Tag Archives: Immigration

FAO appeals for $121 million to support livelihoods affected by Syria crisis


A Syrian Kurdish boy from Mile Village, Kobani, holds a goat near the Syrian border, after shepherds crossed into Turkey with their animals.

30 March 2015, Rome РSome $121 million are  urgently needed to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and the collapse of regional food chains amidst the ongoing crisis in Syria, which has severely disrupted agricultural production and trade and left some 9.8 million people food insecure, FAO said today.

“We need to provide additional assistance to farmers to help them rebuild agricultural infrastructure and livelihoods, or we will see the food security situation continue to worsen,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa.

The Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which will take place in Kuwait City on 31 March, presents an opportunity to raise critical funds to strengthen agricultural production in communities across Syria and neighbouring countries. 

Now in its fifth year, the Syria crisis has displaced more than 11 million people, of whom close to 4 million have fled to neighbouring Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Some 85 percent of these refugees have settled outside of camps – many in rural areas where agriculture is the livelihood of the poorest families.

In Syria itself, some 50 percent of livestock have been lost and the cereal harvest has dropped by half since the beginning of the crisis in 2011 due to conflict escalation and adverse weather.

Along with growing pressures on resources like water and land, the movement of people and livestock has also raised the risk of animal and plant diseases spreading across borders within and beyond the region. This is in part due to the collapse of the veterinary services in Syria, which has left thousands of animals unvaccinated.

Boosting agricultural production is essential to ensuring a steady food supply in Syria and the subregion, which has seen an increase in food prices that is particularly affecting the 75 percent of Syrians currently living in poverty.

Building livelihoods

This week’s pledging conference aims to raise the funds required to meet the needs outlined in the 2015 Syria Strategic Response Plan (SRP) and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) 2015-2016. In all, responding to the crisis in Syria and its spillover in the region will require $2.9 billion and $5.5 billion, respectively, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Under these plans, FAO is seeking $59 million for its work in Syria to support the production of staple foods, improve families’ nutrition and income, protect their livestock, and improve the way that governments, aid agencies and communities coordinate to build food security. These funds will assist more than 1.5 million people.

Another $62 million are needed to help host communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey cope with the influx of refugees by making their agriculture more productive and sustainable. These measures include preventing animal and plant diseases, supporting backyard farming and developing value chains.

FAO’s work in Syria

These interventions build on FAO’s existing work across Syria, which has supported the livelihoods of close to a million Syrians since the start of the conflict in 2011.

In 2014, some 238,000 people received seeds that produced enough cereals to feed more than 420,000 people for a year. Another 24,500 people received vegetable packages that allow them to grow more nutritious foods, and some 45,000 hens which are expected to produce nearly 9 million eggs for families in Syria. Meanwhile, more than 1 million animals were treated for parasites and some 7,600 small livestock keepers received feed for their animals last year.

“Food production is the backbone of rural livelihoods,” said Laurent Thomas, FAO Assistant Director-General for Technical Cooperation. “However, farmers are facing enormous challenges and they need urgent support to protect Syria’s already tremendously damaged agricultural production. This is not only crucial for improving the lives of millions of people in Syria but for food security and stability in the region as a whole.”

UN condemns kidnaping of DR Congo refugees, urges their immediate release

27 March 2015 – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has today strongly condemned the recent kidnapping of Congolese refugees by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), calling for an immediate release of those still in captivity.

On 21 March, 15 Congolese refugees and one Congolese national were kidnapped by the LRA near the border between the Central African Republic (CAR) and the DCR. They were abducted from the DRC side of the border, where they had been tending to their fields.

According to UNHCR, 13of them, 2 women and 11 men, were released two days later and trekked back to the refugee camp near Zemio in the southeast of CAR. Some of the victims arrived with open wounds, and a 16-year old girl had been raped. Three refugee boys are still missing.

At a Geneva press briefing this afternoon, UNHCR’s Karin de Gruijl said that upon their arrival, the released refugees were immediately transferred to the health centre in Zemio where they received the necessary medical care. They were still in shock and anxious to learn about the missing refugees, she said.

UNHCR and its partners are providing psychosocial counselling to help them cope with this traumatic event. The UN agency also plans to step up awareness raising efforts to provide refugees with up-to-date information about the security situation, LRA activities in the region and the risks associated with moving between the camp in the CAR and their fields in the DRC.

LRA rebels have intensified their attacks on villages at the CAR-DRC border since the arrest in the CAR of Dominic Ongwen, an LRA top commander accused of crimes against humanity in the beginning of 2015.

The Lord’s Resistance Army sprung up in Uganda in 1986, established its first base in Sudan in 1993, and spread to the DRC in 2005, before moving further north into the CAR in 2009. Chased by the Ugandan armed forces, the remaining LRA rebels have pulled back in the forests in south-eastern CAR. They continue to wreak havoc and spread terror in the area.

According to UNHCR, more than 180,000 people remain internally displaced in LRA-affected areas in the CAR and the DRC, while LRA violence has caused more than 30,000 people to flee to the different neighbouring countries.

To meet those needs, UNHCR and partners are providing assistance to refugees. To date, some 640 refugees had registered to take part in the voluntary return programme that would be facilitated by the UN agency. The return programme is expected to start in the coming weeks, once the rehabilitation and extension of the airstrips in Zemio and Ango airstrips have been completed.

However, Ms. de Gruijl said the security situation tense there. There is not enough police to provide enforcement for the time being. Over the previous year, it had been a challenge to provide food to some parts of the CAR; consequently, people from camps are looking for ways to supplement both their nutrition and incomes. There are no also UN peacekeepers in that part of the CAR.

Zemio refugee camp hosts some 3,400 Congolese refugees from the Ango Territory, in Province Orientale in the north-eastern part of the DRC. Those Congolese fled LRA atrocities in the Province Orientale and found refuge in the CAR in 2009.

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Africa’s largest democracy holds elections tomorrow. President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a tough re-election battle with longtime rival Muhammadu Buhari. With the Boko Haram insurgency raging, these elections are exceedingly consequential. Here are some resources to keep you informed about the elections and their significance.

A Good Think tank Policy Brief  (Council on Foreign Relations http://on.cfr.org/1FOoWkR)

A Good 14 minute podcast explainer: Global Dispatches Podcast: http://bit.ly/1ycCvCO

A Good explainer on the nuts and bolts of how the election will work. (BBC http://bbc.in/1FOpBmp)

More Nigeria News

Nigeria holds journalist…The Al Jazeera news organization says Nigerian forces have held two of its journalists in custody since Tuesday, as the country tightens security ahead of Saturday’s national election. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtwtA)

United Nations refugee chief António Guterres said masses of people fleeing the terrorist group Boko Haram have created a crisis comparable to the refugee situation caused by Syria’s civil war. A shortfall of international funding is hampering the UN’s ability to alleviate the situation. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtBxw)

Sat of the day: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that widespread violence and turmoil in the past year have taken a toll on United Nations worker with 33 detained and one missing. Two contractors have also been abducted. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOf5x)


An international court has denied a request from former Liberian president Charles Taylor to serve the rest of his 50-year prison sentence in Rwanda. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtmmb)

Dozens of senior officials in Burundi’s ruling party have urged President Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon a quest for a third term this June to avoid renewed violence in the landlocked central African nation. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLhem)

South Sudanese opposition officials and civil society activists have condemned as self-serving and unconstitutional a move by parliament to extend the terms of the country’s elected officials, including themselves and President Salva Kiir. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLm1N)

Sierra Leone is preparing for another lockdown to fight the Ebola epidemic. It is believed that against all medical advice, some people continue to bury the dead themselves, bringing them into contact with the virus. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLlLl)

A former child soldier from Democratic Republic of Congo told the United Nations Security Council he was sorry for the harm he caused after he was forcefully recruited from his school by an armed group at age 12. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GZteDc)

A Somali businessman is betting on a biometric fingerprint system to keep alive vital money transfer firms which face closure after Western banks cut ties due to fears remittance cash may be channelled to militant groups. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLgXP)

Sierra Leone authorities have again delayed the reopening of schools shut down for months to combat the spread of Ebola. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLmyL)

The three nations hardest hit by West Africa’s Ebola epidemic recorded the lowest weekly total of new cases so far this year in the week leading up to March 22, the WHO said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GZtiTt)

Liberian health ministry officials say a woman, the country’s first Ebola patient in more than a month, has been quarantined and stabilized and is responding to “supportive” treatment. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZttOk)

Nigeria’s main presidential candidates signed a second peace accord ahead of general elections on Saturday, the government said on Thursday, promising to hold peaceful polls and not incite religious or ethnic tensions. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLhuQ)


The global chemical weapons watchdog will investigate allegations of chlorine gas attacks in Syrian villages that killed six and wounded dozens this month, a source said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOJZj)

The long-running conflict with Israel claimed the lives of more Palestinian civilians in 2014 than any year since 1967, the United Nations said Thursday, in a damning report on the humanitarian situation. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HLaf2D

The United Nations accused the Islamic State of committing shockingly widespread and extremely severe human rights violations against the people of Iraq. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLmij)

Amnesty International says Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes by firing rockets and other crudely built, indiscriminate projectiles into Israel during last year’s conflict in the Gaza Strip. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtyll)

The human rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday that Palestinian militants committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict by killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians using indiscriminate projectiles. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HL9KFF)

The flag of once-independent South Yemen is visible everywhere around this port city, once the country’s capital. The banner — red, white, black and blue with a red star — is painted on walls, flown from homes, and flutters from the vehicles and checkpoints of militiamen in the streets. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HLadrz)

The International Committee of the Red Cross has called on all sides in a widening conflict in Yemen to obey the rules of war, voicing concern at reports of civilian casualties following Saudi-led air strikes. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOKwb)


The U.S. government and major business leaders are renewing their call on the Thai government to crack down on slavery in its fishing fleets, and to punish people who force migrant workers to catch seafood that can end up in the United States. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HL9d6T)

Myanmar is increasing the salaries of its government employees — doubling some of them — as of next month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOH3t)

Humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope with a growing number of people displaced by fighting in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1bxuun5)

The Americas

The death toll in Chile rose to four after rains battered the north and caused flooding, the government said on Thursday, while 22 others were unaccounted for as the military rescued stranded villagers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOL3b)

A delegation of U.S. telecommunication officials is in Havana to meet with their Cuban counterparts as part of talks to restore full diplomatic relations between the countries. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOAVy)

The heaviest rains to hit Chile’s northern desert regions in 20 year have left at least two people dead and 24 missing as the torrential downpours caused mudslides and rivers to breach their banks, leaving thousands of residents stranded. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsODB0)

There’s an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana, tied to widespread injectible drug. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1IBb9fG)

…and the rest

Mass abductions of children by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State are on the rise, with the practice now becoming a tactic of war, a UN envoy warned. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HLa8Eh)


Why gender equality by numbers will never measure up (Guardian http://bit.ly/1bxuljx)

Hollywood made a zombie movie but replaced the zombies with Asians (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1BsN59Z)

Record-breaking year for asylum claims: 8 key trends (IRIN http://bit.ly/1BsPYI3)

How dealing with climate change is like playing cricket (Guardian http://bit.ly/1BsQIg1)

Is social media fuelling a Mexican Spring? (BBC http://bbc.in/1EHkZc9

Education as a Cornerstone for Women’s Empowerment (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1EHl13y)

What’s Up With Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Children? (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1bxuC5Z)



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Top picks: Blackboards, zakat and currency dives

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Could longer-term thinking early on have helped Haiti rebuild faster after the 2010 earthquake?

DUBAI, 27 March 2015 (IRIN) –

Welcome to IRIN’s weekly assortment of journalism and research about the humanitarian world that piqued our interest.

Five to read:

An Act of Faith: Humanitarian financing and Zakat 

Zakat – a form of obligatory almsgiving for Muslims – is one of the main tools of Islamic social financing. With faith-based and diaspora organisations playing an increasing role in humanitarian response in places like Syria and Somalia, how can Zakat’s potential as an aid funding tool be maximized? A new report by Global Humanitarian Assistance, of the UK’s Development Initiatives, looks at where Zakat is being used to fund aid delivery and the challenges and opportunities that come with this type of financing. 

When reliable information is gold: Demanding the truth during the Ebola epidemic 

We hear a lot about how technology and social media have delivered an information revolution, but sometimes it seems the old ways are the best. A blackboard inside a shed next to a busy intersection of the Liberian capital Monrovia has 5,000 daily readers, more than the number who read Liberia’s most popular website.  At the height of the Ebola crisis the “The Daily Talk” became the go-to place for information and updates on the outbreak and used special symbols and pictures to assist those unable to read fluently.

Making development work for humanitarian response – and vice versa

The gap between the silos of humanitarian aid and development assistance has, predictably, been a big talking point during regional consultations of the World Humanitarian Summit. In this blog post, Marc DuBois a former executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the UK, argues that humanitarian crises can be an opportunity for development and that more needs to be done to join up emergency relief with longer-term planning. Citing the examples of Eastern DRC, Haiti and South Sudan, he calls for more joined-up thinking and an end to the “two-pronged architecture of the aid system”.

App Helps Syrian Refugees Adapt To Life Away From Home

Syrian refugee and computer programmer Mojahid Akil has created a mobile phone application to help fellow refugees adjust to live in their new home.  “Help Me”, part of a website called “Gherbtna”  – meaning exile, loneliness or a feeling of foreignness in Arabic – provides information to Syrian refugees about essential services like health care and education, and where to register births and deaths. The app also helps refugees in Turkey, where Akil is now based, to navigate the language barrier and find Syrian food and other community members. America’s National Public Radio has the story.

Tackling the digital divide: what does this mean for humanitarian responders?

Is technology the solution for communication in a disaster situation? Mobile phones and tablets do help humanitarians communicate with crisis-hit communities, but mobile phones alone should not be seen as a panacea, rather one part of a wider set of tools. Reflecting on the recent Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, John Warnes, Technology Officer at the CDAC  (Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities) Network Secretariat, says: “We need to retain a community-centric, rather than technology-centric approach to humanitarian aid. Technology is only a tool to facilitate communication and improve effectiveness of aid, but it will not automatically put communities in the driving seat.”


One to listen to:

The end of development

Anthropologist Professor Henrietta Moore argues that development is an outmoded concept. She questions the focus on top-down solutions imposed by the global north on the global south and asks if there isn’t another way. This lecture at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University was broadcast on BBC World Service radio.

One to watch:

How tsunami aid destroyed a culture 

The secluded Nicobar Islands, an archipelago, some 1,200 kilometres east of the Indian mainland, with a population of just 42,000, have survived almost autonomously for centuries, but when the area was hit by the 2004 Tsunami, the aid poured in. In this New Scientist video, social ecologist Simron Jit Singh explains how the arrival of outside “assistance” sent the area into “cultural meltdown”.

From IRIN:

Millions of aid dollars lost in currency swings

Currency fluctuations this year could cost relief agencies hundreds of millions of dollars in lost income, threatening aid to millions of people around the world.  A drop in the value of the euro against the dollar and a spike in the Swiss franc have contributed to shortfalls in funding for the organisations like the World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), who have offices in Geneva.


Theme (s): Aid Policy,

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Record-breaking year for asylum claims: 8 key trends

Rescued migrants sleep after being plucked from a boat off the coast of Italy in summer 2014. Most boat arrivals in 2014 were asylum seekers from Syria, Eritrea and elsewhere.

OXFORD, 26 March 2015 (IRIN) – 2014 was a year of records for asylum claims, according to an annual round-up released today by UNHCR, which noted that 866,000 claims were made in the world’s industrialized nations, double the figure for 2013.

That figure will undoubtedly grab headlines, but the report reveals many other important trends. IRIN has highlighted a few of them:

• For the fourth year running, Germany was the largest recipient of new asylum claims (with 434,000) among this group of industrialised countries. Over the same period, Sweden registered the largest number relative to its population size – 24.4 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants. The United States, although the second largest recipient of new asylum seekers, averaged only 1.3 applicants per 1,000 nationals.

Sweden has registered the largest number of asylum claims relative to its population size over the last four years

• A record number of asylum seekers arriving by sea from North Africa resulting in dramatic increases of asylum claims in southern Europe. Italy registered 68,700, its highest on record, although a large proportion of the asylum seekers arriving on its shores in 2014 preferred to travel north and register their claims in other EU countries. 

Hungary also witnessed a record number of claims (41,300), double the number it received in 2013.

• The dramatic increase in asylum claims was not spread evenly across countries. Australia, for example, which introduced a number of measures aimed at deterring asylum seekers in 2014, saw a 24 percent decrease in claims compared to 2013.  

• For the first time, the largest number of asylum seekers registering claims in the USA, came from Mexico. They accounted for 39 percent of all claims lodged there and were primarily fleeing violence and persecution from organized criminal groups.

Many of the major receiving countries saw a dramatic increase in asylum claims in 2014

• The number of Syrians who applied for asylum in 2014 was more than double the number in 2013. Syrians accounted for one out of every five new asylum claims lodged in the industrialised world in 2014.

• Iraq was the second largest source country for asylum seekers, accounting for 68,700 applications. Seventy-four percent of them were made in Turkey.

• Finally, it’s worth emphasising that these figures only represent those asylum applications made in 44 developed countries that regularly supply UNHCR with statistics. Developing countries, such as Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan hosted 86 percent of the world’s refugee population in 2013. More details of asylum trends in those countries will be available when UNHCR publishes its Global Trends 2014 report in June.


Theme (s): Refugees/IDPs,

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See the Newest Statue to Grace the UN Lawn


This statue was unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters today to mark the UN’s International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery. It’s called the “The Ark of Return” and is designed by Rodney Leon, a Hatian-American architect.

The tagline is instructive: The Transatlantic slavery trade may have ended hundreds of years ago, but slavery in the form of human trafficking continues throughout the world.

Though the horrific Transatlantic slavery trade was open and widely accepted, traffickers today are hiding in plain sight. Human trafficking for sexual exploitation occurs in nearly every country in the world, with victims found in 124 countries, according to Ilias Chatzis Chief of the Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Of the 21 million people estimated by the International Labor Organization to be victims at the moment, well over half are women and nearly half are trafficked for sexual slavery and exploitation.

The signs are not as obvious as they were 300 years ago in Haiti and the American South, and as Chatzis explains, recognizing and prosecuting human traffickers is complicated and requires an exceedingly high burden of proof. There are typically three main elements required to fit the global definition of trafficking and all three must usually be met prosecute a someone for the crime.

Chatzis says there first needs to be an ‘act’ of recruitment, transportation, transfer, or harboring of persons. The ‘means’ in which people are trafficked, such as threats of force, coercion, kidnapping, fraud or abuse of power is the second element. Finally, there has to be a clear ‘purpose’ to the crime, meaning there needs to be sexual exploitation, forced labor or slavery, or similar practices in order to be classified as human trafficking.

As a result, Chatzis explains that there is incredibly low prosecution rates. Approximately 4 in 10 UN Member States say they have less than ten yearly convictions and 15% say there are no convictions at all despite very obvious anecdotal evidence that suggests trafficking is a problem in their country.

Another issue is the UN method of gathering these global statistics from the Member States themselves. All these numbers could in reality be far higher if there was an accurate method of collecting data on number of victims, reasons trafficked either labor or sexual exploitation, and the amount of money truly made from slave labor.

Regarding sex slaves in particular, there is little accurate data yet on the effects of legalizing prostitution and its effects on human trafficking. The psychological effects on former slaves is also a largely ignored factor in policing strategies as well, perpetuating the victim-criminal cycle of recidivism.

The memorial dedicated at the UN today is certainly important, but it cannot end the discussion on slavery. It cannot symbolize a history or even a reminder of a dark part of the world’s past because slavery continues today for millions around the world.



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Japan Announces Support To WFP, WHO AND UNHCR To Assist South Sudanese Refugees And Ethiopian Host Community In Gambella

ADDIS ABABA – The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) today thanked the government of Japan for its generous and timely donation of US$11.8 million to assist South Sudanese refugees and the host community in Gambella regional state in western Ethiopia.

The vehicles are part of a Russian global contribution to WFP of 218 trucks, valued at US$21 million, accompanied by mobile workshops, spare parts, technicians and an additional US$1.6 million to cover operational costs related to the trucks.

The sturdy trucks will form part of a regional fleet based in Kampala and serving WFP operations in Uganda and nearby countries. Fifty-three of them will be dispatched to South Sudan immediately while the rest will be stationed in Uganda. Another 61 of the 218 trucks are expected to arrive later this year for use both in the region and elsewhere in Africa.

“WFP greatly appreciates the generosity of the Russian government for this contribution, which will enhance WFP’s fleet capacity in the region,” said acting WFP Country Director Michael Dunford, as he received the trucks at the agency’s Tororo regional warehouse today.

“As one of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations, WFP needs to respond quickly to breaking emergencies to save lives and meet the needs of people affected by crisis,” Dunford said.

In Uganda this year, WFP plans to assist more than 1.5 million people at a cost of nearly US$130 million. WFP’s operations elsewhere in the region include South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and Ethiopia.

“The Russian Federation regards WFP as an efficient organization in addressing hunger and strengthening food security in the world. We welcome with satisfaction our cooperation, which is developing and has positive dynamics,” said Sergey Shishkin, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation.

“Our participation in WFP’s humanitarian operations is spreading geographically. Many African countries have received Russian aid through WFP. We hope the world’s best-in-class KAMAZ trucks will support WFP’s lofty aims in Uganda, South Sudan and elsewhere in Africa,” added Ambassador Shishkin.

WFP has established a regional trucking fleet based in Kampala due to Uganda’s close proximity to hotspots in eastern and central Africa.

#                              #                                 #

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 75 countries.

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):
Lydia Wamala, WFP/Kampala, Tel. (office) +256 312 242 000 or (cell) +256 758 778 037 +256 772 287 034
Challiss McDonough, WFP/Nairobi, Tel (office) +254.20.762.2179 or (cell) +254.707.722.104
Radmir Gaynanov, Head/Consular Section, Russian Embassy Kampala@dks.ru

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Daily News 25 / 03 / 2015

Digital Single Market Strategy: European Commission agrees areas for action

Digital technology is part of everyday life. From watching films, buying or selling online to connecting with friends – the internet is a goldmine of opportunities. But EU people and companies run into many barriers, such as geo-blocking or cross-border parcel delivery inefficiencies. This Commission has made it a priority to remove these obstacles and create a Digital Single Market. The College of Commissioners today had a first discussion on the Digital Single Market Strategy due in May. Based on the work of Vice-President Ansip and his team, the College set out three main areas on which Commission action will focus during this mandate: 1. Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services; 2. Shaping the environment for digital networks and services to flourish; 3. Creating a European Digital Economy and Society with long-term growth potential.See the press conference by Vice-President Ansip at 12.00 CET, the press release and the factsheet.Speaking points will be published after the press conference. (for more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Marie Frenay – Tel.: +32 229 64532)

Adoption of the 2014 European Neighbourhood Reports

In a set of annual reports adopted today, the European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy assessed the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) with the 16 partner countries in the East and the South and made recommendations for the year ahead. 2014 saw the signing of association agreements with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, democratic transition in Tunisia and strengthened relations with Morocco. Nevertheless, conflicts and crises, involving security and humanitarian problems, persisted in both the East and South, especially in the form of terrorist threats and attacks. Significant support was mobilised by the EU to help Lebanon and Jordan cope with the increasing effects of the Syria crisis. A technical briefing off-the-record (for accredited journalists only) is taking place at 13:00 CET in the press room of the Commission’s Berlaymont building. A press release is available online. (for more information: Maja Kocijančič– Tel.: +32 2 298 65 70; Anca Paduraru, +32 2 296 64 30)



Investing in an open and secure Europe: €1.8 billion to fund Asylum, Migration, Integration and Security

Today the European Commission has approved 22 new multiannual national programmes under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) for the period 2014-2020, worth together approximately €1.8 billion. An additional 36 national programmes will be approved later this year. These two strands of EU funding support Member States’ efforts in the fields of asylum, migration and integration, and internal security. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Migration is one of the ten priorities of this Commission. Making migration policy work in all its aspects is essential to the overall success of our societies. We want people to thrive and we want people to be safe. But Member States cannot do this alone. That is why the European Commission has consistently given tangible support to the Member States and will continue to do so.” A press release is available online. (for more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 2 296 74 56; Milica Petrovic – Tel.: +32 2 296 30 20)

EU pledges €160 million for Guinea-Bissau

Today, the European Union pledged €160 million for Guinea-Bissau to consolidate democracy, strengthen the rule of law, accelerate economic recovery and improve people’s lives. The announcement was made at an international conference in Brussels, a day after the lifting of Article 96 measures. The event comes at a decisive moment when Guinea-Bissau is on the path of political, institutional and economic reform after years of extreme fragility and political instability. The conference is co-chaired by Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, Deputy Regional Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme and H.E. Mr. Domingos Simões Pereira, Prime Minister of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. José Mário Vaz, President of Guinea-Bissau, Macky Sall, President of Senegal and Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General and Head of the UN Department of Political Affairs are also taking part in the opening session. The opening session will be available on EbS. (for more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256; Irina Novakova, +32 2 295 75 17)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Indaqua by Mota Engil and Talanx

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Indaqua Industry and water management, S.A. by Mota Engil Ambiente e Serviços, SGPS S.A., both of Portugal and Talanx AG of Germany. Talanx belongs to the HDI Group, a global insurance company. Mota Engil is active in various sectors, including engineering, construction, mining, and waste management. Indaqua provides retail water supply services in Portugal. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns as the joint venture has limited activities in the European Economic Area (EEA). The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website in the public case register under the case number M.7503. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


Vice-President Šefčovič and Commissioner Bulc meet with five Transport Ministers to further develop transport infrastructure in Central Europe

On 26 March, in Slovakia, Vice-President Šefčovič and Commissioner Bulc will meet with Transport Ministers from the Visegrád Group countries (the so-called V4: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) and Austria, to discuss interconnections in Central Europe, in line with the Trans-European Transport Network. They will focus on current interconnection projects relevant to Central Europe, particularly on the progress of Rhine-Danube, Baltic-Adriatic, and Orient-East Med transport corridors. They will also discuss the possibilities of using the European Fund for Strategic Investment for regional transport initiatives. Other topics on the agenda also include regional transportation projects built with EU funding and a more effective use of funds from the Connecting Europe Facility. At the end of the meeting, the V4 Transport Ministers will sign a Memorandum of Cooperation on the development of transportation infrastructure. In addition, Austrian and Slovak representatives will sign a declaration on improving transport links between Vienna and Bratislava. (for more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Joshua Salsby – Tel.: +32 229 72459)

Climate action: Commissioner Arias Cañete meets mayors of EU capital and large cities ahead of Paris climate conference

Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete will attend a high-level meeting on the role of cities in fighting climate change in Paris on 26 March. Together with Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister and future President of the UN climate conference in Paris in December as well as the French Energy Minister Ségolène Royal and Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, the Commissioner will join a meeting bringing together mayors of EU capital and large cities ahead of the UN climate conference in December. Commissioner Arias Cañete will give a keynote speech and attend the signing ceremony of a declaration for more sustainable urban development and greener cities, renewing mayors’ commitment to concrete and measurable actions to address climate change at city level. Cities and urban areas are home to 75% of the EU population and play an important role in limiting climate change and adapting to its impacts. The European Commission has created a framework to support cities and leverage urban climate action through initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors and Mayors Adapt. During his visit, the Commissioner will also meet with the industry network Cercle de l’Industrie. You will find more information on the website of the Covenant of Mayors. (for more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186, Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)

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