UN

U.N. endorses gay rights declaration

 

Originally intended as a badge of shame by the Nazis, the pink triangle has been reclaimed as a symbol of gay pride

 

The United Nations passed a historic resolution which endorses the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Members of the U.N. Human Rights Council voted 23 to 19 in favor of the declaration put forward by South Africa.

The resolution expressed “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Those who voted for the resolution include the United States, E.U., Brazil and other Latin American countries. Some African and Muslim countries decry the endorsement.

The resolution calls for a panel discussion next spring with “constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against” gays, lesbians and transgender people.

via Huffinton Post

World's poorest nations fall back in wealth —UN

Most of the world’s poorest countries got richer over the past decade but are falling further back in the global wealth ranks, a UN report said Tuesday.

At least 37 of the world’s poorest 48 nations have put on positive growth in the past decade, said the report by a group of nine “eminent persons,” including former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn and the former Mali president Alpha Oumar Konare.

But it added that the average per capita income in the poorest countries was 18 percent of the world average in 1971, but only 15 percent of that average in 2008.

The so-called Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which range from Afghanistan and Bhutan in Asia to Senegal and Zambia in Africa, now face a widening gap with the low and lower middle income countries which are keeping up with average world income levels.

Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by dbgg1979

National Ambassador Against Hunger KC Concepcion speaks of supporting causes affecting women

As part of the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day, and as part of our support for the United Nations World Food Programme, we share this video taken of celebrity and National Ambassador Against Hunger, KC Concepcion, who recently visited Mindanao to meet with women farmers in the area.

Research has shown that women and children are the most affected by poverty, and that women who are empowered to participate in economic activities are more likely to help alleviate their family and community out of poverty.

In an exclusive interview with this writer, KC also shared details of her previous trip to Uganda, East Africa and her motivations for supporting causes that affected women and children. Prior to joining the World Food Programme as National Ambassador Against Hunger, KC lent her support to Virlanie Foundation, an organization that provides shelter for abused, impoverished children. She also lent her voice to the first album of women’s advocacy group Romancing Venus, which uses words and poetry to uplift abused women.

“Choose a maximum of three choices that you are willing to support–just three–and commit yourself to those… When I make a decision, when I say yes to something, I don’t give up—unless I know I have nothing more to give,” KC shares.

“[What I’m doing is] so much more than [what people see in the media.] It’s so much more than talking to you guys (the media), or getting pictures out. The stories we tell are just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s so much more than that.”

“That’s why I’m here,” KC adds. “I might as well stand for something and [be remembered] for something good.”

KC invites all her fans and supporters to likewise support the UN World Food Programme. One way to do this is through KC’s Closet, an online auction that sells some of KC’s vintage gowns, dresses, and designer items and directs all proceeds to the UN WFP.

PH 97th out of 169 nations in quality-of-life report

PH 97th out of 169 nations in quality-of-life report
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines ranked 97th out of 169 countries worldwide in the 2010 United Nations (UN) Human Development Index (HDI) of UN member-countries with the best quality of life.

In a Nov. 4 report, the UN Development Program (UNDP) said the Philippines’ HDI rose from 0.523 in 1980 to the current 0.638, which gives the country (with a life expectancy of 72.33 years) a rank of 97 out of 169 countries with comparable data.

However, the HDI of East Asia and the Pacific rose from 0.391 in 1980 to 0.650 today, placing the Philippines below the regional average.

In 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2005, the country’s HDIs—0.523, 0.552, 0.597 and 0.619—were higher than the region’s 0.391, 0.474, 0.567 and 0.608.

The rankings of other member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are Singapore, 27; Brunei, 37; Malaysia, 57; Thailand, 92; Indonesia, 108; Vietnam, 113; Laos, 122; Cambodia, 124; and Burma (Myanmar), 132.

Norway leads

In the latest HDI report, Norway, with its 81 years of life expectancy, led the world in human development achievement. Australia and New Zealand placed second and third.

Also in the Top 10 were the United States, Ireland, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden and Germany.

Three African states—Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe—were at the bottom, along with Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Burundi.

According to the UNDP, East Asia and the Pacific had by far the “strongest overall performance of any region in the world, nearly doubling average HDI attainment over the past 40 years.”

China, which ranked 89th in the HDI, made it to the UNDP’s list of Top 10 Movers, along with Nepal, Indonesia, Laos and South Korea, “due to income rather than health or education achievements.”

“China’s per capita income increased a stunning 21-fold over the last four decades, also lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. Yet, China was not among the region’s top performers in improving school enrollment and life expectancy,” the UNDP said.

Highest in East Asia

South Korea ranked highest among East Asian countries at No. 12. At No. 155, Afghanistan ranked lowest among Asian nations out of 169 countries.

Other Asian states and their rankings: Japan, 11; Hong Kong, 21; Iran, 70; Sri Lanka, 91; India, 119; Bangladesh, 129; and Nepal, 138.

At least 14 countries, including Cuba, Lebanon, Oman, Grenada, Samoa, Bhutan, Eritrea, Seychelles and Vanuatu, as well as the Palestinian territories, have been dropped from the HDI “due to a lack of internationally compiled and verified data.”

The UNDP described the premise of the HDI as “simple.” It said that “national development should be measured not just by economic growth, but also by health and education achievement.”

“Life expectancy remains the main indicator for health. In education, the expected years of schooling for school-age children replaces gross enrollment and the average years of schooling in the adult population replaces adult literacy rates to provide a fuller picture of education level,” the UN attached agency said.

Back on-track

It took a visit to the “world’s capital” for the PNoy presidency to regain control of its agenda. Weeks before, a lone gunman on a bus with a score of tourists threatened to derail it a mere two months into its term. The firestorm of criticism during and after the incident immediately sucked the oxygen out of whatever positive “messaging” his befuddled communications group sought to craft about certain policies that were being rolled out at the time.

As he boarded his plane bound for the UN annual gathering of leaders in New York City, a few loose ends remained unresolved, put off until his return. These included a review of the internal investigation report authored principally by his earnest justice secretary which recommended the filing of charges against senior officials and a separate investigation into allegations of connivance with gambling syndicates within his camp.

PNoy’s management style and personnel selection, in particular the preponderance of Barkada, Inc among his inner circle of advisers and officials, were being called into question. A series of “Miscues and False Starts” was unmasking the shallow depth of experience the “rookie” team had. The shadow lines of authority being assigned to the inexperienced but trusted barkada (an innocuous term for cronies) was beginning to undermine the legitimacy and efficacy of the competent but mistrusted camp of “the professionals”. All this was taking place alongside the foreign relations gaffes with Hong Kong and Beijing.

It seemed that the ship of state rather than charting its own course was being driven by the elements, buffeted and tossed around at will by forces beyond its control–the confidence and goodwill that swelled during his inauguration had all but dissipated.

But within 48 hours of his landing, PNoy was regaining a little step in his stride by delivering his first foreign address before the UN, meeting with Barrack Obama on the sidelines of the 2nd ASEAN-US summit, and receiving the long promised aid worth $434-m from the State Department under Hillary Clinton through the Millenium Challenge Corporation. To top it all off, PNoy decided to walk down 6th Avenue to engage in a little “hotdog stand” diplomacy by treating his entourage and the media in tow to lunch.

In a photo-op fit for a VISA commercial ( as in “the cost of treating the crew to lunch, $54, seeing your former arch-nemesis shrink in shame, ‘priceless'”), PNoy endowed his presidency with newfound legitimacy through his frugal spending on what he regarded to be one of life’s little pleasures (he actually referred to it as an act of indulgence). As if to cast out the ghost of Mrs Arroyo’s Le Cirque days, PNoy signaled to the audience back home what he was all about.

This PR coup achieved something in the eyes of ordinary pinoys that formal addresses and staged events could not. It showed PNoy in his element as a simple, hard-working president. It will be this image, not the one he left back home that will be the new face of his administration.

As this was happening, the Philippine Stock Exchange doffed off any negative impressions created by the latest report of the Asian Corporate Governance Association which scored the country at the bottom of the heap. Not even perceptions of corruption, weak property rights and poor rule of law seem to deter investors under this current administration. Time will tell if this is just market exuberance but the PSE index has already risen by more than a third since the year began. And as he made his way back via the US west coast, the president collected a number of significant foreign investor commitments.

It appears that all it took for PNoy to regain his footing were a couple of days in Manhattan. With momentum restored, his ability to set the agenda should find renewed focus as he touches back down in Manila.

Image credit: Bump’s Guide

Arroyo spreads news in New York about her admin's feats

Arroyo spreads news in New York about her admin’s feats
AMITA LEGASPI
GMANews.TV

“Start spreading the news…” that’s how Liza Minelli’s 1977 song “New York, New York” goes.

That’s what former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did. At two recent events in New York in the United States, Arroyo highlighted the achievements of her administration.

Taunted in the Philippines for corruption issues, Arroyo found two international venues — the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference and the Important Dinner for Women — to cite her administration’s achievements, especially for women.

Arroyo attended the two international gatherings from September 20 to 22. Arroyo’s classmate, former US President Bill Clinton, and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan invited her to these events.

Both events focused on addressing women issues related to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states, and at least 23 international organizations, have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

These goals include:
(1) Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
(2) Achieving universal primary education;
(3) Promoting gender equality and empowering women;
(4) Reducing child mortality rate;
(5) Improving maternal health;
(6) Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
(7) Ensuring environmental sustainability, and
(8) Developing a global partnership for development.

Presenter of commitments

In the 5th CGI conference, Arroyo was the “presenter of commitments” on enhanced education for about one million girls.

In a press release, Elena Bautista-Horn, Arroyo’s spokesperson, said the “commitment” was shared by Barclays (a financial services institution), Goldman Sachs (a global investment banking and securities firm) and Room to Read (a non-profit organization based in the US).

Women empowerment

During the 5th Important Dinner for Women, Arroyo was a discussant on the lagging targets on women empowerment and maternal deaths.

The discussion was participated in by Netherlands Prime minister Emily de Jongh-elnage, and Ida Odinga, wife of Kenya’s Prime Minister, among others.

During the event, the former president shared her administration’s accomplishments.

Arroyo said the country was among the world’s top in providing economic opportunities for women. She said the 2006-2007 global entrepreneurship monitor noted that the Philippines was the only in the country in the world where the women are more active in starting business than men.

She added there was a significant increase of women in the labor force, with 49% of all women now working, topping gender equality among managers, professional and technical workers.

Arroyo admin’s achievements

Arroyo also cited that the Philippines has been at the top of the ranking of developing countries in the World Economic Forum’s “global gender gap index” for four consecutive years. She added that the Philippines also has the highest ranking in Asia.

Arroyo further said the government tops in gender equality among legislators and senior officials, adding that women dominate civil service at the technical level.

“The Philippines continues to be the top performer in gender equality in literacy rate and enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education. The country also tops gender equality on life expentancy with women outliving men,” the former President said.

She also said that her administration also made landmark legislations for women, such as the enactment of the Magna Carta for Women, a comprehensive women’s human rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination against women.

The magna carta seeks to recognize, protect, fulfill and promote the rights of Filipino women, particularly those in the marginalized sector.

She also cited the Anti-Violence against Women and the Trafficking Persons Act of 2003, recognizing that women are the number one victims of human trafficking.

Empowerment of women

She said the Philippines is the only country that automatically appropriates 5% of its annual budget for the empowerment of Filipino women.

Yet, like many other countries, the Philippines faces the difficult challenge of reducing maternal mortality from 160/100,000 in 2009 to 55/100,000 in 2015, she said.

Arroyo said maternal deaths affect not only women empowerment but also the promotion of an intact family unit, the breeding ground of an individual’s values and direction for the future.

She said most of maternal deaths are caused by the absence of birth experts and proper birth facilities.

Arroyo said her administration has thus made health care services more available for women. They also made pregnancy quality for public health insurance.

Arroyo also put priority to facility-based, rather than home-based delivery of babies, by upgrading the gynecological, obstetrics, and surgical services of government hospitals.

Aside from attending the two events, Arroyo also held meetings with philanthropists and non government organizations to discuss possible projects addressing the concerns of women and overseas Filipino workers. Arroyo also discussed possible infrastructure, relief, and reconstruction projects. –VVP, GMANews.TV

The 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit: What’s on the Menu in Manhattan?

The 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit: What’s on the Menu in Manhattan?
By Ernest Bower, Director, South East Asia Program-CSIS
ABS-CBN News

Summary

President Barack Obama will host 8 of the 10 leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—in New York City on Friday, September 24, at the second U.S.-ASEAN Summit. The meeting underlines renewed U.S. policy energy being invested in Southeast Asia. Headlines from the discussion will likely focus on three areas:

1. Security alignment—including restatement of a common position on the South China Sea;

2. Economic growth and trade—particularly ASEAN’s leaders are seeking an update from Obama on the health of the U.S. economy and a read on whether the mid-term U.S. congressional elections might be an inflection point after which the United States can return to a proactive posture on trade; and

3. Burma—specifically exploring how the United States and ASEAN can encourage Burma’s leaders to create political space in the November elections and beyond.

The fact that the meeting is taking place in September in the United States is important in that it institutionalizes renewed U.S. engagement in ASEAN ahead of key steps forward in creating new regional security and trade architecture in Asia.

On the other hand, the fact that the summit is taking place in New York, not Washington, and without the leader of ASEAN’s largest country and economy, Indonesia, underlines the fact that while the policy intent is clearly substantive engagement, there is still much work to be done to align the United States and ASEAN.

Despite the best intentions of the principals, the meeting will certainly be viewed through the prism of perceived increased tension between China and its Asian neighbors, particularly related to disputed maritime territories.

Q1: Who is meeting and what is the agenda?

A1: President Obama will host the summit over lunch at a hotel in New York City from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, September 24. Eight of the 10 ASEAN leaders are confirmed to join him, except for President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and Prime Minister Thein Sein of Burma. The ASEAN secretary general, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, will also join the meeting. The only surprise is Yudhoyono’s absence, and that is significant (see below). The Burmese were not expected to send their head of state due to poor relations with the United States and the sanctions regime currently in place. Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono will be represented by Vice President Boediono, and Burma’s Prime Minister Thein Sein will be represented by Foreign Minister U Nyan Win. The leaders will be accompanied in most cases by their ministers of foreign affairs, ambassadors to the United States and/or the United Nations, and other senior officials.

Q2: Why isn’t President Yudhoyono attending, and what are the implications of his absence?

A2: President Yudhuyono notified the White House that he could not accept President Obama’s invitation to come to New York due to domestic issues in Jakarta. Insiders confirm that Yudhoyono decided he could not come to New York because of a confluence of issues—including the fact that Obama has had to postpone planned travel to Indonesia three times since taking office and the short notice given by the White House (not quite a month in advance of the meeting). Had the summit been held in Washington, D.C., and in early October, so Yudhoyono and the other ASEAN leaders could have come on either side of their long planned visit to Brussels for the Asia-Europe Summit, the Indonesian leader would probably have come.

Yudhoyono’s absence sends a strong signal that although the U.S.-ASEAN relationship is moving in the right direction, there is work still to be done to improve alignment. Indonesia is ASEAN’s largest country and has the largest economy, both more than twice the size of the next member. It is also ASEAN’s incoming chairman for 2011. It is likely that the United States and ASEAN will get back on track next year when Indonesia hosts the third U.S.-ASEAN Summit, and after President Obama finally is able to make his long-awaited visit to Indonesia. There are quiet plans for him to visit Jakarta during his Asia trip after U.S. mid-term elections in November. That trip would include India, Indonesia, Korea for the G-20 Summit, and Japan for the APEC Leaders Summit. In sum, Yudhoyono’s absence doesn’t fully diminish the importance of the meeting in New York on Friday, but it lays down the marker that the U.S.-ASEAN relationship is trending well, but remains a work in progress. (I explore the gap between U.S. policy intentions toward ASEAN and the realities of domestic politics revealed by Yudhoyono’s absence from New York on the CSIS Southeast Asia policy blog. Click here for the article.)

Q3: What is the on the security agenda and will the South China Sea be a focus?

A3: The United States and ASEAN are working with other countries, including Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Russia, to create new regional security architecture in Asia. To this end, the United States and Russia will be invited to join the East Asia Summit (EAS) this October during its meeting in Hanoi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the United States at the meeting and accept the invitation. The United States will then ideally be represented by President Obama at the next EAS hosted by Indonesia in 2011 (it is likely that the U.S.-ASEAN Summit will be held in proximity). As part of its calculus in deciding to join the EAS, the United States recognized that it must strengthen its security and political ties with ASEAN and invest in supporting ASEAN’s self-defined goals to firm up its foundation through economic, political, and socioeconomic integration, as outlined in the ASEAN Charter. To this end, the United States has been moving to normalize military ties with Indonesia and to enhance military relations with Vietnam, as well as committing to join the ASEAN Defense Minister Meeting + 8 (which includes the same countries listed above who are/will be members of the EAS).

In this context, one of the existential challenges for Asia is to create structures and use diplomacy to encourage China’s peaceful rise as a major world power. The South China Sea represents a major challenge in this process. China has been very effective in its “charm offensive,” begun during the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, writing a script as an engaged and committed neighbor promising economic dynamism through expanded trade and investment and regional economic integration. However, China’s geopolitical interests are the other side of that coin. China’s definition of its “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea, in response to Secretary of State Clinton’s reiteration of long-standing U.S. goals for maritime dispute resolution and freedom of navigation in the area based on international law and a multilateral approach, has uncovered atavistic anxieties about China’s intentions among the Southeast Asian countries. Therefore, ASEAN has welcomed a strong U.S. voice on security concerns in the South China Sea, and this has come at a time—ahead of a Chinese political cycle that will identify the country’s next generation of leaders in 2012—of heightened nationalism in China.

Neither the United States nor ASEAN wants to provoke Chinese nationalists, but both recognize the importance of being firm and sustaining a commitment to a multilateral approach to dispute resolution. Therefore, it is likely that the summit in New York will result in a joint statement that addresses the issue by reiterating the intent and direction of Secretary Clinton’s remarks at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi with a focus on China.

Q4: How about economic growth and trade?

A4: ASEAN is concerned about the health and direction of the U.S. economy and hopes that President Obama can assure them that a recovery is underway and that he will be able to move the United States toward a more proactive posture on trade after the U.S. mid-term elections in November. These issues are fundamentally important to ASEAN because the United States is its largest overseas market (particularly when you consider the fact that many ASEAN exports go through China as part of a supply chain that ends up with products delivered to the United States), and because the United States remains one of the top and qualitatively most valuable sources of investment and technology for the region. ASEAN is collectively the most trade dependent formal grouping of nations in the world, with trade accounting for nearly 100 percent of aggregate gross domestic product. So if trade stagnates, ASEAN is the global canary in the coal mine and it suffers first and most significantly.

ASEAN will be watching the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement closely as the benchmark indicator for whether Obama will use the political chits necessary to kick-start trade and make the case to Americans that long-term recovery is dependent on U.S. engagement in ASEAN, Asia, and the world. ASEAN is the United States’ fourth-largest overseas market and one that promises high-level growth for the coming years. ASEAN wants to know if the mid-term elections will be an inflection point for the U.S. stance on global trade. (Read more on the disconnect between policy and politics on trade with ASEAN in cogitASIA )

Q5: What about Burma?

A5: With Burmese elections coming up on November 7, Burma is sure to be high on the summit agenda—at least for the Unites States. While ASEAN would prefer not to have to carry the weight of Burma’s cloistered and intransigent military junta, it recognizes that having made the commitment to bring Burma into its membership it must work with the United States and others to try to encourage the creation of political space there. The Obama administration deserves credit for its courage and foresight in espousing an engagement strategy toward Burma that allowed it to reengage with ASEAN and hold meetings such as this summit. While the engagement has not produced results in Burma, the United States has changed its paradigm with ASEAN. The administration can and likely will tighten sanctions on Burma by focusing on its leaders, their families, and companies they are associated with—measures outlined in the Lantos Act. ASEAN needs to do its part and increase its normative focus on Burma to pressure the regime to create more political openness so it can truly engage in the core elements of integration defined in the ASEAN Charter. If ASEAN begins to focus on Burma, pressure may increase on China and India to refocus their current mercantilist and military policies that enable the hard-line domestic political stance of the junta and to play a role as responsible stakeholders encouraging positive change in the country.

Q6: What next?

A6: ASEAN hopes that President Obama will announce his candidate as the first U.S. ambassador to ASEAN to be resident in Jakarta. A candidate’s name is reportedly pending review and due diligence, though it is not likely that name can be announced on Friday. Additionally, the United States and ASEAN are expecting to name an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to provide guidance and leadership for the relationship. These names have also not been announced yet.

After the New York summit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in visiting Hanoi for the EAS, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will visit Vietnam for the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting + 8. President Obama is planning to visit Indonesia in November as mentioned above.

——————————————————————————–

Ernest Bower is a senior adviser and director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

Infrastructure woes hinder MDGs

Infrastructure woes hinder MDGs
Written by Cai U. Ordinario
Business Mirror

DESPITE the country’s efforts to increase social spending through programs like the conditional cash-transfer (CCT) program to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) believes that addressing infrastructure constraints will still hold the key in achieving the goals by 2015.

In a statement, ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said developing countries like the Philippines must address basic infrastructure constraints to achieve the MDGs in five years.

Kuroda said many areas in developing countries still do not have electricity, all-weather roads and other basic infrastructure. These limit access to health care and discourage children from completing their education.

He said the region is lagging in the targets for basic sanitation, infant mortality, maternal health, hunger and environmental improvements, and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Less developed countries, or those suffering from conflicts or disaster, will need more regional help to make progress, and the Asia and Pacific region must step up cross-border cooperation in trade, investment, knowledge and technology, to help bridge gaps in resources and capacities,” the ADB added.

Addressing these concerns is National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General
Dr. Cayetano Paderanga, who delivered the Philippines’ statement during the High-Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in New York City.

Paderanga, who is also the Socioeconomic Planning secretary, said while the Philippines made considerable strides in meeting some of the MDGs, like cutting child mortality, and malaria and tuberculosis incidence; increasing access to sanitation and safe and potable water; and providing equal education for girls, there is still a lot to be done.

The Neda chief said the measures that will be implemented by the national government to help achieve the MDGs will be included in the Medium-Term Development Plan for 2010-2016.

He said the MTDP will make sure this growth is inclusive and can help protect the vulnerable by ensuring access of every Filipino to quality health, education and employment opportunities.

These, Paderanga said, will be done through an appropriate mix of physical and social infrastructures, and by strengthening social safety nets, like CCTs and universal health care.

“Despite the gains attained in the last decade, we need to push ourselves more to meet the MDGs, particularly where we lag behind. Moreover, the Philippine scenario is characterized by wide disparities. Our latest progress report also shows that climate change poses a threat to the achievement of our targets. The population above the poverty threshold is declining as a result of low capacities to cope with the effects of shocks leading to more ‘transient poor,’” Paderanga said in a statement.

He urged development partners to also keep their promise of sharing a portion of their gross national income (GNI) to developing countries for MDG achievement. The United Nations official development assistance target is set at 0.7 percent of GNI.

“Excellencies, as we enter the last stretch, the Philippine government is exerting all means to deliver on its promise to realize its MDGs, not just as an international commitment but because our people demand it. Let us remember that each and every one of our citizens deserves a life of quality, meaning and dignity,” Paderanga said.

For its part, the Manila-based ADB said it is targeting increased support for basic infrastructure, such as roads, power and sanitation, which are crucial for meeting MDGs.

It also intends to scale up assistance for education, and for environmental improvements, including the use of clean energy, where ADB investments have grown to more than $1 billion a year, and which are targeted to double to $2 billion by 2013.

Kuroda added that countries in the Asia and the Pacific region, which is home to three-fifths of humanity and two-thirds of the world’s poor, represent the world’s best hope for achieving the MDGs by 2015.

“With more than 500 million people having overcome poverty since 1990, the target for reducing extreme income poverty is in sight. The region is also likely to achieve near universal primary school enrollment by 2015, attain gender parity in education, meet the target on access to safe drinking water, and halt the spread of deadly diseases such as TB and HIV,” Kuroda said.

The country’s fourth progress report on the MDGs showed it had a low probability of achieving indicators—such as increase elementary education net enrollment rate, elementary education cohort survival rate, elementary education completion rate, reduce by three quarters maternal mortality, universal access to reproductive health, halt HIV prevalence among 15 year olds, and provide comprehensive correct knowledge about HIV/AIDS to 15 to 24 year olds.

The report also showed the country had a medium probability of achieving the indicators on halving the proportion of population below the poverty threshold or P15,057 per year per person, halving the prevalence of underweight children under five years old, halving the proportion of households with per capita intake below 100 percent dietary energy requirement, universal access for the proportion of the population with advanced HIV infection to antiretroviral drugs, and halve the proportion of the population with access to safe water.

The indicators also showed the Philippines had a high probability of achieving of halving the proportion of population below the food threshold or P10,025 per year per person, all the indicators of Goal 3 which pertained to gender equality and women empowerment, indicators under Goal 4 of reducing child mortality, the malaria morbidity rate, the malaria mortality rate, the tuberculosis case-detection rate, tuberculosis-cure rate, and the proportion of the population with access to sanitary toilet facilities.

The MDGs are a set of eight goals, 22 quantitative targets and more than 60 specific indicators meant to serve as a focus for international and national development policy.

The first seven goals are concerned with outcomes, identifying the progress toward certain standards of human welfare and development that should be achieved globally and nationally by 2015. The eighth goal is concerned with “global partnership for development” to support the realization of all the goals.

Global insecurity around food security

Global insecurity around food security
By Derrick McElheron, CNN

Hong Kong, China (CNN) — While nations debate what to do about long-term problems such as climate change and dwindling water supplies, two words send immediate shivers down the spines of government officials across the world: Food security.

A series of environmental disasters fueling a wave of food price volatility has given governments, “a much needed wakeup call,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist for the United Nation’s Security of Intergovernmental Group on Grains.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization will be holding a special meeting to discuss the issue and the recent volatility in Rome on September 24.

The meeting was called after Russia decided to ban wheat exports after a punishing drought wiped out 25 percent of its crop. Moscow’s decision pushed food prices up about 5 percent worldwide. Bread prices surged in some countries and triggered the deadly riots in Mozambique.

Massive floods in Pakistan also caused huge losses to the country’s crops, adding to the uncertainty in the markets.

“The pace in which prices went up, nobody predicted markets could turn so fast,” said Abbassian. “It’s been two months and we’re still struggling with it.”

Food security, in simple terms, is defined by the United Nations as food being available in sufficient quantities to reliably feed a nation’s population.

Market volatility is nothing new, especially when it comes to commodities. During the food crisis of 2007-2008, prices spiked dramatically: Rice surged more than 200 percent; wheat and corn jumped more than 100 percent. The cause continues to be debated, but the effects led to protests and deadly riots from Haiti to Mogadishu.

But the current market conditions are very different from a few years ago, said Hafez Ghanem, the FAO’s assistant director-general for economic and social development.

“(I)n the years ahead we’ll probably be seeing more of the turbulence we’re experiencing now because markets are set to become more volatile in the medium term for at least three reasons: a) the growing importance as a cereal producer of the Black Sea region, where yields fluctuate greatly from one season to the next; b) the expected increase of extreme weather events linked to climate change; and c) the growing importance of non-commercial actors in commodities markets,” Ghanem said in an interview posted on the UN Food and Agricultural Organization website.

If the next few years could be more volatile, the next few decades could be downright frightening.

“The most urgent issue confronting humanity in the next 50 years is not climate change or the financial crisis, it is whether we can achieve and sustain such a harvest,” said Julian Cribb, scientist and author of “The Coming Famine.”

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Obama announces development plan at U.N.

Obama announces development plan at U.N.
By the CNN Wire Staff

New York (CNN) — President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced the creation of a comprehensive administration initiative devoted to spurring development efforts around the globe.

Obama calls it new U.S. Global Development Policy and says it’s the “first of its kind by an American administration.”

“Put simply, the United States is changing the way we do business,” Obama said at the summit of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, an ambitious agenda world leaders set 10 years ago to tackle global poverty, which has grown amid the world economic recession.

The program has four approaches. One is changing the definition of development.

“For too long, we’ve measured our efforts by the dollars we spent and the food and medicines that we delivered. But aid alone is not development. Development is helping nations to actually develop, moving from poverty to prosperity. And we need more than just aid to unleash that change. We need to harness all the tools at our disposal, from our diplomacy to our trade to our investment policies,” he said.

Second, the administration is changing how “the ultimate goal of development” is viewed.

“Our focus on assistance has saved lives in the short term, but it hasn’t always improved those societies over the long term. Consider the millions of people who have relied on food assistance for decades. That’s not development, that’s dependence, and it’s a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and peoples a path out of poverty.”

Obama said that the United States will “partner with countries that are willing to take the lead” and that the time when “development was dictated by foreign capitals has come to an end.”

“The United States of America has been, and will remain, the global leader in providing assistance. We will not abandon those who depend on us for life-saving help, whether it’s food or medicine. We will keep our promises and honor our commitments,” he said.

But, he emphasized that creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed is what is needed now.

“So we will seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people. We will seek development that is sustainable.”

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