The General Assembly today adopted a resolution urging the Russian Federation to withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of Ukraine’s territory without delay, but rejected an amendment that would have called on b…Read More
Situation Extremely Serious, Says Permanent Representative, as China, Russian Federation Abstain from Voting on Resolution 2448 (2018)The Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in t…Read More
The interdependence of States and the benefits of joint action must be recognized and reaffirmed, the General Assembly heard today, as speakers debated the value of multilateralism in addressing pressing global challenges, ranging from inequality to climate change.
Never in history had moving away from diplomacy led to progress in the promotion of universal values, said Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium, declaring that doing so would be an act of “cowardly abandon”. On the fourth day of the Assembly’s annual general debate, he described multilateralism as a robust and reliable driving force for creating a better world, emphasizing the necessity of coordination and consensus. Globalization had generated doubts and fears, yet multilateralism was not to blame, he said, emphasizing that although multilateralism was complicated and could create difficulties, international and regional organizations and action must be strengthened.
Reinforcing that sentiment, Margot Wallström, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stressed: “This is the moment for multilateralism, not unilateralism”, warning that unless countries grasped that chance, they would “face the consequences”. Today, “going it alone” was not an option, she said, adding that Member States had the responsibility to act coherently and flexibly.
Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania said protectionist approaches were challenging the existing international global order without proposing anything credible to replace it. However, no country, however big, rich or powerful, could face or solve problems alone, he cautioned. In that context, one of the pillars of Albania’s foreign policy was the development of regional cooperation and the transformation of the Western Balkans into an area of free movement for people, goods, capital and ideas, he said.
In a similar vein, Prime Minister Allen Michael Chastanet of Saint Lucia said multilateral discussions were needed to address inequality and other issues. If States indulged their differences, inequity would persist as the driving force in the international system and people would struggle to survive, he cautioned, emphasizing that the global reality increasingly called for integrating economies, the environment and people.
Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said his country had risen to become one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, describing its “rags to riches” path as a textbook example of the power of free trade. He urged the international community to open its markets and allow poor countries to trade freely with all consumers. Free trade also meant forming international relationships and promoting interaction among all peoples, regardless of colour or religion. Since the markets of the world’s richest countries remained closed to the poorest, it was incumbent upon the international community to support developing nations, he emphasized.
Samura M. W. Kamara, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone, speaking on behalf of President Ernest Bai Koroma, stressed the need to strengthen the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes, highlighting the gains realized through preventive diplomacy. Mediation remained a powerful tool for preventing and settling armed conflicts and must be fully utilized. Mediation efforts had proven very fruitful for Sierra Leone in terms of timely cessation of hostilities, credible ceasefire agreements and the deployment of peacekeeping missions, he said.
Throughout the day, speakers also highlighted the devastating havoc that climate change was wreaking on theiRead More
Every week, IRIN’s team of editors takes a look at what lies ahead on our humanitarian agenda and curates a selection of some of the best reports, opinion, and journalism you may have missed:
What’s coming up?
In case you turned away for a minute, here’s a reminder that the battle of Mosul is ongoing and that for civilians it appears to be getting much worse. The UN says an average of 4,000 people are streaming out of western districts each day – plus it estimates there are up to 750,000 more trapped inside. Supplies of food and water are said to be running low, and many people live in the tightly packed old city, where civilians Thursday were feared dead after a mosque was hit in what witnesses say was a strike from the air. Fleeing the city is a risk too, but conditions inside are so horrific that for some it’s worth the journey. Will aid agencies be ready to meet the needs of this new wave? They have been preparing for at least six months, but we all know that’s no guarantee. Next week we’ll take you there, with testimony from civilians who have walked across the desert under fire, desperately seeking safety and help.
Boko Haram attacked the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri early on Friday in a triple suicide bombing. The attack comes ahead of a visit by the UN Security Council to the city, part of a tour of the four-country Lake Chad region by diplomats to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis affecting 21 million people in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
The international community had its chance to act at the Oslo humanitarian conference last month. Analysts had called for a significant donor response – see our op-ed. What got pledged was $672 million in new money spread over three years, against an appeal target of $1.5 billion for 2017. Neither the US or British governments made even a show of opening their wallets in Oslo. In these straitened times we must be glad for any mercy, but also mindful that the 2016 appeal was for a good deal less, $739 million, and wound up being only 53 percent funded.
Behind the humanitarian crisis looms Boko Haram. Nigeria repeatedly promises the jihadists are under control. Today’s bombing in Maiduguri proves otherwise. What to do? Researcher Atta Barkindo calls for the opening of channels of dialogue. Someday, the war will be over, and the local vigilantes that have sprung up to defend their communities will be disbanded. The International Crisis Group is sounding an alarm now, of new dangers unless care is taken over how these young men are demobilised.
Migration is high on the agenda, once again, at next week’s European Council meeting in Brussels. Ahead of the meeting, the European Commission issued a slew of press releases trumpeting progress on various initiatives. The one that has grabbed the most headlines is an action plan on the return of irregular migrants, including a recommendation that member states detain people awaiting removal for up to 18 months to prevent them from absconding. At a press conference on Thursday, EU home affairs commissioner Dmitris Avramopoulos made it clear children would not be exempt. The Commission also released the latest figures for the EU’s relocation and resettlement scheme, revealing that just 13,546 asylum seekers have been transferred from the overwhelmed frontline states of Italy and Greece. Several countries, including Hungary and Austria, have refused to participate in the scheme, while others have accepted only a handful. Also came a third progress report on the Partnership Framework with third countries, focusing on “results” in Niger, Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria, and on next steps such as finalising a readmission agreement with Nigeria by June. Our reporting last month highlighted how – dodgy statistics aside – the Niger deal has successfully stemmed northward migration, albeit while decimating the local economy.
The International Crisis Group has released its annual report on the top 10 conflicts where it believes the EU should look to take action to promote peace. Some are fairly predictable (Somalia, Syria, Yemen), but others you may not even have heard of. Gold star if you can find Nagorno-Karabakh, for example, on a map. The contested region is within the borders of Azerbaijan but has an ethnic Armenian majority and Armenia also claims sovereignty. The two countries went to war from 1992 to 1994 over control of the area, but tensions have been sizzling much more recently. Last April, clashes erupted again and 200 people lost their lives. Other surprises on the list include Myanmar, which has been accused of crimes against humanity in its crackdown on ethnic Rohingya, and Venezuela, which has reached such a low ebb that civil conflict has become a real possibility.
Did you miss it?
Several thousand Eritreans are thought to leave their country every month, fleeing compulsory and open-ended national service, political persecution and a failing economy. Most cross into neighbouring Ethiopia, where they are accommodated in refugee camps, but not many remain there. This new report by the Overseas Development Institute looks at how policy decisions are influencing Eritreans’ decisions to move on, often towards Europe via the irregular route to Libya and across the Mediterranean. The main finding of the report is that livelihood support programmes in Ethiopia and the slim possibility of resettlement to a third country are not enough to offset the fact that refugees there are denied the right to work. Instead, they are forced to scrape out a living that might meet their basic needs but holds no promise for the future. This reality is captured by an excellent accompanying film following the experiences of Teddy Love, an Eritrean man who escaped eight years of military service to become a popular singer in Asmara before being arrested and imprisoned. Since arriving in Ethiopia seven years ago, he has eked out a living singing in nightclubs for tips to support his two children.
After flagging up last week that Yemen is facing the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, IRIN published a two-part feature this week from rural Taiz, where children and the elderly are already dying of malnutrition. Regular contributor Iona Craig has been writing on this crisis since 2010 and has covered the country’s downward spiral from neglected humanitarian disaster to civil conflict, all-out war and economic meltdown. Her words, aided by photographs from Ahmed al-Basha, now describe the reality of a rural Yemen on the brink of famine. Skin hangs from the scrawny hands of a baby girl who can’t be nourished by her starving mother, women and children collect precious drops of water from a dying spring, a healthcare system on its knees can’t possibly cope. But these are the lucky ones. In her accompanying story, Craig ventures into the more remote highlands and finds al-Dashin, a displacement camp where death from malnutrition is becoming a regular event. Her conclusion: “Yemenis are renowned for their unwavering resilience. This is a rural-based society, well practised at caring for its own after decades in which there has been a near-total absence of a functioning state. But there has to be a breaking point. In a remote dusty wasteland in rural Taiz, that point of collapse is startlingly tangible.”
(TOP PHOTO: Protests in Aden, Yemen. CREDIT: Iona Craig)
Antitrust: Commission takes further steps in investigations alleging Google’s comparison shopping and advertising-related practices breach EU rules
The European Commission has sent two Statements of Objections to Google. The Commission has reinforced, in a supplementary Statement of Objections, its preliminary conclusion that Google has abused its dominant position by systematically favouring its comparison shopping service in its search result pages. Separately, the Commission has also informed Google in a Statement of Objections of its preliminary view that the company has abused its dominant position by artificially restricting the possibility of third party websites to display search advertisements from Google’s competitors. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate. Today, we have further strengthened our case that Google has unduly favoured its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages. It means consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries. We have also raised concerns that Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation. Google now has the opportunity to respond to our concerns. I will consider their arguments carefully before deciding how to take both cases forward. But if our investigations conclude that Google has broken EU antitrust rules, the Commission has a duty to act to protect European consumers and fair competition on European markets.” Commissioner Vestager is presenting these decisions at 12 pm CET today, which you can follow live here. A full press release is available online in EN, FR and DE and all other EU languages. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)
Capital Markets Union: New Rules To Support Investment In Venture Capital And Social Enterprises
The European Commission has today proposed amendments to the European Venture Capital Funds (EuVECA) and the European Social Entrepreneurship Funds (EuSEF) regulations, marking another step towards the creation of the Capital Markets Union. Today’s proposal aims to make it easier and more attractive for investors to invest in small and medium-sized innovative companies and social projects. In particular, the Commission is proposing to open up EuVECA and EuSEF funds to fund managers of all sizes, and to expand the range of companies that can benefit from venture capital funds. The Commission also aims to make the cross border marketing of EuVECA and EuSEF funds cheaper and easier by explicitly prohibiting fees levied by Member States and simplifying registration processes, in order to increase the number of managers, funds, and investments in venture capital and social enterprises. Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “Today we are removing another barrier to investment at EU level which is a key objective of the Investment Plan for Europe. The three main changes we are proposing to the EuVECA and EuSEF regulations today – broadening the scope of eligible managers; expanding the list of EuVECA eligible assets; and prohibiting fees imposed by competent authorities – will result in a greater number of SMEs getting access to the vital finance they need to grow their businesses.” Commissioner Jonathan Hill said: “This proposal is part of the package of measures in the CMU Action Plan to strengthen venture capital markets. This proposal will build up scale, diversity and choice for investors, venture capital and social enterprises. Other actions foreseen include the launch of a large-scale fund-of-funds, blending EU and private capital, to support investment in innovative companies across the whole EU.” Today’s proposal has been submitted to the European Parliament and the Council (Member States) for adoption under the co-decision procedure. Today at 12:30 CET, a press release and memo will be published, and a statement by Commissioner Hill can be watched on EbS. (For more information: Vanessa Mock – Tel.: +32 229 56194; Letizia Lupini – Tel.: +32 229 51958)
European Commission announces €145 million in humanitarian aid for 7 countries in Africa’s Sahel region
During a visit in Niger today, Commissioner Stylianides will announce €145 million in EU humanitarian assistance for the Sahel region in 2016 to address the basic needs of the populations, tackle malnutrition and provide food to the most vulnerable people. “Saving lives continues to be the EU’s first priority in Niger and the Sahel region. Our new humanitarian funding will provide essential nutrition and health treatment to young children and their mothers, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as training and support to health centres. The EU is working hand in hand with humanitarian organisations to help the most vulnerable”, said Commissioner Christos Stylianides, who will visit EU funded aid projects in Niger. A significant amount, totalling €29 million will be allocated to the most vulnerable in Niger. The country is facing persistent acute food insecurity, child malnutrition and the displacement of people fleeing conflicts in neighbouring Mali and Nigeria. Overall, funding will be provided to those in need in 7 countries: Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad and Cameroon. Read the full press release here. (For more information: Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)
President Juncker addresses Asia-Europe Business Forum
Today 14 July in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, President Juncker addressed the 15thAsia-Europe Business Forum. Bringing together business leaders from both regions, the Forum is part of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. In his speech, President Juncker set out his commitment to work for a global economy that is fair, transparent and governed by rules. He underlined the need for strong public-private partnerships to deliver this. “The business community will play a central role,” said the President. “You are the engines of change and innovation. You have the power to bring our two great regions closer together. But with your power comes responsibility. You have a duty to act as good citizens: respecting the rules of the game, investing in people and taking care of our planet.” On 15-16 July, still in Ulaanbaatar, President Juncker will attend the 11th ASEM Summit together with EU High Representative and Commission Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, and European Council President, Donald Tusk. Government leaders from both regions will discuss a range of global and regional issues including security, terrorism, climate change, migration, economic cooperation and sustainable development. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382)
Investment Plan for Europe: new EFSI deals signed in Greece and Spain
Today two new deals have been signed under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. In Athens, the European Investment Fund signed an agreement with the National Bank of Greece to provide EUR 100 million in loans to over 350 Greek SMEs. Chief Spokesperson of the Commission, Margaritis Schinas, was in Athens to attend the agreement signature on behalf of President Juncker and Vice-President Katainen. Meanwhile in Madrid, the European Investment Bank signed a contract with car manufacturer Gestamp Automoción in Spain to invest EUR 160 million in research, development and innovation. The EFSI-backed financing will allow the company, which has factories in Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland and the UK, to invest in RDI to make more environmentally-friendly cars with safer and lighter bodywork. Commenting on the Gestamp project, Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “The European Union is investing in research and innovation to support growth and jobs, and to tackle today’s challenges. The project signed today by the European Investment Bank and Gestamp Automoción under the Commission’s Investment Plan is a great example of the value of our investment. The funding will make cars safer and greener, and create hundreds of jobs in Spain and elsewhere.” (For more information see here or contact Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)
Commission publishes further TTIP documents in ongoing transparency commitment
The European Commission is today publishing a record number of EU proposals from the ongoing 14th round of talks for a trade agreement with the United States, taking place in Brussels this week. As part of its drive for a more transparent trade and investment policy, the Commission is making these proposals public only days after submitting them to our negotiating partners. The nine proposals published today are intended to simplify technical regulations without lowering standards, and to set global rules of trade. Specifically, the published texts represent the EU’s negotiating position on regulatory cooperation in the sectors of cosmetics, medical devices, cars, chemicals and textiles. Also published today is a new article on climate protection as a part of the chapter on sustainable development, as well as separate chapters on energy and raw materials,market access for financial services, and on institutional cooperation within TTIP. The proposal for regulatory cooperation in the engineering sector will follow. The published texts show that the Commission is delivering on the goal established at the beginning of the year – to have almost all proposals for chapters of TTIP on the table and consolidate as many texts as possible by the summer break. Yesterday, the Commission organised a series of stakeholder events at the fringes of the negotiations, where interested stakeholders were briefed on the status of the negotiations and exchanged views with the chief EU and US negotiators. Tomorrow at 15:00 in Brussels there will be a press conference with the two chief negotiators on the 14th round of TTIP negotiations, which will also be broadcast live on Europe by Satellite. Photos of the negotiation round are also available. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Axel Fougner – Tel.: +32 229 57276)
Annual Agri-food trade report 2015: EU first exporter worldwide
The European Commission today published the Agri-food trade in 2015 report, which shows EU exports for agricultural products reached €129 billion in 2015. This means an annual increase of 5.7%, securing the EU’s position as first world agri-food exporter with a net trade surplus of €16 billion. The entire output of the European Union’s agricultural sector was valued at €410 billion in 2015. Agriculture and the food and drink industry together employ millions of people, accounting for 7.5 % of employment and 3.7 % of total value added in the EU, according to the annual report. Although some Member States and sectors still suffered from the Russian ban and from low world market prices, the overall EU agricultural trade performance was positive in 2015. EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan commented on the report: “Our trade performance continues to be a real good news story for the EU agri-food sector. Our high production standards and commitment to quality food and drink products ensure continuing global demand. In the coming months, I hope to see further export growth for Europe’s farmers and agri-food businesses, and the Commission will support them every step of the way.” A press release on the annual report and the monthly agri-food trade report for May are now available online. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Clemence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)
Commission adopts measures to protect against money laundering and terrorist financing from high risk third countries
Today, the European Commission has formally adopted a list of third countries having strategic deficiencies in their regimes on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering Terrorist Financing (CFT). This completes the package of stronger transparency rules to tackle terrorism financing and money laundering brought forward last week. Banks will have to carry out additional checks (‘enhanced due diligence measures’) on financial flows from these 11 countries. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “Today’s list is part of our broader drive to tackle terrorism financing and money laundering. We need to cut off terrorists and other criminals from their resources. To put Europe at the forefront of the global fight against money laundering, we have proposed a common European set of stricter checks in relation to financial flows from these countries.” The Commission proposed on 5 July 2016 to harmonise the list of checks applicable to high-risk countries to prevent loopholes in Europe, where terrorists could run operations through countries with lower levels of protection. The EU will continue to engage across all relevant policy areas with the concerned countries, including through development cooperation, the ultimate goal being their compliance and removal from the list. The list of the Commission will be reviewed at least three times a year, after each Financial Action Task Force meeting assessing the latest developments. The Delegated Regulation will now be transmitted to the European Parliament and Council who have a one-month period to express objections (extendable to two months). If no objection has been expressed, it will be published in the Official Journal. The list is available online and more information on the latest Anti-Money Laundering amendments is available here. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)
EUROSTAT: Sommet Asie-Europe – les partenaires ASEM ont représenté en 2015 plus d’un tiers du commerce de biens de l’UE, déficit de l’UE de 277 milliards d’euros
En 2015, les 21 pays non-AELE participant au Sommet Asie-Europe (ci-après dénommés partenaires ASEM) comptaient ensemble pour 37% des échanges internationaux de biens de l’Union européenne (UE), avec une part des partenaires ASEM s’établissant à 29% pour les exportations de l’UE et à 46% pour ses importations. Sur la décennie 2005-2015, l’UE a constamment accusé un déficit commercial, toujours nettement supérieur à 200 milliards d’euros, avec les partenaires ASEM. En 2015, il se situait à 277 milliards d’euros, en baisse par rapport au pic de 320 milliards d’euros enregistré en 2008. Un communiqué de presse EUROSTAT est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Axel Fougner – Tel.: +32 229 57276)
Quarterly Report on the Euro Area published today
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs today publishes its Quarterly Report on the Euro Area (QREA), featuring in-depth technical analyses of economic issues affecting the euro area. In this edition, staff economists look at the role of cross-border risk sharing, both through financial and labour market incomes generated across borders and through cross-border fiscal transfers, in mitigating asymmetric shocks, and compare the situation in the euro area to that of the United States. Other sections examine the mechanisms through which financial systems affect the real economy and confidence spill overs in the euro area. QREA Vol.15 No.2 will be published today at 15.00. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Audrey Augier – Tel.: +32 229 71607)
Raw materials: Commission highlights need for security of supply and investment*
Today the Commission is publishing the first Raw Materials Scoreboard prepared by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), under the responsibility of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. The Scoreboard provides a comprehensive set of indicators on both primary and secondary raw materials. It highlights the need to address the EU’s growing skills shortage, innovation needs and its import-dependency, providing valuable information for policy decisions. Speaking at a meeting of the High-Level Steering Group of the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials this morning, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “The supply and affordability of raw materials are of strategic importance for the future of the European economy and society. With the European Innovation Partnership, the raw materials community has taken important steps towards increased security of supply and a more circular economy. Today, we made the case for the need to support investment in the field of raw materials, in particular for start-ups and SMEs trying to optimise their resource use.“ The meeting was organised by the European Commission as part of its efforts to secure a sustainable supply of raw materials for Europe and to boost investment into the raw materials and recycling sectors. The group, which is composed of representatives of the industry, NGOs, researchers, ministers and the Commission, adopted a’Strategic Evaluation Report’ on future priorities in the area of raw materials. The group also presented a voluntary ‘Declaration of Support’ for the setting up of a European Investment Platform on Raw Materials and Recycling for start-ups, brought forward by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and its innovation community, EIT Raw Materials, under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). More information regarding the ‘Strategic Evaluation Report’ and the ‘Declaration of Support’ on the websites of DG Grow and JRC. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)
Innovation performance compared: How innovative is your country?
Today, the Commission released the 2016 results of the European Innovation Scoreboard, the Regional Innovation Scoreboard and the Innobarometer. The main findings of the three reports are that Sweden is once again the innovation leader, Latvia has become the fastest growing innovator, and EU innovation is catching up with Japan and the US.By boosting private investment and improving the framework conditions for innovation, the EU has the potential to lead in innovation at the global stage.Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “I want Europe to be a place where innovative SMEs and start-ups flourish and scale up within the Single Market. This requires a concerted effort. At EU level, we need to simplify VAT regulation, adapt insolvency rules, make information on regulatory requirements more easily accessible and work on a clear and SME-friendly intellectual property framework. We also need to keep adapting the Single Market to ensure that innovative services such as the collaborative economy find their place.” Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, added: “Leading countries and regions are supporting innovation across a wide range of policies from investment to education, from flexible labour conditions to ensuring public administrations that value entrepreneurship and innovation. The Commission is doing its part by promoting innovation across policy areas too. Not only that, we’re also improving access to private finance through the €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe and the Capital Markets Union, as well as creating a new European Innovation Council.“Corina Crețu, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said: “Smart specialisation strategies help Member States and regions capitalise on their competitive assets in Research & Innovation and find opportunities for cooperation between business and academia. As such, they are compasses for innovative, long-term investments supported by ESI Funds and, when possible, other EU sources of finance. This contributes greatly to Europe’s shift towards a knowledge-based economy.” For further details on the results and the Commission’s actions to support innovation, a press release, frequently asked questions, the European Innovation Scoreboard, the Regional Innovation Scoreboard and the Innobarometer are available online. (Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184, Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)
European Commission appoints new Head of Representation in Lisbon
The European Commission has appointed Ms Sofia Colares Alves as the new Head of its Representation in Portugal. She will take up office on 16 July, bringing over twenty years of European and International affairs experience to the post. Ms Alves is an experienced lawyer and works for the European Commission since 2003, specialising in competition policy. She was a member of the Cabinet of former Commission Vice-President Joaquín Almunia (from 2010 to 2013), a Head of Unit in DG Competition (from 2013 until 2015) and since May 2015 was seconded to the Portuguese Competition Authority (PCA) in Lisbon as Head of Cabinet advising the Board on all areas of competence of the PCA. Ms Sofia Colares Alves obtained a Law Degree from the University of Lisbon and a Master of European Legal Studies (LLM.) from the College of Europe in Bruges. A complete press release for Ms Sofia Colares Alves is available online, also in DE, FR and PT. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265)
Vice-President Dombrovskis visits Japan
Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, will visit Tokyo, Japan on 14 and 15 July. During this visit, he will participate in the 16th EU-Japan Symposium, delivering the opening address on the theme of contemporary social and employment issues. He will also hold bilateral meetings with Mr Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan; Mr Taro Aso, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister; and Mr Nobuteru Ishihara, Minister of Economic Revitalisation. Finally, he will meet representatives from the European Business Council. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Siobhan Millbright – Tel.: +32 229 57367)
Commissioner Thyssen attends the Informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council
Labour Ministers will hold an informal meeting on 14 and 15 July 2016 in Bratislava, under the Council Presidency of Slovakia. The Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen. Ministers will focus their discussions around three main topics: ageing, digitalisation, and migration. They will discuss how these three key challenges impact Member States’ labour markets and social security systems and exchange experiences and policies to turn these challenges into opportunities for Europe. In this context, Commissioner Thyssen will highlight some of the emerging issues in its consultation on the European pillar of social rights, a key initiative to make social rights in Europe fit for purpose in the 21st century. The meeting will also include a field visit to a Slovak company, which has expanded its production and innovation in times of global competition and digitalisation. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 6225)
Commissioner Hogan on official visit to Slovenia
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, is today on official visit in Slovenia. Together with Mr Dejan Židan, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food for Slovenia, he visited this morning an educational farm in Poljane. In the afternoon, Commissioner Hogan and the Minister will meet with representatives of the consultative Council for Agriculture. This meeting will be followed by a joint press conference, after which they will visit a cheese dairy farm in Gorenja vas. From 2014-2020, the CAP will invest around €1.8 billion in Slovenia’s farming sector and rural areas. More information about the CAP in Slovenia can be found here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Clemence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)
Commissioner Andriukaitis visits Montenegro
EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis is visiting Montenegro today and tomorrow (14-15 July). Commissioner Andriukaitis will meet national authorities, including the Deputy-Prime minister and the ministers in charge of Health and Agriculture, with whom he’ll mainly discuss the recent (30 June) opening of the Chapter 12 (Food Safety, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Policy) of the negotiations of accession. The Commissioner will underline the importance of this Chapter since it deals with the safety of food products, a topic of the highest concern for EU citizens and consumers. He will detail to his interlocutors how they can learn from previous negotiations in this area. On the occasion of the visit he said: “It is of the utmost importance that Montenegro follows as closely as possible its strategy for transposition and implementation of the EU acquis for this Chapter. Montenegro has a major task ahead since this is a very demanding area, but I’ll make sure that all the expertise needed will be pooled to help this country. A step-by-step harmonisation with EU standards will allow Montenegrin products to access the EU markets“. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)
Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)
* Updated on 14/07/2016 at 14:44, adding “and its innovation community, EIT Raw Materials”Read More
Meanwhile, the government dismisses the “irresponsible” use of the term ‘famine.’ “In its latest assessment of food security in the country, published on Thursday, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) warned that there is a “concrete risk of famine occurring between October and December” unless more assistance is provided and access is given to aid agencies to reach affected areas…The IPC said an estimated 3.9 million people are now in urgent need of assistance, 30,000 of whom in Unity State are estimated to be living in extreme conditions. The IPC pointed out that, while there is insufficient data available to declare a famine, volatile conditions in the country have obstructed access, making timely analysis difficult.” (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PDXB9t)
El Nino Will Have a Disastrous Effect on Food Security in the South Pacific...”Farming communities throughout Indonesia are struggling with drought as rising sea temperatures associated with this year’s El Nino weather phenomenon affect rainfall across the globe. Governments in Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Samoa report similar situations as the region struggles to cope with what is shaping up to be the worst El Nino event since 1997-1998, when the weather phenomenon caused sugarcane harvests to fail and closed schools in nations across the South Pacific.” (IRIN http://bit.ly/1PDZwuI
Kerry and Lavrov to Meet in Vienna Today for Syria Talks...”The two officials are to confer Friday, as well as participate in multilateral talks that will include the foreign ministers of Turkey and Saudi Arabia and a U.N. representative.” (VOA http://bit.ly/1NqvSGe)
Not the Onion…Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been awarded China’s alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize for what the prize committee called his inspired national leadership and service to pan-Africanism. (VOA http://bit.ly/1PJymBX)
Stat of the Day…There are now 3.2 million people internally displaced by violence in Iraq since January 2014. (OCHA http://bit.ly/1PDZaEq)
Eight villagers in Cameroon’s Far North region were killed in a raid by Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram that was followed by a gunbattle between militants and security forces, a government official said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1kx10Kx)
More than a month after security forces chased some 15,000 Nigerians from their homes in Badia East, one of Lagos’ largest slums, thousands of families are still sleeping rough. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1LIKM7X)
Burundi’s government will be invited to talks in Brussels to seek a solution to a political crisis in the Central African country that has killed more than 120 people, EU diplomats say, warning of a suspension of aid if talks fail. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1kwUzXY)
A group of 80 humanitarian organizations are urging Mali’s government and the U.N. peacekeeping mission there to allow flights to deliver aid to the northern Kidal region. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LIMiqI)
Security forces in Guinea shot two unarmed people in the back and beat another person to death in the lead up to elections this month, human rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1kwUxzf)
The European Union on Thursday called for greater cooperation with Khartoum on migration and combating human trafficking after an EU delegation visited a camp for Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1kx178X
Tom Catena teaches young medics, delivers babies and performs surgery at the only major hospital, amidst fierce fighting between rebels and government forces in Sudan’s Nuba mountains. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PJxUn7)
Former UN chief Kofi Annan hails Energy Africa scheme as chance for continent to steer away from carbon-intensive practices of rich countries. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1jWNMpR)
Sierra Leone may be declared Ebola-free in early November, but caring for the country’s 4,051 Ebola survivors remains a big challenge. Many survivors report joint pain and vision problems, and experts also are worried about the risk of relapse. (VOA http://bit.ly/1kwUF1E)
Backed by US special operations forces, Kurdish troops stormed an Islamic State prison in Iraq early Thursday, freeing about 70 hostages in a high-stakes operation that left a US serviceman dead, the Pentagon said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1kx12SD)
Worldwide attacks by the Islamic State group spiked more than 40 percent per day in the third quarter, according to a new report by the IHS Jane’s global defense publication. (VOA http://bit.ly/1kwUCmD)
The World Health Organization is stepping up efforts to control multiple cholera outbreaks in Africa and the Middle East to prevent the disease from spreading and threatening the health of thousands of people. (VOA http://bit.ly/1RZvgsM)
Southern Thailand was hit Thursday by the most severe haze ever from forest fires in Indonesia, forcing all schools in a province to close and disrupting flights in a popular tourist area, officials said. (VOA http://bit.ly/1RZveRt)
One of the world’s most polluted capitals, New Delhi, closed a stretch of a major road to private cars for a few hours Thursday, hoping to give its citizens a brief breath of fresh air by observing a car-free day. (AP http://yhoo.it/1kwVWpx)
About a dozen top Haitian officials appeared on state television in an effort to reassure anxious voters that they will keep their promises of organized, fair and peaceful elections this weekend. (VOA http://bit.ly/1kwUDXB)
…and the rest
Aid workers in Serbia warn children struggling across the Balkans on their way to western Europe face serious health risks as cold winter months approach. Many children arriving here are already coughing from colds caught along the route. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1LIPiDv)
Though maternal and child survival have improved significantly during the MDGs era, its corresponding goals remain mostly unfulfilled, according to a new study by ‘Countdown to 2015’. (IPS http://bit.ly/1kwUCD5)
U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein accused the Czech Republic on Thursday of committing systematic human rights violations by detaining refugees for up to 90 days, strip-searching them for money to pay for their own detention. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1kx1ccR)
Sweden expects to receive up to 190,000 asylum applications this year, straining the country’s reception capacity with no housing available for up to 45,000 of the recent arrivals, migration authorities said on Thursday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1LIPjXU)
More funds to help poor nations cope with climate change will be the make-or-break issue when a Paris summit seeks a U.N. deal in December to slow global warming, the main group of developing nations said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1LIPeDw)
Unidentified gunmen have staged a series of new sabotage attacks on boats carrying migrants cross the Aegean Sea, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1kx11hF)
The plague was spreading nearly 3,000 years before previously thought, scientists say after finding traces of the disease in the teeth of ancient people — a discovery that could provide clues to how dangerous diseases evolve. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LIPfaI)
Nine things we learned about the global goals (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PJxJbx)
Refugees who changed the world (CNN http://cnn.it/1LIKqOz)
TPP is Bad for One’s Health (IPS http://bit.ly/1kwUa7Y)
Benghazi: Witch Hunt or Valid Investigation? (VOA http://bit.ly/1kwTzTz)
At UNGA, preventing the next outbreak by supporting right to health (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1kwYS5q)
Breast Cancer In The Developing World: Rising Rates, Shrouded In Silence (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1kwZ5Wz)
Optimism about Africa’s Demographic Dividend (Africa Can End Poverty http://bit.ly/1LIS9fC)
Five myths about poverty, growth and inequality (ODI http://bit.ly/1LISdMu)
Bill Easterly and the denial of inconvenient truths (Public Spheres WB http://bit.ly/1LISdvV)
The treaty that created the United Nations turns 70 years old today. On June 26, 1945 leaders from 50 of the original member states gathered in San Francisco to sign the United Nations Charter. Ban Ki Moon is back in the Bay Area today for celebrations to commemorate the event. Mark speaks with historian Stephen Schlesinger who discusses the fascinating–and legitimately entertaining — historiography of the UN Charter. A naked Winston Churchill is central to this story. UN Nerds, international affairs enthusiasts and history buffs will enjoy this conversation. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1LsdWek)
More Trouble in Burundi. The USA and Belgium are in the Thick of It…”One of Burundi’s vice presidents has fled to Belgium, saying he had been threatened after denouncing President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office, an allegation denied by Burundi’s government…Rallies have petered out but the mood remains tense. Three grenade attacks in the capital on Thursday injured several people, the latest in a series of similar assaults in the past week that have killed four people and injured dozens in Bujumbura and other towns. The U.S. embassy said students camped out in a nearby construction site had fled after police entered the area on Thursday, and about 100 had taken refuge in an embassy parking area. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1SNst6C)
Pledges total $3bn for Nepal Recovery…”International donors and multilateral agencies have pledged about $3 billion in aid to help rebuild Nepal as it struggles to recover from a devastating earthquake. The Himalayan nation got the largest pledges from its two giant neighbors, India and China.” (VOA http://bit.ly/1SNrFia)
And the most peaceful country in the world is…According to the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace, Iceland, the thinly populated island in the midst of the North Atlantic has retained its place as the most peaceful country in the world. (CNN http://cnn.it/1GtAbuW)
Should I stay, or should I go? South Africa said it may withdraw from the International Criminal Court after controversy rose last week over its refusal to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on genocide charges. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Jlyi9E)
Quote of the Day: “We must face hard truths — if the current rate of new HIV infections continues, merely sustaining the major efforts we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from AIDS increasing within five years in many countries,” said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1QRLcAr)
Authorities in Sierra Leone quarantined three doctors and 28 nurses in the capital Freetown when a mother tested positive for Ebola after giving birth, the health ministry said on Thursday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1GKkyS1)
Guinea will put four villages under a 21-day quarantine as part of a robust strategy to stamp out a lingering Ebola epidemic after new cases of the disease were discovered there. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Jlzda9)
The United Nations said it has started an emergency program to distribute planting seeds and medical aid as a food and health crisis looms in northern Cameroon. The region is hosting thousands of refugees and people internally displaced by Boko Haram fighting. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GKkxha)
Warring forces in South Sudan have abducted as many as a thousand more child soldiers in the latest abuses in the 18-month long civil war, monitors said Thursday, amid fresh efforts to bring rivals back to talks. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Lxr42W)
Africa can create jobs, improve social services and cut poverty if its governments can stem the $50 billion a year lost in illicit outflows, mainly through multinationals, campaigners said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1LxqYIK)
A Tanzanian court ordered an Islamist rebel leader on Thursday to be extradited to Uganda to face murder charges, though he said he would appeal against the decision. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Lxrian)
The British government told Ethiopia on Thursday its treatment of an imprisoned opposition figure, who is also a British national, was unacceptable and that the case risked hurting ties between the two countries. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Lxr6bb)
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, joint operations by the Congolese army and the United Nations mission MONUSCO have weakened one of the most active rebel groups in the country. The mission chief said that about a quarter of the combatants with the FRPI rebel group have been taken out of action in the past four weeks. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GKkzFJ)
China’s Defence Ministry on Thursday declined to confirm a report that it was in talks for a military base in Horn of Africa country Djibouti, though it said all countries had an interest in regional peace and stability. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Jlz5aA)
Show me the money…United Nations aid agencies said on Thursday that a $4.5 billion appeal to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 was less than a quarter funded, putting millions of vulnerable people at risk, and had already led to cuts in vital assistance. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Lxr5DZ)
Eight international NGOs delivering desperately needed food, blankets and medical aid to war-torn Syria have finally been granted legal status in Turkey after years of deadlocked applications. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Jlyt4Z)
Journalists face unprecedented threats in President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s Egypt, a watchdog group said Thursday, with the highest number behind bars since it began keeping records in 1990. (AP http://yhoo.it/1GKkthp)
The worst heat wave to hit Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi for nearly 35 years has killed more than 1,000 people, a charity said on Thursday, as morgues ran out of space and public hospitals struggled to cope. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Lxr3Mj)
South Korea on Thursday announced a $14 billion stimulus package to boost its troubled economy, hammered by the deadly MERS outbreak which has dented consumer spending and business sentiment. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1GKkrGb)
A US House of Representatives Homeland Security subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on the possible security risks involved with resettling some of the estimated 4 million refugees from the brutal civil war in Syria in the United States. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Lxrgiy)
President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced a reform of U.S. policies for dealing with kidnappers. Mr. Obama said the U.S. will use “all instruments of national power” to recover Americans held by terrorists in other countries. (VOA http://bit.ly/1LxriHd)
As spotlight returns to decades-long violence against native women and girls in Canada, calls for national inquiry have been rebuffed but groups refuse to give up. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1QRL4kz)
…and the rest
Britain’s Foreign Office has launched an inquiry into its foreign aid spending after a tabloid newspaper reported that it had spent thousands of pounds on initiatives such as Hamlet workshops in Ecuador and a television game show in Ethiopia. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1SNs4kv)
Faced with increasing chaos at its borders, the EU Commission is urging member states to take a tougher stance on migrant returns. Draft conclusions from Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels note that “all tools shall be mobilised to promote readmission of illegal migrants to countries of origin and transit,” and that an increased budget will be made available to support more effective returns. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1QRKRO6)
The Perfect Package for Reducing Poverty Is Made Up of Different Parts (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1QRL5Vr)
Health sector first casualty of Myanmar aid cuts (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/1LFQbxx)
When foreign companies want local land (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1KcNp41)
Internet in Africa – Empowerment or Exploitation? (DW http://bit.ly/1LxriqV)
Ten reasons why European governments should back a global tax body (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Jly4zz)
Development finance’s $83bn question: who will pay for gender equality?(Guardian http://bit.ly/1SNs1oO)
Just when I despair that decades of intellectual work on development have fallen on deaf ears, comes stuff like this (Chris Blattman http://bit.ly/1BM8O2R)
Tackling Grand Corruption: Guatemala’s Successful Experiment (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1KcOXuQ)
Who is the richest man in history? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1KcOd8X)
Term limits in central Africa: utility or artifact? (Eyes Wide Open http://bit.ly/1KcOkBm)
This giant mural in downtown Oakland Commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations Charter. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1Lx3R0X)
Who is a refugee?
Every year natural disasters, conflicts and human rights violations force millions of people to leave their homes and to flee to save their lives. Their survival often depends on international assistance and protection.
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country and is unable or unwilling to return because of fear of persecution. The 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees gives refugees legal protection under the international refugee law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to respond to refugee needs.
An internally displaced person (IDP) is someone who was forced to flee his/her home but who did not cross a state border. IDPs benefit from the legal protection of international human rights law and, in armed conflict, international humanitarian law.
However, IDPs do not benefit from the specialised protection of international refugee law. No UN or international agency has been formally mandated to assist them. National governments have the primary responsibility for the security and well-being of all displaced people on their territory, but often they are unable or unwilling to comply with this obligation. The most important reference document to address the issue of protection and assistance to IDPs is the non-binding Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement from 1998. The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance to IDPs in Africa (the so called Kampala Convention), which entered into force in 2012, is the first ever binding international legal instrument on the rights of IDPs.
How many refugees are there?
Today, there are more than 59.5 million people in need of help and protection as a consequence of forced displacement, more than at any time since comprehensive statistics have been collected, with the continuing crises in Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan and Ukraine as major aggravating factors. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), globally some 38.2 million people are IDPs, around 19.5 million are refugees and 1.8 million people applied for asylum in 2014. Together, these forcibly displaced people represent the combined population of greater London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Stockholm, Lisbon, Warsaw, Athens, Barcelona and Brussels.
According to the latest UNHCR data, about half of the global refugee population are children under 18, the highest proportion in more than a decade. About half of the entire refugee population are women and girls. In many societies, they face specific risks such as discrimination and are less likely than men and boys to have access to basic rights.
Syria became the world’s largest source country of refugees during 2014 with an estimated 3.9 million people, overtaking Afghanistan, which had held this position for more than 30 years. Somalia, Sudan, South-Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar follow. It is estimated that around 45% of the world’s refugees are trapped in protracted situations (in exile for five years or more without prospects of immediate durable solutions).
For humanitarian workers, helping the displaced is becoming more difficult, costly and dangerous. In countries such as Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen or Iraq, getting help to internally displaced populations means working in environments where access is difficult and conflict or criminality present deadly risks.
86% of today’s refugees live in the developing world, which means that they find refuge in countries and among people who already struggle with poverty and hardship. Greater international solidarity is needed to address this challenge.
According to the UNHCR, out of the total 14.4 million refugees in the world in 2014, more than 1 million were in the EU.
What is World Refugee Day?
Each year, on 20 June, the world focuses on the plight of people who are forced to flee their homes due to conflicts or natural disasters. This day has been significant since 2001, when the UN General Assembly designated it on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
Humanitarian situation and needs
Many of the people forced to flee and abandon their homes often have to do this at very short notice and to leave with nothing or very few possessions. Particularly in volatile contexts, they rely on local communities and international humanitarian aid for their survival. Too often, their flight to safety turns into protracted and long term displacement, as the problems that uprooted them take a long time to resolve.
Sustainable solutions for refugees include voluntary repatriation to their home countries, which is the preferred long-term outcome for the majority of refugees. Another solution is local integration or resettlement either in the asylum country where they are living or in third countries where they can be permanently resettled. The IDPs can be reintegrated in their place of origin (return), integrated in areas where they have taken refuge (local integration), or integrated in another part of the country (settlement elsewhere).
Refugees and those internally displaced (IDPs) face major challenges in terms of protection, access to shelter, food and other basic services such as health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene and education. Those who end up living in urban areas (IDP’s, refugees) may encounter poverty, lack of psychosocial support and difficulties in normalizing their status. Violence, abuse and exploitation against the most vulnerable often peak in the aftermath of emergencies, which underlines the importance of effective protection mechanisms to be put in place immediately.
The patterns of displacement are increasingly complex, as large numbers of migrants flow inside and between countries and regions. Their problems, and the burden on host countries, are worsened by climate change, increasing urbanisation, population growth and food insecurity. At the same time, the efforts of the humanitarian community to bring relief and contribute to lasting solutions are made more difficult by donors’ budgetary constraints, triggered by the global financial and economic crisis and the multiplication of crisis in need of funding.
The European Commission’s humanitarian response
Refugees are among the most vulnerable in humanitarian crises. This is why the European Commission provides substantial resources to help them. The European Commission gave more than €854 million or some 70% of its annual humanitarian aid budget in 2014 to projects helping refugees and IDPs in 33 countries worldwide. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) invests heavily in assisting displaced people and is currently responding to crises such as: Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, Somali refugees in Kenya and Yemen, Congolese refugees in the Great Lake region, Colombian refugees in Ecuador and Venezuela, Myanmar refugees in Thailand, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Sahrawi refugees.
Humanitarian aid delivered by the European Commission helps:
- meet the most pressing needs of refugees;
- protect and support refugees during their displacement and when returning to their place of origin;
- increase the self-reliance of refugees and reduce their ‘dependency syndrome’.
The Commission focuses its support on organisations dealing with migrants, refugees and IDPs including the UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Red Cross and Red Crescent family and non-governmental organisations. The three above-mentioned organization remained in 2014 among the first five humanitarian aid partner of the Commission, in terms of volume of funding (2. ICRC, 3. UNHCR, 5. IOM).
Through this support, the Commission’s action paves the way for durable solutions for refugees and IDPs. It coordinates its assistance with the organisations in charge of early recovery and development.
While supporting the victims of displacement, the European Commission is also working to decrease the number and scale of refugee crises: for instance, through its work on disaster preparedness and prevention, which aims to reduce the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities and prevent their displacement.
Refugees and development policy
The European Commission also provides development assistance to tackle the challenges related to forced displacement, since there is growing recognition of the importance of refugees and IDPs to the economy and development, with the potential to contribute to the economy of hosting countries (also acknowledged by the European Council in 2013).
This is particularly relevant in the case of refugees who are displaced for the long term; either in camps or urban areas (known as protracted displacement). These challenges must therefore be addressed by long-term development strategies in order to enable the refugees to be self-reliant and to support host communities.
The Commission is already a leading international donor in terms of support for refugees in developing countries with €200 million in ongoing projects from development funds.
In addition, the European Commission is currently working on developing new, more comprehensive and multi-sectoral approaches aimed at seeing sustainable solutions for refugees, IDPs and returnees. The objective is to ensure that development actors, together with humanitarian actors, will engage to address the crisis that forces the population to flee from the beginning in order to prevent that displacement turns into a permanent situation.
The humanitarian consequences of the crisis in Syria have reached an unprecedented scale. Around 11.5 million Syrians are internally displaced or are living as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, North Africa and the EU. Many of those who were able to reach the neighbouring countries are now living in hardship; struggling to find shelter and food for their families and schooling for their children. The European Union is a leading donor in the response to the Syria crisis with around €3.6 billion of total budget mobilised by the Commission and Member States collectively in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance. EU humanitarian assistance channelled through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) primarily supports life-saving medical emergency responses, the provision of essential drugs, food and nutritional items, safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), shelter, distribution of basic non-food items and protection programmes. This funding is channelled through UN agencies and accredited international humanitarian organisations to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people.
In 2015, the Commission has increased its humanitarian assistance to the Syria crisis by €136 million, half of which will go to meet needs inside Syria, and the other half to Syrian refugees and host communities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. This includes €2.5 million to respond to the emergency inside Yarmouk refugee camp.
A new EU comprehensive strategy has been developed to tackle the crises in Syria and Iraq, which will include €1 billion in funding over the next two years. The new strategy will champion activities from several EU instruments and increase the impact of Europe’s solidarity and political support. This will include enhancing economic resilience among refugee and host communities especially to promote prospects for young people.
The Third International Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City was held on 31 March 2015. During the conference, donors pledged a total of US$3.8 billion in humanitarian and development assistance to the Syria crisis out of which the EU and its Member States pledged €1.1 billion – the largest pledge by any donor.
To strengthen the development and protection capacities in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, and to enable Syrian refugees to tap into their own potentials, the European Commission is funding a Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP) in the region. The programme combines efforts to improve protection of refugees with longer-term livelihood support to host communities and, whenever possible, refugees alike. The Commission is currently also developing RDPPs for the Horn of Africa and North Africa in close collaboration with EU Member States.
The on-going crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced an estimated 220 000 people since December 2013 to flee to Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo, bringing the number of Central African refugees in neighbouring countries to over 462 000 people. The European Union is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to CAR with over EUR 186 million provided since 2014. The European Commission alone has provided EUR 69 million (including about EUR 20 million for CAR refugees in neighbouring countries) in humanitarian aid since December 2013.
Almost half of the funding is spent in Chad, which was facing the biggest influx of people fleeing CAR at the beginning of the crisis, €7.8 million in Cameroon and €1 million in the DRC and the Republic of Congo. The humanitarian assistance addresses the basic needs of refugees such as shelter, food, health, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene. The funds are implemented through the European Commission’s partners such as UN agencies, International NGOs, and international organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies.
In CAR, the European Commission is funding humanitarian projects to enable free access to primary health services through mobile clinics. Projects seeking to improve the protection of civilians are also being supported. Food assistance is a priority. Moreover, the European Commission is supporting integrated actions to provide safe drinking water, re-establish decent sanitation facilities and promote better hygiene practices (WASH).
The situation in South Sudan since the outbreak of civil war in December 2013 remains one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. Over 2 million people have fled their homes, of which 565 000 South Sudanese have taken refuge in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, putting additional resource constraints on these countries and having a destabilising effect on the whole region. At over 1.5 million people have been internally displaced (IDPs), mostly because of widespread violence against civilians. More than half of the refugees (around 60%) are children. At the same time, the country hosts more than a quarter of a million refugees, mainly from Sudan. Overall, life-saving needs for food, health care, clean water, shelter, sanitation, protection, etc. continue to rise.
Humanitarian aid is delivered in extremely and increasingly challenging circumstances. Hostilities and attacks against humanitarian workers seriously constrain access to those in need. The commandeering of assets and other illegal obstructions further constrain the work of aid organisations.
The European Commission has made available more than €200 million since 2014 (over €120 million in 2015 alone) to respond to the unfolding and intensifying humanitarian crisis inside the South Sudan and support the urgent needs of refugees in the Horn of Africa, including South Sudanese refugees. The aid covers the provision of food aid, basic health care, clean water, sanitation, shelter and protection for the most vulnerable people. The funds also support the response to epidemics such as cholera and Hepatitis E.
As a result of the illegal annexation of Crimea and fighting between Russia-backed separatists and government forces in Eastern Ukraine, over two million people have been forced to flee their homes and have become increasingly vulnerable. As of June 2015, over 1.3 million people are registered as internally displaced (IDPs), and more than 860 000 have fled to neighbouring countries, especially Russia, Belarus and Poland. Refugees and internally displaced persons need shelter, food and sanitation items as well as proper healthcare and psychosocial support, education and protection. Medical supplies are extremely limited across the conflict zone. Despite a ceasefire agreement that came into force in February 2015, access to Donetsk and Luhansk regions remains challenging for humanitarian organisations.
The European Union and its Member States have jointly contributed over € 139 million in financial aid to the most vulnerable since the beginning of the crisis. Aid is provided to all affected populations, including refugees in Russia and Belarus, and is delivered according to humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. On the ground, the assistance is being delivered through partner organisations, including UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, IOM, Save the Children, Danish Refugee Council, People In Need, WFP and ICRC.
In a joint operation in January 2015, EU and its Member States organised the delivery emergency supplies by air and road, including tents, blankets and sleeping bags for the harsh winter conditions, in cooperation with humanitarian partners including UNICEF and UNHCR.
Asylum in the EU
Most displaced persons remain in their own countries or find refuge in neighbouring states, but many also travel to Europe to seek asylum. The EU has stepped up its search and rescue activities in response to the tragic situation in the Mediterranean, and thousands of people are being rescued every week.
The new European Agenda on Migration sets out proposals to establish a temporary relocation mechanism for 40 000 persons in Italy and Greece in clear need of international protection, to be relocated within the EU. The Agenda also includes a recommendation for an EU wide scheme to resettle 20 000 refugees in all Member States.
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