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Concrete Action Needed to Tap Potential of Science, Technology in Solving Global Development Challenges, Speakers Tell Innovation Forum

Science, technology and innovation had an undisputed role in achieving the global development goals and sustainable development, in general, speakers said today as the Economic and Social Council kicked-off its Science, Technology and Innovation Forum.

In opening the two-day annual meeting, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, warned that, despite all the potential of science and technology to identify and design solutions to mankind’s challenges, no tangible progress would be made without real action on the ground.

In that context, the international community must collectively step up efforts to leverage science and technology in support of concrete steps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, stressing that such cooperation might not only prove to be highly effective, but could also help bridge divides across national borders and between various communities.

Highlighting that rapid advances in science, technology and innovation had revolutionized the way people lived, worked and communicated in recent years, Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, noted that, increasingly, such transformation was taking place on a global scale.

Addressing unequal access to innovation and technology and increased connectivity, especially in Africa, would be critical, Mr. Thomson added, calling for the establishment of strategic partnerships and broader participation of women in the field.  It was also important to do more to understand and manage the social, political, economic, ethical, security, security and human rights risks associated with technological advances, he underlined.

The private sector must do its part to put technologies at the service of sustainable development by providing the goods and services, while civil society could steer production and consumption towards sustainable solutions, said Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking for Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  Pointing out the wide range of stakeholders participating in the Forum, Mr. Gass said their presence demonstrated that the spirit of innovation and cooperation was alive and well.

Science, technology and innovation had an amazing impact on societies in modern times, recalled Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who delivered a video message to the Forum.  While they were not “silver bullets”, science, technology and innovation could help “unlock miracles”, he stressed, while adding that Governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations all had a role to play in those efforts.

Without a breakthrough in international cooperation in the field of technology, shifting towards a more sustainable path would be very difficult and burdensome for developing countries, said the representative of Ecuador, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  She went on to emphasize the  urgent need to channel effective, sustainable technical assistance and capacity-building tailored to the specific needs and constraints of developing countries, and to address technology infrastructure gaps, as well as capacity constraints.

Increasing the availability of technology could help weaker and vulnerable countries build resilience, while also helping to eliminate poverty and promote good governance and financial inclusion, highlighted the representative of Bangladesh, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, and aligning himself with the Group of 77.  Least developed countries needed suitable technologies and relevant know-how to adapt to local requirements, he said, underscoring the need for adequate financial support to harness science, technology and innovation, as well as the important role of private-public partnerships, and South-South and triangular cooperation.

Also speaking today during the opening segment were the representatives of Cameroon (on behalf of the African Group) and El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

Throughout the day, there were also seven panel discussions that explored the key opportunities and priorities for the use of science, technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Forum will continue at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 16 May.

Opening Remarks

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that science, technology and innovation had an undisputed role in achieving the global development goals and sustainable development, in general.  Yet, for all the potential of science and technology to identify and design solutions to mankind’s challenges, no real progress would be made without real action on the ground.  Given that reality, the international community must collectively step up efforts to leverage science and technology in support of concrete actions towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Such action-oriented cooperation might not only prove to be highly effective, but could also help bridge divides across national borders and between various communities, as well as strengthen communication and collaboration.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Forum would bring together a wide and diverse sampling of public and private actors, ranging from decision makers and regulators, to entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as scientists and civil society representatives, he said.  The mandated objectives of the Forum were to identify and examine technology needs and gaps, including with regard to scientific cooperation, innovation and capacity-building, and to help facilitate the development, transfer and dissemination of relevant technologies for the Sustainable Development Goals.  In that regard, the Forum must consider a range of sources of knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, and provide an opportunity to strengthen the dialogue between stakeholders, while also facilitating exchanges on science, technology and innovation solutions.  The summary of the Forum would be fed into the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which would be held from 10 to 19 July, he noted.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, noted rapid advances in science, technology and innovation that in recent years had revolutionized the way people lived, worked and communicated.  Increasingly, such transformation was taking place on a global scale.  Smart mobile devices were being used to provide banking services to people without bank accounts, to diagnose medical disorders and to remotely manage chronic illness care.  Also highlighting technological advances made in solar energy and in combating illegal fishing, he urged the international community to continue to unlock the potential inherent in innovation.  Properly done, such actions could help achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Addressing unequal access to innovation and technology and increased connectivity, especially in Africa, would be critical, he continued.  Urging the establishment of strategic partnerships, he called on the international community to broaden participation in science, technology and innovation by women.  It was also important to do more to understand and manage the social, political, economic, ethical, security, security and human rights risks associated with advances in innovation and technology.  That included protecting systems against mass-scale malicious cyberattacks as seen across the world last week.

“We’ll also have to address privacy concerns relating to the collection, retention and distribution of personal data,” he continued, emphasizing that the automation replacing industrial jobs would have to be carefully managed.  “We cannot all be employed polishing robots,” he added.  The Forum had both an explanative and a constructive role to play as it had become the pre-eminent, global platform to bring together key stakeholders.  Welcoming the December 2016 General Assembly decision to establish the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, he said to function effectively, the Technology Bank, as well as the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, were in need of increased financial resources.

THOMAS GASS, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, delivering a statement on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require transformation on many different levels and scales and would require the kind of change that could only happen through science, technology and innovation.  Science pushed the boundaries of the unknown and inspired practical solutions, while technology and innovation helped transform science into real results that affected everyday lives.  The world was experiencing a time of rapid progress that affected all lives in every aspect — economic and social, as well as environmental.

The international community must put technologies at the service of sustainable development, he said.  Many people must work together to make that happen, including the private sector which needed to provide the goods and services.  Furthermore, civil society needed to steer production and consumption towards sustainable solutions.  The United Nations stood ready to do its part, including by facilitating technology transfer, particularly as most Member States recognized the importance of science, technology and innovation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Forum served as a collaborative space, with the objective of harnessing and disseminating science, technology and innovation.  The participation of such a wide range of stakeholders demonstrated that the spirit of innovation and cooperation was alive and well.  By participating in the Forum with its global reach, stakeholders were in the “right place at the right time” to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

YANEZ LOZA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that without a breakthrough in international cooperation in the field of technology, shifting towards a more sustainable path would be very difficult and burdensome for developing countries.  There was an urgent need to channel effective and sustainable technical assistance and capacity-building tailored to the specific needs and constraints of developing countries, and to address technology infrastructure gaps as well as capacity constraints.  There was also a need to fully operationalize the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, recognizing its potential to foster productive capacity, structural transformation, poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The Group reaffirmed that international cooperation, especially North-South cooperation, remained a fundamental catalyst to sustainable economic growth and urged developed countries to fulfil their unmet official development assistance (ODA) commitments.  In the same vein, it was essential to mobilize domestic resources to support science, technology and innovation, while also recognizing the central role of tax systems in development.  Technology transfer and diffusion on concessional and preferential terms from developed countries were also needed.  The Group also underlined that traditional knowledge should be fully considered, respected and promoted while developing policies, strategies and programmes to foster science, technology and innovation.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), speaking on behalf of the African Group, and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that countries in Africa were continuing to mobilize resources to meet the 2030 Agenda.  In that regard, science, technology and innovation had been established as a “game changer” for the socioeconomic development of Africa.  Recognizing the Forum’s potential to help create jobs, he noted the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in sharing knowledge and building on experience.  African countries continued to heavily rely on technology in order to shift to a more sustainable path.  However, many challenges persisted, particularly in levelling the playing field and addressing the persistent digital divide.

Unless such challenges were addressed, many developing countries, particularly least developed countries in Africa, would continue to lag behind, he added.  African countries were facing many obstacles, with regard to finance, capacity-building and research and development.  An effective technology innovative system could help bridge the gap.  Welcoming the setting up of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, he called on the United Nations to fast-track its operationalization.  It was of utmost importance to improve the state of science, technology and innovation in least developed countries.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, and aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that the 2030 Agenda aptly recognized that science, technology and innovation had great potential to accelerate human progress.  Availability of technology could help weaker and vulnerable countries build resilience.  It could also help eliminate poverty and promote good governance and financial inclusion.  A stronger commitment and political will of the international community was essential to help the least developed countries utilize science, innovation and technology to realize the 2030 Agenda and the Istanbul Programme of Action.  He welcomed collective efforts that led to the adoption in December 2016 of the charter of the Technology Bank.

He recommended enhancing vertical coordination between policies and strategies adopted by countries to ensure more public investment in research and development.  That would help ensure availability, affordability and accessibility to technology.  Least developed countries needed appropriate technologies and relevant know-how to adapt with local needs.  Noting also the need for adequate financial support to harness science, technology and innovation, he highlighted the role pf private-public partnerships, and South-South and triangular cooperation.  There must be more concrete initiatives among the countries in the South to exchange their lessons learned.

JAIME CALDERON (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said science, technology and innovation had enabled the building of knowledge societies.  Collaboration in innovation was particularly important to finding competitive solutions to local, national and regional challenges.  To that end, it was essential to refrain from carrying out unilateral measures that could foster conflict among States, he said, also highlighting the need to protect the right to privacy of all individuals.  While science, technology and innovation were central in advancing the 2030 Agenda, he reiterated that not every problem had a technological solution.

Various sources of knowledge, including indigenous understanding, must be utilized, he continued.  Technology transfer was a powerful driver of economic growth and a tool to bridge the digital divide.  He stressed the role of capacity-building, particularly in least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries.  Women, children and persons with disabilities must have access to technology.  Technology transfer, capacity-building and the dissemination of information were key drivers of economic growth.

BILL GATES, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, then delivered a video message to the Forum, in which he highlighted that science, technology and innovation had an amazing impact on societies in modern times.  Since 1990, childhood mortality had been cut in half, which meant some 122 million lives had been saved.  He was optimistic about the Sustainable Development Goals and how innovation could help meet those goals.  Science, technology and innovation were not “silver bullets”, but they could help “unlock miracles”.  There needed to be new vaccines, more innovation in agriculture, and reliable, affordable clean energy.  Governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations all had a role to play, which was why the Forum was so important.

Panel I

The first panel titled, “Harnessing Science Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals — the key to unlocking science, technology and innovation potentials”, was moderated by Elenita Daño, Asia Director, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, Philippines.  It featured brief remarks by the Forum Co-Chairs Vaughan Tuekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary Of State, United States, and Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations.  The panellists were Indira Nath, Professor, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, India, and Taikan Oki, Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University.

Mr. TUEKIAN said that the Forum had brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, as well as youth, which spoke to the optimism and creativity that would be needed to achieve the future development goals.  He hoped the next two days would provide participants an opportunity to meet with colleagues and exchange ideas and solutions, as well as think about ways to “bend the science, technology and innovation curve” to address some of the great challenges the world faced in a collaborative manner.

Mr. KAMAU noted that the gap between the knowledge and the available science and policies was huge, and it was up to the Forum to address that gap.  There needed to be greater coherence between the various scientific and technological communities so that they spoke to each other across boundaries to ensure a collaborative outcome.  Only 13 years remained to complete the tasks that had been laid out in the 2030 Agenda.  Science, technology and innovation could be transformative and accelerate change; now was the time to ensure that the policymakers “got it”.

Ms. DAÑO said the objective of the discussion was to provide long-term vision on how and to what extent the world could harness science, technology and innovation for the 2030 Agenda and to ensure better human well-being in the future.  Science, technology and innovation should not only focus on high-technology solutions, but there must be acknowledgement of a diverse range of sources, as well.

Ms. NATH said that human health was not only about humans and diseases, but was also about human well-being.  There were an increasing number of infectious diseases and the destruction of animal habitats was contributing to the spread of infectious disease.  The emerging epidemics the world was dealing with related to the spread of diseases from animals to humans.  Sustainability would not be possible unless the relationships between animals and humans were understood, and there must be a better understanding of the health of the total planet.  Some of the early signals of epidemics that affected humans were first evident in animals, but the connection had not been made, which meant that surveillance and reporting must be expanded to avoid that phenomenon.  Rapid urbanization and internal migration also needed to be studied more carefully as they related to the spread of disease.

Mr. OKI recalled that the Sustainable Development Goals pursued both inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development, although that could not be achieved without holistic approaches that strengthened the pillars of sustainable development through good governance, social inclusion and environmental conservation.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require an immense amount of work and determination, and in that regard, science, technology and innovation had a fundamental role to play by equipping humankind with better tools to progress beyond social hurdles and environmental hazards and reaching development equality across nations.  By supporting developing countries to implement the Sustainable Development Goals on their own, science, technology and innovation had the potential to become a form of ODA.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China said that science and technology were important links to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, eradicating poverty and promoting better human health.  The representative of Ethiopia, associating himself with the statement of the Group of 77, recalled that the Forum was an outcome of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and stressed that the transfer of science, technology and innovation from developed to developing countries was of great importance, particularly for the least developed countries.  The representative of Canada said that the Forum should help build the enabling environment required for science, technology and innovation to be best utilized to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  A representative of a stakeholder group, meanwhile, stressed that “silo solutions” must be broken down.

Panel II

Opening the second panel, the Forum heard an innovation pitch from John Gibbons, winner of the Call for Innovations for the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, on “Babajob in India”.  Babajob was a website in India that helped connect employers with job seekers.  By doing so, it had also acquired a wealth of data on employment trends in India.

Titled “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation to end poverty in all its forms everywhere (Goal 1)”, the panel was moderated by Gillian Tett, the United States Managing Editor, Financial Times.  Participating in the discussion were the following speakers:  Dirk Fransaer, Managing Director, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, Belgium; Priyanthi Fernando, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Poverty Analysis, Sri Lanka; and Anne Kingiri, Senior Research Fellow, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, African Centre for Technology Studies, Kenya.

Mr. FRANSAER said integration was critical to fostering innovation and remained vital to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  The integration of the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development were essential to find myriad solutions to current development challenges, relating particularly to science, technology and innovation.  For example, a Government programme focusing on purifying water would be aided by also including aspects of sanitation, sewage, waste and energy consumption.  “We start from problems and we look at how integrated solutions could help bring forth solutions,” he added.

Ms. FERNANDO, noting that poverty was not an abstract concept, said women and girls were disproportionately affected by the phenomenon.  Less than 46 per cent of Indian women used mobile phones; that was substantially less than Indian men.  In India, mobile phone usage by women was seen as undermining tradition.  Such social attitudes limited female autonomy, restricted women’s job searches and perpetuated the gender gap.  More than 1 billion people still lacked access to electricity, with women particularly affected.  “Babies are delivered in the dark,” she added.  Governments had failed to invest significantly in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable citizens and private investment alone would not resolve the gaps.  She urged Governments worldwide to demonstrate political will and stop discounting women’s potential.  “Women are technology producers and innovators”, and not just consumers, she stressed.  Respecting that potential would prevent multinational corporations from exploiting resources and local populations.

Ms. KINGIRI focused her presentation on the importance of enhancing capabilities which she said must be a priority for all Governments that wished to achieve sustainable development.  Multi-stakeholder collaboration and sustainable learning depended largely on the capacity of domestic and local actors.  Interactive learning, whether at the level of project, national innovation system or global value chain, was critical to sustainability.  It often led to capacity-building conversations including on how to conceptualize and form business models.  She highlighted the importance of rethinking the role of science, technology and innovation policy in building platforms and promoting collaboration between enterprises and universities.  Examining the social aspect of innovation helped expose complex dynamics of access, affordability and distribution, she added, highlighting the need to invest in domestic capabilities.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China outlined steps her Government was taking to eradicate poverty, particularly by mobilizing resources and focusing on technology gaps.  China would continue to partner with developing countries and share its experience and expertise at international conferences. 

The representative of Zambia said with so much international competition, knowledge-sharing was instrumental in breaking down silos.  Echoing that sentiment, Ms. KINGIRI highlighted the need to change mind sets and start new conversations.

Panel III

Opening the third panel, the Forum heard two innovation pitches; the first from Asher Hasan on “doctHERs in Pakistan”, which was a home-based technology that connected young, female doctors in India to patients.  The second innovation pitch was from Adama Kane on “JokkoSante in Senegal”, which helped families, including those with young children, store necessary medicines in their homes.

Titled “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation for ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, the panel’s opening remarks were delivered by Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.  The moderator was Paulo Gadelha, Senior Advisor, FIOCRUZ, Brazil, and the panellists were Livio Valenti, Co-Founder, Vice-President of Policy and Strategy, Vaxess Technologies, and Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, United States; and Sarah Marniesse, Director, Mobilization of Research and Innovation, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, France.

Ms. KYTE said that, by focusing on energy and health together, it was possible to seek solutions that may in fact scale up and expedite the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals related to each area.  Fortunately, there was a plethora of data available on both energy and health, and it was clear that there was both a public and private sector interest in finding solutions to energy and health challenges.  International, national and local policy makers would all need to be involved.  Closing the energy access gap was a clear target laid out in the future development agenda, but, without concerted efforts, that goal would not be met until 2040, at the earliest.

There were real challenges to bringing the existing science, technology and innovation to market in the most effective way, including insufficient human capital and managerial capacities within institutions which were not always forward-looking.  Unfortunately, there was a weak enabling environment for health care and sustainable energy, which also slowed progress.  A constant push from the top would be required to make the two complex systems work together to provide solutions.  There was, however, some “low-hanging fruit” which could be addressed immediately for quick, positive results, such as pushing for clean cooking, which would reduce indoor air pollution and the associated illnesses and loss of life.

Mr. GADELHA said that health was one of the Sustainable Development Goals most closely related to human well-being and social rights.  He noted that more than 60 per cent of health problems were due to communicable diseases, while only 1 per cent of money allocated for research and development in health care was devoted to the most predominant communicable diseases in developing countries.

Mr. VALENTI said his group was most focused on ensuring vaccines were made available to those who needed them the most.  In that context, the creation of vaccines that did not require refrigeration or that could be administered without the use of needles was the primary aim of his organization’s research.  Through the use of new technologies, it was possible to envision a dramatic decrease in the cost of vaccination campaigns in the near future.  His organization had created a patch through which vaccines could be administered, and in which individuals could receive two doses at once, making the entire process far more efficient.  There was a sense of urgency to his work, although additional funding was also of critical importance.

Ms. MARNIESSE recalled that about 16,000 children were dying every day.  From that figure, it was clear that more needed to be done to prevent and treat diseases, improve nutrition, and other efforts; all under the umbrella of universal health care.  A holistic approach would be required to mobilize synergies across the Sustainable Development Goals.  Silos needed to be broken down and research institutions in developing countries must be supported in order to bolster local research outcomes, while innovation had to take into account local social and cultural aspects.  As evidenced by the success of anti-malaria campaigns, which were largely focused on the proper use of bed nets, more research was necessary on the social determinants of health.  Most health challenges were locally specific, which called for improved local research and capacities at the core of any viable solutions.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of a stakeholder group stressed that knowledge gained from publically funded research should be made available to everyone and be publically owned, while the representative of another stakeholder group highlighted that assistive technologies could help persons with disabilities to obtain equal access to health care.  The representative of Zambia emphasized that people needed to understand all the determinants of health, rather than simply focusing on prescribing drugs, while the representative of Ethiopia stressed that the number of deaths in Africa from preventable diseases was unacceptable.

Panel IV

Launching the second afternoon panel, the Forum played a video of Emmanuel Owobu, also a winner of the Call for Innovations for the Science, Innovation and Technology, who presented his innovation pitch “OMOMI in Nigeria”.

Focusing on “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, the panel was moderated by Myrna Cunningham, President, Centre for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples in Nicaragua, and member of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism.  It featured presentations by Susil Premajayantha, Minister for Science, Technology and Research, Sri Lanka; Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations; and Dalia Francheska Marquez, member of the Women’s Leaders Committee, Organization of American States-Youth United in Action, Venezuela.

Ms. CUNNINGHAM said that, as an indigenous woman, she represented more than  150 million indigenous women from seven sociocultural regions of the world.  They were knowledge-bearers and transmitters of culture, history, languages, traditional medicine, agricultural systems and biodiversity.  The 2030 Agenda was critical for indigenous women in that it recognized that realizing gender equality was crucial to progress.  While expanded opportunities for women and girls could reduce poverty and inequality through better education and health, women only accounted for 28 per cent of the world’s researchers, she noted.

Mr. PREMAJAYANTHA highlighted the work of her Ministry, saying that new information and communication technology had immensely contributed to the empowerment of women, especially in the developing world.  Noting a village programme that provided a midwife to advise pregnant women, he underscored the role of the midwives, who now enjoyed access to iPads to find information and do research to help pregnant women with their delivery and beyond.  Harnessing the potential of women and girls required a multi-stakeholder approach, he continued, citing progress in engaging science, technology and innovation towards that goal.  A higher number of women were involved in science and medicine, and were helping contribute to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  Women were participating in university science departments.  Female faculty had been performing much better than their male counterparts.  “It is a matter of pride for us,” he said.  However, challenges persisted, especially in the private sector, which had a higher gender imbalance.  The private sector preferred to recruit men, due to myriad gender perceptions including that men were available to work later in the day.  For those reasons, women must have a role in decision-making in both the private and public sectors.

Mr. NUSSEIBEH said that, as a small country with big ambitions, the United Arab Emirates recognized that progress would not be possible without the empowerment of half of its population.  As a historically oil-based economy, economic diversification depended largely on building-up a highly skilled pool of labour.  Women were encouraged to participate in various sectors, including science and medicine, she said, noting another programme to educate young girls in the sciences.  While the gender-based digital gap in the United Arab Emirates was marginal, the Government remained committed to bridging it and called on the United Nations to prioritize closing that gap at the international level and empowering women through science and technology.  Women’s empowerment and protection was a major pillar in the economic development of the United Arab Emirates.  That empowerment had to begin in schools with Government-supported curriculum.  Resource allocation also remained critical in making science and technology accessible to women and girls.

Ms. MARQUEZ said women were less likely to have a mobile phone which today was seen as a major driver of innovation.  “We still face a glass ceiling which keeps us far away from prestige,” she said.  Women faced many gaps, both economic and social.  Sexist education played a major role, she said, noting that, while boys were encouraged to play strategic games, young girls were encouraged to follow paths associated with motherhood and household activities.  The best way to achieve equity was through fair learning.  Her organization set up educational workshops and supporting women researchers focusing on human rights.  “We bet on education,” she said.  Training in entrepreneurship was crucial, as well, she continued, emphasizing the need to guarantee access to education that was nor sexist and not gender-biased.  Economic dependency on partners or family limited women’s potential and remained a major challenge in Latin America.  The private sector must support women entrepreneurs.  “If we cannot innovate, we stagnate,” she said.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Zambia, referring to the presentations focusing on gender progress, said of her country, “we have not gotten there yet” due to culture biases limiting women to “non-difficult professions”.  It would be important to enact policy that put women in science and technology positions.  “I think it should start at home,” she added, emphasizing the need to educate young girls about the past achievements of their gender.  Responding to a question by the representative of Panama on whether national successes had been driven by grass-roots or global progress, Mr. PREMAJAYANTHA said that in Sri Lanka most graduates in science and technology were women, who then become engaged locally, educating and empowering other women and girls.  Ms. NUSSEIBEH said that, in the case of the United Arab Emirates, direction from the top was critical.  There were currently eight women Ministers in the Cabinet and the Government was further focused on achieving gender parity in the coming years.

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Government of Canada Helps UNB Establish Energy Innovation Program

Program will support development of energy and cybersecurity startups

December 9, 2016 – Fredericton, N.B. – Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency  

Currently, the new entrepreneurial accelerator has attracted five company startups including: 

Stash Energy – Jordan Kennie, Daniel Larsen, Erik Hatfield
Stash Energy has created an energy storage solution that works with residential heat pumps in order to shift peak energy usage and optimize the use of renewable generators. They are currently working with utilities across Atlantic Canada to bring their product to market. Their product will allow for the reduction of environmentally harmful generators being used across North America while saving utilities hundreds of millions of dollars.
URL – http://stash.energy

Beauceron Security – David Shipley
Beauceron Security helps companies measure, monitor and manage cyber risk through an innovative focus on people, process and culture – as well as technology based risk. Our software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform adapts the tactics used by cybercriminals into a series of metrics, methods and counter-measures. We help organizations’ measure their members’ cybersecurity attitudes, behaviours and perceptions as well as providing baseline education to improve their awareness. Our cyber-attack simulations test employee awareness and along with our incident reporting tool, helps improve accountability throughout an organization. Beauceron bridges the gap between the C-suite, boards and cybersecurity by presenting easy-to-understand S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely) metrics. Beauceron helps organizations of all kinds make more informed decisions about their cybersecurity strategies, programs and investments. Beauceron is currently beta testing its platform with UNB.
URL https://www.beauceronsecurity.com/

Trispectra Innovation Inc. – Emmanuel Albert
Trispectra Innovation Inc. (Trispectra) is a New Brunswick based start-up that is developing a sensor-based communication and analytics platform that provides real-time monitoring of power lines. The company is focused on delivering a cost-effective and innovative product that can disrupt the Smart Grid industry in Canada and around the world. By combining sensors, hybrid communications architecture, web-based interface, and an advanced grid analytics platform, Trispectra is creating a data-centric hardware and software solution that will increase the efficiency and efficacy of outage response.
URL – www.trispectra.ca  

Rising Tide Technologies – Scott Shreenan, Dr. Mauricio Hernandez
In the burgeoning field of tidal energy extraction, Rising Tide Technologies is developing a new approach for producing clean electricity. The method seeks to overcome some of the technical limitations and environmental impact of competing technologies. A major emphasis of the design is to incorporate energy storage with the tidal power extraction in order to have the capability of generating on-demand power.
URL – www.risingtidetech.ca

Mbissa Energy Systems – Caleb Grove
Mbissa Energy Systems is making a difference in rural Africa. We develop and deploy sustainable wind, solar and hydro energy systems. This allows us to empower local individuals with the tools and knowledge needed to build, maintain, and use these systems so that they may lift their own communities out of the cycle of poverty. With over a decade of experience in Cameroon, Africa, and the success of the pilot project on Mbissa, our international team is ready to lead rural Africa into a bright, renewable future.
URL – www.facebook.com/mbissaenergy/

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Young African Leaders Initiative

Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C.

3:28 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please sit down, sit down.  Everybody, sit down.  

AUDIENCE:  Yes, we can!  Yes, we can!  Yes, we can! 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much!  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  

Well, it is so good to see all of you.  Okay, everybody settle down, settle down.  

(Audience sings “Happy Birthday.”)  (Applause.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  Well, you know, I — let me first of all just say that — let me first of all say I’m a little disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm.  (Laughter.)  Everybody is so shy and quiet.  

First of all, I want to thank Emmanuel for the great introduction and the outstanding work on behalf of the people of Uganda.  Please give Emmanuel a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I don’t know whether they chose Emmanuel because he’s such a great speaker — which he is — or because they thought he and I were cousins — (laughter) — because Odama, Obama — (laughter) — there must be some connection.  

Now, I know that you’ve been in this fellowship for a few weeks.  I know that for many of you, this is your first visit to the United States.  So let me start by saying on behalf of the American people, welcome to the United States of America.  (Applause.)   

I don’t want to give a long speech because I’m really here to hear from you and answer your questions and to get your comments and ideas.  But I do want to just take a moment to step back and talk about why you being here is so important, not just to me but to all of our countries and to people around the world. 

I stand here as the President of the United States and the son of an African.  Michelle and I have always tried to instill in our girls, our daughters, a sense of their heritage, which is American and African and European — with all the strengths and all the struggles of that heritage.  We took them to Africa.   We wanted to open their eyes to the amazing tapestry of history and culture and music.  We looked out from those doors of no return.  We stood in the cell where Mandela refused to break. 

As President, I’ve now visited Sub-Saharan Africa four times, which is more than any other U.S. President.  (Applause.)  And even as Africa continues to face enormous challenges –- poverty and disease and conflict -– I see a continent on the move.  You have one of the world’s fastest-growing regions, home to a middle class that is projected to grow to over 1 billion consumers.  You are more connected by technology and smartphones than ever before — as I can see here today.  (Laughter.)  Africa is sending more of its children to school.  You’re saving more lives from HIV/AIDS and infant mortality.  And while there’s still more work to do to address these challenges, today’s Africa is a place of unprecedented prosperity and opportunity. 

So over the past seven and a half years, I’ve worked to transform America’s relationship with Africa so that we are equal partners.  As so many Africans have told me, you want trade not aid –- trade that supports jobs and growth.  (Applause.)  So we’ve been working to boost exports with Africa.  We’re working to promote good governance and human rights; to advance security; to help feed families.  

Earlier today, I signed a new executive order so that we’re doing even more to support American companies that are interested in doing business in Africa.  (Applause.)  And this fall, we’ll host the second U.S.-Africa Business Forum to encourage more trade and investment.  And we’re going to keep working together in our Power Africa initiative to bring cleaner electricity to more than 60 million African homes and businesses.  (Applause.)  

And we’re doing this not just because I love the people of Africa, but also because the world will not be able to deal with climate change or terrorism, or expanding women’s rights — all the issues that we face globally — without a rising and dynamic and self-reliant Africa.  And that, more importantly than anything else, depends on a rising generation of new leaders.  It depends on you.  

That’s why, six years ago, I launched the Young African Leaders Initiative.  Because I’ve always believed that one person can be a force for positive change; that one person, as Bobby Kennedy famously said when he visited Soweto, that one person can be like a stone, a pebble thrown in a lake, creating ripples — ripples of hope, he called it.  And that’s especially true for all of you.  You’re young, you’re talented, optimistic.  You’re already showing you can make a difference.  So what we wanted to do through YALI is to connect you with each other and to resources and to networks that can help you become the leaders in business and government and civil society of tomorrow.

And the response has been overwhelming.  Across Africa, more than 250,000 people have joined our YALI network.  They get access to online courses.  They have a network of peers and mentors across Africa and across the globe.  We’ve issued nearly 150,000 certificates from those courses.  I might, when I have a little more time, maybe teach one of those courses myself.  (Applause.)  Right now I’m kind of busy.  (Laughter.)  We’re training thousands of young people in leadership and entrepreneurship and networking at our four Regional Leadership Centers in Dakar, Accra, Nairobi, and Pretoria.  

And today, I’m proud to welcome all of you, the third class of Mandela Fellows.  (Applause.)  More than 40,000 people applied.  You’re our biggest class yet -– double the size of the previous year –- 1,000 YALI fellows strong.  And for the last six weeks, you’ve been studying and learning at some of America’s best universities.  Today, you’re not just Mandela Fellows but you’re also Hawkeyes and Buckeyes, and — (applause) — Sun Devils.  We’ve got some Fighting Irish here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got our first class of Energy Fellows -– (applause) — young people at UC-Davis studying new ways to promote clean energy and fight climate change.

And not only have you been studying and learning, but you’ve also immersed yourself in American culture.  You’ve looked at sites from our nation’s founding in Boston and Philadelphia.  You’ve visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York.  You’ve spent time in my hometown of Chicago.  (Applause.)  So you’ve got a taste of America, which, for some of you, apparently included something called lobster ice cream, which I’ve never tasted myself.  (Applause.)  But I have to admit, it sounds terrible.  (Laughter.)  But that’s okay.  You were very brave.  (Laughter.)  

You’ve also gotten a front-row seat on the fascinating roller coaster process of American democracy, because you’re here during election seasons.  And I hope you’ve buckled your seatbelts.  (Laughter.)  But it actually has been a good lesson and a reminder democracy is hard everywhere — even in the world’s oldest, continuous democracy.  It’s always challenging and it is always messy.  But as you’re watching our election, I want you to know that one of the things that leaders in Washington agree on, on both sides of the political aisle — Republicans and Democrats — is the importance of a strong American partnership with the nations and peoples of Africa.  That’s true today.  I’m confident it will be true for years to come.  (Applause.)  

So we’re going to keep standing with you.  America is going to keep standing with activists like Geline Fuko of Tanzania.  Where’s Geline?  (Applause.)  Geline is a lawyer and human rights activist.  A few years ago, she thought people in Tanzania should be able to use their mobile phones to read their constitution, so she went out and designed Tanzania’s first — (applause) — she designed Tanzania’s first database of constitutional resources, opening up her government to more of her people so they could understand their law and their rights and their responsibilities.  So thank you so much, Geline, for the great work.  (Applause.)  

We’re going to keep standing with social entrepreneurs like Awa Caba of Senegal.  (Applause.)  Whoa.  Where is Awa?  Where?  You’re over here.  (Applause.)  

So who was this guy who jumped up?  (Laughter.)  He’s what you call your hype man.  (Laughter.)  He was hyping you up.  (Laughter.) 

So Awa co-founded a tech hub to offer free training for women in coding and IT skills.  And she also started an e-commerce platform to help Senegalese women take their products, whether it’s cosmetics or fruits or jams “to the market and the world.”  Because Awa knows that when our women succeed, our countries succeed.  So thank you, Awa, for the good work.  (Applause.) 

We’re going to keep standing with strivers like Mamba Francisco of Angola.  Where’s Mamba?  (Applause.)  Mamba is his own hype man.  (Laughter.)  

So two years ago, he wanted to be a Mandela Fellow, but he didn’t qualify because he didn’t speak English.  So he buckled down — he studied, he learned.  And he’s here today helping other young people in Angola learn to read and write and make it to college.  So, thank you.   (Applause.) 

And finally, we’ll stand together in memory of John Paul Usman.  As many of you know, John Paul was a bright young leader from Nigeria who inspired people around the world with his work for peace.  Tragically, he lost his life earlier this summer in a hiking accident, and I know you’re showing solidarity with the green ribbons that some of you are wearing.  Like you, I have faith that John Paul’s legacy of building peace and fighting for children’s rights will live on, not just in Nigeria, but in all those he inspired in your countries back home, and here in the United States.   

Because this is a two-way street.  For all the experiences that you’re gaining here in the United States, we’re learning from you.  We’re energized by your passion.  We’re learning from your perspectives.  And that’s why this year, for the first time, Americans travel to Africa to visit Mandela Fellows in their home communities so that Americans — (applause) — so that Americans can learn about development and community building and more from Africans.  And even more Americans will participate in this exchange next year.  It’s also why I’m excited to announce new support from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. African Development Foundation, and the Citi Foundation, to provide even more Africans with grants and professional opportunities.  Give them a big round of applause for their support.  (Applause.) 

So these partnerships don’t just change the lives of young people like you, they’re also energizing our countries and shaping our world.  We’ve created programs like this not just in Africa, but in Southeast Asia, in the Americas, in Europe.  So you’re part of a huge and growing network of the next generation of leaders around the world.  And while I’m going to leave it up to historians to decide my overall legacy, one of the things that I’m really proud of is my partnership with young people like you because all of you inspire me.  (Applause.) 

So years from now, when you’re running a big business, or doing a great nonprofit, or leading your country as a president or a prime minister, or a minister of finance or something, my hope is that you can look back and you will keep drawing from strength and the experience that you’ve gotten here.

I hope that you’ll remember those of us who believed in your potential.  And I hope, as a consequence, you then give back to the people who are coming up behind you.  Because that’s how we keep making progress together, across oceans and across generations.  (Applause.) 

So as you do that, you should know that you’ll always have a partner and friend in the United States of America.  I could not be prouder of all of you and the great work that you’ve done.

I want to once again thank our outstanding institutions, our universities that have been hosting you.  We’re very, very proud of their great work.  (Applause.)   

And so with that, now what I want to do is open it up for questions.  I know that some people are watching on the YALI network online.  So hello, everybody.  

Over the past week, they’ve been sending in questions over Facebook, so we’re actually going to start with one of those.  And we’ve got a YALI alum here to read our first question, Steve Zita.  Where are you, Steve?  There you are.  You’re going to read our first question.  Go ahead, Steve.

Q    Thank you very much, sir.  By the way, you just said that people might wonder if you and Emmanuel were cousins.  I just wanted to say that in this room, we’re all brothers.  And you’re one of us.  (Applause.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  Although I have to say that at this point, I’m probably an uncle.  (Laughter.)  I wish I could say I was a brother or a cousin, but now I’ve got some gray hairs.  (Laughter.)   So you got to call me uncle.  

Go ahead.

Q    Yes, sir.  So thank you very much.  I’m Steve Zita from DRC.  I’m a 2015 alum.  I was at the University of Texas at Austin.  (Applause.)  There they are.

And as you know, the YALI network is a huge pool of about 250,000 people.  So we couldn’t all be here.  Unfortunately, I think we might not fit in the room.

And our first question comes from Charles Stembo (ph), from Zambia, who wanted to know, what has been the most challenging issue you’ve had to handle since you’ve become President of the United States?  And also, what will be your last message as a President, of course, to the young people across the globe?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ve had my share of tough issues.  The issue that had the greatest magnitude was the issue I faced when I first came into office, and that was that the world economy was in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis that was then spilling over into the broader economy.  And the growth and trade and the entire financial system was contracting at a pace that we hadn’t seen since the 1930s, since the Great Depression.

And so the series of actions that we had to take very quickly to strengthen our banks, to coordinate internationally, to unlock the financial system, to make sure that people did not engage in protectionist behavior, to resuscitate our auto industry, to put people back to work, to make sure that we didn’t get a further downward spiral to stabilize the housing market here — that was important not just for the United States, but that was important internationally because we’re such a big engine for economic growth.  And we’re still suffering from some of the scars from that Great Recession that we had in 2007, 2008.  But overall, we averted the worst of the crisis and we were able to stabilize the situation so that the world could start growing again.  And that means jobs and opportunity and prosperity for a lot of people.

Probably the most frustrating challenge that I’ve had on an ongoing basis typically involves conflicts outside of the United States.  Syria is the toughest example.  But the conflicts that we continue to see in South Sudan, for example, where after years of fighting and millions of people dead, finally there was the opportunity to create an independent country of South Sudan.  And yet now, within South Sudan, there is still conflict between the two countries — or between two factions.  Those are very challenging because the United States, on the one hand, cannot police and govern every spot in the world.  On the other hand, people look to us to have a positive influence.  And our goal has been consistently to try to bring people together so that they can sit down and resolve issues politically rather than through violence.

It is a source of ongoing daily frustration for me that we have not been able to stop some of these conflicts.  One of the things that we’ve seen in the world today is a shift.  It used to be that you had these big wars between great powers.  Now so often the greatest suffering arises out of either ethnic conflict or sectarian conflict or states that are unstable.  And the consequences for ordinary people in those countries are enormous.  And in some ways, it’s harder to stop those kinds of conflicts than it is simply to defeat an army that is clearly identified.  

And the challenge of terrorist networks, which has been an ongoing project of ours and many of our partners around the world, is tied up with this issue — because when you have regional conflicts and young people are displaced and they are without education and they are without prospects and they’re without hope, then the possibilities of them being recruited into an organization like ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram, even if it’s just a tiny, small percentage, is obviously going to be higher than if people are given opportunity and there’s stability in their lives.

So the one thing that I know is that the way we’re going to solve these problems is not in isolation but by having people of good will from across regions, across continents working together.  And that begins with many of the young people like you around the world who are trying to do the right thing.  (Applause.)

Oh, by the way, I always go boy, girl, boy, girl here to make sure things are equal.  (Laughter.)  That was a young man who asked that question, right?  So it’s a lady’s turn.  Go ahead, right there.  Here, you’ve got a microphone.

Q    Hi, thank you for the chance, Mr. President of the United States.  (Laughter.)  I work in international advocacy.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Samreen. I’m from Sudan.  (Applause.)

I’m a co-founder of something called the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative.  I go work in international advocacy a lot, and we meet representatives from your government, and they play a big role influencing the resolutions that come in Sudan, which part they will be.  So I really want to understand how the United States stands, because we have sanctions, and sometimes I feel they’re not enough.  So I want to see in the international relations what the situation of the United States and how can they help to empower young people like us, and to be heard, and to be in roundtables, to help and develop democracy in the country.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Excellent.  Well, Sudan is an example of some of what I was talking about earlier.  I mean, there’s a history in Darfur and other parts of the country of enormous conflict internal to Sudan.  And our goal when we — woops, uh-oh, sorry, guys.  (Laughter.)  I’m tearing up the stage here.  (Laughter.)

Our goal when we put together a package of sanctions is not to punish the people of that country, but is rather to make sure that we can exert some leverage so that the country is more responsive to the needs of the people; that they are more prepared to open up government to peaceful concerns and people who are trying to organize around human rights or democracy or so forth.  The pressure that we apply is not always enough to actually entirely change the practices inside those countries.  And sometimes, let’s face it, there are countries that are very resentful and suggest, why don’t you mind your own business?  Their attitude is, who is America to tell us what to do when you yourselves have your own problems inside your country.

And my response is that America has to have some humility in recognizing that we have our own issues; that ultimately, whether it’s people in Cuba or people in Sudan or people in other parts of the world where there are challenges around human rights — that ultimately it’s going to be up to the people themselves in those countries to determine their fate.  

But I do believe that there are certain principles that apply everywhere.  I believe that governments should follow the law and not be arbitrary.  I believe that every individual has certain rights — to speak freely, and to practice their own faith freely, and to assemble peacefully to petition their government.  I believe that women should be treated equally, and if you come from a country in which it is traditional to beat women or not give them an education, or engage in genital mutilation, then you should change your traditions because those are bad practices.  (Applause.)  

And so I do think it is important for us to stand up for those principles, recognizing that we’re not perfect, that we need to listen to criticism just like other countries do, and also recognize that even as we may sanction a country, for example, we also need to engage with them so that there becomes the opportunity for dialogue and hopefully we can have some positive influence.

Now, there are going to be times where — and I’ve said this before — where the United States is standing up for human rights but the country that we’re dealing with also is a partner on national security issues.  And so we have to balance the needs for our security interests and having diplomatic relations with that country while still applying some pressure.  And I think that sometimes people view this as hypocritical — why aren’t you always putting pressure on every country; if a country is doing some bad things to its people, you should have no dealings with them at all.  And I will tell you that that’s a luxury for people who are outside of government to be able to say that.  But when you’re inside of government, then you have to try to balance, okay, I’m going to engage with this government, we’re going to talk to this government, we’ll meet with them, and we will be honest with them about our differences even as we’re working with them on some of the things that we agree on.

And hopefully, over time, this makes a difference, it has some impact.  Our hope is, is that Sudan, over time, is more responsive to the basic principles that we’ve discussed; that by engaging with them sometimes around regional conflicts where we have common interests, or around anti-terrorism efforts, that the opportunities for dialogue improve the prospects for human rights.

But ultimately, it’s going to depend on the courage and the conviction of people like you, people inside of Sudan or inside of any of your countries, to be able to bring about change in a peaceful fashion.  But we’re very proud of you, so keep up your good work.  (Applause.)  

It’s a guy’s turn.  That man in the corner right there.  Go ahead.  No, no, this one right here.  You, yes.  Right there.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks very much, Mr. President.  I need — first of all, if you can allow me to ask to my fellow — all of us, if you can just stand up and thank again once more President Obama.  (Applause.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, you don’t need to do that.  That’s fine.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

Q    Thanks very much.  I appreciate you too much.  I’m Christian Mapandano (ph) from Congo.  And first of all, I would like to thank you because you have given me the opportunity to know something about America.  I’ve noticed that America is not perfect.  Our countries are not perfect.  But I’m a journalist and we have used media to destroy our Africa, to destroy our countries.  Today, all they know about Africa — it’s poverty, it’s hunger, it’s malnutrition.  Although what I know — I’m speaking like a Congolese — Congo that I love too much.

My country has got many natural resources.  And it’s a victim of this wealth, of this richness, because powerful countries have used this to destroy our people, to bring war in our countries, to bring armed groups in our countries.  And people are being poorer and poorer every day, and countries which are making armed weapons keep on improving — keep on developing.  And this is not good.

So I’m going to ask a favor from you.  The first one is that you are going to leave the White House I think by November. 

THE PRESIDENT:  January, but that’s okay.  (Laughter and applause.)

Q    That’s good.  It will be in January.  So I’ll ask you one favor.  First of all, if you can be a mentor to our leaders, political leaders, as soon as you are going to leave the White House.  Please be a mentor to our African leaders, because you are an African American — (applause) — to change this continent.

And the second one favor — the second favor, I’ll need a really a special picture with you.  (Laughter.)  Thanks very much, President.  (Laughter.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  So this is as good a time as any to let you know that after I’m done, I’m going to shake everybody’s hands.  (Applause.)  No, no, no, no, wait.  Wait, wait, wait — when I say everybody, I don’t mean literally everybody.  (Laughter.)  I’m going to — because there are a thousand of you.  I can’t shake everybody.   But —  

AUDIENCE:  Yes, you can!  (Laughter.)  Yes, you can!

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got another job I’ve got to do.  (Laughter.)  But here’s what I cannot do is take selfies, because then I’ll be here for the next four hours.  It won’t work.  So, no, you can’t get your picture.  I’m sorry.  

But let me address your broader question.  The Congo is a good example of a country with, as you said, enormous natural resources, and a terrible history of abuse during colonialism, of conflict.  As you said, weapons that are not made in the Congo pour into the Congo as part of other people’s agenda.

And so you both have enormous opportunities, but enormous challenges.  But a couple of things I would say.  Number one, even though it’s important to know this history of what happened during colonial times in the Congo and what happened subsequent during efforts of independence, and the way that other countries from the outside have meddled in ways that were not helpful to the people there — it is also important for every country to, at some point, say it is now our responsibility — (applause) — even if we have an unjust history, now it is our responsibility, and we can’t use the past as an excuse for some of the problems that we have today.  And that’s true everywhere. 

So you have to be mindful of your history, because if you weren’t mindful of your history then suddenly you think, wow, what’s wrong with us?  And in fact, there’s reasons why a country like the Congo has had so many problems.  But it can’t be an excuse to then just sit back and say it’s somebody else’s problem, or it’s somebody else’s fault.  And that is a very important principle I think for every country on the continent.

We know the history of Africa.  But now the question is, what’s the new history that we’re going to write?  What are the next chapters that we’re going to write?  (Applause.) 

In terms of media portrayals of Africa, I think you’re correct that the United States sometimes only sees Africa in terms of stereotypes — it’s either the wildlife channel and its beautiful safaris, or it’s poverty and war.  And too often, Americans just don’t realize there are a lot of people who are just going to work every day — (laughter) — and they do wear clothes, it’s true — (laughter) — and raising families and getting an education and creating businesses. 

So since you’re a journalist, one of your goals should be to help tell Africa’s story.  (Applause.)  And the good news is, is that because of the power of the Internet, it used to be that in order to make a film, you had to have millions of dollars and cameras and this.  Now you take out your phone, or you have a small camcorder and you can produce content that immediately is reaching millions of people.  So you can tell your own stories in a way that you could not before. 

And I would encourage all of you, no matter whether you’re in business or in politics or working for an NGO, to think about how are you telling a story about Africa and its possibilities.   Because the platform now exists for more and more people to understand the enormous potential and the good news that’s taking place in Africa, not just the bad news.  (Applause.) 

Okay, it’s a woman’s turn.  I don’t want to neglect everybody here — right here in back, this young lady in the purple here.  Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you, sir.  My name is Judy (ph).  I’m from Botswana.  (Applause.)  

I want to ask a question about balance and responsibility.  Yes.  I’ve watched how you have led in your presidency with your wife, Michelle Obama — (applause) — your family life in the public squares, and how you’ve managed to have balance between your public office and your home.  And I believe charity begins in the home.  And I’ve admired that about America, that your democracy is so open.  You are investigated before you get into power and when you are in power.  

How important is it for the young people here today to understand that it’s important when you are in public office to run your family well, to take care of your wife or your husband and your children, also that it’s very important for us to hold each other accountable — if you are a ruler, not to engage in greed or nepotism or corruption, and also us to hold them accountable for what they are doing?  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that’s a great question.  Well, let me separate out the two questions.  Because one question is about holding leaders accountable in their public lives and how they do their jobs.  And the other question is really a more personal question about maintaining balance in your life.  

With respect to the personal question, what I would say would be that maintaining balance, having a strong partnership with your wife or husband, raising children who are kind and useful and strong and generous and all of the things that my wonderful daughters are — (applause) — that really is its own reward.

The truth is we’ve had some very great leaders who did not always have great personal lives.  And I’m not actually somebody who believes that if you go into public office, that your personal lives — unless you’re committing crimes or things like that, that that is necessarily the best measure.  Because we’ve also had people who were wonderful fathers and great husbands who were bad leaders.  So the two things don’t always align.  

For me, the reason that it’s been useful for me to maintain that balance is because I think it’s grounded me.  It’s given me a sense of perspective.  It’s allowed me during the course of my presidency, when things aren’t going so well, to remember that I have this beautiful family and this wonderful wife.  (Applause.)  
And when things are going very well, it’s good to go home and then my wife teases me about how I left my shoes in the middle of the living room.  (Laughter.)  Or my girls think what I am talking about over dinner is boring.  And that brings me down to Earth, right?  And so it’s been good for me to maintain perspective in my work.

But ultimately, I do that for very selfish reasons; it’s for my own rewards.  Because the one thing I’m almost positive about — in fact, not only am I almost, I am positive that if I’m lucky enough to live to a ripe old age and I’m on my deathbed, and I’m thinking back on my life, I won’t be remembering some speech I gave or some law I signed.  I’ll be remembering holding hands with one of my daughters and walking them to a park; that that will be the thing that is most precious for me.  (Applause.)  So that’s on the private side.

Now, on the public side what I would say is, is that although not perfect, the United States is actually pretty good about holding its leaders accountable.  Part of that has to do with freedom of the press.  Part of it has to do with our separation of powers so that it’s not one person in charge of everything.  But even the President of the United States is subject to the Constitution.  That Constitution is interpreted by a Supreme Court.  If I want to pass a budget, it has to go through Congress.  Even if I get everything through the federal level, there are still states and cities that have their own perspective.  You have a private sector.  So power is dispersed not just in one big man, but across the society.  

And I think that is very good.  Now, it’s frustrating sometimes — I won’t lie.  There are times where the press — right now I’m at the end of my presidency, so the press is kind of feeling a little sentimental.  And they think, oh, he’s gotten old.  Look at him — we’ve beat him up.  (Laughter.)  Now, let’s focus on the new guys coming in.

But there have been times where I thought the press was very unfair, and I’d open up the newspapers and I’d go, what?  And I’d start arguing.  But there have also been times where the press investigated something and I thought, you know what, this is a problem.  And the United States government — you have — I have 2 million people who work in the federal government.  We have a budget of over a trillion dollars.  It’s the largest organization on Earth.  So there are going to be times where government is screwing up.  And the fact that the press is there to ask questions and to expose problems does make me work harder.  It focuses me on, that is a problem.  

And too often, in too many countries around the world, the attitude of the people in charge is, I want to shut up the criticism instead of fixing the problem.  And that is not good for the people, and in the end, it’s not good for the president, the prime minister, those in charge.  Because over time, what happens is you get — you just hear what you want to hear.  

It’s as if you had a doctor who, whatever the checkup, he just kept on telling you you’re fine.  And then suddenly you start having a big growth in your neck — (laughter) — don’t worry about it, it’s fine.  (Laughter.)  And you start limping, and it’s like, aw — if you’re healthy, you’re great.  And you never get well.  

So I think the importance of accountability and transparency in government is the starting point for any society improving.  And that also means that the press has responsibilities to make sure that it’s accurate, to make sure that it doesn’t just chase whatever is the most sensational but tries to be thoughtful and present, as best it can, a fair view of what’s happening.  But in the end, I’d rather have the press err on the side of freedom, even if sometimes it’s a little inaccurate, than to have the person who is governing the country making decisions about who is wrong and who is right and who can say what and who can publish what.  Because that’s the path to not just dictatorship, but it’s also the path to not fixing the real problems that exist.  (Applause.)

Okay.  It’s a gentleman’s turn.  I’ll call on this guy right here.  So I need a translator — my sign language is not so good.  We need a sign.

Q    (As interpreted.)  Thank you so much.  So you’re definitely a visionary.  And with Martin Luther King, I can relate to you — I can relate the both of you together.  So in America, a lot of countries — sorry, there’s a lot of states and there are a lot of countries that we are coming from that have diversity.  There are visas that have to be filled out, there’s a lottery system that you have to go through.  And so while everyone is coming to the U.S. — there’s a medical system, there are people who are seeking to get their PhDs, to get their doctorates, to get a lot of educational advances.  There’s a lot of educational advances that people are having.  

And so while people are coming here, they’re seeing that they’re not able to — for example, becoming a physician or becoming an engineer; that individuals that come from Africa can, in fact, achieve their dreams.  They can come to the United States and they have a limitless option of educational tracks that they can take to have good work and not necessarily depend specifically on the profession to do it for them.  And the government can be an aid in that process to help them excel in their profession.  

And also, the second part of my question — there are many objectives and goals, but right now, as you are coming to the end of your presidency, how do you feel as though you can personally continue the initiatives that you’ve set forth for Africa since you are coming so quickly to the end of your presidency?  What are your plans to continue those objectives?  (Applause.)

Q    (As interpreted.)  I have a supplementary third part, I’m so sorry.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  But we don’t want too long a question.  All right, can I answer?  No?  Good. 

So, first of all, I thought that was very cool that you had like kind of a three-way translation going on there.  So you had the sign language, that was then signed back, that was then translated to English.  So there was just a whole bunch of really smart people communicating.  (Applause.)

But if I understood the first part of your question, look, one of the great achievements of the United States is our university system, which it really is unparalleled anywhere in the world.  It’s not just one or two great universities.  We have hundreds of great universities.  (Applause.)  And we have an entire community college system that allows people to get practical training as well, even if they don’t get a four-year degree.  And that is a huge advantage because those countries that are investing in human capital, that are training people, are going to do better — that’s the most valuable resource.  There are countries that have natural resources, but if their people are not valued as the more important resource, those countries will not succeed.

Yesterday, I had a state dinner with the Prime Minister of Singapore.  Singapore is a tiny, little island, just a little spot, a little dot on a map.  But it has one of the most wealthy, well-educated, advanced populations in the world — not because they’ve got oil or because they’ve precious gems, but because their people have been educated and they can thrive in this new knowledge-based society.  So it’s a huge advantage for us.  

Now, I think in each of your countries, it is really important for your current leadership and many of you who will be future leaders to make sure that, first and foremost, that educational infrastructure is in place.  (Applause.)  And it has be to be provided for everybody — not just boys, but girls — and it’s got to start early, because you can’t leave half of your population behind and expect that you’re going to succeed.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, let’s face it, the mothers, even in enlightened marriages like mine, are probably doing more in terms of teaching children than the fathers are.  So if you’re not teaching the mother, that means the child is also not getting taught.  And so the first is to create the infrastructure where people are learning.  But I think one of the points you’re making also, though, is we have some countries where people are getting degrees but, because of the rules and the regulations and the policies, are not allowing for enough entrepreneurship and enough private sector growth.  Then you have people who are educated but they’re frustrated because they can’t find good work.

And so it’s not enough just to educate a population.  You then also have to have rules in place where if you want to start a business you don’t have to pay a bribe.  (Applause.)  Or you don’t have to hire somebody’s cousin who then is not going to show up on the job but expects to get paid.  Or if you want to get electricity installed, you have to wait for five months to get a line into your office.  

So all the rules, the regulations, the laws, the structures that are in place to encourage development and growth — that has to be combined with the education in order for those young people who now have talent to be able to move forward.  And too often, what I’ve seen in a lot of African countries — and this is not unique to Africa; you see it in a lot of other places — there’s this perspective of, okay, you get an education and then you get a slot in some government office somewhere.  And if you don’t get one of those slots then that’s it, you don’t have any — there’s no opportunity.  And I am a strong believer that government — strong, effective, transparent government — is a precondition for a market-based economy.  You can’t have one without the other.

But what is also true is that if every job is a government job, then there’s going to come a point where you’re not going to be able to accommodate all the talents of your people.  So you have to be able to create a private sector, a marketplace, where people who have a new idea, who have a new product or service, they can go out there and they can create something.  And if you don’t have that, then you’re going to frustrate the vision and the ambitions of too many young people in your country.

So I think America in the past has done this well.  Our big problem here in this country is sometimes we forget how we became so wealthy in the first place.  And you start hearing arguments about, oh, we didn’t want to pay taxes to fund the universities.  Or we don’t want to pay taxes to maintain our roads properly because why should I have to invest in society, I made it on my own.  And we forget that, well, the reason that you had this opportunity to go work at Google or to go work at General Motors or to go work at IBM had to do with a lot of investments that were made in science and research and roads and ports and all the infrastructure that helps preserve the ability of people who want to operate effectively in the marketplace to be able to make it.

And I always tell people who are anti-government in the United States:  Try going to a country where the government doesn’t work.  (Laughter and applause.)  And you’ll see that you actually want a good government.  It’s a useful thing to have, but it’s not enough on its own if you also don’t have then the ability of people in the private sector to succeed.  (Applause.)

It’s a woman’s turn.  Let’s see.  The guys, you can sit down.  Guys, it’s not your turn.  (Laughter.)  This young lady right here.  No, not you — I said this young lady right here.  (Laughter.)  Come on, bro.

What’s your name?

Q    My name is Falaca Diane (ph).  I come from Benin.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Mr. President, for giving us this opportunity.  When you were speaking, you spoke about leaving people behind.  I want to use that same phrase to mention here that we have left a lot of young and dynamic other people behind to come here in the United States.  And what has been the barrier?  I want to pay tribute to every fellows who come from every African countries, but I want to pay a special tribute to all fellows who come from Mali, Senegal, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, and Benin.  (Applause.) 

The challenge is twofold, Mr. President.  Not only do we have to qualify as good leaders, we also have to qualify as good English speakers.  (Applause.)  But we have people back home who cannot speak this language.  Mr. President, you are at the end of your term.  I would like you to partner with all these countries — Mali, Benin, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique — (applause) — to help us build English club, English language centers for young people to be able to be more efficient and seize this opportunity.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  I think you make an excellent point.  Obviously we have people who are here from Francophile countries or from Portuguese-speaking countries, but what we also want to make sure of is that everybody can participate.  And for a range of historical reasons, English has become in some ways a lingua franca.  And frankly, I wish we as Americans did a better job of learning other languages.  One of the things about being a big country, we’ve always kind of felt like, oh, we don’t need it.  But now, in an interconnected world, the more languages we speak, the better.

So I think it’s excellent practical advice.  And we will work with our team to think about how we can incorporate English learning into our program.  (Applause.)  So thank you very much for that news I can use.  

All right, let’s see.  We’ve got a gentleman — this guy right here in the cool hat.  

Q    Which —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you both have cool hats, but I was calling on him.  (Laughter.)  Right here.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you so much, Mr. President.  I want to start by saying thank you so much for this opportunity.  I think you’ve done a great job as a President, and you inspire a lot of us Young African Leaders.  (Applause.)  Also, I want to say that back home where I come from — my name is Falah Ano (ph), by the way.  I’m Nigerian.  Where I come from there are lots of bottlenecks and barriers to the youths participating in politics — because politics we see as a platform that offers change we desire to implement.  So what is your advice, being in the White House for eight years, coming as a young (inaudible) to the White House and after eight years the things you’ve seen from where you came from and now — what advice do you have for young Africans who aspire to run for office?  And what do you think they can do to make a difference even when they get to political office?

And secondly, this is — just use this opportunity to say a big shout-out to my wife, Admaz (ph).  And I promised her if I get a chance to talk to you, I would say hi on her behalf.  (Applause.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  So you see, he’s keeping balance.  (Laughter.)  Making sure he can go back home and say, hey, honey, I’ve — (laughter) — I was looking after you.  

People here in the states — we have a White House interns program, and I often talk to young people after they complete their internship at the White House.  And they ask me a similar question:  What advice would I give for people who are interested in public service and politics?  And obviously, each country is different.  Some countries are more challenging because democratic policies are still not so deeply entrenched; oftentimes there’s not as much turnover in government because people, once they get in, they don’t want to leave.  In part, by the way, that also has to do with the lack of opportunity in the private sector.  

One of the reasons why you want to have a country that has a good, strong government but also a private sector is if you don’t have a good, strong private sector, then the temptation for people to stay in power in government — because that’s the only way to make a living or to succeed — that becomes a strong temptation, and that then leads to the temptation to corruption or to suppress opposition, or to not have honest elections.  Because you’re hanging on — because if you lose, you’ve got nothing, right?  (Applause.)  

And one of the good things about the United States is that, look, you run for office, if you lose, there’s other ways of making a living.  It’s not a tragedy.  And, no — and it’s interesting — I mean, there were times where — during my political career, there were times where I thought, you know what, this isn’t going all that well.  And I remember when I ran for the United States Senate, I had already lost a race to be in Congress.  I had been in the state senate for eight years.  It was putting enormous strains on my family because I was traveling a lot.  And I thought to myself, you know what, this is it — if I don’t win this U.S. Senate race, I’m getting out of politics, I’m going to go do something else.  And I was comfortable with that view.  

It also meant that once I became President — and people have talked about, for example, in my first term when I was trying to get the health care law passed, and the politics of it were not going well, and people were very angry and oftentimes misinformed about what it would do — I decided, look, even if this means that I don’t get a second term, I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway.  And part of the reason was because I said, if I lose I’ll be upset, it’ll be a little embarrassing, but I’ll be okay, and there’s no point in me being in office if I can’t actually do something with the office.  (Applause.) 

Now, that leads me to the main advice that I would have for those of you who are interested in politics or government.  I always say to young people:  Worry less about what you want to be and worry more about what you want to do.  (Applause.)  Because those are two different things.  

I think one of the problems we get sometimes here in Washington is we have people — not everybody, and maybe not even the majority — but there are people here who — they had in their mind very early on, “I want to be a congressman.”  And then they’re doing everything they can to be a congressman, and then once they become a congressman, they don’t know why they’re a congressman.  (Laughter.)  All they know is they want to stay a congressman.  

And so this is true not just in politics; I think this is true in business, as well.  The most successful businesspeople I know, they don’t start off saying “I want to be rich.”  What they say is, “I want to invent the personal computer.”  And then it turns out, wow, Steve Jobs, or Hewlitt and Packard, Bill Gates — you guys did a really good job, and it just so happened that it made you really rich.  But there was a passion about trying to get something done.  It’s certainly true in politics.  

So if you want to be in politics, my advice to you would be, why?  What is it that you want to do?  (Applause.)  Do you want to provide a good education to young people?  Do you want to alleviate poverty?  Do you want to make sure that everybody has health care?  Do you want to promote peace between ethnic groups in your country?  Do you want to preserve the environment?  And whatever it is that you want to do, start doing it.  Because you don’t have to have an office to do that.  (Applause.)  You can start a program to help young women in your village get an education.  You can decide in whatever part of Nigeria you’re from that you’re going to go back and try to promote health and wellness programs for young people.  And the experience you get from actually doing these things then will inform the nature of why you might want to go into politics.  

First of all, it may turn out that you are making such a difference and having such an impact without going into politics that you decide, I don’t want to do that, I want to keep on building what I’m doing.  If you do decide to go into politics, you will have not only the experience but also the credibility with the people you want to represent, because they’ve seen you actually do something useful.

And the last point I would make is, politics is a little bit like going into acting, or being a musician.  And what I mean by that is you can be really talented, but maybe the timing is off.  Maybe you didn’t get the lucky break.  And so you can’t guarantee that you’re going to be elected or successful in a particular office.  

I mean, when you think about me being President of the United States, it was quite unlikely.  (Applause.)  And I still remember I ran for the Senate, I won my primary, but I still had a general election.  And then I was selected to speak at the Democratic National Convention.  This is in 2004.  And the fact that John Kerry picked me to speak was sort of accidental.  And I gave a pretty good speech.  (Applause.)  No, no — but, wait, wait.  So the day after the speech, my name is everywhere, and I’m on television.  And people are saying, wow, who is this guy, Obama?  (Laughter.)  That was wonderful.  We’re really impressed.  And he’s got a future.  And maybe someday he’s going to run for President, et cetera. 

And I told my friend — because we were still in Boston, and we were walking, and there were these huge crowds, and everybody is wanting to shake my hand, and I said, I’m no more smarter today than I was yesterday.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t suddenly magically become so much better than I was when I was just a state senator.  Some of it had to do with just chance.  It was luck.  

So you don’t have control completely over luck, over fate, over chance.  But you do have control over being useful and getting good work done in your communities.  (Applause.)  So stay focused on that.

And then if you stay focused on that, then maybe success comes in politics.  But if it doesn’t, you will still be able to wake up every morning and say, you know what, I’m making a difference.  I’m doing good work.  (Applause.) 

I’ve only got time for one question.  Yes, I’ve been working hard up here.  One question.  So the young lady in the hijab, right there.  Yes.  Right there, go ahead.  Where are you from? 

Q    I’m from Sudan. 

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no, no, I can’t do another Sudanese.  I love you, though, but I have to be fair to — I’ve got to make sure every country — countries get a chance.  I can’t hear.  I can’t hear.  Wait, wait, wait, I can’t hear.  Cameroon.  All right, right here, from Cameroon.  But I will shake your hand, though, because I feel it was unfair for me to call on you.  So you can come up to the front.  I’ll make sure to shake your hand.  (Applause.) 

All right, go ahead.  

Q    Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity.  I’m Lily.  I’m from Cameroon.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  

Some of us come from areas where our governments don’t really integrate what we do here in the U.S. — governments that are a little bit maybe hostile, environment hostile.  What are some of the strategies you’re putting in place to make sure that this, our governments, integrate all that we have done here so that we can better impact our environment?   Thank you.  (Applause.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’ve been talking about this with the State Department.  Because one of my goals is to make sure that the program continues after I leave.  (Applause.)  

And I think that we have a great interest in both promoting this program, but then also working with your governments so that they see this is an enormous opportunity for them.  What we want to let them know is that the talent that all of you represent is going to be the future of your countries.

And so take advantage.  We’ll partner with you but also with your governments to work on the projects that you’ve designed, to make sure that you have a sort of a sponsor that is kind of looking out for you.  I think the fact that we’ve created these four regional centers and this network and that embassies in each of your countries are aware of what you’ve done will be helpful to you. 

But in the end of the day, as I’ve said before, you’re going to be the ones who actually have to take advantage of the opportunities.  There’s going to be some things we can do, but at the end of the day, your vision will have to be won by you and by your fellow countrymen and women.  

So part of the reason why I love this program is this isn’t a matter of what America is doing for you, this is us being partners but mainly seeing what you can do yourselves to change, transform, and build your countries.

And I don’t want to be — look, I want to be honest with you.  There are over 50 countries represented here.  It represents a wide spectrum.  Some of you are going to go back and what you’re doing is welcomed.  Some of you will go back and not so much.  Depending on the kinds of things that you want to — maybe if you’re just focused on public health, you’ll get less resistance.  If you are interested in human rights or democracy, you might get more resistance.  There are some countries where you being active and speaking out publicly can be dangerous.  There are some places where it’s welcomed.  There are some places where freedom of the press is observed; other places where it is viewed as objectionable.  

I can’t, and America cannot, solve all those problems.  And if I were to promise that, I would not be telling the truth.  (Applause.)  But what I can do is to make sure that the program continues, that the network continues to get built, and that the State Department is engaged with your countries explaining why what you represent is so important to the continent.

And what I can also commit to is, is that even after I am President, that this will be a program that I continue to participate in and work with because it’s something that I’m very, very proud of.  (Applause.)  

So thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

END
4:45 P.M. EDT

Read More

Vatican Announces Pope Visit to Africa, CAR on the Itinerary

Interesting to note that at the height of the CAR crisis, Muslims were driven from the country en masse in an apparent campaign of ethnic cleansing. “Pope Francis will make his first trip to Africa in November, for a six-day visit that will take him to three countries, the Vatican said Thursday. The pope will visit Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic from Nov. 25-30, an itinerary that extends his practice of focusing his international travel on the developing world. Pope Francis has made poverty and the inequities of globalization major themes of his pontificate and is likely to address those topics during his African visit… Pope Francis’ visit to the CAR will take place a month after scheduled general elections, the first since 2011. Since that time, the country has been wracked by civil war between government forces and several rebel groups. The government still lacks control of the entire country.” (WSJ http://on.wsj.com/1ODSRx3 )
Iran Deal Survives Congressional Test…The Senate failed to advance a motion to disapprove of the Iran nuclear deal, saving President Obama from having to cast a veto. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1ODQdYc)

Cool finding of the day: Scientists say they’ve discovered a new member of the human family tree, revealed by a huge trove of bones in a barely accessible, pitch-dark chamber of a cave in South Africa. (AP http://yhoo.it/1JZoikq)

Stat of the day: More than 80 percent of the 120 million Africans using Facebook access the site through their mobile phones, the social media group said Thursday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Q4dDq7)

Intriguing Film Plot Starring Danny Glover of the Day….U.S. actor Danny Glover said Thursday that he is in Nigeria to star in a movie based on people who risked and sacrificed their lives to stop the spread of Ebola in Africa’s most populous country. (AP http://bit.ly/1ODR2jB)

Africa

South Sudan’s parliament unanimously voted on Thursday to adopt a peace deal agreed last month by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, amid mounting pressure for both sides to lay down their arms. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1JXMukR)

The World Food Program says it is scaling up aid for hundreds of thousands of hungry people, many severely malnourished, who have fled to Chad, Niger and Cameroon to escape attacks by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria. (VOA http://bit.ly/1ODfa66)

The International Criminal Court on Thursday unsealed, or made public, arrest warrants against two Kenyan men for “corruptly influencing witnesses” in the east African nation. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1NrWetI)

A new report by UNICEF says the majority of Nigerian children suffer violent abuse. The report says that for some kids, the abuse starts before their fifth birthday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1UEC6ZD)

Ghanaian authorities on Wednesday suspended 22 junior judges accused of bribery after they were captured on video, the Judicial secretary said in a statement. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1JXMwsV)

Guinea Bissau’s President Jose Mario Vaz dismissed his two-day-old cabinet on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ruled that his appointment of a new prime minister was unconstitutional, a presidential decree said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Q4dCT8)

Bulldozers, homes in ruins, anger: after years of war the people of Goma in eastern DR Congo now are bearing the brunt of moves to clear a neutral zone on the border with Rwanda to prevent further conflict. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Q4e6sa)

Isolated flare-ups of Ebola may point to a higher risk of transmission via the semen of male survivors than previously thought, undermining hopes of ending West Africa’s deadly outbreak by the end of the year. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1NrWclA)

Somalia may be wracked by conflict, politically fragile and braced for potentially devastating floods, but Abdusalam Omer believes it is ripe for foreign investment. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1UEC8AX)

MENA

Organisers of mass protests in Lebanon over trash festering in the streets said Thursday the government’s long-awaited plan to deal with the crisis is too vague and does not meet their demands. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JXMAJg)

The influx of refugees to Europe was triggered in part by donors taking the “cheap option” and not giving enough aid to displaced Syrians in Middle Eastern asylum countries, the head of the U.N. refugee agency in Jordan said in an interview. (AP http://yhoo.it/1JXO1Yh)

A flood of desperate refugees and images of a toddler lying dead on a beach have thrown Syria’s chaos into stark relief, but global powers are still far from seeing eye-to-eye on a solution to the conflict. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ODfJN8)

Russia flies both military equipment and humanitarian aid to Syria, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Q4e4R8)

Asia

Tens of thousands of people were ordered to flee homes across Japan on Thursday as heavy rain pounded the country, sending radiation-tainted waters into the ocean at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1MercFD)

Two Nepalese maids who alleged they were beaten and raped by a Saudi diplomat in India were taken to a women’s shelter in Nepal on Thursday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LZS6On)

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday urged voters to opt for “real change” and back her party in the first general election since the end of military rule, as she took her campaign into the backyard of a close presidential ally. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ODfLVj)

Cambodia has agreed to take more refugees from an Australian detention center on the island of Nauru, giving a boost to a $40 million resettlement deal that so far has been widely seen as an expensive failure for Australia. (VOA http://bit.ly/1UEC9Vt)

Bangladesh has arrested three members of an Islamist group, including its leader, for their alleged involvement in the killings of online critics of religious militancy, a spokesman for a Bangladesh security unit said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1LZTjW3)

The Americas

After months of trying to shore up Brazil’s public finances, President Dilma Rousseff now faces political and business pressure to ease up on painful austerity measures in a country long hooked on the helping hand of a big state. (VOA http://bit.ly/1ODfd1E)

Presidential campaigning began in Haiti Wednesday, where 54 candidates are vying for the top office amid heightened criticism of the country’s electoral commission. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Mer9cJ)

Refugee Crisis

USA to take in 10,000 Syrian Refugees next year. (BBC http://bbc.in/1ODQs5r)

Pope Francis is expected to focus on the need for peace in a conflict-torn world facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II when he addresses the United Nations later this month, the Holy See said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ODfFwO)

A potent mix of fear, ignorance and Islamophobia is fuelling widespread opposition in eastern Europe to taking in refugees despite EU pressure for a new quota system. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JXO9XC)

Danish police will no longer try to stop migrants and refugees from transiting through the country to get to Sweden and other Nordic countries, the police chief said Thursday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1MerVXm)

As if fear, hunger, thirst, worry and exhaustion were not enough to endure, new trials emerged Thursday for those on the 1,000 mile-plus trek into Europe: torrential rains and thick mud. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Mes0u8)

Finland’s government on Thursday proposed increasing capital gains tax and income tax on high earners to help pay for a 10-fold increase in refugees expected to arrive this year, its finance minister said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Q4dD9B)

EU member Hungary recorded on Thursday a new record number of migrants entering the country with 3,321 refugees crossing the border from Serbia in the past 24 hours, police said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ODh1rn)

Sweden will increase spending on better integrating immigrants into the labor market and increase compensation for municipalities where refugees settle, the government said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Q4dB1s)

A record-breaking influx of refugees could help ease Germany’s skills shortage and companies should start training programs for asylum-seekers to speed up integration, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1MetXXf)

Opinion/Blogs

Why is it so hard to prioritize development goals? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1Nsei73)

Why do countries REALLY build border fences? The answer may surprise you. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1UJbzFn)

What has the United Nations ever done for women? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1NrVyVb)

How Did Polio Pop Up In Two Polio-Free Countries: Ukraine And Mali? (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1LZMW56)

Strong Climate Deal Needed to Combat Future Refugee Crises (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1LZN2cV)

In Angola we’re proud – we have the upper hand over our former coloniser (Guardian http://bit.ly/1NrVtRE)

Innovative financing for development: as if social returns, incentives, and value for money really mattered (PDF http://bit.ly/1Q4aQgv)

Developing World Tourism ‘Not Living Up to Its Promise’ (SciDevNet http://bit.ly/1Kd53VW)

Food Insecurity Is More Than Just Severe Hunger (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1Kd58c4)

A Strong Welfare State Produces More Entrepreneurs (The Atlantic http://theatln.tc/1EQH8vj)

A problem for every solution on climate (Global Dashboard http://bit.ly/1EQHaTV)

What’s Missing in Vox’s Negative TOMS Piece (Across Two Worlds http://bit.ly/1NseaV3)

The Millennium Development Goals Were Bullsh*t. And That’s Okay (Huffington Post http://huff.to/1VQzNjl)

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