Abandoned Children Growing Problem in Northern Syria

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Humanitarian Emergencies

Children eating and drinking at the Children's House in Idlib. Abandoned children is a growing issue in the region. Credit: Sonia Al-Ali/IPS

Children eating and drinking at the Children’s House in Idlib. Abandoned children is a growing issue in the region. Credit: Sonia Al-Ali/IPS

IDLIB, Syria, Mar 27 2024 (IPS) – Wael Al-Hassan was returning from work in the Syrian city of Harim when he heard the sound of a baby crying.

He was returning from work on December 10, 2023. He stopped momentarily, turned on his mobile phone flashlight to investigate, and spotted a baby girl, around one month old, wrapped in a white blanket, lying by the roadside.


He felt saddened by the infant’s condition and said, “She was crying loudly, and I saw scratches on her face from cat or dog claws. I then carried her in my arms and took her home, where my wife breastfed her, changed her clothes, and took care of her.”

The phenomenon of abandoning newborns is increasing in northern Syria, where individuals leave their newborns in public parks or alongside roads, then leave the area. Passersby later find the infants, some of them dead from hunger or cold.

Al-Hassan said that the next morning, he handed the baby girl over to the police to search for her family and relatives.

Social Rejection

Social worker Abeer Al-Hamoud from the city of Idlib, located in northern Syria, attributes the primary reason for some families abandoning their children to the widespread poverty and high population density in the province. Additionally, there is fear of the security situation (the area is not in the control of the Syrian regime and is often under attack), the prevalence of divorces, and spouses abandoning their families after traveling abroad.

Al-Hamoud also points out another reason, which is the spread of the phenomenon of early marriage and marrying girls to foreign fighters who came from their countries to Syria to participate in combat. Under pressure from their families, wives often have to abandon their children after their husband’s death, sudden disappearance, or return to their homeland, especially when they are unable to care for them or provide for them financially. Moreover, these children have no proper documentation of parentage.

Furthermore, Al-Hamoud mentions another reason, which is some women are raped, leading them to abandon their newborns out of fear of punishment from their families or societal stigma.

Al-Hamoud warns that the number of abandoned children is increasing and says there is an urgent need to find solutions to protect them from exploitation, oppression, and societal discrimination they may face. She emphasizes that the solutions lie in returning displaced persons to their homes, improving living conditions for families, raising awareness among families about the importance of family planning, and launching campaigns to integrate these children into society.

Alternative Families

It’s preferable for members of the community to accept these children into their families, but they face difficulties in registering the births.

Thirty-nine-year-old Samaheer Al-Khalaf from the city of Sarmada in northern Idlib province, Syria, sponsored a newborn found abandoned at a park gate, and she welcomed him into her family.

She says, “After 11 years of marriage to my cousin, we were not blessed with children, so we decided to raise a child found in the city at the beginning of 2022.”

Al-Khalaf observes that the Islamic religion’s prohibition on “adoption” prevents her from registering the child under her name in the civil registry. Additionally, she cannot go to areas controlled by the Syrian regime to register him due to the presence of security barriers.

She says, “I fear for this child’s future because he will remain of unknown lineage. He will live deprived of his civil rights, such as education and healthcare, and he won’t be able to obtain official documents.”

Children’s House Provides Assistance

With the increasing numbers of children of unknown parentage, volunteers have opened a center to receive and care for the children abandoned by their families.

Younes Abu Amin, the director of Children’s House, says, “A child of unknown parentage is one who was found and whose father is unknown, or children whose parentage has not been proven and who have no provider.”

“The organization ‘Children’s House’ opened a center to care for children separated from their families and children of unknown parentage in the city of Sarmada, north of Idlib,” says Abu Amin. “The number of registered children in the center has reached 267, ranging in age from one day to 18 years. Some have been placed with foster families, while others currently reside in the center, receiving all their needs, including shelter, food, education, and healthcare.”

Upon arrival at the center, Abu Amin notes that the center registers each child in its records, transfers them to the shelter department, and makes efforts to locate their original family or relatives and send them to them or to find a foster family to provide them with a decent life.

Abu Amin explains that the center employs 20 staff members who provide children with care, psychological support, and education. They work to create a suitable environment for the children and support them psychologically to help with emotional support.

He emphasizes that the center survives on individual donations to cover its expenses – which are scarce. There is an urgent need for sufficient support, as the children require long-term care, especially newborns.

A young girl Marah (8) and her brother, Kamal (10), lost their father in the war. Their mother remarried, leaving them to live in a small tent with their grandfather, who forces them to beg and sell tissues, often leaving them without food for days.

Consequently, they decided to escape from home. Kamal says, “We used to sleep outdoors, overwhelmed by fear, cold, and hunger, until someone took us to the child center.”

Upon reaching the center, they returned to their studies, played with other children, and each other, just like children with families.

Kamal expresses his wish, “I hope to continue my education with my sister so we can rely on ourselves and escape from a life of injustice and deprivation.”

These children, innocent of any wrongdoing, are often left to fend for themselves, bearing the brunt of war-induced poverty, insecurity, homelessness, instability, and early marriage.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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Funding, Policy Changes Could Result in Countries Reaping Benefit of Migration

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Migration & Refugees

The African Unions Migration Policy Framework for Africa (2018-2030) provides guidelines to manage migration and reap the benefits of well managed migration which contribute to global prosperity and progress. Credit: UNHCR

The African Unions Migration Policy Framework for Africa (2018-2030) provides guidelines to manage migration and reap the benefits of well managed migration which contribute to global prosperity and progress. Credit: UNHCR

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Feb 23 2024 (IPS) – Amid an escalation of global conflict and climate change-induced displacements, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is escalating its donor campaign.


For the first time since the organization’s formation in 1951, the IOM says it is “proactively approaching all partners to fund this vital appeal,” at a time when the number of migrants making perilous intercontinental journeys has increased.

“Irregular and forced migration have reached unprecedented levels and the challenges we face are increasingly complex,” said IOM Director General Amy Pope at the launch of the Global Appeal in Geneva in January.

It added to its appeal this week, asking for USD 112 million to provide urgent humanitarian and development assistance to over 1.4 million migrants and host communities in the Horn of Africa, Yemen, and Southern Africa. Routes from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and the Gulf States, and the Southern route from the Horn of Africa through Kenya and Tanzania to Southern Africa, are among the most dangerous, complex, and under-reported migratory routes in the world. In 2023, nearly 400,000 movements were recorded across the Eastern route, while an additional 80,000 movements were recorded on the Southern route, particularly to South Africa, the statement read.

“The evidence is overwhelming that migration, when well managed, is a major contributor to global prosperity and progress. We are at a critical moment in time, and we have designed this appeal  to help deliver on that promise. We can and must do better,”  Pope said at the launch.

The IOM has broken down the appeal as follows:

  • USD 3.4 billion for work on saving lives and protecting people on the move.
  • USD 2.7 billion for work on solutions to displacement, including reducing the risks and impacts of climate change.
  • USD 1.6 billion for work on facilitating regular pathways for migration.
  • USD 163 million for work on transforming IOM to deliver services in a better, more effective way.

“Full funding would allow IOM to serve almost 140 million people, including internally displaced people and the local communities that host them. Crucially, it would also allow for an expansion of the IOM’s development work, which helps prevent further displacement,” the IOM said in a media briefing.

However, experts and researchers say the global migration that has peaked in recent years has deeper, more complex roots that will require more than just responding to after the fact.

“What we’re seeing is a willingness from officials and citizens to thoroughly dehumanise migrants,” said Loren Landau, professor and chair at the University of Witwatersrand African Centre for Migration and Society.

“Not only can they be left to suffer, but they should be made to suffer. Only by doing this can ‘we’ send a message that others are unwelcome. The policies of the EU, Australia, and even South Africa are all designed to broadcast this sentiment,” Landau told IPS.

The IOM estimates that there are more than 140 million displaced people, and it’s global appeal for donor support will “save lives and protect people on the move, drive solutions to displacement, and facilitate safe pathways for regular migration.”

Thousands continue to make efforts to illegally enter Europe and the USA with assistance from traffickers,.

According to the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, 60,000 people have died or disappeared on perilous journeys to seek economic opportunities over the last nine years.

Migration has in recent years become a political hot button, with right-wing political parties in Europe accused of whipping up public sentiment against migrants.

However, Landau says global inequality has worsened the displacement of millions of people.

“Migration has long been a crisis, although it has often been framed differently. There have always been displaced people. There has long been violence and corruption on the border. However, it has now moved from the edge of public debate to the centre,” Loren said.

“Global inequality, labour demand, conflict, and environmental factors are encouraging people to move, but movement is natural,” he told IPS.

Claims that migrants steal jobs from locals and force governments to divert social spending to accommodate migrants have fueled anti-immigrant sentiment.

Researchers, however, have always questioned those claims as the IOM ups its efforts to assist migrants in their new domiciles.

“Migrants are generally not why fewer people have secure employment, social protection, or feel their cultures and values are under threat.  But in light of those anxieties, migrants have become the fetish on which politicians and the public fixate,” Landau added.

In its appeal for donor funding, the IOM says well-managed migration “has the potential to advance development outcomes, contribute to climate change adaptation, and promote a safer and more peaceful, sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future.”

“The consequences of underfunded, piecemeal assistance come at a greater cost, not just in terms of money but in greater danger to migrants through irregular migration, trafficking, and smuggling,” said Pope.

“Getting the job done requires greater investment from governments, the private sector, individual donors, and other partners,” said Pope.

The African Union, which has seen the bulk of global migration, says the continent has witnessed changing patterns of migration, “a phenomenon that has become both dynamic and extremely complex.”

As part of efforts to address this and in what is expected to aid the work being done by the IOM, the AU set up the Migration Policy Framework for Africa (2018–2030).

The Framework provides “guidelines to manage migration in a coherent manner and therefore reap the benefits of migration.”

Those benefits are captured in IOM findings that “281 million international migrants generate 9.4% of global GDP.”

Despite the dangers that have come to define migrant experiences, especially on the high seas, the factors that drive millions to leave their homelands remain unresolved.

“There are immediate practical concerns about ensuring people can migrate safely,” said Landau.

“Beyond this, there is a broader need to recalibrate how we speak about these issues. Migration is not going anywhere so there’s a need to shift the framing from one of crisis to one of ‘the new normal’, Landau told IPS.
IPS UN Bureau Report

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Tracking Global Development in Child Benefits Through New Monitoring and Information Platform

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Sustainable Development Goals

Students attending at the Souza Gare school in the Littoral region, Cameroon. The school hosts displaced children who have fled the violence in the North-West and South-West regions. Photo credits: ECW/Daniel Beloumou

Students attending class at the Souza Gare school in the Littoral region, Cameroon. The school hosts displaced children who have fled the violence in the North-West and South-West regions.
Credits: ECW/Daniel Beloumou

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 15 2024 (IPS) – Inclusive social protections for children would be a positive signifier of social development in a time where 1.4 billion children globally are denied them. A step towards realizing this has been taken through a new monitoring tool on current social protection and child poverty statistics.


The International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, and Save the Children have partnered together to create the Global Child Benefits Tracker. This online platform will globally monitor children’s access to social protection and identify gaps in existing social protections systems in over 180 countries.

On Wednesday, this tool was launched at a side event on universal child benefits (UCBs) during the 62nd Commission for Social Development (CSoCD62) hosted in New York. One of the prevailing themes for this year was the use of digital transformation to promote inclusive growth and development. In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, the tracker would go forward to monitoring growth in poverty eradication by calling on governments to implement responsible and appropriate social protection systems for all by 2030.

The platform includes a breakdown of child poverty statistics by country, region, and income bracket. Notably, the percentage of children that currently have access to social protections is higher when compared to the percentage of the country’s population that is covered by benefits and the expenditures on these social protections. The platform also provides data on the percentage of children at risk of or experiencing monetary or multidimensional poverty. The purpose of this platform will be to serve as a knowledge tool for use in designing evidence-based child-sensitive social protections, intended for use by policymakers in government and international development programmes, social protection programmes, and civil society organizations. The tool would facilitate the exchange of best practices and inspire greater investment in child-sensitive social protection.

The platform also includes a community tab, where supplemental material can be shared as designed by experts and practitioners, such as blog posts, podcasts, videos, and links to resources. David Lambert Tumwesigye, the Global Policy & Advocacy Lead, Child Poverty, of Save the Children International, has urged members of government, academia, development partners, and practitioners to contribute to the community tab and expand the broader understanding of child poverty. “We aim to highlight the scale of global child poverty,”  he said.

Disruptions in the global economy, increased costs of living, and the COVID-19 pandemic are cited as some of the factors that have underlined the need for resilient and comprehensive social protections, especially for children at high risk of experiencing poverty. Yet, as was pointed out by speakers at the event, there have been limited investments in social protections for children, despite the general sentiment that these would be imperative. This was described as a “moral, social, and economic catastrophe,” by ILO Director in New York, Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon.

At the launch of the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, and Save the Children's Global Child Benefits Tracker. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS

At the launch of the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, and Save the Children’s Global Child Benefits Tracker. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS

“Life without social protection inflicts enormous social costs, and they result in squandered and prematurely shortened lives,” she said. “For children, social protection can literally be a lifesaver. It can make the difference between a healthy, happy, and long life or one that is punctuated by ill health, stress, and unrealized potential.”

The data on countries’ current social protections has been compiled through public studies and those conducted by the ILO and UNICEF. It reveals that social protection programmes in low-income countries reach less than 10 percent of their child population, in contrast to high-income countries, where their programmes reach more than 80 percent of their child population. Yet, the global average of children covered by social protection or benefits caps out at 28.1 percent. Although the evidence suggests that low-income countries struggle to provide universal child benefits, child poverty is still a global issue that affects all countries, regardless of their income group.

ILO, UNICEF, and Save the Children have urged policymakers and leaders to take the necessary measures to implement universal child benefits, or at least more inclusive, child-sensitive social protections. This includes building a social protection system that provides benefits to its citizens across the life cycle, from birth to old age, and securing financing for these programmes through increased public investments and mobilizing domestic resources.

A comparison of child benefits in South Africa compared to the region. Credit: Child Benefits Tracker

A comparison of child benefits in South Africa compared to the region. Credit: Child Benefits Tracker

The Global Child Benefits Tracker may be a step forward in monitoring progress towards social development when considering the progress that remains in achieving the SDGs. While it is still in its early days, the tool may benefit from expanding its coverage to include contributions from actors on the ground. Philip Alston, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, suggested that the platform should include qualitative evidence through testimonies to get a clearer sense of the challenges that hinder social protections and how governments have chosen to act.

There will remain challenges to implanting the sort of social protections and benefits that are being called for. There are still gaps in information, as not all countries are featured. At present, there is limited investment in child benefits. It was acknowledged that the fiscal space is a determining factor, and for the low- and middle-income countries in the Global South, this can be even more challenging due to the limitations in their financial state. It is here that solidarity from the international community and support from financing institutions would serve these countries.

Child benefits can be part of the wider social protection systems, and it has been proven that they can positively contribute towards food security and improved access to basic social services, according to UNICEF’s Global Director of Social Policy and Social Protection, Natalia Winder Rossi. Not only can they directly benefit children and their families, but they can also contribute to their communities and local economies.

“The investment is clear, the evidence is clear, but we continue to face challenges in convincing our own policymakers that this is a wide choice,” she said. “I think the Tracker provides some of that progress, to track some of those results… At UNICEF, this is part of our very strong commitment to closing the coverage gap for children. To make sure that we have systems that are strong and inclusive, we must make sure that every child is part of them and receives adequate benefits. But also that systems are adequately responding to crises.”

Visit the Global Child Benefits Tracker here.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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Solar Energy Gives Important Boost to Small-scale Farmers in Chile

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Editors’ Choice, Energy, Environment, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Latin America & the Caribbean, Population, Projects, Regional Categories, Water & Sanitation

Energy

Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas stand next to one of the three greenhouses on their farm, where tomatoes are growing, anticipating an optimal harvest this year. The couple uses no chemical fertilizers to ensure the healthy development of thousands of plants on their farm in Mostazal, a municipality in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas stand next to one of the three greenhouses on their farm, where tomatoes are growing, anticipating an optimal harvest this year. The couple uses no chemical fertilizers to ensure the healthy development of thousands of plants on their farm in Mostazal, a municipality in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

MOSTAZAL, Chile , Feb 2 2024 (IPS) – The installation of photovoltaic panels to use solar energy to irrigate small farms is expanding quickly in Chile because it lowers costs and optimizes the use of scarce water resources.


This long, narrow South American country that stretches from the northern Atacama Desert to the southern Patagonia region and from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean is extremely rich in renewable energies, especially solar and wind power.

“Solar panels have made an immensely important contribution to our energy expenditure. Without them we would consume a lot of electricity.” — Myriam Miller

Last year, 36.6 percent of Chile’s electricity mix was made up of Non-Conventional Renewable Energies (NCREs), whose generation in May 2023 totaled 2392 gigawatt hours (GWh), including 1190 GWh of solar power.

This boom in the development of alternative energies has been mainly led by large companies that have installed solar panels throughout the country, including the desert. The phenomenon has also reached small farmers throughout this South American country who use solar energy.

In family farming, solar energy converted into electricity is installed with the help of resources from the government’s Agricultural Development Institute (Indap), which promotes sustainable production of healthy food among small farmers, incorporating new irrigation techniques.

In 2020 alone, the last year for which the institute provides data, Indap promoted 206 new irrigation projects that incorporated NCREs with an investment of more than 2.1 million dollars.

That year, of the projects financed and implemented, 182 formed part of the Intra-predial Irrigation Program, 17 of the Minor Works Irrigation Program and seven of the Associative Irrigation Program. The investment includes solar panels for irrigation systems.

Within this framework, 2025 photovoltaic panels with an installed capacity of 668 kilowatts were installed, producing 1002 megawatt hours and preventing the emission of 234 tons of carbon dioxide.

The six solar panels installed on the small farm of Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas, in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile, allow them to pump water to their three greenhouses with thousands of tomato plants and to their vegetable garden. They also drastically reduced their electric energy expenditure. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The six solar panels installed on the small farm of Myriam Miller and Freddy Vargas, in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile, allow them to pump water to their three greenhouses with thousands of tomato plants and to their vegetable garden. They also drastically reduced their electric energy expenditure. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

An experience in Mostazal

“Solar panels have made an immensely important contribution to our energy expenditure. Without them we would consume a lot of electricity,” 50-year-old farmer Myriam Miller told IPS at her farm in the municipality of Mostazal, 66 km south of Santiago, where some 54,000 people live in different communities.

Miller has half a hectare of land, with a small portion set aside for three greenhouses with nearly 1,500 tomato plants. Other tomato plants grow in rows outdoors, including heirloom varieties whose seeds she works to preserve, such as oxheart and pink tomatoes.

Indap provided 7780 dollars in financing to install the solar panels on her land. Meanwhile, she and her husband, Freddy Vargas, 51, who run their farm together, contributed 10 percent of the total cost.

In 2023, Miller and Vargas built a third greenhouse to increase their production, which they sell on their own land.

“We’re producing around 8,000 kilos of tomatoes per season. This year we will exceed that goal. We’re happy because we’re moving ahead little by little and improving our production year,” Miller said as she picked tomatoes.

On the land next to the tomato plants, the couple grows vegetables, mainly lettuce, some 7,000 heads a year. They also have fruit trees.

Vargas told IPS that they needed electricity to irrigate the greenhouses because “it’s not easy to do it by hand.”

Freddy Vargas turns the soil on his farm in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile. Lettuce is his star vegetable, with thousands of heads sold on the farm. The farmer plans to buy a mini-tractor to alleviate the work of plowing the land. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Freddy Vargas turns the soil on his farm in the municipality of Mostazal, south of Santiago, Chile. Lettuce is his star vegetable, with thousands of heads sold on the farm. The farmer plans to buy a mini-tractor to alleviate the work of plowing the land. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The farm has two wells that hold about 30,000 liters of water that arrives once a week from a dam located two kilometers away. This is the water they use to power the pumps to irrigate the greenhouses.

“We have water rights and Indap provided us with solar panels and tools to automate irrigation. They gave us four panels and we made an additional investment, with our own funds, and installed six,” Vargas explained.

The couple consumes between 250 and 300 kilowatts per month and the surplus energy they generate is injected into the household grid.

“We don’t have storage batteries, which are more expensive. Every month the electric company sends us a bill detailing the total we have injected into the grid and what we have consumed. They calculate it and we pay the difference,” Vargas said.

The average savings in the cost of consumption is 80 percent.

“I haven’t paid anything in the (southern hemisphere) summer for years. In the winter I spend 30,000 to 40,000 pesos (between 33 and 44 dollars) but I only pay between 5,000 and 10,000 pesos a month (5.5 to 11 dollars) thanks to the energy I generate,” the farmer said.

Above and beyond the savings, Miller stressed the “personal growth and social contribution we make with our products that go to households that need healthier food. We feel good about contributing to the environment.”

“We have a network, still small, of agroecological producers. There is a lack of information among the public about what people eat,” she added.

Their tomatoes are highly prized. “People come to buy them because of their flavor and because they are very juicy. Once people taste them, they come back and recommend them by word of mouth,” Miller said.

She is optimistic and believes that in the municipalities of Mostazal and nearby Codegua, young people are more and more interested in contributing to the planet, producing their own food and selling the surplus.

“We just need a little support and more interest in youth projects in agriculture to raise awareness that just as we take care of the land, it also gives to us,” she said.

Valentina Martínez stands on her father's small plot of land in the municipality of María Pinto, north of Santiago, Chile. The fruit trees provide the shade needed to keep the planted vegetables from being scorched by the strong southern hemisphere summer sun in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Valentina Martínez stands on her father’s small plot of land in the municipality of María Pinto, north of Santiago, Chile. The fruit trees provide the shade needed to keep the planted vegetables from being scorched by the strong southern hemisphere summer sun in central Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

A pesticide-free new generation

Valentina Martínez, 32, is an environmental engineer. Together with her father, Simón, 75, they work as small farmers in the municipality of María Pinto, 60 kilometers north of Santiago. She has a 0.45 hectare plot and her father has a 0.35 hectare plot.

Both have just obtained funding from the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture (TAS) project, which operates within Indap, and they are excited about production without chemical fertilizers and are trying to meet the goal of securing another larger loan that would enable them to build a greenhouse and expand fruit and vegetable production on the two farms.

“It’s a two-year program. In the first year you apply and they give you an incentive of 450,000 pesos (500 dollars) focused on buying technology. I’ve invested in plants, fruit trees, worms, and containers for making preserves,” Valentina told IPS.

In the second year, depending on the results of the first year, they will apply for a fund of 3900 dollars for each plot, to invest in their production.

“This year my father and I will apply for solar panels to improve irrigation,” said Valentina, who is currently dedicated to producing seedlings.

“My father liked the idea of producing without agrochemicals to combat pests,” she said about Simón, who has a fruit tree orchard and also grows vegetables.

In María Pinto there are 380 small farmers on the census, but the real number is estimated at about 500. Another 300 are medium-sized farmers.

Simón Martínez, 75, proudly shows some of the citrus fruits harvested on his farm where he practices agroecology and does not use agrochemicals. He and his daughter Valentina won a contest to continue improving the sustainability of their farming practices on their adjoining plots, located outside the Chilean town of María Pinto. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Simón Martínez, 75, proudly shows some of the citrus fruits harvested on his farm where he practices agroecology and does not use agrochemicals. He and his daughter Valentina won a contest to continue improving the sustainability of their farming practices on their adjoining plots, located outside the Chilean town of María Pinto. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The rest of the area is monopolized by large agricultural companies dedicated to monocultures for export. Most of them have citrus, avocado, cherry and peach trees, as well as some walnut trees, and they all make intensive use of chemical fertilizers.

Chile exports mainly copper, followed by iron. But it also stands out for its sales of fish, cellulose pulp and fruit. In 2023, it exported 2.3 million tons of fruit, produced by large farms and bringing in 5.04 billion dollars. Agriculture represents 4.3 percent of the country’s GDP.

Family farming consists of some 260,000 small farms, which account for 98 percent of the country’s farms, according to the government’s Office of Agrarian Studies and Policies (Odepa).

Family farms produce 40 percent of annual crops and 22 percent of total agricultural production, which is key to feeding the country’s 19.7 million people.

Valentina is excited about TAS and the meetings she has had with other young farmers.

“It’s fun. We’re all on the same page and interested in what each other is doing. We start in December and January and it lasts all year. The young people are learning about sustainable agriculture and that there are more projects to apply for,” she explained.

She said that 15 young people in María Pinto have projects with pistachio trees, fruit trees, greenhouse gardens, outdoor gardens, animal husbandry and orchards. They are all different and receive group and individual training.

The training is provided by Indap and the Local Development Program (Prodesal), its regional representatives and the Foundation for the Promotion and Development of Women (Prodemu).

“The idea is that more people can learn about and realize the benefits of sustainable agriculture for their own health and for their land, which in a few years will be impossible due to the spraying of monocultures,” Valentina said.

It targets large entrepreneurs who produce avocado and broccoli in up to four harvests a year, both water-intensive crops, even on high hillsides.

“We need to come together, do things properly and recruit more people to create a legal group to reach other places and be able to organize projects. When you exist as an organization, you can also reach other places and say I am no longer one person, we are 15, we are 20, 100 and we need this,” she said.

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Trapped and Trafficked—Fishers Tell of Forced Labor Horror

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Human Trafficking

Workers take a break after unloading fish from the Sor Somboon 19 fishing vessel. Initial screenings conducted by Greenpeace revealed that the crew of this Thai trawler met internationally accepted definitions of forced labour. Credit: Greenpeace

Workers take a break after unloading fish from the Sor Somboon 19 fishing vessel. Initial screenings conducted by Greenpeace revealed that the crew of this Thai trawler met internationally accepted definitions of forced labour. Credit: Greenpeace

BRATISLAVA, Jan 19 2024 (IPS) – “The thing is that when you come from an African country, they know that you’re basically trapped,” says Noel Adabblah.


“You have the wrong documents; you can’t go home because you’ve already borrowed money there to get here, and you won’t risk losing what work you have, no matter how bad, because of that. They know all the tricks.” 

The 36-year-old is speaking from Dublin, where he has managed to make a new life for himself after becoming a victim of what recent reports have shown to be widespread and growing forced labour in fishing fleets across the globe.

Adabblah, from Tema in Ghana, and three friends signed up with a recruitment agency back home to work as fishers on boats in the UK. They paid the equivalent of 1,200 EUR to be placed in jobs and were given letters of invitation and guarantees by their new employers, who said they would be met in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and who agreed to take care of all their documents and visas. Their employment contracts stated the men would be paid 1,000 GBP per month and employed for 12 months, with an option to reduce or extend that by three months upon mutual consent.

But when they arrived in January 2018, they were taken to Dublin and later split up. In the following months, they were taken to do various jobs at different ports in Ireland, sometimes late at night with no idea where they were going.

“We thought we were going there to sail and fish, but when we got there, we saw the boats were not ready; they were in poor condition, and we couldn’t fish, so the owner of the boats got us to do other jobs instead,” Adabblah tells IPS.

Cambodian fishermen from the fishing vessel Sor Somboon 19 recovers from beriberi at Ranong Hospital. The crew met internationally accepted definitions of victims of forced labour. Thai government investigations determined that the hospitalizations and deaths from the beriberi outbreak aboard Sor Somboon 19 were directly caused by a business model based on transshipment at sea. Credit: Greenpeace

A Cambodian fisher from the fishing vessel Sor Somboon 19 recovers from beriberi at Ranong Hospital. The crew met internationally accepted definitions of victims of forced labour. Credit: Greenpeace

“But after a few months, we said this is not what we came here to do. We had an argument over pay—he said he had no boats to fish with and wanted to lay us off, told us to go home. But we said no, that we had a 12-month contract we had signed for. He said he wouldn’t pay us, but could try to get us another job with someone else, but we said we couldn’t do that because the visas we had only applied to working for him. He told us if we didn’t like it, we could go home.”

It is at this point that many victims of forced labour often simply accept their fate and either go home or do whatever their employer wants. But Adabblah and his friends were determined to see the terms of their contract met, and they contacted the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

However, their problems deepened as they discovered they did not have the right documents for their work.

“We had no idea of the difference between Ireland and the UK. We thought the papers were OK. But when we went to the ITF, we realized they weren’t,” explains Adabblah.

At that point, the Irish police were obliged to open an investigation into the case.

Adabblah, who stayed in Ireland and has since managed to find work in the construction industry, says he heard nothing about the case until last year. “I heard that the police had said there was not enough evidence to pursue a conviction,” he says. Forced labour does not exist as an offense on the Irish statute books, so such cases are investigated under human trafficking legislation.

Regardless of the lack of a conviction in his case, he is clear that what he and his friends experienced was forced labour.

“They treated us badly. We worked 20-hour shifts some days. Once, when I was ill and couldn’t go on the boat, they said that if I couldn’t do the job, I could go home. They say stuff like that to threaten you,” he says.

Burmese fishermen in temporary shelter in Ambon port, Indonesia. Hundreds of trafficked workers are waiting to be sent back home, with many facing an uncertain future. The forced labour and trafficking survivors interviewed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia detailed beatings and food deprivation for anyone who tried to escape. The tuna fishermen on their vessels were forced to work 20-22 hour days for little to no pay, often deprived of basic necessities like showers.

Burmese fishers in temporary shelter in Ambon Port, Indonesia. Hundreds of trafficked workers are waiting to be sent back home, with many facing an uncertain future. The forced labour and trafficking survivors interviewed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia detailed beatings and food deprivation for anyone who tried to escape. The tuna fishermen on their vessels were forced to work 20–22 hours a day for little to no pay, often deprived of basic necessities like showers. Credit: Greenpeace

A commercial shrimp trawler is pursued by three Sea Lions near San Felipe. Shrimp trawlers, often entering into marine reserves illegally, pose a great threat to the marine environment at the northern end of the Gulf of California, due to the variety of marine wildlife, including Sea Lions that get caught in their bottom-trawling nets. The Greenpeace vessel 'MY Esperanza' is currently in Mexico to highlight the threats to the 'world's aquarium' from over-fishing, destructive tourism development, pollution and marine habitat loss.

A commercial shrimp trawler is pursued by three Sea Lions near San Felipe.
Shrimp trawlers, often entering into marine reserves illegally, pose a great threat to the marine environment at the northern end of the Gulf of California, due to the variety of marine wildlife, including Sea Lions, that get caught in their bottom-trawling nets. Credit: Greenpeace

Adabblah’s experience is far from unique among workers in the world’s fishing fleets. A recent report by the Financial Transparency Coalition, an international grouping of NGOs, said that more than 128,000 fishers were trapped in forced labour aboard fishing vessels in 2021. Its authors say there is a “human rights crisis” of forced labour aboard commercial fishing vessels, leading to horrific abuses and even deaths.

They point out that many of these victims of forced labour are from the global South, something that the people behind these crimes use to their advantage, experts say.

Michael O’Brien of the ITF’s Fisheries Section told IPS: “Those employing vulnerable migrants in forced labour scenarios rely upon the vulnerability of the victim, the potential lack of legal status of the victim in the country where they are working, and the victim’s reliance on an income that is unavailable to them in their country of origin.”

Mariama Thiam, an investigative journalist in Senegal who did research for the Financial Transparency Coalition report, said fishers often do not know what they are signing up for.

“Usually there is a standard contract that the fisher signs, and often they sign it without understanding it fully,” she told IPS.  “Most Senegalese fishermen have a low level of education. The contract is checked by the national fishing agency, which sees it, says it looks okay, approves it, and the fishers then go, but the fishers don’t understand what’s in it.”

Then, once they have started work, the men are so desperate to keep their jobs that they will put up with whatever conditions they have to.

“All the fishers I have spoken to say they have had no choice but to do the work because they cannot afford to lose their jobs—their families rely on them. Some of them were beaten or did not have any days off; captains systematically confiscate all their passports when they go on board—the captains say that if the fishermen have their passports, some will go on shore when they are in Europe and stay on there, migrating illegally,” she said.

“In the minds of Senegalese fishermen, their priority is salary. They can tolerate human rights abuses and forced labour if they get their salary,” Thiam added.

Adabblah agrees, adding though that this allows the criminals behind the forced labour to continue their abuses.

“The thing is that a lot of people are afraid to speak up because of where they are from, and they end up being too scared to say anything even if they are really badly treated. There are lots of people who are in the same situation as I was or experiencing much worse, but if no one speaks up, how can [criminals] be identified?” he says.

Experts on the issue say the owners of vessels where forced labour is alleged to have occurred hide behind complex corporate structures and that many governments take a lax approach to uncovering ultimate beneficial ownership information when vessels are registered or fishing licenses are applied for.

This means those behind the abuses are rarely identified, let alone punished.

“In Senegal, what happens is that the government doesn’t want to share information on owner control of boats. No one can get information on it, not journalists, not activists, sometimes not even people in other parts of government itself,” said Thiam.

Other problems include a lack of legislation to even deal with the problem. For instance, Thiam highlighted that fishers in Senegal work under a collective convention dating back to 1976 that does not mention forced labour.

O’Brien added: “In the Irish context, there has never been a prosecution for human trafficking for labour exploitation in fisheries or any other sector.

“There is a school of thought among progressive lawyers that we need a separate offense on the statute books of ‘labour exploitation’ to obtain convictions. In the case of fishers, some remedies can be obtained via the labour and maritime authorities, but these are lower-level offenses that do not have a dissuasive effect on the vessel owners.”

Victims also face difficulties seeking redress in their home countries.

Complaints to recruiting agencies in fishers’ home countries often come to nothing and can end up having serious consequences.

“The thing about the agency I dealt with at home and other agencies like it is that if you complain to them, they will just say that you are talking too much and you should come home and solve the situation there, and then when you get home, they just blacklist you and you won’t get any fishing work ever again; they will just recruit someone else,” says Adabblah.

Although Adabblah did not see the justice he had hoped for, he is aware his story has ended better than many other victims of forced labour. He, along with his three friends, have made new lives in Ireland, and he is hoping to soon begin the process of becoming a naturalised Irish citizen.

He urges anyone who finds themselves in the same situation to not stay quiet, and instead contact an organization like the ITF or something similar.

Doing so may not always bring victims a satisfactory resolution to their problems, but each publicized case may end up having a long-term positive effect on stopping others from being abused, said O’Brien.

“The ITF has significant resources but not enough to match the scale of the problem. The cases we take up like Noel’s are the tip of the iceberg. However, we use these cases, with the consent of the victims, to highlight the problem with governments and, in turn, campaign for changes in the law,” he said.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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‘Imperfect COP28’ Gives Direction For Managed, Equitable Move From Fossil Fuels

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Climate Change Finance, Climate Change Justice, COP28, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Humanitarian Emergencies, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

COP28

Celebrating the end COP28 which ended with an agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. Credit: UNFCCC

Celebrating the end of COP28, which ended with an agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. Credit: UNFCCC

DUBAI, Dec 14 2023 (IPS) – While the outcomes of COP28 are being hotly debated in both the scientific and social justice arenas, the climate conference has taken an unprecedented step forward toward a just transition, says Yamide Dagnet, Director for Climate Justice at the Open Society Foundations.


Making some preliminary remarks a day after the climate conference ended, she said: “COP28 ends like it started: imperfect, yet an important and unprecedented step forward in our “course correction” for a just transition towards resilient and greener economies.”

The UN decision acknowledged the need for the decline of coal, oil, and gas for the first time in an agreement that talks about transitioning out of fossil fuels. It will also be known for operationalizing the Loss and Damages Fund, even if the funding falls far below the requirements for climate-stressed countries and communities.

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell acknowledged these contractions in his final speech.

“While we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end,” Stiell said.

He also noted that climate finance, which he said was a great enabler of climate action, fell short of the trillions needed to support developing countries with clean energy transitions and adaptation efforts.

He urged ordinary people everywhere to not relent in their demands for a climate-just world.

“In the crucial years ahead, your voices and determination will be more important than ever. I urge you never to relent. We are still in this race. We will be with you every single step of the way.”

Yamide Dagnet, Director for Climate Justice at Open Society Foundations. Credit: TJ Kirkpatrick, Open Society Foundations

Yamide Dagnet, Director for Climate Justice at Open Society Foundations. Credit: TJ Kirkpatrick, Open Society Foundations

Dagnet believes that COP28 is the start of a new era in climate justice.

“This is not an end; rather, just the beginning of an implementation journey that we know is hard but can be so positively transformative, and just if we manage to mobilize, in an equitable manner, all hands-on deck. A climate-just journey and outcome require vigilance, creativity, and accountability; stronger solidarity and engagement at all levels; promoting human rights; and shared prosperity for all,” she says.

This COP, Danget says, laid bare the issues with the Paris Agreement, especially with the just transition.

“More specifically, this COP exposed all the contradictions and challenges faced when implementing the promises of the Paris Agreement, especially a managed, equitable transition away from fossil fuels and the sustained mobilization, alignment, and access to financial flows domestically and internationally to decarbonize and build resilience,” Dagnet says. ”

While some signals got clearer with more substantive commitments, challenges remain, however, in how the just and equitable transition is sequenced.

“Inclusive processes matter to foster shared prosperity and benefits throughout the journey, together with adequate safeguards to minimize unintended adverse impacts of climate-related measures and technologies and to protect frontline and marginalized communities.

“Similarly, the just operationalization and continued capitalization of the Loss and Damage Fund will require vigilance, effective guidance, and mechanisms to make sure commensurate funding is actually mobilized and reaches the communities that need it the most in a timely manner. Adequate mobilization of finance for adaptation by the donor community is also essential to tackle losses and damages with dignity. We are happy that a dozen of them committed to join OSF efforts in this regard.”

IPS UN Bureau Report

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