Venezuela on the brink, WhatsApping hate, and a Davos bright spot: The Cheat Sheet

IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

On our radar
What next in Venezuela?

The crisis in Venezuela has bubbled away for months, demanding media attention only when protests flare or&…

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Text adopted – Situation in the Central African Republic – P7_TA(2013)0602 – Thursday, 12 December 2013 – Strasbourg – Final edition

The European Parliament,
–  having regard to its resolutions of 17 January 2013(1)
and 12 September 2013(2)
on the situation in the Central African Republic,
–  having regard to UN Security Council resolutions 2088 (20…

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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.**MaliWe have just received information from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali&nbs…

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The Garden Toothbrush

Photo: ©FAO/Pius Utomi Ekpei

FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva with a group of women who are participating in a vegetable-growing project in Borno State, north-eastern Nigeria.

8 May 2017, Maiduguri – African eggplant lives up to its name: as it grows it bears white, oval-shaped fruits that look just like eggs before they ripen and turn green.

It is one of the vegetables grown by farmers displaced by Boko Haram violence in northern Nigeria who are participating in an FAO project to kick-start local food production. Here, this traditional vegetable is known as gorongo and it is an important social ingredient as well as a nutritious one.

The raw fruit of the gorongo is often chewed by women to clean their teeth.  The fruit is also eaten as part of marriage and naming ceremonies.

Supporting displaced families

Violence related to Boko Haram has spilled across the Lake Chad Basin and is affecting Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – with devastating effects on food security and livelihoods. Some 7.1 million people are now severely food insecure across the four countries, and an estimated 2.5 million people are displaced.  

In north-eastern Nigeria, near the Borno State capital Maiduguri, FAO is supporting displaced families to grow their own food so they can avoid slipping into long-term dependency on food aid. FAO’s work is funded by Belgium, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, the European Commission’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Ireland, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland.

Farming women say they are cultivating dignity

On a recent visit to an FAO-supported dry season vegetable production site, FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva met a group of women working together in a field growing gorongo among other crops. FAO provided seeds for vegetables such as cabbage, while the women were able to source the gorongo seeds themselves.

The women are survivors of Boko Haram attacks on their villages, and are the sole providers for their families.  
One of the women explained that using the gorongo to clean her teeth was a way to restore a sense of dignity and to bring healthy smiles to her and her friends.

It is also a promising sign that the women are no longer in extreme crisis mode and that they are hopeful of regaining their self-reliance. 

Gorongo
is a useful plant for small-scale farmers because it bears fruit continuously and can produce an abundant yield even from a small plot.

Thanks to their own hard work and the support of the project, the women have been able to grow a surplus of vegetables that they can sell to earn cash to cover their needs beyond food such as health care and education for their children.

A taste of home

The African eggplant originates from Central Africa, and has spread to other countries, particularly in West Africa. Other local names for the vegetable include gauta, yalon bello,igbagba and nakati. It belongs to the Solanum family and is related to eggplant, tomato and potato.

The fruit can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed, pickled, or in stews and the leaves are often used in soups. To make a stew, the eggplant is boiled then mashed, then added to a pan with oil, onion, cooked beans and chilli flakes.

Apart from oral hygiene, the plant is used in traditional medicine to treat throat infections by heating and then chewing the leaves. The juice of boiled roots is used to treat hookworm, while the crushed leaves are said to be useful for gastric complaints.

Long-term plan

FAO has developed a long-term strategy for the Lake Chad region that puts emphasis on supporting refugees, internally displaced families and host communities to resume their agriculture-based livelihoods. 

The vegetables grown by the women at the farm near Maiduguri are one small part of the plan to restore peace and pave the way to recovery.

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Text adopted – Situation in the Central African Republic – P7_TA(2013)0389 – Thursday, 12 September 2013 – Strasbourg – Final edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Libreville (Gabon) Agreement of 11 January 2013 on the resolution of the politico-military crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR), signed under the aegis of the heads of state and government of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which sets out the conditions for ending the crisis in the CAR,

–  having regard to the report of the UN Secretary-General of 14 August 2013 on the situation in the Central African Republic, and the reports of the Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Under-Secretary-General for Human Rights,

–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolution 2088(2013) of 24 January 2013 and to the Security Council’s declarations on the CAR, and asking the Security Council to support the new African-led operation,

–  having regard to the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council of 19 July 2013 authorising the deployment of the African-led peace support operation from 1 August 2013,

–  having regard to the extraordinary ECCAS summits of heads of state and government held in N’Djamena (Chad) on 21 December 2012, 3 April 2013 and 18 April 2013, and to their decisions to establish a National Transitional Council (NTC) with legislative and constituent powers and to adopt a roadmap for the transition process in the CAR,

–  having regard to the meeting of the International Contact Group of 3 May 2013 in Brazzaville (Congo), which validated the roadmap for the transition and set up a Special Fund to assist the CAR,

–  having regard to the statements of 21 December 2012, 1 and 11 January 2013, 25 March 2013, 21 April 2013 and 27 August 2013 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the CAR,

–  having regard to the statement of 21 December 2012 by the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection on the new outbreak of conflict in the CAR,

–  having regard to the resolution of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly of 19 June 2013 on the CAR,

–  having regard to the UN Security Council press statements of 27 December 2012 and of 4 and 11 January 2013 on the CAR,

–  having regard to the statements by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, of 26 December 2012 condemning the rebel attacks and urging all parties to abide by the decisions taken by the ECCAS in N’Djamena on 21 December 2012, and of 5 August 2013 calling for an end to impunity for serious human rights abuses in the CAR, including the consideration of sanctions,

–  having regard to the statement of 16 April 2013 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, in which she called for an end to the violence and for the restoration of the rule of law in the country,

–  having regard to the statements of 12, 19 and 31 December 2012 by the Chair of the Commission of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, on the situation in the CAR,

–  having regard to the revised Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 January 2013 on the situation in the CAR(1) ,

–  having regard to Rules 122(5) and 110(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas, since the military victory of the Séléka coalition on 24 March 2013 and its seizure of power, elements of that coalition have committed many atrocities, rapes, crimes, acts of physical violence and thefts, as well as looting and other human rights violations, both in the capital and in the provinces, not being subject to any control;

B.  whereas on 20 August 2013 a disarmament operation lead by the Séléka in Boy-Rabé, an area dominated by followers of ex-President François Bozizé, led to the killing of 11 people, with dozens more being wounded, and was accompanied by pillaging;

C.  whereas on 28 August 2013 more than 5 000 inhabitants of Bangui fled to the CAR’s main international airport to escape marauding former rebel fighters, and occupied the tarmac for around 18 hours;

D.  whereas there is a risk that armed hostilities may resume on the part of the former Central African Armed Forces favourable to the deposed President François Bozizé, and having regard to the exploitation of inter-religious tensions and the risks which it entails;

E.  whereas on 4 September 2013 the prosecutor of the Bangui Tribunal asked for a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment for the 24 former Séléka rebels brought to justice in the first trial dealing with the abuses committed in the CAR;

F.  whereas respect for human rights is a fundamental value of the European Union and represents an essential element of the Cotonou Agreement;

G.  whereas the fact that those who have committed human rights violations and war crimes have not been prosecuted promotes the climate of impunity and favours the perpetration of further crimes;

H.  whereas on 7 August 2013 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued her second warning that the crimes committed in the CAR may fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction and that her office will prosecute if necessary;

I.  whereas this violence is again causing displacement of people, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that a third of the population have left their homes and are suffering from malnutrition, that 1.6 million people desperately need aid, 200 000 of whom need health care, while 484 000 are seriously short of food, that 206 000 people have been displaced, 60 000 of whom have found refuge in neighbouring countries; whereas, moreover, 650 000 children are no longer attending school because of the occupation of schools by armed groups and whereas 3 500 children have been recruited by the armed forces and armed groups;

J.  whereas on 21 August 2013 the Cameroon authorities temporarily closed the border with the CAR after claiming that Séléka rebels had attacked the border town of Toktoyo and killed a Cameroon border officer; whereas despite the reopening of the border, lorry drivers remain hesitant about crossing into the CAR, owing to deteriorating security conditions;

K.  whereas the CAR is confronted with social and economic challenges, as the public and private sectors have been pillaged and destroyed, seriously undermining the country’s administration and economic fabric and causing social turmoil; whereas hospitals have also been plundered on a massive scale, creating a disastrous health situation in the country;

L.  recalling that the Libreville Agreement remains the basis for the transitional arrangement; whereas after the 18-month transitional period, free, democratic, transparent and regular elections must be organised, but whereas the Head of State, the Prime Minister, the members of the transitional government and the members of the Bureau of the CNT will not be allowed to stand;

M.  whereas the ECCAS summit of 3 April 2013 established the NTC, and whereas that of 18 April 2013 adopted a roadmap for its composition and functioning;

N.  whereas an International Contact Group on the Central African Republic was established in May 2013 to coordinate regional, continent-wide and international action in order to find a lasting solution to the country’s recurrent problems;

O.  whereas the European Union engages in regular political dialogue with the CAR, pursuant to the Cotonou Agreement, whereas it is the country’s main donor and whereas on 8 July 2013 it decided to increase its humanitarian aid by €8 m, to €20 m; whereas this EU aid cannot be enough and whereas other international partners must also enter into commitments;

P.  whereas the CAR has faced decades of instability and political unrest since it gained independence in 1960; whereas, despite the fact that it is a country rich in natural resources (timber, gold, diamonds, uranium, etc.), the CAR ranks only 179th out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index and, with around 70 % of its population living below the poverty line, remains one of the poorest countries in the world;

1.  Condemns the unconstitutional seizure of power, by dint of armed force, by the Séléka coalition on 24 March 2013;

2.  Expresses its deep concern over the situation in the CAR, which is characterised by a complete breakdown of law and order and the absence of the rule of law; condemns the recent violence, which has further eroded even the most basic services in the country and exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation affecting the entire population;

3.  Calls on the CAR authorities to take concrete measures to protect the civilian population, to end the recruitment and use of children by armed groups, and to restore security and public order as well as basic electricity and water services;

4.  Strongly condemns the serious violations of humanitarian law and the widespread violations of human rights law, notably by elements of the Séléka, including extrajudicial killings, summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence and the recruitment of child soldiers;

5.  Calls on the CAR authorities and on all stakeholders to address the structural causes of the country’s recurrent crises and to work together to implement the Libreville Agreement, which sets out the conditions for transition in the country and for a return to constitutional order, with the objective of achieving long-lasting peace and democratic solutions;

6.  Calls on the international partners to fully support their joint efforts in the fields of security, humanitarian aid and establishment of the rule of law; calls on the UN Security Council to study, as a matter of urgency, the request for support made by the African Union to finance the 3 600 members of civil and military personnel of the peacekeeping mission in the CAR;

7.  Supports the current transition from the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in the CAR (MICOPAX) to the African-Led International Support Mission in the CAR (AFISM-CAR), whose mandate should be exercised under the auspices of the UN;

8.  Welcomes the decision of the ECCAS heads of state to increase significantly the size of the Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) and to adopt an appropriate mission mandate to contribute to the securing of the CAR; is concerned, at the same time, that although 1 300 ECCAS troops have been deployed to the CAR, they have been unable to prevent the country from sliding into lawlessness; points out that a worsening situation in the CAR could lead to regional instability;

9.  Calls for the perpetrators of human rights violations, war crimes, crimes against humanity, sexual violence against women and the recruitment of child soldiers to be reported, identified, prosecuted and punished in accordance with national and international criminal law; points out, in this connection, that the situation in the CAR has already been brought before the ICC and that, under the Court’s statute, there is no period of prescription for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes;

10.  Welcomes the decision by the CAR to launch a programme for the collection of unauthorised weapons as a response to violence and petty crime in the chronically unstable nation; urges the government to make this measure mandatory;

11.  Notes the establishment of a joint committee of inquiry into the atrocities committed since the seizure of power by Séléka, and calls on all parties participating in this body to work in concert to promote national reconciliation;

12.  Considers it necessary, furthermore, to address the consequences of the conflicts, in particular through reform of the armed forces and security forces, demilitarisation, the demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants, the repatriation of refugees, the return of internally displaced people to their homes, and the implementation of viable development programmes;

13.  Insists that a comprehensive political solution, including fair distribution of revenue through the state budget, is vital for finding solutions to the crisis and paving the way for sustainable development of the region; calls on the UN Secretary-General to appoint a panel of experts to carry out an inquiry into the exploitation of the CAR’s agricultural and mineral resources, with the objective of establishing a legal framework enabling the country’s resources to benefit its population;

14.  Welcomes the EU’s increased support for addressing the humanitarian crisis in the CAR, and calls for the EU and its Member States, as leading donors to the country, to enhance their coordination with the other donors and international institutions in order to meet the urgent humanitarian needs adequately and alleviate the suffering of the people of the CAR; requests that an international meeting on the CAR be held on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2013;

15.  Calls for the international operations to be stepped up, with the consent of the CAR, with a view to arresting members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, in order to put an end to the devastation caused by this criminal group;

16.  Calls on the authorities of the Central African Republic to fulfil the obligations laid down in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which their country has signed;

17.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice–President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the institutions of the African Union, the ECCAS, the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the Member States of the European Union.

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Ministerial Pledging Conference on Somali Refugees

EU Cooperation in Somalia

EU is the largest donor in Somalia, both in terms of political engagement and financial and technical support or expertise, with more than €1.2 billion being provided since 2008.

In line with the EU’s Agenda for Change, whereby EU aid is targeted at the countries in greatest need, EU engagement in Somalia has been intensified over the years. The engagement is through a comprehensive approach based on active diplomacy and support to the political process, security support, development assistance and humanitarian aid.

The EU’s long engagement in Somalia is rooted in the desire to build a state, improve stability and reduce poverty among the people of Somalia and promote self-sustaining economic growth by addressing the challenges that have increased its fragility. In this context, the Federal Government of Somalia and European Union (EU) co-hosted an international conference, ‘The New Deal for Somalia’ in Brussels, Belgium on 16 September 2013. The conference endorsed the New Deal Compact for Somalia, laying down the top priorities for the coming three years (2014 – 2016) and generated new support for reconstruction.

I. EU Development Cooperation under the 10th European Development Fund (2008-2013)

EU Development Cooperation under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) amounted to €425 million. The main areas of support were state-building, education, economic development and food security.

1)    Governance and state-building (€128m): The purpose of the EU’s work in this area was to deepen peace, improve security, and establish good governance, including through supporting the effective participation of Non-State Actors. The EU support through this period contributed to the following achievements, amongst others:

  • Agreement on a provisional constitution in 2012, enabling the selection of the current Federal Government of Somalia
  • An improved democratisation process in Somaliland, including independent monitoring
  • Planning for improved public financial management and public sector reform initiatives
  • Expansion of access to justice across Somaliland and Puntland and accessible areas of South Central Somalia through support to police, courts, and legal assistance programmes

2)    Education (€85million): The purpose of the EU intervention in this area was to support the delivery of relevant, sustainable and increasingly accessible education services which lead to improvements in literacy and increased employment levels. All over Somalia, and including Somaliland, the enrolment rate in schools increased from 35% in 2007 to 45% in 2012.

3)    Economic Development and Food Security (€155 million): The purpose of the EU intervention was to reduce food insecurity by supporting disaster affected populations, reduce poverty and promote sustainable private sector-led economic development. Actions were complemented with funds from the thematic budget lines for Food Security.

 II. EU Development cooperation under the 11th European Development Fund (2014-2020)

 

EU Development Cooperation under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) amounts to €286 million. The focal sectors are state building and peace building (€100 million), food security and building resilience (€86 million) and education (€60 million). The three sectors are in line with priorities defined in the Somali Compact, which was

endorsed at the EU-Somalia Conference in Brussels on 16 September 2013.

1)    State building and peace building (€100 million): The EU aims to develop actions to ensure greater access to justice, build the capacity and professionalism of civilian policing, establish and strengthen effective and accountable institutional structures, strengthen democratic legitimacy of formal institutions, support electoral cycles and Parliaments, as well as build the capacity of independent media.

2)    Food security and building resilience (€86 million): The key objective is to strengthen resilience against predictable shocks. The EU will develop actions to support institutions in preparing and implementing resilience and natural resources management strategies, as well as in developing policy, legal and strategic framework for private sector-led growth and employment.

3)    Education (€60 million): The EU is the largest donor in education in Somalia. The key objective is to improve access to quality education and training, as well as to strengthen the education systems. Activities include expanding access to education and technical and vocational training for marginalised groups, capacity development, training of teachers and curricula review.  

III. Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa

 

The European Union recently announced an EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa with an initial budget of €1.8 billion (expected to be increased by additional contributions from EU Member States and other donors), in addition to the already allocated €4.3 billion to the region.

This Trust Fund has been designed as a fast mechanism to address root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa whilst increasing stability. Three regions have been identified as beneficiaries: (1) the Sahel region and Lake Chad area (including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal), (2) the Horn of Africa (including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda), (3) the North of Africa (including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt).

The aim of the Trust Fund is to help foster stability in the regions and to contribute to better migration management. The EU wants to help the region at large to face the growing challenges of demographic pressure, environmental stress, extreme poverty, internal tensions, institutional weaknesses, weak social and economic infrastructures, and insufficient resilience to food crises, which have in some places led to open conflict, displacement, criminality, radicalisation and violent extremism, as well as irregular migration and trafficking in human beings.

The EU Emergency Trust Fund also aims to tackle root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement in countries of origin and transit, in particular by strengthening the rule of law, creating economic and education opportunities, enhancing legal mobility and building better governance, including on border management, the fight against human trafficking and smuggling, and the effective sustainable return, readmission and reintegration of irregular migrants not qualifying for protection. This requires a firm commitment to supporting capacity building of third countries in the field of migration and border management, as well as to the stabilisation and development of these regions of Africa.

The EU Emergency Trust Fund would finance actions such as the establishment of economic programmes that create employment opportunities, especially for young people and women, with a focus on vocational training and the creation of micro and small enterprises. Another area of support could be projects supporting basic services for local populations such as food and nutrition security, health, education and social protection, as well as environmental sustainability.

 

Humanitarian Aid for Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa

Besides long-term development cooperation support, the EU also gives lifesaving humanitarian aid for the most urgent needs of the population.

As a direct consequence of two decades of instability, about 1 million refugees from Somalia have fled the consequences of recurrent droughts, armed violence, insecurity and lack of livelihood opportunities to find refuge in neighbouring countries, in particular Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen. In addition, about 1.1 million people are internally displaced in Somalia.

The European Commission, through its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), gives assistance to refugees solely based on needs, in order to: (1) provide basic life-saving services in the protection, shelter, health, nutrition, food and water sectors; (2) enhance self-reliance whenever possible; (3) support emergency preparedness measures to cope with potential influx of new arrivals.

In 2015, so far the European Commission has mobilised around €40 million in humanitarian aid to support refugees in the Horn of Africa (not including Yemen); the support targets Somali refugees but also those from South Sudan, Eritrea, Congo, Yemen and Sudan. Priority is given to life-saving assistance for newly arriving refugees. In addition, €21 million of humanitarian assistance has been provided in Somalia itself, as support to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country.

Other EU interventions

In addition to development programmes and humanitarian aid, the EU has also launched three missions under the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), to contribute to security challenges: (1) the Military Training Mission (EUTM) to support the Somali security forces, (2) the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) operation “Atalanta” to fight piracy at sea, (3) the EUCAP NESTOR to develop regional maritime capacity of states in the Horn.

EU also provides substantial financial support to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), close to €800m committed to date (since 2007). AMISOM remains a key force in providing the security space needed for development to take root and for the political process to continue until the Somali National Security Forces can fully take over this role.

For more information

The European Union announces new support for Somali refugees:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5878_en.htm

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Bombing in Bangkok

There has so far been no claim of responsibility for the worst attack in Thailand in many, many years.” A powerful explosion sent a fireball and hail of debris through a busy Bangkok district filled with shoppers and tourists Monday, killing at least 19 people near a site that also has been a hub for political rallies and clashes, police said. More than 120 people were reported injured in what authorities described as a bomb blast, and one police official said many foreigners were among the casualties. There was no assertion of responsibility for an attack whose location — near one of the city’s tourist and commercial crossroads — and timing — shortly before 7 p.m. — may have been chosen to maximize damage and bloodshed.” (WaPo http://wapo.st/1JdpEEz)

Just a little more time, please…South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said he needs more time before he will sign a compromise deal with rebel forces led by his former deputy, mediators said Monday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1hIle2x)

Good News on the Ebola Front…Sierra Leone has not recorded a new case of Ebola in the last week, a first since the outbreak reached the country in March last year, the World Health Organization said Monday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1hjugmL)

Africa

Separatist rebels in northern Mali attacked positions of a pro-government militia on Monday in fighting that is undermining government attempts to pacify the region, sources from both groups said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1JmGZ4c)

Burundi’s foreign minister said his government is doing its best to ensure that the country does not degenerate into ethnic conflict by bringing those responsible for violence to justice. (VOA http://bit.ly/1hjfbBH)

Central African Republic refugees in eastern Cameroon are insisting on leaving refugee camps due to difficult living conditions, saying they are being poorly fed, and their children lack school and humanitarian assistance. (VOA http://bit.ly/1TPN1zj)

Rights groups are calling on leaders from the 15-nation Southern Africa Development Community to take steps to improve the rule of law and human rights as they meet for an annual summit Monday and Tuesday in Botswana. (VOA http://bit.ly/1hjff4x)

MENA

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief called attention Monday to the impact that the ongoing conflict in Syria is having on civilians in the country and the risk it poses to stability in the Middle East. (VOA http://bit.ly/1hjfi07)

U.N. and camp officials in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region are already preparing for another wave of Iraqis displaced by war to flood into the area as the conflict against Islamic extremists rages on. (VOA http://bit.ly/1KrPfuw)

Israel on Monday offered to free a Palestinian detainee whose two-month hunger strike has left him in a coma — but only if he goes abroad, a demand his lawyer immediately dismissed. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1KrYg6N

The almost year-old UN-facilitated dialogue aimed at ending the political power struggle at the heart of Libya’s civil war has pitched its tent in several locations inside and outside the country since it began last September. Last week it was again the turn of Geneva’s Palais des Nations. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1hjfnAM)

Qatar on Tuesday officially launches one of its most “significant” labour reforms to guarantee migrant workers’ wages, but rights groups are concerned over implementation of the new regulations. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1fl8xsC)

Lebanon’s health minister says the country is on the brink of a “major health disaster” unless an immediate solution is found for its mounting trash problem. (AP http://yhoo.it/1hjugDj)

Damascus should allow greater humanitarian access to people in need inside Syria, the United Nations’ aid chief said on Monday after his first visit to the country. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1KrYf2K)

Asia

Armed men kidnapped a foreign aid worker, believed to be German, in downtown Kabul on Monday, the latest in a spate of attacks on foreign targets at a time of declining security in the Afghan capital. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1hjukmv)

Local aid groups and the United Nations are urging Myanmar to allow access to about 1,400 people who are running out of food in makeshift camps in the jungle after fleeing clashes between the military and an ethnic armed group in Kachin state. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1TPmZfx)

Aid workers warn the problem of underage sex work could get worse if not confronted by authorities as Myanmar society opens up after half a century of isolation under military rule. They say support and rehabilitation is more important than punitive measures. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1fl8Cwv)

A general strike imposed by smaller political parties protesting a proposed new constitution that would split Nepal into six federal states crippled daily life across the Himalayan nation Monday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1DYw6DP)

The Americas

Latin America’s booming urban slums look set to continue their rapid expansion as government housing policies fail to tackle an explosion in informal housing, legal experts said on Monday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1fl8vRK)

A group of prominent writers, artists and intellectuals have called on the Mexican president to address the country’s terrible record on protecting journalists who report on drug violence and other criminal activity. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1DYw6Um)

The millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States must leave, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said Sunday, as he unveiled his immigration platform. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1KrQfib)

Flooding from days of heavy rain in Uruguay has forced nearly 4,000 people from their homes, officials said Monday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1KrYfj8)

Cuba put its civil defense system on alert on Monday due to a year-long drought that is forecast to worsen in the coming months and has already damaged agriculture and left more than a million people relying on trucked-in water. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1KrYdrt)

A criminal gang attacked and killed five police officers on Nicaragua’s southern Caribbean coast, one of the Central American country’s most violent regions, authorities said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1KrYcUD)

…and the rest

Turkish coastguards have rescued almost 18,300 migrants in the Aegean Sea in the last month amid a drastic rise in the number attempting the maritime crossing to the EU, the government said on Monday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1hjuhap)

Opinion/Blogs

Global Dispatches Podcast: Mark speaks with Carne Ross, founder of the non profit Independent Diplomat and former British foreign service officer who resigned over the Iraq war. http://bit.ly/1LgEHE3

The exploitation of migrants has become our way of life (Guardian http://bit.ly/1TNcmoc)

What’s the point of international development think tanks? (ODI http://bit.ly/1KrORfv)

What does changing complex systems look like in practice? (Aid Leap http://bit.ly/1Ks1M0M)

Bright ideas for better aid (IRIN http://bit.ly/1KrPBkM)

Why is India dragging its heels over the criminalisation of marital rape? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PhMtM1)

Africa’s Development – Myths and Missed Opportunities (News of Rwanda http://bit.ly/1NorRmI)

Does the ADB have a problem with women? (Aidnography http://bit.ly/1TNJgoS)

Discussion

comments…

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Questions and answers on how the European Commission helps refugees

Who is a refugee?

Every year natural disasters, conflicts and human rights violations force millions of people to leave their homes and to flee to save their lives. Their survival often depends on international assistance and protection.

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country and is unable or unwilling to return because of fear of persecution. The 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees gives refugees legal protection under the international refugee law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to respond to refugee needs.

An internally displaced person (IDP) is someone who was forced to flee his/her home but who did not cross a state border. IDPs benefit from the legal protection of international human rights law and, in armed conflict, international humanitarian law.

However, IDPs do not benefit from the specialised protection of international refugee law. No UN or international agency has been formally mandated to assist them. National governments have the primary responsibility for the security and well-being of all displaced people on their territory, but often they are unable or unwilling to comply with this obligation. The most important reference document to address the issue of protection and assistance to IDPs is the non-binding Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement from 1998. The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance to IDPs in Africa (the so called Kampala Convention), which entered into force in 2012, is the first ever binding international legal instrument on the rights of IDPs.  

How many refugees are there?

Today, there are more than 59.5 million people in need of help and protection as a consequence of forced displacement, more than at any time since comprehensive statistics have been collected, with the continuing crises in Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan and Ukraine as major aggravating factors. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), globally some 38.2 million people are IDPs, around 19.5 million are refugees and 1.8 million people applied for asylum in 2014. Together, these forcibly displaced people represent the combined population of greater London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Stockholm, Lisbon, Warsaw, Athens, Barcelona and Brussels.

According to the latest UNHCR data, about half of the global refugee population are children under 18, the highest proportion in more than a decade. About half of the entire refugee population are women and girls. In many societies, they face specific risks such as discrimination and are less likely than men and boys to have access to basic rights.

Syria became the world’s largest source country of refugees during 2014 with an estimated 3.9 million people, overtaking Afghanistan, which had held this position for more than 30 years. Somalia, Sudan, South-Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar follow. It is estimated that around 45% of the world’s refugees are trapped in protracted situations (in exile for five years or more without prospects of immediate durable solutions).

For humanitarian workers, helping the displaced is becoming more difficult, costly and dangerous. In countries such as Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen or Iraq, getting help to internally displaced populations means working in environments where access is difficult and conflict or criminality present deadly risks.

86% of today’s refugees live in the developing world, which means that they find refuge in countries and among people who already struggle with poverty and hardship. Greater international solidarity is needed to address this challenge.

According to the UNHCR, out of the total 14.4 million refugees in the world in 2014, more than 1 million were in the EU.

What is World Refugee Day?

Each year, on 20 June, the world focuses on the plight of people who are forced to flee their homes due to conflicts or natural disasters. This day has been significant since 2001, when the UN General Assembly designated it on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Humanitarian situation and needs

Many of the people forced to flee and abandon their homes often have to do this at very short notice and to leave with nothing or very few possessions. Particularly in volatile contexts, they rely on local communities and international humanitarian aid for their survival. Too often, their flight to safety turns into protracted and long term displacement, as the problems that uprooted them take a long time to resolve.

Sustainable solutions for refugees include voluntary repatriation to their home countries, which is the preferred long-term outcome for the majority of refugees. Another solution is local integration or resettlement either in the asylum country where they are living or in third countries where they can be permanently resettled. The IDPs can be reintegrated in their place of origin (return), integrated in areas where they have taken refuge (local integration), or integrated in another part of the country (settlement elsewhere).

Refugees and those internally displaced (IDPs) face major challenges in terms of protection, access to shelter, food and other basic services such as health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene and education. Those who end up living in urban areas (IDP’s, refugees) may encounter poverty, lack of psychosocial support and difficulties in normalizing their status. Violence, abuse and exploitation against the most vulnerable often peak in the aftermath of emergencies, which underlines the importance of effective protection mechanisms to be put in place immediately.

The patterns of displacement are increasingly complex, as large numbers of migrants flow inside and between countries and regions. Their problems, and the burden on host countries, are worsened by climate change, increasing urbanisation, population growth and food insecurity. At the same time, the efforts of the humanitarian community to bring relief and contribute to lasting solutions are made more difficult by donors’ budgetary constraints, triggered by the global financial and economic crisis and the multiplication of crisis in need of funding.

The European Commission’s humanitarian response

Refugees are among the most vulnerable in humanitarian crises. This is why the European Commission provides substantial resources to help them. The European Commission gave more than €854 million or some 70% of its annual humanitarian aid budget in 2014 to projects helping refugees and IDPs in 33 countries worldwide. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) invests heavily in assisting displaced people and is currently responding to crises such as: Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, Somali refugees in Kenya and Yemen, Congolese refugees in the Great Lake region, Colombian refugees in Ecuador and Venezuela, Myanmar refugees in Thailand, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Sahrawi refugees.

Humanitarian aid delivered by the European Commission helps:

  • meet the most pressing needs of refugees;
  • protect and support refugees during their displacement and when returning to their place of origin;
  • increase the self-reliance of refugees and reduce their ‘dependency syndrome’.

The Commission focuses its support on organisations dealing with migrants, refugees and IDPs including the UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Red Cross and Red Crescent family and non-governmental organisations. The three above-mentioned organization remained in 2014 among the first five humanitarian aid partner of the Commission, in terms of volume of funding (2. ICRC, 3. UNHCR, 5. IOM).

Through this support, the Commission’s action paves the way for durable solutions for refugees and IDPs. It coordinates its assistance with the organisations in charge of early recovery and development.

While supporting the victims of displacement, the European Commission is also working to decrease the number and scale of refugee crises: for instance, through its work on disaster preparedness and prevention, which aims to reduce the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities and prevent their displacement.

Refugees and development policy

The European Commission also provides development assistance to tackle the challenges related to forced displacement, since there is growing recognition of the importance of refugees and IDPs to the economy and development, with the potential to contribute to the economy of hosting countries (also acknowledged by the European Council in 2013).

This is particularly relevant in the case of refugees who are displaced for the long term; either in camps or urban areas (known as protracted displacement). These challenges must therefore be addressed by long-term development strategies in order to enable the refugees to be self-reliant and to support host communities.

The Commission is already a leading international donor in terms of support for refugees in developing countries with €200 million in ongoing projects from development funds.

In addition, the European Commission is currently working on developing new, more comprehensive and multi-sectoral approaches aimed at seeing sustainable solutions for refugees, IDPs and returnees. The objective is to ensure that development actors, together with humanitarian actors, will engage to address the crisis that forces the population to flee from the beginning in order to prevent that displacement turns into a permanent situation.

Examples

The humanitarian consequences of the crisis in Syria have reached an unprecedented scale. Around 11.5 million Syrians are internally displaced or are living as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, North Africa and the EU. Many of those who were able to reach the neighbouring countries are now living in hardship; struggling to find shelter and food for their families and schooling for their children. The European Union is a leading donor in the response to the Syria crisis with around €3.6 billion of total budget mobilised by the Commission and Member States collectively in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance. EU humanitarian assistance channelled through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) primarily supports life-saving medical emergency responses, the provision of essential drugs, food and nutritional items, safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), shelter, distribution of basic non-food items and protection programmes. This funding is channelled through UN agencies and accredited international humanitarian organisations to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people.

In 2015, the Commission has increased its humanitarian assistance to the Syria crisis by €136 million, half of which will go to meet needs inside Syria, and the other half to Syrian refugees and host communities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. This includes €2.5 million to respond to the emergency inside Yarmouk refugee camp.

A new EU comprehensive strategy has been developed to tackle the crises in Syria and Iraq, which will include €1 billion in funding over the next two years. The new strategy will champion activities from several EU instruments and increase the impact of Europe’s solidarity and political support. This will include enhancing economic resilience among refugee and host communities especially to promote prospects for young people.

The Third International Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City was held on 31 March 2015. During the conference, donors pledged a total of US$3.8 billion in humanitarian and development assistance to the Syria crisis out of which the EU and its Member States pledged €1.1 billion – the largest pledge by any donor.

To strengthen the development and protection capacities in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, and to enable Syrian refugees to tap into their own potentials, the European Commission is funding a Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP) in the region. The programme combines efforts to improve protection of refugees with longer-term livelihood support to host communities and, whenever possible, refugees alike. The Commission is currently also developing RDPPs for the Horn of Africa and North Africa in close collaboration with EU Member States.

The on-going crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced an estimated 220 000 people since December 2013 to flee to Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo, bringing the number of Central African refugees in neighbouring countries to over 462 000 people. The European Union is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to CAR with over EUR 186 million provided since 2014. The European Commission alone has provided EUR 69 million (including about EUR 20 million for CAR refugees in neighbouring countries) in humanitarian aid since December 2013.

Almost half of the funding is spent in Chad, which was facing the biggest influx of people fleeing CAR at the beginning of the crisis, €7.8 million in Cameroon and €1 million in the DRC and the Republic of Congo. The humanitarian assistance addresses the basic needs of refugees such as shelter, food, health, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene. The funds are implemented through the European Commission’s partners such as UN agencies, International NGOs, and international organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies.

In CAR, the European Commission is funding humanitarian projects to enable free access to primary health services through mobile clinics. Projects seeking to improve the protection of civilians are also being supported. Food assistance is a priority. Moreover, the European Commission is supporting integrated actions to provide safe drinking water, re-establish decent sanitation facilities and promote better hygiene practices (WASH).

The situation in South Sudan since the outbreak of civil war in December 2013 remains one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. Over 2 million people have fled their homes, of which 565 000 South Sudanese have taken refuge in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, putting additional resource constraints on these countries and having a destabilising effect on the whole region. At over 1.5 million people have been internally displaced (IDPs), mostly because of widespread violence against civilians. More than half of the refugees (around 60%) are children. At the same time, the country hosts more than a quarter of a million refugees, mainly from Sudan. Overall, life-saving needs for food, health care, clean water, shelter, sanitation, protection, etc. continue to rise.

Humanitarian aid is delivered in extremely and increasingly challenging circumstances. Hostilities and attacks against humanitarian workers seriously constrain access to those in need. The commandeering of assets and other illegal obstructions further constrain the work of aid organisations.

The European Commission has made available more than €200 million since 2014 (over €120 million in 2015 alone) to respond to the unfolding and intensifying humanitarian crisis inside the South Sudan and support the urgent needs of refugees in the Horn of Africa, including South Sudanese refugees. The aid covers the provision of food aid, basic health care, clean water, sanitation, shelter and protection for the most vulnerable people. The funds also support the response to epidemics such as cholera and Hepatitis E.

As a result of the illegal annexation of Crimea and fighting between Russia-backed separatists and government forces in Eastern Ukraine, over two million people have been forced to flee their homes and have become increasingly vulnerable. As of June 2015, over 1.3 million people are registered as internally displaced (IDPs), and more than 860 000 have fled to neighbouring countries, especially Russia, Belarus and Poland. Refugees and internally displaced persons need shelter, food and sanitation items as well as proper healthcare and psychosocial support, education and protection. Medical supplies are extremely limited across the conflict zone. Despite a ceasefire agreement that came into force in February 2015, access to Donetsk and Luhansk regions remains challenging for humanitarian organisations.

The European Union and its Member States have jointly contributed over € 139 million in financial aid to the most vulnerable since the beginning of the crisis. Aid is provided to all affected populations, including refugees in Russia and Belarus, and is delivered according to humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. On the ground, the assistance is being delivered through partner organisations, including UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, IOM, Save the Children, Danish Refugee Council, People In Need, WFP and ICRC.

In a joint operation in January 2015, EU and its Member States organised the delivery emergency supplies by air and road, including tents, blankets and sleeping bags for the harsh winter conditions, in cooperation with humanitarian partners including UNICEF and UNHCR.

Asylum in the EU

Most displaced persons remain in their own countries or find refuge in neighbouring states, but many also travel to Europe to seek asylum. The EU has stepped up its search and rescue activities in response to the tragic situation in the Mediterranean, and thousands of people are being rescued every week.

The new European Agenda on Migration sets out proposals to establish a temporary relocation mechanism for 40 000 persons in Italy and Greece in clear need of international protection, to be relocated within the EU. The Agenda also includes a recommendation for an EU wide scheme to resettle 20 000 refugees in all Member States.

For further information

European Agenda on Migration

Homepage of DG HOME

Homepage of DG ECHO

Homepage of DG Europeaid

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