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Cuba Confirms Solidarity with Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela

Cuba's President Raul Castro21 de febrero de 2015, Havana (Prensa Latina) Cuba condemned the coup attempt, assassination attempts and conspiracies denounced by the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, while it confirmed its total support for the Bolivarian Revolution.

The Republic of Cuba has expressed its invariable solidarity and support for the people and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and its legitimate president, Nicolas Maduro Moros, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX).

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Prestigious journalism award for the Al Jazeera Three

Al jazeerThe UK’s prestigious Royal Television Society has presented its Judges’ Award to Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.

The award is given to recognise their outstanding contribution to the advancement of television journalism. 

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New science report claims new UN development goals may struggle to achieve their policy objectives

Paris, Feb 13 – The proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a universal set of goals to guide international development to 2030 – will struggle to achieve their stated policy objectives without clearer, more measurable targets, according to a new report released today by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC).

The authors find that overall, the SDGs offer a “major improvement” over their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a greater understanding of the interplay between social, economic and environmental dimensions. And while the MDGs only dealt with developing countries, the new set of goals will apply to all countries in the world.

The report finds that of the 169 targets beneath the 17 draft goals, just 29% are well defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, while 54% need more work and 17% are weak or non-essential.

The assessment of the targets – which are intended to operationalise the 17 goals set to be approved by governments later this year – is the first of its kind to be carried out by the scientific community, and represents the work of over 40 leading researchers covering a range of fields across the natural and social sciences.

However, the report finds the targets suffer from a lack of integration, some repetition and rely too much on vague, qualitative language rather than hard, measurable, time-bound, quantitative targets.

For example, on inequality, the proposed targets are “relevant but inadequately developed. Most are framed as activities rather than endpoints.”

Authors are concerned the goals are presented in ‘silos.’ The goals address challenges such as climate, food security and health in isolation from one another. Without interlinking there is a danger of conflict between different goals, most notably trade-offs between overcoming poverty and moving towards sustainability. Action to meet one target could have unintended consequences on others if they are pursued separately.

Ending hunger is an important goal, but the researchers warn the targets here are not comprehensive, with only two directly addressing hunger and malnutrition, “and even for those the formulation is confusing and potentially contradictory.” They also mention that ending hunger means more than just sustainable agriculture. Inequality is a major factor that is “not explicitly included.”

Further, policy makers need to understand that malnutrition is not simply undernutrition, but also obesity and the presence of micronutrient deficiencies. In addition, care must be taken to simultaneously defeat hunger, increase agricultural productivity and avoid adverse impacts on the natural resource base. As another example of the interlinking of goals, the researchers note that defeating hunger cannot be addressed without ensuring universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The health-focussed SDG suffers from a lack of distinction between the widely varying starting points of different countries and makes no mention of inequalities within countries. The target which focuses on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and water-borne diseases “sounds like a catch-all for infectious disease”, but neglects emerging infections such as Ebola and new strains of the flu.

“Targets have to be robust, measurable and should effectively guide implementation,” said Anne-Sophie Stevance, lead coordinator of the report. “The report clearly shows how targets could be consolidated and points to interlinkages that will be critical for managing synergies and avoiding trade-offs.” For example, an increase in agricultural land-use to help end hunger can lead to biodiversity loss, as well as overuse and/or pollution of water resources and downstream (likely negative) effects on marine resources which in turn could exacerbate food security concerns.

The report is being released ahead of a major UN meeting from February 17-20 where governments will negotiate an overall declaration which will serve as the big picture vision of the SDGs framework.

The scientists’ report highlights the need for an ‘end-goal’ to provide such a big picture vision. “The ‘ultimate end’ of the SDGs in combination is not clear, nor is how the proposed goals and targets would contribute to achieve that ultimate end,” write the authors. They recommend that this meta-goal be “a prosperous, high quality of life that is equitably shared and sustained.”

“This is an opportunity for science to be a partner in the post-2015 development process and support evidence-based decision making. For science, that means connecting the dots across disciplines that usually work independently from each other,” said Stevance

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Imperative land law leaves women, children landless in Malawi

Malawi Land ReformThe case study of Mota Engil-Crown Plantation Limited wrangle as are tussling in courts over the onwership of the land in Ntcheu Bwanje Valley which many women have lost land due to shabby land deals the two companies did with chiefs and DC by taking advantage of porous land laws in Malaw. 

Through out Africa, Malawi inclusive, agriculture production and preservations of land resources is primarily the responsibility of women and children such that any serious government incooperate the two in formidable land laws reforms, minus that, its a total disaster. 

It must be conceded , however that despite the reverence which surrounds land relations in Africa, the system of patriarchy which dominates social organizations has tended to discriminate against women when it comes ownership and control of land resources.


This has been re-enforced, firstly by imported land laws that have cemented the patriarchy systems as area of focus in this regard which with due respect its both undemocratic and constraints on economic development of our rural areas.


Unequal access and lack of security tenure on land resources due to inadequacy is highly contested making it hard for redistribution or settlement and irrigation schemes which eventually has exerted pressure in many African governments to resort to land policy reforms. 

Therefore, African Union (AU) Sirte declaration on land issues and challenges in Africa which heads of states signed in 2009 brought a releaf which led into adoption of the framework and guidelines on land policy which among six  principles is the prioritization of land issues in national development planning. 

In this pursuit, Malawi is not exceptional on unfinished land policy reforms terrain as it has embarked on  reforms process such that National Land Policy which was approved by cabinet in 2002 to address land challenges culminating in the eleven land, and land related bills now pending parliamentary approval including land, customary, registered land and physical planning bills. 

The incomplete land legislations especially customary land bill which its absence is the cause of victimisation of women failure to access land resources, has given a reel way to misguided individuals, politicians and investors to take advantage of the situation to connive with District Commissioners (DC) and Traditional Authority (T.As). 

They pocket huge some of money in dubious transactions to acquire land without formally consulting their subjects who have resisted such pressure resulting into chieftaincy wrangle, fights, displacement, demonstrations, petitions, courts injunction and deaths hindering community developmental projects to take its course.


No wonder Landnet Malawi through funding from International Land Coalition intestified  media tours end of year, 2014 in four districts including Nkhotakota, Ntcheu, Chinkhwawa, Thyolo (where cases of land grabbing are rampant) aimed at exposing terrible experiences women and children are going through due to imperative land laws which have made them homeless.With such exposure and the cries of women and children, will fast track the passing of legislation which in mind to put to rest such injustices.


For instance, a visit to Group Village Headman (GVH) Thumbo Kwayesaya, Traditional Authority (T.A) Masasa in Ntcheu district of Bwanje valley reaveled illogical. fugitive and discplacement among the poor farmers especially women and children due to shabby land deals chiefs did with Mota Engil and Crown Plantation Limited. 

Currently, the land in question has not been fully developed as these two companies are tusseling each other in courts over the ownership of the land to whom was the actual, legally got land's lease from the the Ministry of Land and Housing. 

Revealations show that divisions rocked among the chiefs as some of them are in support of Mota Engil which wants swamps area not within people's habination, and promised potable water, shared farming of the land, upgrading of Kasiya Health Centre to rural hospital which eventually has won the chiefs support. 

While Crown Plantation Limited opted for people's cultivation or habitation areas which many subjects rejected prefering Mota's land acquisation because the villagers feel that land's development does not require their re-location. 

However, records shows that Crown got the lease of 9,000 hectares in October 22, 2012 at the total of MK9 million whose mistake was corrupting Traditional Authority (T.A) Masasa of failing to honour compesation to the affected villagers who were tricked by registering their names on pretex that would get subsidy fertilizer coupons and relief food which the people accepted as each family of 112 got MK119,000.00 from Crown, but later they discovered that the deal was a compensation which eventually the communities protested. 

The Mota-Crown wrangle in Ntcheu's Bwanje Valley its a microscosm of a deeper problem of how chiefs are exploiting their powers over customary land whose victims are women and children. 

“Since this wrangle started in 2013, we have been left homeless as land which was used for cultivation and feeding animals was grabbed without consulting us only being tricked which isnt is unfair at all. We dont have food and life has become unbearable. Unfortunately, chiefs are the ones masterminding the whole issue as they have been corrupted with huge some of money without condering the wellfaire of their subjects”, complains Beatrice Muyaya of Group Village Headman (GVH) Nthumbo Kwayesaya, TA Masasa of Ntcheu Bwanje Valley, upon grabbed the land through dubious land acquisation by Crown and Mota. 

However, explainations from Ministry of land and housing's Public Relations Officer, Mike  Chigowo on how customary land is acquired defeats the way Mota-Crown are transacting their business on acquiring the land in question in Ntcheu's Bwanje Valley. 

Allocation of customary land is done by chiefs in consultation with their subjects. To signify consent by chiefs, consultation with chiefs forms are signed by the village headman, chief and district commissioner. 

“Before the forms are signed and submitted to this ministry for lease processing, the district commissioner ensures that issues of compensation are conclusively dealt with.After wards, duly signed lease forms are submitted to regional commissioner for lands who consults the regional commissioner for physical planning if the proposed development is in compliance with the zoning of the area”, explains Chigowo.

Chigowo said the Ntcheu District Commissioner (DC) was in better position to explain if the concerned villagers were properly compensated by Crown and whether the land being applied for by Mota Engil is the same piece of land which Crown got the lease from Ministry of land in 2012. However, till now Ntcheu DC hasn't responded to the media on this flacus.


Nevertheless, not all is rosy as customary land bill is currently being reviewed by Malawi Law Commission for second submission to the cabinet for an approval in Parliament after the same bill was successfully passed into the law by the same Malawi Parliament in 2013 as the former President Joyce Banda failed to assent it into law due to protests from chiefs, women activists describing it as the way of dealing with cheifs in administering land  as the case in Tanzania while on  women sides, the law was discriminatory towards women and children in accessing land resources  which needed further consultations before it was passed into the law,


“From a gender and women's rights perspective, the use of customary law perpetuates gender gender imbalance and prevents both men and women from accessing or owning land in different societies.For, example, most patrineal tribes in the northern part of Malawi, customary law doesnt recognise the separete rights of woman to own and hold land in her own right. In practice this means that the father of the girls doesnt allocate her any piece of land in the village of her birth because under customary law she is expected to belong to her husband's village. Complications arise if the spouses divorce or if the husband dies and the wife did not have any children or any male children with him”, reads part of the submission to Ministry of Justice for consideration in the  new law under review on November 7, 2014 led by NGO Gender Coordinating Network (NGCN).


“While in matrilineal societies, customary laws favours the women at the expense of men as men are believed to find land at their wives villagers.The same complications arise where the parties divorce or the wife dies. Therefore, both the land and customary bills must make express provision for women's rights to own land on their own or jointly with their spouses or any other person. And also customary land bill should provide for compulsory joint registration of any land in the name of the spouses who can own and use it. This will ensure that both men and women's rights to land in matrineal or patrilineal societies are protected from the discrimination of customary law”, recommends NGCN submission to Ministry of Justice.


Currently, Landnet Malawi has engaged Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) inoder to help women and children in reverting their land which was lost through shabby transanction perpertuated by chiefs while waiting the land and customary bills review completion which is expected to be presented in Parliament in June's Budget session, this year.


 “MHRC is in the process assessing all land grabs cases so that affected women and children are reverted their land back or compensated accordingly. But apart from that, we are sensiting and empowering the affected communities on their land rights as the way to challenge invedors”, says Emmanuel Mlaka, Landnet National Coordinator.



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Egypt court releases Al Jazeera journalists on bail

Egypt Frees AL Jazeer ReportersAn Egyptian court has ordered the release of detained Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy on bail.
Al Jazeera spokesperson Osama Saeed said: “Bail is a small step in the right direction, and allows Baher and Mohamed to spend time with their families after 411 days apart. The focus though is still on the court reaching the correct verdict at the next hearing by dismissing this absurd case and releasing both these fine journalists unconditionally.”
The next hearing will be on 23 February 2015.

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