The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.
A Maternity ward in Port Loko, Sierra Leone. Credit: Mohamed Fofanah/IPS.
- The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which has played a key role in ensuring maternal health and promoting reproductive rights of millions of women world-wide, is expected to suffer over $140 million in funding cuts by Western donors this year.
Arthur Erken, Director of the Division of Communications and Strategic Partnerships at UNFPA, told IPS some key donors are reducing contributions not only to UNFPA but also to the entire international development community.
Others have indicated their cuts are partially motivated by the cost related to integrating refugees into their host communities, he added.
Regardless of the reason, Erken said, UNFPA will continue to demonstrate to donors that support for UNFPA is a good value investment in the health and rights of millions of women and young people around the world.
âWe hope the recent downturn in contributions is temporary. Funding cuts to UNFPA, a relatively small organization with a focused mandate, are not easily absorbed as perhaps with larger entities, so we feel it is our duty to communicate to stakeholders the risks and impact of cuts,â he declared.
Traditionally, the UNFPAâs five major donors are: Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland.
Between 2014 and 2015, Sweden has reduced its voluntary contributions from $70.3 million to $57.4 million; Norway $69.1 million to $55.6 million; Finland $60.4 million to $38.0 million; the Netherlands $48.4 million to $39.6 million; and Denmark $41.9 million to $39.5 million.
Judging by current trends, UNFPA expects a further downward slide when final numbers are tallied by the end of 2016âperhaps beyond the $140 million cuts anticipated so far.
Purnima Mane, a former President of Pathfinder International focusing on reproductive health and family planning, told IPS despite overwhelming evidence that prevention of maternal deathâ and access to contraception and addressing gender inequalities and other issues affecting women’s and girls’ livesâ is a wise investment, development aid gets cut, time and again, when donor governments face more immediate challenges closer to home.
- This month the Indian ministry of home affairs released the draft of the proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016. Still in its preliminary form, it has created a furore both at home and abroad.
The bill aims to regulate `the acquisition, dissemination, publication, and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty, and integrity of India`, and proposes severe penalties for the `incorrect` depiction of the `territory` of India by persons `within` India or Indians living abroad.
The bill represents a broad undermining of international law and a violation of the bilateral arrangement vis-Ã -vis Kashmir.
Pakistan`s ambassador to the UN, Maliha Lodhi, has raised concerns with the secretary general and Security Council that the bill seeks to unilaterally depict the disputed territories of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) as being within Indian territory, and to punish those representingthe correctscenario.
The Line of Control (LoC) is the current demarcation of territorial control within Kashmir. First established under the 1949 Karachi Agreement, it was further reified in the 1972 Shimla Declaration under which Pakistan and India agreed that the `line of control resulting from the ceasefire of Dec 17, 1971, shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognised position of either side. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations` It further states that `[pjending the final settlement […J neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organisation, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peace and harmonious relations`.
The LoC is reproduced in UN maps, along with a legend describing it as agreed upon under the Shimla accord, with J&K`s final status remaining in dispute. While official maps published by the Survey of Pakistan do not reproduce the LoC, they correctly depict J&K as disputed. By contrast, the official Survey of India`s maps incorrectly depict the entirety of J&K as well as Gilgit-Baltistan as Indian territories.
Pakistan ought to adopt the UN`s practice of marl(ing the LOC on its own official maps with a legend unequivocally declaring the status of J&K as being undecided. Rather than compromising the Kashmiri cause, this would, instead, clearly state the ground realities: that the LoC exists and shall be recognised until such time as the territorial status of J&K can be resolved. This is critical; under international law, while official maps might not conclusively resolve a boundary dispute between two states, they nonetheless have probative value, and can be relied uponby states when attempting to advance their positions.
The proposed bill is yet another attempt by India to unilaterally assimilate J&K contravening international law. That the territorial status of Kashmir is unresolved is not in dispute; however, India, by its recent actions, has sought to force a resolution of the situation to its own benefit.
The attempt to construct a fence in Indiaheld Kashmir also violating international law is an example of India`s unsettling tendency to chip away at provisions of previous agreements. This latest attempt to undermine recognition of Kashmir`s status is another instance of India violating the Shimla pact in spirit and in operative text.
The accord is intended to maintain the status quo until a permanent solution is devised.
The bill seel(s to unilaterally alter this.
From a historical perspective, the Karachi Agreement was a multilateral one, mediatedby the UN; the Shimla pact concluded as a bilateral arrangement, with India choosing to expel the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan and maintaining that the Kashmir issue existed wholly between the two countries. Now it seems India is taking steps to force a permanent resolution one entirely for its own benefit, at the expenseof the Kashmiri people, and in violation of international law.
Kashmiris` right to self-determination has been recognised under international law and sanctified by numerous UN resolutions.
However, under this bill those living in India-held Kashmir can face criminal penalties for portraying that J&K`s territorial status remains unresolved, or be forced to accept the version of `truth`imposed by India all of which runs counter to self-determination andits peacefulfurtherance.
Under the international law for boundary delimitations, the doctrine of `acquiescence can come into play: if one state party knowingly does not raise objections to the other`s illegal act, it can be seen as having acquiesced to the other party`s illegalities.
Pakistan should strongly protest the bill which goes beyond the scope of domestic lawmaking into the realm of international law to ensure that India does not subsequently claim Pakistan acquiesced to its position.
Sikander Shah is former legal adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and law faculty at Lums.
Abid Rizvi is an expert on international law.
This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan
- In a recent interview with BBC, India’s minister of water resources Uma Bharti unveiled her government’s massive plan to divert major rivers including the Ganges and Brahmaputra. According to the Guardian, the project is just waiting for a rubber stamp from the environment ministry of India. While we do not want to be alarmists, it is hard to ignore the fact that, if implemented, the project will rob Bangladesh, a riverine country, of her very lifelines.
The project involves channeling water away from the east and south of India to the drought-prone areas in the north and west through rerouting major river courses. This means digging canals everywhere to link rivers defying the ecology of the rivers. Bangladesh has been formed as the greatest deltaic plain at the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers and their tributaries. So any diversion of the natural flow of the rivers will be like redrawing the geography of the area.
The project is based on an overestimation: diverting water from where it is surplus to dry areas. Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) told the BBC, “There has been no scientific study yet on which places have more water and which ones less”. In the dry season there is hardly enough water in the rivers to meet the minimum demands of the river-adjacent areas. Where is the surplus water for diversion? A ruling BJP member Murli Manohar Joshi aptly said that the plan would be like transferring wealth âfrom one beggar to another beggar.”
What basically goes wrong with the concept of the project is that it sees a river only as a source of water, not as an entire ecosystem. Any intervention in the ecosystem affects the whole community and wildlife dependent on the river. Thakkar accused the Indian water authority of disregarding this very fact. According to SANDRP, 1.5 million people will be displaced and 104,000 hectares of prime forested land will be submerged while the effects on other life forms are unpredictable. On our side, we are clueless because our water ministry does not have any substantial study on the possible consequences of the river linking plan. When asked about his reaction to this unilateral move by India, the state minister for water resources urged the Indian government, in his habitural manner, “to take Bangladesh’s water needs into consideration”. It seems our government was not even aware of the progress of the project that could spell disaster for Bangladesh.
Afghanistan is both a fragile country and a least developed country. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS
- The world’s poorest countries are making development gains, yet challenges remain, particularly for so-called fragile countries affected by conflict or other disasters.
TheÂ UN Population Fund (UNFPA) published a report this week ahead of a UN meetingÂ to review progress made in developing countries over the past five years. Known as the midterm review of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) the meeting will take place inÂ Turkey on 27 to 29 May.
Chief of UNFPAâs Population and Development Branch and one of the authors of the report, Rachel Snow told IPS that there have been many âbig positive callouts,â especially in the area of health.
Since 1990, mortality rates of infants and children under five have decreased by more than half. In countries such as Cambodia and Bhutan, the under-five mortality rate decreased by over 75 percent, signifying better access to health and nutrition.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.
- It is now generally agreed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has served US foreign policy objectives well. For this purpose, the Peterson Institute of International Economics (PIIE) has provided the fig-leaf for the empireâs new clothes with exaggerated projections of supposed growth gains from the TPP.
The only US government study, by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, also uses a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model to find modest growth gains from TPP tariff reductions. Needless to say, the PIIE studies have nothing to say about the more pessimistic findings of US government analysis.
Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to âblacklistâ any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman
- The humanitarian clock is now ticking away faster than ever, with over 130 million of the worldâs most vulnerable people in dire need of assistance. But the most powerful, richest countriesâthose who have largely contributed to manufacturing it and can therefore stop it, continue to pretend not hearing nor seeing the signals.
The World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, May 23-24) represented an unprecedented effort by all United Nations bodies who, along with member countries, hundreds of non-governmental aid organisations, and the most concerned stakeholders, conducted a three-year long consultation process involving over 23,000 stakeholders, that converged in Istanbul to portray the realÂ½ current human drama.
Families and health workers defy the Taliban's ban on oral polio vaccines (OPV). Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS
- While long-awaited new vaccines for malaria and dengue may finally be within reach, many of the worldâs existing vaccines have remainedÂ unreachable for many of theÂ people whoÂ need them most.
The recent outbreak of yellow fever in Angola shows how deadly infectious diseases can return when gaps in vaccination programs grow.