Sahel’s plight worsens amid fighting, says UN aid chief

18 Mar 2015

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Mbera refugee camp, Mauritania, in the Sahel region of Africa. Photo: WFP/Justin Smith

Conflict in Africa’s Sahel region is the biggest threat to saving lives in one of the poorest places on earth, according to the UN aid chief in charge there.

Robert Piper, who’s UN Regional Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Sahel, said that in the last 12 months alone, more than one million people have been displaced by fighting in countries including north-east Nigeria and northern Mali.

In an interview with Daniel Johnson, the aid chief said that chronic structural problems still hamper development in the nine-country region, which is home to 145 million people and where 1.2 million children die every year – half of them from malnutrition.

Duration: 4’36″

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Europe Joins China-Lead Development Bank

This is a stunner. Major European economies have decided to join a Chinese based rival to the World Bank. Washington is none too pleased. “The United States lobbied its allies not to join the new China-based bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or A.I.I.B. The U.S. sees the rival bank as duplicating and perhaps undermining the role of the Washington-based World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and also the Asian Development Bank, which has its headquarters in the Philippines, a close American ally at odds with Beijing over the South China Sea…The new bank was initially proposed by President Xi to help fund infrastructure projects in poor Asian countries, something the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank already do. China has pledged a large part of the initial $50 billion of capital, and Beijing hopes the institution will contribute to the expansion of its power base in Asia, even as its growing might, economic and military, reshapes the political dynamics of the region and beyond.” (NYT

A Darfur drawdown? Even as the International Criminal Court scolds the U.N. Security Council to make sure a defiant al-Bashir faces trial on charges of orchestrating genocide in Sudan’s western Darfur region, the United Nations appears to be easing away from the conflict. (VOA

Cold case gone hot…United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, appointed an independent panel of experts to examine new information that has emerged from the investigation into the death of former U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. (IPS

Sierra Leone vowed to ensure the safety of its vice-president, who went into hiding after soldiers stormed his residence, as community leaders voiced fears over the stability of the west African nation. (AFP

Stat of the Day: Health officials say the number of tuberculosis cases in Europe is continuing to decline, dropping 6 percent in 2013 to about 360,000. (AP

Quote of the Day: “Access to water in health centres and even in delivery rooms has fallen between the gaps in the millennium development goals,” said Bruce Gordon, coordinator of water, sanitation, hygiene and health for the WHO. “It’s an embarrassment for the health sector that this issue is so ignored. It’s a fixable crisis. It’s a crisis because it’s hidden.”


South Sudan’s rebels confirmed Tuesday they were engaged in renewed heavy clashes with government forces in the country’s oil-rich north, but accused their rivals of initiating the fighting. (AFP

Ex-Ivory Coast first lady Simone Gbagbo has appealed the 20-year term she got for her role in post-election violence that killed over 3,000 people, her lawyer announced. (AFP

Uganda on Monday stood by plans to send more than 240 of its health workers to the Caribbean despite a Belgian threat to cut 11 million euros in aid. (AFP

The United States is defending its support of an event in Congo, where an American diplomat, activists and journalists were arrested. (AP

Lesotho has inaugurated a new prime minister, who came to power after forming a coalition government following a special election. (AP

Protesters at the University of Cape Town in South Africa tossed excrement on a campus statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes, arguing the monument is a tribute to the white domination of the past. Since then, student demonstrators have demanded removal of the statue and organized a “Rhodes must fall” campaign on social media. (AP


The US military said it is “concerned” about reports that Islamic State jihadists used chlorine gas in an attack against Kurdish forces, but it could not confirm the account. (AFP

North African cities are leading the way as the continent and its growing middle class lay down “solid economic roots” which are very appealing to investors, according to a new report published Tuesday. (AFP

A group monitoring the Syrian civil war said on Tuesday government forces carried out a poison gas attack that killed six people in the northwest, and medics posted videos of children suffering what they said was suffocation. (Reuters

Resources in Syria’s neighboring countries are stretched to the limit and in the Jordanian capital, workers say prices and tensions are rising quickly as international aid becomes harder to attain. (VOA

Four years since the Arab Spring that swept away regimes elsewhere in north Africa, critics say Morocco is letting slide the freedoms King Mohammed promoted as a concession to the protesters of 2011. (VOA


The survivors of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu are desperate for water, food and safe shelter, the Red Cross said on Tuesday as it launched an emergency appeal for 3.9 million Swiss francs. (TRF

Colombia’s criminal gangs pose the biggest threat to Colombians and are responsible for human trafficking, rights abuses and for forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes each year, the United Nations said. (TRF

The U.N. human rights investigator for North Korea said on Monday that he would probe allegations of an estimated 20,000 North Koreans working in slave-like conditions abroad, mainly in China, Russia and the Middle East. (Reuters

The United Nations is concerned by the presence of Islamic State in Afghanistan but says the militant group’s power to unite insurgents is more significant than its capabilities in the war-torn country, a top U.N. official said. (Reuters

Michelle Obama won’t avoid Cambodia’s human rights record when she visits the southeast Asian nation this week, her final stop on a two-country trip to promote a new U.S. initiative to help millions of girls worldwide attend and complete school, the White House said Monday. (AP

The Americas

Brazilian prosecutors formally charged 27 more people in a broadening corruption scandal, including the treasurer of the ruling Workers’ Party João Vaccari and the former head of services at state-run oil company Petrobras Renato Duque. (Reuters

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff pledged to hold talks with her growing number of critics and said her embattled government needed to show humility, a day after massive protests erupted across the country. (AFP

…and the rest

Alarming figures on a lack of clean water in health centres have been highlighted in a joint report published on Tuesday by the WHO and UNICEF. (Guardian

Economic losses due to natural disasters have tripled over the past decade, with farmers bearing nearly a quarter of the burden in poor countries, a U.N. study said on Tuesday. (TRF


Honour amongst aid workers (Devpolicy Blog

9 Syrian artists telling the stories of a country torn apart by war (GlobalPost

Labour Beyond Aid (Roving Bandit

Will Syrian War Criminals Ever Face Justice? (UN Dispatch

Kabila’s ruling coalition frays as succession battle deepens (Congo Siasa

Time for the South to step up and help finance development? (ODI

Coaxing the dragon: Why China should join the great aid debate (IRIN

Why are protesters furious with Brazil’s President? (CNN

If You’re One Of The World’s 382 Million Diabetics, Your Wages May Dip (Goats and Soda

Helpdesk Research Report: Relationship between humanitarian and development aid



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Precious water

Precious water

By StiK

Click to read cartoon. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

OECD Observer No 302, Q1 2015

The world can be a complex place. See how Frankie and his colleagues at grapple with the thorny public policy issues of our time, in this new cartoon strip. “” is by Stik, especially for the OECD Observer.

Frankie welcomes your comments and advice

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2015 International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies Launched In Accra


Mar 2015

The 2015 International Year of Light (IYL) and Light-Based Technologies has been launched in Accra

The launch was to adequately inform Ghana and the African continent about upcoming events which include the upgrading of the Laser and Fibre Optics Center at the University of Cape Coast into a fully-fledged Institute for Capacity-building; the establishment of a sub-regional Laser Medical Application Laboratory (LMAL), a solar Technology Research Center and a Museum of Light and Light-Based Technologies.

The upgrading of the Laser and Fibre Optics Center is expected to create a hub of research and development of direct benefit to the photonics industry as well as build capacity to engage in emerging areas in the sciences and technology.


The proposed laboratory will take advantage of existing expertise in Ghana, train medical experts and engage in leading-edge research in laser application to health delivery.

The establishment of the Research Center is also required to delve into new materials that can withstand dust as well as other shocks from the environment, bearing in mind the efficiency of energy transmission. 

Such a study is also expected to cut down cost and send solar power to all corners of the country.

In an address, the Minister for Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyeman, said Government had made tremendous efforts to put energy at the door step of the rural community and to fully inaugurate renewable energy into the energy supply system.

The representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Ghana, Mr Tirso Dos Santos, in a statement, said the United Nations recognized the importance of raising global awareness about light and how light-based technologies promoted sustainable development and provided solutions to the global challenges in Energy, Education, Agriculture and Health. 

As a contribution to the celebration of the IYL, the Government of Ghana and the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO are scheduled to host an Africa Regional Conference and Exhibition on the theme, “Harnessing Light and Light-Based Technologies for Africa’s Development”, later in the month.

Source: ISD (Naa Palm & Linda Okyere)




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European Union – key partner for all countries in our neighbourhood

Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations

4th Ordinary Session of EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly, Yerevan

Dear Members of Parliaments, dear colleagues,

Dear Ambassadors,

Dear friends,

I’m delighted to be here at the fourth session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, where I also represent High Representative Federica Mogherini. I attach high importance to your work as the parliamentary dimension of the Eastern Partnership. I am therefore particularly pleased to have the opportunity today to discuss the review of the ENP with you so soon after the launch of our joint consultation paper.

European Union key partner for all countries in our neighbourhood

Let me start by underlining that the European Union wants to be a key partner for all countries in our neighbourhood, while defending their right to choose their own way forward.

The European Neighbourhood Policy was created to build new partnerships with the EU’s direct neighbours, based on shared values, stability and prosperity. Those fundamental objectives remain as valid today as they were when the ENP was launched more than ten years ago; indeed, they are now more important than ever.

But the situation in Europe’s neighbourhood has changed dramatically since the ENP has been in place. Growing challenges to a number of Eastern Partnership countries, from the crisis in Georgia in 2008 to the on-going conflict in Ukraine, have been caused by an increasingly assertive Russian foreign policy. This has also exacerbated divisions between Russia and the EU.

There are ongoing crises in the South as well. Syria has been afflicted by civil war since 2011, Libya is currently in conflict. There is a complex transition in Egypt. The Middle East Peace Process is stalled.

This all underlines the clear need to review the assumptions on which the policy is based. We need to ensure the ENP can, in the future, support more effectively the development of an area of shared stability, security and prosperity with our partners.

A far-reaching and necessary review

That is why President Juncker asked me, in close co-operation with High Representative Mogherini, to carry out a far-reaching review of this policy in the first twelve months of my mandate.

The consultation paper we have just published will form the basis of a public consultation over the next 4 months. I encourage you to express your views on the policy and on its future path. The dialogue you have with your national governments and the EU institutions will be an invaluable contribution to the ENP review and to the implementation and future development of the Eastern Partnership.

We want to hear from all of our neighbours, and that includes hearing your views and learning from your experiences at all levels and from all stakeholders ranging from government and civil society organisations to business and academia. We want to discuss how the design and implementation of the ENP can be better adapted to your interests and to ours.

We will meet southern partners’ Foreign Ministers in Barcelona on 13 April and Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers on 20 April in Luxembourg. The Eastern Partnership Summit itself in Riga on 21-22 May will of course also be an occasion when both partners and member states will be able to express their views at the highest level. And we will then come forward with proposals in the course of the autumn.

Four key points

There has already been a lot of informal consultation. Many member states and partners, and indeed some of you, have already given views. We would appreciate your views on four key points:

First: what can we do increase the scope for differentiation in the way we work with our partners? We need to do more to recognise that our partners are very diverse. Not just different east and south, but different within the east and within the south.

Some including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova want closer integration with us, and in these cases we need to reflect on what further steps are possible to ensure that they get all the support they need to undertake the political and economic reforms that are necessary to progressively bring them into the European mainstream. Ukraine has taken some important first steps to reform in difficult circumstances. However, further progress on genuine reforms is urgent in the areas such as rule of law, including timely entering into force of the law on public prosecution and fight against corruption, improved public administration, economic development, energy sector reform and constitutional reform.

I encourage Georgia to implement the Association Agreement in a spirit of inclusiveness and consultation with relevant stakeholders. Likewise, we expect Moldova to focus on swift implementation of its Association Agreement. I strongly encourage Moldova to step up its efforts on key reforms, especially in the justice, financial and media sectors, public administration reform and on prevention and fight against corruption.

Let me stress that Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are not alone in the implementation and reform process. Important EU assistance is linked with the current reform agenda and will be equally linked to the needs arising from Association Agreements implementation.

I want to strengthen cooperation with Armenia and Azerbaijan respectively. We have been exploring with Armenia the possible scope of our future bilateral cooperation bearing in mind Armenia’s other international commitments. We’re prepared to further support Armenia in areas such as good governance, human rights, fighting corruption, reforming the judiciary, implementation of the mobility partnership and the visa facilitation and readmission agreements in force with the EU. Moreover, we will continue to promote and support civil society in Armenia. We hope our recently concluded exploratory talks will lead to negotiations on a new legal basis and scope of future wide-ranging EU-Armenia relations.

 Interests and values should go hand in hand when developing our bilateral relations with Azerbaijan. We look forward to receiving Baku’s ideas in this regard. We see many advantages in renewing our bilateral relations on the basis of a new comprehensive legally binding bilateral agreement, addressing all aspects of our relations, including trade, human rights and energy cooperation. I should note that success of Southern Gas Corridor also depends on a stable, secure and prosperous Azerbaijan.

As regards Belarus, I appreciate its balanced stance on Ukraine and the EU is ready to build on the positive steps Minsk has recently taken with regards to relations with the EU. Belarus’ parliamentarians are not with us at the Euronest. Yet, I hope that one day it will be possible for Belarusians to join your Assembly. I know that you are keeping the door open for representatives of a democratic Belarusian parliament. More generally, and both in the East and the South, we need to work out how to work with the neighbours of our partners – without giving them a veto over any partner’s engagement with the EU.

The second key point is ownership. We will never get the best from this policy while it is seen as something more or less imposed by Europe, rather than a partnership actively chosen by the other side. The new ENP must reflect the views and experience of our partners. It must not be condescending, patronising or preaching. We should develop a real partnership of equals based on shared interests, while always promoting universal principles. It is certainly in this spirit that we have been cooperating within the Eastern Partnership since it was created in 2009.

My third point is about focus: I want to get away from the current model where we try to cover a very wide range of sectors with every partner. For those that want, and who are able, we should pursue the Association Agreements and DCFTAs. But, for those who can’t, or do not currently want to engage so deeply, let’s narrow the focus to where the real interests lie and build on more solid foundations. I’m thinking of essential areas such as:

–     economic development

–     energy/connectivity

–     migration

–     mobility

–     security; and

–     governance fundamentals

These are areas where we can work together to make our partnerships more effective.

Lastly, we need to be more flexible: this means being able to react to changing circumstances and crises when they arise, including with our financial instruments. In the case of Ukraine, the EU has managed to quickly mobilize a broad range of instruments in response to the country`s needs. The EU is currently implementing a €355 million State Building Contract to support the Ukrainian government in preparing for in-depth reforms. It is providing €95m to support private sector development and economic recovery particularly in the east. Commission scaled up its assistance to meet the needs of the population of Ukraine regions suffering from the consequences of the conflict, totalling now €32.5 million from the EU general budget. The humanitarian part of the funding (€11 million) addresses the basic needs of the population in the areas directly affected by the conflict. It is also prepared to increase further its financial and technical support to political processes linked with Minsk implementation.

We’re not giving up on our values

Some people ask me whether all this talk of pursuing interests means that we are giving up on our values. The answer is very clearly no. The promotion of democracy, human rights and rule of law is a defining characteristic of the EU. But let us ask ourselves, whether the ENP as currently constituted, has been the success we hoped, in transmitting these values.

It is my view that the values that are at the core of the EU are also in our partners’ own interests. I will give you an example: rule of law is key to long-term political stability, but equally to attracting outside investment.   An independent judiciary and a system where justice is free from corruption is not only value in itself, but it is also indispensable to creating an environment for growth.

Last thoughts

So, in the new ENP the messages should remain the same: but we should seek new ways to deliver our messages, and to be heard. I am looking for concrete ideas that will deliver results in the short to medium term, and ones the public can understand. And here I see a crucial role for you, as parliamentarians, in giving this review visibility on the ground in your countries and in ensuring that your constituents’ views on the ENP are fed back to us.

Thank you for your attention

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UN to investigate 1961 plane crash that killed UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold

African securityUN to investigate 1961 plane crash that killed UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold

Published 18 March 2015

On the night of 17 September 1961, a Transair Sweden DC-6B named Albertina was making its way to a copper mining region in southern Congo (the region is now part of northern Zambia). The plane was carrying UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold, who was on his way to a meeting with Moise Tshombe, the leader of the break-away Katanga province. Hammarskjold never made it. His plane crashed in a densely forested area eight miles from the airport at Ndola, in what was then the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). The cause of the crash has never been determined. The United Nations has now reopened the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Hammarskjold, and appointed a panel of three independent experts to conduct the investigation.

On the night of 17 September 1961, a Transair Sweden DC-6B named Albertina was making its way to a copper mining region in southern Congo (the region is now part of northern Zambia). The plane was carrying UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold, who was on his way to a meeting with Moise Tshombe, the leader of the break-away Katanga province.

Tshombe, with the support of Belgian mining interests, apartheid-era South Africa, and the CIA, led Katanga to secede from Congo after Congo’s first elected president, Patrice Lumumba, appeared to be moving the newly independent Congo – Congo became independent from Belgium in 1960 — toward closer cooperation with the Soviet Union (for more on the Congo story and background on Hammarskjold’s mission, see “Who killed Dag Hammarskjold? Sweden calls for new inquiry into 1961 death of UN chief,” HSNW, 22 December 2014).

Hammarskjold never made it. His plane crashed in a densely forested area eight miles from the airport at Ndola, in what was then the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

The cause of the crash has never been determined.

The United Nations has now reopened the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Hammarskjold, and appointed a panel of three independent experts to conduct the investigation.

The UN said in a statement on Monday that the experts, led by a Tanzanian jurist Mohamed Chande Othman, would be given three months to assess the “probative value” of evidence which has surfaced in the five decades since the last UN inquiry into the causes of the crash. The other two panelists are Kerryn Macaulay, an Australian aviation expert, and Henrik Larsen, a ballistics specialist from Denmark.

Susan Williams, a British academic who has written what is regarded as the most authoritative account of the plane’s crash (see her Who Killed Hammarskjold?: The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa [2012]), told the New York Times that “it is extremely important for member states to deliver up documents,” including unpublished material from the United States, Britain, South Africa, France and Belgium.

The Times notes that some of the panel’s most sensational testimony is likely to be that of two American intelligence officers who were working at two listening posts, hundreds of miles apart, in the Mediterranean.

Both officers claim to have heard evidence that the plane was shot down, and one of them maintains that Americans were implicated.

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Making the new sustainable development agenda a reality will require new dynamics by all partners to deliver results

17 Mar 2015

Making the new sustainable development agenda a reality after it is adopted later this year was the focus of a panel discussion organized by UNDP Geneva, the Graduate Institute and the Swiss Confederation.

The discussion, entitled, “From vision to implementation: How can we make the Sustainable Development Goals a Reality,” brought together representatives from the UN, governments and academia to consider what it will take to put people and planet on a more sustainable path for the next 15 years and beyond.

World leaders have called for an ambitious long-term sustainability agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals at the end of 2015. Expected to be adopted in September, the post-2015 development agenda, will seek to reinforce commitment to achieve all MDGs as well as break new ground with goals on inequalities, economic growth, decent jobs, energy, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, peace and justice, among others. All of these goals are be proposed as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The primary actors in delivering the SDG agenda are governments – after all they will be the signatories of the new agenda in New York in September,” said Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UNDP’s Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. “They will need to reformulate policies taking into account their national realities to help achieve the goals, as well as provide the regulatory and incentive structure that will align business decisions with the SDGs. While governments will be central to implementation, the SDGs call for a global partnership and other players will be essential to support governments to achieve their goals.”

The UN is currently preparing a strategy to support Member States and others to implement the new agenda once it is adopted. Making UN policy support available in an effective and coherent way will help the countries accelerate progress on their priorities, think about sequencing of reforms, trade-offs and regulatory regimes, explained Martínez-Solimán.

Michael Gerber, Swiss Ambassador and Special Envoy for Global Sustainable Development stated, “The Post-2015 Agenda will require a true global partnership for sustainable development to achieve the SDGs. This Global Partnership needs to be universal in every sense and should therefore not only include the UN and governments – but also companies, civil society organizations, investors, and individuals all around the world.”

Panelists agreed that the institutions and practices needed to be looked at in a much more profound manner and go beyond business-as-usual. The transformations taking place in the fundamental roles of state, relationship between state and individuals, the capacity and the reach of technology all needed to be factored in to make the new goals a reality.

Gilles Carbonnier, Professor of Development Economics, Graduate Institute said, “Technological advances and emerging powers are de facto challenging the international governance machinery and breaking up the silos between organizations. International organizations need to become more flexible to adapt to such sweeping forces.”

The panelists concluded with the view that the Post-2015 Agenda presents developing and developed countries with an opportunity to take a candid look at themselves, and to compare their social policies and quest for sustainability with neighbours north, south, east and west.

“It should help developing and developed countries to check if they are indeed making progress on reducing inequality, enhancing the quality of education, greening the energy mix, improving water management so that people in developed country can also continue to enjoy rising prosperity, sustained well-being and a natural environment that is safeguarded for future generations,” Martínez-Solimán said.

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