Women Advocates for Harvesting Rainwater in Salinity-Affected Coastal Bangladesh

Asia-Pacific, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Humanitarian Emergencies, Innovation, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations

Humanitarian Emergencies

Lalita Roy now has access to clean water and also provides a service to her community by working as a pani apa (water sister), looking after the community's rainwater harvesting plants. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Lalita Roy now has access to clean water and also provides a service to her community by working as a pani apa (water sister), looking after the community’s rainwater harvesting plants. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

KHULNA, Bangladesh, Sep 23 2022 (IPS) – Like many other women in Bangladesh’s salinity-prone coastal region, Lalita Roy had to travel a long distance every day to collect drinking water as there was no fresh water source nearby her locality.


“In the past, there was a scarcity of drinking water. I had to travel one to two kilometers distance each day to bring water,” Roy, a resident of Bajua Union under Dakope Upazila in Khulna, told IPS.

She had to collect water standing in a queue; one water pitcher was not enough to meet her daily household demand.

“We require two pitchers of drinking water per day. I had to spend two hours each day collecting water. So, there were various problems. I had health complications, and I was unable to do household work for lack of time,” she said.

After getting a rainwater harvesting plant from the Gender-response Climate Adaptation (GCA) Project, which is being implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Roy is now collecting drinking water using the rainwater harvesting plant, which makes her life easier.

“I am getting the facilities, and now I can give two more hours to my family… that’s why I benefited,” she added.

Shymoli Boiragi, another beneficiary of Shaheber Abad village under Dakope Upazila, said women in her locality suffered a lot in collecting drinking water in the past because they had to walk one to three kilometers every day to collect water.

“We lost both time and household work. After getting rainwater harvesting plants, we benefited. Now we need not go a long distance to collect water so that we can do more household work,” Boiragi said.

Shymoli revealed that coastal people suffered from various health problems caused by consuming saline water and spent money on collecting the water too.

“But now we are conserving rainwater during the ongoing monsoon and will drink it for the rest of the year,” she added.

THE ROLE OF PANI APAS

With support from the project, rainwater harvesting plants were installed at about 13,300 households under 39 union parishads in Khunla and Satkhira. One pani apa (water sister) has been deployed in every union from the beneficiaries.

Roy, now deployed as a pani apa, said the GCA project conducted a survey on the households needing water plants and selected her as a pani apa for two wards.

“As a pani apa, I have been given various tools. I go to every household two times per month. I clean up their water tanks (rainwater plants) and repair those, if necessary,” he added.

Roy said she provides services for 80 households having rainwater harvesting plants, and if they have any problem with their water tanks, she goes to their houses to repair plants.

“I go to 67 households, which have water plants, one to two times per month to provide maintenance services. If they call me over the cellphone, I also go to their houses,” said Ullashini Roy, another pani apa from Shaheber Abad village.

She said a household gives her Taka 20 per month for her maintenance services while she gets Taka 1,340 (US$ 15) from 67 households, which helps her with family expenses.

Ahoke Kumar Adhikary, regional project manager of the Gender-Response Climate Adaptation Project, said it supported installing rainwater harvesting plants at 13,300 households. Each plant will store 2,000 liters of rainwater in each tank for the dry season.

The water plants need maintenance, which is why the project has employed pani apas for each union parishad (ward or council). They work at a community level on maintenance.

“They provide some services, and we call them pani apas. The work of pani apas is to go to every household and provide the services,” Adhikary said.

He said the pani apas get Taka 20 from every household per month for providing their services, and if they need to replace taps or filters of the water plants, they replace those.

The pani apas charge for the replacements of equipment of the water plants, he added.

NO WATER TO DRINK

The coastal belt of Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change as it is hit hard by cyclones, floods, and storm surges every year, destroying its freshwater sources. The freshwater aquifer is also being affected by salinity due to rising sea levels.

Ullashini Roy said freshwater was unavailable in the coastal region, and people drinking water was scarce.

“The water you are looking at is saline. The underground water is also salty. The people of the region cannot use saline water for drinking and household purposes,” Adhikary said.

Ahmmed Zulfiqar Rahaman, hydrologist and climate change expert at Dhaka-based think-tank Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), said if the sea level rises by 50 centimeters by 2050, the surface salinity will reach Gopalganj and Jhalokati districts – 50 km inside the mainland from the coastal belt, accelerating drinking water crisis there.

PUBLIC HEALTH AT RISK

According to a 2019 study, people consuming saline water suffer from various physical problems, including acidity, stomach problems, skin diseases, psychological problems, and hypertension.

It is even being blamed for early marriages because salinity gradually changes girls’ skin color from light to gray.

“There is no sweet water around us. After drinking saline water, we suffered from various waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera,” Ullashini said.

Hypertension and high blood pressure are common among coastal people. The study also showed people feel psychological stress caused by having to constantly collect fresh water.

Shymoli said when the stored drinking water runs out in any family; the family members get worried because it’s not easy to collect in the coastal region.

SOLUTIONS TO SALINITY

Rahaman said river water flows rapidly decline in Bangladesh during the dry season, but a solution needs to be found for the coastal area.

The hydrologist suggested a possible solution is building more freshwater reservoirs in the coastal region through proper management of ponds at a community level.

Rahaman said low-cost rainwater harvesting technology should be transferred to the community level so that coastal people can reserve rainwater during the monsoon and use this during the dry season.

He added that the government should provide subsidies for desalinization plants since desalinizing salt water is costly.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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‘Aid Organizations Must Include the Youth Voice’ August 12, 2022—International Youth Day

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Global, Headlines, Health, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations, Youth Thought Leaders

Opinion

NEW YORK, Aug 12 2022 (IPS) – Today marks International Youth Day, a global celebration of the transformative power of young people. Introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999, the event was inaugurated not only to observe the power of the youth voice, but to serve as a promise from those in power to activate the power of youth across the development sector.


Yasmine Sherif

Since then, the United Nations appointed a Youth Envoy, dedicated to the diffusion of the day’s promise, and many aid organizations have followed suit by including the voices of young people in social media campaigns, high-level events, and stakeholder forums.

In 2021, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, took a further, concrete step to democratically include youth in its governance structure and decision-making processes. Scores of youth-led NGOs applied to join a newly created youth constituency, and after only a few weeks, the sub-group had become one of the largest, most active, and most diverse constituencies within the fund.

On the Executive Committee and High-Level Steering Group of ECW, young people were represented for the first time alongside government ministers, heads of UN agencies and civil society organizations, and private sector leaders — a refreshing example of intergenerational collaboration at the highest levels of humanitarian aid.

Another significant step in the race for youth inclusion occurred when ECW partnered with Plan International to support a group of youth activists through the ‘Youth for Education in Emergencies Project,’ a campaign by youth panelists aiming to demonstrate the value of youth participation.

As ECW builds momentum towards its High-Level Financing Conference in February 2023 with the #222MillionDreams Campaign, we call on strategic partners to include the youth voice as we come together to mobilize funding resources for the 222 Million crisis-impacted children and adolescents worldwide that require urgent educational support.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of exceptional young people ready to lead the charge. The Global Student Forum, for example, has brought together more than one hundred national student unions, composed of millions of youth activists, and successfully lobbied governments around the world with its democratic force.

H.D. Wright

The success of Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s 100 Million Campaign, a global, youth-led effort to end child exploitation, further illustrates the immense value of grassroots organizing. And at a local level, youth-led NGOs have brought change to their communities in ways equally substantial.

Aid organizations and professionals have changed the lives of countless young people around the world. By including them, aid organizations can tap into their extraordinary resilience and strength, and actually learn from them. Using their reach on social media, young people excel at spreading awareness and engagement around the world. Just as unknown singers become famous because of the young people who promote them, previously unknown issues have reached national prominence overnight and created substantive change.

With regard to fundraising, each young person is surrounded by a community, offering a network ready to lend a hand. In terms of policy, young people affected by crises can identify their needs with an ease unmatched by any humanitarian policy professional, for they are experts in their own lives, challenges and opportunities. Young people are intelligent and capable of shaping their own futures. They have an idealism and a courage that the world so desperately needs today. Their unflinching optimism, powerful energy, and uncompromising commitment to change will ensure that those futures are not only safe, but better than the present they inherited.

ECW can attest to the enlightening and inspiring vitality of young people. Since its creation, the youth constituency has worked energetically on behalf of this breakthrough global fund, providing valuable input and guidance on multi-year programs and first emergency responses in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Haiti, Iraq and Mali. When schools shut down due to the pandemic, the youth constituency persisted, working together to inform aid programmes dispersed across crisis-affected countries.

The youth constituency even responded in real time to developing crises, including the earthquake in Haiti, the deteriorating crisis in Afghanistan, and most recently, the war in Ukraine. Their contributions played a role in meaningful projects: since its inception in 2016, ECW’s programs have reached over 5 million children and adolescents, providing them with quality support, including educational materials, school meals, mental health programs, and other basic necessities.

On this day, it is important to observe the power of young people, and the impactful work that aid organizations have conducted across the sector. Yet celebration and transformation must go hand in hand, ensuring that next year, when International Youth Day returns, we are one step closer to fulfilling its original promise to unleash the power of the youth.

Yasmine Sherif is the Director of Education Cannot Wait. H.D. Wright is Youth Representative at Education Cannot Wait

IPS UN Bureau

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Sri Lanka: Why a Feudal Culture & Absence of Meritocracy Bankrupted a Nation

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

BROMLEY, UK, Jul 19 2022 (IPS) – Sri Lanka is officially bankrupt and a failed state in all but name. How did a country of 22 million people with a level of literacy on par with most of the developed world end up in such a dire position where the state coffers did not have the measly sum of 20 million dollars to purchase fuel to keep the country functioning beyond the next working day?


Whilst the vast majority of the population have concluded that the blame for this economic armageddon is due to the gluttony of corruption and greed, instigated and enabled by the Rajapaksa family , its acolytes and sycophantic nodding dogs, my own assessment is different.

It is a fact that vast sums , amounting to billions of dollars, were indeed stolen and moved overseas through various illegal networks by the Rajapaksa clan and their accomplices.

Many billions were also squandered on gargantuan white elephant vanity projects in order to glorify the Rajapaksa legacy. However, the seeds for the bankruptcy were sown when the country attained its independence from Great Britain in 1948.

Sri Lanka proudly proclaims itself as one of the oldest democracies in Asia which has had a functioning democracy since 1948. The democratic process has functioned like it should do and parliamentarians elected as they should be and the leaders who represent the aspirations and values of the people appointed as they should be.

Why then has the country reached this abyss?

For democracy to enrich the lives of the people and bring about economic prosperity, two essential and fundamental criteria have to be satisfied. The election of individuals based on merit and the adherence to a universal justice system.

In the absence of meritocracy and a universal justice system, democracy becomes meaningless – an utterly futile process which will not achieve what it is intended for.

Meritocracy is however an alien concept in Sri Lanka!

A universal justice system does not exist in Sri Lanka!

Meritocracy does not exist in Sri Lanka because the cultural DNA is that of a feudal society. Sri Lankan culture promotes race, religion, nepotism, old school connections, social connections, social influences, political influences and servitude (where one class of people are held in perpetual bondage or servants for life ) over and above the attributes and qualities of the individual.

That is a primitive mindset and a recipe for disaster.

In Sri Lanka, people are judged not by the content of their character but by their race, their religion, their socio-economic background, their family connections, the schools they attended, where they live, and who they know. (with apologies to the Rev Martin Luther King for using his words in a manner he did not intend)

When a society functions in such a feudal manner, such values permeate throughout and has a direct correlation with the workings of the justice system. The justice system replicates the culture and ultimately ends up being not fit for purpose.

If a justice system is unable to function based on facts and objectivity, the fabric of society slowly starts to tear apart because the checks and balances needed for a society to progress and for nations to grow, slowly start to dissipate.

Since 1948, Sri Lankan democracy has existed on the basis of nepotism, feudal, racial and religious criteria.

The feudal culture masquerading as democracy has elected the Senanayake family, the Bandaranaike family, the Premadasa family and the Rajapaksa family into the highest offices of the land.

The singular qualification that Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake had was that he was the son of the father.

The singular qualification Prime Minister Mrs Bandaranaike had was that she was the wife of the husband

The singular qualification President Chandrika B had was that she was the daughter of the father and the mother

The singular qualification that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (now acting President) has is that he is the nephew of President JR Jayewardene.

The singular qualification that Sajith Premadasa has is that he is the son of the father

The singular qualification Gotabaya Rajapaksa has is that he is the brother of Mahinda

The singular qualification Namal has is that he is the son of the father

The singular qualification Basil has is that he is the brother of Mahinda and Gotabaya.

The singular qualification Thondaman had was that that he was the son of the father.

And this is called Democracy?

This is a banana republic in all but name where Nepotism is the ultimate passport to success – and all done through the ballot box !

This is a culture of entitlement masquerading as democracy , which in turn has given birth to a nation whose leaders are elected not by the content of their character but by their name and association.

It is the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts for what has been spawned is a society where quality has been superseded by mediocrity at best and incompetence at worst.

The end result is the economic armageddon that has destroyed the country.

When leaders of a nation are elected in such a manner, those who serve them and the very fabric of society itself replicates the structural fault line that promotes feudal nepotistic values. It becomes self-fulfilling, promotes mediocrity, encourages malpractice, and creates a culture of corruption.

The legal system, which on paper is there to oversee the rule of law, sadly becomes an extension of the structural fault line which then ensures that impunity and immunity against corruption , theft or even murder, becomes standard operating procedure.

Einstein’s definition of “insanity” is where he states that if we do the same thing over and over again, we end up with the same result. Sri Lanka’s sham democracy since 1948 has been exactly that. A culture based on feudal nepotistic values which enables the same results over and over again.

The people of Sri Lanka must break this vicious cycle if they are ever to escape from the death spiral they have created for themselves.

The critical mass of people who have recently demonstrated for structural change and the complete transformation of government and governance, have achieved more in the last few months than most of the corrupt incompetent deluded half-wits in parliament ever will.

A fundamental new approach to governance based on competence and the rule of law is a pre-requisite to stop Sri Lanka disintegrating into anarchy and chaos.

Does real democracy exist in Sri Lanka ? No !

Real democracy in Sri Lanka doesn’t exist because the culture prevents those with real ability and competence from being elected on merit alone. The vast majority of the electorate simply doesn’t understand that real democracy that provides a positive outcome is based on merit, first, second and last.

It is also unlikely that the majority of the electorate will understand this any time soon.

Can the country find a leader that replicates Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew ? It is imperative that it does find such a leader who leads by example and who creates a structural transformation of society itself where honesty, integrity and the adherence to the rule of law becomes sacrosanct .

However, does such a leader exists within the current crop of parliamentarians? If not within in parliament , then where ?

A leader who will also ensure that all those who have been culpable in this bringing about this catastrophe are forced to change their ways as well as bringing to justice those who have systematically looted and stolen the countries’ wealth – politicians and non-politicians .

Does a universal justice system exist in Sri Lanka – No !

A justice system in a secular democracy has to be independent of parliament. The justice system is meant to be independent of state machinery and should not be influenced by state operatives.

However, in Sri Lanka the parliament overrules and effectively instructs how the justice system should act which in turn makes the whole system corrupt and not fit for purpose.

The country has huge numbers of legal eagles with more qualifications than they have had hot dinners and who know the finer points of the law better than most in the world.

However, they are rendered impotent and toothless because they are beholden to the political masters they serve – either through choice or otherwise.

The corrosive and toxic nature of a feudal culture which promotes false values over merit and the rule of law ensures even the greatest minds of the land are reduced to corrupt sycophantic nodding ponies.

The legal system in Sri Lanka is also an organised money printing racket where the ordinary citizen or client is entirely at the mercy of the corrupt and dysfunctional bureaucracy.

Those who operate within the system make the equivalent of monopoly money by effectively fleecing the unsuspecting and manipulating a system that is not fit for purpose.

As I write this , the elected leader of the country whose policies and incompetence were the catalyst for the economic meltdown, has fled overseas – the ultimate ” runner viruwa ” !

The man appointed as the acting leader of the nation is one whose party has a single seat in parliament – his own ! And that too not due to electoral votes but due to a corrupt system which enables ” grace and favour ” appointments to parliament.

Such is the abyss that Sri Lanka is in.

What truly beggars belief is that there are millions in the country who still believe that this corrupt rotten s–t show of a system can still be tweaked here and there and made to work.

It cannot and the saddest reality of all this is that millions of Sri Lankans will still cling to their delusional sense of self-importance and righteousness and even at this point where mass starvation is a real possibility, carry on repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

A country whose majority population follows the teachings of one of the greatest philosophers the world has known, is simply incapable of understanding some of the most basic lessons the great sage from Lumbini taught – honesty, integrity, introspection, reflection and truth !

If however, a NEW set of leaders with competence, honesty and integrity, whose primary purpose is to serve the people, can be found within parliament, within the Aragalaya movement , within the commercial sector or a combination of individuals from all three , there is still hope for Sri Lanka.

If however the same corrupt incompetent rotten thieves who still occupy positions of huge powers are allowed to maintain the status quo , the failed state that is Sri Lanka will descent into complete anarchy and bloodshed.

At the end of all that, arising out of the ashes, there will be a breakaway part of the country ………called Eelam !!!!!!!!

Charles Seevali Abeysekera, a semi-retired sales and marketing professional, has worked in the UK mailing industry for over 35 years. He also scribes a blog on current affairs as well as reflections and thoughts on his own life journey “

IPS UN Bureau

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Sri Lankan Beggar’s Opera

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

The ongoing financial crisis in Sri Lanka has also triggered a sharp drop in the value of the country’s currency.

LONDON, Jul 6 2022 (IPS) – When Ceylon- now Sri Lanka- gained independence from Britain in 1948 after almost 450 years of colonial rule under three western powers, it was one Asia’s most stable and prosperous democracies.


Today, after years of misrule, rampant corruption by the ruling class and a politicised administration, the country is bankrupt, its economy on the verge of collapse, and society in disarray while a discredited president still clings to power and manipulating the political system, determined to serve the rest of his term.

While the original 18th century Beggar’s Opera was a satire on the injustice in London society of the day and Prime Minister Robert Walpole’s corrupt government, Sri Lanka has not turned to opera but to begging and possibly borrowing if any international lending institution is willing to lend to a country that has recently defaulted on debt repayment for the first time in its post-independence history.

That speaks volumes for the fiscal and monetary policies of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government, and its unthinking and ill- considered actions in the last two and a half years, that has “collapsed” the country’s economy— as the prime minister told parliament the other day.

Under the 10-year rule of elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa (2005-2015), the government borrowed heavily from China for massive infrastructure projects. That included a huge international airport at Mattala in nearby Rajapaksa territory in the deep south. Some of them continue to be white elephants.

A joke at the time and resonating now and then was that even herds of roaming wild elephants in the area spurn the airport because of the colour bar!

Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in November 2019 and a year later brother Mahinda led their Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) to a parliamentary victory, the Rajapaksas, now at the helm of power, strengthened their already close relationship with Beijing at the expense of ties with the West and international lending institutions and alienating UN bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council.

But in the last few months it has been a begging-bowl ‘opera’ as Sri Lanka scoured the world for loans after its foreign reserves started dipping drastically and leading international rating agencies took to downgrading the country’s sovereign rating.

Eventually the Rajapaksa government reneged on its debt repayments, humiliating Sri Lanka which had never defaulted in its 74-year history.

Trapped by a plunging economy Sri Lanka turned to Bangladesh to save it from emerging bankruptcy. Nothing could be more ironic. In its early years Bangladesh was perceived as a recipient of financial support, not a lender.

At that time Sri Lanka’s economy seemed stable enough despite its near 30 years of war against Tamil Tiger separatists.

In early, June Bangladesh agreed in principle to another currency swap of US$ 200 million. This is in addition to last year’s currency swap of $200 million whose repayment date of three months was extended to one year at Sri Lanka’s request last August.

Today, the country’s 22 million people are almost without petrol, cooking gas, kerosene, food, medicines, powdered milk, and other essentials as the government has no foreign currency to import them.

A common scenario in many parts of Sri Lanka are queues of people-men, women and even children- spending many hours and even days to buy the essentials that are scarce and a food shortage is predicted in the coming months.

As I sat down to write this, news reports said the 12th man died seated in his vehicle at a queue for fuel. A few days later the Sunday Times Political Editor upped the death toll to 16.

Meanwhile physical clashes are becoming common at filling station where thugs have muscled in. The other day a soldier was caught on video assaulting a policeman.

Such is the tension building up in society that the Sunday Times Political Editor reported of concerns among local intelligence services about national security.

While the long-drawn out covid pandemic did cripple the tourism industry, a major foreign currency earner, much of the blame rests on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s short-sighted policies as well as those of some of his ministers and close advisers whose arrogance and ignorance brushed aside warnings sounded a year or two ahead by reputed economists, former Central Bank professionals, academics and trade chambers.

Rajapaksa having denied any culpability for these errors of judgement ultimately conceded his responsibility but only when mass protests erupted in Colombo and elsewhere in the country with even the peasantry-a vital support base of the Rajapaksas- took to the streets castigating him and his government for creating shortages of essential fertilizers for agriculture.

After almost two months, thousands of anti-government protestors who set up camp on the seaside promenade opposite the presidential secretariat in the heart of Colombo, are still there raising their clarion call which has now spread across the country- “Gota Go Home”-demanding that the president return to whence he came.

While Sri Lanka struggles to survive and the Rajapaksas gradually reappear into public view, there has been a perceptible change in the government’s world view. Though Chinese leaders have often declared that Beijing is Colombo’s “all weather friend” it has been slow to come to Sri Lanka’s aid at a time of real crisis.

An appeal to China by the Rajapaksa government to restructure its loans as one of its biggest lenders had not produced the expected reaction from Beijing. Nor had there been a positive response at the time for another credit line of US$ 1.5 billion when Colombo’s foreign reserves were fast drying out.

Even President Xi Jinping’s birthday greeting to President Rajapaksa last month made no mention of any concrete assistance except references to the long-standing Sri Lanka-China relations.

Observers claimed that China was coaxing-if not actually pressuring- Sri Lanka to distance itself from India, its competitor for political positioning and an expanding stake in the strategically- located island.

While the immediate target was India, Beijing was also pointing its finger at Sri Lanka’s growing ties with the US and international institutions such as the IMF.

The fact that since January India has provided assistance to Sri Lanka with currency swaps, credit lines, loan deferments and humanitarian assistance to meet the mounting crisis and supported Colombo’s call for IMF aid, appeared unwelcome news to China which has been trying to persuade Sri Lanka to enter into a trade agreement with it.

In late June, a high-powered Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra made a quick few- hour visit to Colombo to meet President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and discuss further strengthening of Indo-Lanka ties and bilateral investment partnerships including infrastructure and renewal energy.

New Delhi pointed out that this unprecedented recent economic, financial and humanitarian assistance including medicines and food valued at over US$ 3.5 b was guided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.

Had it not been for the Indian central government and the Tamil Nadu state government responding fast with generous assistance Sri Lanka would have been struggling to find scarce food, fuel and medicines.

Meanwhile a nine-member team of senior IMF officials spent 10 days in Sri Lanka in late June to assess whether it could come up with a reform package to restore macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability.

Since Colombo approached the IMF for a bailout programme early this year the international lending institution has been monitoring the country’s economic and political situation, neither of which presented much confidence.

It is not only sustainable economic reforms that the IMF is after. It seeks substantial efforts to improve governance and a stable corruption-free government that the IMF and other lending institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank and donor nations could have confidence in.

The current government of bits and pieces could hardly provide evidence that it is fighting corruption when one of its stalwarts who was convicted the other day on extortion and sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment but suspended for five years was reappointed to the cabinet by President Rajapaksa and made chief government whip in addition.

It is the need for clean government that causes concerns with President Rajapaksa reneging on promises he made to introduce constitutional amendments that will substantially prune the plethora of powers he grabbed on coming to power.

This is hardly likely as the world will see when the new 21st constitutional amendment is gazetted in a few days.

Neville de Silva is a veteran Sri Lankan journalist who held senior roles in Hong Kong at The Standard and worked in London for Gemini News Service. He has been a correspondent for the foreign media including the New York Times and Le Monde. More recently he was Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner in London

Source: Asian Affairs, London

IPS UN Bureau

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It’s Time To Globalise Compassion, Says Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi

Africa, Child Labour, Conferences, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Inequity, Labour, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Child Labour

“I have been talking to leaders of rich countries to address the problem of post-pandemic economic meltdown. We have to work for social protection for marginalised people in low-income countries and focus on children, education, health, and protection. That is not a big investment compared to what we are going to lose – a whole generation.” – Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

Durban, May 16 2022 (IPS) – A mere 35 billion US dollars per annum – equivalent to 10 days of military spending – would ensure all children in all countries benefit from social protection, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi told the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.


He said this was a small price to pay considering the catastrophic consequences of the increase in child labour since 2016, after several years of decline in child labour numbers.

An estimated 160 000 million kids are child labourers, and unless there is a drastic reversal, another 9 million are expected to join their ranks.

Satyarthi was among a distinguished group of panellists on setting global priorities for eliminating child labour. The panel included International Labour Organisation(ILO) DG Guy Ryder, South African Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, James Quincey, CEO of Coca Cola,  Alliance 8.7 chairperson Anousheh Karver and European Union Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen.

The panel discussed child labour in the context of decent work deficits and youth employment. It identified pressing global challenges and priorities for the international community.

Satyarthi said the 35 million US dollars was far from a big ask. Nor was the 22 billion US dollars needed to ensure education for all children. He said this was the equivalent of what people in the US spent on tobacco over six days.

Satyarthi said it was a travesty that the G7, the world’s wealthiest countries, had never debated child labour – something he intends to change.

The panellists attributed the increase in child labour to several factors, including lack of political will, lack of interest from rich countries and embedded cultural and economic factors.

Asked how he remained optimistic in light of the dismal picture of growing child labour rates. Satyarthi told IPS that having been in the trenches for 40 years, he had seen and been happy to see a decline in child labour until 2016 – when the problem began escalating again.

“I strongly believe in freedom of human beings. The world will slowly move towards a more compassionate society, sometimes faster, sometimes slower,” he said.

Satyarthi, together with organisations like the ILO, succeeded in putting the issue of child labour on the international agenda. Through his foundation in collaboration with other NGOs, he got the world to take note of this hidden scourge.

He is convinced that child labour will be eliminated despite the recent setbacks.

“I am hopeful because there was no ILO programme when I started 40 years ago. Child labour was not recognised as a problem, but slowly, it is being realised that it’s wrong and evil – even a crime. So, 40 years isn’t a big tenure in the history of human beings. This scourge has been there for centuries.”

Yet he recognises the need for urgency to roll back the escalation of child labour.

“The next ten years are even more important because now we have the means, we have power, technology, and we know the solution. The only thing we need is a strong political will but also social will,” Satyarthi said. “We have to speed it up and bring back the hope. Bring back the optimism. The issue is a priority, and that’s why we are calling on markets to globalise compassion. There are many things to divide us, but there’s one thing we all agree on: the well-being of our children.”

Satyarthi said to meet the SDG deadline of 2025, he and other Nobel laureates and world leaders are pushing hard to ensure that child labour starts declining again.

“We as a group of Nobel laureates and world leaders are working on two fronts. One is a fair share for children on budgetary allocations and policies,” he said.

The group engaged with governments to ensure that children received a fair share of the budget and resources.

Then they are pushing governments on social protection, which he believes in demystifying.

“We have seen in different countries, social protection – helping through school feeding schemes, employment programmes and conditional grant programmes to ensure that children can go to school, with proven success in bringing down child labour.”

The Nobel laureate knocked on the doors of the leaders of wealthy nations.

“I have been talking to leaders of rich countries to address the problem of post-pandemic economic meltdown. We have to work for social protection for marginalised people in low-income countries and focus on children, education, health, and protection. That is not a big investment compared to what we are going to lose – a whole generation.”

Satyarthi said he was heartened by the response to their efforts to motivate governments and the private sector to join the fight against child labour.

“I have been optimistic to say many of the governments and EU leaders are not only listening – they are talking about it. Yesterday only, I was so happy that President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke very explicitly on this issue, and almost everyone was talking about this issue. But it took several months, several years to get there.”

And Satyarthi is not going to stop soon. With the Laureates and Leaders For Children project, he and fellow laureates are determined the world sits up and finds the will to ensure every child can experience a childhood.

IPS UN Bureau Report

This is part of a series of stories published by IPS during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban. 

 

Call to Freedom for Millions of Children Trapped in Child Labour as Global Conference to Comes to Africa

Child Labour, Conferences, Education, Featured, Global, Headlines, Humanitarian Emergencies, Labour, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Labour

A child beneficiary holding a drawing portraying domestic violence, at the Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education, Lilongwe, Malawi which partnered with the ILO/IPEC to support the national action plan aimed at combating child labour. Credit: Marcel Crozet/ILO

A child beneficiary holding a drawing portraying domestic violence, at the Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education, Lilongwe, Malawi which partnered with the ILO/IPEC to support the national action plan aimed at combating child labour. Credit: Marcel Crozet/ILO

Nairobi, May 13 2022 (IPS) – Children washing clothes in rivers, begging on the streets, hawking, walking for kilometres in search of water and firewood, their tiny hands competing with older, experienced hands to pick coffee or tea, or as child soldiers are familiar sights in Africa and Asia.


Child rights experts at Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation reiterate that tolerance and normalisation of working children, many of whom work in hazardous conditions and circumstances, and apathy has stalled progress towards the elimination of child labour.

Further warnings include more children in labour across the sub-Saharan Africa region than the rest of the world combined. The continent now falls far behind the collective commitment to end all forms of child labour by 2025.

The International Labour Organization estimates more than 160 million children are in child labour globally.

How to achieve the Sustainable Development Target 8.7 and the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour that focuses on its elimination by 2025 will be the subject of the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour to be held in Durban, South Africa, from May 15 to 20, 2022.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to open the conference. He will share the stage with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairperson and President of the Republic of Malawi Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, and Argentina President Alberto Ángel Fernández Pérez (virtual).

“There are multiple drivers of child labour in Africa, and many of them are interconnected,” Minoru Ogasawara, Chief Technical Advisor for the Accelerating action for the elimination of child labour in supply chains in Africa (ACCEL Africa) at the International Labour Organization (ILO) tells IPS.

He speaks of the high prevalence of children working in agriculture, closely linked to poverty and family survival strategies.

Rapid population growth, Ogasawara says, has placed significant pressure on public budgets to maintain or increase the level of services required to fight child labour, such as education and social protection.

“Hence the call to substantially increase funding through official development assistance (ODA), national budgets and contributions from the private sector targeting child labour and its root causes,” he observes.

UNICEF says approximately 12 percent of children aged 5 to 14 years are involved in child labour – at the cost of their childhood, education, and future.

Of the 160 million child labourers worldwide, more than half are in sub-Saharan Africa, and 53 million are not in school – amounting to 28 % aged five to 11 and another 35 % aged 12 to 14, according to the most recent child labour global estimates by UNICEF and ILO.

Against this grim backdrop, keynote speakers Nobel Peace Laureates Kailash Satyarthi and Leymah Gbowee and former Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven will address the conference, which is expected to put into perspective how and why children still suffer some of the worst, most severe forms of child labour such as bonded labour, domestic servitude, child soldiers, drug trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

Satyarthi has been at the forefront of mobilising global support to this effect.

“I am working in collaboration with a number of other Nobel Laureates and world leaders. We are demanding the setting up of an international social protection mechanism. During the pandemic, we calculated that $53 billion annually could ensure social protection for all children in all low-income countries, as well as pregnant women too,” Satyarthi emphasises.

“Increased social protection, access to free quality education, health care, decent job opportunities for adults, and basic services together create an enabling environment that reduces household vulnerability to child labour,” Ogasawara stresses.

He points to an urgent need to introduce and or rapidly expand social security and other social protection measures suitable for the informal economy, such as cash transfers, school feeding, subsidies for direct education costs, and health care coverage.

The need for a school-to-work transition and to “target children from poor households, increase access to education while reducing the need to combine school with work among children below the minimum working age” should be highlighted.

In the absence of these social protection safety nets, the  International Labour Organization says it is estimated that an additional 9 million children are at risk of child labour by the end of this year and a possible further increase of 46 million child labourers.

In this context, the fifth global conference presents an opportunity to assess progress made towards achieving the goals of SDG Target 8.7, discuss good practices implemented by different actors around the world and identify gaps and urgent measures needed to accelerate the elimination of both child labour and forced labour.

The timing is crucial, says the ILO, as there are only three years left to achieve the goal of the elimination of all child labour by 2025 and only eight years towards the elimination of forced labour by 2030, as established by the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 8.7.

The conference will also see the active participation of young survivor-advocates from India and Africa. They will share their first-person accounts and lived experiences in sync with the core theme of the discussion.

The conference will also take place within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid fears and concerns that ending child labour became less significant on the international agenda as the world coped with the impact of the pandemic. This could reverse the many gains accrued in the fight against child labour, forced labour and child trafficking.

This is the first of a series of stories which IPS will be publishing during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour from May 15 to 20, 2022.

IPS UN Bureau Report