Might without size: Island nations cooperate to control fishing rights

Might without size: Island nations cooperate to control fishing rights

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September 13, 2021

Focusing on discrimination this week, we look at how the U.S. Olympics improved pay equity, the U.N. is calling out global racism, and Argentina is officially recognizing nonbinary people.

1. United States

American Paralympic athletes now make as much money per medal as their nondisabled counterparts. Previously, Paralympian gold medalists received $7,500 while Olympians who won gold received five times as much.

Why We Wrote This

In our progress roundup, collaboration beats competition. Eight small Pacific countries have increased their own revenues and prevented overfishing by together making deals with foreign fleets.

The United States Olympic Committee adjusted payments after the 2018 Winter Games, and retroactively paid Paralympians for their 36 medals earned in Pyeongchang, South Korea. With the prizes now matched across the Olympic and Paralympic competitions – $37,500 for each gold medal, $22,500 for silver, and $15,000 for bronze – the Tokyo Games are the first to pay athletes equally from the start.

“Paralympians are an integral part of our athlete community and we need to ensure we’re appropriately rewarding their accomplishments,” said USOC head Sarah Hirshland in 2018. “Our financial investment in U.S. Paralympics and the athletes we serve is at an all-time high, but this was one area where a discrepancy existed in our funding model that we felt needed to change.”
Today,” Business Insider

Ricardo Moraes/Reuters/File

At the 2016 Summer Games (pictured), wheelchair basketball’s Matt Scott helped his team win gold. He was the closing ceremony’s flag bearer on Sept. 5, 2021 in Tokyo after the U.S. men defended their Rio de Janeiro title to win gold earlier in the day.

2. Argentina

Nonbinary Argentines can now mark their gender as “X” on national identification documents. The new marker applies to anyone “who does not feel understood under the male/female binary,” according to a decree published in the official government gazette, and is available on passports as well. This recognition of gender nonbinary people is a first for Latin America, but follows similar changes in countries such as Australia, India, and some U.S. states. The International Civil Aviation Organization also accepts the use of “X” as a gender marker.

President Alberto Fernández enacted the change, which has been deliberated since 2012, in late July. Concerns remain about using “X” as a catchall for gender identity that falls beyond the binary, but advocacy groups such as the Argentine LGBT Federation are celebrating the move as a “historic advance” in human rights. For many nonbinary people, having important documents reflect their true gender offers security and ease of mind. “For the first time I can say my full name and feel like it’s legal,” said Gerónimo Carolina González Devesa, a doctor who was among the first people to receive a new ID. “It’s the end of a long battle.”
Reuters, Agence France-Presse, The New York Times

Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters/File

Bonobos, pictured grooming each other at a sanctuary, are unique to Congo.

3. Congo

Salonga National Park has been removed from UNESCO’s list of threatened World Heritage Sites due to improved park management. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, the world’s second largest rainforest encompasses roughly 14,000 square miles – the size of Taiwan – some of which has never been explored by humans. Salonga plays a critical role in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions and housing vulnerable species, including the forest elephant and bonobo. It was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999, during the Second Congo War, in part as a result of poaching and pollution.  

The World Heritage Committee noted that anti-poaching measures have allowed bonobo populations to stabilize, and praised the government’s decision to ban prospecting for oil within park boundaries. Salonga’s elephant populations are also improving. But some warn that other plans in Congo threaten conservation goals. A recently announced tax on the killing of protected species would replace outright poaching bans, and a 10-point national natural resources plan would end a ban on forest concessions. “Instead of green lighting new paths of destruction, the DRC needs a blueprint for permanent protection of the forest, including management by the communities who live in it and depend on it,” said Irène Wabiwa Betoko of Greenpeace Africa.  
The Times, Newsweek, AFP, Climate Home News

4. Pacific Islands

Eight Pacific nations’ cooperation is staving off overfishing and bringing in half a billion dollars each year. In 1982, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands agreed to coordinate relations with foreign fishing fleets, which were descending on the surrounding waters in search of lucrative skipjack tuna. Previously, the countries had competed with each other to sell fishing rights to the fleets, and grew frustrated at the lack of local profits. Over decades of trial and error, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement developed the Vessel Day Scheme, in which the group determines a sustainable amount of tuna fishing for the region and divides that amount into fishing days with a minimum base price. Companies from the United States, China, and other powerful nations then bid for days. Since 2011, PNA countries have also been able to trade days, stabilizing revenues for nations whose water may be temporarily unfishable, such as during an El Niño year.


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The program has been described as “revolutionary” and “a shining example of cooperation.” The increased fishing revenue has tangible impacts for member nations: In Kiribati, where the program has raised fishing revenues from $25 million to $160 million over the past decade, the fees are supporting critical infrastructure projects and social spending for students and older people. In Papua New Guinea, a revenue increase of about $60 million is earmarked for sustainable coastal fisheries development.
The Guardian, Parties to the Nauru Agreement

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World

After years of negotiations, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously established the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent. The General Assembly’s resolution states that “any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous,” and that combating racism and xenophobia should be “a matter of priority for the international community.” The new 10-member forum will be tasked with monitoring progress, offering advice to other U.N. agencies, assessing best practices, and helping ensure “the full political, economic and social inclusion of people of African descent.” Half the group will be appointed by the Human Rights Council, and the other five members will be elected from each region by the assembly. The forum’s first session is set for 2022.

Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters

A girl poses for a photo in Haiti, where roughly 95% of the population is of African descent.

The group is expected to bring order to piecemeal efforts at tackling global racism. “Structural and systemic anti-Black racism manifests in the climate crisis, global public health crisis, state violence, economic inequality, and various other markers of human life,” writes Amara Enyia, managing director of the transnational advocacy organization Diaspora Rising. “Not only is it time to create coherence to address the broad swath of issues affecting people of African descent – it is the best way for the United Nations to ensure that it is indeed a relevant international body.”
United Nations, The Associated Press, Ms. Magazine

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Mark Sappenfield
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