Friday, January 18, 2019 EDITORIAL

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Judicial inquiry into election irregularities advisable

Variously expressed and interpreted as inexorable, indispensably essential prerequisite and absolute requirement for a representative government, it is incontrovertible that a free, fair, transparent and credible election is the sine qua non for a functional democracy. As stipulated in Article 118 (4) of the Republic’s Constitution, the Election Commission shall be independent in the exercise of its functions and subject only to this Constitution and any other law. The 11th Parliament Elections held on 30 December 2018 has given the Awami League (AL) landslide victory which has been contentedly described by Election Commission (EC) Secretary as a ‘bright example’.
About a year ago, on 30 January 2017, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that “all future elections in the country will be free and fair”. However, the 11th  Parliament Elections have been criticised at home and abroad. PM Sheikh Hasina has rejected allegations of vote-rigging, but according to the Washington Post (WP) “the results were anything but close: The incumbent Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, and her ruling coalition won 288 out of 300 seats in Parliament. That kind of margin of victory — 96 percent — was a result one might expect in a place like North Korea, not a democratic nation such as Bangladesh.” Said the WP, “After the election, Bangladesh has become a “one-party democracy,” wrote Kanchan Gupta, a political commentator in New Delhi. Hasina “faces no opposition worth its name.”
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), accredited national chapter of the Berlin-based Transparency International (TI), has found evidences of vote rgging in 47 out of 50 constituencies.  On Jan 15, 2019 the TIB said that it has observed that the law enforcement and the administration had collaborated with the process through participation or silence. It has suggested that there should be a “judicial inquiry” into the massive irregularities committed in the 11th national elections. The ant-corruption body said that ballot boxes were stuffed in 33 constituencies in the previous night before the election while 41 constituencies saw casting of fake votes at the polling stations. “In many cases, the voters couldn’t cast their votes freely,” TIB said.“The law enforcement agencies, a section of officials of the administration and election officials behaved in a biased manner during the elections. This is a gross violation of law.”
Meanwhile, at a public hearing at the Jatiya Press Club, 82 LDA candidates from across the country gave eyewitness accounts of how the party in power had been at the centre of alleged election manipulation. The Left candidates on January 12 alleged of all-round anomalies, local admin, law enforcers’ role in favour of ruling alliance.
The United Nations on Jan 04, 2019 stated that worrying cases of violence and intimidation have been reported in Bangladesh since the country’s deadly election campaign, as reported by the AFP. A woman—Parul Begum at Subarnachar upazila in Noakhali—allegedly gang-raped for voting for an opposition party is among the worst of a series of attacks reported by local media since the election. AFP added, “We (the UN) are concerned about violence and alleged human rights violations in Bangladesh before, during and after the recent elections,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN human rights commissioner in Geneva. There are worrying indications that reprisals have continued to take place, notably against the political opposition, including physical attacks and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, harassment, disappearances and filing of criminal cases.”
A British daily, The Independent reported that Bangladesh elections were “marred by ‘vote-rigging’, deadly violence and fears of media crackdown.” The election campaign was marred by the jailing of what the opposition says were thousands of Ms Hasina’s opponents, including six election candidates. [The Independent 30 December 2018]. While casting votes, election commissioners Rafiqul Islam and Mahbub Talukdar did not find any agents of the opposition at the respective polling stations. Mahbub Talukdar said he received innumerable allegations of irregularities within hours of the beginning of the voting. The Chief Election Commissioner should answer.
Incredibly enough, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has won a meagre 7 seats in the recent polls — which comes to some 2 percent seats. As regards its electoral track records, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won parliament elections, formed government and ruled this country for at least 25 years; hence no knowledgeable person will underestimate its unquestionable popularity. After the death in a coup d’état of President Ziaur Rahman, founder of this political party, the BNP’s presidential candidate Justice Abdus Sattar won a landslide victory bagging 65.5% of total votes cast in 1981. As per electoral records the BNP [ then led by Khaleda Zia] got 30.8%  of the total votes cast and won in 1991;  it got 33.6% of votes in 1996 and lost. The BNP bagged 40% of votes and won in 2001; the party obtained 33.20% of the total number of votes cast in 2008. [Vide en. wikipedia. org/ wiki/ Bangladesh Nationalist_Party].
Indian think tank Observer Research Foundation maintains close links with the government and is under the Indian ministry of defence. Its website features an article by its Senior Fellow Niranjan Sahoo, titled, “Bangladesh elections: Sheikh Hasina wins a brute majority and loses some democracy.” [Vide en.banglatribune.com, Jan 16, 2019]. The TIB has recommended a judicial inquiry into the 2018 Parliament election irregularities that have caused serious doubts about the holding of free and fair elections.
Judicial inquiries are held with the purpose of determining what happened and why, and most essentially, how to prevent them from ever happening again.  While the inquiry is led by a commissioner, usually a judge, lawyers play a critical role in the inquiry process. Lawyers may be appointed by the commissioner to work with him or her as commission counsel, or they may represent the parties who have an interest in the process and its outcome. [Vide ‘‘Judicial Inquiries and the Rule of Law”; ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/32355] It will, therefore, be wise to heed the TIB advice and constitute an inquiry commission headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge.

Comment

Variously expressed and interpreted as inexorable, indispensably essential prerequisite and absolute requirement for a representative government, it is incontrovertible that a free, fair, transparent and credible election is the sine qua non for a functional democracy. As stipulated in Article 118 (4) of the Republic’s Constitution, the Election Commission shall be independent in the exercise of its functions and subject only to this Constitution and any other law. The 11th Parliament Elections held on 30 December 2018 has given the Awami League (AL) landslide victory which has been contentedly described by Election Commission (EC) Secretary as a ‘bright example’.
About a year ago, on 30 January 2017, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that “all future elections in the country will be free and fair”. However, the 11th  Parliament Elections have been criticised at home and abroad. PM Sheikh Hasina has rejected allegations of vote-rigging, but according to the Washington Post (WP) “the results were anything but close: The incumbent Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, and her ruling coalition won 288 out of 300 seats in Parliament. That kind of margin of victory — 96 percent — was a result one might expect in a place like North Korea, not a democratic nation such as Bangladesh.” Said the WP, “After the election, Bangladesh has become a “one-party democracy,” wrote Kanchan Gupta, a political commentator in New Delhi. Hasina “faces no opposition worth its name.”
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), accredited national chapter of the Berlin-based Transparency International (TI), has found evidences of vote rgging in 47 out of 50 constituencies.  On Jan 15, 2019 the TIB said that it has observed that the law enforcement and the administration had collaborated with the process through participation or silence. It has suggested that there should be a “judicial inquiry” into the massive irregularities committed in the 11th national elections. The ant-corruption body said that ballot boxes were stuffed in 33 constituencies in the previous night before the election while 41 constituencies saw casting of fake votes at the polling stations. “In many cases, the voters couldn’t cast their votes freely,” TIB said.“The law enforcement agencies, a section of officials of the administration and election officials behaved in a biased manner during the elections. This is a gross violation of law.”
Meanwhile, at a public hearing at the Jatiya Press Club, 82 LDA candidates from across the country gave eyewitness accounts of how the party in power had been at the centre of alleged election manipulation. The Left candidates on January 12 alleged of all-round anomalies, local admin, law enforcers’ role in favour of ruling alliance.
The United Nations on Jan 04, 2019 stated that worrying cases of violence and intimidation have been reported in Bangladesh since the country’s deadly election campaign, as reported by the AFP. A woman—Parul Begum at Subarnachar upazila in Noakhali—allegedly gang-raped for voting for an opposition party is among the worst of a series of attacks reported by local media since the election. AFP added, “We (the UN) are concerned about violence and alleged human rights violations in Bangladesh before, during and after the recent elections,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN human rights commissioner in Geneva. There are worrying indications that reprisals have continued to take place, notably against the political opposition, including physical attacks and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, harassment, disappearances and filing of criminal cases.”
A British daily, The Independent reported that Bangladesh elections were “marred by ‘vote-rigging’, deadly violence and fears of media crackdown.” The election campaign was marred by the jailing of what the opposition says were thousands of Ms Hasina’s opponents, including six election candidates. [The Independent 30 December 2018]. While casting votes, election commissioners Rafiqul Islam and Mahbub Talukdar did not find any agents of the opposition at the respective polling stations. Mahbub Talukdar said he received innumerable allegations of irregularities within hours of the beginning of the voting. The Chief Election Commissioner should answer.
Incredibly enough, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has won a meagre 7 seats in the recent polls — which comes to some 2 percent seats. As regards its electoral track records, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won parliament elections, formed government and ruled this country for at least 25 years; hence no knowledgeable person will underestimate its unquestionable popularity. After the death in a coup d’état of President Ziaur Rahman, founder of this political party, the BNP’s presidential candidate Justice Abdus Sattar won a landslide victory bagging 65.5% of total votes cast in 1981. As per electoral records the BNP [ then led by Khaleda Zia] got 30.8%  of the total votes cast and won in 1991;  it got 33.6% of votes in 1996 and lost. The BNP bagged 40% of votes and won in 2001; the party obtained 33.20% of the total number of votes cast in 2008. [Vide en. wikipedia. org/ wiki/ Bangladesh Nationalist_Party].
Indian think tank Observer Research Foundation maintains close links with the government and is under the Indian ministry of defence. Its website features an article by its Senior Fellow Niranjan Sahoo, titled, “Bangladesh elections: Sheikh Hasina wins a brute majority and loses some democracy.” [Vide en.banglatribune.com, Jan 16, 2019]. The TIB has recommended a judicial inquiry into the 2018 Parliament election irregularities that have caused serious doubts about the holding of free and fair elections.
Judicial inquiries are held with the purpose of determining what happened and why, and most essentially, how to prevent them from ever happening again.  While the inquiry is led by a commissioner, usually a judge, lawyers play a critical role in the inquiry process. Lawyers may be appointed by the commissioner to work with him or her as commission counsel, or they may represent the parties who have an interest in the process and its outcome. [Vide ‘‘Judicial Inquiries and the Rule of Law”; ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/32355] It will, therefore, be wise to heed the TIB advice and constitute an inquiry commission headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge.

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Culture, migration and the rise of nationalism

Jan Lundius and Rosemary Vargas-Lundius
 
THE RECENT rise of nationalism in some western countries has been fuelled by an anti-immigration campaign based on the assumed negative influences migrants may have on the host country’s “culture”. Nationalists seem to conceive culture as a static concept. However, culture is not invariable, it develops and changes over time and as most things created by humans, it is also connected with power. Generally, when people define themselves as “cultured” they assert themselves as superior to others.
The nationalists’ distinction of their culture from that of others usually entails that people from a different cultural background have insurmountable “cultural differences”. Migrants are therefore considered as a homogeneous group whose outer aspects gain importance at the expense of their individual characteristics. Cultural markers such as dress codes, language and food preferences are assigned an overriding significance. The other is transformed into a one-dimensional creature defined by her/his appearance. Such artificial dichotomies have given rise to the so called “clash of civilizations”, suggesting that the coexistence of people with different cultural identities creates conflicts.
 
Power and domination
This kind of polarization between “cultures” may be connected with an instinct to define one’s self-image in relation to others, people we either identify with, or distance ourselves from. This kind of “othering” creates and maintains power and domination and has within the geopolitical sphere been connected with Western attitudes towards non–Western peoples.
The concept of culture is also connected with the idea of “progress”, i.e. that humans are “developing” from lower to higher stages of culture, power and wealth. If most migrants are considered as people coming from “underdeveloped” countries, then bigots may conclude they deescalate progress in host countries. However, history shows that migration has been one of the most beneficial contributions to development and human progress. The nationalist movements’ ideology has an odour of bigotry, even racism, suggesting a world where people can be divided into separate entities ? us versus them. We are advanced, while they are circumscribed by “underdeveloped” cultures.
 
Safeguarding “Swedish values and culture”
Nowadays, chauvinistic “nationalist” parties tend to avoid the word “race”, considered to be an outdated concept that passed away with Nazism and Apartheid. However racism remains; it has only become camouflaged by the less negatively charged word “culture” — racism without race. These views can be exemplified by the Swedish nationalist party which recently obtained 17 percent of the Swedish electorate votes. The Sweden Democrats describe themselves as “social conservatives with a nationalist foundation”, claiming to safeguard “Swedish values and culture”. Like many of their European equivalents they have gained support through a strong anti-migration stance. The Sweden Democrats distinguish “immigrants” from “Swedes”, often by indicating their state of underdevelopment. Immigrants are unfavourably compared to Nordic people and their “superior” culture. According to the Sweden Democrats:
“Culture could be defined as a way of life that unites a society, or a group of people.  … The unique nature of Swedish culture finds its roots in our history and in the nature and the climate in which it has developed. Against this background, it is not surprising that our culture has great similarities with that of our Nordic neighbours. … Cultural impulses that, without being adapted to Swedish conditions, are being inoculated into Swedish society by decision makers or other groups who do not consider themselves as Swedish, are by us not considered part of Swedish culture, but rather as a form of cultural imperialism.  … The Sweden Democrats are opponents to both cultural imperialism and to cultural relativism. It is obvious that some cultures are better than others in safeguarding fundamental human rights.”
 
The lofty and vague label
Like similar “nationalist” parties, Sweden Democrats lump together all “true” Swedes under the lofty and vague label of “the Swedish people”, an entity they claim to represent. However, as the poet Paul Valéry once pointed out: “The only meaning I can see in the word “people” is “mixture”….”  Immigrants may have to change some of their customs and behaviour and adopt new norms to adapt in receiving countries, at the same time host countries would be enriched by the positive contribution of migrants.
This may not be an easy or short process as it requires both individual efforts, which may be different for women and men, and adequate migration policies. Central to this dynamic coexistence and exchange, there are unique human beings, with different backgrounds, physiological traits, ideas, behaviour and beliefs. Most humans are able to adjust to various cultural contexts and abide to rules and laws of a specific nation without losing their unique identity.
 
Kant´s categorial imperative
Is it really possible to define unique “Swedish values”, or any other “national” values for that matter? It is more viable to assume that a “nation”, and thus all individuals, would benefit from Immanuel Kant´s categorial imperative: “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time wish that it becomes a universal law.”
The ideology of nationalists and chauvinistic demagogues is based on unfounded myths that reduce human existence to ideals of “nations”, “races” and “cultures”, while rejecting the reality of change and diversity. Recent historical events demonstrate that when such movements which idealise reality rise to power, the consequences can be disastrous. As Goethe once stated: “A confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.”
[Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has worked at Sida, Unesco, FAO and other international organisations as researcher and advisor.
Rosemary Vargas Lundius holds a Ph.D on Development Economics from Lund University and has worked on gender and migration issues at IFAD and UNDP. She is presently the Chair of the KNOMAD gender and migration research team.]

Comment

Jan Lundius and Rosemary Vargas-Lundius
 
THE RECENT rise of nationalism in some western countries has been fuelled by an anti-immigration campaign based on the assumed negative influences migrants may have on the host country’s “culture”. Nationalists seem to conceive culture as a static concept. However, culture is not invariable, it develops and changes over time and as most things created by humans, it is also connected with power. Generally, when people define themselves as “cultured” they assert themselves as superior to others.
The nationalists’ distinction of their culture from that of others usually entails that people from a different cultural background have insurmountable “cultural differences”. Migrants are therefore considered as a homogeneous group whose outer aspects gain importance at the expense of their individual characteristics. Cultural markers such as dress codes, language and food preferences are assigned an overriding significance. The other is transformed into a one-dimensional creature defined by her/his appearance. Such artificial dichotomies have given rise to the so called “clash of civilizations”, suggesting that the coexistence of people with different cultural identities creates conflicts.
 
Power and domination
This kind of polarization between “cultures” may be connected with an instinct to define one’s self-image in relation to others, people we either identify with, or distance ourselves from. This kind of “othering” creates and maintains power and domination and has within the geopolitical sphere been connected with Western attitudes towards non–Western peoples.
The concept of culture is also connected with the idea of “progress”, i.e. that humans are “developing” from lower to higher stages of culture, power and wealth. If most migrants are considered as people coming from “underdeveloped” countries, then bigots may conclude they deescalate progress in host countries. However, history shows that migration has been one of the most beneficial contributions to development and human progress. The nationalist movements’ ideology has an odour of bigotry, even racism, suggesting a world where people can be divided into separate entities ? us versus them. We are advanced, while they are circumscribed by “underdeveloped” cultures.
 
Safeguarding “Swedish values and culture”
Nowadays, chauvinistic “nationalist” parties tend to avoid the word “race”, considered to be an outdated concept that passed away with Nazism and Apartheid. However racism remains; it has only become camouflaged by the less negatively charged word “culture” — racism without race. These views can be exemplified by the Swedish nationalist party which recently obtained 17 percent of the Swedish electorate votes. The Sweden Democrats describe themselves as “social conservatives with a nationalist foundation”, claiming to safeguard “Swedish values and culture”. Like many of their European equivalents they have gained support through a strong anti-migration stance. The Sweden Democrats distinguish “immigrants” from “Swedes”, often by indicating their state of underdevelopment. Immigrants are unfavourably compared to Nordic people and their “superior” culture. According to the Sweden Democrats:
“Culture could be defined as a way of life that unites a society, or a group of people.  … The unique nature of Swedish culture finds its roots in our history and in the nature and the climate in which it has developed. Against this background, it is not surprising that our culture has great similarities with that of our Nordic neighbours. … Cultural impulses that, without being adapted to Swedish conditions, are being inoculated into Swedish society by decision makers or other groups who do not consider themselves as Swedish, are by us not considered part of Swedish culture, but rather as a form of cultural imperialism.  … The Sweden Democrats are opponents to both cultural imperialism and to cultural relativism. It is obvious that some cultures are better than others in safeguarding fundamental human rights.”
 
The lofty and vague label
Like similar “nationalist” parties, Sweden Democrats lump together all “true” Swedes under the lofty and vague label of “the Swedish people”, an entity they claim to represent. However, as the poet Paul Valéry once pointed out: “The only meaning I can see in the word “people” is “mixture”….”  Immigrants may have to change some of their customs and behaviour and adopt new norms to adapt in receiving countries, at the same time host countries would be enriched by the positive contribution of migrants.
This may not be an easy or short process as it requires both individual efforts, which may be different for women and men, and adequate migration policies. Central to this dynamic coexistence and exchange, there are unique human beings, with different backgrounds, physiological traits, ideas, behaviour and beliefs. Most humans are able to adjust to various cultural contexts and abide to rules and laws of a specific nation without losing their unique identity.
 
Kant´s categorial imperative
Is it really possible to define unique “Swedish values”, or any other “national” values for that matter? It is more viable to assume that a “nation”, and thus all individuals, would benefit from Immanuel Kant´s categorial imperative: “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time wish that it becomes a universal law.”
The ideology of nationalists and chauvinistic demagogues is based on unfounded myths that reduce human existence to ideals of “nations”, “races” and “cultures”, while rejecting the reality of change and diversity. Recent historical events demonstrate that when such movements which idealise reality rise to power, the consequences can be disastrous. As Goethe once stated: “A confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.”
[Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has worked at Sida, Unesco, FAO and other international organisations as researcher and advisor.
Rosemary Vargas Lundius holds a Ph.D on Development Economics from Lund University and has worked on gender and migration issues at IFAD and UNDP. She is presently the Chair of the KNOMAD gender and migration research team.]

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DEVELOPING A BLUE ECONOMY
Mideast countries can beat pressing challenges
Maged Srour
 
AQUAPONICS, an innovative practice in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, is revolutionising the way of conceiving food supply in many Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries. The Blue Economy is becoming an ‘El Dorado’, a new frontier for traditionally arid and water-stressed nations in MENA, according to Christian Averous, Vice President of Plan Bleu, one of the Regional Activity Centres of the Mediterranean Action Plan developed under the United Environment Regional Seas Programme.
But against the backdrop of the enormous potential represented by the Blue Economy, there are numerous challenges and critical issues that the region faces. Overfishing, water scarcity, highly salty waters, climate change, high evaporation rates, the oil industry and pollution are just some of things that place at risk the development and conservation of marine and aquatic resources in the MENA region.
The Regional Seas Programme, launched in 1974 in the wake of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, is one of UNEP’s most significant achievements in the past 35 years.The Regional Seas Programme aims to address the accelerating degradation of the world’s oceans and coastal areas through the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment, by engaging neighbouring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their shared marine environment. It has accomplished this by stimulating the creation of Regional Seas programmes prescriptions for sound environmental management to be coordinated and implemented by countries sharing a common body of water.Today, more than 143 countries participate in 13 Regional Seas programmes established under the auspices of UNEP: Black Sea, Wider Caribbean, East Asian Seas, Eastern Africa, South Asian Seas, ROPME Sea Area, Mediterranean, North-East Pacific, Northwest Pacific, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, South-East Pacific, Pacific, and Western Africa. Six of these programmes, are directly administered by UNEP.
In addition, rapid population growth throughout the region complicates things. According to the U.S.-based Population Reference Bureau, “MENA experienced the highest rate of population growth of any region in the world over the past century” and is growing at a current rate of 2 percent per year. It’s the second-highest growth rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa, the organisation says.
Population growth leads to an increased demand for fish as a food source and this, combined with poor regulations and rapacious fishing practices, ultimately leads to an overall decline in marine populations. Eventually it compromises the survival status of the Red Sea coral reef, which is already highly threatened by pollution, unsustainable tourism and climate change, (even though corals in this region proved to be resistant to global warming).
 
Coping with poor management of water resources
The MENA region has also had to cope with poor management of water resources, with agriculture using 85 percent of freshwater. Available freshwater in the region is mainly underground and its non-renewable stocks are being depleted, warns the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Over the last four decades, the availability of freshwater in the MENA region has decreased by 40 percent and will probably decrease by 50 percent by 2050. The consequences could be disastrous in terms of food security, rural livelihoods and economies.
 
Blue Economy: a way to overcome challenges
“It is very important to promote an ocean-based economy in today’s world, as governments struggle for economic growth, [particularly] in the MENA region as well as in the whole Mediterranean region and in the Gulf countries,” Averous tells IPS.
This means that countries in the region should not only seek to preserve aquatic and marine resources, but should also invest in these same resources to foster a process of economic development and growth through them.
 
Fisheries and aquaculture
But best practices across the region are demonstrating just how much these countries believe in the enormous potential of the Blue Economy. One example is aquaponics, an innovative practice in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors that is revolutionising the food supply in many MENA countries. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture — the practice of fish farming and hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water without soil).
Egypt, Algeria and Oman recently embarked on a cooperation project promoted by FAO, where local farmers participated in farmer-to-farmer study tours where they visited 15 integrated agri-aquaculture farms and learnt new skills and techniques from each other. Farmed Tilapias are on sale in a Cairo supermarket. Local farmers from Egypt, Algeria and Oman participated in farmer-to-farmer study tours, visited 15 integrated agri-aquaculture farms, and learnt new skills and techniques from each other.
 
A good experience
“It was a good experience,” says Basem Hashim, an Egyptian farmer and consultant for the General Authority of Fish Resources Development, a movement which tries to shape new ideas and actions for agriculture and food in Egypt.
Basem took part in the study tours organised by FAO and thanks to that experience was able to outline and understand the most pressing challenges for the farming communities in the region.
“We know the importance of using water properly and of improving production [not only in terms of quantity, but] also in terms of quality,” he tells IPS. “At the same time, I think there is still not enough awareness in Egypt in terms of water scarcity, pollution and waste, even though the government is working with associations to raise awareness and transfer experiences.”
“The study tours were a clear example of successful South-South Cooperation,” says Crespi. “The ultimate goal, which is what we are working on right now, is to draft a road map to outline the best practices to best use water in these areas where water is scarce. In the three countries we have created national teams that have produced three technical reports that will be the basis of the road map.”
Aquaponics is an incredible innovation also because it allows these communities to have, thanks to the fish that are raised in those structures, a source of protein that would otherwise be poorly available if not nonexistent in some of these countries.
“In addition, with the same use of resources,” says Basem, “we also have fruits and vegetables. This is what the future looks like.” There are other countries in the region are known for their best practices in the Blue Economy, particularly in the aquaculture sector:
Iran has long-standing experience with rice-fish farming, which is currently estimated by experts to be practiced in 10 percent of all rice fields in the country, on a total area of between 50,000 to 72,000 hectares.
Lebanon has been practicing aquaculture for many decades and in 2017 total fishery production from marine capture fisheries and aquaculture were 3,608 and 1,225 tonnes, respectively.
Fish farmers in Israel are developing innovative technologies and breeding methods which are revolutionising their industry. The excellence of Israeli technology is not used alone in breeding in the country but is also appreciated and exported all over the world.
 
Coastal and marine tourism
According to Plan Bleu, in the past 20 years the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution of the tourism sector has increased by 60 percent in Mediterranean countries. The Mediterranean region is the world’s leading tourism destination. International tourist arrivals have grown from 58 million in 1970 to nearly 324 million in 2015. It is also among the most frequented areas by cruise ships in the world, with some 27 million passengers visiting the area by 2013. Therefore tourism has been a positive economic asset for the region.
But as surprising as it may be, it is not so much industrial pollution that represents the greatest damage to the marine environment, but tourism that has a huge negative impact on the region.
Tourism is in fact one of the main threats to ecosystems in the area. Indeed, locals confirm that industries and cruises operating, for example, in the Red Sea are subject to harsh regulations but the main threat to the environment is posed by waste disposal, especially of plastic, and by the enormous water footprint that each tourist leaves behind.
 
Perspectives about the future
The Middle East certainly has many challenges to face in terms of scarcity of natural resources and food security. For this reason the economy based on maritime sectors in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East represents a crucial potential for the economic development.
“We do not have any ‘miraculous’ innovation. We simply have some technologies that, if associated to traditional methods, can stimulate a process of sustainable development, which is a key factor for those countries struggling for finding enough natural resources,” says Crespi.
“Moreover,” he adds, “promoting a policy of implementation of Blue Economy, could reduce the rural exodus of these populations from the countryside to the cities, or even the exodus across the Mediterranean to get to Europe, risking their lives often for not finding the much desired job and economic prosperity.”
The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and was co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Participants from 150 countries around the world gathered to learn how to build a blue economy. -Ips

Comment

Maged Srour
 
AQUAPONICS, an innovative practice in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, is revolutionising the way of conceiving food supply in many Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries. The Blue Economy is becoming an ‘El Dorado’, a new frontier for traditionally arid and water-stressed nations in MENA, according to Christian Averous, Vice President of Plan Bleu, one of the Regional Activity Centres of the Mediterranean Action Plan developed under the United Environment Regional Seas Programme.
But against the backdrop of the enormous potential represented by the Blue Economy, there are numerous challenges and critical issues that the region faces. Overfishing, water scarcity, highly salty waters, climate change, high evaporation rates, the oil industry and pollution are just some of things that place at risk the development and conservation of marine and aquatic resources in the MENA region.
The Regional Seas Programme, launched in 1974 in the wake of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, is one of UNEP’s most significant achievements in the past 35 years.The Regional Seas Programme aims to address the accelerating degradation of the world’s oceans and coastal areas through the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment, by engaging neighbouring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their shared marine environment. It has accomplished this by stimulating the creation of Regional Seas programmes prescriptions for sound environmental management to be coordinated and implemented by countries sharing a common body of water.Today, more than 143 countries participate in 13 Regional Seas programmes established under the auspices of UNEP: Black Sea, Wider Caribbean, East Asian Seas, Eastern Africa, South Asian Seas, ROPME Sea Area, Mediterranean, North-East Pacific, Northwest Pacific, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, South-East Pacific, Pacific, and Western Africa. Six of these programmes, are directly administered by UNEP.
In addition, rapid population growth throughout the region complicates things. According to the U.S.-based Population Reference Bureau, “MENA experienced the highest rate of population growth of any region in the world over the past century” and is growing at a current rate of 2 percent per year. It’s the second-highest growth rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa, the organisation says.
Population growth leads to an increased demand for fish as a food source and this, combined with poor regulations and rapacious fishing practices, ultimately leads to an overall decline in marine populations. Eventually it compromises the survival status of the Red Sea coral reef, which is already highly threatened by pollution, unsustainable tourism and climate change, (even though corals in this region proved to be resistant to global warming).
 
Coping with poor management of water resources
The MENA region has also had to cope with poor management of water resources, with agriculture using 85 percent of freshwater. Available freshwater in the region is mainly underground and its non-renewable stocks are being depleted, warns the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Over the last four decades, the availability of freshwater in the MENA region has decreased by 40 percent and will probably decrease by 50 percent by 2050. The consequences could be disastrous in terms of food security, rural livelihoods and economies.
 
Blue Economy: a way to overcome challenges
“It is very important to promote an ocean-based economy in today’s world, as governments struggle for economic growth, [particularly] in the MENA region as well as in the whole Mediterranean region and in the Gulf countries,” Averous tells IPS.
This means that countries in the region should not only seek to preserve aquatic and marine resources, but should also invest in these same resources to foster a process of economic development and growth through them.
 
Fisheries and aquaculture
But best practices across the region are demonstrating just how much these countries believe in the enormous potential of the Blue Economy. One example is aquaponics, an innovative practice in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors that is revolutionising the food supply in many MENA countries. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture — the practice of fish farming and hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water without soil).
Egypt, Algeria and Oman recently embarked on a cooperation project promoted by FAO, where local farmers participated in farmer-to-farmer study tours where they visited 15 integrated agri-aquaculture farms and learnt new skills and techniques from each other. Farmed Tilapias are on sale in a Cairo supermarket. Local farmers from Egypt, Algeria and Oman participated in farmer-to-farmer study tours, visited 15 integrated agri-aquaculture farms, and learnt new skills and techniques from each other.
 
A good experience
“It was a good experience,” says Basem Hashim, an Egyptian farmer and consultant for the General Authority of Fish Resources Development, a movement which tries to shape new ideas and actions for agriculture and food in Egypt.
Basem took part in the study tours organised by FAO and thanks to that experience was able to outline and understand the most pressing challenges for the farming communities in the region.
“We know the importance of using water properly and of improving production [not only in terms of quantity, but] also in terms of quality,” he tells IPS. “At the same time, I think there is still not enough awareness in Egypt in terms of water scarcity, pollution and waste, even though the government is working with associations to raise awareness and transfer experiences.”
“The study tours were a clear example of successful South-South Cooperation,” says Crespi. “The ultimate goal, which is what we are working on right now, is to draft a road map to outline the best practices to best use water in these areas where water is scarce. In the three countries we have created national teams that have produced three technical reports that will be the basis of the road map.”
Aquaponics is an incredible innovation also because it allows these communities to have, thanks to the fish that are raised in those structures, a source of protein that would otherwise be poorly available if not nonexistent in some of these countries.
“In addition, with the same use of resources,” says Basem, “we also have fruits and vegetables. This is what the future looks like.” There are other countries in the region are known for their best practices in the Blue Economy, particularly in the aquaculture sector:
Iran has long-standing experience with rice-fish farming, which is currently estimated by experts to be practiced in 10 percent of all rice fields in the country, on a total area of between 50,000 to 72,000 hectares.
Lebanon has been practicing aquaculture for many decades and in 2017 total fishery production from marine capture fisheries and aquaculture were 3,608 and 1,225 tonnes, respectively.
Fish farmers in Israel are developing innovative technologies and breeding methods which are revolutionising their industry. The excellence of Israeli technology is not used alone in breeding in the country but is also appreciated and exported all over the world.
 
Coastal and marine tourism
According to Plan Bleu, in the past 20 years the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution of the tourism sector has increased by 60 percent in Mediterranean countries. The Mediterranean region is the world’s leading tourism destination. International tourist arrivals have grown from 58 million in 1970 to nearly 324 million in 2015. It is also among the most frequented areas by cruise ships in the world, with some 27 million passengers visiting the area by 2013. Therefore tourism has been a positive economic asset for the region.
But as surprising as it may be, it is not so much industrial pollution that represents the greatest damage to the marine environment, but tourism that has a huge negative impact on the region.
Tourism is in fact one of the main threats to ecosystems in the area. Indeed, locals confirm that industries and cruises operating, for example, in the Red Sea are subject to harsh regulations but the main threat to the environment is posed by waste disposal, especially of plastic, and by the enormous water footprint that each tourist leaves behind.
 
Perspectives about the future
The Middle East certainly has many challenges to face in terms of scarcity of natural resources and food security. For this reason the economy based on maritime sectors in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East represents a crucial potential for the economic development.
“We do not have any ‘miraculous’ innovation. We simply have some technologies that, if associated to traditional methods, can stimulate a process of sustainable development, which is a key factor for those countries struggling for finding enough natural resources,” says Crespi.
“Moreover,” he adds, “promoting a policy of implementation of Blue Economy, could reduce the rural exodus of these populations from the countryside to the cities, or even the exodus across the Mediterranean to get to Europe, risking their lives often for not finding the much desired job and economic prosperity.”
The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and was co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Participants from 150 countries around the world gathered to learn how to build a blue economy. -Ips

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The scourge of corporal punishment must stop

A M K Chowdhury
 
CORPORAL punishment denotes causing deliberate pain or discomfort for undesired behaviour by students in schools. It often involves striking the student either across the buttocks or on the hands, with an implement such as a rattan cane, wooden paddle or leather strap. Any physical punishment intended to cause twinge is ‘corporal’ punishment. There are further non-physical forms of punishment that are also brutal and degrading and thus irreconcilable with the principle. Punishment belittles, denigrates, scares or ridicules a victim child. Attributable to fear children often remain silent and acquiesce violence without inquiring why they are spanked.
 
Correct remark of Sir Frank Peters
Sir Frank Peters has correctly observed that any teacher or headmaster who engages in corporal punishment is an enemy of student, family and state, now that corporal punishment has been outlawed. “Corporal punishment is torture, not discipline, that’s imparted by terrorists who strike fear into fragile, vulnerable, impressionable and defenceless young children that’s physically and mentally damaging and speaks no praise of the perpetrator or society that permits it”.
 
(The Holiday, January 11, 2019)
Some school teachers still endorse the old damaging adage “Spare the stick and spoil the child’’. But Sir Frank Peters says, “Any parent who sends his child into a corporal punishment environment needs to have his head examined by a psychiatrist and if the psychiatrist declares him sane, then the psychiatrist needs to have his head examined.
How is it possible for any parent to declare that they love their offspring so much they are willing to give their own lives for them and yet send them daily into an environment of constant fear and potential danger to both body and mind?” (The Holiday, January 11, 2019)
Each year, hundreds of thousands of students are subjected to corporal punishment in public schools.  Despite the many problems associated with the hitting or paddling of students, corporal punishment is a legal form of school discipline in 20 states. Of these, thirteen states have reported that corporal punishment was inflicted on over one thousand students—and eight states reported its use against at least ten thousand students—during the 2006-2007 school year. While significant, these numbers do not tell the whole story.
These statistics only reflect data which has been reported to the Department of Education and they only include the number of students who are subjected to corporal punishment during the school year, not the total number of times that an individual student has been hit over his or her educational career.   (Vide Human Rights Watch report “Corporal Punishment in Schools and Its Effect on Academic Success” Joint HRW/ACLU Statement, April 15, 2010).
 
Violent disciplinary method
Aside from the infliction of pain and the physical injuries which often result from the use physical punishments, these violent disciplinary methods also impact students’ academic achievement and long-term well-being.  Despite significant evidence that corporal punishment is detrimental to a productive learning environment, there is currently no federal prohibition on the use of physical discipline against children in public school.  In fact, children in some states receive greater protections against corporal punishment in detention facilities than they do in their public schools.  For this reason and others, the ACLU and HRW are encouraged that this subcommittee is seeking to address the problems stemming from corporal punishment in schools. (Ibid )
 
Scourge of corporal punishment
Sir Frank Peters, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a foreign friend of Bangladesh, is a great crusader for banning the scourge of corporal punishment. He wrote last week (the Holiday, October 20) about the adverse consequence of the bad practice. He wrote: A slap in the face is considered to be one of the biggest insults one human being can give another, but a school ’teacher’ this week has taken it to a new low level. The incident occurred in the Haryana’s Rewari district. The ruthless ‘teacher’ didn’t use his hand, but a shoe! Not once, but several times. Imagine sending your child in his smartly-dressed starched uniform to an expensive, exclusive top-level school, expecting the school to do all that’s right in helping to develop your loved one, only to have him slapped in the face with a shoe.
It stands to commonsense just from the above that corporal punishment must be stopped and the ‘bad apples’ in the teaching fraternity who disagree must be kicked out. The use-by date of the archaic practices is well and truly over in a modern enlightened civil society. Any parent who sends his child to a school or madrasah that practices corporal punishment without offering the child support or protection, fail to be good parents.

Comment

A M K Chowdhury
 
CORPORAL punishment denotes causing deliberate pain or discomfort for undesired behaviour by students in schools. It often involves striking the student either across the buttocks or on the hands, with an implement such as a rattan cane, wooden paddle or leather strap. Any physical punishment intended to cause twinge is ‘corporal’ punishment. There are further non-physical forms of punishment that are also brutal and degrading and thus irreconcilable with the principle. Punishment belittles, denigrates, scares or ridicules a victim child. Attributable to fear children often remain silent and acquiesce violence without inquiring why they are spanked.
 
Correct remark of Sir Frank Peters
Sir Frank Peters has correctly observed that any teacher or headmaster who engages in corporal punishment is an enemy of student, family and state, now that corporal punishment has been outlawed. “Corporal punishment is torture, not discipline, that’s imparted by terrorists who strike fear into fragile, vulnerable, impressionable and defenceless young children that’s physically and mentally damaging and speaks no praise of the perpetrator or society that permits it”.
 
(The Holiday, January 11, 2019)
Some school teachers still endorse the old damaging adage “Spare the stick and spoil the child’’. But Sir Frank Peters says, “Any parent who sends his child into a corporal punishment environment needs to have his head examined by a psychiatrist and if the psychiatrist declares him sane, then the psychiatrist needs to have his head examined.
How is it possible for any parent to declare that they love their offspring so much they are willing to give their own lives for them and yet send them daily into an environment of constant fear and potential danger to both body and mind?” (The Holiday, January 11, 2019)
Each year, hundreds of thousands of students are subjected to corporal punishment in public schools.  Despite the many problems associated with the hitting or paddling of students, corporal punishment is a legal form of school discipline in 20 states. Of these, thirteen states have reported that corporal punishment was inflicted on over one thousand students—and eight states reported its use against at least ten thousand students—during the 2006-2007 school year. While significant, these numbers do not tell the whole story.
These statistics only reflect data which has been reported to the Department of Education and they only include the number of students who are subjected to corporal punishment during the school year, not the total number of times that an individual student has been hit over his or her educational career.   (Vide Human Rights Watch report “Corporal Punishment in Schools and Its Effect on Academic Success” Joint HRW/ACLU Statement, April 15, 2010).
 
Violent disciplinary method
Aside from the infliction of pain and the physical injuries which often result from the use physical punishments, these violent disciplinary methods also impact students’ academic achievement and long-term well-being.  Despite significant evidence that corporal punishment is detrimental to a productive learning environment, there is currently no federal prohibition on the use of physical discipline against children in public school.  In fact, children in some states receive greater protections against corporal punishment in detention facilities than they do in their public schools.  For this reason and others, the ACLU and HRW are encouraged that this subcommittee is seeking to address the problems stemming from corporal punishment in schools. (Ibid )
 
Scourge of corporal punishment
Sir Frank Peters, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a foreign friend of Bangladesh, is a great crusader for banning the scourge of corporal punishment. He wrote last week (the Holiday, October 20) about the adverse consequence of the bad practice. He wrote: A slap in the face is considered to be one of the biggest insults one human being can give another, but a school ’teacher’ this week has taken it to a new low level. The incident occurred in the Haryana’s Rewari district. The ruthless ‘teacher’ didn’t use his hand, but a shoe! Not once, but several times. Imagine sending your child in his smartly-dressed starched uniform to an expensive, exclusive top-level school, expecting the school to do all that’s right in helping to develop your loved one, only to have him slapped in the face with a shoe.
It stands to commonsense just from the above that corporal punishment must be stopped and the ‘bad apples’ in the teaching fraternity who disagree must be kicked out. The use-by date of the archaic practices is well and truly over in a modern enlightened civil society. Any parent who sends his child to a school or madrasah that practices corporal punishment without offering the child support or protection, fail to be good parents.

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