Information and stories about United Nations.

LandandWater Grabbing

It is assumed that the already existing gap between developed and developing nations is large and apparent enough that wealthier nations would try and fill this gap and bring these opposite ends closer together.

According to an ABC Environmental article however, wealthy nations are instead competing over ‘land’ and ‘water grabbing’ to appease their growing populations and the “stressed” supply of basic necessities such as food and water. Investors in foreign land, or better yet, the land-grabbers, are countries and investment firms from bio-fuel producers to large-scale farming operations (agricultural investors).

Since the year 2000, the major countries that have contributed to this land purchasing are the U.S., Malaysia, the U.K., China, and the U.A.E. Experts aren’t sure of these investors’ motives but it is clear that they are only focusing on buying land where there is clear access to water.

‘Land grabbing’ is defined by Paolo D’Odorico, a professor at the University of Virginia, as “a deal for about two km2 or more that converts an environmentally important area currently used by local people to commercial production.” According to an environmental study, 454 billion cubic meters sums up the ‘water-grabbing’ per year by corporations on a global scale, which is about 5% of the world’s annual water consumption. According to the public database Land Matrix, “1,217 deals have taken place, which transferred over 830,000 square kilometers of land” since the year 2000, with 62% of such deals happening in Africa alone.

From 2005 to 2009, during a major food price crisis, land purchases, which fall under a very low level of regulation, skyrocketed. In 2011, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N.  released guidelines that advises investors to consider the people and communities whose land is being used. However, such guidelines are viewed as humanitarian concerns and have little enforcement, meaning that they aren’t strict enough to have corporations and investors abide by them or even care for them.

Governments who are interested in and have been leasing and selling land to foreign countries and investors are mainly those in Eastern Africa and Southeast Asia. They are interested in these sales because they want to modernize their farming, and believe this is the way to do it. However, the reality is that the resulting development from such ‘land and water grabbing’ depends on the investors’ terms and conditions, as well as their sense of morality.

The main problem is that the majority of these sales are happening in poor countries in which there are high rates of hunger and where resources valuable to the local populations are being purchased by wealthier developed nations or even by private corporations. The main question of the matter is this: Who is benefiting from land and water grabbing? Are these sales helping the local people since it is their land? Or are these purchases only concerned about foreign benefits and the population concerns of developed nations?

– Leen Abdallah

Source: ABC
Photo: Water Governance

Kim_Jong_Il_North_Korea_poverty
Earlier this week, North Korea set off their latest nuclear test, defying United Nations resolutions in a move President Obama called “highly provocative” as he promised swift action from international allies and the UN Security Council. The latest nuclear test was the country’s most powerful to date, and was North Korea’s response to “American hostility” which was quickly condemned by the international community, including the country’s only ally, China.

North Korea is one of the most poverty-stricken nations in the world, with ongoing drought and famine plaguing its population of nearly 24.5 million. The communist regime has continued to build up a large military and allocated resources to further its nuclear program – with attempts at showing military power including launching ballistic missiles, sending satellites into space, and two prior nuclear tests. Marcus Noland, with the Peterson Institute for International Economics concludes that, “the development of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems is the central political goal of this regime.”

Famous for its secretive and oppressive government and numerous human rights offenses, it is estimated that nearly 2.5 million citizens have died since the continuous famine starting in the 1990s. Rural communities are still plagued by starvation and a serious food shortage – conditions which the government continually down-plays to international agencies. Andrew Natsios, author of The Great North Korean Famine, states “the quid pro quo of food aid for scaling back the nuclear program has become a pattern in the authoritarian state, which then reneges on the deal.” Natsios also asserts that the current food shortage and severe poverty is affecting an entire generation of North Koreans, with no end in sight. Citing evidence of severe malnutrition, the average North Korean soldier is 10 inches shorter than his South Korean counterpart.

Despite the deplorable conditions, North Korea has continued to aggressively increase military and nuclear programs, having the “third-largest land army in Asia,” while an estimated 8.7 million people remain destitute and in need of food-aid.

The United States and other international powers are encouraging new sanctions at the U.N. Security Council that will slow North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile development, but the consequences of North Korea’s defiance of UN resolutions and defiance of its usual Chinese allies for much-needed food-aid are still unclear.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: CBC News; US News

 

 

mozambique flood
Heavy rains last month have caused a destructive flood in the southern part of Mozambique. Forecast predicts more heavy rain and a high risk of continued flooding. On February 11, the UN emergency humanitarian fund has allocated $5 million to distribute life-saving resources and assistance to over 150,000 people displaced by the flood.

The flood during this rainy season has killed 150 people and destroyed hundreds of homes and crops. The funds from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), managed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), will be used to provide essentials such as food and shelter, medical care, and water and sanitation.

The large scale of the disaster calls for more aid and funding, however. OCHA has announced that $10 million has been allocated for the emergency in a news release. For now, $2.3 million will be distributed to the World Food Program, over $1 million to UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration, and $820,000 to a joint UNICEF/UN Population Fund/WHO project.

This allocation is only the first step. CERF aim to solicit $30.6 million from the international community to continue the flood relief efforts, ensuring a quick recovery.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: UN
Photo: Business Recorder

agroforestry- big
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has presented a new guide for governments and NGOs to promote agroforestry, a farming practice that benefits both the farmers and the environment, ensuring food security in a sustainable way. Agroforestry involves planting trees with crop or livestock rearing, integrating agricultural and forestry technologies, which results in a more effective and sustainable use of land.

The FAO has suggested that agroforestry could alleviate poverty, and urges countries to promote this practice. The nature of agroforestry requires coordination between various government sectors from development to agriculture and forestry. Because of the complex nature of methods of this practice, policies and legal constraints often inhibit it. In its guide, the FAO illustrates how agroforestry can be incorporated into policies, accommodating various specific environments.

The FAO guide advocates for raising awareness of the benefits of agroforestry, creating incentives, and reforming regulations that restrict or impede the practice. Using Costa Rica as an example of a success story, the FAO guide reveals how the country has planted more than 3.5 million trees on farms in less than a decade.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: UN
Photo: World Agroforestry

malala-fund-created-to-support-girls-education
In October 2012, the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old girl, for speaking up about women’s rights and education. She survived the brutal attempt on her life and in response, became determined to help every child in the world receive an education. To help make this dream a reality, she started the Malala Fund.

The Malala Fund was created with the help of an already established non-profit, Vital Voices, which encourages women’s empowerment and leadership. The Malala Fund’s aim is to support education for children across the globe.

Since the attempt on her life, much of the world has stood up in support of Malala. She even had a song titled Ricochet (Malala’s Song) written about her by a girl named Samantha Anne Martin; all of the profit created from the song on iTunes will go towards the Malala Fund. On February 4th, Malala released a video stating that she was still alive and doing well after various surgeries, and that now she will dedicate her life to serving girls across the world who need her and need help attaining an education.

Malala’s father has told ABC that he believes his daughter should serve as an inspiration to the children of the world. Perhaps he is right, because despite the fact she almost died for supporting the right woman to receive an education, she has become even more committed to the cause following her recovery.

Two important organizations, The United Nations Foundation and Girl Up, have given their support to the Malala Fund and her cause. Some militants still wish to harm Malala but nonetheless, Malala has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and remains optimistic.

To donate to the Malala Fund, see the Democracy in Action webpage.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: ABC News, Vital Voices, New York Times
Photo: The Daily Beast

Displaced-Congo

On Wednesday, U.N. officials and diplomats reported that a peace deal could be signed this month and end two decades of conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The resurging violence in the Congo has forced communities from Rwanda and Uganda to periodically relocate for nearly 20 years. Last May, Red Cross Workers registered close to 3,000 displaced people in one week.

A lasting peace deal between the Congolese government and the rebels would save these communities from further displacement.

African leaders did not sign the deal last week because of a dispute over the command of a newly created regional force that will fight armed groups operating in the eastern Congo.

Herve Ladsous, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said the brigade would be under the same command as the regular United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission’s (MONUSCO) troops. The regular MONUSCO troops conduct patrols and support the Congolese security forces

South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique; 3 out of 15 member states in the South African Development Community (SADC), argue the enforcement brigade should have its own command separate from MONUSCO. The diplomats of these three countries note the failure of MONUSCO’s current command in the 11 day occupation of the eastern city Goma by M23 rebels.

Ladsous said on Tuesday that all key countries seem ready to sign the deal. He did not state when or where it would be finalized, though discussions have considered mid-February in Africa. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may be present.

If approved by the U.N. Security Council, the deal would include a three-pronged mandate to prevent the growth of armed groups in the eastern Congo and to disarm them.  Unmanned surveillance drones would also track armed militias that are difficult to detect.

U.N. officials said that the creation of an enforcement brigade and the drones within a peacekeeping mission is new for the United Nations. But, U.N. officials insist that an increase in U.N. military activity is not enough to end the fighting without a signed peace agreement between Kinshasa and its neighbors in eastern Congo.

Promisingly, the Congolese government has been negotiating with the M23 rebels, and last week the rebels said they wanted to sign a peace deal with Kinshasa by the end of February.

Kasey Beduhn

Sources: Reuters, allAfrica
Photo: Press TV

Cabs for Women by Women

As the recent rape and death of a young medical student in India has highlighted, the state of the safety and public health of women in the country are tenuous at best.  While there are a minority of women who can afford to have their own cars, usually with chauffeurs to drive them, most Indian women who live in the nation’s capital of New Delhi are subject to the public transportation system of the city, which is comprised of an army of rickshaws, taxis, buses, and trains, none of which can protect them from the harassment from or assaults by disrespectful men.

However, a local non-profit called Sakha Consulting Wing is trying to counter this particular hardship that Indian women face by creating a taxi service that is completely catered to and serviced by women called Cabs for Women by Women. The program has existed since before the December rape but following the event, the service’s business has greatly increased as more women fear for their safety in public.

“Women who used other cab services are also turning to us,” driver Shanti Sharma tells Rhitu Chatterjee of PRI’s The World.

Composed of eight women drivers and seven taxis, the service acts not only as protection for its customers but as empowerment for its drivers.

“Ever since I started doing this job, I feel like I’ve reached my destination. I don’t want to change jobs anymore,” says Shanti.

Well-paid, this is the first time that Shanti, a single parent, has enough regular income to support her three children, and she is proud of that.

Life for female cabbies in New Delhi is still not a walk in the park though. Ridiculously outnumbered by male counterparts and mostly male drivers on the road in general, Shanti has experienced harassment while doing her job in the form of feeling alienated by other cab drivers in the city and having strangers dangerously cut her off and honk at her.

According to Shanti, “The only way to change the attitude of the men…is to have more women driving.”

While this is not untrue, the harassment of Indian women throughout the country is a systemic issue that will take broad strokes against the patriarchy, so firmly entrenched in much of Indian society, to end. This is the situation that women face not only in India but in much of the world today.

As the 2015 deadline to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals looms closer, with less than 1000 days to go, notes United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the African Union Summit, one can only hope that the goal of achieving global gender equality will one day be met.

As they say: the sooner, the better.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The World , UN
Photo: The Huffington Post

UN High Level Panel On Post 2015 Development Agenda_opt (3)
Last Friday, a high-level United Nations panel met in Liberia to discuss the UN Millennium Development Goals, one of the few successful international efforts aimed at addressing poverty, beyond 2015. Co-chaired by President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, the panel made up of 27 world leaders is part of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s post-2015 initiative to discuss international development targets and advise on how to focus the international community’s efforts to end extreme poverty.

Started in 2002, the eight Millennium Development Goals of the UN Millennium Campaign are: End Poverty and Hunger, Universal Education, Gender Equality, Child Health, Maternal Health, Combat HIV/AIDS, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Partnership.

The objective of last Friday’s discussion was to renew, replace and replenish these goals and their sub-targets.  Present at the conference was Save the Children advocate Brendan Cox who commented that the members of the panel mostly differ on the foci of the new framework. “In our view, the framework can do lots of things: advance debates, encourage a normative shift, start to redefine development – but at its core must be abolishing absolute poverty in all its forms. That’s both because we think ending absolute poverty and focusing on the world’s poorest people is the most important thing, but also because we’re worried that without clear prioritization the panel and the ultimate framework will flounder, be unable to prioritize and unable to get specific. Such a framework would remain at 30,000 feet and struggle to gain political purchase if it could even be agreed.”

Prior to attending the panel, Prime Minister Cameron along with President Sirleaf visited a local school in need of books and computers. Cameron asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up, to which many answered doctors and lawyers. “That is very impressive. In my country, they all want to be footballers or pop stars,” joked Cameron. Cameron made mention that he hopes to include higher quality education to be included in the world poverty goals.

Cameron has also emphasized the need to focus on extreme rather than relative poverty. “Liberia is a country that was absolutely devastated by conflict and civil war,” he said. “It is now recovering but there is still desperate poverty. I think it is very important we keep a focus on eradicating extreme poverty.

“Here in Liberia, one in 10 children do not make it to the age of five. But I also think it is important we look at those things that keep countries poor. Conflict, corruption, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law. These things matter, as well as money,” he said.

Key documents, reports and ongoing research on the post-2015 agenda are available on post-2015.org.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Post2015UNUN Millennium GoalsThe GuardianThe Guardian
Photo:DFID

 

David Cameron

At the African Union Summit, British Prime Minister and Chairman of the G8, David Cameron re-asserted his conviction today to end extreme poverty. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian notes Cameron’s emphasis on “responsible capitalism” and accountability, the latter to which Cameron cited there will be “an accountability report when the G8 meets in Northern Ireland in June”.

Accountability seems to be a buzzword in recent politics as the pressure mounts for the United Nations to succeed in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, set to expire in 2015. The time is coming for individual nations to own up to the promises they had made to succeed these goals in 2010.

The Guardian reports that Cameron promises to pressure western countries that have been less proactive on their aid pledges. The news source contends, “Britain has maintained its pledge to ringfence 0.7% of its gross domestic product for aid, something which has been fiercely opposed by some in Cameron’s party.”

This percentage yields a large impact and is a higher percentage of gross domestic product than what the United States has contributed, which was reported to only contribute 0.19% of its gross domestic product in 2010. Although the size of the American economy is much bigger than that of most nations, the country may be held accountable for its false promises. In the past few years, the allocation of funding for foreign aid in the U.S. Budget has decreased because politicians seek to assuage the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post
Photo: The Muslim Weekly

michael-kors-joins-the-united-nations-to-end-world-hunger
Michael Kors joins the United Nations‘ initiative to try and end world hunger. Michael Kors recently launched a PSA, or a public service announcement, stating he would raise awareness and money for the United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP). Together, Michael Kors and the United Nations are committed to a long-term campaign to attain the goal of a hunger-free world. Michael Kors has promised to take a large part in various awareness-raising events, as well as separate events to engage in fundraising for the United Nation’s program.

The United Nation’s World Food Program aims to primarily help mothers and children in need, and to help provide sustenance and other assistance when needed. The first initiative planned, as Michael Kors joins the United Nations’ goal of ending world hunger, is focused on a pair of unisex watches. Kors recently announced the launch of a new product, the two watches, with the slogan “Watch Hunger Stop.” Through this program, every single watch sold will help feed 100 children.

Kors commented, “I am so proud to be joining the World Food Programme in one of the greatest global fights of our time – the battle to end hunger.” His words reflect his excitement to be a part of the initiative. As Michael Kors joins the United Nations’ battle against world hunger, and he will certainly do his best to make it happen. WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin made a similar comment reflecting the company’s excitement to have Michael Kors aboard. Although the global fashion community is not the most obvious audience of the world hunger campaign, reaching so many people will certainly help the cause tremendously.

To watch Kors’ official PSA, look here.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: World Food Programme, WFP News
Photo Source: Haute Living