Solar Energy Useless Without Good Batteries in Brazil’s Amazon Jungle

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Energy

Solar panels with a capacity to generate 30 kilowatts no longer work in the Darora Community of the Macuxi people, an indigenous group from Roraima, a state in the far north of Brazil. The batteries only worked for a month before they were damaged because they could not withstand the charge. CREDIT: Boa Vista City Hall

Solar panels with a capacity to generate 30 kilowatts no longer work in the Darora Community of the Macuxi people, an indigenous group from Roraima, a state in the far north of Brazil. The batteries only worked for a month before they were damaged because they could not withstand the charge. CREDIT: Boa Vista City Hall

BOA VISTA, Brazil, Jan 25 2023 (IPS) – “Our electric power is of bad quality, it ruins electrical appliances,” complained Jesus Mota, 63. “In other places it works well, not here. Just because we are indigenous,” protested his wife, Adélia Augusto da Silva, of the same age.


The Darora Community of the Macuxi indigenous people illustrates the struggle for electricity by towns and isolated villages in the Amazon rainforest. Most get it from generators that run on diesel, a fuel that is polluting and expensive since it is transported from far away, by boats that travel on rivers for days.

Located 88 kilometers from the city of Boa Vista, capital of the state of Roraima, in the far north of Brazil, Darora celebrated the inauguration of its solar power plant, installed by the municipal government, in March 2017. It represented modernity in the form of a clean, stable source of energy.

A 600-meter network of poles and cables made it possible to light up the “center” of the community and to distribute electricity to its 48 families.

But “it only lasted a month, the batteries broke down,” Tuxaua (chief) Lindomar da Silva Homero, 43, a school bus driver, told IPS during a visit to the community. The village had to go back to the noisy and unreliable diesel generator, which only supplies a few hours of electricity a day.

“The solar panels were left here, useless. We want to reactivate them, it would be really good. We need more powerful batteries, like the ones they put in the bus terminal in Boa Vista.” — Lindomar da Silva Homero

Fortunately, about four months later, the Boa Vista electricity distribution company laid its cables to Darora, making it part of its grid.

“The solar panels were left here, useless. We want to reactivate them, it would be really good. We need more powerful batteries, like the ones they put in the bus terminal in Boa Vista,” said Homero, referring to one of the many solar plants that the city government installed in the capital.

Tuxaua (chief) Lindomar Homero of the Darora Community is calling for new adequate batteries to reactivate the solar power plant, because the electricity they receive from the national grid is too expensive for the local indigenous people. Behind him stands his predecessor, former tuxaua Jesus Mota. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Tuxaua (chief) Lindomar Homero of the Darora Community is calling for new adequate batteries to reactivate the solar power plant, because the electricity they receive from the national grid is too expensive for the local indigenous people. Behind him stands his predecessor, former tuxaua Jesus Mota. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Expensive energy

But indigenous people can’t afford the electricity from the distributor Roraima Energía, he said. On average, each family pays between 100 and 150 reais (20 to 30 dollars) a month, he estimated.

Besides, there are unpleasant surprises. “My November bill climbed to 649 reais” (130 dollars), without any explanation,” Homero complained. The solar energy was free.

“If you don’t pay, they cut off your power,” said Mota, who was tuxaua from 1990 to 2020.”In addition, the electricity from the grid fails a lot,” which is why the equipment is damaged.

Apart from the unreliable supply and frequent blackouts, there is not enough energy for the irrigation of agriculture, the community’s main source of income. “We can do it with diesel pumps, but it’s expensive; selling watermelons at the current price does not cover the cost,” he said.

“In 2022, it rained a lot, but there are dry summers that require irrigation for our corn, bean, squash, potato, and cassava crops. The energy we receive is not enough to operate the pump,” said Mota.

A photo of the three water tanks in the village of Darora, one of which holds water that is made potable by chemical treatment. The largest and longest building is the secondary school that serves the Macuxi indigenous community that lives in Roraima, in northern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

A photo of the three water tanks in the village of Darora, one of which holds water that is made potable by chemical treatment. The largest and longest building is the secondary school that serves the Macuxi indigenous community that lives in Roraima, in northern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Achilles’ heel

Batteries still apparently limit the efficiency of solar energy in isolated or autonomous off-grid systems, with which the government and various private initiatives are attempting to make the supply of electricity universal and replace diesel generators.

Homero said that some of the Darora families who live outside the “center” of the village and have solar panels also had problems with the batteries.

Besides the 48 families in the village “center” there are 18 rural families, bringing the community’s total population to 265.

A solar plant was also installed in another community made up of 22 indigenous families of the Warao people, immigrants from Venezuela, called Warao a Janoko, 30 kilometers from Boa Vista.

But of the plant’s eight batteries, two have already stopped working after only a few months of use. And electricity is only guaranteed until 8:00 p.m.

“Batteries have gotten a lot better in the last decade, but they are still the weak link in solar power,” Aurelio Souza, a consultant who specializes in this question, told IPS from the city of São Paulo. “Poor sizing and the low quality of electronic charging control equipment aggravate this situation and reduce the useful life of the batteries.”

The low quality of the electricity supplied to Darora is due to the discrimination suffered by indigenous people, according to Adélia Augusto da Silva. The water they used to drink was also dirty and caused illnesses, especially in children, until the indigenous health service began to chemically treat their drinking water. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The low quality of the electricity supplied to Darora is due to the discrimination suffered by indigenous people, according to Adélia Augusto da Silva. The water they used to drink was also dirty and caused illnesses, especially in children, until the indigenous health service began to chemically treat their drinking water. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

In Brazil’s Amazon jungle, close to a million people live without electricity, according to the Institute of Energy and the Environment, a non-governmental organization based in São Paulo. More precisely, its 2019 study identified 990,103 people in that situation.

Another three million inhabitants of the region, including the 650,000 people in Roraima, are outside the National Interconnected Electricity System. Their energy therefore depends mostly on diesel fuel transported from other regions, at a cost that affects all Brazilians.

The government decided to subsidize this fossil fuel so that the cost of electricity is not prohibitive in the Amazon region.

This subsidy is paid by other consumers, which contributes to making Brazilian electricity one of the most expensive in the world, despite the low cost of its main source, hydropower, which accounts for about 60 of the country’s electricity.

Solar energy became a viable alternative as the parts became cheaper. Initiatives to bring electricity to remote communities and reduce diesel consumption mushroomed.

But in remote plants outside the reach of the grid, good batteries are needed to store energy for the nighttime hours.

Part of the so-called "downtown" in Darora, which has lamp posts, houses, a soccer field and a shed where the community meets. A larger community center is needed, says the leader of the Macuxi village located near Boa Vista, the capital of the northern Brazilian state of Roraima. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Part of the so-called “downtown” in Darora, which has lamp posts, houses, a soccer field and a shed where the community meets. A larger community center is needed, says
the leader of the Macuxi village located near Boa Vista, the capital of the northern Brazilian state of Roraima. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

A unique case

Darora is not a typical case. It is part of the municipality of Boa Vista, which has a population of 437,000 inhabitants and good resources, it is close to a paved road and is within a savannah ecosystem called “lavrado”.

It is at the southern end of the São Marcos indigenous territory, where many Macuxi indigenous people live but fewer than in Raposa Serra do Sol, Roraima’s other large native reserve. According to the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai), there were 33,603 Macuxi Indians living in Roraima in 2014.

The Macuxi people also live in the neighboring country of Guyana, where there are a similar number to that of Roraima. Their language is part of the Karib family.

Although there are no large forests in the surrounding area, Darora takes its name from a tree, which offers “very resistant wood that is good for building houses,” Homero explained.

The community emerged in 1944, founded by a patriarch who lived to be 93 years old and attracted other Macuxi people to the area.

The progress they have made especially stands out in the secondary school in the village “center”, which currently has 89 students and 32 employees, “all from Darora, except for three teachers from outside,” Homero said proudly.

A new, larger elementary and middle school for students in the first to ninth grades was built a few years ago about 500 meters from the community.

Water used to be a serious problem. “We drank dirty, red water, children died of diarrhea. But now we have good, treated water,” said Adélia da Silva.

“We dug three artesian wells, but the water was useless, it was salty. The solution was brought by a Sesai technician, who used a chemical substance to make the water from the lagoon drinkable,” Homero said.

The community has three elevated water tanks, two for water used for bathing and cleaning and one for drinking water. There are no more health problems caused by water, the tuxaua said.

His current concern is to find new sources of income for the community. Tourism is one alternative. “We have the Tacutu river beach 300 meters away, great fruit production, handicrafts and typical local gastronomy based on corn and cassava,” he said, listing attractions for visitors.

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Deportees Start Businesses to Overcome Unemployment in El Salvador

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Migration & Refugees

Oscar Sosa cooks roast chicken and pork on an artisanal grill set up outside his small restaurant, Comedor Espresso, in the eastern Salvadoran city of San Francisco Gotera. Like many of the returnees, especially from the United States, he set up his own business, given the unemployment he found on his return to El Salvador. More than 10,000 people were deported to this Central American country between January and August 2022. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Oscar Sosa cooks roast chicken and pork on an artisanal grill set up outside his small restaurant, Comedor Espresso, in the eastern Salvadoran city of San Francisco Gotera. Like many of the returnees, especially from the United States, he set up his own business, given the unemployment he found on his return to El Salvador. More than 10,000 people were deported to this Central American country between January and August 2022. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

SAN FRANCISCO GOTERA, El Salvador, Jan 10 2023 (IPS) – While grilling several portions of chicken and pork, Salvadoran cook Oscar Sosa said he was proud that through his own efforts he had managed to set up a small food business after he was deported back to El Salvador from the United States.


This has allowed him to generate an income in a country where unemployment affects 6.3 percent of the economically active population.

“Little by little we grew and now we also have catering services for events,” Sosa told IPS, as he turned the chicken and pork over with tongs on a small circular grill.

The grill is located outside the premises, so that the smoke won’t bother the customers eating inside.

It’s not easy, he said, to return home and to not be able to find a job. That is why he decided to start his own business, Comedor Espresso, in the center of San Francisco Gotera, a city in the department of Morazán in eastern El Salvador.

“You come back wanting to work and there aren’t any opportunities. The first thing they see in you is your age; when you’re over 35, they don’t hire you.” — Patricia López

In this Central American country of 6.7 million people, “comedores” are small, generally precarious, neighborhood restaurants where inexpensive, homemade meals are prepared.

Sosa’s, although very small, was clean and tidy, and even had air conditioning, when IPS visited it on Dec. 19.

Skills and capacity abound, but opportunities are scarce

Sosa, 35, is one of thousands of people deported from the United States every year.

He left in 2005 and was sent back in 2014. He worked for eight years as a cook at a Mexican restaurant in the city of Pensacola, in the southeastern state of Florida.

A total of 10,399 people were deported to this country between January and August 2022, which represents an increase of 221 percent compared to the same period in 2021, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

The flow of undocumented Salvadoran migrants, especially to the United States, intensified in the 1980s, due to the 1980-1992 civil war in El Salvador that left some 75,000 dead and around 8,000 forcibly disappeared.

At the end of the war, people continued to leave, for economic reasons and also because of the high levels of violent crime in the country.

An estimated 3.1 million Salvadorans live outside the country, 88 percent of them in the United States. And 50 percent of the Salvadorans in the U.S. are undocumented.

Despite the problem of unemployment, Sosa was not discouraged when he returned to his country.

“I feel that we are already growing, we have five employees, the business is registered in the Ministry of Finance, in the Ministry of Health, and I’m paying taxes,” he said.

Obviously, not all deportees have the support, especially financial, needed to set up their own business.

The stigma of deportation weighs heavily on them: there is a widespread perception that if they were deported it is because they were involved in some type of crime in the United States.

A government survey, conducted between November 2020 and June 2021, found that 50 percent of the deportees manage to open a business, 18 percent live off their savings, their partner’s income or support from their family, and 16 percent have part-time or full-time jobs.

In addition, seven percent live on remittances sent home to them, two percent receive income from property rentals, dividends or bank interests, and seven percent checked “other” or did not answer.

Apart from some government initiatives and non-governmental organizations that provide training and funds for start-ups, returnees have faced the specter of unemployment for decades.

Many return empty-handed and owe debts to the people smugglers who they hired to get into the United States as undocumented migrants.

In the case of Sosa, his brothers supported him to set up Comedor Espresso.

He also received a small grant of 700 dollars to purchase kitchen equipment.

The money came from a program financed with 87,000 dollars by the Salvadoran community abroad, through the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry.

The initiative, launched in 2019, aims to generate opportunities for returnees in four municipalities in eastern El Salvador, including San Francisco Gotera.

This region was chosen because most of the deportees reside here, according to Carlos Díaz, coordinator of the program on behalf of the San Francisco Gotera mayor’s office.

But the demand for support and resources exceeds supply.

“There was a database of approximately 350 returnees in Gotera, but there was only money for 55,” Díaz told IPS.

More than 200 people benefited in the four municipalities.

David Aguilar and Patricia López (right) set up their own business, El Tuco King Carwash, after they decided to return to El Salvador. Their business is located in the eastern part of the country, a region where more than 50 percent of returnees live. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

David Aguilar and Patricia López (right) set up their own business, El Tuco King Carwash, after they decided to return to El Salvador. Their business is located in the eastern part of the country, a region where more than 50 percent of returnees live. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Hope despite a tough situation

Out of necessity, David Aguilar and Patricia López, 52 and 42, respectively, also set up their own business, in their case a car wash, after deciding to return to El Salvador. It’s called Tuco King Carwash.

Like Sosa, they are from San Francisco Gotera. Aguilar left the country in November 2005 and López three months later, in February 2006.

They made the risky journey to try to give their young daughter – six months old at the time, and today 17 years old – a better future.

One leg of the trip was by sea, on the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico.

“I spent 12 hours at sea, in a boat carrying about 20 people, who were all undocumented like me,” Aguilar said.

He added: “The only thing they gave us as lifesavers were a few plastic containers, in case the boat capsized.”

It was in Houston, in the state of Texas, that Aguilar found work in a car paint shop. The experience has been useful to him back in El Salvador, because in addition to washing cars, he offers paint jobs and other related services.

Aguilar and López were not deported; they decided to return because her father died in 2011. They came back in 2012, without having seen many of their dreams come true.

“You come back wanting to work and there aren’t any opportunities. The first thing they see in you is your age; when you’re over 35, they don’t hire you,” López said.

Before embarking on the trip to the United States, she had finished her degree as a primary school teacher, in 2005. But she never worked as a teacher because she left the following year.

“When I returned I applied to various teaching positions, but no one ever hired me,” she said.

Today, their carwash business, set up in 2014, is doing well, albeit with difficulties, because the couple have found that there is too much competition.

But they do not lose hope that they will succeed.

Former Salvadoran guerrilla David Henríquez, deported from the United States in 2019, shows the quality of the disinfectant he has just produced in his small artisanal workshop in San Salvador. With no chance of finding formal employment after deportation, he worked hard to set up his disinfectant business to generate an income. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Former Salvadoran guerrilla David Henríquez, deported from the United States in 2019, shows the quality of the disinfectant he has just produced in his small artisanal workshop in San Salvador. With no chance of finding formal employment after deportation, he worked hard to set up his disinfectant business to generate an income. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

An ex-guerrilla chemist

David Henríquez, a 62-year-old former guerrilla fighter, was deported in 2019.

During the civil war, Henríquez was a combatant of the then insurgent Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), but when peace came he decided to emigrate to the United States in 2003 as an undocumented immigrant.

With no hope of finding a formal sector job here, he began to make cleaning products, a skill he learned in the United States.

In the 12 years that he lived there, he worked for two years at the Sherwin Williams plant, a global manufacturer of paints and other chemicals.

“It was there that I began to discover the world of chemical compositions and aromas,” Henríquez told IPS during a visit to his small workshop in the Belén neighborhood of San Salvador, the capital.

Henríquez was producing a 14-gallon (53-liter) batch of blue disinfectant with the scent of baby powder. He also makes disinfectant smelling like cinnamon and lavender, among others. His business is called El Dave de los aromas.

His production process is still artisanal, although he would know how to produce disinfectant with high-tech machinery, if he had it, he said, “as I did at Sherwin Williams.”

He used a baby bottle to measure out the 3.5 ounces (104 milliliters) of nonylphenol, the main chemical component, used to produce 14 gallons.

Henríquez dissolved other chemicals in powder, to get the color and the aroma, and the product was ready.

He produces about 400 gallons a month, 1,514 liters, at a price of 3.50 dollars each.

“The important thing is to have discipline, work hard, to shine with your own effort,” he said.

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Thoughts for 2023: Promoting Innovation & New Technologies

Civil Society, COVID-19, Development & Aid, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Patients seeking treatment at the Redemption Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Credit: World Bank/Dominic Chavez

 
The UN agency devoted to ending AIDS as a public health threat has called on top politicians and governments across the world to ensure the right to quality healthcare is upheld, and not just a privilege to be enjoyed by the wealthy.

NEW YORK, Dec 20 2022 (IPS) – Promoting innovation and technology to promote inclusive development means using new technologies to enhance equal access to services, eliminate discrimination, increase transparency, and create a stable and just future for all – especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.


Obviously, the rule of law is a key driver of inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development, and empowers people from all strata of life to seek and obtain justice. Doing more with less is posing a challenge here. We are operating in an increasingly connected yet complex global and national settings and fiscally fragile environment.

Our traditional structures, systems and processes are proving to be inadequate to deal with new developmental challenges, pandemics, inaccessibility and exclusions, conflicts, and humanitarian crisis. Our governance and justice systems are not the most transparent and data friendly domain. Bringing that information to light is no easy task.

Barriers to Governance and Rule of Law

As indicated before, there are many barriers to accessing public services and ensuring accessible public health, rule of law, especially where there are high levels of poverty, marginalization, and insecurity. Governance institutions – formal and informal – may be biased or discriminatory. Public governance systems may be ineffective, slow, and untrustworthy.

In the last 3 years of pandemic, we also realized our public health system is often crippled by lack of investment, inclusive and accessible initiatives, and innovation. Discriminatory decision making and exclusivity further complicated the situation at all levels. People may lack knowledge about their rights.

Often legal assistance and consumer protection are out of reach, leaving people with little recourse to formal mechanisms for protection and empowerment. There may be a culture of impunity for criminal acts, unacceptable level of tolerance for exclusionary practices.

Other discriminations, injustices, and abuses in the family, or through deprivation and labour exploitation, may go unaddressed. Despite all these, more can be done to ensure that they benefit from the inclusive governance and public health work, and, rule of law practices, which expand their opportunities and choices.

Quest for New Ideas …

Despite all these, more can be done to ensure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups benefit from inclusive public health, legal empowerment, and access to justice, which expand their opportunities and choices.

We need fresh ideas, resources, and unconventional ways of collecting and analyzing data, such as using micro-narratives or innovative, accessible public hearings, targeted consultations, to complement traditional mechanisms including surveys. But innovation is rapidly becoming the new buzzword, so I would be careful in applying it here:

    • Innovation is not cost-free and takes time so it should be mainstreamed:
    • Innovation is both science and arts. And it should be seen as a standalone practice. one of the biggest problems that public sector innovation faces today is that governments have de facto created a ‘class of innovators,’ rather than making innovation an inclusive process that is open to anyone who has the motivation and capacity to influence change. This must change.
    • Repackaging or reproduction is not innovation unless it caters to the specific needs of vulnerable and marginalized communities which are not supported by existing mechanisms and services.
    • What is innovative in Bangladesh, Turkey, and Tanzania may not be so in India, Turkmenistan, Senegal, or Mexico;
    • Big data is important but harnessing it for the right cause should be central consideration. Linking it with better evidence base is of critical significance. The COVID-19 challenges amply demonstrated it.
    • Going beyond social networking is key – while Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media outlets play an admirable role in connecting people, these are not enough to solving a protracted problem and sustaining a solution. We must also be mindful of the recent trend of using social media to silence public defenders, journalists, and whistle blowers. The twitter is a case in point (December 2022).
    • Innovative ideas, while refreshing, need to be pragmatic so that they can be implemented. They mast be part of a solution, not the overall problem.
    • Evidence of impact is more important than the novelty factor.

Innovation and New Technologies for Solutions

My own take is that ideas do not need to be always transformational or revolutionary. Our platforms can replicate or even recycle what already works by introducing successful models to new actors and environments.

Even seemingly ordinary things can become innovative in different terms, approaches, or settings. linking inclusion to innovation is not only about looking at how it can advance policies and create better impact for governments, but also about giving people, public servants, and citizens alike, the self-efficacy, power, and freedom to direct change in the way they see necessary. This contributes directly to the making of inclusive development.

New technologies are changing the lives of people around the world. In the same way that they make daily tasks simpler, they can make official and routine interactions with government institutions, service providers easier and can provide innovative solutions to a host of public sector governance, public health, and rule of law challenges.

Technology has an immense untapped potential to strengthen inclusive practices for governance including public health governance, and the rule of law. Technological innovation must provide equal access to services, help to eliminate discrimination, and assure more transparency and accountability. They must not be used to silence voices, deny human rights, or create justifications for maladministration, inaccessibility, and exclusions.

As we are approaching 2023 in a few days, let us hope for a more inclusive and diverse public sector governance rooted in human rights values and practices.

Dr. A.H. Monjurul Kabir, currently UN System Coordination Adviser and Global Team Leader for Gender Equality, Disability Inclusion/Intersectionality at UN Women HQ in New York, is a thought leader, political scientist and senior policy and legal analyst on global issues and regional trends. For policy and academic purpose, he can be contacted at monjurulkabir@yahoo.com. He can be followed in twitter at mkabir2011

IPS UN Bureau

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Digital Treatment of Genetic Resources Shakes Up COP15

The executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, highlighted on Friday Dec. 16 the results of the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and fair benefit sharing at an event during COP15 in the Canadian city of Montreal. But the talks have not reached an agreement on the digital sequencing of genetic resources. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, highlighted on Friday Dec. 16 the results of the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and fair benefit sharing at an event during COP15 in the Canadian city of Montreal. But the talks have not reached an agreement on the digital sequencing of genetic resources. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MONTREAL, Dec 16 2022 (IPS)

In addition to its nutritional properties, quinoa, an ancestral grain from the Andes, also has cosmetic uses, as stated by the resource use and benefit-sharing permit ABSCH-IRCC-PE-261033-1 awarded in February to a private individual under a 15-month commercial use contract.


The permit, issued by the Peruvian government’s National Institute for Agrarian Innovation, allows the Peruvian beneficiary to use the material in a skin regeneration cream.

But it also sets restrictions on the registration of products obtained from quinoa or the removal of its elements from the Andean nation, to prevent the risk of irregular exploitation without a fair distribution of benefits, in other words, biopiracy.”The scientific community is willing to share benefits through simple mechanisms that do not unfairly burden researchers in low- and middle-income countries.” — Amber Scholz

The licensed material may have a digital representation of its genetic structure which in turn may generate new structures from which formulas or products may emerge. This is called digital sequence information (DSI), in the universe of research or commercial applications within the CBD.

Treatment of DSI forms part of the debates at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which began on Dec. 7 and is due to end on Dec. 19 at the Palais des Congrès in the Canadian city of Montreal.

The summit has brought together some 15,000 people representing the 196 States Parties to the CBD, non-governmental organizations, academia, international bodies and companies.

The focus of the debate is the Post-2020 Global Framework on Biodiversity, which consists of 22 targets in areas including financing for conservation, guidelines on digital sequencing of genetic material, degraded ecosystems, protected areas, endangered species, the role of business and gender equality.

Like most of the issues, negotiations on DSI and the sharing of resulting benefits, contained in one of the Global Framework’s four objectives and in target 13, are at a deadlock, on everything from definitions to possible sharing mechanisms.

Except for the digital twist, the issue is at the heart of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, part of the CBD, signed in that Japanese city in 2010 and in force since 2014.

The delegations of the 196 States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity have failed to make progress at COP15 in the negotiations on new targets for the protection of the world's natural heritage, in the Canadian city of Montreal. In the picture, a working group reviews a proposal on the complex issue. CREDIT: IISD/ENB

The delegations of the 196 States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity have failed to make progress at COP15 in the negotiations on new targets for the protection of the world’s natural heritage, in the Canadian city of Montreal. In the picture, a working group reviews a proposal on the complex issue. CREDIT: IISD/ENB

Amber Scholz, a German member of the DSI Scientific Network, a group of 70 experts from 25 countries, said there is an urgent need to close the gap between the existing innovation potential and a fair benefit-sharing system so that digital sequencing benefits everyone.

“It’s been a decade now and things haven’t turned out so well. The promise of a system of innovation, open access and benefit sharing is broken,” Scholz, a researcher at the Department of Microbial Ecology and Diversity in the Leibniz Institute’s DSMZ German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures, told IPS.

DSI stems from the revolution in the massive use of technological tools, which has reached biology as well, fundamental in the discovery and manufacture of molecules and drugs such as those used in vaccines against the coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets, adopted in 2010 in that Japanese city during the CBD COP10, were missed by the target year, 2020, and will now be renewed and updated by the Global Framework that will emerge from Montreal.

The targets included respect for the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities related to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, their customary use of biological resources, and the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities in the implementation of the CBD.

Lack of clarity in the definition of DSI, challenges in the traceability of the country of origin of the sequence via digital databases, fear of loss of open access to data and different outlooks on benefit-sharing mechanisms are other aspects complicating the debate among government delegates.

Through the Action Agenda: Make a Pledge platform, organizations, companies and individuals have already made 586 voluntary commitments at COP15, whose theme is “Ecological civilization: Building a shared future for all life on earth”.

Of these, 44 deal with access and benefit sharing, while 294 address conservation and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems, 185 involve partnerships and alliances, and 155 focus on adaptation to climate change and emission reductions.

Genetic havens

Access to genetic resources for commercial or non-commercial purposes has become an issue of great concern in the countries of the global South, due to the fear of biopiracy, especially with the advent of digital sequencing, given that physical access to genetic materials is not absolutely necessary.

Although the Nagoya Protocol includes access and benefit-sharing mechanisms, digital sequencing mechanisms have generated confusion. In fact, this instrument has created a market in which lax jurisdictions have taken advantage by becoming genetic havens.

Around 2,000 gene banks operate worldwide, attracting some 15 million users. Almost two billion sequences have been registered, according to statistics from GenBank, one of the main databases in the sector and part of the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Argentina leads the list of permits for access to genetic resources in Latin America under the Protocol, with a total of 56, two of which are commercial, followed by Peru (54, four commercial) and Panama (39, one commercial). Mexico curbed access to such permits in 2019, following a scandal triggered by the registration of maize in 2016.

There are more than 100 gene banks operating in Mexico, 88 in Peru, 56 in Brazil, 47 in Argentina and 25 in Colombia.

The largest providers of genetic resources leading to publicly available DSI are the United States, China and Japan. Brazil ranks 10th among sources and users of samples, according to a study published in 2021 by Scholz and five other researchers.

The mechanisms for managing genetic information sequences have become a condition for negotiating the new post-2020 Global Framework for biodiversity, which poses a conflict between the most biodiverse countries (generally middle- and low-income) and the nations of the industrialized North.

Brazilian indigenous activist Cristiane Juliao, a leader of the Pankararu people, calls for a fair system of benefit-sharing for access to and use of genetic resources and their digital sequences at COP15, being held at the Palais des Congrès in the Canadian city of Montreal. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Brazilian indigenous activist Cristiane Juliao, a leader of the Pankararu people, calls for a fair system of benefit-sharing for access to and use of genetic resources and their digital sequences at COP15, being held at the Palais des Congrès in the Canadian city of Montreal. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Indigenous people and their share

Cristiane Juliao, an indigenous woman of the Pankararu people, who is a member of the Brazilian Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of the Northeast, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, said the mechanisms adopted must favor the participation of native peoples and guarantee a fair distribution of benefits.

“We don’t look at one small element of a plant. We look at the whole context and the role of that plant. All traditional knowledge is associated with genetic heritage, because we use it in food, medicine or spiritual activities,” she told IPS at COP15.

Therefore, she said, “traceability is important, to know where the knowledge was acquired or accessed.”

In Montreal, Brazilian native organizations are seeking recognition that the digital sequencing contains information that indigenous peoples and local communities protect and that digital information must be subject to benefit-sharing. They are also demanding guarantees of free consultation and the effective participation of indigenous groups in the digital information records.

Thanks to the system based on the country’s Biodiversity Law, in effect since 2016, the Brazilian government has recorded revenues of five million dollars for permits issued.

The Working Group responsible for drafting the new Global Framework put forward a set of options for benefit-sharing measures.

They range from leaving in place the current status quo, to the integration of digital sequence information on genetic resources into national access and benefit-sharing measures, or the creation of a one percent tax on retail sales of genetic resources.

Lagging behind

There is a legal vacuum regarding this issue, because the CBD, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in force since 2004, do not cover all of its aspects.

Scholz suggested the COP reach a decision that demonstrates the political will to establish a fair and equitable system. “The scientific community is willing to share benefits through simple mechanisms that do not unfairly burden researchers in low- and middle-income countries,” she said.

For her part, Juliao demanded a more inclusive and fairer system. “There is no clear record of indigenous peoples who have agreed to benefit sharing. It is said that some knowledge comes from native peoples, but there is no mechanism for the sharing of benefits with us.”

IPS produced this article with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.

Pandemic Aggravated Violence against Women in Latin America

Active Citizens, Civil Society, COVID-19, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Gender Violence

This article is part of IPS coverage of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25.

"Not one woman less, respect our lives” writes a Peruvian woman on the effigy of a woman in a park in front of the courthouse, before a demonstration in Lima over the lack of enforcement of laws against femicides and other forms of violence against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

“Not one woman less, respect our lives” writes a Peruvian woman on the effigy of a woman in a park in front of the courthouse, before a demonstration in Lima over the lack of enforcement of laws against femicides and other forms of violence against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Nov 24 2022 (IPS) – Violence against women has failed to decline in the Latin American region after the sharp rise recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, while preventing the causes of such violence remains a major challenge.


This is what representatives of the United Nations, feminist organizations and women’s movements told IPS on the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25.

“We attack the problem but not its causes. I have been talking for 30 years about the importance of preventing violence against women by fostering major cultural changes so that girls and boys are raised in the knowledge that it is unacceptable in any form.” — Moni Pizani

This date, established in 1999 by the United Nations, was adopted in 1981 at the first Latin American and Caribbean feminist meeting held in Colombia to promote the struggle against violence against women in a region where it continues to be exacerbated by high levels of ‘machismo’ or sexism.

The day was chosen to pay tribute to Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, three sisters from the Dominican Republic who were political activists and were killed on Nov. 25, 1960 by the repressive forces of the regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

The date launches 16 days of activism against gender violence, culminating on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, because male violence against women and girls is the most widespread violation of human rights worldwide.

“It is not possible to confirm a decrease in gender violence in the region at this post-pandemic moment,” said Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of the region’s leading experts on women’s rights. “I could say, from the information I have gathered and empirically, that the level has remained steady after the significant increase registered in the last two years.”

Pizani, who retired from the United Nations, currently supports the UN Women office in Guatemala after a fruitful career advocating for women’s rights. She was twice representative in Ecuador for UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, then worked for East and Southeast Asia and later opened the UN Women Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama City as regional director.

“Before the pandemic we used to talk about three out of 10 women having suffered violence, today we say four out of 10. The other alarming fact is that the impact is throughout the entire life cycle of women, including the elderly,” she told IPS in a conversation in Tegucigalpa, Honduras during a Central American colloquium on the situation of women.

UN Women last year measured the “shadow pandemic” in 13 countries in all regions, a term used to describe violence against women during lockdowns due to COVID.

Seven out of 10 women were found to have experienced violence at some time during the pandemic, one in four felt unsafe at home due to increased family conflict, and seven out of 10 perceived partner abuse to be more frequent.

The study also revealed that four out of 10 women feel less safe in public spaces.

Pizani said the study showed that this violation of women’s human rights occurs in different age groups: 48 percent of those between 18 and 49 years old are affected, 42 percent of those between 50 and 59, and 34 percent of women aged 60 and over.

Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of Latin America's leading experts on gender issues, with a long career at UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, takes part in a Central American colloquium in Tegucigalpa on sustainable recovery with gender equality in the wake of the COVID pandemic. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of Latin America’s leading experts on gender issues, with a long career at UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, takes part in a Central American colloquium in Tegucigalpa on sustainable recovery with gender equality in the wake of the COVID pandemic. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

According to the same study, unemployed women are the most vulnerable: 52 percent of them experienced violence during the pandemic.

And with regard to mothers: one out of every two women with children also experienced a violation of their rights.

The expert highlighted the effort made by many countries to adopt measures during the pandemic with the expansion of services, telephone hotlines, use of new means of reporting through mobile applications, among others. But she regretted that the efforts fell short.

This year, the region is home to 662 million inhabitants, or eight percent of the world’s population, slightly more than half of whom are girls and women.

The level of violence against women is so severe that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) cites it as one of the structural factors of gender inequality, together with gaps in employment, the concentration of care work and inequitable representation in public spaces.

Governments neither prevent nor address violence

Peru is an example of similar situations of gender violence in the region.

It was one of the countries with the strictest lockdowns, paralyzing government action against gender violence, which was gradually resumed in the second half of 2020 and which made it possible, for example, to receive complaints in the country’s provincial public prosecutors’ offices.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office Crime Observatory reported 1,081,851 complaints in 2021 – an average of 117 per hour. The frequency of complaints returned to pre-pandemic levels, which in 2020 stood at around 700,000, because women under lockdown found it harder to report cases due to the confinement and the fact that they were cooped up with the perpetrators.

Cynthia Silva, a Peruvian lawyer and director of the non-governmental feminist group Study for the Defense of Women’s Rights-Demus, told IPS that the government has failed to reactivate the different services and that the specialized national justice system needs to be fully implemented to protect victims and punish perpetrators.

Lawyer Cynthia Silva, director of the Peruvian feminist institution Demus, poses for a picture at the headquarters of the feminist organization in Lima. She stresses the need for government action against gender violence to include not only strategies for attending to the victims, but also for prevention in order to eradicate it. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Lawyer Cynthia Silva, director of the Peruvian feminist institution Demus, poses for a picture at the headquarters of the feminist organization in Lima. She stresses the need for government action against gender violence to include not only strategies for attending to the victims, but also for prevention in order to eradicate it. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

She stressed the importance of allocating resources both for addressing cases of violence and for prevention. “These are two strategies that should go hand in hand and we see that the State is not doing enough in relation to the latter,” she said.

Silva urged the government to take action in measures aimed at the populace to contribute to rethinking socio-cultural patterns and ‘machista’ habits that discriminate against women.

Based on an experience they are carrying out with girls and adolescents in the district of Carabayllo, in the extreme north of Lima, she said it’s a question of supporting “deconstruction processes” so that egalitarian relations between women and men are fostered from childhood.

On Nov. 26 they will march with various feminist movements and collectives against machista violence so that “the right to a life free of violence against women is guaranteed and so that not a single step backwards is taken with respect to the progress made, particularly in sexual and reproductive rights, which are threatened by conservative groups in Congress.”

Adolescent women and men in Lima, the Peruvian capital, wave a huge banner during the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25, 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated such violence in Latin America. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Adolescent women and men in Lima, the Peruvian capital, wave a huge banner during the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25, 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated such violence in Latin America. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

An equally serious scenario

Argentina is another example of gender violence – including femicides – in Latin America, the region with the highest levels of aggression against women in the world, the result of extremely sexist societies.

This is in contrast to the fact that it is one of the regions with the best protection against such violence in national and even regional legislation, because since 1994 it has had the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.

The problem is that these laws are seriously flawed in their implementation, especially in the interior of the countries, agree UN Women, regional organizations and national women’s rights groups.

Rosaura Andiñach, an Argentine university professor and head of community processes at the Ecumenical Regional Center for Counseling and Service (CREAS), said it is worrying that in her country there are still high rates of femicide, despite the progress made in terms of legislation.

Between January and October 2022, there were 212 femicides and 181 attempted gender-based homicides in the country of 46 million people, according to the civil society observatory “Ahora que sí nos ven” (Now that they do see us).

She said the government still owes a debt to women in this post-pandemic context, as it fails to guarantee women’s rights by not adequately addressing their complaints.

“We do not want the same thing to happen as with a recent case: Noelia Sosa, 30 years old, lived in Tucumán and reported her partner in a police station for gender violence. They ignored her and she committed suicide that afternoon because she did not know what else to do. We are very concerned because the outlook is still as serious as ever in terms of violence against women,” Andiñach said.

It was precisely in Argentina that the #NiunaMenos (Not one woman less) campaign emerged in 2015, which spread throughout the region as a movement against femicides and the ineffectiveness of the authorities in the enforcement of laws to prevent and punish gender-related murders, because femicides are surrounded by a very high level of impunity in Latin America.

Moni Pizani, from UN Women, stressed that the prevention of gender violence should no longer fall short in the region.

“We attack the problem but not its causes. I have been talking for 30 years about the importance of preventing violence against women by fostering major cultural changes so that girls and boys are raised in the knowledge that it is unacceptable in any form,” she underlined.

This strategy, she remarked, “involves investing in youth and children to ensure that the new generations are free from violence, harassment and discrimination, with respect for a life of dignity for all.”

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US to Fight Sexual Abuse in International Organizations

Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, TerraViva United Nations

Security Council members vote to adopt a resolution endorsing special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 21 2022 (IPS) – The United States, which recently laid down a set of guidelines to monitor sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by US citizens in international organizations, including the United Nations and its agencies worldwide, has implicitly accused the UN of faltering on a high-profile case last month.


The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York sentenced Karim Elkorany, an American citizen and a former UN employee, to 15 years in prison for the drugging and sexual assault of one victim and making false statements to cover up another sexual assault.

As part of the federal investigation, Elkorany admitted that he had drugged and/or sexually assaulted 17 additional victims between 2002 and 2016.

Ambassador Chris Lu, U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform at the US Mission to the United Nations, said that consistent with State Department policies, “we have referred this matter to the Office of Inspector General for review to ensure a culture of accountability”

“We also call on the United Nations to undertake a similar review that includes a comprehensive examination of the handling of any sexual exploitation and abuse or sexual harassment (SEAH) allegations against Mr. Elkorany during his employment with the United Nations”.

The investigation, he said, should examine whether UN officials were aware of Elkorany’s misconduct and failed to take appropriate action, including ensuring the availability and accessibility of assistance to survivors.

In line with the “Principles on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment (SEAH) for U.S. Government Engagement with International Organizations”, the United States said it is committed to preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the UN system.

“We strongly support the United Nations’ zero tolerance policy and the Secretary-General’s efforts to strengthen its implementation”.

“Protection from SEAH is the responsibility of leadership and managers at every level who have a duty to take action in response to allegations of SEAH and ensure implementation of governance policies and delivery of services in a manner that respects the rights and dignity of all personnel and communities served by our institutions.”

The critical stand against the UN comes amid “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence”, beginning November 25, and billed as an opportunity to call for prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has established a Chief Executive Board Task Force to review policies to prevent sexual harassment and develop improved and consistent approaches across the UN, including a review of how the UN defines sexual harassment.

Tsitsi Matekaire, the Global Lead on Equality Now’s End Sexual Exploitation Programme based in the UK, told IPS the publication of these principles by the US government is a welcome development.

They echo similar positive initiatives by countries such as Australia and the UK, which have introduced measures following highly publicized scandals in recent years within the international aid sector.

“It is good to see more organizations introducing and extending safeguarding policies, but words must be underpinned by effective action and we need more evidence about the impact of these commitments. It is no good having protection strategies and procedures in place if they are not being well implemented and abuse continues unchecked”, said Matekaire.

“We don’t know the true scale of the problem, but we do know from frequent revelations that sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse remain a widespread problem inside the United Nations system and within other international development organizations”.

In September 2022, she pointed out, a media investigation disclosed sexual abuse by humanitarian workers at an UN-run camp in South Sudan. It was reported that abuse occurred “on a daily basis” over a number of years and aid officials were aware as early as 2015.

Although the UN did take some action, it faced criticism for failing to introduce effective strategies to end the problem, and an external review cited a lack of victim support, she noted.

“The UN and all international development agencies must enforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual abuse and harassment directed at, and perpetrated by, staff. This must apply to everyone, regardless of what level their position is”.

“All staff should receive training, with policies and procedures well communicated. Reports of abuse should be taken seriously, investigations carried out swiftly and effectively, and perpetrators held fully to account”.

She also said that aid workers and other whistle-blowers need to be well protected so they are able to disclose allegations of abuses without fear of negative repercussions, including retaliation or sidelining.

And safeguarding and reporting mechanisms need to ensure sexual predators are not able to evade punishment or move to different jobs where they are able to commit further offences.”

And here is the link to the article about the South Sudan story referenced above.

Meanwhile, a Reuters report of November 1 said the World Health Organization (WHO) has suspended a senior manager at its Geneva headquarters after a British doctor publicly alleged she was sexually assaulted at a health conference last month, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Rosie James, a 26-year-old junior doctor working for England’s National Health Service tweeted last month that the assault occurred at the World Health Summit in Berlin. The event, which took place from Oct. 16-18, was jointly organized by the WHO. James said at the time that she planned to report the incident.

“The alleged perpetrator is on leave and the investigation is on-going,” a WHO spokesperson said in an emailed response to Reuters about James’s statements, without naming him.

The set of “Government Engagement Principles on Protection from Sexual Exploitation Abuse and Sexual Harassment within International Organizations, laid down by the US includes six key components:

Zero Tolerance

The United States will continue to promote the full implementation of policies of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment, including zero tolerance for inaction in response to allegations, across the United Nations and other International Organizations.

This includes support for policies that prioritize prevention and mitigation efforts, monitor the effectiveness of such efforts, ensure safe access to confidential SEAH reporting mechanisms and appropriate survivor support, and embed survivor-centered principles across all actions in response to reported allegations – including investigations.

The United States recognizes that an absence of reporting does not mean incidents are not being perpetrated, nor does it indicate that zero tolerance policies are being fully implemented.

A Survivor-centered Approach

The United States expects all allegations or incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment to be reviewed and addressed, while respecting principles of due process.

In its engagement with the United Nations and other International Organizations, the United States will continue to advocate for the use of survivor-centered principles and standards – an approach that recognizes and empowers survivors as individuals with agency and unique needs, safeguarding their dignity and wellbeing.

Prevention and Risk Mitigation

The United States will work with the United Nations and other International Organizations to institutionalize prevention and mitigation measures that go beyond basic awareness-raising, training, capacity-building or dissemination of codes of conduct, and include a commitment to promote adequate funding, dedicated technical staff, and meaningful risk analysis and mitigation.

The United States will hold the United Nations and other International Organizations to the highest standard, including from the onset of a crisis, conflict or emergency, to mitigate against such risk, especially with highly vulnerable populations.

Accountability and Transparency

The United States expects the leadership of the United Nations and other International Organizations to take meaningful action to support accountability and transparency through, among others, the following: the conduct of timely and survivor-centered investigations; response efforts driven by the needs, experiences, and resiliencies of those most at risk of SEAH; clear reporting and response systems, including to inform Member States of allegations or incidents; and accountability measures, including termination of employment or involvement of law enforcement, as needed.

Organizational Culture Change

The United States will work to advocate for the development by the United Nations and other International Organizations of evidence-based metrics and standards of practice in the implementation of zero tolerance policies, promote holistic approaches, empower women and girls, and reinforce leadership and organizational accountability.

Policies, statements, and training are essential, but alone are insufficient to produce lasting positive change. Systems-level change requires a shift in organizational culture, behavior, and the underlying processes and mechanisms to deliver assistance and promote internal accountability.

Empowerment of Local Communities

The United States will prioritize, in partnership with the leadership of the United Nations and other International Organizations, the critical importance of locally-led efforts, particularly those led by women and girls, who, when meaningfully supported and engaged, can inform the measures that may mitigate risks and promote safer foreign assistance programming.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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