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Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

Robin Wanjiru Njenga, a Kenyan undegraduate student excels in Germany – embarks on masters studies

Posted by African Press International on October 26, 2013

Robin Wanjiru Njenga of class 2013 in Jacobs university in  Bremen Germany, whose father is a prominent lawyer in Kenya Mr Njenga Mwangi delivered an excellent valedictorian speech during her graduation. Ms Njenga has now joined the university of Heidelberg where she is taking her masters.

Watching her speak, one can see in her leadership qualities.



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“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Posted by African Press International on October 21, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON,  – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

eb/cb source

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Norway condemns bomb attacks in Iraq

Posted by African Press International on October 19, 2013

Norway condemns the bomb attacks in Iraq over the past few days, which appear to have killed more than 60 people. I am concerned by the recent surge in violence in Iraq. The situation in the rest of the region is serious, but we must not forget the tensions in Iraq,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.                                                                          

Over the course of the past few days alone, some 11 car bomb attacks have killed at least 60 people in several cities in Iraq, including Baghdad and cities in northern Iraq. No particular groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, but there are deep divisions between the various political and religious groups in the country.

According to UN estimates, more than 6 000 people have been killed as a result of armed violence in Iraq over the past six months, and close to 15 000 have been injured. The security situation in Iraq has deteriorated steadily since the beginning of the year, and the level of violence is now at its highest since 2008.

“I am concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and about the civilian population, who are affected by the increasing violence. Norway supports the UN’s appeals for an end to the violence,” Mr Brende said.


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Norway welcomes UN Security Council agreement on Syria

Posted by African Press International on October 3, 2013

“I am very pleased that the UN Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have finally managed to reach agreement on a robust resolution about the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” said Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide. The resolution that was adopted by the UN Security Council today determines that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

For the past week there has been intense diplomatic activity in the UN to reach agreement on a joint resolution in the UN Security Council on Syria’s chemical weapons. The resolution requests the UN Secretary-General to report to the UN Security Council on a regular basis, and gives the OPCW a particular responsibility for ensuring that the Syrian chemical weapons are removed and destroyed.

In advance of the Security Council’s decision, the OPCW Executive, of which Norway is a member, agreed on a plan for Syria’s chemical weapons. Syria is required to destroy these weapons within nine months.

“I hope these decisions by the OPCW and the Security Council will pave the way for practical steps to eliminate Syria’s stocks of chemical weapons as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Foreign Minister Eide said. Norway is considering how we can contribute to this work.

For some time now Norway has been calling for a robust, binding resolution in the Security Council on the conflict in Syria.

“This is a diplomatic breakthrough which I hope will be the first step in a political process that in time can help create peace and bring to an end the terrible suffering in Syria. The civil war in Syria can only be solved by political means, not military action,” said Mr Eide.




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Sierra Leone’s civil war famously left tens of thousands maime

Posted by African Press International on September 4, 2013

lead photo

FREETOWN, – Sierra Leone‘s civil war famously left tens of thousands maimed, including many whose limbs were amputated. But while war victims received some help, those with other disabilities struggle to survive.

Disabled Sierra Leoneans face difficulty obtaining adequate healthcare, education and jobs, which are already hard to come by in the country.

While there are no data available, polio survivors are believed to account for a significant proportion of Sierra Leone’s disabled. Many came to Freetown during or after the war, in search of safety, shelter and employment. Few now have jobs, and most resort to begging. Many have trouble finding a place to sleep.

At a government-owned building in downtown Freetown, more than 200 polio survivors live with their families in small spaces divided by cardboard walls. The building is overcrowded, with just a few toilets and a small washing area, and with families growing, it will soon become untenable.

The community is run by the Handicapped Youth Development Organisation (HYDO), a group whose members are disabled.

HYDO plans to develop a plot of land it bought in Waterloo on the outskirts of Freetown for disabled people to work, farm and live. But with few means of income, the community faces an uphill battle.

ft/ob/rz source

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Criminal groups have benefited from globalization – Embedding crime experts into UN field operations?

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Nigerian police in the UN mission to Haiti assist in quelling a student protest in Port au Prince in 2009


  • Criminal groups have benefited from globalization
  • Overlap of UN peace operations and crime-affected regions
  • Organized crime can corrupt governments
  • Difficult for UNPOL to recruit effective crime-fighters

NEW YORK,  – The globalization of organized crime poses a growing threat to fragile states that lack the ability to resist it, putting pressure on the UN to find solutions.

A recently-released report entitled The Elephant in the Room, part of the New York-based International Peace Institute’s Peace Without Crime series, argues that “crime has become a serious threat in almost every theater where the UN has peace operations.” The authors of the report (Walter Kemp, Mark Shaw and Arthur Boutellis) argue that organized crime is eroding the UN’s attempts to bring about peace and stability in the many countries in which it has missions and yet these missions contain very few references to crime.

Criminal groups are one of the biggest beneficiaries of globalization, says Kemp, director for Europe and Central Asia at the IPI. “Over the last 20 years organized crime has gone global. It has reached macro-economic proportions.” Globalization has seen the growth in traffic around the world of just about everything – including contraband, says Kemp. Whereas organized crime was once regarded as a problem pertaining to the developed world, and confined mostly to cities, it has in the last few years rapidly spread its tentacles across the globe, finding new routes and penetrating vulnerable West African states like Guinea Bissau and Mali. “Much of the instability in West Africa is due to the impact of drug-trafficking from Latin America to Europe,” argue the authors.

As contraband is trafficked from one corner of the globe to the other, often moving through several transit countries, national – and even regional – crackdowns may simply shift the problem onto adjacent, potentially more vulnerable countries. Yet should the UN’s peacekeeping forces be tasked with fighting organized crime?

The authors concede that other parts of the UN may be better suited to dealing with the challenge but argue that given that “organized crime is threatening the stability, development and justice that peacekeepers are trying to establish,” peacekeeping forces cannot turn a blind eye.

While organized crime and peace operations “had almost nothing to do with each other” 50 years ago, “at the beginning of the 21st century the trajectories have converged,” they say. As peacekeeping has seen a greater integration between civilian and military aspects, and is as much about building up institutions and states as restoring the rule of law, organized crime has evolved too, “from a localized problem into a pervasive, strategic threat to governments, societies and economies”.

The authors show an overlap of UN peace operations and major crime-affected regions – Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Iraq, Kosovo and Timor-Leste to name a few – and conclude this is because “conflict affected and fragile regions – precisely the places where the UN is most needed – are especially vulnerable to transnational organized crime and provide favorable conditions for its development.”

In the first report in the series, Identifying the Spoilers, they spell out how peacekeepers and other players can identify signs of organized crime in the countries in which they operate. Elephant in the Room, the second report, shows how organized crime has had a destabilizing impact on the political economy of three nations – Guinea-Bissau, Haiti and Kosovo – and finds a “mismatch between the seriousness of the threat posed by organized crime and the UN’s ability to tackle it”.

They argue the limitations of a purely militarist approach – as when the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) countered the gang violence in Haiti. Despite their successes, they have not been able to halt the organized crime networks that still operate in and beyond Haiti’s borders. The third report, due out soon, looks at what the UN and international players can do at a systemic level to address the problem. Up to now, say the authors, “there is not much enthusiasm for the UN to tackle organized crime.”

Crime-and-instability nexus

Crucial to their argument is the notion that there is a “nexus between crime and instability” and that when transnational organized crime funds the activities and thus furthers the political aims of insurgents or rebels or corrupts governments at the highest level, the fall-out can be huge. This occurred in Guinea Bissau, for example, when the president, João Bernardo Vieira, was assassinated in 2009 in alleged drug-related rivalry between political and military officials.

“Good police work is of little use when the courts do not convict or where prisoners are released, and building capacity among corrupt officials can have unintended consequences.”

While the quantities of cocaine being trafficked through Guinea-Bissau are relatively small (an estimated 25 tons per year), at around 25 percent of the country’s GNP this is still high enough to corrupt high-level officials and undermine the tiny economy. Other contraband passing through other West African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, DRC, and Cote d’Ivoire – and possibility posing a bigger problem in future – include fuel, timber, people, minerals, diamonds and ivory.

Terrorism versus crime

Shaw, director of Communities, Crime and Conflicts at STATT Consulting, says the focus on the threat posed by terrorism over the past decade has overshadowed the growth of crime networks. “The attention has been on the war in Iran and Afghanistan,” he says. Even the problem of opium-trafficking in the latter country has been viewed through the prism of the war. But the alarming nexus of organized crime, insurgency and terrorism in Mali has alerted the world to the fact that organized crime can step into the political vacuum in societies in upheaval.

Libya, warns Shaw, may become a haven for organized crime. “There are lots of unemployed young men, established militia and weapons, and the country is at the crossroads of a number of trafficking routes,” he says.

Crime-instability link overstated?

Ted Leggett, a research officer with the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, acknowledges a frequent overlap between organized crime and political instability but believes the connection can be overstated at times. It is important, he says, to make the distinction between the problem of local strongmen and the problem of transnational trafficking. Insurgents or rebels may profit from transnational trafficking – for example the Taliban’s taxing of opium production and trafficking in Afghanistan (earning them US$125 million annually), or militias’ involvement in trafficking minerals in DRC, to advance their wars – but they rarely take charge of the trafficking themselves. “Rather, they provide protection to transnational traffickers, specialists who pay them to operate in the areas that they control. It’s like the relationship between a state and the corporations headquartered within it. The US government does not export Ford autos, but it does tax Ford,” he says.

On the Elephant in the Room’s broader argument, Leggett says: “The idea that peacekeeping missions should help the host states build their capacity to deal with transnational organized crime is a good one but any such intervention would face serious challenges.” It is difficult, he says, for UN Police to recruit the kind of specialized staff required. “Most police peacekeepers are patrol officers from other developing countries” with limited skills and resources. Often, they can’t speak the local language. Given that “dealing with transnational organized crime requires a sophisticated understanding of the local context”, this is highly problematic. Another problem, says Leggett, and as the authors of the report note, is that the security forces are themselves often implicated in trafficking.

He adds: “Good police work is of little use when the courts do not convict or where prisoners are released, and building capacity among corrupt officials can have unintended consequences.”

Embedding crime experts into UN field operations?

The IPI report authors conclude with recommendations on how peace operations can tackle organized crime more effectively. As Shaw notes, “the complexities of illicit trafficking require much more than a law enforcement response.” Pooling information and utilizing regional offices, for example the UN Office for West Africa in Dakar, is key, as is embedding crime experts into UN field operations. Peacekeepers are well-placed to collect information, which must be managed and analysed at a higher level. They may baulk at the notion of intelligence gathering, “(but) as the UN increasingly becomes a target for terrorist attacks, and as UN operations become more exposed to complex situations involving armed groups and criminal networks, there is a growing realization and acceptance that peace operations need to have access to intelligence,” they say.

The development approach

Meanwhile, some argue that the best way vulnerable states – particularly those in conflict and post-conflict situations – can be protected from transnational organized crime is by taking a development approach: in other words, strengthening their economic, civic and government structures.

Graeme Simpson, director of Interpeace USA, which seeks to build social and political cohesion in post-conflict societies, argues that neither law enforcement approaches, nor the peacekeepers, can effectively combat transnational organized crime. “These approaches are addressing the symptoms but not the underlying deficiencies that make countries vulnerable to organized crime,” he says. “Drug cartels and drug-based economies are vibrant and they hold and employ huge numbers of people. Unless we create alternative sustainable economies and legitimate polities in these communities we won’t be able to offer alternative and viable ways for people to survive,” he adds.

pg/cb  source


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United Nations 2013

Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2013

Less bureaucracy, more innovation


  • Calls for UN to be more anticipatory, strategic, innovative
  • Test public-private partnerships
  • Less bureaucracy, more leadership
  • Risk-taking should extend to UN security policies

DAKAR, 31 July 2013 (IRIN) – The UN and other aid agencies face ever-increasing levels of humanitarian need: the number of recorded disasters has doubled in the past two decades, according to the UN, while the needs-response gap remains stubbornly steady in the context of a shifting humanitarian landscape – with the dominance of UN agencies and the largest 10 international NGOs gradually being eroded as power shifts to the east and south.

Against this backdrop loom a number of risks that could drive the disasters of the future and for which many humanitarians are unprepared: new disease outbreaks, growing water scarcity, crises hitting mega-cities, cyber-crime, biological and chemical weapons. IRIN asked analysts and UN staff what broad changes in approach, structure and attitude UN agencies need to make to become fit to better tackle our humanitarian future.

Over the past decade the UN has made significant reforms to improve its humanitarian response, many of them positive: protection of civilians is now more central to UN operations; internally displaced people are no longer overlooked; several agencies, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), are reaching out to a more diverse set of humanitarian partners; and accountability to beneficiaries is increasingly a focus (linked to the real-time scrutiny made possible by social media.)

Norms and guidelines have been strengthened. UN agencies and NGOs have improved their work in every phase of the programme cycle, says Paul Knox-Clarke, head of research and communications at learning network ALNAP, from early warning to needs assessment, from programme implementation to evaluations.

“Many of the traditional challenges – that assessments are not coordinated, that methodologies don’t match up – are being addressed,” he told IRIN.

Humanitarian response is increasingly driven by evidence rather than anecdote, which marks a “profound shift”, says Peter Walker, head of Tufts University’s International Feinstein Center, “akin to the change in how health care was delivered in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Emergency Relief coordinators and humanitarian coordinators now garner more respect (or at least agency heads turn up to their meetings); there is more transparency across the funding spectrum – 160 agencies and donors have signed up to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), and clusters and pooled funds have improved how the UN organizes itself and coordinates in some response settings.

But change in the UN’s humanitarian sector has too often been incremental, amounting to add-on individual initiatives, rather than involving major structural change and an overhaul of approach, processes and attitudes, say critics. A number of evaluations have pushed for the UN to be more anticipatory, more strategic, more innovative, and to harness the power of the UN’s many branches to anticipate and prepare for future crises.

Individual initiatives are tackling aspects of this – for instance OCHA’s “transformative agenda” draws on learning from the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods to try to improve accountability, strategic planning, coordination and leadership. But the revolutionary changes that are needed, are not happening, say analysts.

As Randolph Kent, long-term humanitarian leader with the UN and now head of King’s College Humanitarian Futures Programme (HFP), put it: “What company in the world, that is surviving, has not had a fundamental change in its business model or operating procedure for 60 years?”

Analysts and staff made the following recommendations:

Open up club membership

The most powerful actors in the humanitarian sector are still Western in orientation and assumption, say critics, which has created a “two-tier system” of those who are in and out of the club. The UN risks forgetting about the contributions of the informal humanitarian community – grassroots groups, civil society groups, the Diaspora, host communities, said Ed Schenkenberg van Meirop, head of humanitarian think-tank DARA. “Many still think everything happens in the humanitarian country team,” he said.

Some agencies are making valiant attempts to reach out to other actors without realizing that the rules of the club may need to change. “The traditional humanitarian community tries to turn itself into an exclusive club and now it is reaching out to “non”-traditional members to ask if they want to join. We shouldn’t be surprised when countries turn around and say No,” said van Meirop, referring to Turkey which decided to act outside the cluster system, in Somalia. New actors, like China and Qatar, may not agree on the club rules, stressed Antonio Donini, a senior researcher at the Feinstein Center, who worked with the UN for 26 years.

“There’s a need to open up these rules or re-discuss them… [using] an openness that so far we have not seen,” said Walker. It requires traditional actors: UN agencies and the nine or so largest international NGOs – to “let go”, he said. “The recent trajectory has been to concentrate, not disperse, power. This will challenge the way business has been done for the past 30 years.”

Likewise on humanitarian principles – do not water them down, says Cyprien Fabre, head of European Union aid body ECHO in West Africa, (they already have been), but try to understand different perspectives – some NGOs prioritize justice over impartiality – and come to a mutual understanding.

What can you do for me?

Re-jigging the power imbalances that are so integral to the humanitarian system must also feature in a transformed relationship between humanitarian “givers” and “takers”, says Kent. “We’ve moved away from the sense of the hapless victim, but we are still a system that inherently promotes a sense of inequality… We need something more interactive… something more along the lines of: I can offer you this, and you can offer me that.” For instance, in Ghana excellent work is under way about climate change adaptation – someone should be questioning how to apply that expertise in the UK, or India. “That is a more interesting perspective,” he said.

Humanitarians of the future need to test public-private partnerships and business models, and give the space for innovation and embrace the risk that this entails. “A government may not want another international NGO in its country, but it might like having a private sector company that may have an enduring interest in the country. Might Johnson & Johnson, for example, be as or even more effective in promoting health than an NGO,” queried Kent. “Do we understand how business can promote sustainability and resilience? Can OCHA set up a platform in collaboration with the World Economic Forum to demonstrate how innovations and innovative practices coming from the private sector and other non-traditional actors can strengthen crisis prevention, preparedness, response and post-crisis recovery?”

UN agencies need to “support people to take risks and put money behind good ideas,” said OCHA humanitarian affairs officer Andy Thow. “Most good ideas come from national or regional staff, not from headquarters,” he said.

Some agencies, such as the World Food Programme, are engaging in these debates; systematically addressing how markets can deliver food, and how they can help them to, through cash or other approaches. “This challenges the notion of humanitarians as food or health deliverers. It’s very interesting and we’re just at the beginning of this debate,” said Walker.

Advocate, anticipate and lead

Over recent years, many analysts have stressed the need for the UN to concentrate on improving leadership, advocacy and strategy in humanitarian crises. “UN agencies must tackle these issues over the next 10 years if they are to improve the quality of responses globally”, said Sara Pantuliano, head of the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

If UN agencies come together to collectively set standards, monitor the quality of response, disseminate lessons learned, and improve and monitor progress on disaster risk reduction, early warning and preparedness, “now that would be remarkable,” said one interviewee. This would involve visionary thinking but also lightening up daily administrative processes (tasks like hiring staff or procuring equipment require endless steps and form-filling) and opening space for longer-term planning. A 2011 HFP study of six UN country teams, judged the majority of agency leader’s staff time was spent on short-term planning tasks.

Opinions differ on whether implementing operations weakens UN agencies’ capacity to advocate on complex issues of humanitarian principle – like access in Syria. It depends on the context, says von Meirop: in a Syria-type context where the government is a party to conflict, strong, punchy advocacy might have more ultimate impact if not trying also to implement. “Let’s not be naive, the political agenda dominates everything… In a context like this, accountability goes way beyond communicating with disaster affected populations. It is about involvement and participation and choice. Take those Syrian refugees who are forced – by host governments – to live in camps, which are often criminalized and dangerous – rather than settling with families.

“Accountability is working out the best way to protect them and help them to retain their dignity.”

Better leadership on all of these fronts might involve a move towards genuine coherence. “We’ve broken up the needs of human beings into different agencies, many of which have different accountability frameworks – it doesn’t make sense,” said a UN staff member. Bringing agencies together under fewer roofs would solve a lot of problems around institutional turf and mandates. However, such an ambitious project would have to be Member State driven, and “Member States don’t want this – they like having a say over their individual UN agency.”

Pitching for multi-sectoral funding ought to be more manageable, though cluster-led coordination has pushed for more demarcation. Funding reform is way overdue, said the staff member. “We haven’t adapted the CAP [Consolidated Appeals Process] in 10 years… People should have figured it out by now.”

Security crossroads?

Innovation and risk-taking should extend to UN security protocols and policies, said several interviewees, arguing that in complex emergencies such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, the UN’s role has shrunk because of risk averse policies that severely limit the UN’s access to communities in need. If the UN does not figure out more flexible ways to work and stay in complex emergencies, “it could become irrelevant in politicized crises,” warned Pantuliano. Another critic summed it up: “It’s just MSF and the ICRC who are out there.”

Focus more on anticipating future disasters, say analysts

Allegra Baiocchi, head of OCHA in West Africa, told IRIN: “We need to be able to be nimble, flexible, rapid,” when it comes to security decisions… “We need better intelligence of risks that are connected to operations rather than siloed in separate departments. Security incidents set back operations by months, even years. I think we are at a security crossroads – we need to work on our acceptance but also improve our security management systems.”

Syria is a “watershed moment” said von Meirop. “It should be the catalyst for finding the way to be more effective in situations of armed conflict. And that includes the coordination role of the UN.”

Catch up on accountability

In line with inhabiting its leadership role, the UN should find ways to navigate, verify and authenticate the mass of information that emerges from crowd-sourcing and social media, so that communities, authorities and aid agencies, can use it better. In 10 years’ time agencies will have to have realized that information is a right in crises – something as important as food or shelter, says Walker. And “this speaks to OCHA’s very mandate and mission,” he said.

What won’t we do?

Over the next decade UN and other humanitarian agencies need to more clearly define what they will and will not do. “That conversation about what we are here to do, about what the system is, who is in it and what their roles are, needs to be had,” he said. “If you see it as a universal fire service that will respond to each disaster and save all lives possible, and then add to that prevention, early recovery, and resilience, then that is very ambitious and a lot more capacity is needed.” But if the role is just stepping in when the state cannot or will not respond, it may be more manageable.

The current mismatch between what defines humanitarian aid and how it is used must be cleared up, agrees Walker. “The nub of humanitarian aid is providing a light in the darkness – and accepting that we can only really deal with symptoms,” said Walker. This includes protecting people from fear and violence – including sexual violence – which while improved in some areas (child protection, say), still lacks the leadership and coherence of one agency to drive it forward. “But that is very different from where the money goes.” As Development Initiatives’ funding specialist Oliver Buston put it: “You would come up with a very different programme if you were funding a decade-long $500 million project in Sudan versus 10 one-year $50 million projects.”

The top 10 recipients of humanitarian aid have changed little year on year over the past decade – Sudan, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Somalia, Afghanistan among them.  He went on to say that that is where resilience comes in: an activity that must be politically-driven, and involves long-term flexible funding. As Kent said, “The UN has a profoundly important role to play, but not the one it is doing.”

Let governments lead on resilience

UN humanitarian agencies cannot drive the resilience debate, says Baiocchi. They must involve the entire UN Development Group, including the UN Development Programme, UN Division for Sustainable Development, and the monetary institutions, regional organizations and national stakeholders. “Take the Hyogo Framework for Action”, said Mihir Bhatt head of the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), “This must contribute to each of the post-2015 development goals, or resilience will go nowhere.”

And in many cases this will involve supporting national capacity to respond. “We say we want to work with governments, build a real partnership, but do we really?” asked Biaocchi. “With actively engaged governments, we say they’re interfering – we’re quite schizophrenic about this.” Some need less help – Mozambique, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, have significantly improved their ability to respond to large-scale disasters and in these instances UN agencies will need to step back and play a service role.

“The traditional view of many northern aid agencies is to build capacity through a workshop,” said Jemilah Mahmood, ex-president of NGO Mercy Malaysia. “That’s not what’s needed: it means money, people to be seconded into local authorities to strengthen them internally.”

Ultimately, building this capacity and focusing on resilience “is not up to ECHO or the UN or the World Bank, but it’s up to governments,” said Fabre. “Unless there is political will to push this, you can put in as much money as you want, but it won’t make a difference. That change has to come from within.”

aj/cb source


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“Obama, Darfur, and Genocide”

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2013

“Civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region face wholesale destruction,” The Washington Post, July 28, 2013 (Sunday)


After years of obscurity and little reliable international reporting, the vast human catastrophe in Sudan’s Darfur region is once again in the news. It was regularly making headlines before 2008, when genocide in Darfur was already five years old and had claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives from the main African tribal groups, but a lack of sustained mainstream attention has meant that violence has surged effectively under the radar.

Few could have predicted that this remote and obscure region in western Sudan would galvanize American civil society. Then again, how could the loss of attention have been so rapid? …. [full text on-line:


  • Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College and has written extensively on Sudan.

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The Killing of Seven UN Peacekeeping Personnel in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on July 23, 2013

All evidence to date strongly suggests that the armed force responsible for the killing of seven Tanzanian members of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a Khartoum-allied militia force led by Hamouda Bashir (seventeen peacekeeping personnel were wounded, some very seriously).  Radio Dabanga reports today (July 18, 2013), on the basis of a series of interviews with witnesses on the ground, the following (all emphases have been added; there are a few very small edits for clarity, chiefly punctuation):


• The UN says the identity of the armed group that ambushed a UNAMID patrol in South Darfur on Saturday morning “has not yet been established”; however, witnesses have told Radio Dabanga that “UN vehicles” were spotted in the area being driven by members of a known government militia.

• During his daily press briefing in New York on Monday, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky…said that “the peacekeepers were attacked when they were undertaking a routine confidence-building patrol. The peacekeepers were outnumbered four to one by their attackers who numbered between 100 and 150.  [The attackers] had trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Nesirky said the “the UN is conducting its own investigations and calls on the Government of Sudan to identify and bring to account those responsible.”

• Various witnesses from South Darfur have reported to Radio Dabanga that “two UN cars were spotted on Saturday being driven by members of the government Central Police Reserve, nicknamed Abu Tira.”

• “The soldiers driving the cars were dressed in uniforms with the distinctive ‘eagle insignia’ on their shoulder,” they said. Apparently, the vehicles had “at least five uniformed members of the Central Police Forces of Sudan on each side of the back.”

• Observers say that the vehicles were driven from Hamada Forest (Khaba Hamada), through the area of Manawashi, across the bridge of Musko (Wadi Abu Hamra) in the direction of Shengil Tobaya. “When they reached Shengil Tobaya, they turned west towards one of militia’s bases in Jebel Afara, just cross the border in North Darfur.” The UN vehicles are now reportedly parked in the fenced base in Jebel Afara. The witnesses also confirmed that “nine Abu Tira vehicles” were at the market of Manawashi early on Saturday early morning to buy food. [The UN reported] that about ten vehicles were involved in the attack on the Tanzanian force—ER]

• “They bought meat before driving off in the direction of the Hamada Forest, a bush area that lies a few kilometres off the main road connection between El Fasher and Nyala.”

• Over the past few days, several people have reported in detail to Radio Dabanga that the local Abu Tira commander, Hamouda Bashir, was recognised.  Bashir is the right-hand man of Ali Kushayb, one of the main commanders of the Abu Tira [and who] has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes.

• The local population of the villages who testify to the presence of Abu Tira on Saturday morning mainly consist of Arab tribes and people from the Birgid, Barno and Tama tribes. They confirmed to Radio Dabanga that no SLA-MM troops were present.

Only several furgan (tent encampments) of traditional nomad camel caravans of the three main Arab tribes of Irigat, Awlad Beni Mansour, and Itifad roam this area.

• UNAMID has confirmed that the ambush occurred about 25 kilometres north/northwest of the Mission’s Khor Abeche base [i.e. a few kilometers off the main Nyala/el-Fasher road (see above)—ER]. “The UNAMID patrol was a relatively small one. It was ambushed by a large group, so we were completely outnumbered. We came under heavy fire from machine guns and possibly from rocket-propelled grenades,” a spokesman told Radio Dabanga. Several UNAMID vehicles, including armoured patrol vehicles and Land Cruisers had to be towed from the scene. The wheels of the patrol vehicles were all blown.


This account comports with previous reports I have received from the region, which have made the same claims about responsibility for the attack.  And yet the story of this outrageous crime is about to disappear into the abyss of UN expediency.  For the simple fact is that neither the UN nor the AU has any interest in an investigation that clearly establishes Khartoum’s responsibility.  For all the vigorous rhetoric that has come from various UN officials and others, it is merely rhetoric (an exception may be Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete).  Past behavior makes clear that neither element of the UNAMID “hybrid”—the UN and the AU—has any stomach for confronting Khartoum.  This was made especially clear following the deadly attack on a UNAMID convoy traveling to Hashaba in North Darfur last October, a mission that had as its task the investigation of a civilian massacre in the Hashaba area.  The attack was clearly the work of Khartoum-allied militia, as a great deal of evidence made clear (see “Violence in Hashaba, North Darfur: A brutal portent, another UN disgrace” at  To date, there has been no assignation of responsibility, and the rhetoric of the moment has proved entirely empty. 

There is a compelling historical precedent here.  For the same failure to assign responsibility for a deadly attack defined the response of the UN Secretariat and Security Council following an extraordinarily fierce attack on a UNAMID patrol on July 8, 2008 by what were clearly Khartoum-allied militia forces.  During a three-hour fire-fight near the village Umm Hakibah, North Darfur (approximately 100 kilometers southeast of el-Fasher), seven UNAMID personnel were killed and 22 wounded, some critically (see  This remains the highest casualty total among the many attacks on UNAMID over the past five and a half years.  The head of the UN peacekeeping at the time, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, was explicit about responsibility in his July 11, 2008 briefing of the Security Council (we have had nothing comparable from the current head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous):

[1] Guéhenno told the Security Council that the attack on UN-authorized peacekeepers “took place in an area under Sudanese government control and that some of the assailants were dressed in clothing similar to Sudanese army uniforms. He also said the ambush was ‘pre-meditated and well-organized’ and was intended to inflict casualties rather than to steal equipment or vehicles” (Voice of America [UN/New York], July 11, 2008). The peacekeepers who were attacked reported seeing approximately 200 fighters, many on horses—a signature feature of the Janjaweed (often translated as “devil [or spirit] on horseback”).

[2] Agence France-Presse reported: “Guéhenno was quoted as saying that the ambush was designed ‘to inflict casualties’ and was carried out with ‘equipment usually not used by (rebel) militias'” (UN/New York], July 11, 2008). Separately and confidentially, a UN official went further in confirming to me that some of the arms used, including large-caliber recoilless rifles, have never been seen in the arsenals of the rebel groups. This official said that Guéhenno, who is retiring, had rarely been so explicit in assigning responsibility for attacks in Darfur.

There was additional conviction that the Janjaweed—armed and in this case almost certainly directed by Khartoum’s military command—were responsible for this attack on 61 Rwandan soldiers, 10 civilian police officers, and two military observers, who were returning to their el-Fasher base after investigating the killing of two civilians:

[3] Agence France-Presse reports from Khartoum on the views of UN and African Union officials on the ground in Darfur: “Officials in the African Union and UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, said on Wednesday [July 9, 2008] that suspected Janjaweed militia, who have fought with the state [i.e., Government of Sudan], were behind the attack that killed seven peacekeepers” (July 10, 2008).

Why, then, is this UN-authorized peacekeeping force so intimidated by Khartoum?  Why has the regime not been directly confronted over these brutal, criminal attacks?  For the same reason that the UN has deferred on so many other occasions to sensibilities of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party: because a direct accusation of Khartoum would likely prompt a crisis in which the regime, particularly the more militaristic elements, would demand that UNAMID withdraw.  And with an environment that had suddenly become “non-consensual,” UN instincts would almost certainly be to use this as an excuse for abandoning a mission that has failed and has been targeted for “draw-down” on the basis of supposedly improved security “conditions on the ground” (this was Ladsous’ assessment this past April).

This in turn would almost certainly lead to wholesale withdrawal by international non-governmental humanitarian organizations, and UN security regulations would restrict all UN agencies to exceedingly small areas of Darfur.  Nearly all the displaced persons camps would be beyond reach.  Without strong support from international actors such as the U.S., the EU, and individual African nations, this scenario would play out with a grim relentlessness.

This is why the UN and AU—despite the rhetoric—wish for nothing so much as that this story disappear and that some suitably ambiguous report be accepted as “definitive.”  Its most likely form will be to acknowledge the fact of Khartoum’s claiming that the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/MM) is responsible—but that there is “other evidence” on the ground that contradicts this claim.  The language of the report (if in fact one is issued) will be as irresolute, as ambiguous, and as non-confrontational as possible.

This is the UN and AU tribute to the courage of the seven Tanzanian personnel who lost their lives, and the seventeen who were wounded in the attack of July 13, 2013.


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Norway condemns attack on UN and AU in Sudan

Posted by African Press International on July 20, 2013

Norway condemns the attack against UN peacekeeping forces in Sudan on 13 July. “The attack must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

On Saturday 13 July, seven people were killed and 17 injured in an attack on an African UnionUnited Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) patrol. UNAMID has a mandate from the UN Security Council to bring stability to Darfur.

“The attack against UN/AU personnel cannot be tolerated. They have a right to be protected in their work for the hard-pressed civilian population in Darfur,” said Mr Eide.

All seven of the people killed were UN military personnel from Tanzania. Among the injured were two female police advisers, also from Tanzania.

Saturday’s attack was the most serious since the UN and the AU took on joint peacekeeping responsibility in the conflict-torn region of Darfur in Sudan in 2008. Approximately 40 UNAMID personnel have been killed in Darfur since 2008. It is not yet clear who was behind the attack. Norway has previously participated in UNAMID, but no Norwegian personnel have taken part in the mission for the last couple of years.




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The dilemma of Sri Lanka’s returnees

Posted by African Press International on July 17, 2013

Thousands of returnees don’t have IDs

COLOMBO,  – Close to 100,000 returnees in Sri Lanka’s north lack national identity cards (NICs), more than four years after the end of the country’s decades-long civil war.

“Many people cannot resume their lives as NICs are the passport to accessing multiple services and were made mandatory for voting in 2006,” Suresh Premachandran, a member of parliament (MP) with the Tamil National Alliance, one of the largest national parties representing minority Tamils from the north, told IRIN.

According to the United Nations, more than 460,000 displaced persons have returned to Northern Province – which is home to more than 1 million inhabitants – since government forces declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland since 1983.

In Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts alone, an estimated quarter of the districts’ 200,000-plus inhabitants are without national IDs.

Without such documentation, many residents struggle to access public services such as health and education, and well as government assistance programmes.

They also face the risk of questioning and delays by police and security officials.

Not a priority

Under the law, NICs are compulsory for all Sri Lankans 16 years or older, and authorities may detain suspicious individuals who fail to show any form of legal identification – a legacy of the war.

“Without an NIC, you are always at risk,” said Shereen Xavier, a north-based lawyer and executive director of the Home for Human Rights (HHR). “Without it, the impediments can be many.”

Even to enter many government buildings, one must produce an NIC, people complain.

But moving ahead on this issue is proving a challenge.

Despite the identity cards’ importance, the government has yet to prioritize the issue, with much of its effort focused instead on large-scale infrastructure and development projects in the north.

Many returnees do not have the required documentation to apply for an NIC, and with no local offices for issuing NICs, applications can take several months to process.

Without proper IDs life can prove difficult

“The processing of papers can prove time-consuming,” Shanthi Sachithanandan, chairperson of Viluthu, an organization promoting good governance in the north, explained.

Temporary IDs

After the war, the government was keen to have its voter lists updated.

When these lists were updated ahead of presidential and local polls in 2010 and 2012, temporary IDs were issued to over 40,000 people to allow them to vote, a process that continues today.

At that time, around 90,000 people from the north failed to indicate their NIC number, Deputy Elections Commissioner M.M. Mohammad confirmed.

“Temporary IDs were issued to many, especially to facilitate their participation in the presidential and local government elections that were held,” he said.

But many returnees say such IDs are looked down upon. Those holding temporary ID have difficulty accessing government services and are sometimes treated with suspicion by officials, they say.

Now, with the first provincial council election in Sri Lanka’s former war zone scheduled for September, returnees and politicians alike are again urging the government to improve the issuing of NICs.

“The government has started issuing temporary IDs, which is a time-consuming process. People have to contact the local government officials and process papers, which is not easy for returnees,” MP Premachandran said.

But according to the department responsible for issuing NICs, given the amount of time and documentation it takes to process such applications outside Colombo – and specifically in the former war zone – temporary IDs may still be the best option available at this point.

“This is the best solution to the present problem,” maintained M.S. Sarath Kumara, commissioner general of the registration of persons, noting that temporary IDs issued to facilitate voting could also prove useful to people without any other form of identification.

“A temporary ID is a practical idea, and it can be revalidated through reapplication,” agreed Rohana Hettiarachchi, executive director of People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections, an election monitoring body that has been helping eligible voters to obtain national identity cards through a mobile clinic effort.

But for those returnees without an NIC, still struggling to establish some semblance of normalcy in their lives after years of conflict and displacement, the idea of anything temporary offers little solace.

“A temporary ID is useful for those who wish to cast their vote at the forthcoming northern provincial election. [However,] for us former IDPs [internally displaced persons], returning home after being displaced for a decade, there are much bigger issues than getting involved in a political battle,” explained Muttuvel Kadirmani, a 46-year-old father of three from Mullaitivu. He urged the government to issue NICs instead of temporary forms of identification.

“It will be useful in every aspect of life and provide us with a sense of security,” he said.

dh/ds/rz  source


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Justice and peace 10 years on in Liberia

Posted by African Press International on July 5, 2013

Liberian economy still limping along

MONROVIA,  – In December 1989 Charles Taylor crossed into Liberia from Côte d’Ivoire with a small group of fighters, sparking two brutal civil wars which would leave over 200,000 dead and over one million displaced. This August marks a decade since the end of that conflict.

The country is now at peace and has made some progress in infrastructure development – some neighbourhoods in the capital have access to electricity and 70 percent of Liberians have access to clean-ish water – but the reconciliation process has made little headway.

Liberia’s peace appears to stem instead from a deep-seated weariness of violence and the presence of a large UN peacekeeping force.

Have violence perpetrators been punished?

Four years ago, Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released a series of recommendations on measures for national reconciliation, justice and wide-ranging institutional reform to address the causes and consequences of the conflict. Yet until now little has been done to implement them, partly because some of those recommended for prosecution or disbarment from public office, including Nobel Laureate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, remain in positions of power and influence.

One of those recommended for prosecution, Prince Johnson, the senator for Nimba Country who finished in third place in the last presidential poll, stands accused by the report of “killing, extortion, massacre, destruction of property, forced recruitment, assault, abduction, torture & forced labor [and] rape”. The TRC also requests that he account for “the remains of the late President [Doe], especially the skull of the head of the President which was occasionally displayed by Hon. Johnson as a `war trophy’.”

James Yarsiah is the chairman of the Transitional Justice Working Group, a civil society initiative monitoring Liberia’s peace process. “I don’t want tomorrow another group of Liberians to crawl from the mountains and the bushes… because the guys who did it before are honourables and dignitaries now,” he told IRIN. “What kind of a message does that send?”

Suggestions of prosecutions have been met by the argument that attempting to prosecute those involved in the war might end up re-igniting it. But Yarsiah points to the success of the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone in prosecuting “those who bear the greatest responsibility” for crimes committed in that country’s own conflict, without provoking a return to violence. Liberia also has the safeguard of around 8,000 UN peacekeepers to quell any unrest.

“The United Nations cannot condone impunity,” said the UN deputy special representative to the Secretary-General, Aneas Chuma. “There must be a moment of reckoning and accountability.”

In January 2011 Liberia’s Supreme Court ruled that the disbarment of any Liberian from public office without due process is unconstitutional, effectively nullifying that recommendation. “I don’t see anything happening [towards accountability] for the foreseeable future,” said Yarsiah – “not under this administration”.

A new body tasked with implementing TRC recommendations, the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC), stands accused of political bias and a lack of experience in the field of human rights.

The commission’s acting head, Commissioner Boakai Dukuly, told IRIN that even though “there is no way you can have reconciliation, in the final analysis, without justice, sometimes you need a cooling off period after a conflict… Our situation is unique – the people who participated in the atrocities, a lot of them are in the government, they are in high places,” he said.

What role are Palava Huts supposed to play?

Not all the TRC recommendations are as controversial as the imperative to prosecute the warlords and bar figures from public office. A large part of the report is dedicated to promoting reconciliation, notably through the use of traditional Palava Huts, aimed at promoting community-level dialogue, a “quasi-judicial forum for justice and reconciliation”.

But these too, have been slow to make ground, amid confusion over their exact role. “Everyone’s saying ‘Great, but what is it?’” said Yarsiah.

The INHRC is tasked with implementing the Palava Hut system. “As we understand it here, [it] is really mediation, reconciliation, dialogue… an idea, not an edifice,” said Commissioner Dukuly.

It remains unclear exactly what powers the Huts will have, and how they will operate. If they are endowed with judicial powers, as insinuated in the TRC report, there is speculation they may face opposition from those already opposed to the establishment of the proposed Special Tribunal. If they are merely a forum for confession and forgiveness, are the perpetrators any more likely to confess and repent than they were during the initial hearings of the TRC, which were deemed a charade by many observers? At this stage it is still unclear when the Palava Hut system will gain ground.

Have any reparations been paid?

A third element of the TRC report called for a reparations programme of US$500 million. Despite much debate on the relative merits of “individual” and “community” reparations, this too has yet to be initiated, according to the Human Rights Commission. “The reparations programme is yet to be started,” said Dukuly. “To have reparations, the government has to put money in it,” he added.

One aspect of the TRC recommendations has, however, seen some recent progress, with the dedication of a memorial to two communities in Bong County where 500 people had been massacred during the second civil war (1999-2003). It is, according to the UN, “Liberia’s first memorialization of this kind”.

How flawed is the justice system?

Prominent among the institutional shortcomings often blamed for Liberia’s civil wars are a deeply flawed justice system, the over-centralization of power and wealth among Monrovia’s Americo-Liberian elite, widespread corruption,tensions over land rights and high levels of poverty and unemployment.

These problems largely persist.

The justice system remains inefficient and inaccessible for many Liberians. Power and wealth are still concentrated in the capital, Monrovia. Corruption remains widespread, as underscored by a recent audit report by accountancy firm Moore Stephens, which showed that only two of 68 land concessions since 2009 had been awarded in compliance with Liberian law. Land issues also remain highly contentious, with land tenure laws in need of reform, land grabs on the rise, persistent tensions between returning Liberians and those who stayed; as well as mounting tensions in towns and cities as urbanization mounts.

What about poverty and unemployment?

Above all, poverty and unemployment remain pervasive. For many Liberians, life has got little easier over the past decade, and price rises in basic commodities such as rice and fuel since 2008 mean life has become harder for many. According to the 2013 UN Human Development Report, 84 percent of Liberians continue to live below the poverty line.

The foreign direct investment poured into the country has not yet managed to significantly improve living standards of many ordinary Liberians. Liberia remains 174th out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index.

Rosaline Duaneh makes soup in a sandy alleyway in the maze of shanty dwellings that form West Point slum, near central Monrovia. She has been making soup here ever since the war. On a good day she makes up to 200 Liberian dollars (under US$3), with which she must care for her seven children. Rosaline says she is only able to send two of her children to school. “Life is hard for me”, she told IRIN. “I’m only just managing. It is just the same as before, but now there are no gunshots.”

“I have been here all my life” says her neighbour, 29-year-old Archie Ponpon. “There have been no changes, only the silence of the guns.” Archie, like many in West Point, complains of a chronic lack of jobs, even for high school graduates. According to a March 2013 report by the International Labour Organization, just 4.1 percent of Liberian youths have “stable” employment.

Are we now at a turning point?

But there are signs that now, 10 years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, some momentum is starting to take hold.

The government in December released “Vision 2030”, a wide-ranging policy document relating to security, rule of law, reconciliation and economic development which aims to make Liberia a middle-income country by 2030. President Johnson Sirleaf has earned praise for attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment to the country – despite the controversies surrounding many recent land deals – and has also won acclaim for writing off the vast majority of her country’s debt.

Though electricity and the transport network remain extremely underdeveloped, efforts are being made to change that. A World Bank project hopes to provide electricity to a further 80,000 Liberians while the government is aiming to fix the derelict hydro power plant at Mount Coffee by 2015. Power cables now reach West Point slum, for instance, though most residents cannot afford the tariff (43 US cents per kilowatt hour). Though tarmac roads remain rare outside the main urban centres, road rehabilitation projects are also ongoing.

Late last year the government unveiled a draft for a $50 million decentralization project aiming to devolve a certain level of power to the counties and lessen the current imbalance between Monrovia and the rest of the country. It lacks funding and would require constitutional amendments before it could be implemented, but it is a start.

Justice too is being decentralized. The UN’s Chuma points in particular to the first of five regional “Justice and Security Hubs”, which was launched this February in Gbarnga, Bong County. The hubs aim to make justice more accessible to residents of the interior of the country. And while the wider justice system remains far from flawless, it is slowly increasing its capacity to serve the population.

The security forces have undergone considerable reform, and the UN has now trained over 4,000 new police recruits. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is aiming to reduce its troop count from around 8,000 to just under 4,000 by 2015.

And while land remains a highly contentious issue, in May the country’s Land Commission submitted a wide-ranging land rights policy which hopes to address some of the recent frictions.

“You don’t just build a state based on the rule of law just like that,” said Isabelle Abric of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia. “What I can really say is about the fact that there have been 10 years of peace, no matter what, and that means the first generation of children that went to school without war, and that’s what the country is building upon now.”

Last week the government launched a “Reconciliation Roadmap” which aims to streamline and coordinate the peace process. The document largely avoids the question of punitive justice for perpetrators of the war, but it does demonstrate the administration’s renewed efforts to face up to the challenges of the transition, providing a framework for the drive for peace and reconciliation.

“As Liberians, let’s seize this opportunity to reclaim our future,” announced Johnson Sirleaf at the unveiling of the Roadmap. Ten years after the end of the conflict, Liberia is at a turning point. It must take this opportunity to build on its recent progress if it is to consolidate the rocky foundations of its current peace.

tt/aj/cb source

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Bridging the gap between relief and development

Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2013

Sustainable interventions

GOMA,  – Every year, for nearly two decades, the humanitarian community has responded to large-scale and complex crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This year, on the assumption that the crises are likely to continue, donors have agreed to fund longer-term and more flexible humanitarian projects in DRC.

For the first time, a common humanitarian fund (CHF) administered by the UN in Kinshasa will be financing projects of up to 24 months’ duration, instead of the current 12-month limit.

A review of the project proposals should be finalized in July; this year, the CHF hopes to receive US$70 million for multi-year funding (out of an $893 million humanitarian appeal for the country).

Multi-year funding is an innovation for the humanitarian system, said Gemma Cortes, interim head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) financing unit in Kinshasa.

“We’re initiating this in the Congo,” she told IRIN. “There’s been a big discussion about this for years here. Now, the great challenge will be to link all the projects to development projects.”


OCHA says these “transitional” projects “will address recurrent humanitarian needs that require sustainable interventions of a kind that help[s] build community resilience” and will “reduce the number of short-term emergency actions that respond more to symptoms than to causes”.

Other projects funded with the $70 million “will reinforce emergency response capability” and “help build national NGOs’ capacity”. OCHA also foresees better data collection and monitoring, and well as costs savings.

“It should help to save costs on, for example, transport, recruitment, training and assimilation [of knowledge],” Cortes says.

The CHF is also considering streamlining programmes. For example, it could fund two organizations to do the kind of work done previously by eight separate, shorter projects.

Cortes sees a trend in project proposals towards greater promotion of agriculture and livelihoods, as well more durable solutions to water and hygiene needs.

“Agriculture is one of the sectors where the envelope has increased the most. Agencies and NGOs can now go beyond emergency activities to reinforcing capacities, introducing different agricultural and food-processing techniques, doing market studies and training cooperatives. We have also received a lot of proposals for buying and distributing goats, sheep and rabbits.”

She estimates that around 15 percent of the multi-year funding might go to agricultural projects and 30 percent to livelihoods projects, although the final allocation has yet to be decided.

“It’s been very well received by aid workers, NGOs and by local communities. It was something lacking before. Each time we came and did the same thing, and they wanted something more lasting.”

Olivia Kalis, protection and advocacy manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Goma, eastern DRC, agrees but suggests there is still debate over what is “more lasting”.

“If we have short-term cycles only, people end up doing the same things, so it’s very good that the CHF is now offering 24-month cycles. But a lot more work needs to be done to understand what resilience means in this context,” Kalis said


As the concept of resilience has been mainstreamed in aid agency circles, its definition has broadened.

Christophe Béné, a research fellow at the UK Institute of Development Studies (IDS), spoke at a recent IDS seminar about how the term has evolved. “Initially,” he said, “resilience was simply about the capacity for recovery and bouncing back. And now, with time passing, we have got more and more people saying resilience is about learning and adapting. Recently, now, we have got anticipating and preventing [crises].”

Incorporating all of these meanings, a recent definition from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said resilience is “the ability to avoid disasters and crises or to anticipate, absorb, adapt to and recover from risks… in a timely and efficient manner”.

The UN World Food Programme’s coordinator in eastern DRC, Wolfram Herfurth, says resilience basically means self-reliance, and he suggests a practical way to ensure vulnerable communities are self-reliant.

“Let’s not make this a rocket science. We have to provide simple, palatable livelihood options for people in camps. Since we know that about 85 percent of these displaced people are farmers, it’s logical – we’re looking at the closest solution – to provide farmers with tools and seeds so they can produce their own food and no longer need free handouts,” he said.

“That is the fundamental approach. But the biggest obstacle is that, where the displaced people are now, there’s mostly no free land available.”

To this end, Herfurth proposes that agreements be struck with landowners to allocate land, either long-term or temporarily, to the displaced, who would then be assisted with seeds, tools and food aid until their first harvest.

Several initiatives in North Kivu are aiming to help the displaced gain access to land, either their own (many displaced people return home to find their land occupied) or land where they have found refuge. The CHF has a brief to support these initiatives.

Still, land is a delicate issue; NRC and UN Habitat have the biggest land dispute mediation programmes in DRC, but there are strict limits to what they can achieve, says NRC’s Kalis.

“The scale [of mediation] is very small in comparison with the problem. A lot of these disputes are over just a few metres of land. Once the military are involved, our commissions [local committees set up by NRC] can’t deal with that – it’s too dangerous,” he said.

Large tracts of land in the Kivus are owned by senior army officers.

“We need to talk about political solutions [to the land problem],” says Kalis. “Donors need to push for these things.”


Helping displaced people farm is not the only resilience-building activity aid workers are proposing.

IRIN also interviewed the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Oxfam, NRC and Catholic Relief Services and found a wide range of resilience activities proposed, notably information campaigns to help the displaced secure their rights and access aid, and the construction of more durable facilities to help them integrate with host communities.

UNICEF emphasized project proposals to build more durable classrooms and sanitation systems. NRC spoke of its work helping displaced children enrol in schools. Oxfam said it was planning to extend water systems and sanitation in host community areas.

Improving living conditions for IDPs

The emphasis on host communities is essential, aid workers say, because most aid has been focused on camps even though most displaced people live with host families and will often settle in those communities.

“Many of the displaced are highly unlikely to go home,” said Tariq Riebl, Oxfam’s coordinator in North Kivu. “If you look at the history of Goma, many camps have been transformed into neighbourhoods – we find it quite negative that the state is still bulldozing camps.”

“If we see a willingness by the state to give the displaced residency rights, we could start to provide schooling, health centres, etc. But the government is resisting this,” he said.

There is also a trend towards focusing on more urban areas. In peri-urban areas where the state does not own land, it may need to deal with landowners to ensure displaced people can find homes, Riebl said.

Focusing aid on more easily accessible areas rather than trying to reach remote villages is also pragmatic, he points out.

“The support costs of trying to run projects in an area like Walikale [one of North Kivu’s more remote territories] are enormous. No one is going to pay for all the land cruisers. Donors are looking for value for money.”

Security is also a serious concern for projects in rural areas. A worker with FAO told a recent journalists’ seminar in Goma that agricultural project workers could not do anything if there was not security.

More business surveys will be needed to help guide the displaced towards viable livelihoods, in either urban or rural areas, Herfurth told IRIN.

“We need more development experts,” he said. “Maybe the number of relief workers here should shrink and the number of economists and agricultural engineers should increase,” he said.

“But we also need to change the chemistry between the humanitarians and the DRC government to agree that – given there’s more stability and peace – we focus on more durable interventions.

“Certainly the humanitarians themselves cannot easily do this alone. They need decisions by the government and coordination at village and provincial level. Different political levels need to play together.”

nl/rz source

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Norway condemns attack on UN in Somalia

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2013

Norway strongly condemns the attack on the UN compound in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. “This was a cowardly attack against UN organisations that are providing support and assistance to a very hard-hit population,” said Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås.

The UN Common Compound in Mogadishu was hit by a terrorist attack on June 19 2013. Several people were killed in the attack.

“Acts of this kind are completely unacceptable. The attack on the UN is an attack on the entire international community. It violates basic principles of humanity and humanitarian work,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide

Somalia has just emerged from one of the most severe famines the world has seen in recent years, and the disaster continues to affect the everyday lives of over a million Somalis. Last year Somalia established a new Government, which has started to turn the trend of persistent negative development into progress. For the first time in decades there is a sense of cautious optimism in Somalia.

Norway has provided extensive humanitarian assistance to Somalia in recent years. The efforts of the UN are of crucial importance to Somalia’s future, and the UN is a vital channel for Norwegian aid to the country. Norway will continue to support the Government in Mogadishu and to promote peaceful development in Somalia that remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for local and international aid workers to work.

“Our thoughts are with those affected by the terrorist attack and their families. The attack targeted people who carry out crucially important work every day to help the people in one of the world’s poorest and most conflict-ridden countries,” Mr Holmås said.



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Huge need for aid to Syrian refugees

Posted by African Press International on June 22, 2013

“The situation in Syria and its neighbouring countries is more acute than the worst forecasts predicted at the turn of the year. We are facing the most serious refugee crisis since the Second World War,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide during a visit to the border area between Jordan and Syria today.

“The pressure caused by the refugees and ethnic divides seen in the war in Syria are fuelling concerns that the conflict could spread to neighbouring countries,” Mr Eide said.

The humanitarian situation inside Syria is deteriorating steadily. After two years of civil war, public services have ceased to function in large parts of the country and much of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed. According to the UN, more than 1.6 million people have fled Syria. If the current trend continues, the number of refugees could have risen to 3.5 million by the end of 2013. In addition there are now an estimated 4.25 million internally displaced persons inside Syria itself.

“International efforts to bring an end to the war in Syria must continue. Unfortunately there are few encouraging signs in the work being done to find a political solution to the conflict. This was emphasised in my talks with UN Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. Nevertheless, our humanitarian efforts must continue unabated. The need for assistance is great both in and outside Syria,” Mr Eide said.

Foreign Minister Eide visited Jordan on Thursday together with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, in connection with the celebration of World Refugee Day. During the visit, Mr Eide had talks with Prime Minister of Jordan Abdullah Ensour, among others. Mr Eide also visited refugees from Syria in the border area between Jordan and Syria.

“In my talks in Jordan today, I have praised the Jordanian authorities for the help they have provided to Syrian refugees. At the same time it is crucial that help reaches all refugees and not only those living in refugee camps. It is also vital that the Jordanian authorities, together with the UN and other aid organisations, ensure the necessary level of security,” Mr Eide said.

Due to the situation in and around Syria, the UN has launched its largest ever emergency appeal. The Government has decided to contribute NOK 150 million to the appeal. This total will be made up of the extraordinary allocation of NOK 100 million made in May and the entire reserve of NOK 50 million of the Foreign Ministry’s humanitarian budget.

“In our talks, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees emphasised just how extensive the refugee crisis is, and the huge need for aid that is still unmet. It is vital that the international community now assists Jordan and other neighbouring countries in dealing with the flow of refugees from Syria. The UN plays an important coordinating role here,” Mr Eide said.

Including this most recent contribution, Norway has allocated a total of NOK 360 million to the crisis in Syria in 2013, and a total of NOK 575 million since the conflict started in spring 2011. The Government allocated NOK 210 million to UN humanitarian appeals for Syria in the first half of 2013.




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