Violence and Corruption in Mexico and Colombia

main-bannerCreator: Karcz, Jessica
Type: Thesis

Advisor: Inman, Molly


Latin America is a region that has gone through and is still going through a lot of violent conflict. Both Mexico and Colombia have several similarities that stem from grand corruption. This vast systemic grand corruption is evidenced by the use of state violence, including massacres, other human rights violations, structural violence, the repression of the media, the repression of minorities, controversial land acquisitions, and the collusion of organized crime and the state, leading to state capture. The high levels of impunity, weak structures, and weak judicial systems have contributed to the continuation of systemic corruption and state violence. The research below explores the causal link between grand corruption, state capture, and state terror. It also explores the role of weak institutions, structural violence, and other factors that play an important role in 4 diverse case studies of state capture and state terror both in Mexico and Colombia.


Publication: Georgetown University

Date: May 2017

Dangers rise for DRC refugees and Internally Displaced People

Photo credit: Oxfam International/Eddy Mbuyi
A woman gets water for her daughter in the Muguanga 1 camp near Goma Photo credit: Oxfam International/Eddy Mbuyi

UNITED NATIONS, MediaGlobal News—As violence intensifies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) increases by the minute, leaving women and children exposed to greater insecurity. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) led a Rapid Response to Movements of Population Program (RRMP)delivering 3.5 tons of medical and nutritional supplies to displaced Congolese last week.

Over 50,000 Congolese sought refugee in Uganda in July and over 1,500 fled to Burundi during the past 12 days, stated the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). There are approximately 447,493 Congolese refugees in nine neighboring states including Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi, which holds the largest amount of refugees, and are giving asylum to more Congolese civilians than they can handle further straining limited resources and infrastructure.

“We are already facing huge challenges to respond to the needs of the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, who are currently living in camps, spontaneous sites, as well as with host families,” says Fafa Olivier Attidzah, Chief Sub Delegation UNHCR Goma, to MediaGlobal News.

According to Attidzah, there are currently over 2.6 million IDPs in the DRC, including an estimated 975,473 individuals (representing 93,499 households) in North Kivu Province alone, over one-third of all IDPs in the country.

Hope is scarce as the violence and struggles in the DRC are not only ongoing, but getting worse. On August 22, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Panieri visited the DRC for seven days and concluded that fighting impunity and strengthening human rights are essential for the stabilization of the DRC.

Challiss McDonough, Senior Regional Spokeswoman for the World Food Program (WFP), explains to MediaGlobal News how the WFP provides monthly food rations to registered refugees living in camps, settlements, and even with host families: “As the local conditions and needs differ from place to place, and thus our response will vary depending on those local circumstances.”

Depending on the conditions of the area, the rations might be replaced with vouchers or cash with which the refugees may purchase goods of their preference in local markets. In cases like Uganda where refugees are given plots of land to farm in, the WFP aids them until they can support themselves.

“In other places, where refugees live in camps or settlements with limited livelihood options, where WFP assistance is their only source of food,” McDonough tells MediaGlobal News, “WFP endeavors to provide approximately 2,200 calories per day in the form of food rations or equivalent vouchers or cash.”

An internally displaced child waits in Kanyaruchinya camp near Goma, eastern DRC. Photo credit: Oxfam International/Colin Delfosse Other types of aid given to IDPs include shelters (if living in camps), as well as basic relief items like sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets, jerrycans, and soap. “Health centers have also been set up in IDP camps,” adds Attidzah.

Attidzah also expressed concern about the ongoing fighting between the DRC armed forces (FADRC) and the M23 rebel movement. If the situation deteriorates further, he warns of more population displacements to come.

“If the numbers continue to increase, it will be more difficult, especially given the fact that access remains a challenge in many areas under the control of the various armed groups operating in the Eastern DRC,” Attidzah tells MediaGlobal News.

During the weekend of August 23, fighting between FARDC and M23 killed civilians in Ndosho, home to 150,000 IDPs. Three civilians were also killed and five wounded when a shell landed close to Mugunga 3 camp in Goma, home to 10,000 IDPs, according to UN News Centre.

“When artillery is launched blindly into populations, no shelter can be safe,” says Inah Kaloga, UNICEF Protection/GBV Specialist in Goma, to MediaGlobal News.

Attidzah describes the landing of a couple of shells close to the Mugunga 3 camp to MediaGlobal News: “The IDPs in the camps, as well as the civilian population in the neighborhood were extremely worried and scared, especially given the fact that some civilians have been killed and others wounded by the rockets which landed in some neighborhoods of Goma.”

The Sub Delegation UNHCR Goma expressed to MediaGlobal News how they condemn the killing of civilians during fighting and recent shelling in and around Goma: “We remind all parties to the conflict that deliberate attacks against civilians are war crimes. Civilians must not be targeted.”

The increasing violence is not only affecting civilians, but Farhan Haq Associate Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, announced that one UN peacekeeper has been killed while three others have been wounded.

Women and children are more vulnerable to the violence. According to UNHCR, Eastern DRC is “one of the most dangerous places in Africa, particularly for women.” Congolese women suffer from astonishing levels of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) including “high levels of sexual violence, perpetrated both by non state armed groups and the Congolese army,” explains a Refugees International (RI) Field Report.

The RI report also emphasized the importance of camps on meeting the minimum standards for protecting women and children. Factors making women even more vulnerable to SGBV include insecure shelters (where a perpetrator can easily get in), communal shelters (housing single men and women together), and bad site planning and lack of funding in official camps and spontaneous sites. Women are forced to walk long distances to gather firewood (in order to cook meals or generate income) in unsafe territories where they “risk rape, assault, and exploitation to ensure their family’s survival,” states the RI Field Report. Approximately 50 rapes are reported in camps near Goma each month.

In the first half of 2013, 10,879 survivors of sexual violence received psychosocial support including 4,507 children, while 7,594 survivors received medical care including 2,717 children, according to UNICEF’s DRC Mid-Year Report, released in June.

UNCHR is helping prevent SGBV by “assisting women in terms of income generating activities and fuel efficient stoves,” Attidzah says to MediaGlobal News. UNHCR also coordinates the Working Group on Prevention and Protection against SGBV as part of the national strategy to combat sexual violence.

Original Publication: MediaGlobal News

Second Publication: allAfrica

MG interview with Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN: Agreeing on Security Council reform

MediaGlobal Correspondent Jessica Karcz interviews Pakistan Ambassador Masood Khan

Photographs and videography by Ang Chen

Security Council reform has been a controversial issue for several decades. It currently consists of five permanent members (P5) with veto power (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States), and 10 non-permanent members with no veto-power who serve for a two-year term.  General Assembly President John W. Ashe calls on the need to advance reform and created an advisory group on November. All P5 members agree on expanding the Council and giving representation to developing countries, although the way of doing it is  still undefined. Here are Pakistan’s views.

Jessica Karcz:  What do you think of the current Security Council structure and its five permanent members?

Ambassador Khan: Well we accept the Security Council as it is. In fact, Pakistan has been a member of the council for the past two years and we have served in the council as a non-permanent member. This has been a very productive experience, we have contributed substantively to the work of the council, and we have worked with the P5, but when you raise the question of reform of the Security Council, it is a different matter.

Q: What does Pakistan think of Security Council reform?

A: As you know the seats were created in the immediate after math of the 1945 war of last century. Things have changed since then, and

Ambassador Masood Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN. Photo credit: MediaGlobal News/Ang Chen
Ambassador Masood Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN. Photo credit: MediaGlobal News/Ang Chen

in the recent past some states have claimed their right to be recognizes as permanent members, but we are against this. We are against the creation of new permanent seats, and this is a principle stand that we have taken. We think that if you want to democratize the UN, if you want to widen representation of the UN, it should not be limited to a few members of the UN family. You should try to address the concerns of all states, whether they are small, medium sized, or large states, so that you have an aggregation and reflection of their interest. At the same time when you make an increase on the seats of the Security Council, you have to have a balance. This council should be small enough to be efficient and effective, and large enough to be representative. When we say that we are against permanent seats, we have taken note of the position that has been taken by the African group, because they have demand seats for the entire continent, not just for individual countries. This is a consensus-based demand that they have made on behalf of their continent and we are ready to negotiate with them.

Q: What does Pakistan believe is the best way to move forward?

A: Pakistan is a member of the Uniting for consensus group and we believe that the best way to move forward is to create an intermediate category. An intermediate category means that you can still increase the non-permanent members of the Security Council, but you can give longer-term seats to non-permanent members. For instances you can give a non-permanent seat for 5 years, or normally when a member is elected according to the prevailing system now, you finish the term in 2 years. We have suggested that another solution could be that they could be re-elected for two consecutive terms and that would make their term 6 years. These would not be permanent seats but at least they would be long-term seats

Q: If there were to be a re-election then would there be more than ten non-permanent members? Or what would happen if the ten got re-elected?

A:  I haven’t talked about the size of the council. We have some suggestions and we are ready to share them.

Q: Can you please?

A: Well I would not like to go into that right now.

Published in: MediaGlobal

La travesía hacia mis sueños

¿Que pasa cuando llegas al lugar que siempre soñaste y solo tienes 23 años? Estoy trabajando en el lugar de mis sueños en las Naciones Unidas en Nueva York. Todos los días voy a juntas de primer nivel con embajadores, presidentes, diplomáticos y el Secretario General, pero más importante estoy en donde las decisiones más importantes del mundo suceden. Desde el Consejo de Seguridad hasta la Asamblea General, me ha tocado estar presente en momentos históricos. Fui testigo  de la votación de los miembros del Consejo de Seguridad cuando pasaron la resolución de la disolución de armas químicas en Siria, al igual que la resolución de tráfico ilícito de armas pequeñas y ligeras.  Estuve presente cuando la embajadora de los Estados Unidos primero anunció la presencia militar en la República Centroafricana. He sido testigo de como se escribe la historia y el arte de la diplomacia en su cúspide, previniendo guerras, tratando de solucionar los retos más grandes del milenio y los retos que siguen como la erradicación de pobreza extrema en el 2030.

Artículo completo y publicación en: BCM Woman


A “crisis around the corner”: Climate change’s devastating impact on Pakistan

MediaGlobal Correspondent Jessica Karcz interviews Pakistan Ambassador Masood Khan

Photographs and videography by Ang Chen

The world is suffering from many side effects of climate change including floods, droughts, sea level rise, glacial retreats, extreme weather events, and higher temperatures. Pakistan Ambassador Masood Khan has worked to strengthen efforts in combating climate change. He co-chaired a meeting on the “Security Dimension of Climate Change” last February, where he calls for “action to guard our ecosystem, to save our infrastructure, and to ensure that food, water and land remain available.”

Jessica Karcz: Ambassador Khan, Pakistan’s dry climate, mountainous terrain, and substantial population growth there has put a pressure on limited resources. Can you elaborate on the current situation and the impact on the Indus River Basin?

Ambassador Khan: Climate change is a big challenge for the entire world and it is for Pakistan. Ecosystems are much more fragile because of climate change and it has impacted Pakistan also. We had a massive earthquake in 2005, we had floods in 2010 and 2011. We are worried about it. Our planning is now moving beyond disaster management because we have to factor in long term considerations and policy options and that is precisely what we are doing. In fact we are focusing on preventing disasters. Climate change has impacted agriculture. We do not have droughts, but floods cause havoc every year.

Q: What measures are you taking towards adaptation?

A: We have to take measures to make our economy much more resilient, but these are partial measures. This is a global problem and we need to take global measures. Climate impact does not spare a developed or developing country. Last year, the United States was hit by Sandy, this year the Philippines was hit by Haiyan Typhoon. I believe that while we will work on the national level, we also need an international strategy. There is one within the context of the United Nations after Rio + 20 to address two issues: poverty alleviation and a focus on sustainable development.

Q: The Pakistan government has a 0.04% budget that goes to environmental protection and the rest from developed countries who provide most of the environmental protection funds. This limits the government’s ability to enforce environmental regulations and private industries often lack funds to meet environmental standards. What is Pakistan’s position on this? Is the budget going to increase?

A: Our budgetary allocation is inadequate even if it is supplemented by international sources. Domestic allocation of resources is required and the government has focused on that, but I would say that in Pakistan our biggest challenge is raising awareness. We have to make people aware and this includes all segments of society. That includes decision makers, civil society, and ordinary citizens. They have to become aware of what difficulties or challenges lie ahead and how we should strategize to avert the crisis that is round the corner if we do not take immediate measures. We have some agencies in Pakistan as also institutions in the federal level and ministries at the provincial level. Then we have disaster management authority and it has its representation in the provinces. It has an elaborate framework and they are doing well. I think the climate change issue has to move up on the agenda of leadership; it needs the attentions of the prime minister, of the cabinet, of all the political parties that are represented in parliament. We need to mobilize resources. We need to enlist the support of the international community.

Q: How does Pakistan plan to raise climate awareness?

Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN Ambassador Masood Khan interviewed by UNEARTH News correspondent Jessica Karcz. Photo credit: UNEARTH News/Ang Chen
Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN Ambassador Masood Khan interviewed by UNEARTH News correspondent Jessica Karcz. Photo credit: UNEARTH News/Ang Chen

A: Through the media. Pakistan has many 24/7 television channels and the radio connection is quite good all around. The government wants to raise awareness and create synergy by inviting all the stakeholders. The government recently held a big conference with all stakeholders and climate change was one of the subjects that we discussed. It is not a subject that you need to discuss, one needs to take measures, the governments need to take measures. Our ministry is planning for the next ten years, our economic policy, our social economic and environmental policy and, climate change is a key constituent of that policy.

Q: Considering the fact that agriculture accounts for more than one-fifth of Pakistan’s economic output and two-fifths of employment due to dry climate and floods you have experienced a decrease in crop yields in some parts of the country. What is Pakistan’s plan of action moving forward?

A: Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy and it is a huge chunk of our economy. It produces cash crops that we export, so it is a very important key sector in Pakistan’s economy. Yes, over the years yield has gone down, but this is not a uniform pattern because yields of many crops: cotton, wheat, rice, rapeseed oil, they have all gone up in many areas in Pakistan. We have many agricultural colleges and universities in Pakistan that do research all the time. We have plenty of water but we can’t save it during floods, we do not have reservoirs or reserves where we can contain that water. This is being contemplated very actively every year. Some catchments of water are drying up. If we focus on afforestation, we will be able to increase the number of catchments that can hold water.

In agriculture we have another challenge. This challenge is that we usually export raw materials or semi finished materials particularly in cotton, we export cotton yarn and semi finished textiles. We are now focusing on skill development and value addition, so that when these cash crops are manufactured and processed, they can bring in additional revenue. I believe that these measures will help us turn agriculture around.

Q:  Besides raising awareness what are other difficulties Pakistan is facing in order to achieve its climate change goals?

A:  I would say that our economic growth has slowed down in the past four or five years, so we have to accelerate our growth rate. If our economy bounces back, we will have more manufacturing, a more robust agriculture, and then we will have resources available for climate change adaptation as well. It basically boils down to mobilization of resources, both domestic and international. The Pakistan economy is doing well. It is forecasted that this year and the year after that, our growth will pick up momentum and we would be able to sell a high number of products in international markets. There is already macroeconomic stability but we want to make it sustainable. Despite the financial crisis, our economy has been growing, but not at the rate we would like to see it grow.

Q:  Out of all of the side effects of climate change including some we mentioned, floods and its impact on agriculture, sea level rise, glacial retreats, and higher temperatures, which one affects Pakistan the most?

A:  Disaster, national disasters. We talked about earthquakes, and there are some very volatile frontlines there, passing through our territories, and floods. Once these disasters strike, they make life miserable for all the citizens, and the entire nation suffers.

Published in: UNEarth News

Joseph Stiglitz all’ONU: sconfiggere l’estrema ineguaglianza o lo sviluppo sostenibile è un’illusione

[22 Jan 2014  | 7727 views]
Il Premio Nobel per l’Economia Jospeh Stiglitz lunedì all’Onu (Foto di Jessica Karcz)


Una parte del panel dei partecipanti alla conferenza (Foto di Jessica Karcz)


La sala dell’ECOSOC durante la conferenza (Foto di Jessica Karcz)

Published in: La Voce

UN-OHRLLS: The Commitment

The Commitment is published in cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

The Commitment 12


5For full publication click:  the commitment

Sustainable Energy in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

MediaGlobal Bureau Chief Nosh Nalavala interviews the Ambassador of Norway Geir Pedersen

There are now 1.3 billion people without access to electricity and four of five in LDCs are without access to energy, so if we want to lift the poorest out of poverty we need to address energy: Ambassador Pedersen.
Transcript and photo by Jessica Karcz.

Nosh Nalavala: Ambassador Geir Pedersen, at the conclusion of the High-Level meeting of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) last month, Prime Minister Desalegn of Ethiopia said that energy must remain at the core of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. With 1.3 billion people without access to electricity, energy issues have always been the central theme. Why is there a call now for additional efforts towards the 2015 agenda?

Ambassador Geir Pedersen: Energy is so important because it is perhaps the key if you want to solve the two really big global challenges, that is poverty and climate change. If we do energy right, we can solve both issues. If we do it wrong, we would complicate both issues. As you rightly alluded to, there are now 1.3 billion people without access to electricity and four of five in LDCs are without access to energy, so if we want to lift the poorest people out of poverty we need to address energy. We know we can do it successfully. A hundred years ago, Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe. We enabled our journey from poverty to prosperity through energy. We did it through renewable energy and hydroelectric power.

Q: What should the LDCs do to bridge this tremendous “Energy Gap”? Only 3 percent of people living in rural areas have access to cooking fuel. Is there a tangible plan to at least narrow the gap and do you think that Norway’s example can be supplanted to the LDCs, particularly in Africa?

A: Yes, there are many ways you can learn from each other. I am sure that countries can learn from the Norwegian experience, but perhaps even more important is to have an exchange of experiences from countries in the South, that you can learn from each other. What we learned are a couple of things: the important thing was to have a regulatory system that was good, that you have a transparent political system, and that you were able to take in foreign knowledge and foreign capital. We needed foreign experts, but we made sure that we learned how to do it ourselves so that we could take over and be in control of the expertise, the knowledge, the capital, and then also the development of hydropower that was such a huge success for us.


Q: For achieving the goal of providing sustainable energy for all, energy must be fully integrated into the Post-2015 Development Agenda. How will the developed countries assist in rooting it in the Agenda? Has Norway fielded any tangible initiatives?

A: First of all we are one of the strongest supporters of the Secretary-General’s (SG) initiative “Sustainable Energy for All” and then we have also launched a few others, particularly initiatives like “Energy Plus”, which is a partnership between donors and LDCs where we try to make sure there is sufficient funding based on delivering the results. Both the Sustainable Energy initiative by the SG and the Energy Plus indicate two important things. We need advocacy and we need someone to take the lead to put this in the agenda, and I think we have succeeded in doing that. And then of course is the question of policy, to get the framework right, and thirdly is the question of funding. We are contributing on all of these issues.

Q: Efforts are now being made to develop and establish a common global goal on energy as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Could you please explain what this common goal is and how it would be implemented?

A: This is a very good question. It is still in the early stages, but I think what we have seen now is that there is an agreement by many key actors that energy was the missing MDG and we can’t let that happen in the SDGs. I think there is more and more agreement on that. We know what the overall goal can be, but what we also need is to make sure this is a cross cutting target, that it actually goes into the health sector, which we believe is also crucial, and maybe also other areas where it can be an important factor in having success in fighting poverty and climate change.

Q: The three objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative includes universal energy access, increased efficiency, and renewable energy. A fourth Global Tracking Framework has been suggested. Could you please explain what that means and how it will impact at regional, national, and local levels?

A: I think we still keep the three core elements; access, renewable energy, and more efficient use of energy. That is the key of the initiative, but then we need to see that things are being implemented, and this is the monitoring mechanism that will enable us to follow up.

Q: And who will monitor it?

A: This is an initiative through the World Bank, so that would have to be further developed.

Q: Ambassador, do you foresee in the Post-2015 Development agenda, the MDGs being replaced by the SDGs?

A: I think the MDGs have been a huge success because we have already achieved the reduction of poverty, but then there are all the areas where we have not been successful.

Q:  In Sub-Saharan Africa and Sahel region . . .

A: Exactly, so there is still a lot that needs to be done. We have to make sure that we accelerate the efforts onto 2015, with the MDGs and not lose the focus on what we need to do, and while we are doing that we should plan for a good transition. We take care of the MDGs, so that they are continued in the SDGs, but the important thing with the SDGs is that they are global.

Q: So when we talk about SDGs it sounds very much that the focus is on energy, environment, and climate change. Do you agree with this?

A: What you mention is correct, but it is also economic development and social development. We need to make sure that it is all these three aspects together, because without these three aspects together we won’t be able to achieve what we want, both to fight poverty and achieve climate change.

Q: There are a number of common challenges, such as increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy mix, improving efficiency and focusing on funding for energy that need to be addressed effectively. All these issues were discussed at the High-Level meeting last month. What was the outcome in terms of solutions?

A: The initiative was to make sure it is a success for the SDGs and also to be a support to the initiative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable energy for all. Here what we need is to work in the partner countries. There are 60 or 70 countries that are already lined up and working on this. We need to make sure that things are happening on the ground when it comes to policy framework, regulatory framework, and that we have the funding. The big challenge is twofold — we need public funding but we need also private funding.

Q: And who is monitoring the fund?

A: This will have to be a joint effort and this is still in the early stages and what you also have to look at is what is happening in the climate discussions, in Warsaw, Peru, and then in Paris.

Q: Is this fund different from the Climate Fund?

A: Yes, but what you need to do is mobilize business. There needs to be an interest from the business community. They have to see that this is of interest to them, like what happened in Norway more than one hundred years ago. Business came in and they understood they could make money. This served both the business community and the interest of the Norwegian people. It is this sort of synergy that we would like to see in the LDCs.

Q: Public-private partnerships are an important way to overcome practical challenges and meet financing gaps, was a suggestion made by several participating members. Are the developed countries coming forward with these partnerships and how do you see climate finance managed towards the Post-2015 Agenda? As you very well know Norway was at the forefront of fulfilling the commitment both at the Brussels Program of Action and the Istanbul Program of Action, the Scandinavian countries came through in flying colors. A lot of other countries did not. How do you see this happening?

Published in: UN-OHRLLS: The Commitment (Print UN Magazine)

and online: MediaGlobal News

Education’s role in the Post-2015 Agenda

MediaGlobal Correspondent Jessica Karcz interviews Changu Mannathoko, Senior Educator Advisor at UNICEF on girls’ education, on the International Day of the Girl, October 11. Filmed and edited by Ang Chen.

UNITED NATIONS, MediaGlobal News—“Regardless of the structure the Post-2015 Agenda may take, education must claim an explicit goal,” says the UNICEF and UNESCO report Envisioning Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, released with support of the governments of Senegal, Canada, and Germany, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

There are currently over 57 million children not receiving a primary education, 32 million of them girls. This gender education gap increases in secondary school “regardless of the wealth or location of the household,” says the report. “Almost two-thirds of the world’s 775 million illiterate adultsare women.”

“One of the major benefits of educating girls is that the benefits go beyond education, they impact on the social development of societies,” says Changu Mannathoko, Senior Educator Advisor at UNICEF, to MediaGlobal News.

Education gives girls “the power to decide how to plan their future,” says Mannathoko to MediaGlobal News. Educated girls marry later in life and because “they have children in their 20s, rather then when they are 14 and 15, these children are healthier and won’t die at child birth.” They also make their children attend school and contribute to better nutrition.

In observance of the International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, UNICEF chose education as this year’s theme, and held a special event with Plan International on erasing the barriers to girls’ education where new innovative solutions were presented.

Freida Pinto, actress and Plan International global ambassador fights for girls’ education. Photo credit: MediaGlobal/Jessica Karcz
Freida Pinto, actress and Plan International global ambassador fights for girls’ education. Photo credit: MediaGlobal/Jessica Karcz

“Everybody has a right to education so now it is time to fight for the 66 million girls who are not in school and they have every right to unleash their potential and bring to this world something new, something innovative, and something progressive,” said Freida Pinto, actress and Plan International global ambassador.  Pinto grew up in Mumbai, India where she says inequalities are clearly portrayed, adding that she “had it all, great education, family support,” which is why she fights for girls’ education today.

Some of the barriers that keep girls from enrolling or force them to drop out-of-school include discriminatory gender norms and cultural practices such as child marriage and child labor, structural inequality, violence against girls, sexual violence, poverty, and sexual and reproductive health issues including teenage pregnancy.

“Research has shown the majority of girls who experienced sexual intercourse was from abuse” and they “get pregnant from adult men not boys of their age group,” Mannathoko tells MediaGlobal News.

Poor quality education is “reflected in schools not being safe for girls” where they get abused by teachers, raped, or are withdrawn from school by their parents due to a lack of safety when walking to and from school, notes Mannathoko.

“Since the environment is not safe a lot of the girls are not learning how to read and write,” she explains.  Lack of proper and secure sanitation in schools means that out of 20 days a month of classes, girls that reach puberty are forced to miss about five “and that really impacts the quality of their learning,” says Mannathoko to MediaGlobal News.

Mannathoko recommends policies implemented by governments that encourage codes of conducts in schools and protects boys from corporal punishment, and girls from rape, and psychological abuse. To eliminate gender-based violence “we need to start in the homes, work with social workers, and the community,” she adds.

Many children leave school without developing literacy, numeracy, or other relevant skills resulting in “millions of children and youth unable to advance to higher levels of education or to move on to gainful employment,” says the report.

The focus on access and completion “ignores what students actually learn,” says the report emphasizing the limited measurements on learning outcomes and how over 250 million children reaching fourth grade could be unable to read or write.

“Education remains as one of the core ‘unfinished businesses’ of the MDGs and must be prioritized in the post-2015 agenda,” says the report. The overarching goal proposed for the Post-2015 Agenda is “equitable, quality education, and lifelong learning for all” which are “key to sustainable development” and explain how this will develop the skills, knowledge, and innovations that will solve present and future political, economic, technological, health, and environmental challenges.

According to the report, education contributes to the eradication of poverty, promotion of social cohesion, good governance, participatory citizenship, improved health, and gender equality—vital skills needed in disasters, conflict, or post-conflict contexts where education remains a challenge, though education programs comprise only 2 percent of all humanitarian aid.

South and West Asia successfully “reduced out-of-school children by two-thirds between 1999-2011,” according to the report. Still disparities between regions and within countries need to be addressed in the new education agenda. Currently more than one half of out-of-school children in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa.

More young people than ever “are disproportionately concentrated in the developing world,” notes the report, where too many young people, adults, especially women are unable to develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed for today’s “technologies and world of work.”  

“The lack of education up until secondary school is a very significant factor in terms of the opportunity for diversifying livelihoods for families” says Grant Leaity, UNICEF Regional head of Emergency for West and Central Africa toMediaGlobal News. As a result of girls not being in school, “very often we see 18-year-old women with four or five children,” he adds.

Ninety percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school.

The current global framework “fails to address education in a holistic and integrated manner,” states the report and reveals a holistic vision of how to best develop education, training, and learning in the Post-2015 Agenda.

Shortcomings of the current global education framework outlined by the report are that the goals are not “adequately targeted to reach the poor and marginalized, thus underserving those who are hard to reach,” they also give preference to the access to primary education rather than other levels of education, they ignore inequality, and more importantly focus “on access at the expense of quality.”

In order to achieve the education goals and provide quality education, the report stresses the need to overcome limitations on financial, human capital, and infrastructural resources. This includes at least 1.7 million more trained and motivated teachers by 2015 than there were in 2010 in order to provide quality primary education for all 114 states.

The report estimates a need for:

  • 993,000 more teachers in sub-Saharan Africa
  • 248,000 more teachers in the Arab states
  • 114,000 more teachers in South and West Asia
  • 174,000 more teachers in North America and Western Europe

Hopefully the challenges and shortcomings of education in the MDGs will be adequately addressed and realistically implemented in the new Post-2015 Development Agenda; knowing education is key for development, eradication of poverty, good governance, improved health, and gender equality.

Published in: MediaGlobal News

A skeptical civil society makes recommendations for Post-2015 Agenda

UNITED NATIONS, MediaGlobal News—A new report by the United Nations argues that an ever-skeptical civil society will play a vital part in the implementation of the Post-2015 development agenda and therefore must be included in the conversation.

Photo Credit: Jessica Karcz

The report “Advancing Regional Recommendations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: A Consultation with Civil Society,” published by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service, was compiled from a dialogue on recommendations from civil society for the Post-2015 Development Agenda that took place just prior to the 68thGeneral Assembly in September.

According to the report, civil society wants states to strengthen its role in respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights for all people. They are concerned that political barriers will prevent real action and that their voices won’t be adequately heard during the Post-2015 negotiations.

“The process we need to design should be an inclusive model. We need the governments’ support, each and every country, we need civil society’s support,” says Csaba Kőrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN and co-chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, to MediaGlobal News.

The World Bank defines civil society as “non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations.” Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, religious organizations, professional associations, and foundations.

Instead of focusing only on goals, the report states that civil society wants the Post-2015 Development Agenda to focus on “structural and root causes of rising inequality, impoverishment, social exclusion, environmental degradation and conflict.”

It says that most of the civil society networks were concerned for human rights violations committed by energy and agriculture industries. They also worry about inequitable distribution and unsafe use of natural resources.

Civil society wants the framework to be “truly universal and comprehensive” and to promote policies that establishes participatory governance with accountability and transparency. It should address barriers to “structural transformation and incorporate strong means of implementation and accountability mechanisms.”

Delegates listen during opening remarks on the first day of a civil society conference organized by the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Photo credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price
Delegates listen during opening remarks on the first day of a civil society conference organized by the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Photo credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price

They want the UN to address issues of peace and excessive militarization, since “there cannot be development without peace,” says the report, noting that states must “move towards sustainable production and consumption patterns and establish global economic policy coherence.”

During the meeting with civil society in the Trusteeship Chamber, President of the 68th Session of the General Assembly and Fifth Committee Chair John Ashe said that over 3,000 organizations have engaged in consultations through regional affiliations in order to provide feedback on four Post-2015 reports: High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (Post-2015 HLP)UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)UN Global Compact (UNGC) , and UN Development Group (UNDG): The Global Conversation Begins. All have been submitted to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“The concerns and proposals contained in these reports must now be reflected in our current discussions here in New York and it is my hope that member-states will give them serious consideration,” Ashe said.

Daniel Tygel, Operations Manager of RIPESS, a civil society organization that promotes a social solidarity economy, tells MediaGlobal News that he is skeptical the message will go forward. It all “depends mostly if some of the governments that are more open to the approaches that we just presented, if they take a lead and present some of these elements that fit in the normal language of the UN.” For full Story click: MediaGlobal News

SIDS discuss climate change in the 44th Pacific Islands Forum

Jane J. Chigiyal, Ambassador Permanent representative to the Federated States of Micronesia. Photo credit: UNEARTH News/Jessica Karcz
Jane J. Chigiyal, Ambassador Permanent representative to the Federated States of Micronesia. Photo credit: UNEARTH News/Jessica Karcz

UNITED NATIONS, UNEARTH News—The leaders of 15 Pacific countries met for the 44th Pacific Islands Forum from Sept. 3-6 in Majuro, Marshall Islands. The forum, with the theme Marshalling the Pacific Response to the Climate Challenge, will resonate in the upcoming 68th UN General Assembly as well as the third International Conference on SIDS in Samoa next September.

The Forum is the first to bring governments and non-state actors, such as cities and companies together in order to commit and reduce greenhouse gases. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and hope to start what Marshall Islands President and Forum Chair Christopher Loeak calls a “new wave of climate leadership.”

The Marshall Islands has recently suffered severe drought and tidal inundation further proving devastating climate change effects on SIDS. “As climate-induced droughts and floods earlier this year highlight, climate change has already arrived in the Marshalls,” says Tony deBrum, Minister-in-Assistance to the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to UNEARTH News.

SIDS are committed to regional cooperation and solidarity: “as a country and collectively as a region, we don’t just complain about what is happening but are actually trying to do something about it,” says Ambassador Jane J. Chigiyal, Permanent representative of the Federated States of Micronesia to the UN, to UNEARTH News.

“The forum tries to align with and influence what is happening at the UN. We are small so we have to be proactive, have a say, and be engaged,” says Chigiyal to UNEARTH News.

Sir Mekere Morauta, former Papua New Guinea prime minister, led a presentation on the Pacific Plan Review to share findings and recommendations of  “the master strategy for strengthening regional cooperation and integration in the Pacific.”

The Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, adopted on Sept. 5 by the Leaders of the Forum, begins by saying “climate change has arrived” and calls it “the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security, and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific and one of the greatest challenges for the entire world.”  It then warns of at least a 4 degree Celsius increase around the world by the end of the century if global inaction continues.

44th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Retreat in the Marshall Islands. Photo credit: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
44th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Retreat in the Marshall Islands. Photo credit: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

The participating members of the Pacific Islands Forum further pledge to “be Climate Leaders,” setting specific individual goals, such as Niue, Tuvalu, and the Cook Islands who committed to 100 percent of electricity generation from renewables by 2020.  “The responsibility of all to act falls on every government, every company, every organization, and every person with the capacity to do so, both individually and collectively,” states the Majuro Declaration.

Reducing levels of carbon is also an “opportunity to enhance our security, protect and ensure the sustainability of our natural resources and environment, and to improve our people’s health,” as described in the Majuro Declaration.

“A lot of people think that a country has to be inundated for us to actually move,” says Chigiyal to UNEARTH News,explaining that when islanders’ livelihoods such as fisheries and tourism are threatened because of global warming, “the island does not have to sink for us to actually move. The island is already being threatened.”

Chigiyal says sea level rise in the form of “king tides” and the proliferation of diseases such as dengue fever have also come with the changing climate. “The issue is not that we will sink, but all these things are happening before we actually see people trying to move because there is just no life in the outer islands to support them.”

The Marshall Islands are “on the frontline of the fight against climate change” says deBrum to UNEARTH News. “At an average of just two meters above sea level, and as one of only four coral atoll countries in the world, we are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

The Marshall Islands is committed as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum for the next year, to “work tirelessly” and to make 2014 the “Year of Ambition we so desperately need to ensure the survival of our country and our region,” said deBrum to UNEARTH News.

The Majuro Declaration will be shown to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as well as other UN member states during the General Assembly. Loeakurged the rest of the world to follow the Pacific Islands’ initiative. “I look forward to making that case during meetings with fellow leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York later this month,” he said.

This year, says deBrum, also “coincides with the Secretary-General’s own timetable for ramping up to a summit on climate change in September 2014, and rallying world leaders towards a new global treaty by 2015.”

“For small island countries especially at the UN, our voice is stronger when we have numbers,” said Chigiyal to UNEARTH News.

Published in:UNEARTH News

Sahel’s cry for help is finally being heard

Renewed insecurity continues to exacerbate existing humanitarian needs in Mali. Photo credit: UNICEF
Renewed insecurity continues to exacerbate existing humanitarian needs in Mali. Photo credit: UNICEF

UNITED NATIONS, UNEARTH News—Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Sahel region where he met with leaders of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad. He was accompanied by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Goup, Andris Piebalgs, European Union Commissioner for Development, Nkosazana Dlamni Zuma, Chairperson from the African Union Commission, and Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank.

“Political instability, constitutional changes of government, and state fragility have significant economic and social consequences. Authorities have limited capacities to deliver basic services, citizen participation, education, health, justice, and protection services are underfunded,” Ban told a High-level meeting on the Security and Stability on the Sahel during the 68th Session of the General Assembly, explaining how these are all interconnected challenges.

The Sahel crisis not only includes food insecurity and acute malnutrition, but also epidemics, droughts caused by climate change, infestations, and security issues. In conclusion to the meeting where Ban announced the UN’s commitment to aiding the Sahel, $1.5 billion from the World Bank Group will be donated for new regional investments over the next two years, and $6.75 billion from the European Union will be donated to six of the countries over the next seven years.

“The Sahel is facing a combination of different factors which are presenting a significant challenge to the governments of the region,” says Grant Leaity, UNICEF Regional head of Emergency for West and Central Africa to UNEARTH News.

The Sahel is a strip of land in sub-Saharan Africa that includes Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, covering a surface area of 5.4 million km2. The main source of income for the semiarid region is farming which only relies on three months of summer rainfall.

Limited access to schooling and basic healthcare are linked to the lack of livelihood or employment opportunities in the Sahel.  There is “no diversification of livelihood opportunities,” says Leaity, which leads to a rural agriculturally based economy of harvesting and attending to livestock.

A girl sits amid the ruins of what was once a marketplace in the conflict-affected city of Gao. Photo credit: UNICEF
A girl sits amid the ruins of what was once a marketplace in the conflict-affected city of Gao. Photo credit: UNICEF

Climate change has had a profound impact on the already arid Sahel; because of it “we can see an increased frequency in terms of droughts affecting the region, which then has a significant effect on food insecurity and ultimately on malnutrition rates,” Leaity tells UNEARTH News.

According to the Sahel Regional Strategy 2013 mid-year review, there are currently over 11.3 million food insecure people including over 5 million children under five and pregnant or lactating women who “remain at risk of acute malnutrition.”  This is the “biggest contributor to child mortality in children under five, chronic acute malnutrition,” says Leaity. He explains how it brings down all the defense mechanisms and that quickly leads to mortality.

“World cereal prices have had very sharp spikes,” says Leaity to UNEARTH News explaining the severity of the issue. There has been a 54 percent increase in cereal production in the last 2012-13 cropping season, but the price of cereal is still too high. As detailed in the report the factors of family debt “accumulated over consecutive crisis as well as on-going global food prices in 2013” amount to malnutrition and food security issues as well.

The chronic challenge of food insecurity and malnutrition in the Sahel “requires a long-term resilience building solution but which must be accomplished with the speed, energy, and resources that we usually retain for the humanitarian crises,” says Denise Brown, WFP’s West Africa Regional Director covering the Sahel Region, to UNEARTH News.

Other significant health problems related to poor sanitation are usually gastroenteritis, and also include cholera and endemic malaria, which has had a “significant increase in caseloads in Niger and Chad,” says Leaity.

Besides health problems and high pregnancy risks, women suffer various forms of gender-based violence. Many leave school at an early age and bear children very young as well. This is another long-term trend that must be addressed since there is “a significant population growth rate in the Sahara region, which is a significant factor putting additional stress on limited resources,” says Leaity to UNEARTH News. Not to mention over 1 million refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who seek asylum in the area.

“We are facing a greater degree of instability and security hazards, which add further complexity to challenges on the ground,” says Leaity referring to northern Mali, the northeastern part of Nigeria, and also Niger to some extent, where there is a tendency for “extremist armed groups.

“Terrorist acts and transnational organized crimes, including drugs and armed trafficking, are threatening stability,” declared Ban at the High-level meeting.

The European Union emphasizes the “clear link between security and development” and will help “develop a comprehensive response to the challenges in the Sahel region (peace and security, economic integration and resilience) and contribute to strengthening the capacity of States and regional organizations,” says Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development to UNEARTH News.

In the light of the fragile state of the Sahel region, the international community was compelled to lend its hand. “Vulnerable populations are on the edge and we must help them to recover and glimpse their lives with hope. Acting together and investing in programs that build their resilience is the key to the success,” says Brown to UNEARTH News.

Published in: UNEARTH News

General Assembly President Ashe calls for UN reforms

Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes
Photo Credit: Ang Chen/ MediaGlobal


Photo Credit: Jessica Karcz/ MediaGlobal  John W. Ashe, President of GA
Photo Credit: Jessica Karcz/ MediaGlobal
John W. Ashe, President of GA
Photo Credit: Jessica Karcz/ MediaGlobal News
Nosh Nalavala interviews President of GA

The Road to the Post-2015 Development Agenda

MediaGlobal Bureau Chief Nosh Nalavala interviews the President of the General Assembly John W. Ashe

Photographs and transcription by Jessica Karcz and videography by Ang Chen.

Nosh Nalavala: Your Excellency, a mere 18 months from now, the United Nations will launch its agenda for articulating the relationship between “humankind and our physical environment.” You stated, “the agenda must be completely and wholly universal.” I presume you mean the Post-2015 Development Agenda? It sounds like an overarching agenda. Could you tell us in simple terms what you mean by that?

John Ashe: Well the key driver in any developing agenda going forward would be the eradication of extreme poverty as we currently know it, and so in putting together a development agenda that has to be front and center. It cannot be development for development’s sake. We do have other concerns that we would need to address. First and foremost, there is the environment and what we need to do about that. So going forward I think we should be looking toward a sustainable development agenda. An agenda whereby development is done in a holistic way where we do have the concerns for the environment addressed and ultimately, which was the goal of the whole process, is that we leave for future generations a planet that they can inhabit.

Q: You have indicated that we must draw on the lessons learned — from the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), both in terms of results achieved and opportunities missed. Could you elaborate on the achievements, and more importantly missed opportunities?

A: For one thing, regarding the Millennium Goals we had hoped that we would achieve all eight including the targets associated with them by 2015. Clearly that will not be the case. There have been some achievements, for instance, we have done significant progress in issues of poverty, although extreme poverty still remains with us. We would probably largely meet the education goal. As we go forward we need to look at what we did wrong and make the corrections whether it is midcourse, end course, so whatever we put in place for the Post-2015 period, we do not repeat the same mistakes.

Q: . . . and the missed opportunities you refer to?

A: We missed an opportunity back in 2008 when we were unexpectedly hit by the financial crisis. I think that crisis significantly derailed the progress and countries largely abandoned efforts to meet the goals and focused on other things. I think given the importance of these goals and what they mean in the long term I think we should avoid losing focus on the future. Whatever we put in place should be such that we can focus on them and achieve them given the time frame. Looking back, some would say that some of the targets that we set were a tad unrealistic, so we need more realistic goals and more realistic targets.

Q: Overcoming poverty and insecurity and ensuring sustainable development have been age-old challenges, yet they are being termed by you as “new and emerging development challenges.”

A: What is happening is that those challenges have existed, and perhaps will exist as we go forward. This has to do with one of your favourite topics: climate change. I think this has cast a new light on some of the challenges that we currently know and some that we are yet to face. We now know that if the sea rises by a certain amount, as predicted by the scientific panel, and we see a bit of that exactly one year ago, as in New York, when Superstorm Sandy came ashore with almost 14-foot waves that flooded and took out the power in major parts of the city, they are saying that some parts of the city have not recovered even a year later. With that overlay, climate change is now beginning to take on a new urgency. I think the challenges will, if they are not new, will certainly be multiplied.

Q: Many of the outcomes of the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development are expected to come to fruition, as claimed by your predecessor. The Conference in Rio did not bring about any tangible resolutions for Small Island Development States (SIDS). Could you please explain?

A: What was being referred to was in the 68th Session and beyond — some of the outcomes will come to fruition. For example, three things that Rio pronounced on: one was the need to put in place sustainable development goals, and a process has now been put in place and that is supposed to come to pass at the beginning of the 69th session. It also calls for a process that looks at financing for sustainable development in the long term and that process has been set up. They are both intergovernmental processes, unlike the MDGs, which were developed elsewhere, and the member states were asked to accept them. The third thing, with respect to SIDS, in all fairness, Rio was not about them, but Rio endorsed a conference specifically for them and that conference will be held at the end of August beginning of September 2014 in Samoa. I think there were some significant outcomes that are on stream and will come to fruition by September of 2014.

Q: You have declared the theme of the 68th Session, as well as that of the annual general debate of the General Assembly, to be “The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage.” How are you as President of the GA setting the stage for the road ahead, especially in terms of the climate agenda?

A: I don’t think any President of the GA can do that if you are referring to the climate agenda. Back in the late 80s the GA took a decision to set up a negotiated track that is the UN Triple C. The negotiations are held outside the GA and a decision was taken to have a comprehensive agreement by 2015. That is a parallel track that has nothing to do with the Post-2015 Development agenda. It would be naive if we were not paying attention to what is happening on that track because we have the same set of member-states. It is unlikely they will move forward elsewhere and lag significantly somewhere else. Even though the climate change negotiations are discussed elsewhere, the same member-states are participating toward putting together a development agenda.

Q: Toward the road to Paris climate talks, isn’t climate agenda an overarching priority in the Post-2015 Development agenda?

A: If the General Assembly sitting here in New York deliberating on what is happening first in Peru this year, Lima maybe, and then a year later in Paris? No, but yes, they would certainly be keeping an eye on progress there, and that could affect some of the progress here. There is a link, but I think the link is more casual rather than direct.

Q: As part of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the Caribbean Community, and your own regional group, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, what are your concerns about the impact of climate change on developing countries, particularly Small Island Developing States?

A: There is a chair that takes care of these issues. The larger point, is climate change a concern? I am from a SIDS Antigua and Barbuda area and I used to be heavily involved in the climate change negotiations. When I left in 2010, I was the chair of the Ad Hoc working group in the Kyoto Protocol. Now as president of the GA I cannot be involved in a specific issue, but yes I am mindful of what goes on in the negotiations. As a matter a fact I will be in Warsaw to address the opening of the high-level segment.

Q: You have advocated three thematic debates: the role of partnerships; ensuring stable and peaceful societies; and water, sanitation and sustainable energy in the post-2015 development agenda. Where do you position climate change in the post-2015 agenda?

A: As president of GA I try not to focus on a specific interest group, but having said that, we do need to be careful. The reason why the GA took the decision back in 1988 to set up a separate negotiating track is because the member-states still do believe, that that will be the best way to advance that cause, to address those issues in a specific forum rather than as part of the GA’s agenda. Ultimately of course, we all know what goes on there and climate change is dealt with in some way, shape, or form. I think it would be foolhardy to now try and bring the discussion on climate change when there is a separate track for it, there is a separate agenda for it, and there is a separate timetable for it, back into a discussion for the Post-2015 Development agenda.

Q: But it will help the Agenda . . .

A: I don’t think we would advance the cause there, and I think we would do great harm to the Post-2015 Development agenda, at least at the elements of it, if we were to embed climate change within that. Having said that though, I am sure you are aware the Secretary-General himself has announced an initiative that will take place at the start of the 69th session when he will convene heads of state and government in a discussion on climate change. His goal and he made no secret of this, is to give impetus to the negotiations but not to subsume them and to take them on.

Q: As a diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda, the adaptation measures from the climate change programme of action from your country, do you feel that SIDS who are suffering from the impact of climate change can take any lessons from how your country has adapted to climate change?

A: I think the question of adaptation is not country specific, the measures of course would have to be applied over a long term and one of the things that has belaboured adaptation has been the implementation of it, because of the lack of funding. Having said that, several funding streams have been set up including the Global Environmental Facility and of course we now know that plans are in place to set up a Climate Fund that is supposed to be several billions by 2020. Whether or not we actually get there, we will see in due course. There are some inherent problems but countries are taking action, perhaps small steps. We in the Caribbean are somewhat fortunate, unlike our colleagues in the Pacific where you have atolls, very low-lying areas, and in some cases below sea level. The urgency, although it does exist, you get a different perspective when one looks at what happens in the Pacific compared to what happens to the Caribbean in terms of sea-level rise.

Q: The underlying themes of your presidency are the contribution of women, the young and civil society, human rights and the rule of law, and the contribution of South-South and triangular cooperation, and information and communication technologies for development to the Post-2015 Development agenda. Based on the commitments made by developed countries at the Istanbul Programme of Action, what is your expectation from these countries toward vulnerable countries? Do you see a North-South dialogue and how will South-South Cooperation be a success?

A: To be fair, it would be incorrect to make a blanket statement about commitments and who has made them. It is true across the board, developed countries have not lived up to their commitments, but if one looks, at least some of them (particularly in Northern countries) they have exceeded their particular commitments. It is true, as a group they have fallen far short of the commitments they have made, and they probably will make future commitments that we know they will not keep. That is not to say that one should simply give up hope. I think those commitments are needed and certainly my colleagues in the developing country group will certainly insist on them. Increasingly it is beginning to be seen that more and more countries are going to have to depend on their own domestic resources to implement their development activities.

Q: Do you see an imbalance between the North-South dialogue and your emphasis on the success of South-South cooperation?

A: That is an interesting question, I think there are two things — there is the South-South, the North-South and Triangular cooperation. Both are proceeding but I think more and more we are beginning to see South-South cooperation, and perhaps long term, that is what we should have expected. No one should have expected that the North would simply pull money to the South. There are countries that are called emerging countries India, Brazil, and so on, and they are beginning to emphasize North-South-South cooperation. Perhaps we are now approaching an equilibrium point where they will both be equal. I don’t think one should dominate the other, and I don’t think the North-South Triangular Cooperation should disappear. I think each has an important role to play and as part of a greater cooperation effort, you should have both.

Q: You have called for reform to revitalize the United Nations and the GA’s work programme. What exactly do you mean?

A: I did preface that by saying that any organizations that does not perform dies. You cannot have an organization as large as this one, and certainly one that has such an important role to play, where every member-state has a voice, and more importantly, when it comes to voting, has one vote. In other words Antigua and Barbuda’s vote counts the same as that of the United States in the GA, it is different of course in the Security Council (SC). You simply can’t be doing business the same old way day in and day out, you have to adapt, and to adapt you have to reform. There is a broad view of the organization, the need for it to adapt current and emerging times, and to do so it has to reform and constantly reform.

Q: So what are you specifically asking in terms of reform, because it is a very important call for the UN to reform. What you are actually saying is that it desperately needs to be reformed otherwise it will fail in several different aspects of its working?

A: I wouldn’t say desperately needs. I am saying that reform ought to be part of the way we do business. For example, there is absolutely no reason why we should keep adding new programmes without examining the impact of those that we have agreed to and whether or not they are still viable. A second way, and it will be forced upon us if we don’t address it, we simply have less money to do more things and so we are going to have to establish priorities and to do that we are going to need to do things differently or more efficiently hence some sort of reform is needed.

Q: On the debate on NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) you said “experts now agree that Africa offers the most promising prospects for economic growth in the world, with Sub-Saharan Africa as the second fastest-growing region.” In fact, the Sub-Saharan region has suffered from several constraints and many countries are still nowhere close to achieving the MDGs and lack of political governance is creating instability. Do you truly believe that NEPAD is a success considering that it has marginal representation at the UN?

A: The economic growth aspect to what I was referring to happens to be true but there are other constraints, governance, and you pointed to some of them, and perhaps having a voice on international forums, those constraints still exist.

Q: In what ways is NEPAD successful?

A: For example, as a body focused on the development of Africa I think it has made great strides. They have put in place a voluntary mechanism that is now ten years old. I think about 33 countries have signed on to it. They are an independent body free from political interference. I think they are putting in place a number of mechanisms that will ultimately benefit individual countries.

Q:  I wanted to know your thoughts on what MediaGlobal News is trying to do, bringing young people from all over the world and putting together courses in journalism, development issues and climate education (we have been doing it for 8 years). Do you have any thoughts on that?

A: I think it is a noble effort and I think it is one that you should continue, and you should be encouraged to continue. No matter what our views are, whether we accept climate change or we deny that it exists, evidence is all around us and ultimately we are talking about the future, because these are future events, the events that will happen in the future. Clearly the people that you ought to be addressing are the young because they are the ones that will inherit the future, and if you can educate and more importantly provide them with the tools to educate others then I think it is a noble thing that should to be continued.

 MediaGlobal News

LDCs in need of productive capacity building, says UN report

Gyan Chandra Acharya, USG and High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS. Photo credit: MediaGlobal News/Jessica Karcz

UNITED NATIONS, MediaGlobal News—The State of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) 2013 Report was launched on Oct. 16 with the theme of productive capacity building in LDCs and within the Post-2015 Development Agenda. It draws on the need for cooperation between the 49 LDCs and development partners.

Despite serious progress made since the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) two years ago, most LDCs still “face pervasive poverty, serious structural impediments to growth, low levels of social and human development and high exposure to shocks and disasters,” according to the report.

It highlights issues including disaggregated data, lack of continuing education and therefore proper employment opportunities, as well as the need for productive capacity building, good governance, and for LDCs to invest in new agriculture technologies.

“We have similar problems in different settings. We come together and exchange views on how we are tackling them and what one can learn from the other to move faster,” says Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin and Chair of LDCs, to MediaGlobal News.

Until the IPoA, there was no real discussion of the tools needed for productive capacity building, and why the report included a productive capacity-oriented development strategy for LDCs and development partners. According to the report, building productive capacity is a “defining challenge and opportunity for development in LDCs” and essential for achieving sustainable growth, structural transformation, and the creation of employment and decent jobs.

“We need to move faster to be able to achieve the overarching goal of the IPoA, which is to half the number of LDCs by 2020,” Zinsou tells MediaGlobal News.

There has been significant progress toward achieving universal primary education, but not toward secondary, vocational and technical, and tertiary education. According to the report, this is where most of the skills needed for “productive and decent employment are acquired.”

Almost half of LDC citizens live below the extreme poverty line of $1.25 a day, as recognized by the international community. The report outlines the steps needed to be taken at the national and global level in order to jumpstart their economies and address extreme poverty. This includes quota-free exports for LDCs and the acquisition of modern technology for the development of productive capacity building. There are other vital issues that also need attention.

Disaggregated data and data technology transfer have been challenges that must be solved in order to “assess the progress or lack of progress. A problem that we have faced again is the lack of data,” said Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), who launched the report.

“We are working together with the World Bank and the Reasonable Development Bank to create a pull of data so we have the actual status of everything that goes around the world in terms of development,” said Acharya. The USG urged all LDCs to share data. A technology transfer report has already been submitted to member states and “we hope for a resolution to take us forward,” he said.

This new development strategy is based in mutual accountability, “it involves responsibility of developing countries to own their development agenda, but also it involves developed countries to deliver in their promise to assist developing countries,” says Leonce Ndikumana, Program Director for African Development Policy, to MediaGlobal News.

Ndikumana explains how it is a country specific strategy, so each country has to build on its potential, its competitive advantage, and develop a framework that fits its own needs. “We are not proposing a one size fits all. That is over. We are calling for the expansion of policy space for developing countries.”

States should “develop their own industrial policy and go back to agriculture, not just as a source of livelihood but as a source of industrial development,” says Ndikumana to MediaGlobal News. The report explains how if a state increases its investment in agriculture, it increases its income, creates possibilities for creating new activities, and raw material for the manufacturing sector.

“Agriculture has been connected to job creation and we need a new pattern of approaching the issue,” says Zinsou toMediaGlobal News.

It is not only about small farmers, Zinsou says, but also about the large potential of entrepreneurship development in agriculture. Countries such as Benin are pushing for industrialization through the acquisition of new technologies which are “needed to add value to the agricultural products because it is not enough to produce, you need to add value to be able to participate in the global value chain.”

Published in: MediaGlobal News

LDCs call on a new global partnership for the post-2015 development agenda

Photo Credit: Jessica Karcz/ MediaGlobal
Sir Mark Lyall-Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General, Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin, and Gyan Chandra Acharya, USG and High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS at the ambassadorial-level meeting on the partnership for LDCs. Photo crddit: MediaGlboal News/Jessica Karcz

The Ambassadorial-level Meeting on the Partnership for LDCs: Priority Issues for Post-2015 Development Agenda, took place Sept. 12 at United Nations headquarters in New York, with the presence of many Least Developed Countries (LDCs) including Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin, and other member states such as Sir Mark Lyall-Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, both of whom co-chaired the event.

There are 49 LDCs with a total population of over 880 million, bound together through levels of “low human development, low economic development, and high levels of vulnerability,” says UN Under-Secretary-General Gyan Chandra Acharya, and High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS.

“We need to tackle inequalities in society, because we are not building sustainable societies, we are preparing ground for conflict,” says Zinsou to MediaGlobal News. Explaining the need to address the “issues of inequalities to create stable societies, where there is prosperity for everybody, and no one is left behind.”

According to Zinsou, 47 percent of the population is living in extreme poverty in LDCs. This “should be in center and post front to post-2015 development agenda,” says Zinsou. There should be mutual accountability between LDCs and their development partners.

A report of the high-level panel of eminent persons on the post-2015 development agenda called A New Global Partnership: eradicate poverty and transform economies through sustainable development was recently launched, and discussed in the meeting. It includes 12 ambitious universal goals such as the eradication of extreme poverty from the world by 2030.

“Very few LDCs in total will meet the MDGs,” says Acharya, explaining how all LDCs have made progress toward the MDGs, but many have been bypassed because of where they started initially, even though they have progressed. He stressed the fallacy of the averages and the fact that “inequality at the global level is more visible then the inequality at a national level.”

There is a “need for solidarity and global support in the new agenda. We have to do more, have to do better, and we have to do it fast,” says Acharya.

“This is a meeting that will allow the LDCs and developing partners at an informal level to exchange views on the challenges ahead, and the way to set priorities on the next development agenda,” says Zinsou to MediaGlobal News

LDCs gave special appreciation to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for taking into account many of their proposals in his report, in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and in the post-2015 development agenda.

“We hope it will stimulate debate over the prioritization that will be needed if the international community is to agree a new development framework before the expiry of the Millennium Development Goals,” wrote Indonesian President Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, co-chairs of the high-level panel on eminent persons on the post-2015 development agenda, in a letter to the Secretary-General. They also express “optimism that a transformation to end poverty through sustainable development is possible within our generation.”

“We need to show commitment and make as much progress as possible,” Zinsou tells MediaGlobal News.

Over the next two years, states will be discussing what will replace the MDGs at the end of 2015. Lyall-Grant says that throughout this debate “we must focus on the poorest and most vulnerable countries and the international community should prioritize their efforts to ensure that truly no one is left behind, and the LDCs are obviously central to this.”

“Responsibilities will vary according to country’s resources and possibilities but every country has something to contribute,” Lyall-Grant explains to MediaGlobal how developed countries can contribute through taxes, trade, and transparency as well as providing aid. Zinsou commends the UK on its role and partnership with LDCs and hopes that this joint initiative will inspire other future partners.

“This is a very important dialogue with the developing countries, the issues of LDCs by LDCs themselves and the United Nations’ institutions,” says Acharya, adding that LDCs are at a higher stake and therefore “have to be the focus of the post 2015 agenda.”

Lyall-Grant stressed how businesses, civil societies, citizens, and governments should all be engaged in this new partnership that is building from the MDGs, as well as tackling conflicts in development, corruption, accountable and transparent governments, justice, and job creation which are all “fundamental building blocks on poverty eradication.”

“I think it is a good way to start by having this partnership,” says Acharya to MediaGlobal News.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson expressed member states’ responsibility ensuring future human and economic development is environmentally sustainable, since “there is no ‘Planet B.’”

He asks member states to keep in mind while discussing the post-2015 development agenda that “when you decide on the quality of a society you should always judge it by how the society treats its most vulnerable, most poor, and most oppressed,” and that “growing inequalities are not only unfair, but in any sober analysis dangerous.”

Eliasson explains how a systematic integration of the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, social, and environmental) “will require stronger commitments and contributions from all partners.”

“No one can do everything but everyone can do something,” says Eliasson, urging all member states to come together for one global development agenda with sustainable development at its core. “Not only is this a moral imperative, but also means to ensure a stable and peaceful world.”

The Secretary-General’s report on the Post-2015 Agenda draws heavily on this and other reports, such as the Istanbul Program of Action, which together include the opinion of over a million people, many from LDCs.

Once states have the post-2015 development agenda, they have to “recognize them and hit the ground running, not waste time trying to persuade our governments on our different country levels that we need to implement, or bring the resources for them,” says Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning for the Secretary-General.

The reports were able to narrow the discussions down and “begin to harvest a consensus” but it continues to be a “working progress,” Mohammed adds.

Homi Kharas, Deputy Director of Global Economy and Development at Brookings Institute, emphasized the need to build professionals in the government, businesses, and NGOs in LDCs, “professionalizing those institutional structures is very important.” He also highlighted the accountability issue.

Besides poverty eradication, number 10 in the new global partnership report: ensuring good governance and effective institutions, was also widely discussed, especially when it comes to aid accountability in LDCs.

Zinsou stressed the need to have good governance to MediaGlobal News: “It is not enough to proclaim that we adhere to good governance, good governance has to be established at structural levels in the countries.

“If you have a structure that facilitates corruption, you should not be complaining that you have corruption, but you should establish a system that does not allow for corruption, that does not give room for maneuvers to have corruption.”

Zinsou emphasized the importance of having and developing good institutions that will allow transparency, mobilize domestic resources, and channel them where they are needed.

Published in: MediaGlobal News

Technology a powerful social agent of change

Gbenga Akinnagbe expressed the importance of accountability. Photo credit: MediaGlobal News/Jessica Karcz

UNITED NATIONS, MediaGlobal News—On Sept. 23, ONE, Transparency International, OkayAfrica, and the United Nations Millennium Challenge came together for an interactive panel conversation on people-powered, technology-facilitated activism, also know as Millennial Factivism. 

Al Jazeera correspondent Femi Oke moderated the event with several guest “factivists,” including Taiye Selasi, a Nigerian writer and photographer. With 60 percent of Africa’s population under the age of 30, Selasi stressed the power and impact of youth and social media in pressing humanitarian issues and holding governments accountable.

“It is one thing to address the symptoms and try to help people live longer, survive birth, and have electricity, but we have to actually solve these problems or they’ll continue generationally as they have,” Gbenga Akinnagbe, actor and producer, tells MediaGlobal News.

Accountability is the most vital issue to Akinnagbe. “We have been giving trillions of dollars in aid and why are these problems not being solved by now? Because we are not actually addressing the problems,” he adds. Besides accountability, Akinnagbe believes “the fact that first world countries can commit these crimes and use third world countries as their sounding ground to do them,” contributes to suffering and the different symptoms being addressed.

“Activism without facts is like winking at a girl in the dark, nobody knows that you are doing it,” said Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan activist who uses traditional and new technologies to drive social change in Kenya.

Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools that can be used for factivism.

Japheth Omojuwa, a Nigerian social activist and blogger, refers to himself as being an active citizen and now a factivist. He believes calling someone an activist puts that person in a separate box. “We have technology, we have the tools to express our anger and vision. If I can do it, any regular person who chooses can do it,” said Omojuwa.

An estimated $700 billion from falsified and sub-standard medicines kill over 2,000 people annually. When panelist Bright Simons, president of the Pedigree Network, found out about the sale of fake malaria pills poisoning many infants, it spurred him to come up with a system that empowers consumers to instantly verify with a free text message whether their medicines are safe and not counterfeit.

“Information is power, data statistics is power,” said Selasi explaining how 1.7 million activists around the word have already joined ONE. “The more we can get information into peoples’ hands and get the facts out there, the more we can shine the light on what is happening in the developing world,” she adds.

If you talk to people in the ground in developing nations about a policy that will increase a country’s GDP “they might not register it, but when you tell them that the price of bread is going to triple because of it, they are engaged and want to be a part of this,” said Selasi.

“If the government has this much money, why don’t the schools stay open?” asked Selasi as an example of possible outcomes of transparency. In Nigeria, “if the money that we make off of oil is this, why is the infant mortality as it is?” She is currently working on a documentary about millennial factivists throughout Africa.

“All our organizations want to do is make sure that we can get the UN to listen to how important access to information is, so that the people that are doing amazing work on the ground have the information that they need to continue to build that public participation that is going to make a difference,” said Selasi.

Panelist Tarik Nesh-Nash, a Moroccan social activist and software startup CEO who uses online tools to bridge the gap between citizens and government, insists that technology now makes it possible for citizens to participate directly in legislation.

Nesh-Nash tells MediaGlobal that citizens’ voices are not communicated well through traditional channels and institutions, “we need to step back and think of a different governance form/model where citizens are actively participating in decision making, and with technology this is possible.”

Morocco adopted a new constitution in 2011, with the support of civil activists. Nesh-Nash explained how he “built this platform to enable citizens to participate on making proposals about constitution amendments.” 200,000 civilians crafted proposals – “more than any political party’s membership in Morocco” – and were submitted to the official drafting committee. Considering their success, they are currently pushing this for all legislation in Morocco, and have tried it in Tunisia, Egypt, and currently in Liberia.

“When we reverse that opacity with facts, and when we disseminate those facts with technology, we are taking meaningful steps towards good governance,” said Selasi.

Published in: MediaGlobal News

Eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 is possible, says new report

MediaGlobal Correspondent Jessica Karcz interviews Judith Randel, Executive Director of Development Initiatives, known for her research and expertise in aid statistics, financing instruments, and humanitarian aid policy and its impact on ending poverty, discusses the Investments to end Poverty Report. Video filmed and edited by MediaGlobal Correspondent Ang Chen.

UNITED NATIONS, MediaGlobal News—A new report demonstrating how to eradicate extreme poverty globally by 2030 was launched Sept. 23 at United Nations Plaza in New York.

The Investments to End Poverty Report published by Development Initiatives shows how the international community has to target aid at the poorest, mobilize all available resources, and get the most out of every dollar.

If this is achieved, “the first step in the track of ending all poverty will be a reality,” says Judith Randel, Executive Director of Development Initiatives, to MediaGlobal News.

There are currently over 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, most of them living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. “Currently in the most optimistic scenario based on economic growth, we will still see over 100 million people left behind,” says Randel. She stressed that economic growth alone is not enough.

“If the world wants to end extreme poverty by 2030 it is quite clear that if you look at the projections, not only are domestic resources now inadequate in many countries, but they are not going to be adequate,” Randel tells MediaGlobal News.

Judith Randel, Executive Director of Development Initiatives, explains how aid is vital to end extreme poverty since economic growth is not enough. Photo credit: Jessica Karcz/MediaGlobal News
Judith Randel, Executive Director of Development Initiatives, explains how aid is vital to end extreme poverty since economic growth is not enough. Photo credit: Jessica Karcz/MediaGlobal News

She gives the example of Malawi, where the government spends only 76 cents a day in developing the country including health and education.

“We are going to need to make really serious investments from all sources of finance in order to support domestic efforts and to achieve the end of extreme poverty,” Randel insists.

The Democratic Republic of Congo received the largest amount of aid on 2011, but most of the aid received was non-transferable and never actually left donor governments.

“Debt relief is not a transfer of resources from a donor country to the DRC,” says Randel.

People talk about aid “as if it were a transfer of resources from one country to another country,” says Randel to MediaGlobal News, explaining how there are different types of aid and the importance of unbundling what is in the aid package.

“Sometimes it is cash in loans or grants, sometimes it is people consultants and experts, sometimes it is commodities like food, and sometimes it is investments which don’t result in any transfer away from the donor government that is making the investment,” she adds.

This is called non-transfer aid and never reaches the recipient country. Randel explains how it includes debt-relief, oversea student costs, and refugees. Italy and Denmark give approximately the same amount of aid, but two-thirds of Italy’s aid stays in Italy, while most of Denmark’s aid goes to the recipient country in cash.

Afghanistan and Togo receive similar amounts of aid, but Togo’s aid is mostly debt-relief and never reaches the country, while Afghanistan’s aid in the form of cash. This is why unpacking the aid bundle is vital.

The report states that poverty is not solely income-based. “Ending poverty means ensuring that everyone has access to adequate nutrition, basic health, education, and housing as well as the information and freedom from discrimination that enables people to participate in society,” the authors wrote.  “No one should live below $1.25 a day in any country.”

Development Initiatives’ mandate that everyone has a role in ending poverty, and both the report and website include extensive data and resources, including a “Where are the poor and where will they be?” interactive visualization.

“It is very hard to play a role unless you know the resources that are available,” says Randel to MediaGlobal News.

Charles Lwanga Ntale, Africa Regional Director for Development Initiatives, who is currently working in the area of transparency and information access for all, tells MediaGlobal News that there is a “specific interest in understanding development issues and challenges which countries handle and international agencies are hoping to address.”

“The report is a very important first step in putting information and data out there for policy makers in particular, but also for the general development community by making it clear what kind of aid resources are available, what they are doing, what they are capable of doing, and what the trajectory of aid has been over the last few years,” says Ntale.

Published in: MediaGlobal News 

New global and sustainable partnership is key to post-2015 agenda


Photo Credit: Jessica Karcz/ MediaGlobal
Kuntoro Mankusubroto, Chair of Indonesia’s National Committee on Post-2015 Development Agenda and Heru Prasetyo, Secretary of the National Committee on Post-2015 Development Agenda and chair of the event, listen to Helen Clark, Chair of United Nations Development Group, discuss recent strides toward the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Photo credit: MediaGlobal News/Jessica Karcz

On Friday, the Republic of Indonesia’s Permanent Mission to the UN and UN leaders met in the Trusteeship Council to address the need for global partnership and sustainable growth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

“It gives me a big pleasure to be in this room again after my first visit here way back in the year 2009, when we were talking about the lessons learned in disaster management. This is a great improvement,” Heru Prasetyo, Secretary of Indonesia’s National Committee on Post-2015 Development Agenda and chair of the event, told participants.

“During the 68thGeneral Assembly it has become abundantly clear that much progress has been made,” said Kuntoro Mankusubroto, Chair of National Committee on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The meeting will hopefully contribute to these efforts “towards a future that is sustainable, equitable, and inclusive,” he added.

Mankusubroto explained that development is a complex challenge, but “time is not a resource that we can afford.” He stressed the need for a realistic time frame for implementation.

He referenced the UN High-Level Panel report, “A new global partnership, eradicate poverty and transform economies through sustainable development,” which covers developmental issues including women, youth, the rule of private sector, public sector, academia, development financing, and environmental protection.

“Our conversation today is so timely and important, since partnership has been such a major focus of so many discussions taking place in the UN,” said John Podesta, Chair and Counselor of the Center for American Progress and former White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton.

In formulating recommendations for the Post-2015 agenda “we have to go listen to people globally, communities around the world, and particularly the voices of the poor,” said Podesta.

Helen Clark, Chair of United Nations Development Group, congratulated Indonesia including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for his involvement in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. She also praised member states that jointly “expressed determination to accelerate achievement of the MDGs” and tackle new challenges post-2015.

“Reducing poverty, protecting the one planet we have to live on, growing out our economies, and achieving social justice are all interlinked,” said Clark. On September 25, member states also agreed that the eradication of poverty and hunger worldwide should be at the core of the new agenda.

Guest panelists included Kevin Conrad, Special Envoy Ambassador on Environment and Climate Change of Papau New Guinea, Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth, and Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA.

“If we want a genuine partnership to emerge from the Post-2015 process, global civil society, philanthropists, NGOs, the academic community, and the private sector all need to sit at the table, even as governments finalize a final text,” said Podesta.

Published in: Inside the United Nations

New Security Council resolution on small arms and light weapons

Photo Credit: Jessica Karcz/  MediaGlobal
Member states in the UN Security Council vote on the resolution on small arms and light weapons. Photo credit: Jessica Karcz/MediaGlobal News

UNITED NATIONS, MediaGlobal News—The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) met Thursday to discuss the impact of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation, and misuse of small arms and light weapons on international peace and security.

A resolution was adopted with 14 votes in favor and one abstention from Russia, to fight this cause of destabilizing violence.

Julie Bishop, newly appointed Foreign Minister of Australia, was congratulated by several member states and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for having the initiative and leadership to address this vital issue. The Secretary-General’s report on small arms makes recommendations to the Security Council on handling peacekeeping operations and other related missions, mentioning that the “absence of regulations combined with easy access and a lucrative illicit arms trade make for a lethal combination.”

“The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded,” Ban told council members, referring to how the easy access to small arms “leads to a vast range of human rights violations, including killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, enforced disappearance, torture, and forced recruitment of children by armed groups.” Armed conflict is the “main cause of people fleeing their homes and of food insecurity,” he adds.

“Small arms remain a big concern,” Ban reminds member states. Small arms include revolvers, self-loading pistols, rifles, carbines, sub-machine guns, assault rifles, and light machine guns. Light weapons include weapons such as heavy machine guns, hand-held under-barrel, mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable anti-tank guns, recoilless rifles, ammunition, and explosives.

Ban urges member states to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which “obligates States to regulate international arms transfers, including prohibiting shipments to governments that fail to use them in conformity with the UN Charter.”

Guatemalan President Otto Fernando Pérez Molina noted the alarming ongoing circulation of illicit arms. “It exists due to the illicit and lucrative commerce, bad regulations, and the lack of control even in governmental reserves with low or bad security,” he says.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister of Australia, listen to member states’ views on the conflict and violence caused by small arms and light weapons. Photo credit: Jessica Karcz/MediaGlobal News
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister of Australia, listen to member states’ views on the conflict and violence caused by small arms and light weapons. Photo credit: Jessica Karcz/MediaGlobal News

Molina addressed the importance of the UN member states coming together to pursue the Secretary-General’s recommendations, including the use of new technologies for keeping track of arm reserves, dismantling arms, and reducing the illicit use of arms. “Women and children are often the ones who suffer the most,” says Molina.

During the UNSC meeting, Samantha Power, recently appointed United States Ambassador to the UN, says that the urgency and timing of the adopted resolution comes from recent terrorist attacks in Kenya, ongoing violence the Central African Republic, Mali, and the daily sufferings due to terrorists, drug cartels, pirates, and other illicit practices. She also mentions the vulnerability of refugees, internally displaced people, and all members of civil society, because of the illicit use of small arms and light weapons.

Power encourages states to act collectively. “Every state has an obligation to prevent the illegal transfer of weapons,” she said.

Argentina calls for more control and transparency in the regulation of arms and exchange of information. “Violent conflict is a cause of illicit small arms and light weapons, which are available because of a very lucrative trafficking market with insufficient or inexistent control or regulation,” says María Cristina Perceval, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the UN.

“More than 650 million small arms and light weapons are the product of illicit trafficking,” says Perceval. “1,500 people die daily from armed conflict, and 60 percent of all of human rights violations are perpetuated with small arms.”

“Armed violence is not just a cause that perpetuates poverty, but its consequence,” she insists, explaining how even in times of peace, small arms are a vehicle for sexist, sexual, and gender based violence, as well as violence against children.

Keep reading on: MediaGlobal News

In sustainable push for developing countries, pilot program links local farmers to markets

Photo credit: Silke Buhr/ WFP
P4P in Turkana, Kenya produces grain. Photo credit: Silke Buhr/ WFP

UNITED NATIONS, MediaGlobal News—Purchase for Progress (P4P) is a five-year pilot program that started in 2009, intended to increase the amount of food bought locally in 20 developing countries by the World Food Program (WFP). It supports local farmers in developing nations and shares effective ways to connect them to markets in a sustainable way. In 2012 alone, the WFP bought $1.1 billion worth of food.

Women participated in over 72 percent of commodities sold with the help of P4P in Burkina Faso. Studies were later done to try to replicate the model elsewhere in order to increase rural women empowerment. “P4P has emerged over the years as a stepping-stone for many low-income farmers, especially women, to improve their livelihoods,” said the WFP.

Ahna Gudmunds, P4P Specialist for the WFP, tells MediaGlobal News how Purchase for Progress has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of farmers in developing countries over the past five years by supporting both women and men and encouraging them to become more active players in their local markets.

“P4P has made my husband change his attitude toward me as his wife,” a woman from Lolgrian Farmers Organization in Kenya tells MediaGlobal News. “He has allowed me to have access to his farm where I plant whatever I like and spend the money from the sale of the crop, and he cannot demand it from me.”

The total funding of the program includes $168 million for technical capacity for the five-year pilot. The WFP offers farmers the “incentive to invest in their production, as they have the possibility to sell to a reliable buyer and receive a fair price for their crops,” said the WFP. Hopefully other buyers such as governments and the private sector will follow their lead.

“Thanks to the gender training developed and carried out by WFP/P4P, young women have learned how to change our mentality,” said Roxana Cazún, a local farmer from San Maros Las Pozas, El Salvador to MediaGlobal News. “We learned more about our rights and now we can solve problems and we hold important responsibilities because we are all at the same level.”

In Ethiopia P4P has empowered farmers and benefited local economies and national self-reliance. There are currently several studies taking place by Management Systems International (MSI), a development firm contracted by P4P, with P4P farmers and control groups in order to examine what is and is not working with the purpose of “learning and sharing,” as described by the WFP.

The WFP has been collecting information from farmers and traders through a monitoring and evaluation system. “We don’t have any final results of the pilot, as the evaluation will take place in 2014,” Gudmunds told MediaGlobal News.

“There are many challenges related to the project implementation. Some of them are general and common, while some of them are unique to specific countries, regions and contexts. In many of the very poor and conflict affected countries, the challenges are even greater,” said Gudmunds to MediaGlobal News.

Still, the farmers expressed content and satisfaction. The program is bringing positive change into developing communities and has even helped children stay in school as John Mbalule, a local from Uganda tells MediaGlobal News.

“Since the introduction of P4P and the Warehouse Receipt System in Jinja, we can now store our maize and sell it when the price is good,” says Mbalule. “When we take our children to school, we tell the head teachers that we shall pay school fees later after selling our maize; and the head teachers have allowed our children to study.”

At the end of the program the WFP will release the new data with governments, public and private sectors, and the agricultural sector in order to benefit local farmers. The WFP will also use the new acquired information for log-term policies and program practices.

“During the five-year pilot P4P has gathered immense knowledge about what works best in linking small farmers to markets. Sharing those lessons widely will be vital in ongoing efforts to create resilient communities,” said Gudmunds to MediaGlobal News.

Published in: MediaGlobal News

Dangers faced by children in the DRC

Photo credit: Oxfam International
Boys collect water in Mugunga I camp near the city of Goma. Photo credit: Oxfam International

According to UNICEF’s DRC Mid-Year Report on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), children are increasingly vulnerable in the country with an overall increase of 56 percent of verified grave violations.

The study, which takes place over the first six months of the year, indicates violent conflict has left 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDP) in the DRC. “More than 50 percent of these displaced are children,” said Jean Metenier, UNICEF Coordinator in Eastern DRC to MediaGlobal News.

The report indicates children are vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation, abduction, armed groups, malnutrition, and countless diseases such as measles, cholera, severe anemia, and malaria. Currently, over 116,373children under the age of five are being treated for severe acute malnutrition.

In addition, over 2,000 children are being used as child soldiers in the DRC, according to UNICEF’s Monthly Humanitarian Report, released August 23.

“The recruitment and use of children under 18 years of age in armed forces and groups is a crime under Congolese and international law,” said Barbara Bentein, UNICEF Representative in DRC. UNICEF also urged “all parties involved in the conflict to release minors in their ranks.”

In August, 112 children in Katanga Province were rescued from the Mai Mai Bakata Katanga armed group. Many are already reunited with their families, except in cases where they face dangers of re-extraction if they are returned. In Nord Kivu, 228 unaccompanied and separated children were found and documented. 79 of these children are already reunited.

Inah Kaloga, UNICEF Protection/GBV Specialist in the city of Goma, in eastern DRC, tells MediaGlobal News how UNICEF works with partners in camps and communities hosting displaced children to provide integrated education and protection support through Child Friendly Spaces (CFS). “Providing children with recreational activities as well as an entry point into the discussion and referral of child protection issues. The CFS are places where children and their families can discuss their problems and be directed to the relevant services.” In Nord Kivu alone 22,475 children a day are benefiting from CFS.

Overall, UNICEF has been aiding IDP in the DRC for the last 50 years and “as soon as it is deemed safe for the displaced to return home, UNICEF will be there to support these people in restarting the lives they left,” said Kaloga to MediaGlobal News.

Published in: Inside the United Nations

National Geographic: Coral Reef, Honduras

Coral Reef, Honduras

After snorkeling with my family in the breathtaking coral reefs of Roatan, Honduras, I sat outside the balcony of the cruise ship we were traveling on to admire the life and beauty of the ocean. I took the photo with a Nikon D3100 with an 18-55mm lens while the boat was lifting the anchors of the cruise ship just before we sailed away. —Jessica Karcz

Published in: National Geographic 

Thesis: The War on Drugs

Ever since President Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs, Washington’s battles have been mostly fought in Latin America, leaving a trail of bloodshed up to its largest consumer in the world, the United States. After years of fighting a war against drugs and implementing strict policies and punishments; Illicit drugs are still easily obtained, the demand is still high worldwide, drug cartels are richer and more powerful, and the drug related violence is at its peak. Clearly we are not winning the war, have lost millions of lives, wasted billions of dollars, and still do not have a reason to believe it will not keep getting worse over time. Why can’t Washington reconsider its strict drug policies?

Central American countries, including the ones with the lowest crime rates in the world like Costa Rica, (who does not even have an army), or Belize, are now affected by drug smugglers and their violence carrying cartels. Several Latin American countries have admitted failure in this war, and considered alternate approaches, starting with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia who supports decriminalization. President Otto Fernando Pérez Molina of Guatemala, said he is also open to “legalizing the possession and transportation of drugs, and called for a meeting of all Central America’s presidents to debate the issue” (Prada,1) This made Washington nervous, sending Vice President Joe Biden to advice against the discussion of alternate strategies, and discouraged the presidents from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, who immediately withdrew themselves from the summit. The summit still took place on March 2012 in Antigua, Guatemala with the presence of the presidents from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama.

United States’ involvement in Latin American affairs goes far back since the implementation of the Monroe Doctrine on 1823, which expanded the U.S’ sphere of influence into Latin America, by preventing European intervention in the newly independent nations. Up to the 1930’s Latin America became the testing ground for U.S might as a political and military power, in other words, “its backyard.” This was further enforced through Roosevelt’s Corollary in 1904 that promoted the use of gunboat diplomacy in Latin America, favoring U.S interests. Gunboat diplomacy left Latin American nations with the other unfavorable option of an intervention, a military invasion, taking down the government, and replacing it with a U.S friendly one, who was “more democratic”. This lead to democratically elected leaders like Jacobo Árbenz Villanova  the president of Guatemala to be taken out of power, for doing what was best for his people, and not Washington, or private interest groups, like the United Fruit Company in this case. Many years have passed since these instances of direct, brutal, and no longer excusable actions have taken place, but the feeling of U.S dominance and control over many Latin American nations is still alive, if not directly through a military invasion like their past trend, but through economic influence.

Mexico’s war on drugs was formally declared by President Felipe Calderon, but it actually began on March 2, 1920 when Mexico’s Department of Public Sanitation declared the new law of “Dispositions on the Cultivation and Commerce of Products that Degenerate the Race” (Campos). The word degeneration helps explain why drugs were turned into a national security threat in Mexico, instead of a health issue like alcoholism. It is important to understand the nations’ historical and social context, to be able to understand today’s war. Drugs have a history of being banned in Mexico, but ironically they only became a real destabilizing national security threat, after they were attacked for being a destabilizing national security threat and waged war against on 2006. It all started during the colonial period, when the Spanish established the protomedicato model in Mexico (Campos, 380), which founded the principles of the Sanitary Council and modern drug regulations. This included the strict regulations and exams that pharmacists went through, to demonstrate their competence and be able to sell drugs for medicinal use. Dangerous and poisonous drugs were restricted and pharmacists would face the death penalty if they were to poison someone (Campos, 383). Later, the Hague International Opium Convention founded the basis for drug control on 1912. In Mexico, articles 842 and 843 of the Federal Sanitary Code of 1871 condemned those who produced poisonous or illegal substances for sale without authorization, or to the public, with fines and jailing. (Campos, 384) Marijuana was banned in Mexico City on 1869, followed by the state of Oaxaca, and the rest that slowly followed. Soon after the Mexican Revolution on 1914, the Sanitary Council restricted the import of opiates and cocaine in Mexican ports. The Sanitary Council gained policy-making power under the new constitution on 1917. The idea of degeneration came from modernized Europe, and tried to explain the miserable political and economic realities of post-colonial life for Mexico’s indigenous people, as well as the strong racial hierarchies ruling its social life. (Campos, 299). At this time Mexico was constantly under the threat of invasion from its Northern neighbor, and thought that a strong and healthy population was needed to defend the nation. José María Rodríguez, president of the Sanitary Council stated “degeneration of the Mexican race is a fact” (Campos, 399). Drugs were considered dangerous threats that “degenerate entire races and placed the nation’s security at risk” (Campos, 299). Trinidas Sánchez Santos, who belonged to the Catholic opposition, challenged this view and linked the degeneration concept and substances to tyranny, and a form of massive control over the polity, during the Porfirian authoritarian regime. At the same time because of the unofficial censorship of Porfirio Diaz, journalists who were jailed, reported from inside the prisons describing them as corrupt and hell on earth, emphasizing a metamorphic change in prisoners who were surrounded by marijuana and other substances. This linkage portrayed drug addicts as “wild beasts and savages…with simian movements, and claws” (Campos, 404). The correlation between drugs and prisons, tyranny, and degeneration, made drugs seem like a threat to Mexico’s national security. After localized restrictions on dangerous substances, degeneration justified a more aggressive approach to drugs on the national level. The seed behind the current war on drugs was watered, with its initial popular support, but wakening the ongoing struggles between different cartels and the government.

The PRI, Mexico’s Revolutionary Institutionalized Party, ruled the country for 71 years, holding democracy down and promoting an authoritarian, corrupt government, that made friends with drug cartels and let them grow and become more powerful at an exponential rate. “In this period, the PRI had control of everything. The PRI controlled the press, oil fields, politics and even the narcotics trade” (Beubien, 1). According to Osorno and other political analysts, the PRI “covertly cut deals with the criminals to allow a particular trafficker to operate in a particular part of Mexico” (Beubien, 1). The PRI had the control and capacity to punish the cartels if they “broke the rules” (Beubien, 1). On 2000 when the presidency shifted to the Political Action Party, the informal deal with drug cartels was broken, and the violence between the different drug cartels and government officials over power and territory intensified, and escalated after president Felipe Calderon declared war openly attacking them. Unfortunately the cartels’ real power that developed over 71 years of corrupt policies was underestimated. The question that many Mexican citizens were faced with in the latest 2012 presidential election, was the option of a government that previously negotiated with drug lords but had lower levels of violence, or the current government that tried to tackle drug cartels but by doing so has lead to the loss of over 60,000 lives. As a result of the elections, the PRI is coming back with a new friendlier disguise. The former political party known as the “dinosaur”, has transformed into a young candidate with nice hair and a Mexican Telenovela actress as his new trophy wife, supported and sold to the polity by a biased Television monopoly with a hidden agenda.  It is uncertain if Enrique Peña Nieto will continue the war on drugs or secretly pact with power hungry cartels. On his recent visit to Washington, he shifted the attention on the war and instead promoted U.S and Mexico’s economic interests.

Meanwhile the U.S federal government keeps pushing for strict drug policies when it comes to its borders and Latin America. Controversially in the last elections both Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of marijuana. This is a case of state law contradicting federal law, and states disagreeing and acting against the federal government’s war on drugs. At the time current president Felipe Calderon (who is now teaching at Harvard University) expressed his grievance “a rural farmer who sows half a hectare [of marijuana] is persecuted and punished, and each year thousands of young people fall prey to organized crime. While we put our lives on the line, now, in [Colorado and Washington] drugs will be produced, sold, and consumed with total freedom. This is a paradigmatic change with respect to what has existed up until now in global drug policy” (Rodriguez, 1). There is no doubt that these new state laws will affect the future of the drug war and raise even more controversial drug policy questions.

In the recent elections A U.S military official stationed in South America also admitted to the following: “There’s an increasing sense that this is a holding action. We’re not stopping drug supply because it moves. And we could never get the resources to shut down the whole hemisphere. The evidence is that we haven’t affected price or supply. Is this the way we want to spend U.S dollars? I think not.” (Bertram, 19) The drug supply route has moved from Florida to the Mexican border, and if the new drug supply route were to miraculously be stopped, a new route will simply find its way back to its largest market. It is as simple as the law of supply and demand. Declaring a war on drugs means the “American youth has become the enemy, and the strategies employed in dealing with it are essentially those of social control and containment. In contrast, a battle of hearts and minds is fought in the more affluent sectors of society with tactics that, even if the political will to use them existed, would probably be ineffective in countering the greater risk experienced by children grown up in the urban ghettos of the United States” (Gorman, 371). No matter how many more billions of dollars are spent, or lives lost, history has proven that as long as there is a demand for drugs (especially such a large one) there will be a supply for them.

If alcoholism is considered to be a public health issue, why is drug addiction considered a national security threat? The U.S has a trend of declaring wars on things that it considers harmful, such as the War on Crime, War on Poverty, War on Cancer, War on Drugs, War on Gangs, War on Terror, etc. The problem is that you can not win any of these wars. You can alleviate poverty, prevent most terrorist attacks, cure many types of cancer, and reduce crime rates, but there is no clear end to any of these wars. It is impossible to pinpoint a day when the War on Crime will be over, and in this case, the War on Drugs is not the exception. I believe you can fight many of these issues, but declaring war against them is not the answer.

There are several other flaws in the policies of the drug war strategy that have made the product more profitable and increased the drug supply, instead of decreasing it. Since policymakers treat the drug market as a crime, they do not combat it as a profitable market or see it as a business of supply and demand. Illicit drugs are very easy to grow, refine, ship, and sell. (12, Bertram) The drug market has become a black market that is very similar to the alcohol market during the 1920s through 1930s, when it was considered an illegal drug. The U.S government applied the same policies as they are doing now making it “scarce and expensive by outlawing it” (12). This of course increases the risks and costs of the suppliers and raises the prices, but not enough to stop its demand. In fact, as a result of these policies, it only makes drugs much more profitable for the suppliers. This is called the profit paradox, when the government’s success in artificially raising prices, also inflates profits providing an incentive for current and future drug dealers. For example, a gram of pharmaceutical cocaine costs about 15 to 20 dollars, while the black market price is about 143 dollars. (Bertram, 12) Because of the high rate of profitability, they are encouraged to keep the drug supply going, and this keeps the prices from rising too high, which was the original intent of the policies. Besides the high profits that lure more people in, there is an intense competition between them and pressure that governmental official enforce, that increase the need for drug dealers to be armed in order to protect their market against police and competitors. (Bertram, 12) The act of arming themselves, leads to the use of violence as a black market strategy. If they were considered to be a business and treated with such standards, this could be prevented. Instead of violence and intimidation, business deals and healthy competition between them would flourish, as well as accountability, regulation by the government and even taxation. The legalization of the alcohol drug is the perfect example. If these policies continue, there is no reason to believe that the supply of drugs or violence behind them will decrease.

As a consequence of European colonialism, racial disparities and their correlation with social and economic inequalities, are a common description of society and the economy in most of Latin America. In Mexico the legal racial caste system imposed by the Spanish government, included 16 distinct racial categories in social hierarchy, mainly characterized by skin color. Even though the Spanish caste system is long gone, today these social inequalities are still widespread and most of the lower class population lacks a proper education or any chance of real economic success or upper social mobility. To understand drug trafficking and Mexican societal problems, we must consider the human nature for prosperity, the unequal distribution of wealth, increasing violence, and the lack of education, opportunity, reform, and real political debate between the lower classes. As they see it, one of their solutions is to look for the “American dream”. Immigration is a very controversial topic between the two nations that is commonly used for political purposes, but it would be hard to also be addressed in this thesis. The other attractive way to get out of poverty is by getting involved in the drug business. From the outside, it seems like easy, and fast money without weighing the high risks. In reality, life for a drug dealer is short lived, which is something many young “zetillas” overlook. This poses an important question for policymakers, should the problem of drug cartels be analyzed only as a security issue, or are there economic and social problem that must also be addressed. What most Latin American countries are experiencing today is the lack of government capacity to comply with social demands for the lower classes, like the creation of new jobs, urban infrastructure, higher standards of education and healthcare, among other things. Drug cartels are not only an economic fast money producing incentive, but a social agent that has generated development in areas that the government has neglected. As a result, some people in rural communities favor drug cartels, because despite the violence they generate, they also bring benefits.

Combining society problems with weapon trafficking is a recipe for disaster.

AK 47s are not sold in Mexico, especially in such turbulent and bloody times. The fact that the drug cartels are better armed than the Mexican police and army in many occasions, is a harsh reality that reflects badly on its northern neighbor. Both nations have estimated that more than 100,000 firearms are smuggled into Mexican territory every year. Over 90 percent of the weapons confiscated in Mexico are easily traced to U.S shops (Washington Post). Controversially the second amendment of the American constitution adopted in the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791, respects the individual rights to firearm ownership, possession, and transportation. Increasingly popular opinion point to the fact that when the founding fathers came up with this amendment, they were not trying to protect and promote the private interests of the billion dollar weapon industry that promotes murder and war throughout the world, but individual self defense.

Texas and Arizona, both located in the border, have strict immigration views. Arizona passed the Senate Bill 1070 requiring all aliens over 14 to have registration documents in their possession at all times. These leads to social profiling where police can detains or arrest anyone that they think looks like a foreigner and does not carry proper documentation. At the same time, they do not see a problem in arming the drug lords that terrorize the population with murder, violence, extortion, and kidnapping, leading to increase insecurity and therefore encourages an escape through immigration into the U.S. It is a vicious circle, since one can not stop illegal immigration while arming violent drug cartels. Mexican immigration into the U.S has decreased, except for border cities where a total of 264,693 Mexicans are migrating because of security issues “fearing drug-related violence and extortion, which has spiked since 2008” (Rios, 1). There are currently over 7,000 retailers licensed to sell firearms on the border, which is very incoherent with American values and policy.

In order to sell firearms in the U.S, one must have a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, the lists of these FFLs are public information on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) webpage. Ironically this information is not correct and their list of FFL for Arizona (where the number of FFL must be very high) is missing and replaced by the list of FFL in Arkansas. Still, I was able to map the FFL in the other border states on this map.

Map of FFL in border states Credit: Jessica Karcz Copyright © 2012 All rights Reserved
Map of FFL in border states
Credit: Jessica Karcz Copyright © 2012 All rights Reserved

When compared to the U.S State Department map of warning cities in Mexico, the correlation between FFL in border cities in the U.S and dangerous border cities in Mexico is clear.

Map of warning cities in Mexico
Credit: U.S State Department

These cities include Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros. It is controversial for Washington to support Mexico in fighting the war on drugs, while being the number one weapon supplier to the cartels.

One of the strategies implemented in many Latin American countries, especially in Mexico, has been confronting drug cartels through territorial deployment of the military and other security forces. Not only has this strategy become the reason for so much of the violence, but it led criminal organizations to reconfigure territorially. An example of this phenomenon is how most cartels now operate locally through cells under certain level of autonomy, versus former strict hierarchical structures. In order to progress, they seek power and money by engaging in illegal activities such as kidnapping, robberies, and extortion, terrorizing the civilian population. Not all cartels operate under the same structure, but the strategy of spreading fear in the local community, leads people to believe that anyone with a gun is associated with a cartel. This is not always the case, since criminal activity in Mexico has also been used to make money for other personal reasons, besides cartel organizations. In this case, what makes criminal activity in Mexico different from the U.S. are the lack of proper investigations, real legal consequences in most of the cases, and high impunity levels in Mexico. The probability of getting caught is almost non existent, since the level of impunity in Mexico is between 90 and 95 percent, according to ICESI (the citizen institute of insecurity studies), which means that only 5 percent of the crimes committed will be brought to justice.

Corrupt practices and institutional vulnerability have been other defining factors for the success of the drug cartels. An average policeman in Mexico earns approximately 600 dollars per month (IFAI), which is quite poor by any standard, especially compared with the risks they are faced with daily in their job. This means they are more vulnerable to bribes and corruptive practices, and turn into a “bad” example for society. In 2012, public polls have shown that public confidence in police forces is at its lowest point between 10 and 20 percent (Latinobarómetro). This means that there is a lack of motivation for Mexicans to become policemen, and if they do, they will probably end up getting involved in alternate corrupt activities to compensate salary deficits or the absence of a career structure. One of the largest mistakes of the Merida Initiative has been its focus on only strengthening the physical structure of Mexico’s security forces, through the acquisition of helicopters and other technological devices. The biggest challenge that they are faced with is enforcing incentives for moral standards to local police forces, and it has been ignored. The U.S has been reluctant to adopt long-term strategies, which might be due to the lack of political motivation behind it. The ongoing problem of having unmotivated police forces has given the opportunity to criminal organizations to access power institutions through this loophole. By offering to properly compensate them and give them protection, something the government can not yet offer, in exchange for information or connections, drug cartels have been very successful in recruiting police agents and other young people lacking a proper education. This problem is intensified with the on growing operating cartels.

In Mexico, there are over 5 identified drug cartels. These are the Zetas, Sinaloa Federation, Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, Gulf Cartel, and the Knights Templar. There are two important cartels that have progressively gained substantial territory in recent years, the Sinaloa Federation in the west, and Los Zetas in the east. Nuevo Leon, Guerrero, Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila have been regarded as the states with the highest levels of violence in all of Mexico. To counter this, the federal government has deployed a program called “convenio seguro” in each of these states. This program includes budgetary assistance, and the deployment of thousands of federal forces. In exchange, local and state governments are required to put their entire local police through lie detectors to try to clean the police force, and encourage the remaining ones to comply with the program. According to some security experts such as El Salvador’s Joaquin Villalobos (former guerrilla leader), when drug cartels face an increased presence of security forces and violence rates go up, they usually move to places where violence rates are lower and it is easier for them to operate.

The Zetas are the deadliest cartel, since they have caused the majority of civilian casualties. Until recently, it was led by Heriberto Lazcano “El Lazca”, until he was killed in a recent shooting that occurred on October 7th in Coahuila. Security experts suggest that Miguel Angel Treviño, known as “Z40”, has become the cartel’s new leader.  Zetas primarily control corridors along the Gulf coast that stretch from the Yucatan Peninsula to Nuevo Laredo. This includes Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche and Quintana Roo. Los Zetas have differentiated from other drug cartels by escalating violence rates to new standards. Their executions and operations against other competing cartels are often characterized by brutality and consist of decapitations, using acid to burn their victims, among other methods, which are commonly used to show their strength. They are also known to be the most brutal to local citizens when it comes to kidnapping, rape, robbery, and other aggressions. Young Zetas known as “the Zetillas” are ruthless and very dangerous. Ironically enough, the Zetas were initially trained by the United States when they were Commandos from the Mexican army. In the 1990s 31 of these Special Force Soldiers deserted originally to protect a young, upcoming leader of the Gulf Cartel called Osiel Cardenas Guillen, leading to the creation of the cartel los Zetas. (Ware,1)

The Sinaloa Federation, is led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is considered to be one of the richest men on earth. This cartel has allied with other groups, namely the Gulf Cartel and Jalisco’s Nueva Generacion to fight the Zetas. The Sinaloa Federation controls the corridors along the Pacific coast that run up through Ciudad Juarez and then west into Tijuana, Baja California.

The Gulf Cartel was once part of the same group with los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel has been operating as an ally for the Sinaloa Federation. Its zone of influence is narrow in terms of territory but highly relevant in terms of geographic location. This cartel controls the lateral corridor in Tamaulipas from Matamoros to Reynosa. Many Mexicans see them as the “good ones”, because despite their illegal activities, they do not terrorize or mess with the population in ways that the Zetas brutally do.

The Knights Templar was born as an organization thanks to the fragmentation of former cartel “La Familia Michoacana”. With a strong footprint in Michoacán, this group has become more relevant in 2012 and it has usually operated as an ally for the Sinaloa Federation.

Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion is believed to have been part of the Sinaloa group, but has begun to act independently. This cartel has presence in Jalisco but reports suggest that they operate in seven states. Tactically, they are identified as an ally for the Sinaloa Federation.

Many of these cartels are enemies, and as mentioned earlier are fighting to protect their lucrative markets. In order to get away with the large amounts of profit, money laundering is commonly used, being another important aspect of the war and the two nations. Criminal organizations make lots of money through illegal activities such as kidnapping, extortion, and drug sales, and use money laundering to deal with it. Although bilateral mechanisms have been implemented in recent years, currently there is no international mechanism to prevent these activities from happening. There are three common strategies for money laundering. The first one is called “Placement” and refers to the stage where the dirty money enters the legal financial system such as banking institutions. The second is called “Layering” and consists of the launderer putting the money away from its original source. A traditional mechanism to do this is through foreign accounts or “tax heavens”. The third strategy is called “Integration” and occurs after a period of time, when the illegal money re-enters the legal system in the form of investment. Traditional investment includes real estate and other activities. Besides money laundering, many cartels are so powerful, that they influence government through force.

A recent phenomenon seen in Mexico includes executions of people holding public offices including mayors, local deputies, and even a candidate for governor in Tamaulipas state, which the polls suggested, was going to win by a large margin. While the reason of these killings is unknown, the fact is that criminal activities are tied to politics through violence. Other tactics include different forms of intimidations, threats to their families, and kidnappings.

In conclusion, as previously discussed the war on drugs covers many different aspects, from international security, U.S influence over many Latin American nations, U.S and Mexico relations, racial inequalities as consequence of European colonialism, current social problems and inequalities in Latin America (especially in Mexico including poverty and lack of proper education), security as a reason for immigration, FFL and weapon trafficking, black market behavior, lucrative cartels, police corruption, covert politician and cartel relationships, money laundering, and more.

After researching the following, reconsidering Washington’s strict drug policies is a plausible policy recommendation. As an influential world leader, many Latin American nations who are already questioning these same drug policies, and suffering deeply from the war, will follow and feel free to accept alternative drug policies.  If this were to happen, and legalization could be openly discussed as a viable alternative with adequate regulations, the drug trade will be sold at much lower prices, lowering its profit, and limiting the drug dealers’ power as well as their incentive. It might also lead the drug market to be treated as a normal business, regulated legally and taxed by the government, which might reduce its need for violence replacing it by normal and legal businesslike market competition.

Another alternative is returning to the past, corrupt, and covert policies of politicians pacting with a specific cartel. They agree on an area of influence and a behavior protocol (generally a peaceful one) that they must follow, as the PRI did, while purposely turning a blind eye on their illegal activities. History has proven this method efficient as long as the same party stays in control, but at the same time has led the drug cartels to become as powerful, violent, and dangerous as they are today.

A third alternative is to continue the war on drugs, and try to eliminate illegal drug trade. Recent trends have proven how the civilian death rate keep getting higher as well as the amount of money spent and drugs sold. The demand has always been there, since it is an inelastic good. Still, Washington has not seen defeat while fighting the war on drugs. As mentioned, Colorado and Washington as well as several Latin American countries are already decriminalizing drugs and legalizing some of them like marijuana for recreational purposes. Public perception, acceptance, and political pressure might someday end the long fought war on drugs.

If legalization is still not an accepted alternative for the influential U.S, countries like Mexico might be left with the second less favorable option of negotiating with the drug cartels, in order to ensure the safety of its people, who are tired of the violence and brought the all time experts on negotiating with the cartels (the PRI) back in power.

The University of Texas at Austin International security thesis published in: AIDemocracy

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The University of Texas at Austin International security thesis published in: AIDemocracy