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. 

 

Extremists Harm Image of Islam and Pakistan

Civil Society, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequity, Religion, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Family members of Priyantha Kumara, who died in the Sialkot mob attack, taking part in religious rites at his funeral.

COLOMBO, Si Lanka, Dec 13 2021 (IPS) – Every time, breaking news of a barbaric crime or terror act is reported from anywhere in the world, peace-loving Muslims the world over feel dejected and wish it had not been another tragedy that will make others glower at them with suspicion as though they too are complicit in the crime.


But often, what they dread is the case, for more than 90 percent of such inhumane and barbaric acts – like the Sialkot slaying of a Sri Lankan factory manager and the Easter Sunday massacres — are associated with Islamic extremism.

Last Friday’s lynching of factory Manager Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage in Pakistan by an extremist mob will not be the last of such acts.

No amount of ‘We Are Sorry Sri Lanka’ placards, flowers and candles at makeshift memorials and political statements denouncing the crime can bring back his life that was cruelly brought to an end as a burnt offering on the altar of bigotry in an expression of savagery that has no place in civilized society.

However much Pakistanis who are humiliated by extremism dissociate themselves from the horrible act, however profound their apology is, however remorseful Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who decried the incident as Pakistan’s day of shame, is, the country will continue to be plagued by violent extremism unless and until extremism is rooted out by radical social reforms in line with the peaceful message of Islam.

The Priyantha Kumara lynching by a mob linked to an extremist outfit called Tehereek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, for tearing off a political poster that allegedly had some religious verses in Urdu warrants the immediate revocation of Pakistan’s blasphemy law or its amendment in keeping with the Islamic virtue of tolerance and magnanimity.

Research shows a higher prevalence of extremism in countries that have blasphemy laws than in countries that do not have such laws. Blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute the minorities or treat them as second-class citizens. Such laws are incompatible with the Islamic teaching which calls for protection of the minorities and non-interference in their worship.

If the Pakistan Government fails to make use of this heartrending incident as an opportunity to bring about radical reforms, it itself will be committing an act of blasphemy because its inaction allows the badly constructed law to distort and disgrace Islam.

Pakistan was carved out of the British Raj for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah promoted a theory of two nation two state, saying that the Muslims and Hindus were two different nations and belonged to two different civilizations and therefore needed to live in separate states.

The world’s first nation-state to be formed on the basis of religion, Pakistan, however, has never been a theocracy.

In a 2017 BBC interview, historian Ayesha Jalal pointed out that Jinnah envisaged Pakistan as a “homeland for India’s Muslims”, as opposed to an Islamic state. But she said that his theory had been used by Islamists “as an ideological device” to justify claims for Pakistan to be a theocratic state.

This is Pakistan’s existential crisis. While the extremists fight for the setting up of a theocracy, secular politicians skillfully make use of Islam and side with Islamists to swell their vote banks or to whip up nationalistic emotions against archrival India.

Perhaps, this was why Pakistan’s Defence Minister Pervez Khattak was seen belittling the gruesome murder of Priyantha Kumara, by calling it “youthful exuberance of Muslim youngsters” and “happens all the time”.

He reportedly added, “When the youth feel Islam has been attacked, they react to defend it.” This was while Premier Khan vowed to bring the murderous mob to justice and Pakistan police arrested more than 130 people.

If we play with fire, we get burnt. Pakistan has been burnt enough, yet it appears to have not learnt enough. Seven years ago this month, extremists carried out a gruesome school massacre in Peshawar. In this terror attack some 134 schoolchildren, aged between 8 and 18, and 16 staff members were brutally gunned down by the Pakistan Taliban. So why pamper the extremists?

In 2011, Pakistan’s Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by a police guard over his opposition to the country’s blasphemy law that calls for death sentence to those who insult Islam or its holy personalities.

Taseer was also calling for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was falsely accused by her neighbours of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Taseer’s assassin was hailed as a hero by a large number of extremists who took to the street to celebrate the murder.

As a result of violent extremism, many non-Muslims find it difficult to accept the Muslims’ assertion that Islam is a religion of peace. What many do not understand is that there is little Islam in today’s world, although about 2 billion Muslims constitute one fourth of the world’s 8 billion population.

In Islam, jihad or holy war is not the norm, but a last resort exception to defend the oppressed. Vigilante justice has no place in Islam. The accused should be heard, Islam commands.

To whatever religion they belong, the problem with extremists is their ignorance of the teachings of the religion they are supposed to follow. As historian and comparative religions expert Karen Armstrong would say, “Terrorism has nothing to do with Muhammad, any more than the Crusades had anything to do with Jesus.”

Certainly, violence is not the answer to blasphemy. According to the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad was heaped the worst form of scorn. He was called a liar, a magician, a madman, and possessed. Garbage was thrown over his head and stone-throwing street urchins were set upon him.

Yet as commanded by God, he exercised beautiful patience — Sabran Jameelan — and when his companions sought permission to retaliate, he would teach them the virtues of patience and remind them that he was sent as a mercy to the whole world. He befriended his persecutors by practising the Quranic injunction which exhorts the Muslims to “repel that which is evil with that which is good (and virtuous)”.

Unfortunately, the verses on defensive wars the Prophet and the early Muslims were forced to fight were misinterpreted by latter day Muslim rulers and terrorists for political purposes. Glorification of violence in the name of Islam became the norm. Islam’s peaceful message was forgotten.

Also overlooked is the Quranic message against violence as explained in the story of angels who expressed their deep concern over bloodshed and mischief on earth when God wanted to create man. (Quran 2: 30.)

It appears that instead of Islam, some Muslims are following a violent creed and calling it Islam. The fake Islam is largely practised while the real Islam remains buried. The task before the Muslims is to search for the buried Islam, resurrect it and live it.

Ameen Izzadeen is the deputy editor of the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka. He also writes a weekly column for the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, on international politics and good governance issues; and is a visiting lecturer in journalism and international politics.

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School Meals Coalition Hopes to Provide a Meal to Every Child

Aid, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Education, Featured, Food Security and Nutrition, Global, Headlines, Health, Humanitarian Emergencies, Inequity, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Food Security and Nutrition

School meals have a host of benefits, including improving enrollments and preventing malnutrition. Now the School Meals Coalition plans to recruit local food producers to assist in the programme. Credit: Bill Wegener/Unsplash

United Nations, Nov 26 2021 (IPS) – Meals at schools not only give each child a nutritious meal but increase enrolments, among other benefits.


This emerged at a recent launch of the School Meals Coalition, a new initiative that aims to give every child a nutritious meal by 2030 through bolstering health and nutrition programmes. The coalition comprises over 60 countries and 55 partners dedicated to restoring, improving and up-scaling meal programs and food systems. Among their partners are UN agencies UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP), UN Nutrition, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and UNESCO.

In the briefing, the speakers identified School Meals Coalition’s primary goals to restore school meal programmes to the status before the COVID-19 pandemic and reach children in vulnerable areas who have not accessed these plans before. The member countries’ political leaders have come together to support this “important initiative”, according to the permanent representative of Finland to the United Nations, Jukka Salovaara.

“School meals are so much more than just a plate of food. It’s really an opportunity to transform communities, improve education, and food systems globally,” he said.

School meal programmes are a significant safety net for children and their communities. As one of the primary means for children to get healthy meals, they help combat poverty and malnutrition. Their impact on education is seen in increased engagement from students. They also serve as incentives for families to send their children, especially girls, to schools, thus supporting children’s rights to education, nutrition and well-being.

“We see documented jumps of 9 to 12 per cent in enrollment increases just because the meals are present,” WFP Director of School-Based Programmes Carmen Burbano said. “So, these are really important instruments to bring [children] to school.”

The programmes would also provide opportunities for sustainable development practices and transformations in food systems. One key strategy is to promote and maintain home-grown school meal programmes, recruiting local farmers and markets to provide food supplies. Investing in school meal programmes, especially through domestic spending, has proven to increase coverage. In low-income countries, the number of children receiving school meals increased by 36 percent when their governments increased the budgets for these programs.

A WFP study found that at the beginning of 2020, over 380 million children globally received meals through school meal programmes. The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic effectively disrupted those programmes, depriving 370 million children of what was effectively their main meal for the day. While there have been marked improvements since schools re-opened worldwide, with 238 million children accessing the school meals, there are still 150 million children that don’t have access.

The School Meals Coalition aims to close this gap through a system of collaboration between member countries and their partners. Among their initiatives will be a monitoring and accountability mechanism that is being developed by the WFP and its partners, which will be used to follow the coalition’s accomplishments, and a peer-to-peer information-sharing network, spearheaded by the German government, between members and partners that will use findings to influence their programme output.

Even before the pandemic, school meal programmes did not reach the most vulnerable children, 73 million, who could not access these programmes. Reaching children that have fallen through the cracks can be challenging, but it is significantly more difficult in countries affected by conflict or environmental disruptions.

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and the World Food Programme (WFP) earlier signed a memorandum of understanding to feed children in protracted crises.

At the signing, WFP Assistant Executive Director, Valerie Guarnieri said: “Simply put, sick children cannot attend school and hungry children cannot learn. It is essential we invest more in the health and nutrition of young learners, particularly girls.”

ECW Director, Yasmine Sherif said a feeding scheme made a massive difference in children’s lives.

“For many children and youth in crisis-affected countries, a meal at school may be the only food they eat all day and can be an important incentive for families to send and keep girls and boys in school. It is also essential for a young person to actually focus and learn,” she said.

The coalition plans to find ways to break the barriers to enable children to reach school or look for alternative learning pathways to reach children who could not physically attend school.

The factors that can prevent children from fully attending schools, such as poverty, complexity in family lives, or conflict, have only been exacerbated over the last nearly two years, thanks mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. As more schools open worldwide, the restoration of school meal programmes is expected to provide much-needed support for children and their communities in turn.

“This is a very urgent and timely priority,” said Head of the Sustainable Development Unit of the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations, Olivier Richard. “Because school meals are very important for the recovery of our societies from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

To learn more about the School Meal Coalitions, you can follow their page.

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As a Humanitarian Crisis Engulfs Afghanistan, Education Cannot Wait Makes Urgent Appeal for Access to Quality Learning for All Children

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Inequity, Middle East & North Africa, TerraViva United Nations

Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, is welcomed by teachers and students at a girls’ primary school in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Credit: Omid Fazel/ECW

New York, Nov 5 2021 (IPS) – After leading a landmark, first-ever all-women mission to Afghanistan last week, Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, says that schools must reopen for all children and that girls, in particular, must be able to return to secondary school classrooms.


Sherif visited a girls’ school in Kabul and spoke to students, female teachers, and administrators as part of her Afghan mission. She also met with the de facto education authorities at the Ministry of Education to advocate the right of all children to quality education. The ECW mission comes less than a month after ECW launched a US$4 million First Emergency Response grant to provide ‘quality, flexible learning and psychosocial support for children and adolescents caught in the escalating crisis.

“We need to act fast. When you are in the midst of a humanitarian emergency like Afghanistan, where there is no money in circulation, starvation is a very real fact and poverty is extreme,” Sherif told IPS. “Schools need to continue to reopen and education must be sustained. Not only at primary school levels but through secondary schools – and girls have to go back to secondary schools.”

Sherif, a human rights lawyer, worked in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. She was part of a mission to the country after the first Taliban takeover in 1999 and has visited the country periodically over the last 20 years. She spoke to IPS about her observations from this ground-breaking mission to Kabul a few days ago – the first of its kind since the Taliban take-over in August.

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, meets with de facto education authorities in Afghanistan.
Credit: Omid Fazel/ECW

“There are more women on the streets of Kabul today. I even saw women demonstrating for health care. I visited a girls’ primary school whose teachers and administration were all women,” Sherif said.

“The school’s headmaster is a woman, the school’s doctor is a woman, administrators and teachers are women. There are educated, strong women who are working, but they do not get salaries, because there are no salaries for basic services as a result of the funding freeze to Afghanistan.”

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Union are just a few of the international bodies that have cut off Afghanistan’s access to financing. According to the World Bank, the country relies on grant funding for more than 75 percent of public spending, with expenditure of US$411 billion and government revenue of US$2.5 billion.

With that grant funding frozen, the country is on the brink of economic collapse.

Sherif is appealing for direct funding through UN agencies like ECW and UNICEF, which has the proven mechanisms in place to ensure that funds are used to support teachers and students.

“Teachers are not being paid. UNICEF has a very strong process on the ground. If money were to be given today or tomorrow to pay all teacher salaries, UNICEF has capacities in place to deliver on that funding, even if this would typically have been done through the World Bank or other development actors, but now we are in humanitarian crisis so you cannot use regular development aid approaches,” Sherif told IPS.

“The same goes for all UN agencies like the World Food Programme and UNHCR, the UN Refugees agency. Funding can be channeled through them directly to implement aid programmes. Nothing needs to, nor will go through, the de facto authorities.”

The ECW Director is cautiously optimistic following her meeting with the de facto education authorities, to whom she appealed for a return to secondary school for girls.

UNICEF Deputy Representative Alice Akunha and Chief of Education Jeannette Vogelaar greet the Education Cannot Wait all-women delegation to Afghanistan, led by Director Yasmine Sherif and her colleagues, Michelle May and Anouk Desgroseilliers.
Credit: Omid Fazel/ECW

“Primary schools have opened for girls’ education and for girls’ secondary education, the de facto authorities told us that they are developing a plan. I stressed that the girls have no time to lose and that the benefits of educating girls are crucial to the future of the country,” she said.

The ECW Director has commended international and national civil society organizations that now work with religious scholars as they negotiate the resumption of secondary school education at the grassroots level. “By bringing an Islamic scholar with them, these NGOs have actually managed to build trust. So secondary schools have opened in some provinces, a few in the north and a few in the south. It is important to stand firm on human rights and girls’ rights, but you must also have the ability to build trust as well,” she said.

ECW is already prepared to swiftly scale up its support and adapt its programming in Afghanistan. New challenges and more children in need of help demand pivoting and quick response. Sherif says ECW was created for crises like these.

“As the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, we are agile, quick, and flexible. We use decades of lessons learned across the UN system to respond to crises. Traditional development aid modalities that are not crisis-sensitive are not going to work; not in this situation,” she said.

Sherif says that an estimated $1 billion is urgently required for United Nations agencies and international and local NGOs to meet the pressing education needs across the country.

“It’s about how can we save the Afghan population from a humanitarian catastrophe. How can we ensure that every Afghan girl and boy in the country can go to primary and secondary school? It’s about how we can ensure that teachers receive their salaries, so they are able to continue to teach. It is about providing teaching and learning materials and safe learning environments. It is about ensuring that the rights of adolescent girls to access education are fulfilled. That is why it was important for us to do an all-women mission to Afghanistan and to make clear where we stand on girls’ education.”

Sherif is hoping that the visit can give the world an open window view into life in Afghanistan and provide concrete recommendations for international aid to be immediately scaled up and invested to support quality education for both girls and boys.

“Afghanistan cannot wait. The girls of Afghanistan cannot wait. Education cannot wait.”

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Bringing Quality Education to Syria’s Most Vulnerable, Crisis-Impacted Children – Their Education Cannot Wait

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Inequity, Middle East & North Africa, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here

Kawthar, 13, takes notes while attending Grade 3 at a UNICEF-supported self-learning centre in Al-Hasakeh, northeast Syria. She says she always wanted to be like other children and grab her bag and go to school like other children. With Education Cannot Wait assisted schooling, this dream has become a reality. Credit: UNICEF/ Syria 2020/ Delil Souleiman

DOMINICA, Oct 21 2021 (IPS) – In war-torn Syria, the support of Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – is bringing positive, life-changing educational opportunities tailored to children like 11-year-old Ali.


Ali, who lives in Raqqa with his two siblings and parents, has to work to help support his family. He and his brother did not attend school. Ali heard about registration for ECW-supported educational activities near the industrial area in which he works. They are part of courses being offered in three centres in the city – alongside psychosocial support for children who have experienced war for most of their lives.

Ali initially registered his siblings in the ECW-supported programme but held out himself for fear of losing his job. The centre proposed a flexible learning schedule – one that would allow the brothers to work and attend classes. Programme officials had to convince his family and employers at the industrial centre that school is essential for children’s development. Now he is part of a class of 16 children from the area who attend classes from 7:30 am to 10:00 am. After class, they go to work.

Ali’s story is one of the many stories of vulnerable children and adolescents embroiled in Syria’s protracted conflict that ECW’s investments are helping bring back to school in partnership with education partners on the ground. ECW’s multi-year response in Syria was initiated in 2017 through an initial investment which was further expanded into a Multi-Year Resilience Programme which will continue until 2023 with a cumulative budget of US$45 million.

Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait, says too many children and adolescents in Syria have only seen the brutal reality of war, forced displacement, and the hardship of living in areas affected by armed conflict in their short lives.  Credit: Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

“Too many children and adolescents in Syria have only seen the brutal reality of war, forced displacement, and the hardship of living in areas affected by armed conflict in their short lives. For them, education is a beacon of hope. It is an opportunity to thrive and become positive changemakers to rebuild their communities and ensure a more peaceful and prosperous future for all,” said Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Working together with our partners on the ground, ECW is dedicated to fulfilling the right to a quality education for the most vulnerable girls and boys in Syria.”

Save the Children has key actor status in the education sector in Syria and has been involved since the inception of ECW’s multi-year response, providing sector-specific technical expertise and guiding in the development of a programme framework that is responsive to the extensive education needs of children in Syria,” Sara Dabash, Awards Officer for the ECW programme in Syria, told IPS.

Children and adolescents already suffering from the impacts of a decade-long war are also bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly due to school closures and movement restrictions.

“The disruption of access to quality education for children has dramatically impacted learning and child well-being. In addition, lack of access to safe learning environments and continued isolation exposes children to higher risks of child labour, early marriage, and other negative coping mechanisms. The limited social interactions also compromise access to psychosocial support and other protection services,” Dabash said.

Emad, 9, who lives with a disability, shows his writing to his teacher to check if he is doing right in the class of Arabic subject in the ECW supported temporary learning space in Idleb, northwest Syria. Credit: UNICEF/ Syria 2020

According to Dabash, blended learning options have been introduced, using devices such as mobile phones for remote learning. This option has its downsides as many children have limited to no access to phones or internet connections.

Figures provided by Save the Children put almost 7 million people in need of humanitarian education assistance. Children make up 97 percent of that number. Dabash says, however, that in the “determined locations of implementation within the ECW Programme in northeast Syria, Save the Children, with the support of its partners, has identified around 15,000 children as the most vulnerable and in need of education assistance.”

Since 2017, ECW is also partnering with UNICEF to provide quality education services for the most vulnerable children in the country.

“With funding from ECW, UNICEF provides children across Syria with opportunities to continue their learning through a holistic package of activities tailored to the needs of the children. To support learning, the package of activities generally includes providing learning supplies and psychosocial support through recreational activities. Where classrooms do not exist or continue to be unsafe or overcrowded, we establish new classrooms and rehabilitate existing ones,” Karen Bryner, Education Specialist and ECW Programme Manager in Syria, told IPS.

Bryner says the partnership provides training, teaching supplies and stipend payments to teachers.

The goal is to get as many girls and boys as possible enrolled and attending school regularly. According to UNICEF, ‘children have experienced psychological distress due to violence and instability. Many have missed years of education, with over 2.4 million currently out of school.’

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged that goal with intermittent school closures. However, Bryner says when face-to-face instruction was not an option, the ECW-supported students transitioned to electronic and paper-based distance education.

“Various modalities were used over the last year, including WhatsApp groups by teachers to deliver daily instruction where connectivity allowed; blended learning with face-to-face instruction two days a week and home-based learning (worksheets and assignments) for the other days, conducting lessons in smaller groups closer to children’s homes, and home delivery of biweekly learning packs and retrieval of students’ work by teachers,” she told IPS.

Kawthar, 13, hangs out with her cousin Juhaina outside her house in Ghwairan neighbourhood, Al-Hasakeh. Since 2019, she has benefitted from the self-learning programme, helping her catch up on the education she had missed due to displacement, her disability, and the financial challenges her family had. Credit: UNICEF/ Syria 2020/ Delil Souleiman

The story of 13-year-old Kawthar is a testament to the positive impact of ECW’s support for the most marginalised children Displaced five times and suffering from growth-related issues due to stunting, she could not walk to school, and her family could not afford transportation. Two years ago, Kawthar, originally from Al-Hasakeh City, enrolled in the ECW-supported self-learning programme implemented by UNICEF– a course that gives out-of-school children the tools to catch up to their peers. She also receives transportation to classes.

“I always wanted to be like all other children; to grab my bag and head to school; to read, write and learn,” says Kawthar. “I wish for all children to be able to go to school. And I certainly hope that nobody gets displaced anymore and that we all remain safe.”

According to UNICEF, with ECW funding, since November 2020, the self-learning programme has been able to reach 2,600 out-of-school children in Al-Hasakeh. Despite this progress, challenges remain to fulfil the right to inclusive, quality education for every child in Syria.

UNICEF states that there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of children in need of humanitarian assistance, and agencies will need scaled-up support as they continue to bring hope to Syria’s children.

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Fair Tax Plan Could Prejudice Global South

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Featured, Global, Headlines, Inequity, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

Economy & Trade

Questions are asked whether the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agreement to force the world’s biggest companies to pay a fair share of tax will benefit the global South. Credit: Hugo Ramos/Unsplash

BRATISLAVA, Oct 20 2021 (IPS) – An agreement between 136 countries aimed at forcing the world’s biggest companies to pay a fair share of tax has been condemned by critics who say it will benefit richer states at the expense of the global South.


A deal agreed on October 8, and which covers around 90% of the global economy, includes plans for a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15%.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which led negotiations on the agreement, has said it will help end decades of countries undercutting each other on tax.

But independent organisations campaigning for fairer global taxes and financial transparency argue it will rob developing countries of revenues needed to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately pushing millions more people into poverty.

Matti Kohonen of the Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) civil society group told IPS: “In principle, a global minimum corporate tax is a good idea, but only if the rate is right and implemented properly. Under this deal, the main beneficiaries are the OECD – which led the negotiations – and its largest members.”

Calls for a global minimum corporate tax rate have grown in recent decades amid increasing scrutiny on the tax practices of multinationals.

The OECD deal, which has an aspirational implementation date of 2023, is designed to set a floor on corporate taxation and stop companies shifting profits to countries with the lowest tax rates they can find.

The OECD says the minimum global rate would see countries collect around USD150 billion in new revenues annually, and that taxing rights on more than USD125 billion of profit will be moved to countries where big multinationals earn their income.

But independent groups say the agreement falls far short of what is needed for a fair global corporate taxation system and has ignored the needs and wishes of developing nations, which rely more heavily on corporate tax than richer states.

According to OECD research Corporate Tax Statistics: Third Edition (oecd.org), in 2018, African countries raised 19% of overall revenue from corporate taxation as opposed to 10% among OECD states.

Critics point out that the 15% floor agreed to is well below the average corporate tax rate in industrialised countries of around 23%, potentially creating a ‘race to the bottom’ as countries cut their existing corporate rates.

It is thought a number of developing states had wanted a higher minimum global rate.

Civil society groups critical of the agreement also have concerns over many exemptions in the deal – there is a ten-year grace period for companies on some aspects of the agreement, and some industries such as extractives and financial services, are exempt.

Meanwhile, they highlight, only 100 of the world’s largest companies would be affected by part of the agreement aimed at getting highly profitable multinationals to pay more taxes in countries where they earn profits. Moreover, the minimum global tax will only apply to companies with a turnover of more than 750 million USD, which would exclude 85-90% of the world’s multinationals.

The fact that countries will have to waive digital services taxation rights, which are important sources of revenue for some developing states, is also problematic. And there are concerns that in many cases extra tax paid by corporations ‘topping up’ their tax bill to 15% will go to countries where they are headquartered. In many cases, this will be in already rich nations such as the US, UK, and Europe.

Chenai Mukumba of the Tax Justice Network Africa advocacy group told IPS: “We have an opportunity to reform the global tax system to make it right for global south countries, but we are settling for so much less. This is a lost opportunity to balance the scales, to put fairness at the centre of the system.”

The deal could have a negative effect on African countries, in particular, she pointed out.

Nigeria and Kenya have not signed up for the fair tax deal. Credit: Muhammadtaha Ibrahim Ma’aji/Unsplash

Kenya and Nigeria are among four countries that have not signed up for the deal.

“A lot of African countries currently have corporate tax rates of 25-30%. If the minimum rate is 15%, there is a great incentive for companies to shift profits elsewhere,” Mukumba said.

“Kenya hasn’t signed up to the deal because it is trying to raise revenue from its digital services taxation rights. It may end up buckling to the pressure [to join the deal],” she added.

OECD impact assessment studies for the deal published in 2020 https://www.oecd.org/tax/beps/economic-impact-assessment-webinar-presentation-october-2020.pdf showed that developing nations would gain as much as 4% extra corporate tax revenue.

The organisation told IPS this month (OCT) that it is now expecting those extra revenues to be even higher because of changes to the agreement since last year.

However, studies Pillar 1 impact assessment – 04.10.21 FINAL (oxfamireland.org) by the global aid group Oxfam estimate that 52 developing countries would receive around only 0.025 percent of their collective GDP in additional annual tax revenue under the redistribution of taxing rights.

The group also says a 25% global minimum corporate tax rate would raise nearly USD 17 billion more for the world’s 38 poorest countries – which are home to almost 39% of the global population – as compared to a 15 percent rate.

Speaking just after the agreement between the 136 countries was reached, Oxfam said in a press release that the deal was “a mockery of fairness that robs pandemic-ravaged developing countries of badly needed revenue for hospitals and teachers and better jobs”.

It added: “The world is experiencing the largest increase in poverty in decades and a massive explosion in inequality, but this deal will do little or nothing to halt either.”

Despite the criticism, OECD officials are adamant that the agreement will benefit developing nations.

They point out that it does not affect any state’s national corporate tax rates, and that the 10-year grace period only applies to a very small amount of income – 5% of the carrying value of a firm’s tangible assets and payrolls in a jurisdiction.

Grace Perez Navarro, Deputy Director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, told IPS: “The global minimum tax is aimed at stopping tax competition that is causing a race to the bottom in corporate tax rates.

“It does not require countries that have higher rates than 15% to lower their corporate tax rate, it just ensures that those countries will be able to collect at least 15%, no matter what type of creative tax planning a multinational comes up with.

“It will also reduce the incentive of multinationals to artificially shift their profits to low tax jurisdictions because they will still have to pay a minimum of 15%.”

She added: “It will also relieve the pressure on developing countries to offer excessive, often wasteful tax incentives while providing a carve-out for low-taxed activities that have real substance. This means that developing countries can still offer effective incentives that attract genuine, substantive foreign direct investment.”

But Mukumba said the problem is not that the deal will not bring any extra revenue to developing nations, but that richer nations will get much more out of it.

“Developing nations want a global corporate tax minimum, they have pushed for it in the past. They will get revenue under this deal, yes, but nowhere near as much as richer nations will get out of it,” she said.

This is problematic at a time when many developing nations are struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and need revenue.

“This [deal] will mainly support recovery efforts in the G7 countries instead of developing countries which have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are more in debt, preventing them from generating enough revenues to recover from the crisis and ultimately throwing millions more people into extreme poverty,” said Kohonen.

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