The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.
Mourad Ahmia is the Executive Secretary of the Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations
- When the Group of 77 commemorated its 50th anniversary recently, Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency was not far behind.
Established in 1964 as the largest news agency of the global South, IPS has been the voice of both developing nations and the Group of 77 for the past 50 years.
Mourad Ahmia. Courtesy of the G-77
Both are linked together by a single political commitment: to protect and represent the interests of the developing world.
The 50th anniversary celebration of the G-77 and IPS represents an opportunity to enhance and strengthen the joint partnership in projecting and promoting the concerns of the countries of the South.
For five decades the agency has, in its own way, provided technical help to delegations of the South in promoting the global development agenda of the South.
The integral role played by the Group of 77 in economic diplomacy and projecting the development interests of the global South is a testimony to its continued relevance in the ongoing global development dialogue.
IPSâs priceless contribution in that endeavor translates into promoting a new platform for global governance through critical information and communication.
IPS supported the publication for many years of the first ever G-77 newsletter: âThe Journal of the Group of 77,â as well as publishing special editions of Terra Viva on various occasions, particularly the celebration of anniversaries of the Group of 77 and the South Summits.
Over 100,000 people in the north Indian state of Kashmir have been left homeless after a deadly flood on Sep. 7, 2014. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IP
- Rafiqa Kazim and her husband Kazim Ali had a simple dream â to live a modest life, educate their four children and repay the bank-loan that the couple took out to sustain their small business.
Until early last month, their plan was moving along steadily but now Kazim says they have âhit a roadblockâ, which took the form of deadly floods that swept through the north Indian Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir on Sep. 7, killing 281 people and destroying crops worth millions of dollars.
According to government estimates the overall damage now stands at some one trillion rupees (16 billion dollars), in what experts are calling the worst ever recorded flood in Kashmirâs history. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said this was the first time the force was called upon to respond to such a severe flood in an urban area.
It has been over a month, but families like the Kazims are only just starting to come to terms with the long-term impacts of the disaster as they move slowly out of makeshift camps, shelters and relativesâ homes to start picking up the pieces of their lives.
Making her way through the wreckage of her home in Ganderpora, 17 km northwest of Srinagar, Kazim points out the damage to their house and one acre of agricultural land. But in truth, her mind is elsewhere â on the 10X10-foot carpet that she and another weaver had been working on for over two months.
For Kazim, this carpet represents months of labour, and the promise of grand profits for a woman of her economic background: in a single year, she can earn up to 200,000 rupees (about 3,350 dollars) from carpet weaving and embroidery. In a country where the average annual income is about 520 dollars, according to the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), this is a tidy sum.
âAs the announcement came on the community address system that flood waters were entering the village, our first instinct was to save ourselves and get to a safer place. In the process, we forgot everything else including the loom, the carpet, as well as our floor mats and bedding,â she explained.
Hajira Begam, a 49-year-old flood victim, rigs up a clay cover for an electric coil that will serve as her stove in the absence of a proper home and kitchen. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IP
- Pensioner Jyparkul Karaseyitova says she cannot afford meat anymore. At her local bazaar in Kyrgyzstanâs capital, Bishkek, the price for beef has jumped nine percent in the last six weeks. And she is not alone feeling the pain of rising inflation.
Butcher Aigul Shalpykova says her sales have fallen 40 percent in the last month. âIf I usually sell 400 kilos of meat every month, in September I sold only 250 kilos,â she complained.
A sharp decline in the value of Russiaâs ruble since early September is rippling across Central Asia, where economies are dependent on transfers from workers in Russia, and on imports too. As local currencies follow the ruble downward, the costs of imported essentials rise, reminding Central Asians just how dependent they are on their former colonial master.
The ruble is down 20 percent against the dollar since the start of the year, in part due to Western sanctions on Moscow for its role in the Ukraine crisis. The fall accelerated in September as the price of oil â Russiaâs main export â dropped to four-year lows. The feeble ruble has helped push down currencies around the region, sometimes by double-digit figures.
In Bishkek, food prices have increased by 20 to 25 percent over the past 12 months, says Zaynidin Jumaliev, the chief for Kyrgyzstanâs northern regions at the Economics Ministry, who partially blames the rising cost of Russian-sourced fuel.
In Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, remittances from the millions of workers in Russia have started to fall. In recent years, these cash transfers have contributed the equivalent of about 30 percent to Kyrgyzstanâs economy and about 50 percent to Tajikistanâs. As the ruble depreciates, however, it purchases fewer dollars to send home.
Transfers contracted in value during the first quarter of 2014 for the first time since 2009, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said last month, âprimarily dueâ to the downturn in Russia. The EBRD added that any further drop âmay significantly dampen consumer demand.â
âA weaker ruble weighs on [foreign] workersâ salaries [â¦] which brings some pain to these countries,â said Oleg Kouzmin, Russia and CIS economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow.
This month the International Monetary Fund said it expects consumer prices in Kyrgyzstan to grow eight percent in 2014 and 8.9 percent in 2015, compared with 6.6 percent last year. Kazakhstan and Tajikistan should see similar increases. A Dushanbe resident says he went on vacation for three weeks in July and when he returned food prices were approximately 10 percent higher. In Uzbekistan, the IMF said it expects inflation âwill likely remain in the double digits.”
The one country unlikely to feel the pressure is Turkmenistan, which is sheltered from the marketâs moods because it sells its chief export â natural gas â to China at a fixed price.
- As Juan Evo Morales Ayma, popularly known as ‘Evo’, celebrates his victory for a third term as Boliviaâs president on a platform of âanti-imperialismâ and radical socio-economic policies, he can also claim credit for ushering in far-reaching social reforms such as the Bolivian âLaw against Political Harassment and Violence against Womenâ enacted in 2012.
âIn many countries women in the political arena, whether candidates to an election or elected to office, are confronted with acts of violence ranging from sexist portrayal in the media to threats and murder,â says the World Future Council (WFC), which monitors the gap between policy research and policy-making.
Speaking to IPS after the 2014 Future Policy Award for Ending Violence against Women and Girls ceremony, organised by WFC, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women on Oct. 14, WFC founder Jacob von Uexkull told IPS that the Bolivian law âis a visionary law, particularly for protecting women against political harassment and violence.â
âFor the first time we introduced the category of what are called visionary laws which aim to curb violence against women in politics and other professions,â he said, adding that the passing of such a law in Bolivia is âvery significantâ, suggesting that other should emulate the Bolivian example.
The law against political harassment and violence against women was enacted in Bolivia by the Morales government following the assassination of Councillor Juana Quispe after she had complained about the abuse she suffered from other councillors and the mayor of her town. The law defines political harassment and political violence as criminal offences which carry imprisonment ranging from two to eight years depending on the magnitude of the offence.
The main street of AÃ±elo, a remote town in Argentinaâs southern Patagonia region which is set to become the countryâs shale oil capital. In 15 years the population will have climbed to 25,000, 10 times what it was just two years ago. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS
- This small town in southern Argentina is nearly a century old, but the unconventional fossil fuel boom is forcing it to basically start over, from scratch. The wave of outsiders drawn by the shale fuel fever has pushed the town to its limits, while the plan to turn it into a âsustainable city of the futureâ is still only on paper.
The motto of this small town in the province of NeuquÃ©n is upbeat and premonitory: âThe future found its place.â
By leveraging knowledge on climate change, like adopting improved agriculture technologies and using water and energy more effectively, Africa can accelerate its march to sustainable development.Â Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS
- By leveraging knowledge aboutÂ climate change, throughÂ adopting improved agriculture technologies and using water and energy more effectively, Africa can accelerate its march towards sustainable development.
Policy and development practitioners say Africa is at a development cross roads and argue that the continent â increasingly an attractive destination for economic and agriculture investment â should use the window of opportunity presented by a low carbon economy to implement new knowledge and information to transform the challenges posed byÂ climate change into opportunities for social development.
- A federal jury here Wednesday convicted one former Blackwater contractor of murder and three of his colleagues of voluntary manslaughter in the deadly shootings of 14 unarmed civilians killed in Baghdadâs Nisour Square seven years ago.
The judge in the case ordered the men detained pending sentencing.
The massacre, which resulted in a wave of popular anger in Iraq against the United States, and especially the army of private security contractors which it employed there, contributed heavily to the Iraqi governmentâs later refusal to sign an agreement with Washington to extend the U.S. military presence there.
It also sealed the reputation of Blackwater, a âprivate militaryâ firm headed by Erik Prince, a right-wing former Navy Seal, as a trigger-happy mercenary outfit whose recklessness and insensitivity to local populations jeopardised Washingtonâs interests in conflict situations.
After the incident, the Iraqi government banned the company, which had a one-billion-dollar contract at the time to protect U.S. diplomats. Iraqâs parliament subsequently enacted laws making foreign contractors working in the country subject to Iraqi legal jurisdiction for criminal acts they committed.
It was Baghdadâs insistence in 2011 that such a condition also apply to all U.S. military forces that scotched a proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that would have permitted Washington to maintain thousands U.S. troops in Iraq after the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline for their final withdrawal.