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The USA is Closer Than Ever to Reforming its Inefficient Food Aid Program

20. März 2018 - 14:59

Advocates for better food aid are hoping they’ll finally see long-awaited changes become law.

Last week, Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) proposed companion bills that they say ease restrictions on U.S. international food assistance to deliver more aid to more people faster.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers are including the “Food for Peace Modernization Act of 2018” in the 2018 farm bill, a sweeping piece of legislation that addresses U.S. agricultural and food policy. U.S. farm bills expire and are usually updated every five years. The current one is set to expire Sept. 30. 

According to a press release by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – of which both Senators Corker and Coons are members – the proposed food aid reforms would “free up as much as $275 million to provide life-saving food to nearly 9 million more people in a shorter time period.” 

The bills include two key provisions: First, it allows the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to use vouchers, cash transfers or locally purchased food – whichever is most cost-effective – for 75 percent of food aid. 

Currently, 100 percent of food aid commodities must be produced in the U.S. by law, and at least half of it must be transported on U.S.-flagged vessels. This was intended as a subsidy to US agribusiness and shipping interests. This means that only about 30 percent of program funds are being used for food, while the rest is spent on inefficient overhead and shipping costs, the press release said.

According to Corker and Coons, lowering the requirement from 100 percent to 25 percent would “help millions more people at no significant loss for American farmers,” since food aid makes up only 0.2 percent of total U.S. agricultural production.

The second key provision eliminates a long-debated requirement called “monetization,” a process in which food commodities are shipped overseas to non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The organizations must then sell the food to generate funds for their development projects. Current law dictates that 15 percent of all U.S.-donated food must be monetized. 

The U.S. is the largest donor of food aid globally, but it’s the only country that still requires domestic production and monetization.

The monetization requirement was introduced in the 1985 farm bill. At the time, organizations like CARE were leading proponents of it. But by 2007, CARE announced that it would turn down $46 million a year in food aid from the U.S. government and phase out all monetization by 2009. 

CARE criticized monetization for damaging local markets – pushing producers out with foreign products and providing food only to those who could afford it rather than those who really need it. It’s also very inefficient, the organization said.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) agrees. According to the GAO, the process of using cash to buy food to sell for cash “reduced funding available for development assistance projects by $219 million over a 3-year period.”


“It’s difficult to recoup the full cost of purchase, shipment, and delivery of food aid in competitive transactions in developing countries,” Eric Muñoz, a senior policy advisor with Oxfam America, explained in a 2012 blog post. “Cost recovery for monetization activities for USAID-administered programs averaged 76 percent. Activities managed by [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] fared slightly worse.”

The issue of food aid reform was hotly debated during negotiations for the last farm bill, which took two years to pass, from 2012 to 2014. Corker, Coons and Royce led the charge in Congress for reform then, too. But many NGOs – belonging to the now defunct Alliance for Global Food Security – were outspoken about not wanting to lose funding from monetization, as inefficient as it is. 

Although minimal changes were passed in 2014, by the end of negotiations, even some of the most vocal defenders of monetization, like the charity World Vision, had thrown their support behind the reforms.

So far, there hasn’t been much talk surrounding the proposed bills. Perhaps that’s because negotiations on the entire farm bill have already stalled on the issue of food stamps. And in light of the current administration’s inward focus, some aren’t sure international food aid reform is even possible under Trump. 

But what giving some advocates reason for optimism is the recent support of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which has long resisted changes to U.S. food aid policy.

“…With the Farm Bureau on board, this may be the last, best chance for long-time reform champions to ensure U.S. international food aid reaches more of the people who need it most,” Kimberly Ann Elliot, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote.

The post The USA is Closer Than Ever to Reforming its Inefficient Food Aid Program appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: The incredible story of Maggy Barankitse, who saved thousands of children in the wake of a genocide

19. März 2018 - 14:53

Maggy Barankitse is the founder of Maison Shalom, an orphanage and school that was created in Burundi in the wake of the Civil War there in the 1990s.

Like in neighboring Rwanda, the conflict in Burundi involved acts of genocide pitting ethnic groups against each other.

The conflict came to Barankitse’s town on October 24th, 1993. At the time, she was working as a secretary in the local catholic diocese in her hometown of Ruyigi, Burundi. What happened was an act of unspeakable cruelty. This description of events is from the website of Maison Shalom:

“In the autumn of 1993, an atmosphere of uneasiness had settled over the country. In Ruyigi, disaster struck on 24 October. To exact vengeance for the killing of members of their ethnic group, the Tutsi hunted the town’s Hutus, who were hiding in the diocese buildings.

Maggy was also there. She tried to reason with the group of Tutsi driven mad by hatred. She tried to convince them not to use violence. Her efforts were in vain. To punish her for what they considered a betrayal on the part of a Tutsi “sister”, they decided to strip her and tie her to a chair. They forced her to remain in that position and watch as they first set fire to the diocese building to force those hiding there to come out, then as they mercilessly hacked her friends to death with machetes.”

As she tells me in this podcast episode, it was this experience that lead her to create an oasis of peace and hope in the midst of such conflict and tumult. Today, Maison Shalom has served tens of thousands of children since its founding.

Unfortunately, Maggy now lives as a refugee in Rwanda. She was forced to flee the country after she spoke out against an illegal power-grab by the country’s president. But even from Rwanda, she is continuing her mission and has established a Maison Shalom to serve refugees and others in Rwanda.

For her work, Maggy Barankitse was awarded the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, which is a $1 million prize awarded to individuals who commit extraordinary acts of humanity. The prize is awarded by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, which was founded by the decedents of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide.  A few weeks ago, I spoke with one of the initiative’s co-founders, Noubar Afeyan.

This is a powerful and inspiring conversation with an individual who has helped to save thousands of lives after her own life was shattered by genocide.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post PODCAST: The incredible story of Maggy Barankitse, who saved thousands of children in the wake of a genocide appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

For the first time, an International Treaty to Protect Environmental Activists

16. März 2018 - 14:31

In many Latin American countries, environmental protests can be a matter of life and death for the activists involved. In a tally put out last year, the non-profit Global Witness reported that 200 people had been murdered in 2016 defending their land and the environment — a full 60 percent of whom were in Latin America. The numbers for 2017 were similar.

But a new, multinational agreement aims to prevent many of those deaths.

Earlier this week, 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries adopted the “Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean” — or the LAC P10. The agreement is the first in the world to put in place legally binding rules to protect environmental activists — or, as the UN and many civil society groups call them, “environmental defenders.” The agreement would also increase governmental accountability, and require authorities to investigate more aggressively when defenders are murdered.

The agreement also has provisions to encourage countries to share information about environmental conditions, and to involve those who would be affected by a government’s decisions on the environment — including indigenous communities — in policymaking.

“I cannot understate how critical it is for communities to have access to environmental information, like data on local water pollution or nearby mining concessions,” said Carole Excell, the acting director of the World Resources Institute’s Environmental Democracy Practice and a negotiator of LAC P10. “Hopefully LAC P10 will mean fewer natural resources exploited and communities at risk.”

The pact was six years in the making, with a growing number of countries joining the negotiations over time. It asserts that environmental defenders have the right “to life, personal integrity, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and free movement.”

Countries have a two year window — from Sept. 2018 until Sept. 2020 — to sign on. Though 24 countries participated in the negotiations, it is open to all 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Once 11 of those 33 have ratified the agreement, it will go into force. Environmental groups active in each country are planning to push hard to encourage their respective governments to sign the agreement as soon as possible.

There are a range of factors that bring Latin American environmental defenders into conflicts with governments, landowners, gangs and corporations. According to Global Witness, disputes related to mining, agribusiness, other land use issues and the development of new hydroelectric dams have all caused violent conflicts in recent years.

In one such case, in 2016, Honduran activist Berta Ceres was gunned down in her home,  just weeks after she criticized a major dam project underway in the country. She was perhaps the most prominent environmental activist in Latin America and had considerable success in holding up this project. Here is how the Guardian reported on her work at the time of her murder.

The campaign has held up the project, which is being built by local firm DESA with the backing of international engineering and finance companies, and prompted the withdrawal of China’s Sinohydro and the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation.

Cáceres had called for other foreign partners, including the Dutch Development Bank, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and German companies Siemens and Voith, to pull out.

She has also won plaudits from international NGOs for standing up to powerful landowners, a US-funded police force, and a mercenary army of private security guards in the most murderous country in the world for environmental campaigners.

In an interview with the Guardian at the time of her award, Cáceres was realistic about the risks she faced, but said she felt obliged to fight on and urged others to do so.

“We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action,” she said.

“With this agreement, Latin America and the Caribbean attests to its firm and unequivocal commitment to a foundational democratic principle: the right of people to participate in a significant way in the decisions that affect their lives and their surroundings,” said Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The hope is that an increase in protected, democratic participation will decrease the death toll documented by Global Witness and other NGOs.

The post For the first time, an International Treaty to Protect Environmental Activists appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: Meet Mike Pompeo

15. März 2018 - 14:46

It’s been just two days since Rex Tillerson was fired as Secretary of State, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo nominated to replace him.  This move comes at a pivotal time for US diplomacy–just last week, the White House announced a face-to-face meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

So what can we expect from the Secretary of State designate? What does his past in congress and as director of the CIA suggest about how he will approach the job of Secretary of State? And what does his close relationship with the President mean for the role of the State Department in foreign policy decision making?

On the line with me to discuss these questions and more is Uri Friedman, a staff writer at the Atlantic who covers global affairs and US foreign policy. He has written extensively about US diplomacy and North Korea and in this episode he and I discuss the big implications of this shift in key foreign policy personnel. We also discuss the relevance of the Iran nuclear deal, which Pompeo has strongly opposed, to the North Korea negotiations.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn more about what Mike Pence might bring to the job of Secretary of State and more broadly how his appointment may shape US foreign policy in the months ahead, have a listen.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post PODCAST: Meet Mike Pompeo appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Amid the #MeToo Moment, Leaders Gather at the UN for the World’s Largest Meeting on Gender Equality

14. März 2018 - 14:37

The 62nd annual Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) kicked off at the United Nations in New York City this week. Tens of thousands of women from all around the world are be gathering at the United Nations for the next two weeks to discuss the ‘challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls’, this year’s theme.

This is the first CSW of the #MeToo era, and we can expect that the CSW will be a forum for this cultural movements to work its way into intergovernmental agreements. It is already happening to some degree. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka both made references to #MeToo and Time’s Up in their opening remarks.

In the global women’s issues and development circles, CSW is a very important gathering that will steer the work for the coming year.  And Though this huge conference is well known in some circles, on a larger scale, most people are unaware that CSW is happening these next two weeks, let alone what it is and why it is important to the attendees and larger audiences in the world of women.

Here is a quick guide for navigating the field of CSW this year and for future sessions.

What is CSW?

The Commission for the Status of Women is the primary intergovernmental body that is exclusively devoted to the equality and empowerment of women on a global scale. It was formed in 1946 to discuss and execute resolutions on equality and empowerment but after the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (where Hillary Clinton famously declared “Women’s rights are human rights”),  CSW became a politically more robust body that discusses the progress and shortcomings on gender equality.

In the two-week session, delegates of UN Member States as well as representatives from civil society gather to discuss the theme for that year and then produce resolutions for achieving the gender equality goals associated with that theme. This year goals will be geared towards rural women’s access to equality, last year the goals were focused on eliminating violence against women and the year before that the focus was on the intersection between women’s empowerment and sustainable development models.

How does CSW work?

The two-week session progresses in two stages. The first week is devoted to discussion with morning sessions and discussion groups where Member State delegates can make speeches and declarations on the theme of that year. The second week is for working sessions where delegates break into working groups to decide on resolutions. At the end of the week, resolutions are voted on and adopted.

During the session, civil society, often represented by NGOs devoted to global women’s issues, hold side events in and around the United Nations building. This year, over 5,000 NGO representatives signed up to attend CSW and each day hosts as many as 20 official side events for these representatives to attend and organize.

Why is CSW important?

The CSW is important because it creates a global consensus. This is the time and place for all UN member states and civil society organizations to come together and agree upon a set of resolutions that recognizes the successes and failures made in addressing global gender inequality and injustice.

These resolutions then serve as the set of goals to which the United Nations as a full body can utilize and measure against when discussing and executing policy on women’s equality. Not all UN Member States agree with or choose to execute these goals and civil society organizations will often only choose to work on a small set of resolutions that most pertain to their mission’s goals. The point is that governments and civil society organizations are working with the same set of resolutions for achieving gender equality.

The CSW does not get the attention it deserves on a global scale. This is the single largest annual gathering for women globally to discuss gender equality and empowerment, yet many people do not know that it’s happening right now. Anyone can watch the live webcast of the sessions and see what is being discussed.

Now is the time to pay attention to global women’s empowerment and equality. #MeToo, Time’s Up and many other global movements are calling for gender justice and bodies like the CSW have been doing the work that it takes to make these movements possible on an intergovernmental level. It’s time to pay attention.

The post Amid the #MeToo Moment, Leaders Gather at the UN for the World’s Largest Meeting on Gender Equality appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The United Nations Would Be at the Center of Any Possible Trump-Kim Nuclear Deal

12. März 2018 - 20:49
If Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un do meet (still a big “if”) and if they do strike a deal  (an even bigger “if”) than the United Nations will have a key role to play in shoring it up. We can be sure that for both political and technical reasons, the United Nations will be at the center of any North Korean nuclear deal. From a political standpoint, this deal needs the support of the Security Council. North Korea is under heavy sanction from the Security Council, so any easing of the sanctions necessarily requires the consent of the entire Council. Any single veto wielding country could undermine any sanctions relief, so Russia, China, France and the UK need to ultimately sign off on a deal that would includes an easing of the sanctions. Their support is a political–and legal–necessity. From a technical standpoint, to the extent the deal includes denuclearization, as the United States insists, then the International Atomic Energy Agency will play a key role. IAEA inspectors have not set foot in North Korea since 2002, when they were kicked out of the country following a deterioration of relations between North Korea and the United States that ultimately resulted in the scrapping of a 1994 agreement known as the “Agreed Framework.” (Under that agreement IAEA inspectors had access to some North Korean nuclear sites.) Under any future agreement, a robust IAEA inspection regime will be critical to determining North Korean compliance with with any promises of denuclearization. A North Korea Agreement Could Look a lot Like the Iran Nuclear Deal If this all sounds familiar to you, there is good reason. Broadly speaking, this is the structure of the Iran deal; that is, the easing of sanctions in return for intrusive inspections. The big difference, of course, is that North Korea already has nuclear weapons so the job of international inspectors will be to oversee the dismantling of some nuclear programs. The irony here is that the Trump administration has repeatedly trashed the Iran deal. But like it or not any deal that requires an easing of multilateral sanctions in return for increased controls over a countries nuclear program would resemble the Iran deal. It would also require the same political and technical that the United Nations provides to keep that deal successfully intact.

The post The United Nations Would Be at the Center of Any Possible Trump-Kim Nuclear Deal appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: The Extraordinary Journey of a Child Survivor of the Civil War in Sierra Leone to Law School in America

12. März 2018 - 15:01


Joseph Kaifala was just a child when civil war broke out in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The war came to his town in 1989 and as a seven-year-old was imprisoned with his father. They were eventually released and Joseph and his family spent much of the next decade on the run from a brutal civil war that seemed to follow them everywhere.

Kaifala recently published a memoir of these experiences titled Adamalui: A Survivor’s Journey from Civil Wars in Africa to Life in America. He is also the subject of a documentary film titled Retracing Jeneba: The Story of a Witness, which is poised to debut at film festivals.

Joseph Kaifala is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow and the story of how he went from that prison in Liberia to this prestigious fellowship, and then onto law school in the United States is truly extraordinary.

We kick off discussing an NGO he started long with another Humanity in Action Senior Fellow Liat Krawczyk called The Jeneba Project. This is an organization dedicated to providing high quality education for children in Sierra Leone. Liat Krawczyk is also the co-director and co-executive producer of the documentary film, along with Anthony Mancilla.

This is a very powerful episode. We discuss Joseph’s unique personal journey and have digressions about the causes and effects of the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app.


The post PODCAST: The Extraordinary Journey of a Child Survivor of the Civil War in Sierra Leone to Law School in America appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Food Ration Cuts Are Becoming the Norm as Aid Agencies Struggle to Keep Up

9. März 2018 - 5:40

Facing a massive funding shortfall, the World Food Program in January cut rations for Congolese refugees in Rwanda by 25%. Protests against those cuts turned deadly on February 27th when Rwandan police fired into a crowd,  killing 11 refugees. 

This incident was yet the latest example of an exacerbating crisis in Central Africa where several countries are struggling under the weight of refugees from DRC, Burundi and South Sudan. Making matters worse, these forgotten crises suffer from a severe lack of international funding, recently leading to aid agencies cutting food aid to the refugees once again. The situation now facing both refugees and their host countries is dire, fueling further instability in a reminder of why proper funding, programming and attention is needed for refugees around the world.

Africa currently hosts an estimated 18 million refugees and displaced peoples, roughly 26 percent of all refugees in the world. The situation has gotten worse in recent years as conflicts in Yemen, South Sudan, Burundi, the DRC, the Central African Republic and Nigeria have sent new millions across borders. African nations are used to hosting refugees, but with so many simultaneous conflicts, many countries are starting to buckle under the strain.

Making matters worse, international funding to help countries cope is falling far behind what is needed. In 2017, this resulted in food ration cuts in several different refugee situations. For example in August 2017, the World Food Programme was forced to reduce daily rations for refugees hosted in Tanzania by almost 40 percent. In October, the WFP cut rations for refugees in Kenya by 30 percent, just six months after full rations were reinstated. Food rations in Uganda for the estimated 2 million refugees, mainly from South Sudan, were in constant flux, being cut in half at one point due to funding woes.

Yet even as countries and aid agencies struggle to provide basic nutrition, more refugees come. Renewed conflict in the DRC’s Ituri region, as well as continuing political instability in Burundi, has further swamped Rwanda and Uganda. Camps in Kenya and Ethiopia now have new Yemeni refugees to cope with, as well as the Somali refugees who have often called those countries home for decades. Even Tanzania, no stranger to hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, is finding its hospitality strained.

The ongoing issue of hunger is forcing some refugees to return home, even though the violence they fled has not abated. These returns do not fix the problem, but rather shifts the humanitarian burden to harder to reach places.

In many ways the issue is not donor fatigue but rather donors have been maxed out.

Even the Trump administration, despite threats to cut funding, has slightly increased its financial support for the WFP. But with so many crises going on the world – potential famine in Yemen and the Horn of Africa, new refugee flows from Myanmar and Venezuela, disease outbreaks in Yemen and Bangladesh, rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Syria – there is only so much donors are able to address. But while funding needs keep increasing, many of the main donors that groups like the WFP rely on have hit their cap for what they are willing to give. Thus, while funds keep coming in, the shortfall between what is available and what is needed continues to grow.

There is no easy fix for these issues, but it does highlight the need to rethink how refugees are hosted. The lack of the ability to work in many countries makes refugees reliant completely on aid, a situation that is becoming increasingly unsustainable. Likewise the lack of political will to address the root causes causing people to flee their homes means there is little chance that things will improve. New ideas are needed to help both refugees and their host communities to cope, a realization that will hopefully be on the minds of delegates negotiating the upcoming Global Compact on Migration later this year.

The post Food Ration Cuts Are Becoming the Norm as Aid Agencies Struggle to Keep Up appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: How Democracies Can Defend Themselves From Disinformation Campaigns

8. März 2018 - 17:26

As the United States enters its next election cycle, American democracy is still extremely vulnerable to disinformation campaigns from Russia. Other democracies, particularly in Europe, are also vulnerable to this kind of threat and, indeed, have also been the target of Russian meddling. So how can countries protect themselves against nefarious attempts to sow illiberal discord?

A new report from The Atlantic Council identifies some concrete ways that the United States and Europe can defend against foreign propaganda, disinformation, and election related hacking. On the line with me to discuss this report and its findings is one of the report’s co-authors, Ambassador Daniel Fried. He was a longtime US diplomatic who’s career largely focused Russia and central and eastern Europe. The report was co-authored by Alina Polyakova of the Brookings Institute.

The report provides a useful heuristic for understanding the problem: it breaks down and categorizes the various kinds of election meddling we’ve seen thus far. Also, what makes this report particularly unique is that the authors’ propose that countering this kind of election meddling can be a platform for transatlantic cooperation; that is, in response to this Russian meddling Europe and the United States have an opportunity to form a new kind of strategic alliance.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how Russian election meddling can be a catalyst for international cooperation, have a listen.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post PODCAST: How Democracies Can Defend Themselves From Disinformation Campaigns appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A New Report Shows That Banks Could Profit Big Time By Closing the Financial Inclusion Gender Gap

8. März 2018 - 15:48

Every year on March 8, women around the globe celebrate their fight for equal rights. But it’s also a day to call out inequalities that still persist to the detriment of not just women, but society as a whole – even in areas like access to banking.

According to a new report by the UN Foundation and Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, women have influence or control over only about 25 to 30 percent of the world’s wealth – assets worth more than $20 trillion.

The report finds that two-thirds of Americans without bank accounts are women. The statistics are even worse in the six regions in which the World Bank works. In those areas, only 14 percent of women on average had bank accounts in 2014. In the Middle East, just 9 percent of women had bank accounts.

The report acknowledges that societal and structural barriers – like employment and wage disparities, power dynamics within households and lack of financial literacy – are at the root of the problem. These are issues civil society and governments have grappled with for decades.

But the report also lists two other reasons why lack of financial inclusion disproportionately affects women, and both can be addressed by financial institutions and investors: First, there are fewer products that meet women’s needs. Second, the products that do exist often don’t reach women.

For example, the report cited recent surveys that found that 67 percent of women who have a financial advisor feel misunderstood or ignored by their advisors. So much so that 80 percent of them switch advisors after their husband’s death.

In developing economies, 70 percent of women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises are not served or are underserved by financial institutions. This roughly constitutes a $285 billion credit gap. Globally, the report estimates that women only have 77 percent of the access that men do to financial services.

Of course, solutions must be tailored to each market, taking geographical, cultural and political factors into account. But, for instance, if financial institutions just expanded their digital products and services – like mobile banking or payment – 880 million women around the world could have access to formal banking for the first time. That’s because digital solutions work around barriers like restrictions on women to physically leave their homes or, in some places, to interact with men who are not family.

“By taking a gender-lens approach, financial institutions and their investors are identifying the ways in which their decisions affect women and girls, as well as beginning to bring down the barriers such as through digital inclusion and full access to mobile technology,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women and under-secretary-general of the UN, wrote.

And this is important not only because women should have equal access to formal banking, but because it’s good for everyone – including financial service providers.

The report estimates that if service providers increased women’s access to retail banking, they could increase annual global revenue by $40 billion. If they did the same with life insurance, they could generate an additional $290 billion.

On the social front, though, studies have shown that women invest 90 percent of their income in the health, education and wellbeing of their families, compared with 35 percent for men. Therefore, financial inclusion of women has the power to propel the global community toward achieving several of the Sustainable Development Goals it signed onto in 2015, including no poverty (Goal 1), zero hunger (Goal 2), good health and wellbeing (Goal 3), quality education (Goal 4), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8) and, of course, gender equality (Goal 5).

“To make this world a reality, the UN is counting on the financial sector to play a transformative role,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “With the actions recommended in this report, in combination with ongoing women’s empowerment efforts in the private and public spheres, this jump to inclusion is perhaps not as hard as it seems.”

The post A New Report Shows That Banks Could Profit Big Time By Closing the Financial Inclusion Gender Gap appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Top UN Human Rights Official Accurately Called Hungary’s President a Racist. Drama Ensued

7. März 2018 - 16:07

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein called Hungarian President Viktor Orban a “racist” last week because Viktor Orban is a racist and it is the job of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to condemn racism. The racist president of Hungary, however, did not appreciate being called a racist. So, the racist president of Hungary dispatched his foreign minister to call on the UN High Commissioner to resign.

Well, the UN High Commissioner did not resign. Instead, he posted this statement on his website doubling down on his accurate statement that the racist president of Hungary is a racist. 

His message is worth reading in full.  (Emphasis added)

“Last week, the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, said it was “slanderous” and “unacceptable” of me to call his Prime Minister a racist. He claimed I had “accused Hungary of being comparable to the worst dictatorships of the last century” and demanded I resign.

What had I said? “The security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world.  Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán who earlier this month said ‘we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others’.  Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity?”

And I stand by every single word.

Mr Orbán’s speech on 8 February to a group of city councils was a clear-cut statement of racism. It is an insult to every African, Asian, Middle Eastern or Latin American woman, man and child. The belief that mixing races creates an ineradicable and damaging taint was once widespread in many countries; in parts of the US, as well as South Africa, miscegenation laws were integral to the humiliation and oppression of people termed of “lesser races”. But that era is long dead ­– or should be. To hear it unabashedly expressed by the leader of a modern, European Union country should outrage every one of us.

But we are growing accustomed to the stoking of hatred for political profit. And this is Viktor Orbán’s stock in trade. The latest census indicates 1,064 men and 260 women from Africa living in all of Hungary; a total 10,559 people from all of Asia; and apparently so few from the Middle East that they were not even counted. But Mr Orbán has managed to portray Muslims and Africans as an existential menace to Hungarian culture – a threat he alleges is masterminded by the Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Last year a so-called consultative survey by the Hungarian government propagated a series of falsehoods in the form of questions such as “George Soros wants to convince Brussels to resettle at least one million immigrants from Africa and the Middle East annually on the territory of the European Union, including Hungary: Do you support this?” and “The goal of the Soros plan is to diminish the importance of the language and culture of European countries to make the integration of illegal immigrants happen sooner: Do you support this?”

Mr. Orbán’s racial rhetoric is increasingly delusional: in his State of the Nation Address of 18 February, he claimed that Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, “recently let slip that some years ago they secretly launched a programme to breed a Soros-like human race, or, as they modestly put it – if I can pronounce the term – Homo sorosensus… I realised that from their point of view, from the viewpoint of the Soros types, we indigenous people who have our own countries, our own culture and our own religion – things for which we will fight tooth and nail – are individuals beyond redemption.”

Cultivation of a siege mentality among majority populations is a marker of today’s ethno-populism. It creates a sense of overwhelming grievance, with an indicated outlet for that rage. And it shores up power. According to a 2016 Pew Research Centre study, 72% of Hungarians have an unfavourable view of Muslims – the highest rate in Europe. This support for Orbán’s posturing on migrants helps him to advance his vision of an “illiberal democracy,” governed  “not by a dualistic field of force bringing with it never conclusive and divisive debates” but by “a great governing party… a central field of force, which will be able to articulate the national issues… without the constantly ongoing wrangling.”

The Orbán government has dismantled checks and balances, politicized the country’s Constitutional Court and restricted its powers, and undermined the independence of the judiciary and the press. Recent legislative proposals will further curtail an already restricted space for civil society activism, giving the Interior Ministry the right to ban any group which works on behalf of migrants; subjecting them to punitive taxes if they receive foreign funding (which could include EU funds); and potentially banning them from going within 8km of border areas.  Even before this latest package, the European Union had instituted multiple infringement proceedings against Hungary for measures potentially violating the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.

So yes, I did call the increasingly authoritarian – though democratically elected – Viktor Orbán a racist and xenophobe. I did not, in point of fact, compare him to 20th century dictators, because there are plenty of examples around us today of the horrors that awake when minorities are vilified or abused.  And no, I will not resign “with no delay”, as a letter from his Minister demanded. Because it is time to stand up to the bullies of Mr Orbán’s ilk. Hatred is a combustible force; and it will not win – not in Europe; and not today.”

Needless to say, it is exceedingly rare for a UN official to so harshly condemn the elected leader of a UN member state.  But Viktor Orban’s overt racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia was once also exceedingly rare. Alas, it is becoming more and more common. Other countries in the region, like Poland, are also lead by ethno-nationalist movements. And here in the United States, white nationalism is becoming a more salient political force.

Meanwhile,  Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein is an exceedingly well respected diplomat from Jordan who is a longtime human rights advocate. He’s a former UN peacekeeper who helped to create the International Criminal Court, among other things.  Late last year, he announced that he would not seek a second four year term as high commissioner, saying that pursuing a second term in office would require him to mute his advocacy and make his job impossible.  the global context of his human rights advocacy  geopolitics of human rights advocacy.

“I have decided not to seek a second four-year term,” he told his staff in an email in December.  “To do so, in the current geopolitical context, might involve bending a knee in supplication; muting a statement of advocacy; lessening the independence and integrity of my voice — which is your voice.”

The kind of confrontational straight talk from Zeid directed at Viktor Orban is refreshing to hear and serves a useful political purpose. Leaders who increasingly use racist appeals to shore up their political base cannot expect to avoid international condemnation.


The post The Top UN Human Rights Official Accurately Called Hungary’s President a Racist. Drama Ensued appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Chart of the Day: The Number of Unintended Pregnancies Drop Worldwide

6. März 2018 - 18:14

Today’s chart comes from the Guttmacher Institute, with data drawn from a just-published Lancet study that shows the rates of unintended pregnancies around the world are on the decline.

The study compared rates of unintended pregnancies from the period of 1990-1994 with those rates from 2010-2014. It found that in the period from 2010 to 2014 some 44% of all pregnancies worldwide were unintended. This translates to a rate of 62 unintended pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 14 to 44. But even that high number represents a decrease from 1990-1994, when the rate was 74 per 1,000 women.

As is often the case with these studies, there is a sharp difference between the developing and developed world, with the former lagging far behind the latter.


The Guttmacher report adds:

Worldwide, more than half (56%) of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion in 2010–2014. From 1990–1994 to this period, the proportion of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion rose in developing countries and fell in developed countries. Both the unplanned and planned birth rates fell in developing regions, which likely reflects the increasingly common preference for smaller family size, whereas those rates remained about the same in developed regions.

In the end, the surest way to reduced unplanned pregnancies is to increase the availability of family planning and modern contraceptives. The UN Population Fund estimates that some 214 million women worldwide have an unmet need for family planning. Closing that gap by 2030 is a key priority for the international community that is embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals. To that end, this study shows that we still have a long way to go.

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PODCAST: Remembering the Armenian Genocide with philanthropist and business leader Noubar Afeyan

5. März 2018 - 16:26

Noubar Afeyan Credit: Aurora Humanitarian Initiative

Noubar Afeyan is a business leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist. In 2015, along with other decedents of survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide, he co-founded the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative.  This initiative, as Afeyan explains, seeks to empower modern day survivors of genocide and mass atrocities through a variety of projects. The most high profile of these programs, the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity,  is a $1 million prize for individuals who are saving lives and promoting humanitarian values in the face of extreme adversity.

Noubar’s own family history and life story is one of survival. He was born in Beirut in the early 1960s, but his family took a circuitous route to get there, escaping the genocide and then subsequent persecution. Much of this history was relayed to him by his great aunt,with whom he lived growing up in Beirut.

This is a very interesting conversation not only about Noubar’s life journey and that of his family, but also how communities remember and honor historic atrocities visited upon them. We discuss his family’s experience during the Armenian genocide and how learning about that experience compelled him to become a philanthropist and civic leader.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, Spotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

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The UN Created a New Way to Monitor Small Scale Natural Disasters Around the World

2. März 2018 - 16:25

In UN circles “Sendai” is shorthand for a major 2016 conference about disaster risk reduction, which took place in Sendai, Japan. Out of this meeting came the “Sendai Framework” which is often referenced in UN meetings and documents about how to best reduce the damage that natural disasters and climate change can visit upon communities.  The idea is that natural disasters, including those exacerbated by climate change, were a major impediment to sustainable development and also the health and well being of vulnerable communities around the world (it is estimated that disasters push 26 million people into poverty each year.

The “Sendai Framework” was a global plan of action to streamline international efforts to make communities more resilient That framework identified seven global targets:  

The Seven Global Targets

(a) Substantially reduce global disaster mortality by 2030, aiming to lower average per 100,000 global mortality rate in the decade 2020-2030 compared to the period 2005-2015.

(b) Substantially reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030, aiming to lower average global figure per 100,000 in the decade 2020 -2030 compared to the period 2005-2015.

(c) Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.

(d) Substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030.

(e) Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.

(f) Substantially enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of this Framework by 2030.

(g) Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030.

Now, for the first time, the international community has a way to measure progress against these goals. On Thursday, the UN launched a monitoring tool in which countries can report actions taken against the first five of these goals. There are 38 indicators that feed into these seven goals, and now countries have a centralized reporting tool on disaster losses.

This is a significant development for a few reasons. One of the central challenges of the entire enterprise of sustainable development in general — and the Sustainable Development Goals in particular — is the availability of data against which to measure progress. In all, there are 19 Sustainable Development Goals, with 169 targets and 230 indicators to measure progress against those targets and goals. Some of these indicators are reliable, some are less reliable indicators, and some we do not even know yet how to measure the indicators.

That the UN has released publicly released a tool the world can use to report and monitor progress on disaster risk reduction suggests that the process underlying  measuring progress on disaster risk reduction is in a healthy place.

Also, this reporting tool can help put little-noticed disasters on the international radar. If used properly by member states, the tool could also help draw attention to disasters that are not single, large scale events–but rather a succession of smaller disasters. “It is impossible to prevent disasters and to manage risk if a country is not measuring its disaster losses, particularly at the local level, for both small-scale and large-scale events,” said the Secretary-General’s newly appointed Special Representative of the for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori in a statement yesterday. “improving how we manage risk is vital and this requires a deeper understanding of where these losses are occurring and not just for major internationally recorded events. The silent, small-recurring events, such as floods and droughts can take a huge toll on communities which lack essential health services and other coping capacities.”

Bottom line: Check the monitor often!

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Why We Lie About Aid

1. März 2018 - 15:29

A provocative new book examines the politics of the debate on foreign aid.

Pablo Yanguas is a research fellow at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester. He is the author of the new book “Why We Lie About Aid: Development and the Messy Politics of Change.”
The book argues that there is a profound gap between the politics of development and how economic development is actually achieved on the ground in the developing world. And no matter what our ideological leanings might be, the politics surrounding aid and development provide incentives for us to misrepresent what works in reducing poverty and improving livelihoods.

This thesis rings true to my experience covering global development as a journalist for over a decade now. And I must say I found this conversation very clarifying — Yanguas identifies and ascribes political motives to trends that I have certainly seen covering these issues.

Even if you are not a global development nerd, I think you will find this conversation a very useful explanation of the politics of foreign aid.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post Why We Lie About Aid appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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The Relationship Between Iran and the Human Rights Council is Extremely Contentious 

28. Februar 2018 - 16:45

An Iranian government official who is under sanctions by the United States and European Union addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday. This, appropriately, caused a great deal of concern among human rights proponents around the world. The official, Seyyed Alireza Avaei, is believed to be responsible for the arbitrary detention and executions of regime opponents.

Avaei addressed the opening plenary the Human Rights Council’s 37th session. Iran is not a member of the council (more on that later) but any country is able to address this particular opening session before the actual work of the council begins.

His appearance in Geneva is yet another example of the highly fraught relationship between Iran and the Human Rights Council.

Iran is regularly condemned by the Human Rights Council and its subsidiaries.

In 2010, Iran sought to head off this criticism by vying for a seat on the 42 member council.  At the time, under the Obama administration, the United States had recently joined the Human Rights Council for the first time. The Obama administration mounted a worldwide diplomatic campaign to help keep Iran off the council and eventually Iran realized that it could not receive the support it needed to be elected to the council so it dropped its bid. This was an early diplomatic victory for human rights defenders. And it was followed about one year later by a vote in the Council to create a new position to specifically monitor and report on human rights abuses in Iran.

Asma Jahangir, wearing a medal conferred to her by winning the “Four Freedoms Award” from the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation. Credit: Wikimedia commons

In 2011, the Human Rights Council voted to create a new “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” This makes Iran one of just 12 countries in the world to which the Human Rights Council has targeted with a special investigator. Since 2015, the special rapporteur, Asma Jahangir, was a renowned Pakistani human rights lawyer.  Last year, she issued a scathing report detailing abuses carried out by the Iranian government. She also routinely condemned Iran’s overzealous use of the death penalty, particularly for minors and used her position to highlight Iran’s systematic persecution of religious minorities, including Baha’is.

The reports she issued were quite detailed.  For example, here is one situation she described involving a minor who was sentenced to death:

Alireza Tajiki was sentenced to death in 2013 after a criminal court convicted him for the rape and murder of a friend, which he allegedly committed when he was 15 years old. Mr. Tajiki was reportedly placed in solitary confinement for 15 days, denied access to a lawyer and allegedly subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. In 2014, the Supreme Court quashed the conviction and sentence owing to lack of evidence and ordered the trial court to determine Mr. Tajiki’s maturity. In November 2014, the trial court determined that he had the requisite “mental maturity” at the time of commission of the crime. In February 2015, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the lower court and in May 2016, Mr. Tajiki, then aged 19 years, was at risk of execution. The Government informed the Special Rapporteur that the prosecutor had issued an order to suspend the retribution verdict until further notice and that efforts were being made to obtain the consent of the family of the murdered victim. They indicated that the process of fair trial had been completely observed, including effective access to private attorneys. No information was provided in response to the allegations that Mr. Tajiki was subjected to torture and ill-treatment and, at the time of writing the present report, the situation of the young man was unknown.

Jahangir died on February 12 this year. Iran is reportedly trying to block the re-appointment of a Special Rapporteur to replace her. The Human Rights Council will hold a vote to renew the mandate next month.

The gambit of sending Avaei will almost certainly backfire — European Union representatives in the room walked out when he spoke to the Council.  And the EU holds considerable sway at the Council, even as American influence is waning under the Trump administration.

We can likely expect the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and condemn on human rights abuses in Iran for many years to come — or at least until Iran sufficiently reforms its approach to due process, and civil and human rights.

The post The Relationship Between Iran and the Human Rights Council is Extremely Contentious  appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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PODCAST: Sulome Anderson, journalist and author of a book about the kidnapping of her father, the journalist Terry Anderson

27. Februar 2018 - 15:27

Sulome Anderson was in utero when her father, the journalist Terry Anderson was kidnapped in Beirut. She met him for the first time as a six year old, when he was finally released by his Hezbollah linked captors.

Her book The Hostage’s Daughter investigates the circumstances of her father’s kidnapping and also serves as a memoir of her own experience dealing with her trauma and the trauma of her family.  The book was published about 18 months ago to critical acclaim — and it’s since been optioned for a movie.

In our conversation Sulome discusses what it was like to write and report this book. She also opens up about the impact her father’s kidnapping had on her childhood and adolescence, and she describes the catharsis she experienced after having interviewed one of her dad’s kidnappers for this book.

We kick off discussing something a little different: Sulome has been working as a freelance journalist in the Middle East for many years and she was recently the subject of an article in the Colombia Journalism Review that describes the challenges of working as a freelance foreign affairs journalist in a world obsessed with Trump.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post PODCAST: Sulome Anderson, journalist and author of a book about the kidnapping of her father, the journalist Terry Anderson appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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The World Health Organization Wants You To Worry About “Disease X”

25. Februar 2018 - 14:49

Every year, the World Health Organization commissions an expert committee identify the most threatening infectious diseases of the upcoming year. The idea is to prioritize research and development on diseases and pathogens that pose a major risk to global health, but lack effective treatments or vaccines.

The committee met early in February this year, and the prioritized list of diseases has been released. The list is made up of familiar threats, including Ebola, Zika, Lassa Fever and a respiratory illness in the Middle East known as MERS.

And then there’s “Disease X.” It is the last on the list, and most mysterious.

What is Disease X?

Disease X is quite literally a mystery disease. It’s a recognition that we can’t see everything coming. In 2018, it’s entirely possible that we’ll see a brand-new pathogen. Or, as with Zika, an old disease will suddenly demonstrate a new way to harm us.

Disease X is a placeholder for disaster we can’t imagine yet.

New diseases appear all the time. Deadly Nipah virus appeared in Malaysia in the late 90s; we have no prior evidence of the disease. Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome appeared in China in 2009, mostly likely carried by a tick from a wild animal reservoir. Heartland virus, another tick-borne pathogen with a wild animal reservoir, was first isolated in the US in 2009. Disease X could be one of these such diseases.

Will Disease X come from animals?

While there are a lot of possible sources for Disease X, one very likely reservoir of pathogens is the zoonotic disease. These are disease present in animals – wild or domestic – than can also be transmitted to humans. HIV was originally a zoonotic disease, which probably transmitted to humans for the first time when someone killed and ate a wild chimpanzee. HIV was present in chimpanzees long before it made the jump to humans – at some point the virus evolved to infect us well. Ebola virus disease is also a zoonosis; the most recent pandemic began when a one-year-old boy in Guinea was bitten by an Ebola-infected bat. Approximately 70% of new diseases are zoonotic.

One candidate for disease x could be Brucellosis. This is a bacterial infection that’s a lot like tuberculosis and is prevalent in an estimated 10% of farmed dairy cattle around the world. Humans are infected when they eat dairy products from infected animals.  Right now, it’s kept in check by testing of commercial dairy products and cattle vaccination, and it doesn’t spread among people. Raw milk consumption, and a minor bacterial mutation could change that.

Avian influenza is a similar case. It can already be transmitted by birds to humans, but it doesn’t spread human-to-human — not yet, at least. There are plenty of flu viruses that do spread person-to-person, though, so it is probably just a matter of time before avian influenza evolves to do it. Avian influenza and brucellosis, or other domestic livestock diseases, then, could be Disease X.

Disease X could also be a previously unknown pathogen from an animal reservoir. Human beings are pushing into the last wild spaces on the planet, and those wild places also contain new diseases. Farming the rainforest or developing the jungles of Madagascar means exposing humans to diseases we’ve never met before. In 1999, Nipah virus killed 109 people in Malaysia – infected fruit bats infected pigs which infected people – and we’d never even heard of the virus before 1998. Disease X could be an utter wild card like Nipah, a hemorrhagic virus or virulent airborne bacteria previously unknown to global health.

Burial teams of volunteers in Guinea, wearing full personal protective equipment and working in teams of seven, carry the body of a 40 year-old woman who died from Ebola virus from the MSF Treatment Center at Donka Hospital to the Conakry Cemetary for a safe burial. UN Photo/Martine Perret

Will Disease X come from people?

Humans have been using diseases as weapons since 1500 BC, when the Hittites sent people infected with plague into enemy territories. In recent history, both the US and the USSR experimented with bioweapons. One favorite among the Soviets was anthrax; an accidental release in 1979 killed 66 people. Anthrax can last for decades in storage and remain dangerous, and we don’t know how many former Soviet republics still possess poorly protected anthrax stockpiles.

Newer bioweapons are a threat, too. Just a year ago, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother was killed by a biological nerve agent called VX. In December, a North Korean defector was found to have anthrax antibodies in his immune system, indicating he had probably been vaccinated for anthrax. Security observers are reasonably certain that North Korea develops secret bioweapons on an ongoing basis.

Disease X could come from a deliberate attack. It could be an act of war from a state entity using bioweapons developed for the purpose, or a terrorist attack from a group who was able to purchase a bioweapon on the black market.

How do we prepare for Disease X?

Disease X thinking is big thinking.

First, it admits that even the best tools we current possess cannot forecast every problem. We had absolutely no idea that Zika could cause microcephaly in pregnancies until 2015, even though the disease was first identified in Uganda almost seventy years prior.

To fight a disease outbreak – any disease outbreak – you need health care providers who can treat the disease, laboratories to diagnose the disease, and supplies and equipment to support diagnostics and treatment. Those things together make up a health system. Strengthen the health system means better preparedness for Disease X, no matter what X may be.

That means we prepare for disease X by using systemic approaches that make us better at fighting every disease. If we improve the skills of laboratory technicians in developing countries, and equip those laboratories with better equipment, we increase our global ability to diagnose and treat all diseases. If vaccine manufacturers are able to rapidly change their production lines from one kind of vaccine to another, we’re more prepared to fight a new pandemic. New technology can also help – the faster and closer to an outbreak we can start lag diagnostics, the more rapidly we can develop treatments, cures, and vaccines.

The post The World Health Organization Wants You To Worry About “Disease X” appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Largest Ever Gathering of Americans at the UN is Happening Today

23. Februar 2018 - 14:01

Over 1,800 Americans are heading to the United Nations today as part of the “Global Engagement Summit” today. Those headed to UN headquarters in New York are members of various United Nations Associations’ around the country, including members from 42 states, and college students from 103 schools across the country.

The fact that so many are making the trip to New York today is a demonstration of Americans’ overall support of the UN.

That support is born out in recent polling data. A nationwide poll in October by a bi-partisan polling firm found that 88 percent of voters believe that that it is important for the United States to remain actively engaged with the United Nations. Millennials surveyed were even more strongly in favor of US engagement at the UN, with 92% agreeing that the US should maintain an active role at the United Nations.

These results seem to be reflected in the United Nations Association of the United States membership trends. “The poll’s findings among millennial voters are in line with what we’re experiencing with UNA-USA, where we’ve seen explosive growth among new members under the age of 25,” UNA-USA director Chris Whatley said in a statement when the poll was released.  The fact that so many collegiate chapters of the UNA-USA are making the trip to Turtle Bay is yet more evidence of this trend.

The Global Engagement Summit at the UN includes a number of panel discussions and keynote addresses, including from the UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammad, US Ambassador Kelley Eckels Currie, and the economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The meeting comes at an important time for US-UN relations. The Trump administration has is increasingly turned to the UN on its toughest foreign policy challenge: North Korea. Meanwhile, it is budget season in Washington, DC and American funding for the UN does seem to be under some threat. That so many Americans are willing to flock to the UN for a day of activism and learning suggests the UN has a solid base of support among grassroots activists around the country and policymakers in DC should take heed.

The full schedule of events is here  and you can follow along via UN Webcast. 

The post The Largest Ever Gathering of Americans at the UN is Happening Today appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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PODCAST: With the Devastation of Eastern Ghouta, The Syria Conflict Enters a New Phase

22. Februar 2018 - 15:31


The conflict in Syria has entered a new phase. ISIS has been defeated, yet in many ways the war is metastasizing.

In Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, the war is as brutal as ever. After days of extremely heavy bombing, the UN secretary general called Ghouta “hell on earth.” Meanwhile, in another part of Syria, in the northern town of Afrin, the US-backed Kurdish forces that were instrumental in defeating ISIS are now under attack by America’s NATO ally, Turkey. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, an Israeli fighter jet was downed over the country and the United States reportedly killed dozens of Russian mercenaries in a bombing.

On the line with me to help put what is happening in Syria in the broader context of the trajectory of this nearly seven year old conflict is Raed Jarrar who is the Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa for Amnesty International, USA.

We kick off discussing the situation in Ghouta which is setting off international alarm bells as an ongoing mass atrocity event. We then discuss some of the broader trends of the conflict and what advocacy organizations like Amnesty are doing to keep pressure on the international community to reduce the toll this conflict is taking on civilian populations.

Overall, this conversation serves as a helpful explanation of how the Syria conflict has evolved over the last several months and where it may be heading. If you have 20 minutes and want to learn the current state of the Syria civil war and why we are entering a new phase of it, have a listen.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post PODCAST: With the Devastation of Eastern Ghouta, The Syria Conflict Enters a New Phase appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english