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  • Of Aristotle, Orwell, and the Young Heirs
  • In spite of their high preparedness and growing consciousness and activism and their indisputable right to decide upon their present and future, today's youth voice is still far from being heard. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

    In spite of their high preparedness and growing consciousness and activism and their indisputable right to decide upon their present and future, today's youth voice is still far from being heard. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

    By Baher Kamal
    MADRID, Aug 18 2022 (IPS)

    A couple of decades ago in Athens, a conversation over a ‘souvlaki’ and wine dinner with a young Greek economist led to talking about democracy. Asked for his opinion, he said “By then, when philosophers like Aristotle formulated their theories about democracy, the society was dominated by the rich.”

    When asked “what about the people?,” the young Greek economist took a long sip of wine and answered with a visibly sarcastic smile “The people were their servants.”

    Whether this young man’s interpretation of democracy was wrong or right, accurate or not, more controversial or less, is something too long to explain and anyway it is up to you to judge.

     

    The poisoned inheritance

    Anyway, the pressing question now is if today’s 1.5 billion youth can bear the baleful load that they inherit from the previous generations.

    A swift answer would be “yes.” After all, previous and current generations coped with two European-manufactured Great Wars which soon attracted their descendents–the United States, and other military powers like the –also European– Soviet Union, among others.

    Not only, these generations had also to confront dictatorial regimes, civil wars, poverty, hunger, destruction, and a long list of hardships.

    Another question would be if the current and future generations will be able to fix up the so many horrifying wrongs made by the previous ones, such as the looming threat of a nuclear war, the voracious depletion of natural resources, the dominance of private corporations, the supplantation of human beings by robots…

    … Let alone the never-ending game of the world’s top guns –the US, the UK, France, Russia and China, precisely those who hold the unexplainable and unjustifiable power to annulate, through their veto, the decisions made by the world’s over 190 countries. They exercise such a power in their ironically called “Security Council.”

    Whatever the future will be, reality shows that the world’s youth now receive a very heavy inheritance, in a scenario already shaped by two George Orwell’s masterpieces: “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

    See this dozen facts, selected among so many others, which have been provided on the occasion of this year’s International Youth Day, marked 12 August.

     

    The figures

    • Half of the people on Planet Earth are 30 or younger, and this is expected to reach 57% by the end of 2030.

    • While you read this, 1.8 billion young people, the largest generation of youth in history, are transitioning to adulthood.

    • Today, there are 1.2 billion youth aged 15 to 24, accounting for 16% of the global population. By 2030 their number is projected to have grown by 7%, to nearly 1.3 billion. These two figures, combined with the previous one, make an average of 1.5 billion youth.

     

    No voice?

    In spite of their high preparedness and growing consciousness and activism and their indisputable right to decide upon their present and future, today’s youth voice is still far from being heard, let alone listened to.

    A UN Department of Economics and Social Affairs research shows that there are about 1.2 billion youth aged 15 to 24 in the world today. “This is a huge percentage of the global population whose interests and voices have traditionally been overlooked.”

    In fact, today’s youth has practically nul participation in national legislative bodies. Globally, only 2.6% of parliamentarians are under 30 years old, and less than 1% of them are women.

    On this issue, a survey on the occasion of this year’s International Youth Day, the United Nations specialised bodies revealed that:

    • 76% of those under 30 years old think politicians don’t listen to young people

    • 8 in 10 people think that current political systems need drastic reforms to be fit for the future

    • 69% of people think that more opportunities for younger people to have a say in policy development would make political systems better.

    Meanwhile, the average age of those who decide upon the present and future of the world’s youth is as high as 64 years.

     

     No jobs?

    The Global Employment Trends for Youth 2022 reveals that those aged between 15 and 24 years have experienced a much higher percentage loss in employment than adults since early 2020.

    Also that the total global number of unemployed youths is estimated to reach 73 million in 2022, six million above the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

    At the same time, 60 million jobs that will be created by the green economy in 30 years do not even exist yet.

     

    No education?

    “Unless we take action, the share of children leaving school in developing countries who are unable to read could increase from 53 to 70 percent,” warned UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in his message on the 2022 International Day of Education on 24 January.

    In fact, some 1.6 billion school and college students had their studies interrupted at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic — and it’s not over yet, said Guterres.

    Today, school closures continue to disrupt the lives of over 31 million students, “exacerbating a global learning crisis.” See: Up to 70% of Children in Developing Countries to Be Left Unable to Read.

     

    The climate crunch

    Young people bear a disproportionate burden of the environmental crises the world faces today, which will impact their future, reminds the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

    “Research shows that many young people feel frustrated and unheard, creating a sense of unfairness that has, in recent years, fueled a surge of climate activism led by youth.”

    According to a recent study, children born in 2020 will experience a “two to seven-fold increase in extreme climate events,” particularly heatwaves, compared to people born in 1960.

     

    The “Rule of the People”

    Meanwhile, another question raises here: has the concept of democracy as the rule of people ever been really practised?

    Before you judge, please be reminded of the findings released by the Oxfam International in its May 2022 report Profiting from Pain.

    “Billionaires have seen their fortunes increase as much in 24 months as they did in 23 years.”

    “Those in the food and energy sectors have seen their fortunes increase by a billion dollars every two days,” adds the research carried out by this global movement of people working together with more than 4,100 partner organisations and communities in over 90 countries.

    Furthermore, “food and energy prices have increased to their highest levels in decades. And 62 new food billionaires have been created.”

    In the meantime, there are up to one billion hungry humans.

    IPS article: Inequality Kills One Person Every Four Seconds explains how deadly inequality is and how it contributes to the deaths of at least 21,300 people each day—or one person every four seconds.

    Today’s youth are an unpowered witness to numerous unprecedented crises, which they did not create but are expected to overcome… and hopefully leave a much less baleful inheritance.




  • Chinese Fleet Threatens Latin America’s Fish Stocks
  • Only artisanal fishing is allowed in the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands, where it is possible to catch large, valuable fish. The area is a marine reserve, a nursery of species for the eastern Pacific and is off-limits to industrial fishing. But its continental shelf is increasingly under siege by the Chinese fleet. CREDIT: MAG Ecuador

    Only artisanal fishing is allowed in the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands, where it is possible to catch large, valuable fish. The area is a marine reserve, a nursery of species for the eastern Pacific and is off-limits to industrial fishing. But its continental shelf is increasingly under siege by the Chinese fleet. CREDIT: MAG Ecuador

    By Humberto Márquez
    CARACAS, Aug 18 2022 (IPS)

    Illegal and excessive fishing, mainly attributed to Chinese fleets, remains a threat to marine resources in the eastern Pacific and southwest Atlantic, as well as to that sector of the economy in Latin American countries bathed by either ocean.

    Worldwide, “one out of every five fish consumed has been caught illegally, 20 percent of the nearly 100 million tons of fish consumed each year, and generally in areas closed to fishing,” veteran Venezuelan oceanographer Juan José Cárdenas told IPS.

    An emblematic case, said the researcher from the Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, is the Galapagos Islands, 1,000 kilometers west of the coast of Ecuador, surrounded by a 193,000-square-kilometer protected marine area, a hotbed of species in great demand for human consumption.“For several species in the eastern Pacific we are already at the edge of the environmental precipice with legal fishing; a small additional fishing effort, illegal fishing, is enough to affect the sustainability and food security that these species provide." -- Juan José Cárdenas

    Galapagos, an archipelago totaling 8,000 square kilometers, is famous for its unique biodiversity and as a natural laboratory used by the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) for his theories on evolution.

    The Ecuadorian Navy indicated that in June they maintained surveillance of 180 foreign vessels, including fishing boats, tankers and reefers, fishing near the 200 nautical mile (370 kilometers) limit of the Galapagos Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), also known as the continental shelf.

    In 2017, 297 vessels were detected, 300 in 2018, 245 in 2019, and 350 in 2020. At the beginning of each summer they fish off Ecuador and Peru, then off of Chile, before crossing the Strait of Magellan and heading up the southwest Atlantic off Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

    In the Pacific they have fished intensively for giant squid (Dosidicus gigas). According to the satellite tracking platform Global Fishing Watch, 615 vessels did so in 2021, 584 of which were Chinese.

    Alfonso Miranda, president of the Committee for the Sustainable Management of the South Pacific Giant Squid (CALAMASUR), made up of businesspersons and fishers from Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru, said that this year 631 Chinese-flagged vessels have entered Ecuadorian and Peruvian Pacific waters.

    Miranda says that Peruvian fishermen report incursions by Chinese ships in Peru’s EEZ, and he does the math: if Peruvian squid production reaches 500,000 tons, with revenues of 860 million dollars a year, some 50,000 tons taken by the foreign fleet means the loss of 85 million dollars a year.

    The giant squid is the second most important fishing resource for Peru, after anchovy, and its catch generates more than 800 million dollars a year and thousands of jobs, which is why the country seeks to prevent incursions into its waters by vessels of other flags, especially from China. CREDIT: Government of Peru

    The giant squid is the second most important fishing resource for Peru, after anchovy, and its catch generates more than 800 million dollars a year and thousands of jobs, which is why the country seeks to prevent incursions into its waters by vessels of other flags, especially from China. CREDIT: Government of Peru

    Accumulated problems

    Cárdenas the oceanographer pointed out that the area is rich in tuna, of which more than 600,000 tons are caught annually (10 percent of the world total), but posing a serious threat to sustainability, for example with the use of fish aggregating devices or FADs that alter even the migratory habits of this species.

    According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 34 percent of tuna stocks in the seven most widely used tuna species are exploited at biologically unsustainable levels.

    For several species in the eastern Pacific, including some whose fishing is banned such as sharks, “we are already at the edge of the environmental precipice with legal fishing; a small additional fishing effort, illegal fishing, is enough to affect the sustainability and food security that these species provide,” said Cárdenas.

    Pedro Díaz, a fisherman in northern Peru, told the Diálogo Chino news platform in the port of Paita that “we don’t just want to fish and catch. We want to allow the giant squid to breed and grow so that it can generate employment and foreign currency for the State.

    “We also want the giant squid to have a sustainable season, and what will those who come after us, the young people who take up fishing, find?” he added.

    FAO fisheries officer Alicia Mosteiro Cabanelas told IPS from the U.N. agency’s regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile that “it is not always possible to measure the impact of a given fleet operating in areas adjacent to the exclusive economic zone of coastal nations.”

    This is because “there is not always a stock assessment of the target species, nor is there information available on retained, discarded and incidental catch, or on the number of vessels authorized to operate by the respective flag States and unauthorized vessels.”

    In 2017 Ecuador seized the Chinese vessel Fu Tuang Yu Leng after finding in its holds more than 6000 sharks illegally caught in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. CREDIT: DPN Galapagos

    In 2017 Ecuador seized the Chinese vessel Fu Tuang Yu Leng after finding in its holds more than 6000 sharks illegally caught in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. CREDIT: DPN Galapagos

    Mosteiro Cabanelas noted that “overfishing always has a direct impact on the sustainability of resources, generating a decrease in income for the fishing sector and in the availability of fishery products for local communities and consumers in general. Latin America is no exception.”

    And for FAO it is clear that “illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a global problem that compromises the conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources,” said the expert.

    It also “harms fishers’ livelihoods and related activities, and aggravates malnutrition, poverty and food insecurity.”

    The media in coastal countries also report that fishers in Latin America – citing cases from Brazil, Chile and Mexico – are violating bans and extracting valuable species whose fishing is not permitted. Ecuadorians have exported large quantities of shark fins, after declaring the sharks as bycatch.

    Shark fins are highly sought after in places like Hong Kong – where shark fin soup can cost up to 200 dollars – and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates the global trade in shark and ray meat at 2.6 billion dollars.

    The Argentine Navy carries out surveillance of a Chinese fishing vessel at the limits of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which is rich in squid, hake and prawns. CREDIT: Argentine Naval Prefecture

    The Argentine Navy carries out surveillance of a Chinese fishing vessel at the limits of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which is rich in squid, hake and prawns. CREDIT: Argentine Naval Prefecture

    Keeping an eye on poachers

    Last year, some 350 Chinese-flagged vessels fished during the first half of the year off Argentina’s territorial waters, where there is a wealth of another kind of squid, the Argentine shortfin squid (Illex argentines), as well as Argentine hake, prawns and other prized species.

    It is a fleet that, according to Argentine ship captains, commits IUU with unreported transshipments that camouflage illegal fishing, transferring fish between vessels and turning off the transponders that indicate the ships’ location.

    A report published in June by Oceana, an international non-governmental organization that tracks IUU fishing, claimed that more than 400 Chinese-flagged vessels fished for about 621,000 hours along the Argentine EEZ between 2018 and 2021, and disappeared from tracking systems more than 4,000 times.

    The Argentine government has reported that, in contrast to the 400,000 tons per year of Argentine shortfin squid that landed in its ports at the end of the 20th century, since 2015 less than 100,000 tons per year are caught, with just 60,000 in 2016.

    Industry reports in the local media indicate that foreign vessels (Chinese, South Korean, Taiwanese or Spanish) have caught up to 500,000 tons of squid annually, near or within its EEZ – a volume that can represent between five and 14 billion dollars a year.

    Fish aggregating devices or FADs are used in the eastern Pacific to facilitate and increase tuna catches, aggravating the threat of overfishing and even posing a risk of altering the migratory habits of the species. CREDIT: WWF

    Fish aggregating devices or FADs are used in the eastern Pacific to facilitate and increase tuna catches, aggravating the threat of overfishing and even posing a risk of altering the migratory habits of the species. CREDIT: WWF

    And the problem is not only seen in Argentina: last Jul. 4, the Uruguayan Navy captured in its territorial waters, 280 kilometers from the Punta del Este beach resort, a Chinese-flagged vessel, the “Lu Rong Yuan Yu 606”, dedicated to squid fishing, which was apparently fishing furtively at night in that area.

    As the holds were empty, it could not be established with certainty that it was fishing in the Uruguayan EEZ, and the ship was released after payment of a fine for contravening other navigation regulations.

    There was no repeat of the 2017 experience in Ecuador with the “Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999”, a vessel that functioned as a large refrigerator to store the catch of other vessels, which was operating illegally in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

    About 500 tons of fish, including vulnerable and protected species, were found on the ship, especially some 6,000 hammerhead sharks.

    The Ecuadorian justice system handed prison sentences to the captain of the ship and three crew members for the crime of fishing for protected species, and fined them 6.1 million dollars. As the payment was not made, the vessel became the property of the Ecuadorian Navy.

    China has formally banned its fleet from operating in prohibited waters and warned captains that it will withdraw licenses from those who violate these rules, and President Xi Jinping gave assurances to that effect to his Ecuadorian counterpart Guillermo Lasso when the latter visited Beijing in February.

    Far from the shores of Latin America, on May 24 in Tokyo, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) bloc, agreed on new surveillance mechanisms for the Chinese fishing fleet.

    At the same time, Washington is working with countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama on agreements to help monitor the Chinese fleet, the largest in the world, which has 17,000 ships catching 15 million tons a year in the world’s seas.

    The U.S. initiative is part of its renewed global confrontation with the Asian giant, the so-called new cold war.




  • Yes, Africa’s Informal Sector Has Problems, But the Answer Isn’t to Marginalise It
  • Leaders must recognise the enormous potentials of Africa’s informal sector and begin to integrate them better into their city-building strategies

    African leaders must recognise the enormous potentials of the continent’s informal workers and begin to integrate them better into their city-building visions and strategies. Credit: Suleiman Mbatiah/IPS

    By External Source
    Aug 18 2022 (IPS)

    African leaders are increasingly aspiring to “modernise” their cities. That is to make them “globally competitive” and “smart”. The hope is to strategically position cities in Africa to drive the continent’s much-needed socio-economic transformation.

    But these aspirations tend to marginalise and antagonise the informal sector. The sector encompasses the suite of economic activities by workers and economic units that are – in law or in practice – not covered (or insufficiently covered) by formal arrangements.

    We are a team of international scholars researching sustainable cities in Africa. In our latest paper, we explore the dual role played by the informal sector in Africa’s urban economy. On the one hand, it plays a positive role. It provides employment, securing household income and savings, provides household basic needs and boosts civic engagement.

    Clearly, the informal sector oils Africa’s urban economy in many important ways. This makes it highly unlikely that any visions of transforming lives on the continent can succeed without taking the sector into adequate account

    But the sector also plays a negative role. It contributes to social and gender inequality, insecurity, congestion and pollution.

    Overall, we found that the informal sector has a lot to offer the future of African cities. We therefore recommend that public policy focuses more on regularising the sector, instead of displacing it. This is often done to make way for elitist big capital projects.

    Also, we warn that ignoring or marginalising the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector could spell a social bloodbath on the continent.

     

    The ‘smart cities’ craze in Africa

    There has been a resurgent interest in building so-called “smart”, “modern”, “globally competitive” cities in Africa. Some are seeking to build entirely new cities. But, for the most part, most governments want to put cities on the “map” through large-scale redevelopment or by “modernising” existing city districts.

    African cities have long been blamed for not serving as engines of growth and structural transformation as their counterparts did during Europe’s Industrial Revolution. This makes it refreshing that leaders on the continent are seeking to turn things around.

    The problem, however, is that these visions of city modernisation tend to heavily marginalise and antagonise the informal sector in their design and execution. Some even have a strong focus on displacing informal workers and activities – particularly hawkers and hawking, slum dwellers and slum settlements – from the central business districts of the cities.

    For instance, early this year, the authorities in Nigeria sent a combined team of police, military and other law enforcement officials to destroy a Port Harcourt informal settlement that housed some 15,000 families.

    Their counterparts in Ghana are currently conducting similar exercises.

    These decisions are often justified on the grounds that informal workers and their activities generate “congestion”, “crime”, “filth/grime”, and “disorderliness”.

    In other words, they impede sustainable city-making, and hence, must be eradicated.

    But is this premise backed by the evidence? This is the question our team recently interrogated.

    We conclude that the informal sector is rather the goose laying Africa’s golden eggs.

     

    Unpacking the data

    We argue in our paper that African leaders must re-think the informal sector as a potential site for innovation and solutions.

    Consider its employment creation potential for instance. In 2018, a study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that the informal sector employs some 89.2% of the total labour force in sub-Saharan Africa if agriculture is included.

    Even without agriculture, the share of informal employment is still significant: 76.8%. In central Africa, without agriculture, the sector’s share of employment hovered at 78.8% and 91% with agriculture. In east Africa, the contributions stood at 76.6% without agriculture and 91.6% with agriculture. The figures for southern and western Africa hovered around 36.1% and 87% without agriculture and 40.2% and 92.4% when agriculture is included.

    The informal sector also makes other important contributions to Africa’s economy. In 2000, the gross value additions of Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Togo’s informal sector (including agriculture) hovered around 71.6%, 55.8%, 51.5%, and 72.5% of the countries’ total GDPs.

    The sector’s contribution to housing too is substantial. The most notable form of informal housing, popularly called “slums”, provide accommodation to millions of urban dwellers on the continent.

    The United Nations’ data suggest that Nigeria’s share of urban population that are accommodated in slums as of 2015 stood at 50.2%. That of Ethiopia was 73.9%; Uganda’s 53.6%; Tanzania’s 50.7%. Ghana and Rwanda’s hovered around 37.9% and 53.2%, respectively.

    Clearly, the informal sector oils Africa’s urban economy in many important ways. This makes it highly unlikely that any visions of transforming lives on the continent can succeed without taking the sector into adequate account.

    More importantly, the millions of working-class people whose lives depend on the sector have shown consistently that they won’t take their continuing marginalisation lying down. They frequently resist eviction orders.

    Perhaps, their most profound moment of resistance was witnessed at the height of the COVID pandemic.

    Many African governments imposed lockdowns to limit community transmission of the virus. However, after subjecting informal workers to extensive brutalities, they still refused to comply, forcing many governments to suspend the lockdowns. The pandemic has shown that the continuing systematic marginalisation of informal workers in city-making heralds more trouble for the future.

     

    Informality at the heart of city-making

    The issue is not that city authorities must allow informal workers and activities to go unchecked. They clearly have a responsibility to deal with the problems in the sector to ensure the security and health of the public. This includes the informal workers themselves.

    The problem with current approaches is that they largely dispossess the workers and displace them to make way for big capital projects which serve the needs of a privileged few.

    African leaders must recognise the enormous potentials of the continent’s informal workers and begin to integrate them better into their city-building visions and strategies.

    The recent integration of informal waste collectors/recyclers – popularly called Zabbaleen – in waste management in Cairo, Egypt’s capital, offers great lessons.

    The Zabbaleen had long been neglected for so-called “formal” private companies which, however, continued to prove inefficient and structurally unable to navigate the narrow streets of several neighbourhoods of Cairo.

    When Cairo authorities finally recognised that the Zabbaleen are better suited for the job, they changed course and brought them onboard. The emerging evidence suggests that the change is paying some fruitful dividends in improved sanitation.

    Cairo’s progressive example paints a powerful image of how the capabilities of informal workers could be seriously incorporated and integrated into building African cities. Hopefully, more of such interventions will be replicated in other sectors of the continent’s urban economy.

    Dr Henry Mensah and Professor Imoro Braimah of KNUST’s Centre for Settlements Studies, and Department of Planning contributed to the original article.The Conversation

    Gideon Abagna Azunre, PhD student, Concordia University; Festival Godwin Boateng, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Sustainable Urban Development, The Earth Institute, Columbia University; Owusu Amponsah, Senior Lecturer, Department of planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and Stephen Appiah Takyi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.




  • COVID-19: Scientists Warn That It’s Not Over Till It’s Over
  • Mask mandates are now over, but health practitioners and scientists say it’s time to use what we have learnt about COVID-19 to manage other epidemics. Credit: IMF Photo/James Oatway

    Mask mandates are now over, but health practitioners and scientists say it’s time to use what we have learnt about COVID-19 to manage other epidemics. Credit: IMF Photo/James Oatway

    By Fawzia Moodley
    Johannesburg, Aug 18 2022 (IPS)

    After two years of economic and social upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries, including South Africa, have lifted the tough protocols such as lockdowns, the mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing.

    COVID fatigue, the global economic bloodbath, devastating social and mental health impacts, and the hope that large-scale vaccinations provided sufficient herd immunity, persuaded these governments to lift the suffocating protocols.

    But experts warn that we should not be lulled into a false sense of security.

    According to the Statista Research Service, outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to be confirmed in almost every country in the world. The virus has infected nearly 566 million people worldwide, with the number of deaths at almost 6.4 million. The most severely affected countries include the US, India, Brazil, France and Germany.

    Thankfully, the deadly Delta variant is no longer a significant threat. The emergence of Omicron, which is more easily transmitted, has raised concern among scientists because it constantly mutates, as evident from its swift evolution from the BA.2 lineage to Omicron.B4 and B5.

    Dr Waasila Jassat of the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says that South Africa has a high number of Omicron cases but fortunately experienced only a small rise in hospitalisations and deaths during its BA.4 and BA.5 wave. Quoted in the scientific journal Nature, she warns that older adults are still at high risk and that the new strains are more immune to vaccinations.

    A panel of experts at a recent webinar in Johannesburg, titled: “Is COVID 19 over? Or is it still lurking in the shadows? An African response to the pandemic”, expressed concern at the unknowns related to the mutating nature of Omicron.

    They reviewed the devastating impact of the lockdown measures, the lessons learnt from our handling of the pandemic, and explored alternate and less drastic ways to deal with future pandemics.

    Psychiatrist Dr Surenthran Pillay said the pandemic had led to an increase in mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, resulting not only from the illness and deaths but also from job losses and economic fallout.

    “The other complication that has to be managed is the associated increase in poverty that comes with COVID. Africa is not the wealthiest region. With COVID coming, we are not giving attention to people’s other needs. We can’t neglect communities’ needs because the anxieties and psychiatric aspect of the lack of food or lack of housing or other economic complications that come from COVID are just as important.”

    Pillay also speaks of the impact on children.

    “We have a whole generation of kids who spent two years behind masks, and important stages in their lives like recognising facial expressions were lost for them.”

    Dr Samantha Potgieter, an expert on infectious diseases from the University of the Free State, says there’s hope that future pandemics will be better managed due to the lessons learnt this time.

    “Unfortunately, we certainly can’t say that COVID is over, and if I were to guess what the future holds, I think the hope is that as repeated infections occur and vaccine boosters are fine-tuned, we will continue to see waves of the disease but with less and less disruption of our lives.”

    The role of the media also came under scrutiny. Ogechi Ekeanyawu, the Sub-Saharan regional editor of the African Science podcast, speaks about the critical role of the media in disseminating “credible and scientifically backed” information about vaccines and treatment during a pandemic.

    In the era of social media, “where anyone can come with a camera or any text that they like to put out,” she says, “it is important that all information is verified and authentic”.

    “We’re looking at the science, listening to the scientists, making sure that they have a larger voice; so, sort of centring their voices in our reports so that we are not misinformed at any point in time.”

    She also notes that the media had ignored monkeypox, which the World Health Organization recently declared a public health emergency until it spread to Europe and other developed countries.

    “It has always existed here, particularly in West Africa in countries like Congo and Nigeria, but all of a sudden, it is now a global concern, and people are now talking about research. Monkeypox existed all the while here, and there was no spotlight on it.”

    Dr Subeshnee Munien, an environmental scientist, warns that even if COVID ends, infectious diseases and pandemics are “going to be more frequent than we’d like to believe”.

    She says COVID has devastated the poorest of the poor and exposed “what needs to be done for us to be better prepared for the next infectious event.”

    The message was clear: This is no time for complacency; we need to learn from our experience of COVID to be able to deal with future pandemics in a more constructive and less disruptive way.

    IPS UN Bureau Report

     




  • To Accelerate Social Change, Approach Philanthropy With a Feminist Lens
  • The work of world making requires bold philanthropy from a feminist lens. Significant resources need to be directed towards historically marginalized communities - led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color around the world

    Globally, feminist movements have been some of the biggest drivers of progressive social change. Credit: UN Women

    By Angelika Arutonyva and Leila Hessini
    SAN FRANCISCO, USA, Aug 18 2022 (IPS)

    Feminist movements are powerful, and donors who want to contribute to solving the biggest challenges facing the world today, should fund them deeply, and without restrictions. Research by Htun and Weldon back this up, showing that globally, feminist movements have been some of the biggest drivers of progressive social change.

    The work of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) helps us understand what this looks like in practice. In 1995, they began working to strengthen women’s rights and address the issue of violence against women. Working across eight countries, SIHA built an informal network of women with very little funding, most of which was project-specific.

    The work that feminist movements do is vital, and yet this is work that is severly underfunded. Analysis from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) shows that women’s rights organizations receive only 0.13% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and 0.4% of all gender-related aid. Additionally, only 0.42% of foundation grants are allocated towards women's rights.

    Once they received their first core funding grant, they had the flexibility to be responsive—and none too soon. When Sudan’s dictatorship fell in 2019, SIHA was ready to respond. They had built trust within the country and knew how to support communities. At a time when other actors couldn’t enter the region and it was difficult to get funding through, SIHA supported feminist activists to respond to threats, especially that of mass sexual violence, as well as the opportunities for impact.

    We see similar patterns around a variety of issues within the gender justice umbrella. In 2021, Benin liberalised its abortion law allowing for the termination of pregnancy at up to twelve weeks in cases where a continuation “is likely to worsen or cause a situation of material, education, professional or moral distress which is incompatible with the woman’s interests.”

    This is a significant win for feminist movements as it recognises the importance of abortion access for a wide variety of reasons. At the global level, for years, feminist leaders have advocated for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to pass a treaty that recognises the gendered nature of the world of work.

    The result was ILO Convention No. 190, described as the first international treaty to recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment. This is a major policy win and Governments that ratify the convention will be required to put in place processes to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work.

    The work that feminist movements do is vital, and yet this is work that is severly underfunded.

    Analysis from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) shows that women’s rights organizations receive only 0.13% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and 0.4% of all gender-related aid. Additionally, only 0.42% of foundation grants are allocated towards women’s rights.

    This is the massive gap that we need a bold new school of philanthropists to fill. To deliver on the promise that feminists and social justice movements hold, we require bold innovators to shift the way the world operates. Daring progressive individuals should invest resources into people who can shift our communities and societies to be better, more accepting and welcoming environments. All that is needed to do this is to provide communities, particularly those led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color with a significant level of resources that allows the freedom to be bold and creative in their work.

    Recently, Shake the Table, a feminist organisation that bridges the worlds of philantopy and social justice, teamed up with the global philanthropic advisory firm Bridgespan, to explore how feminist movements can be supported to address systemic oppression, and to realise the transformative change that donors seek.

    This initiative is a first – bringing together insights from High Net Worth Individuals and feminist movement leaders. The report calls for new financing for feminist movements – asking for an investment of an extra $1.5billion per year. In their words:

    We set the very minimum of $1.5 billion a year over and above current funding levels as a starting point, to hold ground against the anti-gender movement and gain traction toward a just future for us all. For thousands of individual feminist leaders, organizations, and their collective movements, this investment would represent a game-changing opportunity. Increasing the resources available to feminist movements by an order of magnitude could enable gains (and stave off losses) in reproductive rights around the world, fairer and more dignified wages and working conditions, and climate justice. It could advance work to reduce gender-based violence as well as push back against authoritarianism and protect democracy, countering systemic abuse in communities around the world. It would recognize the transformative, collaborative work of feminist movements across borders and generations. Such an investment will lead to outcomes we can’t yet imagine.”

    And yet the outcomes that already exist speak powerfully of the possibilities that could be further unleashed if feminist movements were resourced boldly.

    Feminists want to co-create a better world. A world where feminist movements thrive is one where people from all backgrounds live in peace and enjoy a full range of human rights and freedoms. A world where feminist movements thrive centres constituency work done and led by Black and Indigenous people, and People of Color.

    This work cannot be done with a pittance. The work of world making requires bold philanthropy from a feminist lens. Significant resources need to be directed towards historically marginalized communities – led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color around the world.

    Organizations working at the grassroots need to be trusted and recognised for the deep knowledge they hold on how to create change, and donors need to do what they can do best – give – and get out of the way so that the all important work of social change is accelerated.

    Angelika Arutyunova is an Armenian from Uzbekistan, feminist social justice consultant with two decades of experience across regions, movements and sectors.

    Leila Hessini is an Algerian-American feminist activist who has worked on local and transnational organizing on a range of women’s human rights and social justice issues over the past three decades