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The civil war is threatening an ancient way of life in Syria | Syria

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For centuries, Bedouin tribes moved around the vast semi-arid steppe land in Syria, searching for water and pasture for their herds of camels, sheep, and goats. This ecologically sustainable mobility and way of life indelibly contributed to the rich cultural heritage of the country. 

About 100 years ago, first under the French mandate and later the new nation-state, a series of policies were implemented to pressure the Bedouin to give up their nomadic lifestyle and settle in villages, towns and on the outskirts of cities. As a result, Syria’s nomadic pastoral population declined, from 13 percent of the total population in 1930 to 7 percent in 1953 and less than 2-3 percent by the turn of the millennium.

The few remaining Bedouin communities managed to resist the forces pushing them to settle and continued to make a comfortable living moving around the desert, raising mainly sheep. The Syrian civil war, however, has brought a new set of challenges for these communities, further threatening their traditional livelihoods and culture.       

The semi-arid steppe in Syria, called al-Badia in Arabic, makes up about 80 percent of the country’s landmass – 10 million hectares (nearly 25 million acres) of the central and northeastern part of the country, spreading across the provinces of Aleppo, Deir Az Zor, Hamah, al-Hassekeh, Homs, al-Raqqa, and to a lesser extent, Deraa and al-Suwayda provinces to the south. 

These governorates became major battlefields in the Syrian civil war, gravely affecting Bedouin herders living there and making a living by selling pastoral products like milk, cheese and meat. Military operations hampered Bedouin efforts to access grazing land, water sources and post-harvest farmland stubble. After 10 years of conflict, many Syrian Bedouin herders can no longer maintain their livelihoods or find sufficient fodder for their herds. Many of them already lost significant portions of their herds and have been internally displaced or pushed across international borders.

Khaled Abu Amer from al-Mawali tribe, for example, told us how the conflict between the regime and opposition forces drove him to leave the countryside of Hama and seek safety in Idlib province in 2018. As a result of his inability to find pasture for his herd there, he lost three-quarters of his sheep.

Since the beginning of the conflict, seeking safety and sanctuary from armed groups, rather than looking after the livestock, became the main priority of Bedouin herders. In some cases, the nomadic herders were besieged by regime forces in opposition-controlled areas along with sedentary civilian populations. This was the case for Bedouin herders who got trapped in eastern Ghouta during the regime’s siege of the area. To avoid starvation, they were forced to slaughter and eat their livestock. As a result, they lost their capital – their herds – and were forced to work as daily wage labourers to survive. 

Bedouin herders also faced targeted attacks by both the Syrian government forces and ISIL (ISIS). 

Traditionally, Bedouin herders have had the ability to move across borders between states when local conditions became difficult. Over the years, this mobility has made the ruling regimes suspicious of their loyalties. These suspicions rose to the surface during the course of the Syrian civil war. The different factions involved in the conflict became increasingly suspicious of the intentions of the herders who refrained from openly aligning themselves with any group, and therefore were targeted indiscriminately.

For example, in 2018, the Syrian regime forces bombed the tents and the animals of Bedouin herders from al-Omour tribe near the city of Palmyra, claiming that they were members of ISIL. The attack killed four herders and destroyed most of their sheep. The same year, herders from the same tribe had to escape ISIL’s repressive rule and attempts to tax them in the countryside of Palmyra by heading north to the countryside of recently-liberated Raqqa.           

After losing much of their mobility and access to natural grazing land, Bedouin herders have been forced to buy fodder, which they can ill afford, to feed their animals. Moreover, as the government’s veterinary services ran out of animal vaccines and routine drugs, it has become harder for herders to keep their animals healthy and productive. Many have been forced to smuggle their herds across the borders to Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey to sell them at reasonable prices. Where this has not been possible, Bedouin have had to sell their sheep in Syria for whatever they can get in order to survive the war. 

The impact of Syria’s armed conflict on Bedouin herders is rarely mentioned in the media. Yet among the many narratives of loss and suffering during the Syrian civil war, the Bedouin’s stand out. 

Sheepherding makes up a significant part of Syria’s GDP, but the rapid disappearance of Syria’s nomadic herders is not merely an economic loss. Mobile sheep herding is the most efficient and ecologically sound approach to life in the semi-arid lands of Syria. No other occupant can take care of this vast land the way nomadic herders do. 

Today, a way of life that has withstood the vicissitudes of cyclical drought, of conflict between tribes, and settled societies for more than a thousand years is shrinking, perhaps irreversibly. As Bedouin herders are forced to settle in villages and towns, take up employment as labourers or seek refuge in neighbouring countries, not only an ancient, sustainable way of life but also a significant component of Syria’s cultural heritage is being lost. 

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Number of people in employment in UK fell unexpectedly in March | Business and Economy News

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The drop in the number of employees on payrolls indicates scarring of the economy after three COVID lockdowns.

The U.K. labor market weakened unexpectedly, with company payrolls falling for the first time in four months and more people dropping out of the workforce.

The number of employees on payrolls fell 56,000 in March, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday. The jobless rate fell to 4.9% in the quarter through February because 80,000 people became economically inactive, indicating they stopped looking for work.

The figures indicate scarring to the economy from three successive coronavirus lockdowns that forced most shops, restaurants and entertainment venues to close. Those segments all suffered big declines in payrolled employment despite Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s effort to protect jobs with furlough payments, leaving overall employment about 800,000 below where it was before the pandemic struck.

“The bigger story is the continued crisis for young people,” said Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies. “Youth long-term unemployment has hit a five-year high this morning, while youth employment is still falling even as it starts to rise for every other age group.”

This month’s figures confound recent surveys suggesting that companies restarted hiring in the weeks before lockdown loosened. The ONS said the number of job vacancies jumped 16% in March alone to 650,000, and that may feed through to higher employment in the coming months. Sectors including hospitality, retail and the arts had big increases.

“The jobs market has been broadly stable in recent months after the major shock of last spring,” said Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS. “With the prospect of businesses reopening, there was a marked rise in job vacancies in March, especially in sectors such as hospitality.”

Unemployment claims rose 10,100 in March after a revised increase of 67,300 the previous month. Basic earnings growth, which has been inflated by lower-paying jobs dropping out of the labor market, was 4.4% in the quarter through February compared with 4.3% in the previous three-month period.

The Treasury and Bank of England expect a rapid recovery from the worst recession in three centuries starting in the middle of the year when most lockdown rules are set to lapse. Shops and restaurants started opening earlier this month.

Employment fell by 73,000 in the quarter thorough February, less than half the decline of 145,000 that had been anticipated by economists. At the end of February, 4.65 million workers were on furlough, down from a peak of 8.8 million at the start of the pandemic in April 2020.

The OBR expects the jobless rate to peak at 6.5% in the fourth quarter, or about 2.2 million people. That’s less than previously estimated and significantly below the peak of recessions in previous decades.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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‘Uninformed’ CSOs Frustrating EACOP Project Financing – Oil and Gas Expert

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Denis Kakembo, the Managing Partner and leader of Corporate and Tax Practice at Cristal Advocates, has revealed that the continuous uninformed statements uttered by a section of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are frustrating the financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.

Cristal Advocates is a corporate and commercial law firm offering full scale legal services with an emphasis on tax, energy, infrastructure and business support.

On Sunday April 11, the Ugandan government led by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, his Tanzanian counterpart Samia Suluhu and two oil companies; Total E&P Uganda Limited (TEPU) and China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) signed four different agreements to pave way for the construction of the USD 3.5bn 1,440 kilometer EACOP from Hoima (Uganda) to Tanga Tanzania.

The agreements include; Host Government Agreement, Intergovernmental Agreement, Shareholders’ Agreement, Tariffs and Transport Agreement, Project Framework Agreement and Several Financing Agreements.

TEPU is the majority shareholder in the deal with 72% followed by Uganda with 15%, CNOOC with 8% while Tanzania have 5%. The project is however expected to be funded with borrowing from different banks, which have opted out of the deal.

In a March 18th press release issueed by Inclusive Development International, banks provided statements that they will not support the construction of EACOP, after an open letter endorsed by 263 organizations from around the world was sent to 25 banks considered most likely to be approached for financing.

Speaking to journalists at the sidelines of the ACME media training on oil and gas in Kampala on Monday, Kakembo wondered why CSOs have chosen to “just make noise without reading and understanding what’s on ground.”

“The perception people have towards oil and gas sector is old fashioned. Its true in the past oil companies didn’t behave well and this was in so many countries where they operated and people did not benefit so there is that historical bias which is still being held by people to date,” he said.

Adding: “The oil and gas industry has tremendously transformed over the period of time there is a lot of honor for an international law level perspective to ensure that people benefit and protect the environment and there are a lot of instruments that can be used to achieve this but these instruments can only be used when the CSOs understand and appreciate what they are.”

CSOs, he said, sometimes approach these issues on a perspective of an activist mind, “but not from a mindset of an informed person on what is taking place and yet if they understand fully what is taking place, they can serve their people in terms of articulating their concerns.”

“I would urge CSOs to take time, dig in and take more information which is readily available to boost and build their capacities.”

“Whenever there is an economic activity or project taking place, you would expect that people will be affected but there are other ways of mitigating that like; is the process transparent, are people being compensated, these are not very difficult issues, which can be addressed,” he said.

The said EACOP project is expected to kick off in six months’ time which Kakembo noted will be the final kickoff of each and everything including the declaration of Final Investment Decision (FID) by oil companies.

The post ‘Uninformed’ CSOs Frustrating EACOP Project Financing – Oil and Gas Expert first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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IAE issues ‘dire warning’ as CO2 emissions set to soar in 2021 | Climate News

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The IAE predicts that carbon dioxide emissions could rise to 33 billion tonnes in 2021 – the second largest rise in emissions ever.

Global carbon emissions are set to jump by five percent marking the largest single increase in more than a decade as the economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic is “anything but sustainable” for the climate.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published on Tuesday its annual Global Energy Review predicting that carbon dioxide emissions would rise to 33 billion tonnes this year, up 1.5 billion tonnes from 2020 levels.

“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

Birol called the Leaders Summit on Climate to be hosted by US President Joe Biden on Thursday and Friday a critical moment for nations to pledge immediate actions before the UN Climate Change Conference set for November in Glasgow.

“Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022,” said Birol.

In early March, the IEA’s chief stressed that the level of carbon emissions in December was higher than the same month the previous year as economies started reopening following coronavirus lockdowns, a figure that the IEA’s chief said was a “stark warning” to leaders around the world.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on Monday to back up their commitments to fight climate change with “concrete immediate action”, including making as their “absolute priority” that no more coal power plants will be built.

Last year, when power use dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8 percent to 31.5 billion tonnes, after peaking in 2019 at 33.4 billion tonnes.

The IEA’s annual review analysed the latest national data from around the world, economic growth trends and new energy projects that are set to come into action.

Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6 percent in 2021, led by developing economies, pushing it above 2019 levels, the report said.

Demand for all fossil fuels is on course to grow in 2021, with both coal and gas set to rise above 2019 levels.

The expected rise in coal use dwarves that of renewables by almost 60 percent, despite accelerating demand for solar, wind and hydro power. More than 80 percent of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia, led by China.

Coal use in the US and the European Union is also on course to increase but will remain well below pre-crisis levels, the IEA said.

The IEA expects both solar and wind to post their largest annual rises ever, at around 17 percent.

It expects renewables will provide 30 percent of electricity generation worldwide in 2021, their biggest share ever and up from less than 27 percent in 2019.

China is expected to account for almost half of that increase.

While demand for oil is rebounding strongly, the IEA expects it to stay below the pre-pandemic level as the aviation sector struggles to recover owing to a slow and patchy vaccine rollout.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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