Biden Administration Faces Rebellion Within its Own Ranks over Gaza War

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Middle East & North Africa, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Schools-turned-shelters run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, have suffered serious damage in strikes in the last week. July 2024. Credit: United Nations

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2024 (IPS) – The Biden administration, which has come under heavy fire for its unyielding pro-Israeli stand on the nine-month-old war in Gaza, is facing a rebellion within its own bureaucratic ranks—12 and counting.

The 12 government officials, who recently resigned, have accused the US of providing diplomatic cover for the continuous flow of arms to Israel ensuring “our undeniable complicity in the killings and forced starvation of a besieged Palestinian population in Gaza.”


This is not only morally reprehensible and in clear violation of international humanitarian law and US laws, but it has also put a target on America’s back,” they continue, arguing that it has put the lives of service members and diplomats at risk.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, a retired professor of international relations, most recently at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU), and who taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies, told IPS: “I share the overall view of the 12 US government officials who have resigned in protest against the Biden administration’s policy in connection with the Israel-Hamas war”.

They wrote in their joint statement, titled Service in Dissent, that “America’s diplomatic cover for, and continuous flow of arms to Israel has ensured our undeniable complicity in the killings and forced starvation of a besieged Palestinian population in Gaza. This is not only morally reprehensible and in clear violation of international humanitarian law and US laws, but it has also put a target on America’s back.”

https://jointstatement.tiiny.site/

“I have supported Israel’s right to defend itself as well as the Biden administration’s support of Israel’s war efforts, standing by the US’s iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security by providing it with all necessary military aid and political cover.

“I have stated time and again that Hamas’s unprecedented October 7, 2023 attack and Israel’s unparalleled retaliation have reinforced my own view, which I share with many others, that there will be no resolution to the 76-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict short of a two-state solution.

I still hold to the position that it will be impossible to return to the status quo that prevailed before October 7, as a new paradigm was created that offered the inimitable opportunity to recommence the peace negotiations that could lead to a two-state solution,” said Dr Ben-Meir.

Meanwhile there have also been negative reactions in European capitals. Last February, the New York Times ran a story headlined “US and European officials release a Letter Protesting Israeli Policies.”

According to the Times report, more than 500 officials in the US, Britain and the European Union (EU) released a “public letter of dissent” against their (respective) government’s support of Israel in its war in Gaza.”

In an oped piece published on the IPS wire July 18, Mouin Rabbani, Co-Editor of Jadaliyya and Non-Resident Fellow with the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS), says the Letter of Dissent makes indisputably clear that US policy towards the present crisis has been an absolute failure at virtually every level.

https://www.ipsnews.net/2024/07/us-policy-towards-gaza-crisis-absolute-failure-virtually-every-level/

Not only has it failed to achieve any of its objectives and further consolidate Western hegemony in the Middle East, but it has made the US government directly and actively complicit in the genocide currently before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, he said.

As the signatories note, the US is “wilfully” violating not only international laws that are binding upon Washington, but is similarly and knowingly violating US domestic law in its fanatic determination to see Israel’s mass atrocities through to the bitter end, said Rabbani, who is also a Non-Resident Fellow at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

“Tellingly, and quite accurately, they also point out that the Biden administration’s determination to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ultra-rightist, annexationist government has led to the suppression of basic constitutional freedoms within the United States,” he declared.

Meanwhile, in an address to the UN Security Council on July 17, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that recent developments are driving a stake through the heart of any prospect for a two-State solution.

“The geography of the occupied West Bank is steadily being altered through Israeli administrative and legal steps. The seizure of large land parcels in strategic areas and changes to planning, land management and governance are expected to significantly accelerate settlement expansion”.

These changes, he pointed out, include the issuance of two military orders at the end of May. These orders transferred powers to, and appointed, a civilian deputy in Israel’s Civil Administration, which is alarming.

This move is another significant advance in the ongoing transfer of authority over many aspects of daily life in the occupied West Bank, and a further step towards extending Israeli sovereignty over this occupied territory.

If left unaddressed, these measures risk causing irreparable damage, he said.

“We must change course. All settlement activity must cease immediately. Israeli settlements are a flagrant violation of international law and a key obstacle to peace. The violence must end, and the perpetrators of the violence must be swiftly brought to justice.

Israel must ensure the safety and security of the Palestinian population, Guterres declared.

Elaborating further Dr Ben-Meir said: “Personally, I was in favor of crippling Hamas militarily. Still, I have also repeatedly stated that while Israel may be able to crush Hamas militarily, it will be unable to destroy it as a political movement that holds a specific ideology that calls for Israel’s destruction.

“However, I have never subscribed to the notion that Hamas will ever be in a position to extinguish Israel for many reasons, including the fact that Hamas leaders know only too well that Israel is a formidable military power whose existence is irrevocable. The war has made it clear that challenging Israel’s right to exist is tantamount to suicide”.

President Biden was the first global leader to affirm that, given the new developing circumstances, a two-state solution is a prerequisite to end this endemic conflict.

As the war continued to grind on and as the Palestinians’ death toll and destruction were mounting, and Prime Minister Netanyahu categorically refused to even mention any solution along the lines of an independent state, the whole idea of a two-state solution was dropped from Biden’s lexicon. But the flow of weapons to Israel, if anything, was increasing without any preconditions.

Moreover, the US vetoed two UNSC resolutions that called for a ceasefire while food, water, fuel, and medical supplies were dwindling, and the displacement of Palestinians by the hundreds of thousands continued unabated.

Meanwhile, Israel’s relentless bombing using American-made bombs, which were killing thousands in densely populated areas, made the US complicit in the horrific carnage. By now, more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed, and more than half of Gaza lies in ruin, Dr Ben-Meir said.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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Rights Groups Demand Governments Protect Exiled Journalists, Dissidents

Civil Society, Democracy, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Freedom of Expression, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Press Freedom, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Freedom of Expression

Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion, briefs reporters at UN Headquarters. Credit: Manuel Elías/UN

Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion, briefs reporters at UN Headquarters. Credit: Manuel Elías/UN

BRATISLAVA, Jul 19 2024 (IPS) – Rights groups have called for governments to do more to combat transnational repression as a series of recent reports show growing numbers of exiled journalists, political dissidents and rights defenders are being targeted by autocratic regimes in an attempt to silence them.


They say governments must do more to deal with the repression, which takes the form of online harassment, surveillance, enforced disappearances, physical attacks and sometimes even killings, to protect the safety of these people.

“We have seen an increase in transnational repression, tied into the rise in authoritarianism around the world in general. Generally, there is a growing awareness of this complex problem among host countries and a willingness to do something about it.

“But more work needs to be done in some areas and governments need to support exiled journalists and understand the vital importance of the work they do,” Fiona O’Brien, UK Bureau Director at Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told IPS.

The scale of the problem has been laid bare in a number of reports in recent months.

In February, rights group Freedom House released a report documenting scores of attacks, including assassinations, abductions and assaults, carried out by governments against people outside their borders in 2023.

Naming Russia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Turkmenistan and China as the biggest perpetrators, it also reported on the first known cases of transitional repression sanctioned by a number of governments, including the regimes of Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Myanmar, Sierra Leone and Yemen.

The group said that 44 countries—more than a fifth of the world’s national governments—have attempted to silence dissidents, activists, political opponents and members of ethnic or religious minorities beyond their own borders in the last ten years, with 1,034 recorded direct, physical incidents of transnational repression.

Meanwhile, at the end of June, while presenting a report on transnational repression, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, raised concerns not just about increasing incidents of transnational repression, but host countries’ responses to it.

“Too often, states are either unwilling for political reasons or unable for lack of capacity or resources to protect and support journalists in exile. Journalists should not be treated as political pawns but as human beings in distress who, at great cost to themselves, are contributing to the realization of our human right to information,” Khan said.

Following the report, scores of governments issued a joint statement condemning the repression and committing to coordinated action to help people being targeted and to hold accountable those behind any attacks. But it did not spell out any specific measures that should be implemented to do this.

Rights groups say that concrete steps must be taken by host governments to address the problem both in their own countries, and to confront those regimes perpetrating such acts.

Phil Lynch, Executive Director at the non-profit organisation International Service for Human Rights, said such action should involve host states not only providing comprehensive protection and support to those at risk of acts of transnational repression, but also measures, to undermine the capabilities of regimes to target people abroad.

He said host states must ensure they do not support or acquiesce in acts of transnational repression, such as through extradition or refoulement to states engaged in the persecution of human rights defenders; do not provide or export the tools or technologies of transnational repression, such as spyware and arms, to repressive states; must build awareness and law enforcement capabilities to respond to acts of transnational repression; and publicly denounce, investigate and pursue accountability for acts of transnational repression, including through sanctions and diplomatic repercussions.

“They should also prioritise human rights in foreign policy and relations both at bilateral and multilateral levels, adopting a principled and consistent approach to human rights in all situations, without selectivity and without discrimination,” he told IPS.

The lack of any serious consequences for regimes using transnational repression is helping perpetuate its widescale use, experts say.

“Governments don’t seem to be shying away from using transnational repression. This is likely because there has been very little accountability even in the most well-publicized cases, like the assassination of [Saudi dissident writer] Jamal Khashoggi. Since governments aren’t paying a price for targeting dissidents abroad, there’s little reason for them not to attempt it,” Yana Gorokhovskaia, Research Director, Strategy and Design, at Freedom House, told IPS.

But it is not just host country governments that could do more, experts say.

“Most of the harassment and attacks are online. Big tech have been totally absent from [efforts to fight transnational repression]. Governments have to hold big tech to account on this,” said O’Brien.

“Increasingly, acts of transnational repression occur online or are technology-facilitated. Technology providers have a duty to conduct due diligence to ensure their technologies and tools are not used, directly or indirectly, to restrict or violate human rights, including through acts of transnational repression. Governments should also legislate to mandate that human rights due diligence is undertaken by companies,” added Lynch.

It appears that some countries are becoming increasingly aware of the issue and willing to improve how they tackle it.

O’Brien said this following an RSF report on harassment of Iranian journalists in the UK released earlier this year. British authorities have “shown a lot of interest in how to tackle this problem better,”  while Freedom House has highlighted how President Joe Biden’s administration has made addressing the issue a priority across law enforcement and security agencies.

Gorokhovskaia also pointed out that over the last four years various countries have adopted policies to mitigate the threat posed by transnational repression, including improved training for police and security agencies and more outreach to communities that can be targeted.

“Countries have also become more aware of how international organizations, like Interpol, can be misused for transnational repression and taken steps to address this (by examining Interpol notices from certain perpetrator countries),” she said.

But research from other groups shows a much less reassuring picture.

A report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) said some host country governments were not only failing to ensure adequate protective measures for those at risk but were even actively facilitating transnational repression.

UN special rapporteur Khan also warned of host states becoming enablers “of transnational repression, for instance, by colluding in abductions instigated by the home state.”

Some alleged cases of such facilitation involve ostensibly stable, democratic, western states.

Abdulrahman Al-Khalidi, a political activist and a known dissident, arrived in Bulgaria in October 2021.

A campaigner for human rights and advocate for democratic reforms, he had fled his home country in the wake of mass arrests following the Arab Spring.

But since crossing into Bulgaria and claiming asylum, he has faced a complicated and, he says, at times incomprehensible legal battle over authorities’ continued refusal to grant him asylum and release him from detention at the migration centre despite court rulings in his favour.

He is facing deportation to Saudi Arabia, where, he told IPS, he will almost certainly be killed.

Al-Khalidi believes the Saudi secret service is behind the Bulgarian authorities’ blocking of his asylum. He says that during questioning by agency officials, he was told they were working with Saudi authorities on his case and that Saudi officials wanted him returned to Saudi Arabia. The Bulgarian state security agency has repeatedly said Al-Khalidi is a threat to national security, thereby blocking his asylum and release from detention.

Speaking to IPS in early July as he began a hunger strike while at a migrant detention centre near the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, where he has been held for the last three years, Al-Khalidi had a warning for governments hosting exiled dissidents and journalists.

“We live in a time full of international turmoil in which younger generations believe in anarchism more than they believe in democratic principles. This is very dangerous. The blame for this is fully borne by politicians who benefit from this and whose actions contradict the principles of the state, subsequently raising generations who lose their faith in both,” he said.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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BRAZIL: ‘The Law Should Protect Women and Girls, Not Criminalise Them’

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Inequality, Latin America & the Caribbean, TerraViva United Nations

Jul 18 2024 (IPS) –  
CIVICUS discusses abortion rights in Brazil with Guacira Oliveira, director of the Feminist Centre for Studies and Advice (CFEMEA). CFEMEA is an anti-racist feminist organisation that defends women’s rights, collective care and self-care and monitors developments in Brazil’s National Congress.


In June, thousands of women took to the streets of São Paulo and other cities to protest against a bill that would classify abortion after 22 weeks as homicide, punishable by six to 20 years in prison. Protests began when the lower house of Congress fast-tracked the bill, limiting debate. Abortion is currently legal in Brazil only in cases of rape, foetal malformation or danger to the life of a pregnant person. The proposed bill, promoted by evangelical representatives, would criminalise people who have abortions more severely than rapists. Public reaction has slowed down the bill’s progress and its future is now uncertain.

How would this new anti-abortion law, if passed, affect women?

Currently, abortion is legal in Brazil only in cases of rape, danger to a pregnant person’s life and severe foetal malformation. However, current legislation doesn’t set a maximum gestational age for access to legal abortion. The proposed bill would equate abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy with homicide, punishing the person seeking the abortion and the health professionals who perform it.

This would particularly affect girls, as over 60 per cent of rape victims are children under the age of 13. In more than 64 per cent of these cases, the rapist is someone close to the girl’s family, making it difficult to identify the rape and the resulting pregnancy.

Another perverse aspect of the problem is racial inequality. Forty per cent of rape victims are Black children and adolescents, and of those under 13, more than 56 per cent are Black girls. Of 20,000 girls under the age of 14 who give birth each year, 74 per cent are Black. In addition, Black women are 46 per cent more likely to have an abortion than white women. The passage of this bill would make Black women and girls even more vulnerable than they already are. The law should protect these women and girls, not criminalise them.

How has civil society mobilised against the bill?

CFEMEA has been monitoring threats to legal abortion for decades and is part of the National Front Against the Criminalisation of Women and for the Legalisation of Abortion. Threats increased with the rise of the far right to the presidency in 2018, and feminist movements mobilised over cases of girls who were victims of sexual violence and faced institutional barriers to accessing legal abortion.

In 2023, in response to regressive legislation, they launched the ‘A child is not a mother‘ platform, recently reactivated as the new anti-abortion bill was submitted as a matter of urgency. More than 345,000 people signed up to the campaign and sent messages to parliamentarians. They also applied pressure on social media through posts and hashtags such as #criançanémãe (#ChildNotMother), #PLdagravidezinfantil (#CongressForChildPregnancy) and #PLdoestupro (#CongressForRape).

We also campaigned through face-to-face actions and other collectively defined strategies, led mainly by state-level alliances against the criminalisation of women and for the legalisation of abortion. In May, we laid a symbolic wreath in front of the Federal Council of Medicine, which in April had published a resolution banning foetal asystole, a procedure recommended by the World Health Organization for legal abortions after 22 weeks. By doing so we symbolised our grief for all the women and girls whose lives are cut short due to lack of access to a legal abortion. We reenacted this outside the official residence of the President of the Chamber of Deputies, just before the fast-track request for the anti-abortion bill was approved, on the evening of 12 June.

The following day, the first public protests took place in several Brazilian state capitals. These continued over subsequent days, culminating in a nationwide action on 27 June. The issue is still on the agenda in July and demonstrations are still going strong.

Why is Brazil moving against the regional trend towards legalisation?

Brazil has seen advances by the religious fundamentalist far right since 2016, when President Dilma Rousseff was removed from office through a legal-parliamentary manoeuvre that amounted to a political coup. The violent ethnocentric, LGBTQI+-phobic, neopatriarchal and racist reaction intensified in 2018 with the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in an election marred by disinformation.

Conservatives view the rights to diverse and plural ways of life as a threat to their existence. In this sense, their regressive proposals are a direct response to women’s struggles against patriarchy and all forms of women’s oppression.

Even after its defeat in the 2022 presidential election, the far right has become stronger in the National Congress, where extremists have obtained majorities in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. This has led to the revival of a bill known as the ‘Statute of the Unborn Child’, aimed at granting ‘personhood’ to the foetus in order to criminalise abortion.

Many factors explain the conservative reaction in Brazil and around the world. For fascists in power and in society, violence is justified against groups considered to be ‘enemies of the people’, which can include any dissenting voices – those of women, Black people, Indigenous peoples and LGBTQI+ people. In the case of women, they are trying to re-domesticate us, to send us back home, subservient to the command and judgement of patriarchs. Control over reproduction and our bodies is a crucial part of this strategy.

What are the forces for and against sexual and reproductive rights in Brazil?

The main force against sexual and reproductive rights is religious fundamentalism, which positions itself as a harbinger of control over women’s bodies and gender dissidents and is strongly represented in the National Congress. The defence of these rights lies in the progressive camp, represented by the political left and the feminist, women’s and LGBTQI+ movements.

But it’s worth noting that even with a Congress besieged by anti-rights groups, most people have a less punitive and more empathetic understanding of feminist struggles and women’s rights. A survey we carried out in 2023, in collaboration with the Observatory of Sex and Politics and the Centre for Studies and Public Opinion of the State University of Campinas, showed that 59 per cent were against the criminalisation and possible imprisonment of women who have abortions.

What are the main demands of the Brazilian feminist movement?

The feminist movement is plural and diverse, but what it has in common is the fight to end all forms of violence against women. CFEMEA seeks to transform the world through anti-racist feminism and by taking a stand against all gender inequalities and oppression. This is our position when we enter dialogue with society and make demands of governments. We demand public policies that reduce inequalities between men, women and people with other gender identities, considered in their intersectional dimensions of age, creed, ethnicity, nationality, physical abilities and race, among others.

A fundamental issue is the sexual and racial division of labour, a powerful structure that maintains and exacerbates the inequalities experienced by women. After all, the care work they do, despite being rendered invisible and devalued by patriarchal capitalism, is an indispensable condition for human life and the construction of collective good living. The manifesto of the Anti-Racist Feminist Forum for a National Care Policy, signed by dozens of movements and organisations, affirms the need for social reproduction activities to be recognised and shared by the state. This means that care work, which is currently unpaid and done at the family and community levels almost exclusively by women, must be effectively taken over by the state, because care is a human need.

We demand that governments allocate public investment to combat gender inequalities in areas as diverse as care, culture, education, the environment, health, justice, labour, leisure and wellbeing. It is the state, not the market, that can and must combat such inequalities.

Civic space in Brazil is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

Get in touch with CFEMEA via its website or its Facebook or Instagram page, and follow @cfemea on Twitter.

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Silenced: Women’s Many Layered Struggles for Climate Justice in Nepal

Active Citizens, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Climate Change, Climate Change Justice, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Headlines, Human Rights, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Women & Climate Change, Women in Politics

Women & Climate Change

Silenced and sidelined, women politicians in Nepal fight for their voices to be heard, especially as they represent a population most impacted by climate change.

Women farmers in Helambu, Sindhupalchwok. Women, who are the primary growers, have to deal with changing patterns of snowfall and rain, which is affecting their agricultural activities. However, they feel like no one is listening to their concerns. Credit: Tanka Dhakal/IPS

Women farmers in Helambu, Sindhupalchwok. Women, who are the primary growers, have to deal with changing patterns of snowfall and rain, which is affecting their agricultural activities. However, they feel like no one is listening to their concerns. Credit: Tanka Dhakal/IPS

KATHMANDU, Jul 18 2024 (IPS) – A group aligned with the mayor of Chhayanath Rara Municipality in the Mugu district of Nepal’s Karnali Province physically attacked Aishwarya Malla for simply asking for a budgetary review of the local government.


“As a deputy mayor, I have the right to know where the budget is allocated, but the mayor’s team attacked me,” Malla said. “They did it only because I’m a woman, but they forget I’m also an elected representative with a responsibility to serve people, especially women and marginalized sections of our society.”

Malla has had an upward battle trying to get her voice heard.

Earlier in May, she requested just a few minutes to lay out her area’s issues related to climate change. She was in the nation’s capital, Kathmandu, where the International Dialogue on Climate Change was happening.

“If you want to know the ground reality, you have to give time to speak,” she said in her loud, passionate voice, but she didn’t get the chance. “We represent the women and lower sections of society, and nobody listens or wants to give us space.”

Aishwarya Malla (left), Deputy Mayor of Chhayanath Rara Municipality, and Shanti Malla Bhandari (right), Vice President of Guthichaur Rural Municipality. Credit: Tanka Dhakal/IPS

Aishwarya Malla (left), Deputy Mayor of Chhayanath Rara Municipality, and Shanti Malla Bhandari (right), Vice President of Guthichaur Rural Municipality. Credit: Tanka Dhakal/IPS

In Nepal, local governments have the responsibility to be the first and most accessible authority to serve people, and elected representatives run their constituencies.

In leadership positions (mayor and their deputies or presidents and their vice presidents), women’s representation as candidates is mandatory for political parties. However, only 25 local governments have women serving as either mayors or presidents. Out of 753 local governments, 557 have women as deputy mayors or vice presidents.

Largely, women leaders are forced to remain second in line of power. But as Malla says, women leaders are the ones whom people in need reach out to, but they struggle to find their space within the male-dominant local political sphere.

“This is affecting our efforts to find solutions and adaptive measures to the climate change impact in our community and the same is true of other issues too,” Malla said, expressing her frustrations.

Local Struggle on National Platform

During the International Expert Dialogue on Mountains, People, and Climate, organized by the government of Nepal on May 22–23, experts discussed the importance of locally led adaptation to tackle the impacts of climate change in the community. However, there was no representation from the local community.

Apsara Lamsal Lamichhane, vice president of Helambu Rural Municipality, Sindhupalchowk district, stood up and expressed her frustrations when the floor was opened for questions.

“We are the ones who are suffering from the dire impacts of climate change, and we are trying to find a way to adapt,” Lamichhane angrily said as her microphone was about to be cut off. “But the central government doesn’t even listen to us, and we don’t get a chance to present our ground reality on platforms like this.”

Apsara Lamsal Lamichhane, Vice President of Helambu Rural Municipality, Sindhupalchowk, during the International Expert Dialogue on Mountains, People, and Climate. Credit: Tanka Dhakal/IPS

Apsara Lamsal Lamichhane, Vice President of Helambu Rural Municipality, Sindhupalchowk, during the International Expert Dialogue on Mountains, People, and Climate. Credit: Tanka Dhakal/IPS

She comes from one of the most vulnerable areas, where locals are facing the direct impacts of disasters exacerbated by climate change.

Lamichhane, Malla and other women in deputy mayor or vice president posts share the same complaint: that the provincial and central governments don’t listen to their concerns, including the losses caused by climate change.

“At the local level, the Mayor or President tries to silence us. In national discussions like this, we are invited but not allowed to speak. It’s our reality,” says Shanti Kumari Malla Bhandari, vice president of Guthicahur Rural Municipality in Jumla.

The Same Story on the International Stage

Just as there are internal obstacles to getting even a few minutes to present the issues local communities on the frontlines are dealing with, experts and leaders at the national level complain that in international climate forums, their voices are suppressed, and they don’t get enough space to present the reality of the climate plight.

Former Foreign Minister Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal acknowledges that there is much to do to foster smooth discussion internally and to create a listening environment.

“We are working in isolation; there is an inter-ministerial communication gap, and yes, local representatives have to struggle much to make their voices heard,” Paudyal, who advocates for women’s representation in climate change discussions, says.

“Women are not only frontline victims of the climate crisis but also the first responders. We need to give them space, and then we can make our case in international forums. But there is a long way to go.”

To have better negotiation power in global forums, internal discussions need to prioritize local voices, she says. If we listen to each other here, then we can raise our collective voice with much conviction in international forums like the Conference of the Parties (COP) and climate finance committees.

According to Raju Pandit Chhetri, who works on climate finance negotiation, for countries like Nepal that are dependent on donor countries and agencies, negotiating on the global stage is not easy.

“There is already a giver-receiver relationship, and our psyche may be hesitant to negotiate strongly on climate finance issues. I think that kind of mentality may also exist at the national level too,” climate finance expert Chhetri said. “We have to break that wall of hesitation both internally and on the global stage.”

Note: This feature is published with the support of Open Society Foundations.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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How Climate-Smart Strategies Revitalized Tanzania’s Livestock Sector

Africa, Africa Climate Wire, Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Climate Change, Climate Change Justice, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Climate Change Justice

In a quest for survival, farmers and pastoralists living in Oldonyo Sambu, Tanzania’s northern Maasai Steppe, used to fight over every drop of water. However, 12 villages have now adopted climate-smart bylaws after months of negotiations, putting an end to hostilities.

A pastoralist gazes into the horizon while taking a break from grazing cattle in Ikolongo Village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

A pastoralist gazes into the horizon while taking a break from grazing cattle in Ikolongo Village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

IRINGA, Tanzania , Jul 16 2024 (IPS) – As the sun sets, its golden hues piece through the dusty haze, creating a dazzling display when a herd of livestock lazily roams on the arid landscape as they return home from grazing.


Dressed in shiny red robes, the youthful Maasai pastoralists routinely whistle as they steer cattle, goats and sheep to maintain a unified path.

The quest for survival has forced these herders in Oldonyo Sambu, Tanzania’s northern Maasai Steppe, jostling for dwindling water and pastures as they try to sustain their herds.

Surprisingly, 670 kilometres (416 miles) away in Ikolongo village, south of Tanzania, the plight of water consumers has improved, thanks to a community-led initiative that brought farmers and pastoralists together  to resolve their water woes.

Sitting under a baobab tree, 47-year-old Leinot Leboo watches his cattle drink from a pond. This tranquil moment contrasts sharply with the situation in Oldonyo Sambu, where farmers often clash with herders as they jostle for water.

“I don’t recall any fight between pastoralists and farmers here.We get enough pastures and water for our livestock,” says Leboo.

Unlike in Oldonyo Sambu, local villagers here have created specific grazing lands and water points for livestock to prevent clashes with farmers. “We often bring our cattle here and let them graze and drink without causing any disturbances,” says Leboo.

According to Ignas Mashaka, Ikolongo village chairman, the residents have created a system where pastoralists pay a small fee to feed their herds on rice husks produced by farmers, especially in the dry season.

“This arrangement provides a steady source of feed, but it also give farmers extra income,” says Mashaka

Cows drink from a pond used exclusively by pastoralists in Ikolongo village, Tanzania. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Cows drink from a pond used exclusively by pastoralists in Ikolongo village, Tanzania. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Strict Rules

After months of negotiation between local residents and local district authorities, the villagers enacted strict by-laws, which have now been adopted and ratified by 12 surrounding villages.

“These rules have helped to ease tensions over water use,” says Mashaka.

Under the initiative, local residents joined forces to construct dams and reservoirs which have reduced water scarcity, providing a reliable supply for farmers and pastoralists.

“We used to fight over every drop of water,” says Musa Chacha, a farmer at Ikolongo village. “But now, there’s enough for everyone and there’s no reason to fight,”

By working together and managing resources sustainably, Ikolongo villagers have built a strong and resilient community.

Female farmers in Ikolongo village learn horticulture to grow vegetables as part of their strategy to cope with drought. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Female farmers in Ikolongo village learn horticulture to grow vegetables as part of their strategy to cope with drought. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

The Bigger Picture

Despite having vast grazing lands, the east African country faces frequent conflicts over water and other resources due to climate change and weak land governance. Prolonged droughts often lead to clashes between farmers and pastoralists as they jostle for water and grazing space.

Tanzania’s livestock sector, a vital source of livelihood for millions, holds potential for growth in production and trade. With a cattle population of 36.6 million, the country ranks second in Africa, after Ethiopia. This accounts for 1.4% of the global cattle population and 11% of Africa’s. Beyond cattle, Tanzania also boasts large numbers of sheep, goats, chickens, and pigs, placing it among the continent’s top ten in overall livestock numbers.

However, the sector is plagued by many challenges due to climate risks and low investment, World Bank analysts say.

Transformative Initiative

As part of its broader efforts to improve the livestock sector, Tanzania has launched a new USD 546 million initiative to bolster productivity, increase resilience to climate change and improve the livestock industry. The initiative entails innovative strategies to curb extreme weather by constructing water reservoirs, introducing drought-resistant forage crops, and improving livestock breeds.

Challenges and Solutions

According to a recent World Bank report, “Harnessing the Opportunity for a Climate-Smart and Competitive Livestock Sector in Tanzania,” the pasture-based livestock sector in Tanzania faces serious challenges due to climate change and endemic livestock diseases, impacting animal health, productivity, and market access.

A herd of cattle grazes in a designated pastoralist area in Ikolongo village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

A herd of cattle grazes in a designated pastoralist area in Ikolongo village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Pastoralist’s Perspective

Saidi Juma, a 55-year-old pastoralist from Kilolo village, has witnessed changes in weather patterns over the years. “When I was young, the rains were predictable, and the grass was plenty,” he says. “But in recent years, we have struggled to find pasture for our animals, and the rivers dry up too soon.”

One aspect of the scheme is adopting climate-smart innovations, such as better animal husbandry practices, drought-resistant fodder, and efficient water management systems.

The introduction of drought-resilient Brachiaria grass at Ikolongo village has maintained better livestock health during dry spells. “We planted these grass because they are resilient to drought and provide enough food for our livestock,” says Mashaka.

According to him, drought-resistant forage crops has ensured a steady supply of nutritious feed for livestock in  dry seasons.

Expert Insights

In an interview with IPS, Malongo Mlozi, Professor of Agricultural studies and extension at Sokoine University of Agriculture, hailed the government initiative to revamp the ailing livestock sector by improving water management techniques.

“Water is life; by ensuring a reliable water supply, we can significantly improve the resilience of our livestock farmers against climate change,” he says

According to Mlozi, pastoralists must be trained to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to cope with the vagaries of the weather.

“When pastoralists understand the benefits of climate-smart practices, they are more likely to adopt them and see positive results,”

Mlozi says the government scheme is likely to improve food security.

“By increasing the productivity of our livestock sector, we can ensure a stable supply of meat, milk, and other livestock products,” says Mlozi

Leinot Leboo grazes his cattle in a bushy enclave in Ikolongo village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

Leinot Leboo grazes his cattle in a bushy enclave in Ikolongo village. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

“This will help in addressing the nutritional needs of our population and reduce dependency on imports.”

Under the initiative, the government will construct water harvesting structures and introduce solar-powered boreholes to provide an eco-friendly solution.

“Access to water has always been a problem for farmers and pastoralists.The solar-powered boreholes will provide enough water.”

The scheme is also aiming to improve market access for livestock products by improving value chains so pastoralists can fetch better prices in livestock markets closer to their communities.

Tanzania’s livestock sector is changing with climate-smart practices and community-led efforts, setting an example for other regions. By focusing on sustainability and innovation, Tanzania is improving the lives of pastoralists and promoting peace and cooperation.

“We have come a long way from those tough times. Now, we look forward to a future where our children can grow up without the fear of conflict and scarcity.”

This feature is published with the support of Open Society Foundations.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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HLPF 2024: Protecting Civic Space Critical for SDGs Success

Armed Conflicts, Biodiversity, Civil Society, Climate Change, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequality, Migration & Refugees, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

NEW YORK, Jul 12 2024 (IPS) – Each year the international community comes together at the UN’s headquarters in New York to take stock of progress on sustainable development. This year’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is being held between 8 and 18 July. Representatives from 36 countries, as per the UN HLPF website, will showcase their achievements on commitments outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, presenting their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).


This year’s HLPF convenes amid sobering times, underscored by findings from the recent UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2024 report. The report highlights growing inequalities, an escalating climate crisis, accelerating biodiversity loss and disappointing progress towards gender equality. These challenges are compounded by conflicts in Gaza, Sudan, Ukraine and beyond, resulting in close to 120 million people being forcibly displaced worldwide. Alarmingly, only 17 per cent of SDG targets are on track, with around half making minimal or moderate progress, and progress on over a third having stalled or regressed.

Among the SDGs being reviewed this year is SDG 16, which includes commitments on responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision making, access to information and fundamental freedoms. These hard-won commitments recognise the importance of transparency, accountability and participation in achieving the SDGs. They were agreed only after persistent advocacy by civil society activists. For civil society, it’s crucial that these commitments are realised if the transformative promise of the SDGs is to be achieved, in particular because they enable civil society to work with governments to help deliver the goals.

One major reason for uneven progress on the SDGs is the restriction of civic space in many countries around the world. According to the CIVICUS Monitor – a participatory research collaboration – globally only two per cent of people live in open civic space conditions, where civil society is free to exist and act. Of the 36 countries slated to present VNRs this year, only three – Austria, Palau, and Samoa – have open civic space.

Civic space encompasses the right of people to organise, mobilise and speak out to shape the political, social, and economic structures that impact their lives. Where civic space isn’t open, communities have significantly restricted and limited agency to pursue progress – the kind the SDGs envisage. People who expose corruption, advocate for accountability and stand up for the rights of excluded groups are attacked.

In many countries around the world, civil society organisations and activists are being threatened. One-way states are doing this is by misusing anti-terror laws, cybersecurity laws and health emergency laws against them. States such as Cambodia, Egypt, India, Israel, Russia and Venezuela, among others, are subjecting civil society organisations to a complex maze of regressive laws and practices to deny them raising funds from domestic and international sources. This undermines civil society’s ability to push for innovative policies, deliver services to the people who need them most and act as a watchdog over the use of public resources.

Meaningful civil society participation at all levels is crucial for realising the SDGs. However, even within UN platforms like the HLPF, there remains no official way of integrating civil society voices into VNR processes, leading civil society organisations to produce parallel ‘shadow reports’ on the forum’s margins. This current format undermines the potential for meaningful engagement from civil society, leads to duplication of efforts, mismatches data and hinders accountability of states.

If the SDGs are to be achieved, it’s paramount to create a conducive environment where civil society can thrive and participate meaningfully in decision-making and accountability processes, without fear of reprisals. That’s why many civil society organisations have banded together under the Unmute Civil Society initiative to advocate for practical solutions to overcome the challenge of international-level participation. The UN must demonstrate leadership by making more space for civil society at the HLPF.

Jesselina Rana is CIVICUS UN Advisor at UN Hub in New York City.

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