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Archive for May 28th, 2013

Thousands of international leaders and advocates call for investments in women’s health and rights at Women Deliver 2013.

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga, Kenya
Today, more than 3,000 world leaders, policymakers and advocates representing over 150 countries  convened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for Women Deliver 2013, the decade’s largest meeting focused on girls’ and women’s health and rights.
The conference will  feature more than 100 sessions with talks by some of the world’s leading voices on girls’ and women’s issues, including Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Chelsea Clinton, Board Member of the Clinton Foundation; Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Foundation (UNFPA); and Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
 
Malaysian Prime Minister Honorable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak led the opening ceremony on the first day of the meeting.
The Women Deliver 2013 conference will focus on themes including:
·         the economic and social benefits of investing in girls and women;
·         how to achieve the goal of reaching 120 million more women with voluntary family planning services by 2020; and
·         the need to place girls and women at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.
During the meeting, organizations such as the World Bank, the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization will release major new research and reports focused on the benefits of investing in girls and women.
“Women Deliver 2010 was critical in showing that investing in girls and women is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for the economy and good for society,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who gave opening remarks at Women Deliver 2010 and later that year launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. “Women Deliver 2013 will be an opportunity to keep up the pressure and to affirm our plans for the period ahead.”
Women Deliver 2013 takes place at a critical time, just days before the Secretary-General will receive recommendations for the post-2015 development framework. Conference speakers and attendees will call for action to ensure that girls and women are prioritized in the lead-up to the 2015 Millennium Development Goal deadline and beyond.
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Libya now helping the Syrians with refuge

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2013

MISRATA,  – Two years ago Syrians in the relative security of their own country watched the unfolding crisis in Libya descend into a devastating civil war. 

Since then the tables have turned, and many of those same families find themselves in Libya after fleeing the Syrian conflict, which has left an estimated 6.8 million people (around a third of the population) in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.Most of the Syrian community in Libya, estimated at around 110,000 by government officials, are believed to have arrived over the past 18 months after having fled the Syrian conflict.

Shavan, a Syrian ethnic Kurd, arrived in Libya in January. “Alone, I left Syria at the end of 2011 leaving my wife and my daughter. I was looking for a place to live far away from the hell of conflict,” Shevan said.

After what he says was a difficult year in Lebanon, where he struggled to pay his living costs, he went back into Syria to pick up his family and then left for Libya.

The flow of Syrians to Libya, while far lower than the numbers seen arriving in Syria’s neighbours, started almost as soon as the Libyan revolution ended in October 2011.

Some come by air from Lebanon or Turkey, but most have arrived by road, heading through Jordan and then across the Sinai to the Libyan-Egyptian border town of El Salloum (in Egypt).

In the initial stages, Syrians with a passport could enter without a visa, but the rules have been tightened since the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi in September 2012, after which only families, not single men, were allowed in.

Visa-less travel

From January this year, the coastal border crossing from El-Salloum to Musaid (Libya) has been closed to all non-Libyans without a visa, according to information from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Alongside this measure, the Libyan minister of interior invited his “Syrian brothers” who had previously entered the country without a visa, to register at any passport office to get a government letter confirming their asylum seeker status.

But it is still possible to get across the border without a visa. One Syrian who had recently entered Libya near El Salloum, and asked not to be named, told IRIN: “Smugglers charge US$500 to take Syrians across the border to Libya. I also saw some Syrian women who were using sex work to pay for their transit.”

“Suspicions about Syrian secret service infiltrations led the majority away from the operational centres managed by Syrian charities” Emmanuel Gignac, UNHCR Libya

Local NGOs in Libya run by Syrians were the first to provide relief, but many Syrian refugees have been reluctant to receive such aid.

“Suspicions about Syrian secret service infiltrations led the majority away from the operational centres managed by Syrian charities,” the head of the UNHCR in Libya, Emmanuel Gignac, told IRIN.

UNHCR registration

After an initial delay, UNHCR started formally registering Syrian asylum seekers and refugees in September 2012.

By the end of April 2013, around 8,000 Syrians were registered with UNHCR as asylum seekers, though because of UNHCR’s lack of a formal legal agreement with the government, the asylum seekers cannot advance to the agency’s refugee status determination (RSD) process.

The majority of Syrian asylum seekers in Libya are in the second city, Benghazi, due to its proximity to the Egyptian border.

Large Syrian communities are also in Tripoli, mainly in the Suq Al Jumua, Janzoor and Hasham areas, while ethnic Kurdish Syrians in the capital have established a base on the outskirts in Ben Ghashir.

Syrian charities provide support and some aid. “You can ask their help to register your kids in the local schools or to get medical assistance,” Bilal*, originally from the Syrian town of Hama, told IRIN.

The delivery of items such as blankets, mattresses and kitchen cooking sets is carried out regularly by Syrian organizations along with the Libyan organization Al Wafa and international agencies like UNHCR, the Danish Refugee Council and the Italian NGO CESVI.

Visiting UNHCR teams also assist the Syrians in Tripoli and Benghazi. The agency has opened a Centre for Community Development for vulnerable cases, and set up a hotline for Syrian asylum seekers.

The call centre receives around 40 phone calls a day – often appeals for medical or cash assistance, according to UNHCR associate RSD officer Valda Kelly.

The presence of Syrians in Benghazi has created some tension, and recently the city’s commission in charge of regulating foreign labour, immigrants and refugees called on the national government and congress to reduce the number of people coming into the country to avoid security, economic, political and social risks.

Why Libya?

Despite the distance from their home country, many Syrians cited a lower cost of living and greater job opportunities as the reason for travelling to Libya, rather than the more common Syrian refugee hubs like Jordan and Lebanon. Some also had spent time in Libya before the Arab Spring, when most foreign nationals were evacuated.

But living costs remain a challenge for many in the Syrian community: “I pay 600 dinars (US$465) a month for an apartment and I barely earn 900,” Ali who had fled from Duma, on the outskirts of Damascus, told IRIN. 

The poverty of many has given rise to practices seen elsewhere in the region: “Syrian women have been offering themselves as brides to the Libyans because they have no alternative for their survival,” said Mohamed, a Syrian refugee living in the coastal town of Misrata.

Other Syrians in Misrata confirmed this was happening. “In Benghazi Syrian girls are called `sheep’ for their low price. Even regular men already with one wife can afford a new young wife,” another Syrian told IRIN.

Shiite fears

Many Syrians told IRIN the Libyans had been welcoming. Ahmad, a Libyan civil engineer working for an Italian company in Misrata, told IRIN: “They are our brothers as they still suffer what we have experienced. They have every right to remain in Misrata.”

Local officials in Misrata told IRIN there are about 5,000 Syrian refugees in the town.

Misrata, known as a base for anti-Gaddafi militia activity, is awash with Gaddafi-era weapons, and locals say a blind eye is turned to Syrians buying the weapons for export.

Some local reports in Libya say former revolutionary fighters in Libya, particularly from Benghazi and Misrata, have been travelling in the opposite direction to join the anti-government forces in Syria.

Not everyone is welcoming though. “Because of my Kurdish name, I was threatened often at ordinary checkpoints because Libyans thought I was not a Sunni Syrian but a Shiite,” said Shavan.

Syria’s now two-year conflict began when people, largely of the Sunni majority, began protesting on masse against President Bashar al-Assad, of the minority Alawite sect (Shia), and has become increasingly sectarian as the violence has increased.

*not a real name

np/jj/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Breakthrough in Colombian peace negotiations

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2013

In Havana today the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC-EP announced the most important breakthrough in the peace negotiations since formal talks were launched in Oslo last year.

 

The Colombian Government and FARC-EP have reached agreement on improving access to land for Colombia’s many poor, small-scale farmers. Agricultural reform is one of FARC-EP’s key demands.

 

“The breakthrough is a milestone in the negotiations and reveals a genuine willingness to find a peaceful solution to Latin America’s longest armed conflict,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

 

Together with Cuba, Norway has acted as a facilitator of the peace negotiations, which aim to bring an end to over 50 years of internal conflict in Colombia. Since November 2012 the parties have conducted the negotiations in Havana.

 

“The conflict in Colombia has had severe humanitarian consequences for the civilian population. We are now one step closer to a solution. Norway will continue to support the negotiations for as long as this is the expressed desire of the parties,” Mr Eide said.

 

The parties will now discuss rights and guarantees for opposition groups in Colombia – a key issue that needs to be resolved if FARC-EP is to lay down its weapons in favour of participation in the political process. Other issues that need to be addressed include a ceasefire, disarmament, how to combat the drugs problem and compensation for the victims of the conflict.

 

Over four million people have been internally displaced as a result of the conflict. Tens of thousands have been killed, and there are a large number of landmines that continue to pose a threat to the civilian population.

 

Norway has been involved in peace and reconciliation efforts in Colombia for several decades. This work has consisted, among other things, of efforts to promote dialogue between different governments and guerrilla groups in Colombia.

 

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