One of the hallmarks of President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh’s regime over the past two decades has been a crackdown on groups who speak out about violations of human rights. Last month activists rebelled against the law that restricts their gatherings, coming together at the Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) held in Gambia’s capital Banjul. They expressed serious concerns about ongoing attacks on political opponents ahead of this month’s presidential election. The event took place against the backdrop of President Jammeh’s words in May: “Let me warn the evil vermin called the opposition. If you want to destabilise this country, I will bury you nine feet deep.”
The availability of injectable contraceptives for women in India has stirred a deep debate across the country. The cheapest form of contraceptive has been made legal by the government and supported by the World Health Organisation. However, it has received criticism from advocates of women’s rights. They highlight evidence that long term use of the injection causes menstrual irregularity, amenorrhea and demineralisation of bones.
Human rights groups have applauded a UN vote to reaffirm the right of a newly appointed expert addressing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to continue his work. A group of African nations had sought to suspend the research of Thai law professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, claiming that the appointment threatened their sovereignty, but their argument was rejected. “We are encouraged by this voting result and in the confirmation that states believe in the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council,” said OutRight Action International’s Executive Director Jessica Stern.
Moroccan farmer Ahmed Khiat reveals the predicament of agricultural smallholders in nations that have experienced challenges due to severe ongoing drought. Khiat comes from a long line of farmers but as profits fall, his sons prefer to work in the city. In the meantime, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, José Graziano da Silva, says, “We need to find new sources of funding for farmers. We project that we may be soon see one billion hungry people in the world if we don’t act strongly to tackle climate change.”
Cuba’s economic difficulties have been muddied further in the past week by uncertainly around how U.S. president-elect Donald Trump will approach the recently improved relationship between the two nations. Political commentators have been quick to suggest Trump is unlikely to attempt a roll-back of the Obama administration’s steps to strengthen relations. Cuba sees the U.S. trade embargo as the biggest obstacle to its development. Until Trump’s policies are revealed, progress is uncertain.
A growing number of smallholders in South Africa’s Kwazulu Natal Province have switched to goat farming in their aim to adapt to climate change in the area. In this year’s severe drought, many lost their cattle herds. These new goat farmers are hailed as potential heroes in African agriculture, where more food is needed to feed rising populations reliant on fewer current resources.
With the exception of countries involved in armed warfare, El Salvador was the world’s most violent nation in 2015. With a murder rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants due in most part to gang-related killings, ordinary people live in daily fear. IPS talks to those who’ve been forced to flee their homes in the west of the country following the escalation of violence by members of one of El Salvador’s deadliest gangs, Calle 18.
Drought and the falling price of cocoa have created huge harvest problems for farmers in Cameroon – the world’s fifth largest producer of cocoa. The country’s trade minister says that farmers must join co-operative unions to boost production and trade back to their previous levels. IPS interviews Tanchenow Daniel, a cocoa farmer in the south-west of the country who has been affected by climate and economics.
More than 500 women from across the globe working in film and media gathered to celebrate work of African women in the industry. They came together as part of the first ever all-female film festival hosted on the African continent. The festival included movie screenings, workshops and discussions about female under-representation in film. “It’s very important for people to be able to collaborate afterwards and feel like they have a community of other women who have faced similar challenges in terms of trying to tell their stories,” said Sara Chitambo, head of the South African International Association of Women in Radio and Television.
Since 2006, 800 journalists have been killed in mysterious circumstances – but only seven percent of those cases have been solved. Advocacy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists Courtney Radsch has spoken out about the dangers journalists face. She says that many of the killings are “ordered, paid for and orchestrated”. While journalists’ protection is part of the UN’s 16th Sustainable Development Goal, UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Communication, Frank La Rue warned, “There have been 76 cases of journalist executions this year which makes 2016 one of the most violent years of the past decade.”
When #FeesMustFall began to trend on social media platforms in South Africa in October 2015, the government shrugged it off as an example of isolated hotheads. A year on, the student protest - which started over a 10.5 percent increase in tuition fees at the University of the Witwatersrand - has gained traction across the country. Numerous higher educational facilities have barely been functioning in recent months. Attempts are now being made by churches and NGOs to mediate the rising rift between students and the state.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere reached dangerous new records in 2016, leading the United Nation’s weather agency to warn that continuous rising levels will cause irreversible damage for future generations. World Meteorological Organization secretary general Petteri Taalas warned: “Without tackling carbon dioxide emissions, we cannot tackle climate change and keep temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celcius above the pre-industrial era.”
The UN Human Rights Council has introduced more comprehensive measurements to ensure the global safety of journalists and protect press freedom. The latest resolution has been described as a “wonderful reiteration” by Reporters Without Borders’ Advocacy and Communications Officer Margaux Ewen. However, while calls have been made to member states to implement their international obligations, it has been noted that this first step must be directly translated to action on the ground.
Controversy continues amid one of South Africa’s worst droughts in recorded history, as its government continues to permit the construction of new coal mines and power plants in protected land areas. One mine in particular has come under scrutiny, having received the permission to operate in a high yield water area of special environmental importance. The mining companies argue that the new mines will create jobs and sustainability, but locals and scientists are concerned about the effects of further water shortages on communities and ecosystems.
Scores of atheist writers, bloggers, publishers, gay activists and religious figures have been murdered by suspected Islamist militants in Bangladesh in the past few years. IPS investigates the ensuing climate of fear and speaks to the father of murdered writer Avijit Roy.
A rare case of collaboration between Big Oil, scientists and environmentalists has been hailed as a success story in protecting an endangered species of whale from extinction. At the turn of the century the number of western grey whales stood at 115 around Russia’s far eastern waters. After this unusual group joined forces, the grey whale population was estimated to have grown to 175.
Children make up more than half of the world’s 65.3 million refugees. The vast majority are out of school, threatening to leave almost an entire generation behind. At the at the UN leaders’ summit last week, member states faced criticism for their short-fallings on addressing this issue. President Obama called the refugee crisis, “a test of our common humanity” - but critics called attention to the United States’ record of detaining unaccompanied minors and young women from Central America.
Elephants in Africa are being killed by poachers for their tusks at the rate of one every 15 minutes, but Japan and South Africa are opposing a proposal to ban domestic trade in elephant ivory. Japan and South Africa say they are just as much for saving Africa’s elephants as everyone else but that the right way forward is through regulated and tightly controlled domestic trade, not a ban. Campaigners, meanwhile, are horrified. “This is atrocious,” said Mike Chase, founder of Elephants Without Borders and the principal investigator for the Great Elephant Census. “Six elephants were killed while they were deliberating over one sentence.”
Uganda has one of the highest birth rates in the world: the average Ugandan women will give birth to six babies during her lifetime. The Christa clinic in Jinja, Uganda offers free and low-cost family planning services. But women in the area are also at high risk of HIV infection, as it is not easy for them initiate condom use. By the time she is 21, a young woman in Uganda has a one in ten chance of being HIV positive.
Yemen is a hotbed of human rights violations. IPS reporter Rose Delaney investigates why global media has turned a blind eye to the plight of the country’s inhabitants – particularly its children. With its recent history of bloodshed and deprivation, how long can the world turn away from reports of impoverished families forced to enlist their children with pro-government forces in exchange for the equivalent of 7-15 USD per day?