Nepali Times
"Invest in women"


Investment in the health and the rights of girls and women can help economic recovery, civil society groups told G8 leaders who met in Italy this week.

They said the big issues on the G8 agenda (food security, poverty, climate change and global health) are all connected to gender equality and added that investment in women is itself a solution.

"If we invest in women, many problems will be solved, the economy can stand from the ground," said Sylvia Borren, co- chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP). "We know from microfinance and from many other examples that letting women suffer from the food crisis and the lack of health services means not building the fundamentals of a sustainable economy."

The problem is funding. According to the World Bank, the economic crisis and the new rise in food prices could lead to 2.8 million more children dying by 2015 if no concrete action is taken, and $60 billion dollars are needed over the next five years to fight infectious diseases and strengthen health systems in the developing world.

Last year's G8 summit made comprehensiverecommendations to strengthen health systems particularly, but without allocating funds to that end. Now, 56 women parliamentarians from Asia, Africa, Europe and G8 countries have said in a letter: "Investing in women's health as part of aid policies has to be considered a priority, as it will give to the poorer countries a better chance to solve their health crises and develop."

Sexual and reproductive diseases clearly cause a huge economic loss to developing economies. They reduce female productivity by 20 per cent, the parliamentarians said.

"Of course it's about money, and the money is there," said Borren. "Not even a third of the $30 billion requested at the UN high level meeting on the food crisis one year ago has been forthcoming, when $20 trillion have gone to the corporate bailout and the banks...they have chosen to desperately bail out an economic system that we all agree is broken."


Hillary in India

NEW DELHI - It is hard to say whether US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will find herself being quizzed more on Washington's 'AfPak' strategy to contain global terror, or her appeasement of a financially muscular China, when she lands in India next week.

Clinton's visit comes a full five months after she landed in Beijing where, to the consternation of international rights groups, she refused to allow human rights to "interfere" with talks on more pressing issues such as the financial crisis, climate change and security.

Abandoning the George W Bush policy of 'containing' China through building up strategic ties with India (as well as with Japan and Australia), Clinton has described U.S.-China relations as "the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century".


Ban on Burma

BANGKOK - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon achieved a rare diplomatic feat during his recent visit to military-ruled Burma: he broke a taboo by delivering a public speech about the lack of democracy and human rights in the country.

So far, the notoriously prickly regime, has accepted Ban's verbal thrust without an outburst, but Burma watchers wonder how long that silence will last.

"Neither peace nor development can thrive without democracy and respect for human rights," Ban said over the weekend to an audience of diplomats, UN officials and staff from aid agencies in Rangoon. "Peace, development and human rights are closely inter-related."

Ban's speech, on the last of his two-day stay in Burma, also touched on the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who has spent over 14 years either under house arrest or in Rangoon's Insein Prison. He called for the release of the Nobel Peace laureate and the over 2,100 political prisoners languishing in Burmese jails.

"Aung San Suu Kyi must be allowed to participate in the political process without further delay," Ban said after being denied a chance to meet the 64-year-old Suu Kyi, currently being held in the Insein Prison.

More is required for the current UN engagement to achieve political reform in Burma, say human rights groups that have exposed abuse in a country that has been under the grip of successive military regimes since a 1962 coup.


(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)