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We Already Know Vaccines Save Lives. New Research Shows How They Fight Poverty, Too

vor 10 Stunden 17 Minuten

A measles outbreak is ravaging children in several states in the United States, including Washington and Oregon have sickened hundreds of of children, many unvaccinated. Thousands more have been exposed to the highly contagious and sometimes deadly virus. The Philippines is also in the midst of an outbreak, where more than 150 children have been killed.

These measles illnesses and deaths come despite the fact that vaccines are routinely available and extremely safe. We have known for years that vaccinations, including routine childhood vaccinations for diseases like measles, mumps and rubella prevent children from dying on a fairly massive scale. We also know that as a health intervention, most vaccines and vaccination programs are relatively inexpensive.

Now, new research suggests an added benefit of getting a measles vaccine: it can prevent poverty.

Dr. Angela Chang lead a ground breaking study that shows how vaccines can be an effective tool to prevent individuals in the developing world from slipping down the income latter and into extreme poverty. Specifically, she examined dozens of vaccines and vaccination campaigns in the developing world and used statistical modeling and analysis to determine the relationship between what is known as medical impoverishment and vaccine coverage.

The study was published in the journal Health Affairs while she was a doctoral candidate at Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Angela Chang is now a post doctoral fellow at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

We kick off the conversation discussing what we mean by medical impoverishment before having a longer conversation about her findings.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how vaccines not only save lives, but also fight poverty then have a listen.

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The post We Already Know Vaccines Save Lives. New Research Shows How They Fight Poverty, Too appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Massive Protests in Haiti Spark a New Kind of Political Crisis

14. Februar 2019 - 16:28

Thousands of Haitians have taken to the streets in anti-government protests that quickly turned violent. Several people have been killed and a great amount of property has been damaged in these protests.

Haiti, of course, is no stranger to political crisis. But this crisis feels different, according to veteran reporter Jacqueline Charles.

Jacqueline Charles is the Haiti Caribbean reporter for the Miami Herald and in this conversation she explains the origins of this new protest movement and how it may play out over the coming weeks.

As she explains, these protests began, in part, over allegations of corruption surrounding a Hugo Chavez-era Venezuelan oil subsidy program, known as Petro Carbibe. But what began as an anti-corruption protest movement has morphed into something much broader that now threatens to bring down the government of President Jovenel Moise.

This crisis in Haiti has potential to unleash great instability in a very fragile country, which could have big international implications. This conversation does a very good job of giving you the background and context you need to understand events as they unfold. If you have 25 minutes and want to learn what caused this crisis and how it may impact peace and stability in the region, have a listen.

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Follow Jacqueline Charles

The post Massive Protests in Haiti Spark a New Kind of Political Crisis appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Crowdfunding the Sustainable Development Goals

13. Februar 2019 - 16:27

GoFundMe for the Sustainable Development Goals? It’s more feasible than you may think.

A new study from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School says crowdfunding may be a viable strategy for financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to UN estimates, achieving the 17 highly ambitious global goals by 2030 will cost a hefty $5 trillion to $7 trillion a year – about $4 trillion of which is required in developing countries. Yet every year, we fall about $2.5 trillion short. With only 11 years left until 2030, experts are submitting a variety of suggestions.

Some say we should increase trade and aid (official development assistance). Others point to blended finance, using public or philanthropic funding to increase private sector investment in sustainable development, and impact investing in businesses with the expectation of a positive social benefit as well as financial return.

But the authors of this study say the UN should think like a startup and launch a crowdfunding platform, along the lines of Indiegogo or GoFundMe, specifically to raise money for projects that align with the SDGs.

According to the report, crowdfunding has grown rapidly in the last few years and will continue to do so. In 2016, crowdfunding campaigns raised over $144 billion. Of that, $560 million were donations (as opposed to a loan, for shares in an entity or in exchange for a non-financial reward). Although global growth in crowdfunding was largely driven by China, the U.S. drives donation-based funding. In 2016, Asia-Pacific crowdfunded $103 billion, but of that, only $165 million were donations. Meanwhile, the Americas raised a third of that ($35 billion), but nearly twice as much in donations ($339 million).

The report says that with estimates of global charitable giving at about $400 billion annually, the crowdfunding figures reveal great potential for a growing industry.

The thing is the UN already has several SDG-related crowdfunding platforms. But according to the report’s authors, they’re “misaligned with the best practices, strategic choices and industry standards of … top-performing platforms.”

The UN’s main SDG crowdfunding platform, DigitalGood, was launched in 2015 by the United Nations Development Programme. Its top fundraiser is Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – best known for his role as Jaime Lannister in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones – who has raised just over $31,000 since July 2017. The second-highest campaign raised $11,000. A quick glance at the rest of the top fundraisers list shows the platform really hasn’t taken off.

However, the study says that key changes could make an SDG crowdfunding platform a viable option for raising significant contributions. For example, the platform should track the contribution and progress toward SDG indicators. It should also primarily be for social entrepreneurs to develop social-innovation projects with opportunities for match-funding by corporations, foundations and governments.

In a 2016 article for the Guardian, Blair Glencorse, executive director of the Accountability Lab, suggested that an SDG crowdfunding process should be led by those in the developing world.

“Citizens could themselves suggest, design and monitor projects that would be of greatest benefit, submit these to an online platform for potential support and even pledge their own resources (financial or human) to back their ideas,” he wrote.

Of course, a global crowdfunding process and resulting projects would require careful oversight and coordination, Glencorse notes, but existing models do, too.

The SDGs have often been criticized for being too broad and too complex. But the authors of the report argue that it can actually provide an excellent framework that channels the generosity of people around the world into 17 critical priorities.

“If successful,” they say, “the SDG-linked model will demonstrate how organizations can redirect donation-based crowdfunding from separate initiatives to an integrated, global collective in tackling today’s toughest social problems.”

The post Crowdfunding the Sustainable Development Goals appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Venezuela is a Refugee Crisis

12. Februar 2019 - 16:46

The current political upheaval in Venezuela was preceded by Latin America’s worst-ever refugee crisis. By most estimates, several thousand Venezuelans are fleeing the country every day. Most are going to neighboring Colombia. But every country in the region is impacted.

The numbers are massive. Over 3 million people have fled the country over the last few years. This is about 10% of the country’s total population. In recent months, the numbers of people fleeing the country has intensified.

By some estimates, 25,000 people are fleeing the country every single day.

Colombia is accepting the vast number of refugees from Venezuela

Over one million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia. This is a remarkable fact considering that refugee movements used to move the other direction; Colombia’s long civil war unfolded during a time of relative prosperity in Venezuela.

The NGO Action Against Hunger offered this view from the border town of Cúcuta in early Februarry:

The flow of Venezuelans at the northeastern Colombian border city of Cúcuta is constant.

“People come to buy food, medicines, hygiene items and basic goods, or to sell jewelry and other small technological goods – many women are even selling their hair,” says Luis Fernando Ramírez, project coordinator for Action Against Hunger in the department of Norte de Santander.

Although many people return in the day, the permanent arrival of an estimated 90,000 people every month puts a constant pressure on the area. There are currently more than one million Venezuelans in Colombia.

“We are also talking about an area where armed groups continue to operate, so it is a doubly affected area,” Ramirez adds.

“Many people enter the country through the city of Cúcuta in order to reach Rumichaca and then their final destination is Peru,” explains Ramírez.

“Walking this route is 32 days on the road. At first we detected that there were about 20-30 people per day. Now there are around 200 or 300 people daily. The number of children making this route has increased, as well as vulnerable pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. The migrants also face the risk of trafficking and hunger along the way.”

After Colombia, Peru is a the second most popular destination country for Venezuelan refugees, with over 500,000, according to the UN Refugee Agency. It is followed by Ecuador, with over 220,000, Argentina over 130,000, Chile, over 100,000 and Brazil, 85,000.

Countries in Central America and the Caribbean are also increasingly a destination for fleeing Venezuelans.

Panama is now hosting 94,000 Venezuelans, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Small countries like Trinidad and Tobago are also feeling the burden of hosting Venezuelan refugees. The island country is located just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela. It has a small population–about 1.2 million people.  As of the end of January, over 40,000 Venezuelans had fled to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. This makes it the country with the largest proportion of Venezuelan migrants in the region.

The outmigration from Venezuela happened in stages.

Andrei Serbin Pont is the research director of the regional think tank Cries. He recently undertook a study of the Venezuelan refugee crisis with the Stanley Foundation. As he explains in this episode of the Global Dispatches podcast, the first Venezuelans to flee the country at the outset of this crisis were mostly upper and middle class people who could more easily afford they journey. Many in this first cohort ended up in the United States.

But as the crisis dragged on and the situation became more and more desperate, the demographics of these refugees shifted. More and more poor people began to flee–and these people were particularly vulnerable. The regional response has been uneven, with some countries offering more protections to these refugees than others.

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We spoke last year as the refugee crisis was intensifying–and since then the situation has only gotten worse. While the politics of this situation are evolving, this conversation offers the context you need to understand the humanitarian and refugee dimension of this crisis.

The post Venezuela is a Refugee Crisis appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

New Research Shows How Countries Can Avoid the “Resource Curse”

11. Februar 2019 - 16:04

The riddle of how to avoid the so-called “resource curse” has bedeviled a generation of policy makers, economists and academics.

“Resource curse” refers to the negative consequences that befall a country when it discovers a valuable natural resource, like oil. Often times the discovery of oil does not propel a country’s economic development. Rather, it sets back the political and economic development of the place where oil was discovered.

My guest today is engaging in ground-breaking research that suggests some ways that a government may avoid the resource curse. Sam Hickey is a professor of the politics and development at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester. He is engaged in some long-term research into how governments in Africa are approaching their oil sectors. This includes a fascinating study comparing how democratic Ghana and authoritarian Uganda have approached their relatively recent oil discoveries.

Responsible resource extraction is a key element in the development of many countries around the world.  This conversation offers a very useful explanation about how the resource curse manifests itself in various contexts, and how the conventional approach to avoiding the curse has fallen short over the years. Finally, we discuss what emerging academic research says about what works–and what does not — in avoiding the resource curse.

If you have 20 minutes and want a better understanding of how natural resources can help or hinder economic development, have a listen.

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About Sam Hickey

Sam Hickey is Professor of Politics and Development at the University of Manchester, and Joint Director of Research at the ESID research centre. He is also Research Director at the Global Development Institute, where ESID is based.


Sam’s research interests include the links between politics and development, including issues of state capacity and elite commitment; natural resource governance; social exclusion and adverse incorporation; citizenship participation and NGOs; the politics of social protection and social justice.

Within ESID, Sam is coordinating and researching on a project that will investigate the implications of oil for governance and inclusive development in Ghana and Uganda. He is also working on a project exploring the politics of securing higher levels of capacity and commitment to delivering improved quality schooling, through a comparison of Bangladesh and Ghana. Finally, he is providing support for a project on women’s political empowerment exploring the link between women’s political inclusion in developing countries and the successful adoption and implementation of policies aimed at gender equity.

The post New Research Shows How Countries Can Avoid the “Resource Curse” appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Foodies Are Celebrating the New United Nations Holiday, World Pulses Day

8. Februar 2019 - 10:46

The United Nations General Assembly voted to add “World Pulses Day” to the official UN calendar of awareness raising holidays and commemorations. So, World Pulses Day will be commemorated for the first time at the United Nations on February 10.

Pulses is a catch-all phrase for legumes, like lentils, beans and peas. They provide an excellent source of protein and also boast a number of environmental benefits. They are good for both people and the planet — so, it would make sense that the United Nations would champion pulses.

Pulses are good for you

With non-communicable diseases like hypertension and heart disease on the rise in many parts of the world, pulses can offer a healthy source of  protein, particularly when compared to red meat. Pulses can also serve as a high fiber, low calorie alternative to cereals. A study from the National Institutes of Health finds that pulse consumption, “positively affects several other cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure, platelet activity, and inflammation.” The study concludes, “including pulses in the diet is a healthy way to meet dietary recommendations and is associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases. Long-term randomized controlled trials are needed to demonstrate the direct effects of pulses on these diseases.”

Pulses are good for the environment

Pulses have a number of environmental benefits. For one, they are a low carbon alternative to meats. A study published in the journal Science finds that “while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

Beyond viewing pulses as an meat-alternative, they also have positive externalities for the farming sector as a whole. Pulses have a unique ability to help maintain optimal nitrogen levels in soils, which helps boost crop yields. The FAO says that  On average, cereals grown after pulses yield 1.5 tonnes more per hectare than those not preceded by pulses, which is equal to the effect of 100 kilograms of nitrogen fertilizer.” The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization recognizes as an environmentally sustainable natural fertilizer.

Foodies Are Championing This Day

World Pulses Day 2019 was created through a vote of the United Nations General Assembly last year. There are many of these sorts of commemorative days throughout the UN calendar, and the addition of this particular day comes after the General Assembly declared 2016 “The International Year of Pulses.”

Foodies of all stripes are celebrating. A leading think tank for food, Food Bank, is encouraging people to eat falafel and hummus on February 10th. Meanwhile, the Vegetarian news website VegNews is spreading the word. The International Pulses Confederation has a clearing house of resources for individuals and organizations who want to get involved in the first-ever World Pulses Day. And it’s clear that this idea is already gaining attention around the UN.

It’s the first #WorldPulsesDay. Globally, 821 million people are undernourished and 155 million children are stunted. Pulses are a good source of protein and fiber, are drought resistant and have a relatively small carbon footprint. All vital in order to achieve the #SDGs.

— Iceland at UN 🇮🇸 (@IcelandUN) February 7, 2019

So, cook yourself some pulses today. You’d be doing yourself and your planet a favor.

Recipes here.

The post Foodies Are Celebrating the New United Nations Holiday, World Pulses Day appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Co-Founder of Global Citizen Describes the Future of Advocacy in International Affairs

7. Februar 2019 - 15:33

About a decade ago, Simon Moss co-founded Global Citizen with a few friends in Australia. It has since grown into a behemoth of global advocacy on issues related to ending extreme poverty around the world.

I’ve known Simon for years and have watched Global Citizen evolve over the years. So, I thought it might be useful and interesting to learn from him how an advocacy group like Global Citizen is adapting to broader geopolitical shifts. How does a group focused on ended extreme poverty respond to China’s increasing influence in the global development space? How does it adapt to the withdrawal of the United States from its traditional role as a champion of global health and anti-poverty programs? I put these questions and more to Simon Moss in this enlightening and lively conversation about the future of global advocacy on issues related to sustainable development and fighting extreme poverty.

We kick off discussing the origin story of Global Citizen before having a longer conversation about new trends in global advocacy work.

Global Citizen is probably best known for its annual music festival in Central Park in New York that takes place during UN week, bringing together music stars, NGO leaders and government officials on stage in an effort to catalyze action on key global issues like polio eradication or girls education. Simon Moss explains the pros and cons of using a major event like a rock concert to leverage concrete policy outcomes.

If you have 25 minutes and want to learn where international advocacy is headed in the Trump era, have a listen.

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About Simon Moss

Simon Moss is a Co-Founder of Global Citizen, and is currently the Managing Director of Campaigns. He’s another Australian living in New York, has been campaigning on global issues for more than a decade, and writes and speaks regularly on the role of global citizens in ending extreme poverty.

The post The Co-Founder of Global Citizen Describes the Future of Advocacy in International Affairs appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

An American Has Always Lead the World Bank…Until Now?

5. Februar 2019 - 17:38

President Trump is reportedly picking David Malpass, an official at the Treasury Department, as the US nominee to serve as president of the World Bank.

Under normal circumstances, this would mean that David Malpass will become the next president of the World Bank. That is because an American has always served as World Bank president, owing to an agreement between Europe and the United States in which Europeans support the American candidate for the World Bank and Americans support Europe’s pick for head of the International Monetary Fund.

But that agreement is under significant strain right now.

Trump’s pick is not guaranteed to lead the World Bank

Even before this nomination, the “gentlemen’s agreement” between the United States and Europe was fraying. When President Obama nominated Jim Yong Kim to serve as president of the World Bank his nomination was challenged by two candidates, a Nigerian finance minister and Colombian UN diplomat. These candidates received wide support from the developing world and gave Kim a serious challenge.  Ultimately, the voting and diplomatic power of Europe and the United States prevailed, landing Kim in the top spot.

Scott Morris of the Center for Global Development was a Treasury official in the Obama administration who worked on Jim Yong Kim’s candidacy in 2012. He spoke to me on the Global Dispatches podcast about the growing global discontentment over the United States’ lock on the job.  “I left that experience working on Jim Kim’s candidacy convinced that the next time this came up, there was absolutely no guarantee that even the most qualified American candidate could be viewed as pre-ordained,” he said.

Get Global Dispatches Podcast ​iTunes  |  Spotify  |   Stitcher  | Google Play Music​ This time around, European countries might break with Trump.

Malpass is a controversial figure in economic circles and is not respected in the global development community. Justin Sanfleur of the Center for Global Development curtly sums up the consensus view of Malpass among people who have made a career of fighting poverty in the developing world, which is the ostensible goal of the World Bank.

.@JustinSandefur on the US’s nominee for @WorldBank president:

— Holly Shulman (@HollyShulman) February 5, 2019

Europeans might interpret Malpass’ nomination as an attempt to take the reigns of the World Bank in service of the parochial foreign policy priorities of the Trump administration. And if they decided to, Europe could stop his candidacy cold in its tracks.

The President of the World Bank is selected through a simple majority vote of the Executive Board of the World Bank, with voting shares distributed based on country’s contributions to the bank. The United States owns the single largest share at over 15%. But Europe’s collective voting power is greater, and it would be impossible for Malpass to secure the majority without Europe’s backing.

The World Bank expects to select a new President in time for the annual Spring Meeting, in mid-April.  Last month, the World Bank said that at least three candidates would be shortlisted for interviews and consideration before a vote is taken, so we know that there will be a formal competition. And this time around, there is a good chance that World Bank member states will rally around a non-American.

The post An American Has Always Lead the World Bank…Until Now? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Zimbabwe is in the Midst of its Worst Crisis Since the Fall of Robert Mugabe

4. Februar 2019 - 16:49

Zimbabwe was rocked by protests in mid-January in the most significant public display of dissatisfaction with the government of Emerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa deposed longtime Zimbabwe ruler Robert Mugabe in a coup in November 2017. This past summer he further ensconced himself in power through an election in which he was declared the winner.

The proximate cause of these protests were a sudden increase in the price of fuel. The government’s response was exceedingly violent and repressive. Thousands of people are now languishing in jail.

On the line with me to explain what caused these protests and why the once promising rule of Emerson Mnangagwa is now looking more and more like a facsimile of the Mugabe era is Mako Muzenda.

Mako Muzenda is a freelance journalist from Zimbabwe who contributes to UN Dispatch. She is currently finishing her post graduate work at university in South Africa, which is where I caught up with her for this episode.

We kick off discussing the fuel tax hike that lead to these protests before having a longer conversation about the ups and downs of the Mnangagwa era in Zimbabwe.

If you have twenty minutes and want to learn the impact of these mass protests in Zimbabwe, have a listen

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The post Zimbabwe is in the Midst of its Worst Crisis Since the Fall of Robert Mugabe appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Here is How Countries Rank in Education

1. Februar 2019 - 16:00

How does every country rank when it comes to the education levels of their adult populations? Two reports offer some insight into the percentage of country’s populations that have completed primary, secondary and tertiary education levels.

U.S. News and World Report recently ranked the United Kingdom as the number one country for education. But data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that others, like South Korea and Canada, are actually doing better.

The U.S. News and World Report says that education is “one of the best predictors of a nation’s future success.” According to its rankings, the top five countries with a successful future are the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Germany and France. At the bottom are Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola and Iraq.

Their ranking is based on perception surveys that asked participants to judge how well-developed public education system of a country is, if they would consider attending university there and if the country provides top-quality education.

But what does quantitative data show? How are countries actually progressing toward Sustainable Development Goal 4 of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for everyone?

The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organization made up of 36 of the world’s most advanced countries as well as emerging economies. According to the OECD’s latest figures on its members’ education levels, South Korea has the largest proportion of highly-educated young adults. In 2017, nearly 70 percent of its 24- to 35-year-olds attained tertiary education, which includes university and vocational programs.

Adult education levels, Credit: OECD

This is a massive increase in schooling level compared to just one generation ago: Only 21 percent of South Korea’s 55- to 64-year-olds completed tertiary education.

And, it’s a big step for the country toward achieving several targets under Sustainable Development Goal 4, including ensuring “equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education” as well as “substantially increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills…for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.”

Following behind South Korea in the 24-to-35 age bracket are Canada (61 percent), Japan (60 percent), Russia (58 percent) and Lithuania (56 percent). The U.K. comes in eighth at 52 percent and the U.S. comes in 13th at 48 percent.

When looking at the larger group of adults age 24 to 65 who have completed tertiary education, Canada comes in at the top with 57 percent. Second is Japan at 51 percent.

But progress toward quality primary and secondary education is also a key target for Sustainable Development Goal 4. According to the OECD, the Czech Republic has the highest percent of high-school educated adults, with 70 percent of its 24- to 65-year-olds having completed upper secondary education. Others at the top include Slovakia (68 percent), South Africa (66 percent), Poland (62 percent) and Hungary (60 percent).

Globally, there has been significant progress in educational attainment over the last few decades. However, the OECD warned in a September report that data show that inequities that manifest early in life – including socio-economic status, gender, immigrant background and geographic location – “tend to accumulate throughout life, first in education and then in the labor market.” Among those inequities, the report says that socio-economic status has the biggest impact not only on participation in education but also economic and social outcomes.

But participation in higher education is “more important than ever,” the report says, as technological advancement is pushing out lower-skilled jobs. It appears then that despite perceptions that the U.K. and U.S. have the world’s best education, it’s countries like South Korea and Canada that are setting up their people for success.

The post Here is How Countries Rank in Education appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

What is Next for the United States in Afghanistan?

31. Januar 2019 - 16:41

The United States and the Taliban may be close to an agreement. Negotiations over the future of US involvement in Afghanistan are underway in Qatar, and in late January there was word of a “tentative” agreement that could lead to the US exiting Afghanistan and the Taliban entering Afghan politics.

These negotiations are the latest iteration of an evolving US strategy toward Afghanistan two years into the Trump administration.

On the line to discuss the Trump administration’s approach to Afghanistan in the context of recent US history is Sharifullah Dorani.  He is the author of the new book America in Afghanistan: Foreign Policy and Decision Making from Bush to Obama to Trump. A the title suggests, the book examines the history of US involvement in Afghanistan from 2001 through the first two years of the Trump presidency.

We discuss what has stayed the same and what has distinguished the Trump administration’s approach to Afghanistan from his predecessors.

We recorded this conversation just a few weeks after Trump, via Tweet, suggested a precipitous withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. We discuss what role American troops are currently playing in Afghanistan and what some of the debates about troop levels have been. We also discuss the ongoing diplomatic efforts led by Trump’s envoy to Afghanistan, former US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad.

If you have 20 minutes and want to better understand the context in which negotiations between the United States and the Taliban are taking place, then have a listen.


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The post What is Next for the United States in Afghanistan? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Polar Vortex and Climate Change: What You Need to Know

30. Januar 2019 - 23:01

Ed note. This post is by Kelly Levin of the World Resources Institute and was originally published on the World Resources Institute blog.

Parts of the United States are expected to be colder than Antarctica this week, and three-quarters of the U.S. population will likely experience temperatures that dip below freezing. Climate deniers are already using the polar vortex to call into question the existence of global warming. Yet a cold snap in one region has little to do with worldwide warming. Indeed, the latest scientific research shows a relationship between a melting Arctic and extreme winter weather.

Here are three things to know:

1) Despite current cold snaps, global temperatures have been steadily rising.

First, it is worth noting that record cold temperatures are happening against the backdrop of unabated warming. The last four years have been the warmest on record, and there is every indication that this global warming trend will continue. Right now, Australia is experiencing a brutal heatwave, which has led to heat-associated illnesses, power outages, fires and wildlife die-offs.

Map from, generated from the NCEP Global Forecast System (GFS) model

2) A growing body of research links rising Arctic temperatures with extreme winters

The Arctic is warming two to three times as fast as the global average. Scientists say warmer air temperatures in the Arctic can weaken the polar jet stream, a west-to-east river of wind where cold Arctic air meets milder subtropical air in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. A strong jet stream typically traps the polar vortex over the Arctic, but when it’s weakened, the cold air can stray southward into the United States.

The impacts of a warming Arctic on mid-latitudes is a rapidly emerging field of scientific inquiry. There have been some significant scientific findings in just the past year:

  • Warmer Arctic linked to U.S. winter extremes: Scientists have strengthened our understanding of the link between a warmer Arctic and the frequency and changes of U.S. winter weather, especially cold spells and heavy snows in the Northeast and upper Midwest. While previous studies only looked at a few months’ or a year’s worth of data, authors of a recent Nature Communications study analyzed data stretching back to 1950. They found a strong relationship between warm Arctic temperatures and severe winter weather east of the Rockies, especially in the eastern United States.
  • Warmer Arctic linked to Eurasian winter extremes: Researchers have now confirmed a pattern of colder winters and more frequent cold air outbreaks in Siberia, following sea ice loss in the Barents-Kara seas in late autumn. In another study, scientists found that over the past 37 years, weakened polar vortexes happened more frequently, allowing frigid air to escape the Arctic. This helps explain cooling trends seen in mid-latitude Eurasia.
  • Warmer Arctic linked to prolonged extremes: Scientists have now established a link between Arctic warming, sea ice loss and more persistent weather patterns in North America. When weather conditions get “stuck” and last for many days—a phenomenon caused by altered wind circulation patterns—they can cause prolonged and damaging droughts, cold spells and heat waves.
3) Our understanding of the connection between a warming Arctic and extreme weather is still evolving.

There are still many questions to be answered. For example, warmer Arctic temperatures is only one effect of climate change. Other changes to the climate, such as future warming of the upper atmosphere over the tropics, could counterbalance effects on mid-latitudes, presenting a tug-of-war between various climate impacts.

And a quick analysis from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) last year found that a two-week cold wave affecting the U.S. Northeast and southeastern Canada in December 2017/January 2018 was not intensified due to Arctic warming. On the contrary, the researchers found that cold waves like the one the United States is experiencing now have become rarer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its Arctic Report Card a few weeks ago, taking stock of the recent climate science on the relationship between Arctic warming and extreme weather, among other topics. It concluded that the subject of how a rapidly warming and melting Arctic affects extreme weather will “keep scientists busy for years to come.” As the report said, “it’s becoming ice-crystal-clear that change in the far north will increasingly affect us all.”

Learn More from the World Resources Institute 

The post The Polar Vortex and Climate Change: What You Need to Know appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A Breakthrough for the United Nations in Yemen

29. Januar 2019 - 15:44

The United Nations Security Council reached a major milestone in January when it approved a new UN mission in Yemen. The mission will oversee and help implement a local ceasefire agreement that has the potential to lay the groundwork for a broader political agreement to end this long running conflict.

This was the first significant diplomatic and political breakthrough in nearly four years of Yemen’s devastating war. It is a demonstration of the role the United Nations can play in helping to reduce the burden of conflict on civilian populations, and potentially to end the conflict itself.

Still, the agreement that resulted in a sharp reduction of violence in a key part of the country is extremely fragile and could unravel unless key international players maintain pressure on the parties to the conflict.

Government Offices of Sweden/Ninni Andersson
Secretary-General António Guterres (center), Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström (center left), and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths (center right), with participants of the Yemeni political consultations in Sweden on 13 December 2018.

A new role for the United Nations in Yemen

Since the outbreak of the conflict, the United Nations has played two key roles in the Yemen. First, UN humanitarian agencies like the World Food Program and UNICEF have been providing on-the-ground relief for populations besieged by conflict. That effort has been monumental, and if not for the work of these relief agencies, the humanitarian situation would be even worse.

Second, the United Nations has played a political role, seeking to broker a resolution to this conflict. Those efforts were extremely slow to get off the ground, with parties to the conflict more interested in inflicting monumental suffering on the civilian population of Yemen than coming together around a negotiating table. However, at the end of 2018 the calculations of the parties changed and UN envoy Martin Griffiths was able to bring parties together in Sweden, where they signed an initial agreement that called for (among other things) a prisoner exchange and, significantly, a cessation of hostilities around the key port city of Hodeidah.

This is known around the United Nations as the “Stockholm Agreement,” and it calls for a new United Nations mission to oversee and support its implementation.

Enter: The United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA).

This mission was created by the Security Council to support the implementation of several aspects of this agreement. This includes supervising the redeployment of armed groups in specific sites and overseeing a province-wide ceasefire.

The mission formally deployed on January 16. The situation remains extremely tenuous and the agreement is fragile. “While fighting inside the critical port city has dramatically decreased since warring parties agreed to a ceasefire at talks in Sweden last December, recent clashes demonstrate the extremely fragile state of the agreement,” the International Rescue Committee said in a statement released today.

The key question going forward is whether or not this agreement can hold. And, if so, whether or not that this local ceasefire can be harnessed to achieve a broader political and peace agreement to end this brutal conflict.

This is still a tall order. But after four years of being the single worst humanitarian crisis in the world, the first few weeks of 2019 have seen the most significant reduction of violence in four years of war in Yemen.

The post A Breakthrough for the United Nations in Yemen appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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UN Correspondent Chatter: Margaret Besheer of Voice of America

28. Januar 2019 - 16:59

Today’s episode is the launch of a new series: UN Correspondent Chatter.

From time to time I’ll check in with an in-house reporter at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss the latest news, buzz, and intrigues around Turtle Bay.

I’m pleased to launch this new series with Margaret Besheer of the Voice of America. She has covered the UN since 2008 and has a been a great source of news and insight to me over the years.

We cover a lot of ground in this conversation, including how the UN is responding to the situation in Venezuela; the significance of a breakthrough on Yemen in the Security Council; the implications of Palestine taking over as the chair of a key group of countries; what to expect from the US at the UN in the coming months; and whether or not other diplomatic breakthroughs may be possible on the horizon.

This is a lively conversation with a veteran UN correspondent who has her finger on the pulse of UN headquarters in New York. If you have 20 minutes and want to learn what will drive the agenda at the United Nations at the start of 2019, have a listen.


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Will Crisis in Venezuela Lead to Civil War?

24. Januar 2019 - 19:07

Venezuela is in the midst of a deep political crisis that could turn extremely dangerous.

On January 23rd, the 35-year-old head of the Venezuela’s National Assembly Juan Guiado declared himself president of Venezuela,  promising to serve in that role on an interim basis before free elections could be held. He was quickly recognized as the legitimate head of state by the United States, Canada, the Organization of American States and many countries in Latin America.

De-facto president Nicolas Maduro is rejecting this claim.  Maduro still controls most of the government, including crucially the security services. So far,  military leadership has yet to defect and proclaim to Guiado. Meanwhile, Maduro is backed by other countries in the region, and also some key international players like Russia.

There is an extremely dangerous standoff underway in Venezuela, the outcome of which is very far from certain.

On the Global Dispatches podcast o provide some context to help you understand this crisis is Ivan Briscoe. He is the regional director for Latin America with the International Crisis Group.

We kick off discussing the political context of this situation, including how a relatively unknown politician came to declare himself President. We then discuss the crucial role of the military and security services in determining the political future of Venezuela and whether or not it was a mistake for the US and other countries to quickly rally behind Guiado.

This is obviously a very rapidly unfolding situation. Ivan Briscoe brings some dispassionate analysis that will give you the context and background you need to interpret events in the coming days and weeks.


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About Ivan Briscoe

Ivan Briscoe joined Crisis Group in June 2016 as Program Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. He has worked on Latin American politics, conflict and crime since 1996. Before joining Crisis Group, Ivan worked as a senior research fellow in the Clingendael Institute of the Netherlands and in the Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue (FRIDE) in Spain, where he specialised in the study of illicit networks in Latin America, new forms of armed violence and the effects of inequality.

Prior to that, he worked for over a decade as a journalist and editor in Argentina, France and Spain, where he edited the English edition of El País. He has carried out fieldwork-based research in various Latin American countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela, and has written for numerous media in the region and in Europe. He graduated from Oxford University with a First Class Honour’s Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, studied as a Frank Knox Fellow at Harvard University, and also holds a Master’s Degree in Development from the Complutense University of Madrid.

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The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Mali is On the Front Lines of Fighting Terrorist Groups

23. Januar 2019 - 17:01

The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Mali puts UN peacekeepers directly in conflict with violent extremism. It is the deadliest peacekeeping mission in the world.  Recent events sh0w why.

On January 21, ten peacekeepers were killed and 25 more wounded in one of the single deadliest attacks against blue helmets in the history of UN Peacekeeping. An al Qaeda-linked group operating in Mali ambushed a peacekeeping outpost in a restive province in the north of the country, a firefight ensued. All of the peacekeepers killed and wounded were were Chadian, serving in what is formally known as the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

This deadly event underscores the profound risks that peacekeepers are taking in Mali, which is on the front-lines of the global fight against terrorist groups.

As the name of the mission suggests, MINUSMA’s main goal is to help stabilize Mali. It was deployed following a French-lead military engagement against jihadist insurgents who threatened to overtake the country in 2013. The French still maintain a military presence in Mali, but it is up to UN Peacekeepers to do the day-to-day work of deterring the re-emergence of armed jihadist groups. This includes typical UN peacekeeping efforts in volatile parts of the country and also non-traditional military tasks like patrolling regional markets, mediating inter-communal disputes , and even setting up community radio stations. 

It is through these daily efforts that Mali has transformed from a country that was on the cusp of being overrun by Taliban-like insurgents to a country on the path to political reconciliation.

UN Peacekeepers provide daily security and have a longer term mission to help build Mali’s own security sector. Blue Helmets are also a very visible symbol of the broader international community’s commitment to peace in Mali. For these reasons,  MINUSMA peacekeepers have been frequent targets of jihadist groups that seek to sow instability and de-legitimize the government of Mali, with which the UN is partnering as the country moves towards political reconciliation and economic development.

MINUSMA is the single deadliest UN peacekeeping, with 177 fatalities since 2013. It is also one of the largest missions, with over 15,000 troops deployed. As you can see from this chart, most of the troops that are deployed to this deadly mission are from the developing world.


It is worth acknowledging that despite the huge risk, countries like Burkina Faso, Chad and Bangladesh are willingly deploying their troops to the world’s most dangerous peacekeeping mission to the principal benefit of the people of Mali.    There are also, of course, ancillary benefits to this mission for the rest of the world. To the extent that Mali can no longer become a haven for jihadist groups with global aspirations, these countries are putting their troops on the line in larger service of global peace and security.

To that end, these peacekeepers ought to be able to count on the support of more powerful countries in the world. This includes these country’s financial support for UN peacekeeping. The problem is, UN Peacekeeping right now is facing an unprecedented funding crunch. Last week, the UN Secretary General wrote a letter to all UN member states saying that UN peacekeeping only has enough cash on hand to fund two more months of its operations. The main reason for this shortfall is that the wealthier UN member states that provide the bulk of funding for UN peacekeeping (as opposed to the bulk of the troops) have not paid their fair share of peacekeeping costs. Countries are either late with payment, or delinquent. The United States, which is is the largest single financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, is currently $750 million in arrears.

Unless the rest of the world supports UN peacekeeping, missions will face deeper and deeper challenges, potentially calling into question the ability of these missions to succeed. And for a mission like MINUSMA, failure means ceding space to terrorist groups with aspirations to strike targets around the world.

The post The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Mali is On the Front Lines of Fighting Terrorist Groups appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Coffee Is Being Threatened With Extinction Because of Climate Change

22. Januar 2019 - 15:35

Two new scientific papers show how climate change is affecting species of coffee plants in Africa, Australia and Asia. The findings of these research studies have big implications for coffee drinkers, coffee producers and everyone else involved in this massive global industry.

At issues is the survivability of what is known as “wild coffee.” These are some 124 species of coffee that grow naturally in forests in coffee growing climates of Africa, Asia and Australia.

Most coffee consumers do not drink coffee from wild species. Rather, we drink two species, Arabica and Robusta, that are not currently threatened with extinction. But the fate of the massive worldwide coffee industries that have formed around Arabica and Robusta are closely linked to that of wild coffee. If wild coffee continues on its trajectory toward extinction, the gene pool from which Robusta and Arabica can draw to adapt in the face of evolutionary threats will dry up. That means coffee itself may become a threatened species of plant.

Dr. Aaron Davis is Senior Research Leader and head of Coffee Research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He was involved in both of these papers. He explains the link between wild coffee and climate change, and why having wild coffee is necessary for the long term viability of the coffee we consumers drink.

We kick off talking more generally about the science of coffee before having a longer conversation about the broader broader social and economic implications of his research into climate change and coffee excitation.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how climate change is affecting coffee production, have a listen.


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Davis, A.P., Chadburn, H., Moat, J., O’Sullivan, R., Hargreaves, S. & Lughadha, E.N. (2019). High extinction risk for wild coffee species and implications for coffee sector sustainability. Science Advances, 5 : eaav3473. Available online

Moat, J., Gole, T.W. & Davis, A.P. (2018). Least concern to endangered: Applying climate change projections profoundly influences the extinction risk assessment for wild Arabica coffee. Gobal Change Biology, 1-14. Available online.

The IUCN Red List – to view the assessments mentioned, search Coffea.

The post Coffee Is Being Threatened With Extinction Because of Climate Change appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Here’s How Every Country Ranks When it Comes to Child Abuse and Child Safety

18. Januar 2019 - 15:39

The United Kingdom is the safest place to be a child, while Pakistan is the least safe. That’s according to a new index that ranks 40 countries on how well they’re responding to the threat of sexual abuse and exploitation against children.

According to the report called Out of the Shadows by The Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Childhood Foundation, the 40 countries in the index represent 70 percent of the world’s children.

The countries were ranked according to their environment in which child sexual violence occurs and is addressed, their legal framework to protect children, their government commitment and capacity to invest in appropriate responses as well as the engagement of industry, civil society and media in combating the issue.

The index aims to help countries track progress toward the second target of Sustainable Development Goal 16 – to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children” by 2030.

“With approximately 200 million of the world’s children experiencing sexual violence each year, the need to document and benchmark the global effort to prevent child sexual violence has never been more important,” Sweden’s Princess Madeleine, co-founder of the World Childhood Foundation’s #EyesWideOpen campaign, said in a press release.

With a score of 100 representing the best environment for children, the top ten countries on the index were all high-income: U.K. (82.7), Sweden (81.5), Canada (75.3), Australia (74.9), United States (73.7), Germany (73.1), South Korea (71.6), Italy (69.7), France (65.2) and Japan (63.8). Brazil ranks next and is classified by the World Bank as upper-middle income.

Credit: Out of the Shadows report

However, the report notes that the prevalence of child sexual abuse and exploitation is not tied to a country’s income level. Several some high- and middle-income countries made it into the bottom quartile of the index – including China, Argentina and Russia – and only three of the top ten countries received a score of at least 75. The report says that this means there are still “substantial gaps in the protective conditions for children in even the wealthiest countries.”

In fact, another recent report on trafficking by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found that while most trafficking victims are detected in their own countries, wealthy countries more likely to be destinations for cross-border trafficking victims from geographically diverse origins.

The UN report notes that “globally, countries are detecting and reporting more victims, and are convicting more traffickers.” This could point to better detection of victims, an uptick in trafficking victims or both.

Although the UN report looks at all forms of trafficking, it says that sexual exploitation continues to be the most detected form of trafficking. In most regions, women are more commonly detected as victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, but in Central America and the Caribbean, more girls are identified as the victims.

However, the Out of the Shadows report points out that trafficking comprises only a small minority of child sexual abuse and exploitation cases. It also found that boys are being overlooked as victims. Only 17 of the 40 countries are collecting prevalence data about boys, and only five collect data on boys regarding sexual exploitation specifically.

Additionally, 26 of the 40 countries have designated law enforcement agencies to fight child sexual exploitation, but only eight have a dedicated budget. This lack of resource allocation – as well as the increasingly online nature of exploitation – makes it harder to tackle both national and transnational offenses.

Credit: Out of the Shadows report

“There is a lot of talk about international collaboration, but it is not systematic or deeply entrenched,” John Carr, expert adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, said in the Out of the Shadows report.

However, the UN report notes that trafficking is rooted in exploitation not movement, and for the first time, trafficking victims detected within their own borders now make up the largest portion of detected victims globally. This highlights the need to make exploitation a higher criminal justice priority within countries, the report says.

Strengthening legislation is another important way to at least detect abuse and exploitation victims. Out of the Shadows reports that only 25 of the 40 countries it looked at has laws that requires people working with children to report cases of sexual abuse. And sexually touching a minor is explicitly banned in only 21 of them.

The UN trafficking report found that in many countries, an increase in detected victims was preceded by the introduction of a new anti-trafficking measure, suggesting that the upswing correlated more with an increased capacity to identify victims and not an actual increase in trafficking. However, in countries that have had anti-trafficking frameworks for a long time but have not introduced any new legislative reforms or programs, more detections likely means there are actually more victims.

Still, detecting victims of sexual abuse and exploitation is a hugely important step toward tackling the issue. Although both reports indicate that significant progress is being made – and that resource constraints do not necessarily inhibit it – major gaps persist.

“The countries where there is most risk is where we have the least information on the issue,” Paul Stanfield, the director of organized and emerging crime at INTERPOL said in the Out of the Shadows report. “We have to find ways of better understanding the threat.”

The post Here’s How Every Country Ranks When it Comes to Child Abuse and Child Safety appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Election Fraud in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What You Need to Know

17. Januar 2019 - 16:55

The Democratic Republic of Congo held elections on December 30th that would mark the country’s first peaceful transfer of power since its independence in 1960. The long serving ruler Joseph Kabilla had effectively delayed these elections for years but after much international and domestic pressure, he promised to step down and cede power to the winner of these elections.

Votes were cast. Ballots were counted. A winner declared–and according to several reports a massive fraud was perpetrated.

The Catholic Church, which served as independent election monitors, said that the declared results do not match their data. And on January 15th the Financial Times obtained the raw data from electronic voting machines, which demonstrated a wide margin of victory for opposition candidate Martin Fayulu.

On the line with me to discuss what appears to be industrial scale election fraud in the DRC is Ida Sawyer. She is the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division and a longtime observer of politics in the DRC.

In this conversation she explains who the main candidates are; why this election is so significant, and what it means that such a fraud was perpetrated.

Over the next several weeks and perhaps months this election related drama will unfold in the DRC. This conversation gives you the context you need to understand and interpret events as they unfold.

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About Ida Sawyer 

Ida Sawyer is deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division. She was previously the organization’s Central Africa director, overseeing work on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Central African Republic. From 2008 to 2016, she was based in Congo with Human Rights Watch, first in Goma and later in the capital, Kinshasa. She conducted research across Congo and in areas of neighboring countries affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and her research has been integral to numerous Human Rights Watch reports.

In August 2016, Congolese authorities barred Ida from continuing to work in the country, following a series of Human Rights Watch publications on political repression. Ida has authored numerous Human Rights Watch reports and other documents, and she has written for publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Foreign Policy. Ida conducts high level advocacy with African officials and other international actors as well as outreach with national human rights groups.

Ida came to Human Rights Watch from Cairo, where she had worked as a freelance journalist. Her previous experience in Africa’s Great Lakes region includes work for Care International and the Charity for Peace Foundation in northern Uganda, as well as research in Congo on the cross-border dynamics of natural resource exploitation. Ida holds a Masters in international affairs, specializing in human rights, from Columbia University.

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Kategorien: english

UN Peacekeeping Faces Massive Funding Shortfall

16. Januar 2019 - 20:06

In a letter to United Nations Ambassadors, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of an urgent cash crisis facing the UN in general —  and UN peacekeeping in particular.  As of January 11, he says, the United Nations faces a $2 billion shortfall in UN Peacekeeping funding; the cash it has on hand can fund less than two months of UN Peacekeeping operations around the world.

“Active peacekeeping missions are soon expected to face liquidity gaps due to late payments and increasing arrears,” Antonio Guterres wrote in the letter, seen by UN Dispatch. “As of today, arrears are nearing US$2 billion and are likely to keep growing. Current cash balances cover less than two months of operations, compared to four months last year.”

Peacekeeping is funded through dues payments from member states to the United Nations. The problem is that UN member states are not paying their dues on time and in full. If this trend continues much longer, the United Nations will simply run out of money to pay for all the peacekeeping operations it deploys around the world, which includes about 100,000 troops deployed to 14 global hotspots.

The top contributors to UN Peacekeeping include the United States, China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Of these, the United States is by far the largest single contributor, and is assessed at nearly 28% of the cost of UN Peacekeeping. The problem is, the Trump administration has not been paying its dues in full and has consequently wracked up arrears to UN Peacekeeping of about $750 million — a significant portion of the $2 billion shortfall.

A persistent budget crisis for UN Peacekeeping could exacerbate conflict around the world.

UN blue helmets mostly come from the developing world. The biggest troop contributing countries include Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Rwanda and Nepal. The UN reimburses these countries for the cost of sending their troops on peacekeeping mission, at a rate of about $1,400 per person, per month.

These peacekeepers are helping to keep a lid on conflict in places like South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Lebanon and elsewhere. If the UN runs out of money to reimburse troop contributing countries for the cost of sending troops to these hotspots, it would not be unreasonable to expect countries to pull their troops from these dangerous places. At that point, these conflicts would be left to fester and perhaps metastasize to spread conflict and instability through these regions. That is the real-world consequence of a budget shortfall at UN headquarters in New York.

“The situation in the first few weeks of 2019 remains precarious and will only improve if your pending contributions from previous years, as well as your 2019 contributions are paid on time and in full,” Guterres writes in his letter to UN ambassadors.

Unless member states heed his call and pay up, we can expect that some of the most volatile places on earth, from the Central African Republic to Southern Lebanon, will grow even more unstable.





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