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How We Can Feed the World Without Destroying the Planet

20. August 2019 - 13:13

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, released a report in August demonstrating the harmful relationship between climate change and how we humans are using land for food and agriculture.

The warnings are dire. Agriculture and deforestation account for nearly a quarter of all human made greenhouse gas emissions — and big changes in how we produce and consume food need to take place if we are to curb the worst effects of climate change. At the same time, the world population is increasing and poverty is declining, meaning food consumption patterns, particularly around meat, are changing.

Big changes in how we produce and consume food need to take place if we are to curb the worst effects of climate change.

On the line with me to discuss how we can feed the world without destroying the planet is Timothy Searchinger. He’ s a research scholar at Princeton University and fellow with the World Resources Institute. He was recently the lead author on a report by WRI Creating a Sustainable Food Future: A Menu of Solutions to Feed Nearly 10 Billion People by 2050.

We kick off discussing the IPCC report and the significance of its findings before having a solutions- focused conversation about policies that can be enacted to help better balance our relationship between food and how humans use the finite resource of land.

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The post How We Can Feed the World Without Destroying the Planet appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Today is World Humanitarian Day. Here’s What that Means

19. August 2019 - 13:03

It’s World Humanitarian Day, and this year, the UN is highlighting the hard work and sacrifice of tens of thousands of women humanitarian aid workers in crises around the world.

According to the UN, there are about 250,000 women aid workers globally, who make up more than 40 percent of all humanitarian workers. Their efforts are particularly valuable as reports have found that women and children bear the brunt of the consequences of disasters, conflicts and displacement.

“Their presence makes aid operations more effective by increasing their reach,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message.

But being a humanitarian has become increasingly dangerous, despite international laws prohibiting attacks on aid workers. According to a recent report by Humanitarian Outcomes, 2018 was second worst year on record for aid worker security: 405 aid workers – most of whom were nationals of the countries where they work – were killed, wounded or kidnapped in 226 separate attacks that year.

Those risks are exactly why the UN commemorates World Humanitarian Day every year on August 19. On this day in 2003, terrorists attacked the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 aid workers. Among them were nine Iraqi citizens as well as the UN’s top representative in Iraq, Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, the who formerly served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Since the month of that attack, more than 4,500 aid workers have been killed, injured, detained, assaulted or kidnapped while on the job, the UN reports. In 2008, the UN officially named August 19 as World Humanitarian Day. Every year, the UN uses the occasion to advocate for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, as well as for the people humanitarians are helping in crises.

With this year’s focus on women, the UN will be telling the stories of 24 women humanitarians over the course of 24 hours. Most of these women are from the countries in which they work, making them among the humanitarians who face the highest risks.

The Humanitarian Outcomes report found that while national staff have always outnumbered international staff as victims of violence, they are now also experiencing higher fatality rates. This reflects how aid in high-risk areas is increasingly carried out by locals. When violent incidents occur, international staff are usually sent home. Meanwhile, local staff often stay to continue delivering aid in the world’s most dangerous places.

Women also face a higher risk of sexual assualt, robbery and other forms of violence, according to the UN. Sexual violence, in particular, is challenging – and critical – to tackle because it is “virtually the only type of violent threat to aid workers where perpetrators may be inside as well as outside the organization,” Humanitarian Outcomes reports.

Last year, revelations that Oxfam staff paid prostitutes for sex in 2011 set off an avalanche of stories about sexual harassment and abuse by aid workers in various organizations against both the people they were supposed to help as well as their colleagues. The movement has been dubbed #AidToo.

According to the Humanitarian Outcomes report, open and explicit conversations about consent, sexual misconduct and abuse don’t occur enough in aid orgnaizations because of “discomfort with the subject and gender dynamics within field teams.” This has also contributed to organizational cultures that are permissive of sexual harassment and misconduct, which discourage survivors from reporting incidents and increase the risk of even worse sexual violence.

That’s why the report calls on organizations to improve and increase reporting to better understand and address the problem. UK lawmakers in another report recently also called on governments to increase pressure on each other to end violence against humanitarian workers. Regardless of whether the threat is from perpetrators inside an aid organization or outside, aid workers, like the civilians they serve, have a right to safety and security under international law.

The post Today is World Humanitarian Day. Here’s What that Means appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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War Crimes and Ethnic Cleansing Were Committed Against the Rohingya of Myanmar. They Deserve Justice. But How?

15. August 2019 - 16:59

In August 2017, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar fled across the border to Bangladesh. The Rohingya are a minority population that have long faced discrimination by the Buddhist Burmese majority. In the summer of 2017, things got very bad, very quickly.

A Rohingya militant group attacked some police outposts in Myanmar. The government and military responded by attacking Rohingya towns and villages, unleashing massive violence against a civilian population. This drove over 600,000 Rohingya to refugee camps in a region of Bangladesh known as Cox’s Bazar.

Some 700,000 Rohingya refugees remain there to this day.

The violence that drove these people from their home was certainly a crime against humanity — a UN official called it “a text book example of an ethnic cleansing.”  It could also have been a genocide.

That of course demands the question: who will pay for these crimes? What does accountability look like in a situation like this? And can perpetrators of these crimes even be brought to justice in the first place?

On the line with me to discuss these questions in the context of the current plight of the Rohingya refugees is Param-Preet Singh, Associate Director, International Justice Program of Human Rights Watch.

We kick off discussing the events of August 2017 before having a longer conversation about possible avenues for justice for these crimes.

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This episode pairs well with my conversation last week with former Obama administration official Ben Rhodes, who discusses the fall from grace of Aung San Suu Kyi, the nobel peace prize winner who was the de-facto head of state of Myanmar while these crimes against humanity occurred–and who remained a notably silent bystander to ethnic cleansing. 


The post War Crimes and Ethnic Cleansing Were Committed Against the Rohingya of Myanmar. They Deserve Justice. But How? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Map of the Day: Measles Outbreaks Around the World

13. August 2019 - 15:22

The World Health Organization released new measles surveillance data this week, and the outlook is not good. The data shows that there have been more measles cases worldwide in the first six months of 2019 than at anytime since 2006. Worse, there are nearly three times as many measles related deaths than at anytime since last year. Just today, Israeli press is reporting that a flight attendant died after contracting the illness on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv.

After years of global decline due to increased vaccine coverage, measles cases are in a rapid ascent.

The WHO says the largest outbreaks this year have been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine and Madagascar, though measles cases have declined sharply in Madagascar over the past few months because of a nationwide vaccination campaign.  Other major outbreaks include Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand.

The United States has the highest number of measles cases in 25 years while Europe has had more reported measles cases in the first half of this year (90,000) than all of 2019.

Says the WHO

The largest outbreaks are in countries with low measles vaccination coverage, currently or in the past, which has left large numbers of people vulnerable to the disease. At the same time, protracted outbreaks are occurring even in countries with high national vaccination rates. This results from inequities in vaccine coverage, and gaps and disparities between communities, geographic areas, and among age-groups. When enough people who are not immune are exposed to measles, it can very quickly spread…

The reasons for people not being vaccinated vary significantly between communities and countries including —lack of access to quality healthcare or vaccination services, conflict and displacement, misinformation about vaccines, or low awareness about the need to vaccinate. In a number of countries, measles is spreading among older children, youth and adults who have missed out on vaccination in the past.

The actual numbers of cases – captured in global estimates released annually – are considerably higher than those reported through surveillance systems because of incompleteness of reporting. WHO estimates that globally fewer than 1 in 10 cases are reported; the completeness of reporting varies substantially by country. The latest year for which WHO global measles case and death estimates are available is 2017; in that year there were 6.7 million estimated measles cases and 110,000 estimated measles-related deaths, based on 173,330 reported cases. In 2018 there were 353,236 measles cases reported to WHO. Global case and death estimates for 2018 will be released by WHO in November 2019.

With the provisos described above, for the period of January 1 through July 31 2019, 182 countries reported 364,808 measles cases to WHO. For this same period last year, 129,239 measles cases were reported from 181 countries. For the current 2019 period, the WHO African Region has recorded a 900% (i.e. a 10-fold increase) increase, the European Region 120% (more than twofold increase), the Eastern Mediterranean Region 50% (1.5 fold increase), the Western Pacific Region 230% (a threefold increase); the South-East Asia Region and the Region of the Americas each saw a 15% decrease in reported cases.

Full report. 


The post Map of the Day: Measles Outbreaks Around the World appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Remembering the Yazidi Genocide, Five Years On

12. August 2019 - 16:01

In the summer of 2014, ISIS forces swept through parts of Iraq that were home to the Yazidi people. This is an ethnic minority that has lived in northwestern Iraq for centuries — and suddenly they were under attack.  What transpired was a genocide. Men and boys were murdered for being Yazidi; women and girls were kidnapped and taken as sex slaves for ISIS fighters.

At the time, Emma Beals was reporting from Erbil, a city in the Kurdish region of Iraq near to where these atrocities were taking place. She was reeling from the news that a fellow journalist, James Foley, had been brutally murdered when she received a call from a human rights organization asking her to investigate rumors of a massacre in the Yazidi town of Kocho.

Emma Beals describes whats next in a series of powerful essays, titled Kocho’s Living Ghosts. There were 19 surviving men from the town’s original population of 1,888. In our conversation Emma Beals recounts the massacre through the testimony of the survivors she interviewed.


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The post Remembering the Yazidi Genocide, Five Years On appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Four Ways We Can Use Land Better to Avoid Food Shortages and Prevent a Climate Crisis

9. August 2019 - 17:15

The verdict is in: Humans and climate change are putting the land on which we live under immense and growing pressure. But that same land could be part of the solution.

On Thursday the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a comprehensive new report, which looks at how our use of land contributes to climate change and how climate change affects our land.

According to the report – which was the first report the group compiled with a majority of authors (53 percent) from developing countries – human activities are directly affecting more than 70 percent (but likely 69 to 76 percent) of all ice-free land. Our activities – including agriculture, forestry, developing wetlands or burning plant or animal matter – are degrading land, making it less productive and less able to capture carbon from the atmosphere. These activities are also responsible for 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions, the report says. (Although, some argue that the human impact is much greater if we consider how the land would otherwise be occupied by its natural ecosystem.)

These greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to climate change, which in turn, is putting added pressures on land. Some regions are facing higher risks to food security, livelihoods, human and ecosystem health, infrastructure and biodiversity. Others are beginning to – and will continue to – face new risks they hadn’t experienced before.

So, what do we do? How do we continue to make productive use of our land to feed humanity and avoid a climate crisis?

Here are four recommendations in the report

1. Eat more plant-based foods

According to the report, we should adopt balanced diets that feature more coarse grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables; and less energy-intensive animal products and “discretionary foods” like sugary drinks. This type of diet presents “major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change,” says Debra Roberts, co-chair of one of the IPCC’s working groups, because it requires less land and water and causes fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

On the contrary, red meat, for example, is usually a more inefficient use of land and water. The report cites another study which found that replacing beef with poultry in the US diet could meet the caloric and protein needs of about 120 to 140 million more people.

Although a vegan diet consisting of no animal-source food has the most potential for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report, other less-strict diets also have considerable mitigation potential, such as a healthy diet with limited sugar, meat and dairy or a Mediterranean diet that includes moderate amounts of meat but is rich in vegetables.

Not to mention, these types of diets are healthier, the report says.



2. Reduce food waste and loss

About one-third of food produced in the world is lost or wasted, the report says, and during 2010 to 2016, that loss and waste made up 8 to 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Not only does decomposing food release methane into the atmosphere, but all the gases that were emitted during the production, transportation and preservation (refrigeration) of uneaten food – and its packaging – are also wasted. According to some researchers, “cutting down on food waste could have nearly the same impact on reducing emissions over the next three decades as onshore wind turbines.”

The report defines food waste as food discarded by consumers. Meanwhile, when the amount of edible food is reduced before it gets to the consumer (during production, postharvest, and processing), that’s loss. This difference is significant, because while a lot of food is wasted in developed countries, food is often lost in developing countries because of poor infrastructure. For example, in 2007, about 20 percent of all food that was produced went to waste in Europe and North America, while about 30 percent was lost in sub-Saharan Africa.

These differences, mean that tackling the problem will vary by region. However, overall, possible solutions include changing behaviors and attitudes toward food waste and loss as well as improving harvesting techniques, on-farm storage, infrastructure and packaging to keep food fresher for longer. Better efforts can also be made to distribute extra food to people in need , converting food waste to animal feed or recycling it into energy.

Although food waste and loss will likely never reach zero, just halving it would reduce the amount of land needed for crops by about 14 percent, according to the report, while greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would drop by 22 to 28 percent.

3. Support better land management

Already 500 million people live in areas where fertile land has become a desert because of climate, deforestation or inappropriate agriculture. When land is degraded, it’s bad for people and our environment. It becomes less productive, limits what we can grow, makes us more susceptible to climate shocks (such as droughts, dust storms, heatwaves, floods) and can become dangerous (landslides, for example). It also reduces the amount of carbon that can be captured by soil, which worsens climate change. In turn, climate change degrades land further.

“In a future with more intensive rainfall, the risk of soil erosion on croplands increases,” says Kiyoto Tanabe, co-chair of the IPCC’s Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.

“The choices we make about sustainable land management can help reduce and, in some cases, reverse these adverse impacts,” he adds.

One of those choices is planting a variety of crops instead of further degrading soil with just one. A variety also gives communities more options in the face of changing or extreme weather conditions.

Other solutions include conserving, restoring and planting new forests, wetlands, mangroves and peatlands. While forests and soils do not capture carbon indefinitely, the report notes that peatlands (including mires, bogs and other wetlands covered in partially decayed organic matter) can sequester carbon for centuries. Studies have also found that mangrove forests are great at protecting coastlines from erosion and can capture four times more carbon than rainforests can.

4. Promote the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals were designed to work together, because it has become increasingly clear that no single issue exists in a vacuum. That’s why the report authors say that land solutions are not enough. Instead, “an overall focus on sustainability” is our best chance at tackling climate change and improving food security.

Therefore, it’s just as important to lower population growth, reduce inequalities and poverty, improve nutrition, waste less food, emit fewer greenhouse gases across all sectors and make sure everyone has access to food, even if the land they live on doesn’t produce enough.

And, all this needs to happen now to prevent further damage that will only cost more and be more difficult to reverse. But the authors of the report are optimistic: There’s a lot that can be done, so long as we’re willing to do it now.

The post Four Ways We Can Use Land Better to Avoid Food Shortages and Prevent a Climate Crisis appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Ben Rhodes Discusses Aung San Suu Kyi’s Fall From Grace as a Human Rights Icon

8. August 2019 - 18:07

When Ben Rhodes first met Aung San Suu Kyi she exuded the all traits that made her such an international icon for human rights and democracy. The year was 2012, and Ben Rhodes, who was the deputy national security advisor, was accompanying Barack Obama in an historic visit to Myanmar. As he puts it, this meeting was the high water mark for her moral authority. There was a hopefulness, surrounding her, he says.

Now seven years later, she has been stripped of many international accolades, honors and prizes.  At issue is the fact that as the most powerful civilian leader in Myanmar she refused to intervene against, or even publicly condemn, a genocide committed by the government against a religious and ethnic minority.  Some 700,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled Myanmar amid what a UN official has called a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. All the the while, Aung San Suu Kyi was silent. 

So what happened to Aung San Suu Kyi? How did a Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent decades under house arrest in an elegant pursuit of democracy and justice in Myanmar fall so from grace? And was the international community, including the Obama administration, wrong about her all along? 

Ben Rhodes grapples with these questions and more in a new piece in The Atlantic that combines some of his own self-reflection with fresh reporting, which he discusses on the podcast.

We kick off setting the historic context for Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to prominence and the circumstances of her persecution and house arrest before having a longer conversation about the causes and implications of her becoming a bystander to genocide. 

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The White House is Trying to Make and End Run Around Congress to Strip Funding for Diplomacy and Development

6. August 2019 - 20:06

The White House is seeking to circumvent Congress to enact sweeping budget cuts on programs that support global development, diplomacy and the United Nations.  On August third, the White House Office of Budget and Management ordered the State Department and United States Agency for International Development, USAID, to freeze spending on several programs. The ostensible justification for this freeze was to enable the Office of Management and Budget to review unspent funds from eight accounts that support diplomacy and development efforts, including the account that funds UN Peacekeeping and global health programs. But the reality is more likely that the White House wants to prevent appropriated funds from being spent before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

These budget cancellations, or “rescissions,” are of dubious legality–but that is not stopping the White House.

The White House appears to be readying what is known as a rescission — a move by which the White House can prevent unspent funds from being disbursed. Under a 1974 budget law, the White House can, in some circumstances freeze the disbursement funds that were appropriated by Congress, but have not yet been spent. Congress then has 45 days to act on this rescission request. If Congress rejects the request, the funds would be unfrozen and able to be obligated. If Congress ignores the request, the funds would then be unfrozen at the end of the 45-day period.

But here is the rub: In this case, the funds that the OMB are targeting at USAID and the State Department are all set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, on September 30. If the money is not spent by then, it would revert back to the treasury.  But Congress is currently in recess for the next five weeks, so should the rescission request be formally sent, Congress would have very little time to consider this request before the end of the fiscal year.

In other words, the White House is trying to run out the clock to prevent funds that Congress already appropriated for development, global health diplomacy and the United Nations from being spent.

The White House tried this last year, but was slapped down by Congress. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also intervened to prevent the rescissions from being formally enacted. The White House eventually abandoned the effort. Months later, the US Government Accountability Office ruled that strategically timed rescissions intended to beat the clock on previously appropriated funds did not comport with the 1974 budget law.

That ruling has apparently not stopped the White House from trying this procedural and budgetary legerdemain again. Deeper still, the letter from OMB to USAID ordering a spending freeze occurred when the Secretary of State was out of DC, in a trip to the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States Global Leadership Coalition, which is a collection of businesses and non-profits that advocate for American support for international development estimates that rescissions would impact between $2 billion and $4 billion worth of unspent funds.

“OMB appears set on taking a sledgehammer to one of the most miniscule parts of the entire federal budget that would significantly damage America’s security and economic interests – and thwart congressional authority,”  U.S. Global Leadership Coalition President and CEO Liz Schrayer said in an emailed statement. She added, “These cuts could affect key Administration initiatives from the Indo-Pacific region to Prosper Africa to the response to Venezuela to women’s economic empowerment. Other congressional priorities that could be hit include global health, countering Russian aggression, and peacekeeping operations.”

As of now, the funds are temporarily frozen pending the review request from the Office of Management and Budget. Whether or not this leads to a full rescission notification to Congress depends largely on  internal jockeying within the Trump administration and whether or not the State Department can convince the White House to reconsider.

The post The White House is Trying to Make and End Run Around Congress to Strip Funding for Diplomacy and Development appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Drought in the Horn of Africa is Threatening 15 Million People

5. August 2019 - 16:52

The Horn of Africa region, which includes parts of Somalia, Kenya,  Ethiopia, is experiencing a severe drought. This region has been particularly vulnerable to droughts in recent years–but the situation this summer has become increasingly dire and is raising the prospect of a widespread humanitarian emergency.

A little background: In the summer of 2011, there was a similar drought in the region. But warnings about the humanitarian consequences of this drought went largely unheeded until the drought lead to a famine — the first of the 21st century. Over the subsequent weeks and months over 260,000 people died, making this famine one of the worst mass atrocities of this decade.

That was 2011. In 2017, there was another drought. But this time, the international community and governments in the region responded with urgency. They were able to provide humanitarian assistance and other aid and interventions that prevented the tragedy of 2011 from being repeated.

This brings us So that is all some recent historic background to an email that landed in my inbox from Oxfam, which compared data around the humanitarian response in 2011 to the response to the current ongoing drought, which shows that compared to 2011, the humanitarian needs are greater and the international response is far less robust. This of course suggests that unless something changes, the current drought could lead to another famine.

On the line with me to discuss the current humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa is Dustin Barter, the regional drought policy and advocacy lead, Oxfam. He authored a report comparing the impact of the 2011, 2017 and current drought and the international humanitarian response.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn why the international community ought to be paying attention to an incipient humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa, have a listen

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The post Drought in the Horn of Africa is Threatening 15 Million People appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Ethiopia is in the Midst of a Rapid Democratic Renewal. Can It Succeed?

1. August 2019 - 15:44

Ethiopia’s political scene is changing. Since taking office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has accelerated a process of political opening, including a greater freedom of press, the release of political prisoners, a detente with Eritrea, and other meaningful reforms.

But Ethiopia’s transition to a liberal, open and multi-party democracy has faced some significant challenges in recent weeks. On June 22, an a general tried to orchestrate a coup attempt, which resulted in two high profile assassinations. That coup attempt, which failed, came on the heels of inter-communal clashes that forced nearly 3 million people from their homes.

Now, the democratic renewal underway in Ethiopia is very much being challenged.

On the line to help explain why Ethiopian politics is at such a pivotal moment right now is William Davidson, senior Ethiopia analyst with the International Crisis Group. He offers listeners some helpful context and background for understanding the current situation, including what is driving change and the counter-reactions to the process of democratic renewal.

If you have 25 minutes and want to learn why Ethiopian politics is at such a crucial crossroads right now, have a listen.


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It is the One Year Anniversary of the Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

31. Juli 2019 - 18:15

August 1 marks the first anniversary of the ongoing ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a grim milestone.

Since first detected last year, ebola has sickened over 2,600 people and killed over 1,800. This has made it the second worst ebola outbreak in history, following the 2013 outbreak in West Africa, which killed over 10,000 people.

The DRC has experience in successfully containing ebola outbreaks, including an outbreak just last year. But the current outbreak is different.  This outbreak has been exceedingly difficult to contain, in large part because of conflict and instability in the affected region. Ebola workers have been murdered and health centers attacked. Also, widespread mistrust between health officials and affected communities has made containing and halting the spread of the disease exceedingly difficult.

The international community, including the World Health Organization, have mounted a robust response. This response was boosted further when the WHO officially declared the outbreak to be a global health emergency of international concern, which has boosted global attention to ebola response. Still, the outbreak is far from contained — in fact, it is continuing to spread.

“Colleagues and communities on the ground are fighting the outbreak tirelessly. But we need desperately the international community to back us up.” @UNICEF asks for urgent support in order to stop the #Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) July 31, 2019

What Can Be Done to End this Ebola Outbreak?

A recent episode of the Global Dispatches podcast examined the causes and consequences of this outbreak. Ambassador John Lange (RET), senior fellow for global health diplomacy at the United Nations Foundation describes some of the international efforts to halt the spread of ebola. We kick off discussing why this outbreak has been so hard to contain and then have a broader conversation about strategies the international community, including the World Health Organization, are using to halt this outbreak.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn why this outbreak is still festering and not under control, have a listen.


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Show Notes:

What’s up first?

The outbreak that is currently going on in the DRC actually began on August 1st of last year. It has not been possible to get it totally under control for two reasons. Firstly, it is the result of insecurity in North Kivu and eastern DRC. Secondly, it is hard to get community acceptance to change burial practices and other traditional factors to control this outbreak.

There have been 174 attacks on health care resulting in five deaths and 51 injuries of health care workers and patients. It is a difficult and tumultuous situation in terms of the different groups involved. The DRC does not have full control over all the districts in that part of the country.

There is a challenge of getting communities in Ebola affected areas to cooperate with health officials. Can you discuss why that element has been lacking?

There was the Ebola outbreak in 2014 in West Africa involving Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. There are certain community practices that will be followed during an outbreak, like touching the dead body of a loved one. This practice can cause the disease to spread further, so it really must end. Secondly, when someone takes a loved one to an Ebola treatment center they are separated from them. That can be very difficult because it is a human’s natural response to want to be close to a loved one if they are sick or dying. It is not as simple as just explaining these factors in advance to communities in parts of the world where Ebola could break out. Instead, you have to deal with it after Ebola breaks out in a particular situation. The communities tend to focus on their local needs rather than what the government wants them to do. Therefore, WHO and other organizations must work closely with community leaders to bring about change.

What are some of similarities/differences in how the international community is responding now compared to in 2014?

It is totally different. Prior to 2014, WHO was not expected to have a robust emergency response capacity. By August of 2014, it was clear the world needed a stronger emergency response capability. There have since been massive changes, first under Director-General Margaret Chan, and now under Director Tedros.

How is that being manifested on the ground in the DRC?

They now have an Assistant Director-General based in the DRC. They also have around 670 people on the ground working there. Dr. Tedros himself, just Saturday, was in Butembo. He has visited several times to point out that WHO needs the funding to meet those needs, and boost morale. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Alex Azar, was speaking positively about the response of WHO and Dr. Tedros.

Can you talk about the role of the vaccine and how it is being deployed?

It is still experimental but it has proven to be highly effective with a 97.5% efficacy rate. WHO has vaccinated 32,000 health care and front line workers and over 39,500 children. The total number of individuals they have vaccinated is over 133,000. They use what is known as a ring vaccination. So, the way you deal with Ebola is to talk to the affected person, find out all of that person’s contacts who also could have been infected, and then talk to those contact’s contacts. You end up bringing the number of cases gradually down to zero.

One wonders if vaccine campaigns are the answer to the challenge of community engagement.

All of the cases except three have been in the DRC, and the three in Uganda were a family that crossed the border from DRC.

The fact that it is a localized situation was the principal reason why a panel of advisors to the WHO declined to declare this a public health emergency of international concern. What does a public health emergency of international concern really mean?

One of the few parts of international law that involves global health is the international health regulations approved in 2005 (in response to the SARS outbreak). The idea was to ensure countries were transparent when they had infectious disease outbreaks that could become global. The decision that was made by an emergency review committee not to declare a public health emergency of international concern was a decision that could have gone either way. It certainly meets one of the criteria that the outbreak an extraordinary event. The other criteria is there must be international spread, and the committee did not believe it constituted a threat beyond the immediate region.

There is a robust response, not just from the WHO, but also the UN. They have just announced that David Gressly will be the UN Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator in the Ebola affected areas of the DRC. WHO is the technical lead, while the UN has a broader role. Other UN agencies, like UNICEF, the World Food Program, and many NGO’s have been involved as well. Declaring this a public health emergency of international concern would not necessarily have enforced a more robust response.

There is still a funding gap, can you talk about that?

You can tell an international organization, “you need to create a robust emergency response capacity, we can’t risk a global Ebola outbreak.” Then the organization tries to create that and the money is not forthcoming at the levels needed. WHO requested 98.4 million dollars but there is a still a gap for over 50%. On the whole, the international community has not fully funded this effort. There is not a choice, we cannot risk a global outbreak. The longer it goes on, the greater that risk is.

The fear of Ebola can be so distorting to policy. In 2014 there were US governors who undermined the global Ebola response by quarantining nurses and doctors when they arrived back in the US. Now the concern is that if an emergency is declared there may be travel bans which can deter the robust response required to confront this crisis.

Exactly. If you closed US borders you would only gain about one week in terms of an advantage prior to the time a vaccine could be created. Modelling has shown that even if you close your borders it won’t make much difference, yet that is the natural inclination of people in government leadership positions. One of the fears, if this were to be declared a public health emergency of international concern, is that countries would close their borders rather than monitor the potential people who could be infected. Closing the border does more harm than good.

What sort of indicators will you be looking toward that will suggest if this outbreak is trending in the right direction?

The goal is to get to zero. To get there, you have to reduce the number of cases each week. The idea is to look community by community.

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Shownotes by Lydia DeFelice

The post It is the One Year Anniversary of the Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Spain Has Figured Out How to Save the Lives of Migrants at Sea. The Rest of the EU Should Follow

30. Juli 2019 - 15:28

Ed note. This article by Luna Vives, Assistant Professor of Geography and Migration, Université de Montréal  is from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 18,000 migrants have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe since 2014. Last year, the suspension of search-and-rescue operations in the central Mediterranean caused the deaths of one in eight migrants along this route.

Refusal to aid migrant vessels in distress is not only causing the carnage. It is also a violation of a nation’s responsibilities under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, a cornerstone of international maritime law and a legal obligation the 174 member states of the International Maritime Organization have willingly assumed.

For these reasons, the UN Refugee Agency and the international community is urging European states to resume search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean. It’s important that this responsibility be placed in government-run entities independent of the military.

Spain’s approach to saving lives at sea through its publicly owned search-and-rescue agency, Salvamento Marítimo (SASEMAR), is a viable alternative to relying on the military or humanitarian organizations to do the job.

The military should no longer control borders

Most southern European coast guards are under military command. These militaries are partisan and opaque entities that have shown little regard for migrants’ lives.

Military forces have regularly foregone their duty to assist migrant vessels. A leaked conversation between a Syrian refugee aboard a sinking boat and the Italian emergency services gave chilling testimony to this. The migrant boat sank shortly after the call, and all migrants aboard died.

In the Mediterranean, militarization has mainly meant developing capacity to detect migrants before they enter European search-and-rescue responsibility zones. The contracts with private firms to develop and implement technologically advanced border surveillance systems (for example, EUROSUR, the Sunny project, Albatross or Roborder) are disturbingly opaque. These projects cost billions of euros and are approved without public or parliamentary scrutiny. It’s unclear what these firms will do with the collected data.

These is also a push to transfer search-and-rescue responsibilities from states to the European Border and Coast Guard (also known as Frontex). This agency, military in its approach to border control, is currently before the EU Court of Justice on charges of lack of transparency that potentially include human rights abuses. And yet, just a few months ago, the European Parliament gave Frontex more money and an expanded mandate to seal the EU’s maritime borders against unwanted migrants.

NGOs: A stop-gap solution

Until 2017, European governments in the central and eastern Mediterranean welcomed NGO participation in rescue operations.

That year, NGOs were first accused of aiding human trafficking and forced to abide by a controversial code of conduct. Since then, European states have criminalized humanitarian rescue operations, denied operational and docking permits and closed off their ports.

The Italian government (especially Matteo Salvini, minister of the interior) has been particularly aggressive, as the criminal prosecution of rescue crews helmed by Pia Klemp, Miguel Roldán, Carola Rackete and others demonstrate. NGOs currently operating in the central Mediterranean are doing so illegally.

NGOs have saved many lives at great cost. But it is not their role to fulfill the legal obligations of European states.

Public search and rescue service

Since 1992, Spain has fulfilled its search-and-rescue responsibilities without involving the military or NGOs. But that’s changing.

SASEMAR, Spain’s publicly owned company, is in charge of addressing all emergencies in Spain’s responsibility zone — an area 1.5 million square kilometes, three times the country’s land mass. SASEMAR is under the purview of Spain’s Ministry of Development.

Only 10 per cent of SASEMAR’s operations relate to migration. And yet, in 2018 alone, the company rescued almost 50,000 migrants. With a maritime rescue crew of 80 workers and equipment specifically designed for the task, a typical rescue led by SASEMAR takes between one to two minutes (NGO-run operations generally take 10 to 30 minutes).

But in a push for the militarization of the sea, Spain’s left-leaning government is quietly dismantling SASEMAR. Rescue crews are overwhelmed. Air radars, key for locating vessels, have been down for more than a year.

Pedro Sánchez’s government has transferred control of sea operations involving migrants to Spain’s Guardia Civil (a force under the Ministries of the Interior and Defense), the armed forces and Frontex. Under military command, the duration of an average rescue operation has gone up by 3.5 hours. More migrants are drowning.

When rescued migrants arrive at port, they are interviewed by two agents from the Guardia Civil, two police officers and two Frontex officers. Sometimes, six additional Frontex officers take pictures and notes about the operation.

Clearly, we are witnessing the transfer of search-and-rescue responsibilities to the military.

But if the EU and its member states really want to address their responsibilities, the military is not the answer. Neither are NGOs. Instead, they must carefully consider Spain’s previous approach — a professional, safe and cost-efficient way of saving lives at sea.

Luna Vives, Assistant Professor of Geography and Migration, Université de Montréal

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Podcast: This is how the migrant route to Europe is Changing. A podcast interview with journalist who embedded with migrants fleeing Northern Africa to Spain

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Chennai, India is Facing an Unprecedented Water Shortage

29. Juli 2019 - 15:20

One of the largest cities in India is running out of water. Is this our climate future?

Monsoons typically provide the bulk of water for Chennai, which is one of the largest cities in India. It is on the south eastern coast of the country, in the Tamil Nadu province.  This is a region that relies on seasonal monsoons to supply the bulk of water.

But last year’s monsoons were exceptionally weak, causing aquifers and other water sources to run dry.

Now in some neighborhoods if taps run at all, only a trickle comes out. Many neighborhoods are reliant on water trucks — if they can afford it. Meanwhile many people are fleeing the city while this crisis persists.

The proximate cause of this crisis is poor rains. But according to my guest today, Meera Subramanian, deeper political and social factors have exacerbated this crisis. This includes poor city planning and a focus on massive infrastructure projects of limited utility.

Meera Subramanian is a freelance journalist and independent author. She is the author of a book about water issues in India titled: A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis, from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka.

In July she wrote an op-ed in the New York Times which makes the case that disaggregated water resource management could be far more effective in combating crisis like the one we are seeing in Chennai today.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn the implications of the fact that one of the largest cities in one of the most populous countries is running out of water, have a listen.


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The Trump Administration’s Assault on Refugees and Asylum Seekers Enters a New Phase

25. Juli 2019 - 16:27

Since taking office the Trump administration has taken unprecedented steps to sharply reduce both the number of refugees who are resettled in the United States and also the number of people who can claim asylum.

This has included significantly lowering what is known as the “ceiling” on refugee admissions to the smallest number ever and placing onerous restrictions on exactly who can be admitted as a refugee. Meanwhile, the administration is implementing several policies of dubious legality that would effectively make it impossible for people entering the southern US border to claim asylum.

The Trump administration’s restrictive policies toward refugees and asylum seekers are reaching a new phase.

In this episode one of the world’s leading experts on refugee and asylum policies is on the line to both discuss the mechanics of what the Trump administration is doing.

Eric Schwartz is the president of Refugees International and also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration in the Obama administration. He has deep experience working on humanitarian and refugee issues, which he summons in our conversation to help put this administration’s assault on refugees and asylum seekers in context.

We also discuss the very real global implications of the fact that the United States can not be meaningfully relied on to advocate for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers around the world.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn the implications of the Trump administration’s increasingly hostile approach to refugees and asylum, have a listen.

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Yukia Amano, Who Lead the International Atomic Energy Agency, Has Died In Office. Who Will Next Lead the IAEA?

23. Juli 2019 - 17:03

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukia Amano has died in office. Amano was a highly respected international diplomat who will best be remembered for successfully implementing the Iran nuclear deal.

Indeed, it was a testimony to his immense diplomatic skill that both the foreign minister of Iran Javad Zarif and John Bolton lauded his professionalism and skill. Beyond Iran, Amano also will be remembered for updating the original mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency beyond the “Atoms for Peace” rubric envisioned by US President Dwight Eisenhower, who helped create the organization, to “Atoms for Peace and Development,” spelling out a broader role for nuclear technology in global development–particularly in global health and cancer treatment in the developing world.

Saddened to learn of the passing of a dear friend and colleague, Yukiya Amano, who will be missed by the people of Japan, and those around the world who valued his leadership and wisdom. My deepest condolences go out to his family and his many friends.

— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) July 22, 2019

Saddened to hear of IAEA Chief Yukio Amano’s untimely demise. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones. R.I.P.

He was a stalwart supporter of the JCPOA from its inception, and we expect his successor to follow the same path.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 22, 2019


Now there is a vacancy at the top of the IAEA. Who will replace the late Yukia Amano?

The IAEA is sometimes referred to as the UN’s “nuclear watchdog.” It’s most high profile work includes deploying teams of highly skilled scientists who monitor country’s compliance with international nuclear treaties and agreements like the Iran nuclear deal. The IAEA also provides technical support to countries as they development peaceful uses of nuclear technologies, like energy and cancer treatment.

The director general of the IAEA is elected to the post by the IAEA’s board of governors, which includes 35 countries. Amano was elected by the board in 2009. The bylaws of the IAEA stipulate that the board of governors elect the director general by two thirds majority, using a secret ballot. The next meeting of the board of governors is in September. Until then, the deputy director general Mary Alice Hayward, an American, will serve as the interim director general.

A key question now is who the United States might support as the next director general? Or, more specifically, what form that support may take and whether or not the US will seek to bully other countries into supporting its preferred candidate.

This question is poignant given how US National Security Advisor John Bolton approached IAEA elections when he was last in office during the Bush administration. At the time, John Bolton sought to push then-director general Mohammad el Baradei out of office, before he could seek a third term in 2005. el Baradei was publicly skeptical about Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, before the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, el Baradei called for more inspections. The Bush administration launched its war anyway. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bolton was wrong, but sought retribution against el Baradei. He failed in that effort and the IAEA won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. El Baradei was elected to another term.

Much of the value of the IAEA derives from the impartiality that its technical experts bring to their work.

Assessments about a country’s nuclear programs that come from the IAEA are regarded as being less influenced by politics or the parochial interests of any single country. If the director general is viewed as a stooge of a single country his or her effectiveness will be undermined

Having a sober international diplomat, specifically not from the United States or a country with nuclear weapons, lead the IAEA offers a degree of credibility to the work of the agency. Yukia Amano, who was from Japan, brought just that to international affairs and the world was a safer place for it.

The post Yukia Amano, Who Lead the International Atomic Energy Agency, Has Died In Office. Who Will Next Lead the IAEA? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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How North Korea Smuggles Luxury Cars and Evades Sanctions

22. Juli 2019 - 16:57

North Korea is under the world’s most stringent set of international sanctions. This includes, since 2006, a ban on exporting of luxury goods to North Korea. So how is it that Kim Jong Un has amassed fleet of high-end cars?

A new report in the New York Times offers a glimpse into the complex ways that North Korea is able to evade international sanctions to import luxury cars — and perhaps also smuggle illicit goods and materiel into the country.

Reporters from the New York Times teamed up with researchers at the non profit Center for Advanced Defense Studies to track two Mercedes Maybachs from their manufacture in Germany to the streets of Pyongyang. The route was a circuitous one, involving multiple shipping vessels docking in at least five countries over the course of several months. But using open source data and satellite imagery, the reporters and researchers were able to paint a pretty clear picture of how those cars ended up in NorthKorea. And in so doing, they reveal how the North Korean regime is able to evade some sanctions.

On the line with me to discuss his reporting is one of the journalists on the story, Christoph Koettl. He is a visual investigations journalist with the New York Times video team, specializing in geospatial and open-source research.

We discuss the step-by-step journey of these cars and in so doing, the story he tells reveals a weakness in international sanctions in general and on North Korea in particular.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how North Korea evades sanctions, and what the international community can do to more robustly enforce those sanctions, have a listen.


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A Progress Report on the Sustainable Development Goals

18. Juli 2019 - 16:42

Four years ago, in 2015, the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. These are 17 goals around improving health, welfare and the environment that members of the United Nations agreed to achieve by 2030. The SDGs, as they are known, built upon a previous set of global goals, called the Millennium Development Goals, which expired in 2015.

The idea behind the SDGs was to create an ambitious but achievable set of quantifiable targets around which governments, civil society organizations and the UN can organize their development and environmental policies. These targets include things like eliminating extreme poverty, as defined by people who live on less than $1.25/day; reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births; end the aids epidemic; significantly reduce ocean acidification; In all there are 162 targets built around those 17 goals, to be achieved by 2030.

This week at the United Nations there is a major meeting called the High Level Political Forum on the SDGs in which top government officials and civil society participate in a stock taking of where we stand in terms of progress on these goals. A number of foreign ministers and other officials are in New York to discuss progress — or lack there of — on the SDGs, so I thought this might be a good moment to have a conversation that examines where the world stands four years into the Sustainable Development Goals.

On the line with me to discuss progress on the SDGs and how, four years in the SDGs are affecting global affairs and international relations is John McArthur, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Senior Advisor to the UN Foundation. If you have 20 minutes and want a progress report on the SDGs, have a listen.

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The World Health Organization Just Declared an Ebola “Emergency” in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here’s What That Means

17. Juli 2019 - 19:44

The ongoing ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is officially a public health emergency, according to the World Health Organization.

Specifically, the WHO today designated the outbreak as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” or PHEIC in UN-speak. This is a bureaucratic term of art for the WHO and it carries significant policy implications for how the world is now expected to respond to this crisis.

The designation triggers a certain set of procedures that the members of the World Health Organization, which included nearly every country in the world, agreed in advance to adopt when an emergency is declared. It does not mandate a travel ban or anything like that–rather, the designation is intended to streamline and enable a more robust response to an ongoing crisis. This includes things like freeing up some emergency funding and ensuring that visas for foreign health workers are expeditiously processed.  The designation comes at the recommendation of an independent outside panel of experts, who twice before declined to recommend that the WHO issue such a declaration.

What seemed to tip their calculations this time was the confirmation of ebola in the city of Goma, a large border city that serves as a regional transit hub.

“This is a regional emergency, and by no means a global threat,” said Prof Robert Steffen, Chair of the IHR Emergency Committee on Ebola in DRC in a press conference announcing this declaration.

“Our assessment is that the risk of spread inside DRC and the region is high, and the risk outside the region is low,” said WHO director general Dr. Tedros.  “The WHO does not recommend any restrictions on trade or travel. Closing borders could have disasterous consequences on the lives and livelihoods of people in the region.” He added. “Closing the borders would serve no useful purpose. We call on all countries, companies and individuals to respect this recommendation.”

The current outbreak is the second worst in human history.

The emergency declaration comes after more than  people have already been sickened by ebola in the DRC, and over TK killed. This makes it the second deadliest after the calamitous outbreak in west Africa three years ago.

But unlike western Africa, where ebola had never struck before 2012, the DRC is no stranger to ebola outbreaks.  And in recent years health authorities in the country and international partners have successfully stopped outbreaks before they rose to the “emergency” level. But this outbreak is different from the previous one because it is affecting regions of the country in which there is ongoing conflict. This has seriously undermined the ability of health authorities to do the on-the-ground contact tracing and ring vaccination that are key elements of ebola elimination strategies. New cases keep popping up. Also, as the director of operations for MSF/Doctors without borders in the DRC told me, there is a huge lack of trust between health workers and affected communities which is complicating efforts to reach high-risk communities with prevention and mitigation efforts. This is why, says MSF’s Karin TK new cases of ebola keep popping up with no real end in sight.

The designation of this outbreak as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” should wake the world to the urgency of focusing resources and attention around stopping this outbreak before it gets much worse.

Late last month I spoke with Ambassador John Lange, senior fellow for global health with the United Nations Foundation. He discussed what makes this ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo so different from previous outbreaks and explains what the World Health Organization and the broader international community can do to bring this outbreak to heel.



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UN Report Finds Opioids Are Responsible for Nearly 400,000 Deaths Worldwide

17. Juli 2019 - 16:45

The global opioid crisis is worse than we thought.

Thanks to new and more precise data from India and Nigeria – two countries that are among the 10 most populous in the world – the World Drug Report 2019, published last week by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), now estimates there are 53 million opioid users globally, up 56 percent from earlier estimates. Additionally, opioids – including oxycodone, fentanyl, tramadol, heroin, morphine and related drugs – are to blame for two-thirds for the 585,000 people who died in 2017 from drug use around the world.

However, the report notes that gaps in prevention and treatment are severe. While about 35 million people in the world suffer harmful drug use to the point of dependence and/or requiring treatment, the report estimates, only 1 in 7 people (or less than 13 percent) who need treatment receive it. The absence of prevention and treatment options are an especially big problem in prisons, where many inmates have a history of drug use, particularly injecting drug use, which also creates a higher risk of HIV and hepatitis C transmission.

Globally, the report estimates that 11 million people injected drugs in 2017. Of those, 1.4 million live with HIV and 5.6 million have hepatitis C.

North America continues to struggle with a synthetic opioid overdose crisis – more than any other region, in fact. Deaths attributed to opioid use, particularly fentanyl and its analogues (chemically similar drugs), reached an all time high and increased the most in North America in 2017.

In the US, overdose deaths increased 10 percent from 2016 to 2017, hitting a record of more than 70,000. Of those deaths, opioids were responsible for 68 percent. In Canada, opioid-related deaths increased 33 percent, from over 3,000 deaths in 2016 to nearly 4,000 in 2017 – and 93 percent of them were accidental overdoses.

While North America’s opioid crisis has been reported on widely, West, Central and North Africa are experiencing an opioid crisis of their own that requires “equally urgent international attention,” the report says.

Instead of fentanyl and its analogues like in North America, the primary culprit in Africa’s opioid crisis is the painkiller tramadol.

According to the report, law enforcement seized less than 10 kilograms of tramadol globally in 2010. In 2013, they seized nearly 9 tons, and in 2017, they seized a record high of 125 tons.

The report says that data is limited on Africa’s crisis, but what is available indicates that the tramadol that is being used for non-medical purposes in Africa is being illegally manufactured in South Asia and being trafficked to West, Central and North Africa and the Middle East.

According to the report, the tramadol crisis illustrates the challenges faced by low- and middle-income countries as they try to balance providing access to drugs like tramadol for medical purposes, while preventing abuse and suppressing organized crime and trafficking – all while struggling to manage overworked health-care and law enforcement systems with limited resources. That is why the report says international support is urgently required.

“The findings of this year’s World Drug Report fill in and further complicate the global picture of drug challenges, underscoring the need for broader international cooperation to advance balanced and integrated health and criminal justice responses to supply and demand,” Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director, said in press release.

Meanwhile, UNODC also reports that cannabis continues to be the most widely used drug globally and that Southeast Asia is the fastest-growing methamphetamine market. Of the 745 million methamphetamine tablets seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2018, 515 million were in Thailand. The report says there’s also been a recent shift in the manufacture and trafficking of the drug from China to other countries in the region.

Afghanistan continues to cultivate and produce the vast majority of opium in the world, and despite a drought, heroin continues to reach markets and production remains at record levels – as does the manufacture of cocaine. In 2017, the estimated global illicit manufacture of cocaine increased 25 percent from 2016 to an all-time high of nearly 2,000 tons in 2017.

However, the amounts of opium and cocaine being seized by law enforcement are also higher than ever. While the manufacture of cocaine has increased 50 percent over the past decade, the amount seized has increased 74 percent in the same time period. According to the report, this suggests that efforts to intercept drugs have improved and international cooperation may help even more.

The report repeatedly emphasizes that while law enforcement is an “integral part of the solution,” so are public health responses, especially to those in prisons. Additionally, “irrational prescription practices, unjustified promotion and uncontrolled availability of prescription drugs” have resulted in not just an American opioid crisis, but a global one.

“By working together and focusing attention and resources, we can help people get the services they need without discrimination, promote security and bring criminals to justice, safeguard health and … achieve Sustainable Development Goal targets to ensure healthy lives and promote peace and justice,” the report says.

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, The Podcast Interview

15. Juli 2019 - 16:36

What made former Ash Carter so unique among his predecessors was that by the time he became the Secretary of Defense in 2015, he’d already spent nearly 30 years working at the Pentagon. This includes stints as both the deputy Secretary of Defense and as the number three in the department, a position often referred to as the acquisitions tsar.

Ash Carter, who served as Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense from 2015 to 2017, is out with a new book Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon. This is not your conventional Washington memoir. Rather, what I found so valuable about the book is that offers a grounds-eye view of how how the world’s largest national security bureaucracy operates. Decisions made at the Pentagon — from the kinds of weapons bought, to the bases that are opened, to personnel decisions — have world-shaping implications. This book takes you inside that decision making process.

We kick off discussing the sheer vastness of the Pentagon. The annual budget of the Pentagon is about half of all discretionary spending in the US —  money spent on government programs excluding things like Social Security and Medicare. This comes to over $700 billion. (For comparison’s sake the budget of the State Department is about $50 billion. And UN peacekeeping budget is under $7 billion.)

We then discuss what he thinks the US–and world–get for that huge investment. We also discuss his views of the role of the United Nations and UN Peacekeeping; and also the significance of the fact that the US has not had a secretary of defense since Jim Mattis left on December 31.

If you have 25 minutes and want to learn some insights on US foreign policy from the leader of the world’s largest national security bureaucracy, have a listen.


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