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Archive for March 25th, 2013

The 2011 drought in Somalia broke people’s resilience with long term consequences

Posted by African Press International on March 25, 2013

The 2011 drought in Somalia broke people’s resilience with long term consequences

GENEVA, 18 March 2013 (IRIN) – There is quite a leap to be made between a country’s declared intent to draw up a drought policy and actually making it happen on the ground. This was the view of several participants at the recent High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy in Geneva.

Drought is the world’s costliest natural disaster, incurring US$6-8 billion in losses every year. And droughts are becoming more common.

Droughts are becoming more prevalent and are an almost a permanent phenomenon in parts of Africa, punctuated by floods, leaving no recovery periods for vulnerable households,” said Gideon Galu, a regional scientist based in Africa with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

Despite these facts, few countries have drought policies in place.

After five days of deliberations at the first-ever global conference on drought in Geneva, those in attendance issued a non-binding declaration urging countries to develop and implement national drought policies.

Niger’s Prime Minister Brigi Rafini told IRIN, “You have to respect countries’ sovereignty. You cannot compel them to implement policies, but at least the conference has created an awareness to move towards prevention [of the damaging impact of droughts], and delegates have learned about the value of cooperation [across sectors and agencies].”

10-step recommendation

The declaration was accompanied by a series of policy options for countries to consider. The policy document recommends a 10-step process roughly modelled on the US government’s drought preparedness plan. The steps are a mix of crisis prevention, making countries and communities more resilient, response and science:

– Appoint a national task force on drought
– Define the goals of a national risk-based drought policy
– Hold consultations with everyone, from communities to top policymakers, and resolve water-based conflicts between sectors
– Get data on the available and required resources to prevent and respond to drought and on which communities are most vulnerable
– Prepare the key elements of a drought policy: monitoring, early warning, prediction; risk and impact assessments; and mitigation and response measures
– Identify the research needs and gaps within institutions that deal with drought-related issues
– Integrate the science and policy aspects of drought management
– Publicize the policy and build awareness
– Develop educational programmes for all age groups and communities
– Evaluate and revise the policy

“You have to respect countries’ sovereignty. You cannot compel them to implement policies, but at least the conference has created an awareness”

The steps focus on taking an evidence-based approach to drought. For example, the impact assessments would help countries plan interventions, such as social protections and technical support – which might include providing drought-resilient seeds, better management of water and soil, or insurance.

“You need good information on droughts to be able to identify vulnerable areas and communities,” said Bruce Stewart, director of climate and water at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the main organizer of the conference.

Getting the essentials right

Yet there remains a significant gap between the policies advocated and the capacities of the most vulnerable countries.

Recent droughts in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and the US have had massive humanitarian consequences . Drought in the Sahel cut cereal production by 26 percent in 2012, compared with the previous year’s production, according to the UN. The situation remains critical – over 10 million people are still food insecure, and 1.4 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition.

But countries in the Sahel are struggling to get even their basic drought response mechanisms in order. Most are far from developing the sophisticated inter-sectoral approaches and scientifically based best practices advocated at the conference.

Birama Diarra, an official at Mali’s national meteorological service, said the country still has to improve its early warning system and its ability to disseminate information to those on the ground.

People in parts of Mauritania were surprised by the drought’s onset in 2011]. Mohamed Elighali Ould Khhtour, head of the country’s meteorological service, says their capacity to implement basic early warning systems and conduct assessments is limited. “We don’t have the resources to do that, and for that we need funds, support of donors and aid agencies,” he said.

Franz Uirab, chief of Namibia’s meteorological service, says his country has a disaster response plan in place, but it is far from ideal. “We have a drought at the moment in southern Namibia, but we are still rather reactive,” he said. “We will not go into the affected areas to conduct intense [vulnerability] assessments. We do quick surveys to plan our response when a disaster is [going] on. We just don’t have the capacity or the time to plan preventive measures.”

Delegates like Uirab, Khhtour and Diarra say their take-home message is that they have to focus on crisis prevention and drought response.

“We will need to align our plans according to the policy framework proposed at the conference, but, of course, modifying it to meet our requirements,” said Uirab.

WMO’s Stewart says the agency is trying to build capacity by holding workshops and offering online courses for climate scientists and meteorologists regularly. “But we are also constrained by capacity and limited funding,” he said.

Global partnerships are also playing a role. The Global Water Partnership is helping to set up an Integrated Drought Management Programme, which tries to integrate drought response and mitigation at all levels. The partnership’s Alex Simalabwi says there are existing programmes in several countries. “We hope to build on that,” he said.

Political will

Ultimately, implementing the meeting’s drought policy recommendations will require political will, noted WMO’s deputy secretary-general Jerry Lengoasa.

But political will may be in short supply, if the meeting’s attendance by policymakers is any indication.

Few senior aid officials or ministers attended the meeting’s High-Level Segment for dignitaries and ministers. Niger’s Brigi Rafini was the only head of state at the meeting.

William Lacy Swing, head of the International Organization for Migration, was one of a handful of agency heads to attend the High-Level Segment. He noted that drought is the second biggest driver of migration.

“You can see the kind of problems we are dealing with – drought is not as dramatic a disaster as floods or earthquakes are, so it does not attract that kind of attention,” said Sergio Zelaya Bonilla, a policy and advocacy coordinator for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “But anyone who is seriously interested in droughts was here [at the conference].”

And delegates expressed their commitment to promoting the meeting’s policy recommendations.

“We will convey everything we have heard, and we hope our governments will listen,” said Diarra.

jk/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Donor transparency milestones

Posted by African Press International on March 25, 2013

DAKAR,  – Aid watchdogs have been pushing for more transparent governance and information on financial flows, but just how much progress has been made over the past couple of years?The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), born out of the 2008 Accra aid effectiveness conference, and concretized at the Busan aid effectiveness conference in 2012, is one initiative pushing governments to be more open about where their aid money is going.

IATI is seen by many as the most concrete sign of donor progress on transparency to date. By signing up to IATI, donors agree to report timely details of their aid flows electronically in a common format that can be easily used by aid recipients, following years of discussion as to how to equalize the power dynamic of “givers” and “receivers” whereby the latter often had very little information about what aid was coming their way and when.

There is mounting evidence that giving citizens greater access to information and participation can improve lives. Better quality and more widely shared aid information enables better allocation of resources to reduce poverty and more informed decision-making by governments, among other benefits, notes Development Initiatives’ advocacy adviser Andrew Palmer.

For instance, following the publication of budget information on village walls in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, citizen audits exposed US$25 million in fraud and theft, one fifth of which has been recovered.

As of this week, 22 donors and 19 civil society organizations (disbursers of aid money) are publishing to the IATI standard; a further 14 organizations – both donors and civil society organizations – say they will do so by 2015, while 42 others have outlined schedules noting what they will do to implement it over coming years.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has been a leader in pushing aid transparency, in December 2012 outlining six goals to improve accountability which were widely welcomed by aid watchdogs.

Post-MDG goal on information targets:
1. Right to information enshrined in legislation
2. Detailed information on entitlements and government services available online
3. Government budget and expenditure data publicly available online to common open standard including transaction level data, geo-coded where possible
4. Private sector disclosure of tax and royalty payments
5. Investment in statistical capacity
6. Universal access to mobile phone and broadband coverage

Publish What You Fund (PWYF) recently assessed donor commitment to IATI. Donors can choose to publish data in just the basic fields – for instance who they are, the recipient, type of aid given, or can go much further: noting whether aid is tied or untied, giving the results of the project to give a sense of the impact of the aid money.

Overall, most donors should be commended for their progress, said PWYF spokesperson Nicole Valentinuzzi, but this is just the first step. Only once they are reporting in all fields, can money be traced through the system, including on project evaluations and reports from recipients on whom they gave the money to, and when.

“There’s a lot of big picture right now. Only once we have more of the reporting fields sorted out, can we trace the money through the system,” Valentinuzzi told IRIN.

As IATI and other aid monitoring systems gain traction, much of the information that is still used to inform decision-making in the aid sector remains out of date.

According to Development Initiatives’ advocacy adviser Andrew Harper, to give but one example: on average data from developing countries on the prevalence of extreme poverty is nearly five years old; data on hunger is four years old, and data on education and HIV/AIDS at least three years old, he notes.

South-South aid

Many of the emerging donors (Brazil, China, South Africa and others) are not yet participating in the transparency debate, as they see themselves more as South -South cooperators rather than donors, says Valentinuzzi. “But they remain very much in our sights, as do non-traditional aid flows such as climate finance,” she said.

A 2011 PWYF report found that the Chinese government publishes less data about its overseas aid spending than Western donors, “but more than is commonly thought”, concluding that information provision is evolving quickly in China.

Development Initiatives will soon look into whether the IATI standard can capture data on south-south cooperation, using Colombia as an entry point.

Impact

IATI is in its early days but its impact is already being felt.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where half of the government budget is made up of aid, the planning, finance and budget ministers each received different sets of incomplete information on donor flows. They are now using IATI to combine the information they receive so they are working to the same picture, according to research by Development Initiatives.

Likewise in Rwanda, where aid made up 20 percent of gross national income in 2009, the government is using IATI to feed more consistent, accurate information into their donor database to help their planning.

Who else is pushing for greater aid transparency?
The Open Knowledge Foundation pushes for more open government information.
The Open Government Partnership, founded in 2011 and now with 57 government and civil society members, pushes for more open governance to fight corruption and boost accountability.
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative tries to monitor financial flows of extracted resources.

The information is also useful for watchdogs. “A beneficiary won’t sit and analyse this data in a tent. But it is part of the equation, and it helps other watchdogs to scrutinize the data,” said Jean Verheyden of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Open data standards are really important to make our data comparable to others. This makes us more transparent and hopefully our data will improve as a result of more scrutiny,” said Julie Thompson, manager of the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), managed OCHA, which tracks all international humanitarian commitments and started to do so in 1992.

FTS is now publishing all data, including OCHA data, to IATI standards. OCHA joined other UN agencies (UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, UN-HABITAT, UNOPs, and WFP) as a signatory to IATI in late 2012.

Next steps

As the deadline for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals approach, development leaders are discussing what will come next. Development Initiatives has made the case for a standalone goal to increase access to, and use of, information to accelerate sustainable development.

More open information would support the governance and development outcomes of other post-2015 goals, and would make access to information a goal in its own right.

“There is broad consensus that governance, transparency, participation and empowerment should be core components of the post-2015 narrative… but we need a practical way to measure these components,” said Development Initiatives. “The key question is how to do this.”

aj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

Publish What You Fund’s assessment of donor commitments to IATI
Ambitious Asian Development Bank
Denmark
Netherlands
UNDP
World Bank
Belgium EuropeAid Norway UK-DFID Canada
Inter-American Development Bank Sweden
UNOPS
Moderately ambitious African Development Bank
Hewlett Foundation
New Zealand
World Food Programme
Czech Republic
IFAD
Spain
Finland
Ireland
UNICEF
Unambitious Australia
Switzerland
United States
Germany UNFPA Slovak Republic UK-CDC
Under consideration France
(AFD & MAE)
Italy Japan
Incomplete Luxembourg Poland
No publication (of current, comparable data) Austria(ADA & BMeiA) Portugal Greece
Slovenia



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Palestinian state on hold

Posted by African Press International on March 25, 2013

“After 20 years of support from donor countries like Norway, Palestinian institutions are now strong enough to serve as a basis for an independent Palestinian state. At today’s meeting, the donors agreed to increase their contributions. But without a credible political process towards a two-state solution, it will become increasingly difficult for theAd Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) to continue as before,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

Mr Eide chaired the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) for assistance to the Palestinians in Brussels today. The meeting was hosted by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. The Palestinian delegation was led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Two years after the donors concluded that the Palestinians have the necessary institutions in place to form a Palestinian state, the situation is serious. Financial problems in Palestine are threatening to undermine Palestinian government institutions and the peace process is at a standstill.

“The meeting demonstrated that the international community remains united on the issue of the development of a Palestinian state. There was broad agreement on the political assessments and understanding of the challenges ahead. Overall budget support for this year will increase substantially, and it looks as if the contributions will be sufficient to cover the budget deficit of USD 1.2 billion. This is a significant improvement on 2012,” Mr Eide said.

At the same time the donors agreed that aid cannot solve the economic problems Palestine is experiencing. The financial crisis is the result of a combination of the effects of the occupation, irregular transfers from Israel of Palestinian customs and tax revenues and weaker growth in the Palestinian economy.

“The donors have indicated that they will provide support to cover this year’s budget deficit, but sustainable growth in the economy will only be possible if Israel lifts the restrictions it has imposed on Palestinian exports and on the freedom of movement of Palestinians. The Israeli occupation is weakening the framework conditions for the private sector and its competitiveness,” said Mr Eide.

“The Palestinians for their part must continue efforts to build an open, modern and effective state,” Mr Eide said.

“Efforts to solve Palestine’s acute economic problems are essential, but will only be meaningful within the framework of a negotiated two-state solution. The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has contributed to the development of effective Palestinian institutions, but we will have to seriously consider whether we can continue our efforts if the parties fail to take steps to promote political progress towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” Mr Eide said.

End

source mfa.norway

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