individual named David Beckmann, president of the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Bread for the World, whose focus is to urge decision makers to “end hunger at home and abroad.” I hadn’t, until he was awarded the World Food Prize at the 2010 Laureate Award Ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa.

As a 501(c)4 organization, Bread for the World is a little different from other nonprofits, because of its ability to devote its time, resources and energy not only to educating decision makers about ending hunger, but also to advocating specific policy change, or directly lobbying policy makers on this issue. Beckmann recently published a book called, Exodus from Hunger: We Are Called to Change the Politics of Hunger.

In one commentary I wrote for PeaceMeal, entitled “Billions Undernourished” was on the eve of World Food Day, and I learned a lot about what world hunger means in a nutshell: nearly one billion people in the world suffer from chronic hunger. The 1 Billion Hungry awareness campaign by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations called upon us to tap into our anger over this piece of information and do so