The Guardian 23 November, 2005

Global briefs

COLOMBIA: A peaceful occupation, earlier this month, of San Francisco Church in downtown Bogotá by hundreds of Afro-Colombians from the country’s western coastal region resulted in government concessions on measures affecting the Afro-Colombian communities’ forestry and collective property rights. The communities’ own proposals will now be included in the debate over a new Forest Law that would give logging multinationals access to nearly 57,000 acres of community property, said community spokesperson Jorge Garcia. He said a Colombian Rural Development Institute resolution to promote business arrangements between the communities and private companies was also reversed because it violates a 1993 law barring privatisation of the communities’ collective property.

SOUTH KOREA: Layoffs and corporate restructuring in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s has intensified the pressure on South Korea’s white-collar workers, according to a recent survey of over 1,600 salaried workers by the online job portal site Incruit. Ninety percent said the restructuring had caused their workload to increase sharply, while 55 percent said excessive work was stressing them out and nearly a quarter reported heavy pressure from supervisors. Over two-thirds said they work two to three hours more per day, while more than three-quarters said they took shorter breaks.

AFRICA: Some 200 million African people — nearly 20 percent more than in the early 1990s — are undernourished, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said in a recent report. "Up to 40 million Africans annually face acute hunger that requires concerted international efforts to prevent widespread starvation", the Institute said, adding that another 160 million also experience under-nourishment as "a permanent characteristic of their lives". The report cited armed conflict as a major factor, noting that hunger affects over half the population of countries with ongoing or recent wars. The institute said under-nourishment contributes to about three million deaths in Africa each year, with a third of African children suffering stunted growth and facing physical and mental challenges because of hunger. IFPRI said investments in agriculture, nutrition and food security of $251 billion in the next decade could cut the percentage of malnourished children in half.

CARIBBEAN: Smaller Caribbean communities agreed last week to deepen their integration process to "sustain the sub-region in times of uncertainty", Prensa Latina said. In a statement after its November 6-8 meeting in Anguilla, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) emphasised the need for greater unity among its members’ fragile economies. Acting OECS chair and Santa Lucia Prime Minister Kenny Anthony said the world economy was more hostile than it had ever been during the 24 years since the organisation was founded. He especially cited loss of protected status for basic regional products like bananas and sugar. In the wake of massive job losses, the OECS is pressing the World Trade Organisation and the European Union for more protective measures.

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