Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Urgent action needed to redesign the food

A new report, published today by Foresight, the Government's futures think tank, argues for fundamental change to the global food system, and beyond if a rapidly expanding global population is to be fed over the next 40 years.

The Foresight project 'Global Food and Farming Futures' has examined how a rapidly expanding global population can be fed in a healthy and sustainable way. Multiple threats are converging on the food system, including changes in the climate, competition for resources such as water supply and energy, and changing consumption patterns provide considerable challenges to sustaining the world's food supply.Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Foresight programme, said:
"The Foresight study shows that the food system is already failing in at least two ways. Firstly, it is unsustainable, with resources being used faster than they can be naturally replenished. Secondly, a billion people are going hungry with another billion people suffering from 'hidden hunger', whilst a billion people are over-consuming.
"The project has helped to identify a wide range of possible actions that can meet the challenges facing food and farming, both now and in the future."The report's main findings are: Threat of hunger could increase: Efforts to end hunger internationally are already stalling, and without decisive action food prices could rise substantially over the next 40 years making the situation worse. This will affect us all - as more of the world suffers from hunger social tensions will increase, as will the threat of conflict and migration. Wider economic growth will also be affected.
The global food system is living outside its means, consuming resources faster than are naturally replenished. It must be redesigned to bring sustainability centre stage: Substantial changes will be required throughout the food system and related areas, such as water use, energy use and addressing climate change, if food security is to be provided for a predicted nine billion or more people out to 2050.
There is no quick fix: The potential threats converging on the global food system are so great that action is needed across many fronts, from changing diets to eliminating food waste.
Professor Beddington added: "With the global population set to rise and food prices likely to increase, it is crucial that a wide range of complementary actions from policy makers, farmers and businesses are taken now. Urgent change is required throughout the food system to bring sustainability centre stage and end hunger. It is also vital for other areas, such as climate change mitigation, conflict, and economic growth."
Three important areas for change include:
Minimising waste in all areas of the food system: An amount of food equivalent to about a quarter of today's annual production could potentially be saved by 2050 if the current estimate of global food waste is halved.
Balancing future demand and supply in the food system: This could include helping businesses to measure the environmental impacts of food so that consumers can choose products that promote sustainability.
Improving governance of the global food system: It is important to reduce subsidies and trade barriers that disadvantage poor countries. The project's economic modelling shows how trade restrictions can amplify shocks in the food system, raising prices further.
The challenges identified in the report show an urgent need to link food and agriculture policy to wider global governance agendas such as climate change mitigation, biodiversity and international development. Without this link a decision in one area could compromise important objectives in another.
The report, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for International Development, outlines the findings of an extensive two-year study. It has involved around 400 experts from about 35 countries and considered food and farming in oceans and freshwater environments as well as on the land.Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
"We need a global, integrated approach to food security, one that looks beyond the food system to the inseparable goals of reducing poverty, tackling climate change and reducing biodiversity loss - and the UK Government is determined to show the international leadership needed to make that happen.
"We can unlock an agricultural revolution in the developing world, which would benefit the poorest the most, simply by improving access to knowledge and technology, creating better access to markets and investing in infrastructure.
"To fuel this revolution, we must open up global markets, boost global trade and make reforms that help the poorest. Trade restrictions must be avoided, especially at times of scarcity. And we must manage price volatility by building trust and cooperation - and in particular by creating greater transparency around the true levels of food stocks." International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:
"With one seventh of the world's population still hungry, this report is a clarion call to arms. The food price crisis in 2008 increased the number of people suffering from hunger by 150 million. Today reports of increasing food prices once again fill the news - and it's clear from this new study that price volatility is only set to increase in the future making further food price spikes inevitable.
"Internationally, those with the least spend the largest proportion of their income on food, so food price shocks hit the poorest hardest and can have long term impacts on their health. Britain is already working to tackle malnutrition, improve agriculture, and get new research into the hands of the poorest people. Steps taken now and pushed through over the next few decades to stabilise global markets, reduce volatility and prioritise agriculture will have a disproportionate effect on ensuring food security for a predicted nine billion people by 2050."

Friday, 21 January 2011

Iraq inquiry: Former PM questioned second time

By Hanan Habibzai
The former Prime Minister Tony Blair made his second appearance before the inquiry to defend his decision to take Britain to war in Iraq alongside the United States of America.

Mr Blair defend his decision
His appearance at the investigative panel met tens of protesters – including family members of British soldiers who died in Iraq, raised banners and chanted against Mr Blair.

The protesters including actor Roger Lioyd Pack, Jeremy Corbyn MP and others re-enacted the scenes from the build-up to war, including secret deals between former US president George Bush and Mr Blair, and the timing of the Attorney General.

Tony Blair is back: time for his journey to end in jail, a slogan which repeated by protesters. The evidence has now emerged at chilcot showing Blair Lied to public and parliament about the legality of an attack on Iraq, said Chris Nineham from Stop the War Coalition who organised the protest.

‘’Finally it has been confirmed that the war in Iraq was criminal as well as catastrophic. There is no more excuse for Blair to escape justice ,and certainly no possible argument for him to continue as UN peace Envoy in the Middle East,’’ Nineham added.

Mr Blair, who is currently UN Middle East peace envoy, said his refusal to defined regret for the decisions that led to war at his first appearance before the committee had been misinterpreted.

Inside the inquiry room, the former Prime Minister offered an apology as he concluded his evidence, ‘’ of course, I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life , whether from our own armed forces or those of other nations ,the civilians who helped people in Iraq, or Iraqis themselves,’’ he said.

The audiences, included relatives of those killed in Iraq war shouted ‘’too late, too late ‘’ as Mr Blair spoke.

Two female members of the audience turned their backs on Blair, and then walked out; an officer brought a handkerchief for another woman when she burst into tears.

An iconic picture of Mr Blair photographing himself with Iraq in flames in the background was projected onto the building opposite the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, where the Chilcot Committee questioned him on Friday, 21 January, where anti-war activists demanded justice to be held to account the war crimes in Iraq.

They shared concerns that Mr Blair may dodge the demonstrators - including family members of British soldiers who died in Iraq.

In his first appearance January last year before the panel investigating Iraq war former Prime Minister urged that before Sept.11 ,2001 he thought ‘’ Saddam was a menace, that he was a threat, he was a monster, but we would have to try and make best.’’

This time, as Mr Blair was questioned, the panel of five released a series of letters and documents detailing the intense discussions inside the British government over how to respond to the perceived threat posed by Saddam.

In a letter to his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, on March 17, 2002, Mr Blair urged ‘’the case should be obvious ‘’ removing the Iraqi leader from power.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Hojatullah Mujadadi freed after four months in prison

Hojatullah Mojadidi
Mr Mujadadi has been freed

Reporters Without Borders hails leading Afghan journalist Hojatullah Mujadadi’s acquittal today at the end of a two-day trial on a trumped-up charge of abetting insurgents, but deplores the fact that he was held for the four months prior to the trial.

A former National Radio reporter who now runs Radio Kapisa FM, a station based in the northeastern province of Kapisa, Mujadadi was arrested by the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s leading domestic intelligence agency, on 18 September.
Shortly after his release at the end of the trial, Mujadadi told Reporters Without Borders: “Life in prison was harsh but I am in good health. After all that happened, I believe more than ever in my work as a journalist. I thank all the freedom of expression organizations in Afghanistan and abroad. My release is the result of their solidarity.”

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Dirty Politics behind Iran’s ban on fuel trucks

By Hanan Habibzai            Dirty Politics behind Iran’s ban on fuel trucks 
Dirty politics
 This winter, Iran, a major fuel supplier for Afghanistan, plans to use this position to pressure Kabul into backing their policies. Tehran tried this before, back in 2007, when they forced tens of thousands of Afghan refugees to leave the country in the middle of winter, more “blackmail” to get Kabul to follow Iranian dictates. Afghanistan sits in the middle, NATO and America on one side, and Iran, and its attempts to dictate to Kabul on the other.Another factor is Iran’s extremist legal system, currently holding hundreds of Afghan prisoners charged with crimes, many drug related, facing injustice and barbarism.So, I was not surprised when I read news stories on Iran’s illegal ban on fuel trucks entering Afghanistan, for the reason that Tehran continuously trying to use countless ways to secure its interests in Afghanistan.
I remembered the caches of US dollars funnelled to high ranking Afghan officials including presidential palace. Through these links Iran influenced wide range of political and cultural decisions in Kabul.
As soon as Iran’s notoriety unveiled by investigative journalists, Tehran tried to jerk Afghans from the wound which instantly need medications, means the upcoming winter and empty pockets ,where ordinary Afghans are suffering the most.
Officials in Kabul say, the tankers are bringing fuel to meet the increased demand by ordinary Afghans during the winter. According to Associated Press Iran’s ban on fuel trucks is pushing prices up over 70 percent , officials threaten to leave millions of Afghans shivering as winter rolls in.
Approximately two-week-old embargo has stranded up to 2,600 trucks or fuel tankers at the border with Afghanistan. A high level Afghan official Farid Sherzai considers the ban against international transit laws. Intentionally putting a war shattered nation in scarcity is against Islamic percepts, he says.
Afghan officials say if the ban continues, could halt transportation between the south and Kabul because of fuel shortages.Associated Press reported that Iran acknowledged a link between the ban and its recent decision to slash domestic fuel subsidies in a bid to cut costs and boost an economy squeezed by international sanctions.
Iran’s ambassador to Kabul claims that Tehran is intensely concerned about reports that its fuel shipments to Afghanistan are given to US-led foreign forces in the country.
Iran “wants to impose a kind of sanction or embargo on us,” Farid Shirzai , head of the Afghan Commerce Ministry’s fuel department, told the Associated Press.
“This is un-Islamic and against international transit law. They have no right to stop (the tankers) because they are merely passing through Iranian territory.”
Iran supplies about 30 percent of the country’s refined fuel, Afghan officials say. The remainder of the blocked shipments of vehicle and heating fuel comes from Iraq and Turkmenistan and is only transiting Iran, they say. Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s fuel is thought to come through transport routes from Iran, with much of the rest coming through the central Asian republics which border Afghanistan.
Throughout an official agreement between Afghanistan and Iran, Tehran has no right to stop shipments and trade transits to Kabul.
It is only an excuse; the actual story is something else which has been financed by Tehran. Iran wants broader rule in Afghanistan, which enable Tehran to influence foreign and demotic strategies in Kabul.
Americans and its allies don’t use the same fuel which Iran banned near border with Afghanistan. American supplies it’s logistic via Pakistan which has miles distance with Iran.
The ban is a pressure on Hamid Karzai to inaugurate the so-called new parliament which will be more pro-Iranian than American, so the fuel tankers ban by Iranian government has direct link with the results of 2010’s Parliamentary election which has been considered unlawful and full by Afghan attorney general.
Among 249 Parliamentarians, there will be larger presence of ethnic Tajiks and Shiites who has religious and linguistic links with Iran. They may challenge Karzai’s traditional power among Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group. Iran is desperately seeking a desired force in Afghanistan to challenge the power of Sunni Pashtuns.
The pan-Iranism and pan-farsism is a theory, Tehran is trying to bring it forward to change the identities of several regional countries including Afghanistan. Pashtuns are only Sunnite power which opposed Iranian agendas, therefore Tehran hates them.
Reports suggest that Hamid Karzai ordered the cancellation of 2010 parliamentary election and he fears that Iranian dominated legislative procedure may be frustrated for Afghan’s western allies.
According to Reuters dozens of candidates and election officials are being investigated and the IEC has thrown out about a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast as fake.
Some candidates and supporters have been protesting since last month, calling for the result to be scrapped.
The troubles send a worrying message of ongoing instability to U.S. President Barack Obama as he completes a review of his Afghanistan war strategy.
Consistent allegations of vote fraud in the September poll, has raised questions about the credibility of Karzai and his government as a partner at a time when U.S. and NATO leaders are assessing their long-term commitment to Afghanistan,what pro-Iranian parliament will compete against it.
Just recently, at the end of December 2010 Hamid Karzai’s deputy Qasim Fahim was in Tehran to discuss the ban. He said Iran has agreed to lift a ban on fuel tankers crossing into Afghanistan that has left hundreds of trucks stranded at the border, but Iran was not loyal to its commitment with war torn neighbor.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Why Karzai Questioned the Constitution?

Hamid Karzai questioned parts of Afghan constitution as he spoke earlier this week during a gathering to mark the seventh adoption year of Afghanistan's post-Taliban Constitution, January 4, 2011 in Kabul.

By Hanan Habibzai
He wants redical changes in the constitution

The rule of Law is crucial in Afghanistan to protect ordinary public and to provide them opportunities to assert meaning for political process and access the information. For this, the formation of Afghan constitution has been funded by international community to legitimise the war torn country, but everyone saw, how Afghan government was abusing a law that cost billions of dollars and detriments.

I also rarely see any international care to the constitution of Afghanistan. It has not been enforced since its creation. If you look at recent documents released by Wikileaks you will better judge how the constitution of Afghanistan is neglected by high profile officials from the end to the top. Earlier this week Hamid Karzai addressed a gathering on the 7th anniversary of Afghan constitution where he calls it an incomplete law.

He pointed out a possible Loya Jirgah to solve, what he called’ the imperfect parts’ of the constitution. He didn’t reveal which part of constitution he believes, has to be updated.  But this is clear that he means the constitution should be changed in his favour when he debates the constitution for its restriction on third term of presidency because it doesn't recommend office for third time, hence he wants to amend particular fragment of the law.

Reports suggest that a couple of days earlier he met number of northern alliance’s warlords to discuss the proposal but it is yet to be confirmed whether, they agreed or not? Apparently they should be supportive of him because Karzai is a perfect choice for the war criminals as they all hold key official posts in his government. If they reject his proposal, it may result in the collapse of northern alliance era, and an alliance of warlords won’t be able to continue without Karzai.

1.      Most of the major businesses and foreign contracts are owned by high profile Afghan officials including Karzai’s family, his two deputies and cabinet ministers. They don’t want to lose high amounts of financial wages.
2.      Most of northern alliances are listed as human rights abusers and violent foes having to be tried as expected of a justice procedure. President Karzai has given them protection, so they want Karzai free in hand to own key businesses, without him northern alliances are nothing, but will face immediate justice for their past their crimes.

This form of efforts may lead the country toward another period of mobocracy and the political instability, because Afghanistan is not Egypt to tolerate a Husani Mubarak. Afghanistan faces Taliban movement which has an increasing control over the belief of ordinary Afghans. There is a huge gap of confidence between Karzai and the ordinary public; decade of experience resulted detestation, a huge price which ordinary Afghans paid since the US invasion of war shattered country, the people who was disparately looking for peace and prosperity.

The promises he made during years never come true, instead increasing violence becomes widespread. The bribery and official corruption becomes an everyday business within Karzai’s administration; high ranking officials remain involved in extensive political and financial venality.

High profile officials in Kabul involved in corruption can’t even see a better future for their kids and themselves in Afghanistan, thus they need to transfer huge amount of state money to the foreign countries. Most of the cabinet ministers left their families abroad, for the reason they can’t trust the current situation. Since the reality was familiarised in the ground, even an Afghan teenager can simply feel it.

More troops and more military efforts mean more civilians going to be killed; more women and men will witness the deaths of their sweethearts so the violence will kept continue. The stalemate which cannot be broken by military means, the widespread corruption within Afghan government, and the unjust causes push more and more Afghans in the Taliban side.

Imagine a victim sees her/his sweetheart’s killer dressed in official recruitments and acting like a hero, then what’s happening? You know that, he/she has no option but to join the Taliban.

Therefore, the Taliban still effectively controls a vast swath of the country where government and international forces can only venture out of their heavily reinforced bases with air support, because the Taliban offers alternatives to the poor villagers, and also using links, increasing gorilla control within non-Pashtun areas too. The issue of civilian deaths is increased anger towards the international community over a much broader set of concerns.

So, we still have troubles to win the battle of hearts and minds. Back to constitution, If Karzai’s recent statement on constitution is nothing to do with his interest to remain in power then what else it should be? Why Karzai questioned the constitution?