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Is our global humanitarian system in transition? If so, what are the key issues before the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit

“Today’s needs are at unprecedented levels and without more support there simply is no way to respond to the humanitarian situations we’re seeing in region after region and in conflict after conflict.”
António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

The world is preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit. The United Nations will host the event in Istanbul, in 2016. Before the meeting, regional consultations are held in several parts of the world hit by humanitarian crises. Expectations are high.The study forecasts how the EU can financially contribute to donor activities in the future taking into account the fact that there are too many humanitarian crises.

Recognising that the humanitarian landscape has changed tremendously over the past few decades, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon initiated the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) as a three-year initiative which will set the scene for a wide-ranging international discussion on how to adapt the humanitarian system to the new reality so that it serves the people in need more effectively.

The WHS has a two-fold objective:

1) secure commitment to a strategic agenda which makes humanitarian action fit for the challenges of 2016 and beyond;

2) develop stronger partnerships and seek innovative solutions to persistent and new challenges so that the agreed strategic agenda is implemented after the Summit.[1]

As Jemilah Mahmood − Head the WHS Secretariat at the UN Headquarters in New York – stated, “Now more than ever, we need to recognise the sheer magnitude of the problems we face in the humanitarian and developmental sectors, and focus our collective resources on solving them.” The WHS is an opportunity for governments, the UN and intergovernmental agencies, regional organisations, non-profits and civil society actors, the private sector, academia as well as people affected by crises to come together, take stock of humanitarian action, discuss the changing landscape, share knowledge and best practices, and chart a forward looking agenda.[2]

Before the Summit, through a two-year consultation process, the aim is to build a more inclusive and diverse humanitarian system by bringing all key stakeholders together to share best practices and find innovative ways to make humanitarian action more effective. The process is being managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) is taking an active role in contributing to the discussion throughout the entire WHS process.[3]

The following agenda for consultations have been established:

  1. West and Central Africa − Côte d’Ivoire, 19-20 June 2014;
  2. North and South-East Asia − Japan, 23-24 July 2014;
  3. Eastern and Southern Africa – South Africa, 27-29 October 2014;
  4. Europe and Others − Hungary, 3-4 February 2015;
  5. Middle East and North Africa − Jordan, 3-5 March 2015;
  6. Latin America and the Caribbean − Guatemala, 5-7 May 2015;
  7. Pacific Region − New Zealand, June 2015;
  8. South and Central Asia − 3rd Quarter 2015;
  9. Global Consultation − Switzerland, October 2015.

Consultations will engage a broad range of partners, including people from affected territories, humanitarian actors, technical experts and the public through the WHS web platform. The key findings from both the regional and online consultations will be included in the final report of the Secretary-General that will set the summit agenda and influence the future of global humanitarian action.

Change is needed in the international humanitarian system as almost 25 years after UN General Assembly resolution 46/182 created the present humanitarian system – around the ERC, the IASC and a set of established core and guiding principles – the landscape of humanitarian action has changed considerably. Inter-related global trends, such as climate variability, demographic change, financial and energy sector pressures or changing geo-political factors have led to increased demand for humanitarian action. This focuses around three types of humanitarian realities: armed conflicts, disasters caused by natural hazards, and ‘chronic crises’ where people cyclically dip above and below acute levels of vulnerability. Each scenario has its own characteristics and challenges.[4]

In response to the challenges, humanitarian actors have sought to improve their services and maximize their impact on people in need. In particular, the 2005 Humanitarian Reform and more recently the IASC Transformative Agenda developed new approaches to working more accountably, predictably and effectively, and discussions to update international humanitarian legislation take place each year in the General Assembly. But there has been no collective exercise to take stock of the achievements and changes that have occurred since the current system was formed. Nor has a structured dialogue taken place between the four major constituencies that contribute to humanitarian action today: Member States (including affected countries, donors and emerging and interested partners); the global network of humanitarian organizations and experts; associated partners, (including private sector, religious charities, etc.); and, affected people themselves – as first responders, communities and civil society organizations, to think through how to address the current challenges. While the fundamental principles enshrined in General Assembly Resolution 46/182 will continue to guide our work, we need to explore how to create a more global, effective, and inclusive humanitarian system.[5]

The Summit hopes to engage states in commitments to a new range of global humanitarian policies and financing. The main aim of the Summit is to: “set an agenda to make humanitarian action fit for the challenges of the future, by broadening and deepening partnerships for those in need.” The Concept Note that is guiding consultations running up to 2016 has put innovation right at the centre of its work, and is focusing on four main themes: humanitarian effectiveness; reducing vulnerability and managing risk; transformation through innovation, and serving the needs of people in conflict.[6]

Humanitarian crisis

According to Humanitarian Coalition, humanitarian crisis is an event or series of events which represents a critical threat to the health, safety, security or wellbeing of a community or other large group of people, usually over a wide area. Armed conflicts, epidemics, famine, natural disasters and other major emergencies may all involve or lead to a humanitarian crisis that extends beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency. Humanitarian crises can be grouped under the following headings: Natural Disasters (earthquakes, floods, storms and volcanic eruptions). Man-made Disasters (conflicts,plane and train crashes, fires and industrial accidents). Complex Emergencies (when the effects of a series of events or factors prevent a community from accessing their basic needs, such as water, food, shelter, security or health care). Complex emergencies are typically characterized by: extensive violence and loss of life; displacements of populations; widespread damage to societies and economies; the need for large-scale, multi-faceted humanitarian assistance; the hindrance or prevention of humanitarian assistance by political and military constraints; significant security risks for humanitarian relief workers in some areas.

The causes for a crisis are always context-specific and each crisis is different. Humanitarian crises usually require a multi-sectoral response. Complex emergencies pose many challenges to humanitarian actors, including access to vulnerable populations, human rights abuses and the possible presence of armed actors.[7]

Do we live in a safe or dangerous world?

Humanitarian crises in the world today − Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan and now Gaza − all demand immediate and massive humanitarian response. The crises are not only large-scale, affecting millions, but the conflicts also are complex, each with unique political realities and on-the-ground difficulties. They are not alone among crises competing for our attention. They are simply the biggest, pushing off the front pages other crises where human needs remain urgent: Darfur, Central America, Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.[8]The question is obvious: Do we live in a safe or dangerous world?

During 2012 − the most recent year for which there are data − the number of conflicts being waged around the world dropped sharply, from 37 to 32. High-intensity conflicts have declined by more than half since the end of the Cold War, while terrorism, genocide and homicide numbers are also down. And this is not simply a recent phenomenon. According to a major 2011 study by Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, violence of all kinds has been declining for thousands of years. Indeed Pinker claims that, “we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence.”[9]

Over the last decade, claims that the number and deadliness of armed conflict has declined since the end of the Cold War − while not uncontested − have become increasingly accepted. The most telling finding is that the number of high-intensity state-based conflicts − those that kill a thousand or more people a year − has declined by more than half since 1989.[10]

 

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Conflicts between states − especially high-intensity conflicts − have become very rare since 1989. There has been less than one interstate conflict per year on average since 2000, down from almost three during the 1980s.[11] Since the end of the 1990s there has been a growing – and increasingly heated – debate over recent and longer term trends in violence around the world. Proponents of what has become known as the “declinist thesis” argue that violence has declined; others accept the basic “declinist” thesis but challenge the explanations that seek to account for it.[12] But while large-scale organized political violence has declined over the past quarter of a century, some analysts argue that organized – and often transnational – criminal violence has increased. In fact, death rates in some countries exceed those in the deadliest wars currently being waged around the world.[13]

The rise of transnational organized crime is part of what has sometimes been described as “the dark side of globalization.” But the increase in global trade, investment, and other forms of transnational economic integration has also been associated with increased levels of human development, wealth and global freedom.[14] Globally, the number of conflicts had been stabilising at a relatively high level. However, because today’s conflicts are mostly low in intensity, global battle-death tolls have remained relatively low – despite a slight increase from 2010 to 2011.[15]

High-intensity conflicts have fluctuated at a relatively low level for most of the 2000s. The six high-intensity conflicts active in 2011 were located in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Some of these conflicts have been active, and among the most deadly, for many years. Only one of the high-intensity conflicts mentioned above – that in Libya – was directly related to the Arab Spring. The wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen were associated with ongoing international and local campaigns against Islamist group while the violence in Sudan was mostly related to the events surrounding South Sudan independence, and, to a lesser extent, to continuing problems in the Darfur region.[16]

Most state-based conflicts today are intrastate conflicts, which are fought between the government of a state and one or more non-state armed group over control of government power or a specific territory. Many of the high-intensity conflicts in 2011 – such as the conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen – were civil wars in which troops from other states participated in the conflict in support of one or more of the warring parties. On the other hand, in recent years, the Middle East and North Africa – the second-most-deadly region in 2011 – saw reported battle deaths triple, going from under 2,000 in 2010 to almost 6,000 in 2011. Part of the reason for this increase can be attributed to the events related directly and indirectly to the Arab Spring.[17]

 

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The number of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa increased by two in 2011 with conflict onsets in Libya and Syria that were both related to the Arab Spring. Battle deaths in this region also increased in 2011. In addition to the Arab Spring conflicts in Libya and Syria, the increase was a result of the escalation of ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Iran, and Turkey.[18]

Researchers studying the Long Peace of the post-World War II period have identified growing international economic interdependence – manifest in the dramatic increase in international trade and foreign direct investment – as one important disincentive for interstate war in this period.[19]

Conflicts between states, as well as those between states and rebel groups, tend to dominate war-related news headlines. Most people’s understanding of the incidence of armed violence around the world comes from the media. But media reporting – not surprisingly – focuses on bad news. Violence makes headlines – its absence does not.[20] For the past two years world attention has focused on the escalating violence between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and armed opposition groups in Syria.[21]

Too many humanitarian crises challenge the sources and capacity

Kristalina Georgieva[22], EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, warns that there is “no light at the end of this tunnel: we must get used to a ‘new normal,’ where we face multiple challenges with finite resources.” We need to accept the reality of not having enough money to respond. With so many crises, the tendency is to focus on the latest and the “biggest” crises. A “crisis of the month” mentality has been replaced by “crisis of the week.” Numbers matter, so understandably our focus is drawn to large-scale crises. When hundreds of thousands of refugees flee a country, we respond. When smaller numbers are displaced by, say, a storm on a Pacific Island – even when proportionally a greater percentage of the population is affected − we tend to overlook it. A few years ago the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported that 90 percent of all natural disasters have fewer than 50 casualties; numbers not sufficient to mobilize an international response but no less devastating to those affected. Too many crises have consequences. In 2012 the worry was how the international community would come up with the resources to meet humanitarian needs in Syria, estimated at $1 billion a year. Today, the appeal for Syria is over $6 billion with less than 25 percent funded by mid-year. Syria is far from the only crisis for which urgent appeals for funding are made. South Sudan, Central African Republic and Gaza are all desperate situations that need a robust international response.[23]

Too many crises also increase the demand for experienced staff. Humanitarian agencies find it daunting to maintain adequate stand-by capacity to respond to a wave of major disasters. Stand-by rosters are stretched. An overwhelming number of crises make it almost impossible for the international community to respond well − or even adequately − to the existing humanitarian disasters, much less to prepare for future ones. Humanitarian crises are influenced by political problems; the inability of our international political system to resolve these crises is stunning. The Responsibility to Protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing has emerged as an important global principle since its adoption by the UN World Summit in 2005. The fact that there are too many humanitarian crises today is the result of a failure in global governance. Change is needed in the international humanitarian system and perhaps the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016 will provide an opportunity for fresh − and even radical − thinking about the way the system responds.[24]

The Brookings Institution assessed the global response to humanitarian crises. Throughout 2013, international humanitarian actors have faced major challenges responding to conflicts and natural disasters across the globe. Tens of thousands of people died in Syria and millions were displaced while international actors struggled to get access to desperate people. While escalating violence in such diverse countries as South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen and the Central African Republic may have received less media attention than Syria, these situations also posed particular challenges to the international community. At the end of 2013, the international community was mobilizing a major relief effort to respond to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, a storm that affected more than 14 million people and displaced over 5 million. Beyond the headlines, there were dozens of long-standing conflicts and smaller disasters that impacted the lives of millions of people and overwhelmed the capacity of local responders to meet the security, food and health needs of victims. The slow and sometimes inadequate response to these emergencies raise challenging questions about the capacity of the humanitarian aid system to meet the needs of people most affected by these and other disasters.[25]

Speaking at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition, Ross Mountain pointed out that in vulnerable countries food prices, urbanization, migration, the impact of climate change and population growth are all increasing. But as the challenges grow, the resources available in OECD countries − the traditional donors − to respond to humanitarian crises are shrinking. Nevertheless at OECD level budgetary constraints has not yet resulted in dramatic drop in humanitarian aid spending.

Given the increased scale of needs and vulnerability, a shift in attitude and working practices is needed to integrate anticipation, disaster risk reduction, preparedness and resilience into programmes. Many governments and many organizations still operate on a model that focuses on short-term crises, rather than looking at the longer term trends and their humanitarian implications. If we do not take a more participatory preventive approach, we will be responsible for countless avoidable suffering in the decades to come. Governments are increasingly linking humanitarian assistance to political, military or anti-terrorism objectives. Think Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and the occupied Palestinian territory. In other cases, like Syria, governments and/or armed groups have increasingly denied access to humanitarian organizations. There has been an explosion of NGOs in recent years; but also a change in the donor landscape. The economic downturn in the West has meant a growing role for donors and organizations from the Arab and Muslim worlds, for example. This means two things. First, the international community needs to better, and “more respectfully”, engage these new players. The tendency on the part of many of us in the international community is to come thinking that money is to be given so that we, the experts, go back and do the work. The talk should be more about strategic partnerships and not about money. Forging smart and strategic partnership is one way for the international humanitarian community to better respond to today’s growing humanitarian challenges.[26]

International humanitarian funds

International humanitarian action − aiding and protecting people in armed conflicts and disasters − has expanded dramatically in the last twenty years to become a major global field. In 2012, official humanitarian aid totalled $17.9 billion dollars and reached 73 million people. Some 75 percent of these funds came from OECD governments, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This makes states by far the largest contributors to humanitarian aid. The remaining 25 percent came from private funds. Around $3.3bn (18.75 percent) came directly from the donations of individual citizens, and $1.1bn (6.25 percent) from private foundations.The three largest state funders are the USA, EU and UK.[27]

According to the OECD’s report[28] published in April 2014 total development aid (which is a more comprehensive measure than humanitarian aid) rose by 6.1 percent in real terms in 2013 to reach the highest level ever recorded, despite continued pressure on budgets in OECD countries since the global economic crisis. Donors provided a total of USD 134.8 billion in net official development assistance (ODA), marking a rebound after two years of falling volumes, as a number of governments stepped up their spending on foreign aid. An annual survey of donor spending plans by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) indicated that aid levels could increase again in 2014 and stabilise thereafter. However, a trend of a falling share of aid going to the neediest sub-Saharan African countries looks likely to continue.

In all, 17 of the DAC’s 28 member countries increased their ODA in 2013, while 11 reported a decrease. Net ODA from DAC[29] countries stood at 0.3 percent of gross national income (GNI.) Five countries met a longstanding UN target for an ODA/GNI ratio of 0.7 percent. The United Kingdom increased its ODA by 27.8 percent to hit the 0.7 percent target for the first time. The United Arab Emirates posted the highest ODA/GNI ratio, 1.25 percent, after providing exceptional support to Egypt. Aid to developing countries grew steadily from 1997 to a first peak in 2010. It fell in 2011 and 2012 as many governments took austerity measures and trimmed aid budgets. The rebound in aid budgets in 2013 meant that even excluding the five countries that joined the DAC in 2013 (Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, Slovak Republic and Slovenia), 2013 DAC ODA was still at an all-time high.

The largest donors by volume were the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and France.  Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden continued to exceed the 0.7 percent ODA/GNI target and the UK met it for the first time. The Netherlands fell below 0.7 percent for the first time since 1974. Net ODA rose in 17 countries, with the largest increases recorded in Iceland, Italy, Japan, Norway and the UK. It fell in 11 countries, with the biggest decreases in Canada, France and Portugal. The G7 countries provided 70 percent of total net DAC ODA in 2013, and the DAC-EU countries 52 percent. The US remained the largest donor by volume with net ODA flows of USD 31.5 billion, an increase of 1.3 percent in real terms from 2012.  US ODA as a share of GNI was 0.19 percent.  Most of the increase was due to humanitarian aid and support for fighting HIV/AIDS.  By contrast US net bilateral aid to LDCs fell by 11.7 percent in real terms to USD 8.4 billion due in particular to reduced disbursements to Afghanistan.  Net ODA disbursements to sub-Saharan Africa fell by 2.9 percent to USD 8.7 billion.

Nevertheless this survey also suggests a continuation of the worrying trend of declines in programmed aid to LDCs and low-income countries, in particular in Africa. CPA to LDCs and LICs is set to decrease by 5 percent, reflecting reduced access to grant resources on which these countries are highly dependent. Some Asian countries may see increases, however, so that by 2017 overall allocations to Asia are expected to equal those towards Africa. This will need special attention in the future

It is well-known that the European Union is the world’s leading provider of humanitarian aid. This aid, which takes the form of financing, provision of goods or services, or technical assistance, helps prepare for and deal with the crises such as natural disasters, disasters caused by human activity, or structural crises, outside the Union. The Union’s action comprises three instruments: emergency aid, food aid, and aid for refugees and displaced persons. ECHO coordinates this action and cooperates closely with partners who implement aid on the ground, in particular the United Nations and non-governmental organisations. EU Humanitarian aid policy is based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. EU Humanitarian aid must be coordinated with other policies so that it can be adapted to each situation and can contribute to long-term development goals. The EU contributes to developing collective global capacity to respond to crises. It commits to promoting reforms in the international humanitarian system, led by the United Nations, and in cooperation with other humanitarian actors and donors.

EU Humanitarian aid is financed from the ’Global Europe’ heading of the EU budget. This heading covers all external action by the EU such as development assistance or humanitarian aid with the exception of the European Development Fund (EDF) which provides aid for development cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, as well as overseas countries and territories. As it is not funded from the EU budget but from direct contributions from EU Member States, the EDF does not fall under the MFF (the EU’s seven year framework budget).

International humanitarian funds generally are channelled through UN agencies (like the UN World Food Programme, UNICEF and UNHCR), the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Humanitarian NGOs can be well known names like Oxfam, Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), CARE and Caritas, or they can increasingly be national and local NGOs that are growing fast in countries confronted by protracted conflict, chronic hunger or persistent natural disasters. Altogether, it is estimated that there are about 4,400 NGOs engaged in some form of humanitarian aid and around 274,000 humanitarian workers in the world today.[30] The expansion of humanitarian aid and protection under UN guidance means that the international humanitarian system is becoming a nascent form of global welfare for people suffering from war, chronic food insecurity and natural disasters. Humanitarian aid is now an internationally organized safety net for many millions of people living in extreme situations as terrorized civilians, displaced people and refugees, or the victims of natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. The humanitarian system has expanded in a relatively improvised fashion, and contains hundreds of different and competing moving parts. Its many agencies may share the same strategic humanitarian goals but they each have their own organizational interests that compete for funds, profile and operational terrain.[31]

The EU has begun to invest in these terms with its two initiatives: SHARE for the Horn of Africa worth Euro 270m in 2012/13 and AGIR for West Africa worth Euro 503m in 2012/13.21 The British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) has also launched BRACED, a fund for NGOs to support people’s resilience to extreme climate change in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This fund is targeting 5 million people and seeking applications from NGO-led consortia.[32] This resilience strategy needs help if it is to inspire genuine innovations in processes, products and paradigms for building resilience. Without such innovations, these new funds, and those that follow, will be a lost opportunity in which NGOs simply bundle up old project types in new resilience wrappers.[33]

Conclusion

Currently, the global community faces many challenges such as climate change, rapid population growth, urbanization, and water shortages. At the same time, there have global economic shifts, new actors engaged in humanitarian action, and tremendous improvements in technology. Given these challenges and opportunities, we need to improve how we respond to disasters and conflicts.[34]

In the last ten years, the funding requirements of inter-agency appeals have increased by 600 percent from $3 billion in 2004 to $17.9 billion in 2014. However, inter-agency appeal funding received in 2013 $8.3 billion. In the same amount of time, the number of people targeted for assistance has more than doubled. The crisis in Syria is one of the worst on record given the sheer size of damage in the country and the effect on the region. The Syria Response Plan was 209 times bigger than the average appeal. More than 150 agencies and aid groups are working with local partners and national authorities to provide relief to the Syrian people in the region. In 2013, African countries like DRC, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, these countries had previously received approximately 60 percent of appeal funding, though Syria response plans received 38 percent $3.1 billion.[35]

According to OCHA, crises are longer and more expensive. The crises in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria will remain top humanitarian priorities next year. The sharp rise in the number of people affected by conflict and of forced to flee and became dependent on humanitarian aid for their survival is expected to continue. The Global appeal for 2015 is $16.4 billion to help 57 million people in 22 countries. The UN and its humanitarian partners have launched an appeal for US$16.4 billion to help at least 57.5 million people affected by crises in 22 countries in 2015. As UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos explained, “Over 80 percent of those we intend to help are in countries mired in conflict where brutality and violence have had a devastating impact on their lives…But the rising scale of need is outpacing our capacity to respond.”[36]

As far as the EU’s preparedness is concerned one cannot be overly optimistic. In November 2013, after the European Parliament voted through the Multiannual Financial Framework which determines the European Union’s (EU) common budget and priorities over the next seven-year period, the so-called CONCORD Report was published. The 2014-2020 period is the first budgetary framework negotiated under the Lisbon Treaty, giving additional power to the European Parliament. The Parliament’s vote marks the beginning of the final stages of the process leading to the ratification of the EU budget for the seven years. The CONCORD report, ‘EU Budget 2014-2020: Fit for the Fight against Global Poverty?’ recognises that the MFF is not just a financial tool but a key tool in strengthening the EU’s place as a global development actor. The 2014-2020 period will cover both the 2015 deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the EU’s target to spend 0.7 percent of collective GNI on development aid, making it a crucial budget for the EU’s relations with developing countries. And yet the budget available for external action comes up short of what is needed to fulfil the many priorities and global challenges. But in 2014 the situation has dramatically deteriorated when the European Union’s humanitarian aid and development aid programmes were compromised by EU debts, and budget cuts forecast for 2015. Since 2011, the European budget has been amassing unpaid bills, which continue to rise in value. The budget by the end of 2014 was 26 billion euro in arrears, €23 billion of which are owed to the cohesion policy. This impacts the whole spectrum of European politics.

Unpaid bills in the budget category of “Global Europe”, which includes development aid and humanitarian aid, have reached 1 billion euro. The lack of funds has also forced the EU to roll back some humanitarian aid programmes. Some projects in the Sahel region of Africa, the Horn of Africa and Haiti have been postponed,” the budget Commissioner announced.

The lack of funding will also affect other humanitarian aid programmes. The impact of the EU’s current constraints on humanitarian aid is already being felt by the beneficiary countries. For example, aid to Iraqi refugees in Jordan has been reduced. NGOs are signalling that food security operations in Somalia and Ethiopia are being delayed and that their priority level is being reduced,” she added. The strain on the 2014 budget is in danger of becoming even worse in 2015, as member states have proposed significant cuts to the European Commission budget. These cuts would leave the EU unable to pay its currently outstanding bills and those that would arise in the course of the 2015 budget. The cut of 2.1 billion euros, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the total approved expenditure for 2015, will affect a broad range of European projects, but spending on development aid and humanitarian aid will probably be the hardest hit by these proposed cuts. The total budget of the section “Global Europe” could be reduced by 10 percent, representing €384 million. The budget of EuropeAid, dedicated specifically to development aid, may lose 192 million euros; 12 percent of its funding[37].

Globally the next two and a half years offers social entrepreneurs a real opportunity to team up with affected populations and humanitarian agencies to engage in humanitarian innovation. The new products, processes, positions and paradigms that emerge can then be presented in the UN consultation process and get traction through the Summit.[38]


(*)Authors: Attila Marján, Ilona Szuhai

Attila Marján, Head of EU Department at the National University of Public Service, Budapest
Ilona Szuhai, Assistant Lecturer and Doctoral Student at the National University of Public Service, Budapest

 

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Attila Marján: Europe’s Destiny − The Old Lady and the Bull. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. 393pp. ISBN 978-0-8018-9547-0

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Dr Hugo Slim: Innovation in Humanitarian Action. 16pp. http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Skoll_Centre/Docs/essay-slim.pdf. (Accessed: 22 November 2014)

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Euractive. http://www.euractiv.com/sections/development-policy/aid-programmes-hit-hard-european-budget-woes-309169. (Accessed: 11 January 2015)

Human Security Report Project, Human Security Report 2013: The Decline in Global Violence: Evidence, Explanation, and Contestation, (Vancouver: Human Security Press, 2013). 127pp. ISSN 1557 914X ISBN 978-0-9917111-1-6. (Accessed: 22 September 2014)

Humanitarian Crises in 2013: Assessing the Global Response http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/support-us/events/humanitarian-crises-2013-assessing-global-response. (Accessed: 28 August 2014)

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World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2014 – highlights. 2pp. www.unocha.org/data-and-trends-2014. (Accessed: 22 September 2014)

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http://humanitariancoalition.ca/. (Accessed: 14 December 2014)

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http://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org/whs_about. (Accessed: 14 December 2014)

 


[1] http://ec.europa.eu/echo/en/news/world-humanitarian-summit-opens-online-consultation-european-region

[2] http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/05/07/Jemilah-Mahmood-to-head-UN-humanitarian-summit-secretariat/

[3] http://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org/whs_about

[4] WHS 2016 Concept Note, Draft September 2013. p. 1.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Dr Hugo Slim: Innovation in Humanitarian Action, p. 15. http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Skoll_Centre/Docs/essay-slim.pdf

[7] http://humanitariancoalition.ca/

[8] Elisabeth Ferris: Too many humanitarian crises not enough global resources. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/commentary/too-many-humanitarian-crises-not-enough-global-resources.

[9] Human Security Report Project, Human Security Report 2013: The Decline in Global Violence: Evidence, Explanation, and Contestation, (Vancouver: Human Security Press, 2013). p. 119.

[10] Ibid., p. 49.

[11] Ibid., p. 24.

[12] Ibid., p. 15.

[13] Ibid., p. 49.

[14] See more on this in: Attila Marján: Europe’s Destiny − The Old Lady and the Bull. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

[15] Human Security Report Project, Human Security Report 2013, cit. op. p. 86.

[16] Ibid., p. 86.

[17] Ibid., p. 87.

[18] Ibid., p. 94.

[19] Ibid., p. 33.

[20] Ibid., p. 34.

[21] Ibid., p. 95.

[22] Now, European Commission Vice-President.

[23] Elisabeth Ferris: Too many humanitarian crises not enough global resources. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/commentary/too-many-humanitarian-crises-not-enough-global-resources.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Humanitarian Crises in 2013: Assessing the Global Response http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/support-us/events/humanitarian-crises-2013-assessing-global-response

[26] AID POLICY: Humanitarianism in a changing world. http://www.irinnews.org/report/95237/aid-policy-humanitarianism-in-a-changing-world

[27] Slim, op. cit., p. 2.

[28] http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/aid-to-developing-countries-rebounds-in-2013-to-reach-an-all-time-high.htm

[29] Development Assistance Commitee

[30] Slim, op. cit., p. 2.

[31] Ibid., p. 3.

[32] Ibid., p. 22.

[33] Ibid., p. 9.

[34] http://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org/whs_about

[35] World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2014 – highlights. www.unocha.org/data-and-trends-2014.

[36] http://www.unocha.org/top-stories/all-stories/2015-global-appeal-164-billion-help-57-million-people-22-countries

[37] Euractive. http://www.euractiv.com/sections/development-policy/aid-programmes-hit-hard-european-budget-woes-309169

[38] Slim, op. cit., p. 16.

Hungarian economist, PhD in international relations. Based in Brussels for fourteen years as diplomat and member of EU commissioners’ cabinets. Two times visiting fellow of Wilson Center in Washington DC. University professor and author of books on EU affairs and geopolitics. Head of department, National University of Public Administration, Budapest.

Economy

Iran has an integral role to play in Russian-South Asian connectivity

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Iran is geostrategically positioned to play an integral role in Russian-South Asian connectivity. President Putin told the Valdai Club during its annual meeting in October 2019 that “there is one more prospective route, the Arctic – Siberia – Asia.

The idea is to connect ports along the Northern Sea Route with ports of the Pacific and Indian oceans via roads in East Siberia and central Eurasia.” This vision, which forms a crucial part of his country’s “Greater Eurasian Partnership”, can be achieved through the official North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) and tentative W-CPEC+ projects that transit through the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The first one refers to the creation of a new trade route from Russia to India through Azerbaijan and Iran, while the second concerns the likely expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC, the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative [BRI]) westward through Iran and largely parallel to the NSTC. W-CPEC+ can also continue towards Turkey and onward to the EU, but that branch is beyond the scope of the present analysis. The NSTC’s terminal port is the Indian-backed Chabahar, but delays in fully developing its infrastructure might lead to Bandar Abbas being used as a backup in the interim.

CPEC’s Chinese-backed terminal port of Gwadar is in close proximity to Chabahar, thus presenting the opportunity of eventually pairing the two as sister cities, especially in the event that rumored negotiations between China and Iran result in upwards of several hundred billion dollars worth of investments like some have previously reported. The combination of Russian, Indian, and Chinese infrastructure investments in Iran would greatly improve the country’s regional economic competitiveness and enable it to fulfill its geostrategic destiny of facilitating connectivity between Russia and South Asia.

What’s most intriguing about this ambitious vision is that Iran is proving to the rest of the world that it isn’t “isolated” like the U.S. and its closest allies thought that it would be as a result of their policy of so-called “maximum pressure” against it in recent years. While it’s true that India has somewhat stepped away from its previously strategic cooperation with Iran out of fear that it’ll be punished by “secondary sanctions” if it continued its pragmatic partnership with the Islamic Republic, it’s worthwhile mentioning that Chabahar curiously secured a U.S. sanctions waiver.

While the American intent behind that decision is unclear, it might have been predicated on the belief that the Iranian-facilitated expansion of Indian influence into Central Asia via Chabahar might help to “balance” Chinese influence in the region. It could also have simply been a small but symbolic “concession” to India in order not to scare it away from supporting the U.S. anti-Chinese containment strategy. It’s difficult to tell what the real motive was since American-Indian relations are currently complicated by Washington’s latest sanctions threats against New Delhi in response to its decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defense systems.

Nevertheless, even in the worst-case scenario that Indian investment and infrastructural support for Iran can’t be taken for granted in the coming future, that still doesn’t offset the country’s geostrategic plans. Russia could still use the NSTC to connect with W-CPEC and ultimately the over 200+ million Pakistani marketplaces. In theory, Russian companies in Pakistan could also re-export their home country’s NSTC-imported goods to neighboring India, thereby representing a pragmatic workaround to New Delhi’s potential self-interested distancing from that project which could also provide additional much-needed tax revenue for Islamabad.

Iran must therefore do its utmost to ensure Russia’s continued interest in the NSTC regardless of India’s approach to the project. Reconceptualizing the NSTC from its original Russian-Indian connectivity purpose to the much broader one of Russian-South Asian connectivity could help guarantee Moscow’s support. In parallel with that, Tehran would do well to court Beijing’s investments along W-CPEC+’s two branch corridors to Azerbaijan/Russia and Turkey/EU. Any success on any of these fronts, let alone three of them, would advance Iran’s regional interests by solidifying its integral geo-economic role in 21st-century Eurasia.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Economy

The phenomenon of land grabbing by multinationals

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Since 2012 the United Nations has adopted voluntary guidelines for land and forest management to combat land grabbing. But only a few people know about the guidelines, which aim to protect small farmers particularly in Third World countries.

When multinational investors buy up fields for their huge plantations, the residents lose their livelihood and means of support and will soon only be sleeping in their villages. If they are lucky, they might find work with relatives in another village. Many also try their luck in the city, but poverty and unemployment are high. What remains are depopulated villages and the huge palm oil plantations that have devoured farmland. People can no longer go there to hunt and grow plants or get firewood. The land no longer belongs to them!

Land grabbingis the process whereby mostly foreign investors deprive local farmers or fishermen of their fields, lakes and rivers. Although it has been widely used throughout history, land grabbing – as used in the 21st century – mainly refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the global food price crisis of 2007-2008.

From 2000 until 2019 one hundred million hectares of land have been sold or leased to foreign investors and the list of the most affected countries can be found here below:

Such investment may also make sense for the development of a country, but it must not deprive people of their rights: local people are starving while food is being produced and turned into biofuels for export right before their eyes.

In 2012, after three years of discussion, the UN created an instrument to prevent such land grabbing: the VGGTs (Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security:

Detailed minimum standards for investment are established, e.g. the participation of affected people or how to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples and prevent corruption. Formally, the document provides a significant contribution to all people fighting for their rights.

The document, however, is quite cryptic. The guidelines should be simplified and explained. Only in this way can activists, but also farmers and fishermen, become aware of their rights.

Others doubt that much can be achieved through these guidelines because they are voluntary. After all, the UN has little or no say in the matter and can do no more than that. If governments implemented them, they would apply them as they will.

In Bolivia, for example, there are already laws that are supposed to prevent land grabbing. In the Amazon, however, Brazilian and Argentinian companies are buying up forests to grow soya and sugar cane, often with the approval and agreement of corrupt government officials. Further guidelines would probably be of little use.

At most, activists already use the guidelines to lobby their governments. Together with other environmental and human rights activists, they set up networks: through local radio stations and village meetings, they inform people of the fact that they right to their land.

Nevertheless, in many countries in Africa and elsewhere, there is a lack of documentation proving land ownership. Originally, tribal leaders vocally distributed rights of use. But today’s leaders are manipulated to pressure villagers to sell their land.

The biggest investors are Indians and Europeans: they are buying up the land to grow sugar cane and palm oil plantations. This phenomenon has been going on since 2008: at that time – as noted above – the world food crisis drove up food prices and foreign investors, but also governments, started to invest in food and biofuels.

Investment inland, which has been regarded as safe since the well-known financial crisis, must also be taken into account. Recently Chinese companies have also been buying up thousands of hectares of land.

In some parts of Africa, only about 6% of land is cultivated for food purposes, while on the remaining areas there are palm oil plantations. Once the plantations grow two or three metres high, they have a devastating effect on monocultures that rely on biodiversity, because of the huge areas they occupy. There is also environmental pollution due to fertilisers: in a village, near a plantation run by a Luxembourg company, many people have suffered from diarrhoea and some elderly villagers even died.

Consequently, the implementation of the VGGTs must be made binding as soon as possible. But with an organisation like the United Nations, how could this happen?

It is not only the indigenous peoples or the local groups of small farmers that are being deprived of everything. The common land used is also being lost, as well as many ecosystems that are still intact: wetlands are being drained, forests cleared and savannas turned into agricultural deserts. New landowners fence off their areas and deny access to the original owners. In practice, this is the 21st century equivalent of the containment of monastery land in Europe that began in the Middle Ages.

The vast majority of contracts are concentrated in poorer countries with weak institutions and land rights, where many people are starving. There, investors compete with local farmers. The argument to which the advocates of land grabbing hold -i.e. that it is mainly uncultivated land that needs to be reclaimed – is refuted. On the contrary, investors prefer well-developed and cultivated areas that promise high returns. However, they do not improve the supply of local population.

Foreign agricultural enterprises prefer to develop the so-called flexible crops, i.e. plants such as the aforementioned oil palm, soya and sugar cane, which, depending on the market situation, can be sold as biofuel or food.

But there is more! If company X of State Y buys food/fuel producing areas, it is the company that sells to its State Y and not the host State Z that, instead, assigns its future profits derived from international State-to-State trade to the aforementioned multinational or state-owned company of State Y.

Furthermore, there is almost no evidence of land investment creating jobs, as most projects were export-oriented. The British aid organisation Oxfam confirms that many land acquisitions took place in areas where food was being grown for the local population. Since local smallholders are generally weak and poorly educated, they can hardly defend themselves against the grabbing of the land they use. Government officials sell or lease it, often without even paying compensation.

Land grabbing is also present in ‘passive’ Europe. Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria are affected, but also the territories of Eastern Germany. Funds and agricultural enterprises from “active” and democratic Europe, i.e. the West, and the Arab Gulf States are the main investors.

We might think that the governments of the affected countries would have the duty to protect their own people from such expropriations. Quite the reverse. They often support land grabbing. Obviously, corruption is often involved. In many countries, however, the agricultural sector has been criminally neglected in the past and multinationals are taking advantage of this under the pretext of remedying this situation.

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Economy

No let-up in Indian farmers’ protest due to subconscious fear of “crony capitalism”

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The writer has analysed why the farmers `now or never’ protest has persisted despite heavy odds. He is of the view that the farmers have the subconscious fear that the “crony capitalism” would eliminate traditional markets, abolish market support price and grab their landholdings. Already the farmers have been committing suicides owing to debt burden, poor monthly income (Rs. 1666 a month) and so on.”Crony capitalism” implies nexus between government and businesses that thrives on sweetheart deals, licences and permits eked through tweaking rules and regulations.

Stalemate between the government and the farmers’ unions is unchanged despite 11 rounds of talks. The farmers view the new farm laws as a ploy to dispossess them of their land holdings and give a free hand to tycoons to grab farmers’ holdings, though small.

Protesters allege the new laws were framed in secret understanding with tycoons. The farmers have a reason to abhor the rich businesses. According to an  a  January 2020 Oxfam India’s richest one  per cent hold over four times the wealth of 953 million people who make up the poorest 70 per cent  of the country’s population. India’s top nine billionaires’ Inc one is equivalent to wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population. The opposition has accused the government of “crony capitalism’.

Government has tried every tactic in its tool- kit to becloud the movement (sponsored y separatist Sikhs, desecrated Republic Day by hoisting religious flags at the Red ford, and so on). The government even shrugged off the protest by calling it miniscule and unrepresentative of 16.6 million farmers and 131,000 traders registered until May 2020. The government claims that it has planned to build 22,000 additional mandis (markets) 2021-22 in addition to already-available over 1,000 mandis.

Unruffled by government’s arguments, the opposition continues to accuse the government of being “suit-boot ki sarkar” and an ardent supporter of “crony capitalism” (Ambani and Adani). Modi did many favours to the duo. For instance they were facilitated to join hands with foreign companies to set up defence-equipment projects in India. BJP-ruled state governments facilitated the operation of mines in collaboration with the Ambani group  just years after the Supreme Court had cancelled the allotment of 214 coal blocks for captive mining (MS Nileema, `Coalgate 2.0’, The Caravan March 1, 2018). Modi used Adani’s aircraft in March, April and May 2014 for election campaigning across the country.

“Crony capitalism” is well defined in the English oxford Living Dictionaries, Cambridge and Merriam –Webster. Merriam-Webster defines “crony capitalism” as “an economic system in which individuals and businesses with political connections and influence are favored (as through tax breaks, grants, and other forms of government assistance) in ways seen as suppressing open competition in a free market

If there’s one”.

Cambridge dictionary defines the term as “ an economic system in which family members and friends of government officials and business leaders are given unfair advantages in the form of jobs, loans, etc.:government-owned firms engaged in crony capitalism”.

A common point in all the definitions is undue favours (sweetheart contracts, licences, etc) to select businesses. It is worse than nepotism as the nepotism has a limited scope and life cycle. But, “crony capitalism” becomes institutionalized.

Modi earned the title “suit-boot ki sarkar” when a non-resident Indian, Rameshkumar Bhikabhai virani gifted him a Rs. 10 lac suit. To save his face, Modi later auctioned the suit on February 20, 2015. The suit fetched price of Rs, 4, 31, 31311 or nearly four hundred times the original price. Modi donated the proceeds of auction to a fund meant for cleaning the River Ganges. `It was subsequently alleged that the Surat-based trader Laljibhai Patel who bought the suit had been favoured by being allotted government land for building  a private sports club (BJP returns ‘favour’, Modi suit buyer to get back land, Tribune June21, 2015).

Miffed by opposition’s vitriolic opposition, Ambani’s $174 billion conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. Categorically denied collusion with Modi’s government earlier this month. Reliance clarified that it had never done any contract farming or acquired farm land, and harboured no plans to do so in future. It also vowed to ensure its suppliers will pay government-mandated minimum prices to farmers. The Adani Group also had clarified last month that it did not buy food grains from farmers or influence their prices.

Modi-Ambani-Adani nexus

Like Modi, both Adani and Ambani hail from the western Indian state of Gujarat, just, who served as the state’s chief for over a decade. Both the tycoons are reputed to be Modi’s henchmen. Their industry quickly aligns its business strategies to Modi’s nation-building initiatives. For instance, Adani created a rival regional industry lobby and helped kick off a biannual global investment summit in Gujarat in 2003 that boosted Modi’s pro-business credentials. During 2020, Ambani raised record US$27 billion in equity investments for his technology and retail businesses from investors including Google and Face book Inc. He wants to convert these units into a powerful local e-commerce rival to Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Inc. The Adani group, which humbly started off as a commodities trader in 1988, has grown rapidly to become India’s top private-sector port operator and power generator.

Parallel with the USA

Ambani and Adani are like America’s Rockefellers and Vanderbilt’s in the USA’s Gilded Age in the second half of the 19th century (James Crabtree, The Billionaire Raj: a Journey through India’s New Gilded Age).

Modi government’s tutelage of Ambanis and Adanis is an open secret. Kerala challenged Adani’s bid for an airport lease is. A state minister said last year that Adani winning the bid was “an act of brazen cronyism.”

Threat of elimination of traditional markets

Farmers who could earlier sell grains and other products only at neighbouring government-regulated wholesale markets can now sell them across the country, including the big food processing companies and retailers such as WalMart.

The farmers fear the government will eventually abolish the wholesale markets, where growers were assured of a minimum support price for staples like wheat and rice, leaving small farmers at the mercy of corporate agri-businesses.

Is farmers’ fear genuine?

The farmers have a logical point. Agriculture yield less profit than industry. As such, even the USA heavily subsidies its agriculture. US farmers got more than $22 billion in government payments in 2019, the highest level of farm subsidies in the last 14 years, and the corporate sector paid for it. The Indian government is reluctant to give a permanent legal guarantee for the MSP. In contrast, the US and Western Europe buy directly from the farmers and build their butter and cheese mountains. Even the prices of farm products at the retail and wholesale levels are controlled by the capitalist government. In short, not the principles of capitalization but well-worked-out welfare measures are adopted to sustain the farm sector in the advanced West.

Threat of monopsonic exploitation

The farmers would suffer double exploitation under a monopsony (more sellers less buyers) at the hands of corporate sharks.  They would pay less than the minimum support price to the producers. Likewise, consumers will have to pay more because the public distribution system is likely to be undermined as mandi (regulated wholesale market) procurement is would eventually cease to exist.

Plight of the Indian farmer

The heavily indebted Indian farmer has average income of only about Rs. 20000 a year (about Rs. 1666 a month). Thousands of farmers commit suicide by eating pesticides to get rid of their financial difficulties.

A study by India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development found that more than half of farmers in India are in debt. More than 20,000 people involved in the farming sector died by suicide from 2018-2019, with several studies suggesting that being in debt was a key factor.

More than 86 per cent of India’s cultivated farmland is owned by small farmers who own less than two hectares of land each (about two sports fields). These farmers lack acumen to bargain with bigger companies. Farmers fear the Market Support Price will disappear as corporations start buying their produce.

Concluding remarks

Modi sarkar is unwilling to yield to the farmers’ demand for fear of losing his strongman image and Domino Effect’. If he yields on say, the matter of the farm laws, he may have to give in on the Citizenship Amendment Act also. Fund collection in some foreign countries has started to sustain the movement. As such, the movement may not end anytime soon. Unless Modi yields early, he would suffer voter backlash in coming elections. The farm sector contributes only about 15 per cent of India’s $2.9 trillion economy. But, it employs around half its 1.3 billion people. 

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