Opinion polls that contribute meaningfully to our collective understanding of the Middle East and opinions of Arabs across the region are vital. For too long, commentators and analysts, many in the West but elsewhere too, have presumed to know what Arabs think, to discuss the mind of the Arabs, or to buy into the group-think mirage of the region. It is ludicrous, of course, and as the latest Arab News poll highlights, opinions and views vary widely.
Just how significant a role religion does and should play in the lives and politics of the region is one of the great debates of the day. It matters in particular in two of the countries engulfed in serious protests at present: Iraq and Lebanon.
The headlines from this poll back up previous studies indicating that more people in the Arab world, whilst still seeing religion as an essential part of their lives, want to see a greater separation of religion and politics. They are less willing to support any extremist agenda.
Younger people are also veering away from religion more than previous generations. A BBC poll in 2018 indicated that Arabs were perhaps less religious than before, borne out by comparing it to a 2013 poll. This applies to many other areas of the world. Polls show that American Christians are also becoming less religious.
Such views figure highly in Iraq and Lebanon, where protesters over the last two months have been pushing for an end to sectarian models of government in an attempt to weaken divisive and counterproductive identity-driven politics.
Iraqis and Lebanese agree by 74 percent and 63 percent respectively that religion affects political decision-making by their government. And more than two-thirds of those polled in both countries do not dispute the statement that separation of religion and politics would lead to fewer wars.
Will they get their wish to rewrite their political systems? At present, despite the widespread and powerful nature of these protests, it would appear not. The existing elites in Iraq and Lebanon do not appear to be budging, and neither country looks like it is heading to a post- sectarian future anytime soon.
Strangely, however, the only politically significant leader in Iraq to be backing the protesters is Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the pre-eminent Shiite cleric from Najaf, but many other clerics do not back this position. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has unambiguously opposed the protests. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah has accused the protesters of being foreign agents.
None of these polls will make much impact perhaps in Europe and North America. How many will take note and believe that the Arab world is changing and becoming more opposed to extremism? It runs counter to the well-oiled narrative common in the media.
Yet the Arab News poll is also revealing of what other challenges Arabs see as relevant to their future. Religion is not seen as some great threat, but what clearly keeps people awake is the state of the economy. Iraqis and Lebanese strongly agree (57 percent and 61 percent, respectively) that the future would be better if economic matters were prioritized above everything else.
It has been a core feature of the protests, of which corruption — seen as the top problem in both countries, where it is endemic — and youth unemployment have been among the primary drivers. One wonders why the figures are not even higher when you consider how resource-rich Iraq is, but how poor public services are, and how frequently useless the flabby institutions of state are.
Iraq and Lebanon face multiple challenges, but the study’s message is clear: Fixing the economy, stemming corruption and creating jobs should be the primary focus. How that will be done, particularly in a country as indebted as Lebanon, is at the heart of the current crisis.
The poll does reveal a perhaps surprisingly optimistic outlook. Most of those polled foresaw that extremism in the region was in decline, envisaging a drop in terrorism in the coming years. Only 28 percent saw radical Islam as having a negative impact on society in the Arab world, and just 15 percent saw extremism as the main cause of conflict in the region.
Western policymakers and media moguls should take note. Everyone must hope that they are right, even if the risks remain high. Increasingly, polling shows — as this one does — rising support for inclusiveness (especially women’s rights) and less aversion to women having a prominent role in political life. Both Iraq and Lebanon have a poor record on female involvement at the upper echelons of their politics.
Arabs polled also seem to be clear on the way forward. That matters. The economy must come first. To achieve that, they desire improved governance, with systems they can trust and where religion plays a part in daily life but less so in politics.
• Chris Doyle is director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). He has worked with the council since 1993 after graduating with a first-class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. He has organized and accompanied numerous British parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Twitter: @DoylechDisclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view
Romain Duval and Davide Furceri, authors of this article that obviously elaborates on the currently so-called developing countries. It does not ignore that there is some differentiation between oil and/or other scarce natural resources and the non-exporters of the same. It might as well be talking about these two categories of countries but perhaps along with the character traits described in the image below. Why you might wonder. Simply because How To Reignite Growth in Emerging Market and Developing Economies as developed here, could well apply to all countries in the MENA region, perhaps worldwide not for the same reasons.
Let us, in the meantime, read what they say.
Emerging markets and developing economies have enjoyed good growth over the past two decades. But many countries are still not catching up with the living standards of advanced economies.
At current growth rates, it would take more than 50 years for a typical emerging market economy to close half of its current income gap in living standards, and 90 years for a typical developing economy.
Our research in Chapter 3 of the October 2019 World Economic Outlook finds that implementing major reforms in six key areas at the same time—domestic finance, external finance, trade, labor markets, product markets, and governance—can double the speed of income convergence of the average emerging market and developing economy to the living standards of advanced economies. This could raise output levels by more than 7 percent over a six-year period.
Structural reforms can yield sizable payoffs.
More room for reforms
Policies that change the way governments work—known as structural reforms—are difficult to measure. They often involve policies or issues that are not easy to quantify, such as job protection legislation or the quality of supervision of the domestic banking system.
To address this, the IMF recently developed a comprehensive dataset covering structural regulations in domestic and external finance, trade, and labor and product markets. The data cover a large sample of 90 advanced and developing economies during the past four decades. To the five indicators, we added the quality of governance (for example, how countries control corruption) from the World Governance Indicators.
The new indicators show that, after the major wave of reforms in the late 1980s and—most importantly—the 1990s, the pace slowed in emerging market and developing economies during the 2000s, especially in low-income developing countries.
While this slowdown reflects the prior generation of reforms, as in advanced economies, there remains ample room for a renewed reform push, particularly in developing economies—notably, across sub-Saharan Africa and, to a lesser extent, in the Middle East and North Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.
Reforms can boost growth and living standards
Based on our empirical research of reforms in 48 current and former emerging markets and 20 developing economies, we find that reforms can yield sizable payoffs. But these gains take time to materialize and vary across different types of regulations. For example, a domestic finance reform of the size that took place in Egypt in 1992 leads to an increase in output of about 2 percent, on average, six years after implementation. We get a similar result for anti-corruption measures, whose effects are sizable in the short run and stabilize at around 2 percent in the medium term. In the other four reforms areas—external finance, trade, product markets, and labor markets—the gains are about 1 percent six years after the reform.
For the average emerging market and developing economy, the results imply that major simultaneous reforms across all six areas considered in this chapter can raise output by more than 7 percent over a six-year period. This would increase annual per capita GDP growth by about 1 percentage point, doubling the average speed of income convergence to advanced-country levels. Model-based analysis—which captures the longer-term effect of reforms and provides insights on the channels through which they affect economic activity—points to output gains about twice as large as the empirical model over the longer term (beyond 6 years).
One channel through which reforms increase output is by reducing informality. For example, lowering barriers to businesses’ entry in the formal sector encourages some informal companies to become formal. In turn, formalization boosts output by increasing companies’ productivity and capital investment. For this reason, the payoff from reforms tends to be larger where informality is pervasive.
Getting the timing, packaging and sequencing right
Some reforms work best when the economy is strong. In good times, reducing layoff costs makes employers more willing to hire new workers, while in bad times it makes them more willing to dismiss existing ones, magnifying the effects of a downturn. Similarly, increasing competition in the financial sector at a time of weak credit demand may push certain financial intermediaries out of business, further weakening the economy.
In countries where the economy is weak, governments may prioritize reforms—such as strengthening product market competition—that pay off regardless of economic conditions, design others to alleviate any short-term costs—such as enacting job protection reforms now with a provision that they will take effect later. These reforms can also be accompanied with monetary or fiscal policy support where possible.
Reforms also work best if properly packaged and sequenced. Importantly, they typically deliver larger gains in countries where governance is stronger. This means that strengthening governance can support economic growth and income convergence not just directly by incentivizing more productive formal enterprises to invest and recruit, but also indirectly by magnifying the payoff from reforms in other areas.
Finally, to fulfill their promise of improving living standards, reforms must be supported by redistributive policies that spread the gains widely across the population—such as strong social safety nets and programs that help workers move across jobs. For reforms to be sustainable and therefore effective, they need to benefit not just some, but all.
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“When I was carried through the hospital doors last June, nobody thought I would live to tell this story,” remembers Adba Saleh Mubarak. “The nurses took one look at me and motioned my daughter to take me away. They thought I was dead,” she recalls. Her daughter, however, insisted that the nurses take a closer look, and thanks to medical treatment, Adba recovered from an acute case of cholera.
While the disease is endemic in Yemen, the last few years have seen infections spike to a scale not witnessed in living memory. The destruction of water infrastructure due to the conflict, plus aquifer depletion, are largely to blame. With freshwater extremely scarce and sewage disposal systems in disrepair, more and more people are using water of dubious quality.
A still visibly frail Adba suspects she contracted cholera from water from Sana’a’s wastewater treatment plant. The overwhelmed plant is spewing poorly treated wastewater into the canal that runs through the Bani Al Harith District, where Adba lives with her daughter and three grandchildren. Many people here – mainly women and children – use this unsafe water to grow vegetables for their own consumption and to sell in the capital’s markets.
“This area used to be our own little Garden of Eden. We grew all sorts of vegetables,” Adba remembers. She learned the hard way about the risks of bacterial-laden water or food and now avoids contact with it. Yet, even though farmers and families have been warned about the dangers of using water from the canal, the supplies of this precious resource are too hard to come by – and the need for food too great – so these warnings often go ignored.
Seeing this problem, FAO partnered with Japan to install small-scale wastewater treatment facilities that can produce safe water for irrigation.
The treatment plants use the power of gravity to cycle the water through the various stages of cleaning; this means that the facilities are both cost effective and easy to manage. The rigorous 26-day treatment process involves sedimentation, filtration and aeration that utilizes direct sunlight to kill the microbes and ensure treated water meets the standards required for use in agriculture. At optimum working capacity, each plant can treat 150 cubic meters of wastewater per day.
The vast majority of water in Yemen – as much as 90 percent – goes towards irrigation. To improve water use efficiency, the FAO-Japan project is also rolling out modern drip irrigation systems on an estimated 75 hectares of cultivated land. This system ensures the sustainable and responsible use of treated water for farming.
Through already established Water Users’ Associations, the project is also intensifying public awareness campaigns regarding safe water use in agriculture, food processing and preparation. Farmers are being educated on the perils of untreated wastewater on human and animal health. The campaigns also focus on the environmental dangers that contaminated water poses to the soil and ecology.
Rania Ahmad Handhal, head of the Women Sector in Ahdaq Water Users’ Association and a participant in the awareness raising effort, says women are particularly at risk. She herself also contracted and recovered from cholera last year. “Getting cholera, however, strengthened my resolve to continue raising awareness among women in our village because they are the ones who farm and use water more extensively than the men,” she says.
Every day Rania tirelessly goes from door to door talking to women about cholera and how to avoid it. “I do my best in trying to save the lives of my people. I am very optimistic and hopeful that with better information and projects such as this one, we can beat cholera and women can earn much more from growing and selling vegetables,” she concludes with a smile.
The FAO-Japan project will save thousands of families living in Sana’a who rely on vegetables from this region. While this project has done a lot to mitigate the spread cholera, it is, however, not enough to cover the irrigation demands of the population. FAO is thus proposing to scale up interventions through a new phase, which will see new plants constructed covering the remaining 320 hectares available. This will allow farmers to expand their vegetable production while ensuring that untreated water is not used to irrigate vegetables in Bani Al-Hareth.
Water, food, health: the basics that everyone should have. FAO and its Member countries are working toward the Sustainable Development Goals, with this project particularly focusing on Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Good Health (SDG 3) and Clean Water (SDG 6), to ensure that people worldwide have access to these basic human rights.
In AFRICATECH of August 22, 2019; More deals, less conflict? Wondered Laurie Goering, Thomson Reuters Foundation whilst Cross-border water planning key, report warns.
LONDON, Aug 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Efforts to share rivers, lakes, and aquifers that cross national boundaries are falling short, raising a growing risk of conflict as global water supplies run low, researchers warned on Thursday.
Fewer than one in three of the world’s transboundary rivers and lake basins and just nine of the 350 aquifers that straddle more than one country have cross-border management systems in place, according to a new index by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
With more than half the world’s population likely to live in water-scarce areas by 2050 and 40 percent dependent on transboundary water, that is a growing threat, said Matus Samel, a public policy consultant with the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“Most transboundary basins are peaceful, but the trend is that we are seeing more and more tensions and conflict arising,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
When work began on the index, which looks at five key river basins around the world from the Mekong to the Amazon, researchers thought they would see hints of future problems rather than current ones, Samel said.
Instead, they found water scarcity was becoming a “very urgent” issue, he said. “It surprised me personally the urgency of some of the situation some of these basins are facing.”
Population growth, climate change, economic and agricultural expansion and deforestation are all placing greater pressures on the world’s limited supplies of water, scientists say.
As competition grows, some regions have put in place relatively effective bodies to try to share water fairly, the Economist Intelligence Unit report said.
Despite worsening drought, the Senegal River basin, shared by West African nations including Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania, has held together a regional water-governance body that has attracted investment and support, Samel said.
Efforts to jointly govern the Sava River basin, which crosses many of the once warring nations of the former Yugoslavia in southeast Europe, have also been largely successful, he said.
But replicating that is likely to be “a huge challenge” in conflict-hit basins, such as along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq and Syria, Samel said.
Still, even in tough political situations, “there are ways … countries and local governments and others can work together to make sure conflicts do not emerge and do not escalate,” he said.
“The benefits of cooperation go way beyond direct access to drinking water,” he said. “It’s about creating trust and channels for communication that might not otherwise exist.”
‘NO EASY SOLUTIONS’
The report suggests national leaders make water security a priority now, link water policy to other national policies, from agriculture to trade, and put in place water-sharing institutions early.
“There are no easy solutions or universal solutions,” Samel warned. “But there are lessons regions and basins can learn and share.”
The index has yet to examine many hotspots, from the Nile River and Lake Chad in Africa to the Indus river system in India and Pakistan, but Samel said it would be expanded in coming years.
Working toward better shared water management is particularly crucial as climate change brings more drought, floods, and other water extremes, said Alan Nicol, who is based in Ethiopia for the International Water Management Institute.
“Knowing how a system works effectively helps you know what to do in the face of a massive drought or flood event – and we should expect more extreme weather,” he said.
While efforts to coordinate water policy with other national and regional policies and priorities are crucial, the key missing element in shoring up water security is political will, he said.
“We’ve been talking about this kind of integrated water management for 30 years,” he said. “The problem is practicing it. And that’s essentially a political problem.”
Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking, and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate
The word “climate” makes most of us look up to the sky – however, the IPCC’s new special report on climate change and land should make us all look under our feet. This is how Anna Krzywoszynska, Research Fellow and Associate Director of the Institute for Sustainable Food, University of Sheffield introduced her article published on The Conversation of last week before adding that ‘Land, the report shows, is intimately linked to the climate. Changes in land use result in changes to the climate and vice versa. In other words, what we do to our soils, we do to our climate – and ourselves.’ So, keeping Global Warming to well below 2°C is the hurdle that all humans need to get over in order to achieve the Paris Agreement requirements.
Land is already under growing human pressure and climate change is adding to these pressures. At the same time, keeping global warming to well below 2C can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including land and food, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its latest report.
“Governments challenged the IPCC to take the first ever comprehensive look at the whole land-climate system. We did this through many contributions from experts and governments worldwide. This is the first time in IPCC report history that a majority of authors – 53 per cent – are from developing countries,” said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC.
This report shows that better land management can contribute to tackling climate change, but is not the only solution. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors is essential if global warming is to be kept to well below 2C, if not 1.5C.
In 2015, governments backed the Paris Agreement goal of strengthening the global response to climate change by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5C.
Land must remain productive to maintain food security as the population increases and the negative impacts of climate change on vegetation increase. This means there are limits to the contribution of land to addressing climate change, for instance through the cultivation of energy crops and afforestation. It also takes time for trees and soils to store carbon effectively.
Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems.
Climate Change and Land finds that the world is best placed to tackle climate change when there is an overall focus on sustainability. “Land plays an important role in the climate system,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.
“Agriculture, forestry and other types of land use account for 23 per cent of human greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry,” he said.
The report shows how managing land resources sustainably can help address climate change, said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II.
“Land already in use could feed the world in a changing climate and provide biomass for renewable energy, but early, far-reaching action across several areas is required. Also for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity,” he added.
Desertification and land degradation
When land is degraded, it becomes less productive, restricting what can be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon. This exacerbates climate change, while climate change, in turn, exacerbates land degradation in many different ways.
“The choices we make about sustainable land management can help reduce and in some cases reverse these adverse impacts,” said Kiyoto Tanabe, co-chair of the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.
“In a future with more intensive rainfall the risk of soil erosion on croplands increases, and sustainable land management is a way to protect communities from the detrimental impacts of this soil erosion and landslides. However there are limits to what can be done, so in other cases degradation might be irreversible,” he said.
Roughly 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification. Drylands and areas that experience desertification are also more vulnerable to climate change and extreme events including drought, heatwaves, and dust storms, with an increasing global population providing further pressure.
The report sets out options to tackle land degradation and prevent or adapt to further climate change. It also examines potential impacts from different levels of global warming. “New knowledge shows an increase in risks from dryland water scarcity, fire damage, permafrost degradation and food system instability, even for global warming of around 1.5C,” said Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I.
“Very high risks related to permafrost degradation and food system instability are identified at 2°C of global warming,” she said.
This story appears in the August 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.
For nearly seven years I have been walking with migrants.
In the winter of 2013 I set out from an ancient Homo sapiens fossil site called Herto Bouri, in the north of Ethiopia, and began retracing, on foot, the defining journey of humankind: our first colonization of the Earth during the Stone Age.
My long walk is about storytelling. I report what I see at boot level along the pathways of our original discovery of the planet. From the start, I knew my route would be vague. Anthropologists suggest that our species first stepped out of Africa 600 centuries ago and eventually wandered, more or less aimlessly, to the tip of South America—the last unknown edge of the continents and my own journey’s finish line. We were roving hunters and foragers. We lacked writing, the wheel, domesticated animals, and agriculture. Advancing along empty beaches, we sampled shellfish. We took our bearings off the rippling arrows of migrating cranes. Destinations had yet to be invented. I have trailed these forgotten adventurers for more than 10,000 miles so far. Today I am traversing India.
Our modern lives, housebound as they are, have changed almost beyond recognition since that golden age of footloose exploration.
Or have they?
The United Nations estimates that more than a billion people—one in seven humans alive today—are voting with their feet, migrating within their countries or across international borders. Millions are fleeing violence: war, persecution, criminality, political chaos. Many more, suffocated by poverty, are seeking economic relief beyond their horizons. The roots of this colossal new exodus include a globalized market system that tears apart social safety nets, a pollutant-warped climate, and human yearnings supercharged by instant media. In sheer numbers, this is the largest diaspora in the long history of our species.
I pace off the world at 15 miles a day. I mingle often among the uprooted.
In Djibouti I have sipped chai with migrants in bleak truck stops. I have slept alongside them in dusty UN refugee tents in Jordan. I have accepted their stories of pain. I have repaid their laughter. I am not one of them, of course: I am a privileged walker. I carry inside my rucksack an ATM card and a passport. But I have shared the misery of dysentery with them and have been detained many times by their nemesis—police. (Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, and Turkmenistan have denied me visas; Pakistan ejected me, then allowed me back in.)
What can be said about these exiled brothers and sisters? About the immense shadowlands they inhabit, paradoxically, in plain sight?
Hunger, ambition, fear, political defiance—the reasons for movement are not truly the question. More important is knowing how the journey itself shapes a different class of human being: people whose ideas of “home” now incorporate an open road—a vast and risky tangent of possibility that begins somewhere far away and ends at your doorsill. How you accept this tiding, with open arms or crouched behind high walls, isn’t at issue either. Because however you react, with compassion or fear, humankind’s reawakened mobility has changed you already.
The first migrants I encountered were dead. They lay under small piles of stones in the Great Rift Valley of Africa.
Who were these unfortunates?
It was difficult to know. The world’s poorest people travel from many distant lands to perish in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia, one of the hottest deserts on Earth. They walk into these terrible barrens in order to reach the Gulf of Aden. There the sea is the doorway to a new (though not always better) life beyond Africa: slave-wage jobs in the cities and date plantations of the Arabian Peninsula. Some of the migrants’ graves doubtless contained Somalis: war refugees. Others likely held deserters from Eritrea. Or drought-weakened Oromos from Ethiopia. All had hoped to sneak across the unmarked borders of Djibouti. They became lost. They collapsed under a molten sun. Sometimes they dropped from thirst within sight of the sea. The columns of exhausted travelers walking behind hastily buried the bodies.
How long have we been depositing our bones like this on the desolate trails of the African Horn? For a long time. From the very beginning. After all, this is the same corridor used by the first modern humans to exit Africa during the Pleistocene.
One day I stumbled across a group of scarecrows hiding in the scant shade of some boulders—15 lean Ethiopian men who seemed to pretend that if they didn’t move a muscle, they would be invisible. Some were manual laborers. Most were farmers from the Ethiopian highlands. The annual rains, the farmers said, had become impossibly erratic. Sticking it out on their sun-cracked fields meant slow starvation. Better to chance the ocean of white light that is the Afar Triangle, even if you never returned. They were pioneers of sorts, new climate change refugees.
A recent World Bank study calculates that by 2050 more than 140 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could be tumbled into motion by the catastrophic effects of climate change. Ten million climate refugees could swell the trails of East Africa alone. In Ethiopia the tide may reach 1.5 million people—more than 15 times the emigrants now straggling annually through the Afar Triangle to reach the Middle East.
Inching north up the Rift, I was forced to consider the urge to leave a familiar world that was falling apart, a home where the sky itself was against you. All around me snaked the invisible battle lines of an intensifying range war between the Afar and Issa pastoralists—two competing herder groups whose shallow wells were drying up, whose pastures were thinning from a relentless cycle of droughts. They shot at each other over the ownership of a papery blade of grass, over a cup of sandy water. In other words, over survival. Here was the source of our oldest travel story. Drastic climate change and murderous famines, experts say, likely helped drive the first pulses of humans out of Africa.
How strong is the push to leave? To abandon what you love? To walk into the unknown with all your possessions stuffed into a pocket? It is more powerful than fear of death.
In the Afar Triangle I stumbled across seven unburied bodies. They were women and men clustered together. They lay faceup, mummified atop a dark lava field. The heat was devastating. The little wild dogs of the desert, the jackals, had taken these travelers’ hands and feet. My walking partner, Houssain Mohamed Houssain, shook his head in wonder, in disgust. He was an ethnic Afar, a descendant of camel herders, the old kings of the desert. His people called the recent waves of transients hahai—“people of the wind”—ghosts who blew across the land. He snapped a picture.
“You show them this,” Houssain said angrily, “and they say, ‘Oh, that won’t happen to me!’ ”
One of the unlucky migrants had squeezed under a ledge. Doubtless he was crazed for shade. He had placed his shoes next to his naked body, just so, with one sock rolled carefully inside each shoe. He knew: His walking days were over.
Walking the continents teaches you to look down. You appreciate the importance of feet. You take an interest in footwear. This is natural.
Human character, of course, is mirrored in the face. The eyes reveal sincerity, lying, curiosity, love, hate. But one’s choice of shoes (or even lack of it) speaks to personal geography: wealth or poverty, age, type of work, education, gender, urban versus rural. Among the world’s legions of migrants, a certain pedal taxonomy holds. Economic migrants—the destitute millions with time to plan ahead—seem to favor the shoe of the 21st century’s poor: the cheap, unisex, multipurpose Chinese sneaker. War refugees escaping violence, by contrast, must trudge their wretched roads in rubber flip-flops, dress loafers, dusty sandals, high-heeled pumps, booties improvised from rags, etc. They flee burning cities, abandon villages and farms. They pull on whatever shoes lie within reach at a moment’s notice. I first began to see such eclectic piles of footwear appearing outside refugee tents in the highlands of Jordan.
“I wake up to these mountains,” cried Zaeleh al Khaled al Hamdu, a Syrian grandmother shod in beaded house slippers. Tiny blue flowers were tattooed on her wrinkled chin and cheeks. She waved a bony hand at the alien peaks around her. “It feels like these mountains, I am carrying them on my back.”
Heaviness. Weight. The crush of despair. The mountainous burden of helplessness.
This is the badge of the war refugee. Or so our televisions, newspapers, and mobile phones would inform us. The stock media photo of the war-displaced: columns of traumatized souls marching with heavy steps, with slumped shoulders, along a burning road. Or families jammed into leaky boats on the Mediterranean, their gazes sagging with anguish, sunk in vulnerability. But these snapshots of refugee life—seen through the lens of the rich world—are limited, misleading, even self-serving.
For weeks I walked from tent to dusty tent in Jordan. At least half a million Syrians languished there—just one aching shard of some 12 million civilians scattered by the bloodiest civil war in the Middle East. War steals your past and future. The Syrians could not go back to the contested rubble of their homes—to Idlib, Hamah, or Damascus. Nobody else wanted them. They were stuck. All they owned was their miserable present.
Many toiled illegally on farms.
They eked out another breath of life by picking tomatoes for $11 a day. When I plodded past, they waved me over. They jauntily fed me their employers’ crops. (Residents of a poor nation, Jordanians spared little affection for their even poorer Syrian guests.) They poured gallons of tea with wild thyme down my throat. They shook out their filthy blankets and bade me sit and rest.
“Here, we only dream of chicken,” one man joked. He’d eaten grass to survive in Syria. In one tent a young woman stepped behind a hanging bedsheet and reemerged in her finest dress—pink with silver stripes. She was dazzlingly pregnant, and her beauty passed in a clean hush through my chest, into the moldering tent, before blowing unstoppably out into the desert.
What I’m trying to say is this: Whatever else refugees may be, they aren’t powerless.
They aren’t the infantilized victims usually featured in the political left’s suffering porn. They resemble even less the cartoon invaders feared by right-wing populists and bigots—the barbarian hordes coming to take jobs, housing, social services, racial identity, religion, sex partners, and everything else vital and good in wealthy host countries. (Since Neolithic times, the earliest populations of Europe have been overrun and utterly transformed by waves of immigrants from Central Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. Without such interbreeding, modern “Europeans” wouldn’t exist.)
No. The refugees I have walked among are bearded pharmacists and girl goatherds. Shopkeepers and intellectuals. That is, supremely ordinary beings grappling with meager options. Remembering their dead, they cup their hands to their faces and weep. But often they are incredibly strong. And generous.
“Please come, mister,” a Syrian teacher whispered in Turkey, guiding me from a refugee camp classroom out into the open air. Her students had been drawing decapitations and hangings as part of their art therapy. She noticed I had fallen silent. She was worried about my emotions.
A thousand walked miles to the east, in the Caucasus, a family of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria hollered, “Don’t come in please!”—making me wait outside their dilapidated home while they hastily set a table they couldn’t afford. They recently moved into a house that once belonged to ethnic Azerbaijanis, a local population ejected during the decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I found the Azerbaijanis 120 miles later. They refused my money in a refugee camp café.
“We have been waiting for peace so long,” Nemat Huseynov, the café owner, said. He had owned many sheep when the conflict began in 1988. It goes on, despite a cease-fire in 1994.
Huseynov stared at his big, work-swollen shepherd’s hands splayed palm down on the worn tablecloth.
You cannot always choose your shoes on a long walk.
The world’s refugees and migrants don’t demand our pity. They just ask for our attention. Me they pitied because I walked on.
But before you do, refer to the original document for more with lots of pictures and related texts.
As Climate change could cause 29% spike in cereal prices: leaked UN report, because Food supply chains will get disrupted globally, the study warns. Report to be officially released in August informs Nitin Sethi, of New Delhi in this article of Business Standard.
As far as the MENA region is concerned, food has always been in short supply, but does this mean it would get worse.
The report will be put before all member countries of the UN Framework Convention and once it gets their stamp of approval by consensus it will be made public on August 8. Photo: Representative Image
“The rate and geographic extent of global land and freshwater resources over recent decades is unprecedented in human history,” a report authored by UN’s panel of scientists from across the world on climate change is set to inform. Business Standard reviewed a leaked copy of the draft report sent to the governments of 197 countries. The report warns that as the global temperatures rise, the stress on land resources and its productivity is set to rise.
The report by the UN Inter-governmental panel on climate change, is called, “IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.”
The report will be put before all member countries of the UN Framework Convention and once it gets their stamp of approval by consensus it will be made public on August 8.
The authors of the report, gleaning through state-of-art science research have concluded that, “Observed climate change is already affecting the four pillars of food security – availability, access, utilization, and stability – through increased temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”
Continuing climate change is expected to further “create additional stresses on land systems exacerbating risks related to desertification, land degradation and food security,” the report says.
In a significant finding for countries such as India, the authors say, at global warming of 2° Celsius, the population of drylands exposed and vulnerable to water stress, increased drought intensity and habitat degradation could be as high as 522 million. Scientists conclude that at current levels of greenhouse gas emission reductions committed by the countries under Paris Agreement there is a good likelihood for the planet to breach the 2° Celsius temperature rise barrier.
“In drylands, desertification and climate change are projected to cause further reduction in crop and livestock productivity, modify the composition of plant species and reduce biological diversity,” research endorsed by the scientific panel shows.
Half of the vulnerable population due to the climate-change induced aridity would be in South Asia. The degradation of land due to climate change is already leading to consequent shaving off of the global economy, the scientific panel notes. “There are increasingly negative effects on GDP from impacts on land-based values and ecosystem service as temperature increases,” the report says. But, it notes that, at the regional level, the impacts would vary. “Compound extreme events, such as a heat wave within a drought or drought followed by extreme rainfall, will decrease gross primary productivity of lands, the authors warn
The impact on agriculture in higher latitudes is recorded to be different than in lower ones, such as one covering India. “Increasing temperature are affecting agricultural productivity in higher latitudes, raising yields of some crops such as maize, cotton, wheat, sugar beets, while in lower-latitude regions yields of crops such as maize, wheat and barley are declining.
Modelling results, that the scientific panel reviewed, show that cereal prices could rise by up to 29 per cent in 2050 due to climate change, which would impact consumers globally through higher food prices, though the impact would vary by regions. The stability of food supply is expected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme events caused by climate change increases, disrupting food chains globally.
The increase in global temperatures and consequent climate change is already affecting the productivity of livestock, which is one a main-stay of Indian rural economy. The authors conclude, “Observed impacts in pastoral systems include pasture declines, lower animal growth rates and productivity, damaged reproductive functions, increased pests and diseases, and loss of biodiversity.”
At the same time coastal economies are already suffering an impact as well. “Coastal erosion is affecting new regions as a result of interacting human drivers and climate change such as sea-level rise and impacts of changing cyclone paths,” though the scientists hold a low level confidence in the scientific research that concludes the impact of climate change on cyclone paths.
We did query back in February 2019 Where does the MENA region’s food come from? We did, however, imply that the region’s countries, especially those with thick piles of cash, have to do their best to aim locally. In any case here is the latest on the issue that is applicable worldwide. Be adventurous in your tastes, local in your choices per the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
Every year, June 18 marks Sustainable Gastronomy Day. This begs the questions:
1) What in the world is sustainable gastronomy?
2) Why is it important enough to have a “day” dedicated to it? and
3) Even so, why should I care?
What is Sustainable Gastronomy?
Gastronomy is sometimes called the art of food. It can also refer to a style of cooking from a particular region. In other words, gastronomy often refers to local food and cuisine. Sustainability is the idea that something (e.g. agriculture, fishing or even preparation of food) is done in a way that is not wasteful of our natural resources and can be continued into the future without being detrimental to our environment or health.
Sustainable gastronomy, therefore, means cuisine that takes into account where the ingredients are from, how the food is grown and how it gets to our markets and eventually to our plates.
Why does it have a “day”?
Because eating local foods that have been produced sustainably makes a difference to people’s livelihoods, to the environment and to economies. By 2050, the world will have over 9 billion mouths to feed. Yet, 1/3 of all food produced is lost or wasted. As it stands now, we are using our oceans, forests and soils in largely unsustainable ways. We need to be more careful about how we use our natural resources as producers and we need to be pickier about how we choose our food as consumers.
Eating locally-grown products helps to boost an area’s economy, support its farmers and reduce the greenhouse gases and resources used in transporting food. Buying locally grown products means that there is demand for them and this helps farmers maintain their livelihoods.
Why should I care?
Most of us care about food. Some of us REALLY care about food (We are talking to you foodies out there!). Caring about our local foods and markets means that we can help to preserve our culinary roots: the traditional crops, recipes and cultures from which these cuisines originate. It means that we are mindful of the resources that have gone into growing the food that we cherish and that we are helping to keep culinary traditions alive.
By being open to locally grown foods and eating what is in season, you can help shift the buying patterns of local businesses, like restaurants and hotels, and support the area’s fishers and farmers. You can also expand your diet to include other traditional crops, like quinoa or cactus pear, that are full of vitamins and minerals.
What can I do?
1. Support your farmers: Go to local food markets. By buying from small producers or family farmers, you are supporting their livelihoods and strengthening communities.
2. Try local foods in your travels: whether trying types of fish you have never heard of or fruits that you have never seen before, eating local products helps to give you a better insight into the culture of a place and supports local economies.
3. Keep culinary traditions alive! Culinary traditions are generally sustainable by nature and remind us of our ancestral roots. Try cooking recipes that use ingredients native to your region. Pulses, for example, are easy to grow and extremely nutritious.
4. Avoid food waste: While cooking, and even after your meal, be conscious to use all of your ingredients wisely and to save your leftovers. Being careful about portion size, expiration dates and reuse of meals is one of the easiest ways to save natural resources.
As overweight and obesity rates soar worldwide, it is that much more important to ensure that healthy and sustainable diets are available and affordable to everyone. We can all take action to achieve healthy diets and #ZeroHunger by 2030.
*This story is an update of one first published on 28 June 2017.
IPS Newsin theirCombating Desertification and Droughtin a post reproduced here holds that the issue of land degradation impacting all countries in all continents would require governments, land users and all different communities of a country to be part of the solution.
ANKARA, Jun 17 2019 (IPS) – The coming decades will be crucial in shaping and implementing a transformative land agenda, according to a scientist at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) framework for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
UNCCD-Science Policy Interface co-chair Dr. Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, who spoke with IPS ahead of the start of activities to mark World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on Monday, Jun. 17, said this was one of the key messages emerging for policy- and other decision-makers.
“The main message is: things are not improving. The issue of desertification is becoming clearer to different communities, but we now have to start implementing the knowledge that we already have to combat desertification,” Akhtar-Schuster told IPS.
“It’s not only technology that we have to implement, it is the policy level that has to develop a governance structure which supports sustainable land management practices.”
IPBES Science and Policy for People and Nature found that the biosphere and atmosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends, have been deeply reconfigured by people.
The report shows that 75 percent of the land area is very significantly altered, 66 percent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts, and 85 percent of the wetland area has been lost.
“There are of course areas which are harder hit; these are areas which are experiencing extreme drought which makes it even more difficult to sustainably use land resources,” Akhtar-Schuster said.
“On all continents you have the issue of land degradation, so there’s no continent, there’s no country which can just lean back and say this is not our issue. Everybody has to do something.”
Akhtar-Schuster said there is sufficient knowledge out there which already can support evidence-based implementation of technology so that at least land degradation does not continue.
While the information is available, Akhtar-Schuster said it requires governments, land users and all different communities in a country to be part of the solution.
“There is no top-down approach. You need the people on the ground, you need the people who generate knowledge and you need the policy makers to implement that knowledge. You need everybody,” the UNCCD-SPI co-chair said.
“Nobody in a community, in a social environment, can say this has nothing to do with me. We are all consumers of products which are generated from land. So, we in our daily lives – the way we eat, the way we dress ourselves – whatever we do has something to do with land, and we can take decisions which are more friendly to land than what we’re doing at the moment.”
UNCCD-Science Policy Interface co-chair Dr. Mariam Akhtar-Schuster says things are not improving and that the issue of desertification is becoming clearer to different communities. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS
UNCCD Lead Scientist Dr. Barron Joseph Orr said it’s important to note that while the four major assessments were all done for different reasons, using different methodologies, they are all converging on very similar messages.
He said while in the past land degradation was seen as a problem in a place where there is overgrazing or poor management practices on agricultural lands, the reality is, that’s not influencing the change in land.
“What’s very different from the past is the rate of land transformation. The pace of that change is considerable, both in terms of conversion to farm land and conversion to built-up areas,” Orr told IPS.
“We’ve got a situation where 75 percent of the land surface of the earth has been transformed, and the demand for food is only going to go up between now and 2050 with the population growth expected to increase one to two billion people.”
That’s a significant jump. Our demand for energy that’s drawn from land, bio energy, or the need for land for solar and wind energy is only going to increase but these studies are making it clear that we are not optimising our use,” Orr added.
Like Akhtar-Schuster, Orr said it’s now public knowledge what tools are necessary to sustainably manage agricultural land, and to restore or rehabilitate land that has been degraded.
“We need better incentives for our farmers and ranchers to do the right thing on the landscape, we have to have stronger safeguards for tenures so that future generations can continue that stewardship of the land,” he added.
The international community adopted the Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris on Jun. 17, 1994.
At the same time, they will look at the broad picture of the next 25 years where they will achieve land degradation neutrality.
The anniversary campaign runs under the slogan “Let’s grow the future together,” with the global observance of WDCD and the 25th anniversary of the Convention on Jun. 17, hosted by the government of Turkey.
APO Group – Africa Newsroom / Press release informs that despite a difficult business environment in Iran . . . , 865 exhibitors from 21 countries present the entire value chain at Iran agrofood 2019. Here it is.
National pavilions of Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Russia and Turkey
TEHRAN, Islamic Republic of Iran, June 5, 2019/APO Group/ —
Despite the currently difficult business environment in Iran, as many as 865 exhibitors from 21 countries will be presenting their products, solutions and technologies “from field to fork” at iran agrofood 2019. More than 40,000 trade visitors from all over Iran and neighbouring countries are again expected. Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Russia and Turkey will be represented with official pavilions this year. iran agrofood consists of the five partial events iran agro, iran food + bev tec, iran bakery + confectionery, iran food ingredients and iran food + hospitality and has been organised by the German trade show specialists fairtrade (www.fairtrade-messe.de) and its Iranian partner Palar Samaneh (www.Palar-Samaneh.com). The 26th edition will take place from 18 to 21 June 2019 at the Teheran International Fairground.
The exhibitors come from Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Mongolia, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Seven official national pavilions
Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Russia and Turkey are present at iran agrofood 2019 with official national pavilions. The Netherlands and Switzerland are represented through stands of their embassies.
Following the successful participations in 2017 and 2018, Brazil will again be present this year with an official pavilion at iran food + hospitality, organised by the Brazilian Embassy in Tehran. 10 Brazilian companies will present the finest meat, coffee and food from Brazil.
China participates with 19 exhibitors at iran food ingredients, iran food + hospitality and iran food + bev tec.
The official German Pavilion is presented by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, in cooperation with the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA) and supported by VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Machinery. Altogether 15 German companies take part in iran food + bev tec & iran food ingredients.
Not less than 24 Indian exhibitors display their products at iran food ingredients & iran food + hospitality, supported by the India Trade Promotion Organisation ITPO, the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India ASSOCHAM, and the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India CEPCI.
For many years Italy has been one of the most important exhibitor nations at iran food + bev tec. While the Italian participation in recent years has been organized solely privately, the 2019 Italian participation featuring 22 Italian exhibitors is for the first time complemented by an official Italian pavilion with the support of the Italian Trade Agency ITA.
The Russian Federation presents itself for the first time at iran agro 2019 with two official pavilions. One from the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia’s most populous republic. And another from the Kabardino-Balkar Republic in the North Caucasus. Both pavilions are officially supported by the Russian Export Center. A total of 9 Russian exhibitors will present technologies for agriculture, milk production and water treatment.
As in previous years, Turkey will again be officially represented this year at iran food + bev tec & iran food + hospitality. The Turkish pavilion with 11 exhibitors is supported by the Turkish Ministry of Trade.
The 26th edition will take place from 18 to 21 June 2019 at the Teheran International Fairground
Iran agrofood 2019 presents the entire value chain “from field to fork”
Iran agro 2019 – The agricultural event within iran agrofood
Contact Iran: Palar Samaneh Co. Ms Ladan Maleki Apt.1, Amin Building (No.18) – Amini Alley South Shiraz St. Molasadra IR – Tehran 14358-93681 Tel: +98 21 88 05 94 57 +98 21 88 05 94 58 +98 21 88 05 94 59 Fax: +98 21 88 04 48 17 email@example.com www.Palar-Samaneh.com
fairtrade – Valuable business contacts: fairtrade (www.fairtrade-messe.de) was founded by Martin März in 1991. Since long, fairtrade ranks among the leading organisers of professional international trade fairs in emerging markets, especially in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Managed by its shareholder and his son Paul März and committed to the values of a family business and the team spirit, fairtrade maintains a powerful network of partnerships throughout the world. fairtrade organizes shows in the sectors Agrofood, CIT Solutions, Energy, Industry and PlastPrintPack and strives for a high level of customer satisfaction.
By means of innovative products and excellent service fairtrade organizes professional platforms for valuable business contacts between exhibitors and visitors. fairtrade is a member of UFI The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry and AAXO The Association of African Exhibition Organisers. The management is ISO 9001:2015 certified.
Palar Samaneh: Based in Tehran Palar Samaneh (www.Palar-Samaneh.com) has organised over 50 international trade fairs of major importance in Iran over the past 10 years. Having played an important role in the growth of the Iranian trade fair market, Palar Samaneh makes use of this knowledge for the benefit of its customers.
In addition to their exhibition organization department, its stand building unit serves individual exhibitors as well as country pavilions all over the Middle East and the CIS-countries.