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India needs to focus on prevention to stamp out child labor — UN

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

Children running around railway tracks in scorching Delhi heat, chasing trains and collecting plastic bottles from bogies to sell as scrap is a common sight at the city’s railway stations.

Often seen picking rags, sleeping on railway platforms or on the roadside, the brazen child laborers are the darkest part of the Indian capital’s underbelly.

The city, known to be a haven of working opportunities, is at the junction of states and receives millions of migrants every year.

Cities in India have a much higher number of child laborers’- many less than nine years of age – a U.N. children’s agency official said on Monday (June 10).

Migration is a major driver of child labor practices as the migrant parents usually come in search of livelihood to the city. And with no proper documents of age proof, the children from such families are often exploited by employers.

Despite a stringent legal framework against child labor, children are employed in producing everything from pickles to fireworks, working in tourism and laboring on building sites, to collecting scraps or selling flowers at traffic signals.

Rohit, a rag picker, who is on the threshold of adolescence, said he was disowned by his parents when he was not able to collect scrap because of a broken leg.

“My family threw me out. I was with them till the time I was picking rags. Then my leg broke and they threw me out. My brother and three, four boys helped me with the treatment and took care of me,” he said.

Although education policies have led to a rise in literacy, poverty still compels them to work and supplement household incomes.

Dhuwarakha Sriram, Child protection and Adolescent Specialist, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told Reuters Television that India needs to think of long-term solutions and focus on prevention instead of short term rescue and rehabilitation to fight the menace of rising child labor in its cities.

The latest Indian census data shows there are nearly 4.4 million child workers in the 5 to 14 age group in India.

The State of Child Workers in India report by UNICEF, based on the latest Indian census data, says the proportion of child workers in the 5 to 9-year age group jumped to 24.8 percent in 2011 from 14.6 percent in 2001. (REUTERS)

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U.N. blasts Brunei law on stoning for adultery

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah | Courtesy: Reuters

The United Nations has slammed the new “cruel and inhuman” law in Brunei imposing death by stoning for adultery and gay sex, and amputations for theft. The new law is set to take effect on Wednesday.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Monday (April 1) that the new law is “draconian,” and its imposition could seriously affect human rights for the people of Brunei.

“I appeal to the government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented,” Bachelet said.

Brunei first announced the measure in 2013 but its implementation was delayed due to strong opposition by human rights groups. The law’s elements were first adopted in 2014 and have been rolled out in phases since then.

The new law punishes a number of offenses including rape, sodomy, adultery and robbery with death penalty, including by stoning, and theft with amputation.

It also introduces public flogging as punishment for abortion, and criminalizes the exposure of Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion apart from Islam.

Bachelet and other human rights groups have expressed concern about “the cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments contained in the Penal Code order.”

Bachelet has urged Brunei not to apply the death penalty, stressing that the international law imposes very stringent restrictions on the use of the capital offense.

The implementation of the strict new Islamic law this week has drawn widespread criticism from politicians in Europe and the United States.

“Stoning people to death for homosexuality or adultery is appalling and immoral,” former US Vice President Joe Biden wrote on his Twitter account.

“There is no excuse – not culture, not tradition – for this kind of hate and inhumanity,” he added.

Hollywood Actor George Clooney and a long line of celebrities have called for a boycott of Brunei-owned luxury hotels in protest of the law.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who ruled Brunei for 51 years, has defended its new, tough laws against growing global backlash.

“The (Sharia) law, apart from criminalizing and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, also aims to educate, respect, and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement on March 30.

Brunei has long declared homosexuality as illegal. The new law applies only to Muslims.

Brunei enforces Islamic teachings more strictly than its neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia. The country also prohibits the sale of alcohol and evangelism by other religions is forbidden. – Robie de Guzman

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Climate disasters cause global economic losses to soar, UN says

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, October 11th, 2018


Dried out crops after three years of drought linked to El Niño in San Agustin Acasaguastlan, El Progreso Department, Guatemala | REUTERS

From 1998 to 2017 direct economic losses from natural disasters totaled $2.9 trillion, of which 77 percent was due to extreme weather that is intensifying as the world warms, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said on Wednesday (October 10).

That compares with overall losses of $1.3 trillion from 1978 to 1997, 68 percent of that accounted for by climate and weather hazards, including storms, floods, and droughts.

On Monday, climate scientists warned that if global average temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, it would lead to more suffering  especially among the world’s poorest.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather, and disasters will continue to set back sustainable development, the UNISDR report warned.

In the past two decades, 1.3 million people were killed and 4.4 billion were injured, left homeless, displaced or required emergency help.

Although rich countries shoulder the highest absolute economic losses, the report noted the disproportionate impact of disasters on low and middle-income countries with people in poorer nations seven times more likely to be killed by a disaster than in wealthier ones. — Reuters

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It’s time to reform global trade rules, says France’s Macron

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2018

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron attends the OECD ministerial council meeting on “Refounding Multilateralism” in Paris, France, May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday (May 30) said it was time for the world’s biggest economic powers to start talks on reshaping World Trade Organization rules to prevent current tensions spiraling into trade wars.

Macron’s comments before the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) came as the European Union faced less than 48 hours to win an exemption from U.S. tariffs on European aluminum and steel.

“This is about a complete update of global competition rules,” Macron said, advocating multilateralism at a time when the risk of tit-for-tat trade measures threatens to derail global growth.

The French leader wants the EU, United States, China and Japan to draw up a blueprint for WTO reform in time for the next G-20 meeting in Argentina at the end of the year.

Macron has painted himself as a defender of global co-operation – what he calls “strong multilateralism” – and sought to dissuade leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin from going it alone on issues from diplomacy to trade and the environment.

Trump has effectively engineered a crisis in the WTO’s system of settling global disputes by vetoing all appointments of judges to its appeals chamber. — Reuters

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