Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/26/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:51 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I appreciate you accommodating the change in the time to the briefing today.  We wanted to make sure that all of you had the opportunity to see the President welcome the WNBA champions, Phoenix Mercury, to the White House.  

But now that we are all assembled, let’s get started.  Nancy, do you want to start us off?

Q    Yeah, thanks.  What was the President’s reaction to the Roanoke shooting?

MR. EARNEST:  I did not have the opportunity to speak to the President about the tragic shooting that occurred earlier today in Virginia.  Obviously the thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the White House are with the families of those who were injured or killed in that terrible incident.  The precise details of that incident continue to be under investigation.  

But as you’ve heard me say in the past, this is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small, all across the United States.  And while there is no piece of legislation that will end all violence in this country, there are some common-sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have a tangible impact in reducing gun violence in this country.  And Congress could take those steps in a way that would not infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.  And the President has long advocated Congress taking those steps, and the President continues to believe that they should do so.

Q    Can you say what role federal officials will have in the investigation?

MR. EARNEST:  I do know that officials from the FBI and the ATF were involved in responding and tracking down the individual who is believed to have been responsible for this violence.  And I would anticipate that federal officials will be working to support state officials who will conduct the investigation.

Q    Also, do you have any comment on the signing of the peace agreement in South Sudan, and what the prospects are for lasting peace there?

MR. EARNEST:  This is something that was just reported within the last few hours.  What I would say is that the administration believes that President Kiir made the right decision to sign the peace agreement today.  But we should be just as clear that the United States and the international community does not recognize any reservations or addendums to that document.  And President Kiir and the government of South Sudan should abide by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development agreement that was signed today, and they should work toward ending the conflict and rebuilding the country.

Nancy, you’ll recall that the President had the opportunity to meet with leaders of other countries in the region in discussing trying to broker some peace in South Sudan.  So this is an issue that the President has not just been following but been actively engaged in.  And you heard him note that South Sudan is a country that has been wracked by terrible violence in recent years, and the United States and other countries in the region have been trying to act in coordinated fashion to broker some peace there.  So this is something that we’re going to continue to monitor as the situation moves forward.

Roberta.

Q    Has the White House raised its sights on the Iran vote?  And is the White House now trying to get enough votes to — actively trying to get enough votes to block a motion of disapproval?

MR. EARNEST:  Roberta, what our strategy is focused on right now is building as much support as possible in both the House and the Senate for the agreement.  As I’ve noted before, the appropriate congressional role here, as described and codified by Congress, is not to sign off on the agreement, but Congress does have a role in evaluating the agreement.  And essentially, the role that Congress would play at this point is spoiler.  Congress does have the capacity to kill this agreement.  

This is an international agreement between the United States and several other countries and Iran.  And our legislative efforts are focused on building enough support for the agreement to prevent Congress from spoiling, and that’s what we will continue to do.  That effort has included a variety of lobbying efforts.  This has included presidential phone calls.  Other senior members of the President’s national security team have reached out to members of Congress and their staff members to advocate for the agreement.  And you’ll note that later this afternoon the President will conduct a handful of interviews with television anchors from across the country, and this will be among the issues that will be up for discussion.  And it’s the President’s view and it’s the view of his team that the more that we elevate this discussion and the more that the American people have the opportunity to hear the arguments in favor of this agreement, the more likely they are to support it.  And that’s the reason that the President will do those interviews today.  It’s part of our ongoing effort to build as much support for the agreement in Congress as possible.

Q    So does the White House feel that it’s possible — feasible at all to get 41 votes of support in the Senate?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the last I saw, I think that there are 26 or 27 senators who support the agreement.  There are only two Democrats that have come out in opposition to it.  That’s an indication that we’ve got a lot of momentum built up in terms of building support for this agreement.  But what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get as many members of the Senate as possible — and as many members of the House as possible — to back the agreement.

I would note that there was a letter that was signed by about 150 House members prior to the completion of the comprehensive agreement back in July indicating their support for an agreement that was consistent with the aims that the President had identified for a final agreement.  And the essence of the final comprehensive agreement does fulfill that criteria, and so we are optimistic that we will be able to earn the support of those who sign that letter — we’re still hard at work in that effort.  But what’s notable is that there are several Democrats in the House of Representatives who declined to sign that letter, but yet have announced their support for the final agreement.

So there are several indications that we are succeeding in our efforts to build sufficient support for the agreement in the Congress, but we certainly want to collect as many votes as possible.  

Q &

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Salva Kiir Comes to His Sense (Sorta)

Kiir has come under enormous pressure, including the threat of international sanctions. And now, it looks like he’ll sign a peace deal. But will he actually abide by it? “South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has finally agreed to sign a peace deal and power-sharing accord to end a 20-month civil war, his spokesman said Tuesday…Sources in IGAD also confirmed plans for the deal to be signed in Juba on Wednesday, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin due to attend. An IGAD official said rebel leader Machar would not be there because security provisions were not yet in place.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1JjKIMQ)

Whither Accountability? A UN report details horrific abuses committed by South Sudanese government soldiers. “The U.N. experts found that a government offensive in oil-producing Unity State between April and July this year had been “intent on rendering communal life unviable and prohibiting any return to normalcy following the violence.” “The intensity and brutality of violence aimed at civilians is hitherto unseen, in what has been so far — without a doubt — an incredibly violent conflict, where civilians have been targeted by all parties to the conflict,” the experts wrote in the interim reported submitted to U.N. Security Council members. Under a so-called “scorched earth policy” government-allied forces razed entire villages, sometimes with people inside their homes, raped women and abducted children, the experts said.

Water Used As Weapon in Syrian War…Disturbing new report from UNICEF. “In recent months, up to five million people living in cities and communities across the country have suffered the consequences of long and sometimes deliberate interruptions to their water supplies.In the northern city of Aleppo, where fighting has crippled the main pumping station for months at a time, UNICEF has recorded 18 deliberate water cuts this year alone. Taps in some communities were left dry for up to 17 days in a row – and for over a month in some areas of the city.” (UNICEF http://uni.cf/1NSPoKC)

Quote of the day: “Let’s not pretend that what the EU and its member states are doing is working. Migration is here to stay,” Francois Crepeau, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. (AP http://yhoo.it/1hZdBF3)

Africa

A teenage suicide bomber detonated an explosive device strapped to her body in the northeastern Nigerian city of Damaturu early on Tuesday, killing six people and wounding about 30, police said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1LuZr8l)

Around 1.5 million Zimbabweans are predicted to go hungry this year after a dramatic fall in maize production, the World Food Programme said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1LuZmSc)

Cameroon says it is banning and destroying cheap vegetable oil imported from Indonesia and Malaysia to protect its home industries. The central African nation says thousands of workers may lose their jobs if the country continues to import cheaper vegetable oil. (VOA http://bit.ly/1EhFzGp)

The chairman of Nigeria’s corruption-fighting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is appearing before the Senate to answer accusations that he diverted billions of dollars. (AP http://yhoo.it/1NRUerq)

Pest experts from across Africa have recommended vast vaccination and pest eradication programs to stop trans-border animal diseases that claim between 10 percent and 20 percent of the continent’s animals yearly. The experts are gathered in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s program. (VOA http://bit.ly/1LuZ91l)

Gangs of children are roaming the streets of Ivory Coast’s biggest city. Known as “les microbes” (French for “the germs”), they are accused of violent robberies — and have become the scourge of Abidjan, where they are spreading terror among residents. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1V7lMNX)

Hundreds of movie lovers gathered in front of a giant outdoor screen in Nairobi’s Mathare slum on Monday at the start of the Slum Film Festival, which aims to challenge perceptions of shanty towns as dens of crime and squalor. (TRF http://bit.ly/1LuZrW9)

MENA

Unidentified gunmen raided the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Yemeni port city of Aden on Monday, holding staff at gunpoint and stealing cars, cash and equipment, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1NRUd71)

Saudi Arabia has executed at least 175 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International. (AP http://yhoo.it/1NRU6Z2)

Around 5,300 migrants, mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa, were rescued in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast last week, EU border agency Frontex said Tuesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Nzhiyb)

Asia

Nepal police shot dead a protester as fresh clashes erupted in the country’s southern plains Tuesday, a day after an 18-month-old boy and seven officers died during demonstrations against a new constitution. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1NRUaYX)

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday it received substantive amounts of information from Iran aimed at quelling concerns its nuclear past had military elements, although it was too early to say whether any of it is new. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1NRUcjl)

India and the United Nations appealed for all parties to seek peace in Nepal, where hundreds of security forces on Tuesday were patrolling a western town after ethnic protesters demanding statehood attacked police a day earlier, leaving 11 people dead and many injured. (AP http://yhoo.it/1NzhhdJ)

An intensifying El Nino may bring the worst drought in 20 years to Papua New Guinea, the country’s prime minister said, raising fears that production of the country’s critical agricultural commodities may drop. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1NzhfTd)

The “waterman of India” will walk across five continents to raise awareness for his campaign to have the human rights to river water and access to nature recognised by the UN. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1EghjnC)

The Americas

U.S. stocks jumped at the open after China’s central bank cut interest rates to support its economy. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ETvtGf)

Gay rights activists in Panama presented a bill to lawmakers that would make hate crimes against gays, lesbians and transsexuals illegal — and punishable by up to a year in jail. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1NRU9UW)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro vowed to extend a crackdown on illegal migrants from neighboring Colombia he blames for rampant crime and widespread shortages, while authorities across the border struggled to attend to droves of returning. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Eghorr)

Colombia has condemned deportations of its citizens after Venezuela closed its border with its western neighbour last week. The crossings were shut after an attack by smugglers left three soldiers and a civilian injured. (BBC http://bbc.in/1EhFdQ6)

…and the rest

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says nearly 300,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean Sea this year. Most went to Italy and Greece. The UNHCR warns the situation is not sustainable and is calling for a comprehensive solution. (VOA http://bit.ly/1LuZ9yv)

As demand for water grows, the world must focus on how the precious resource will be shared among farmers, the energy sector and cities if it is to achieve the United Nations’ new development agenda, a World Bank expert said. (TRF http://bit.ly/1V7qaws)

Photo essay: The race to beat Hungary’s border fence (IRIN http://bit.ly/1JwKgMH)

Opinion/Blogs

Do we still care about the F word? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1LuY21C)

Confessions of a humanitarian: ‘The life of a veggie aid worker is no bed of kale’ (Guardian http://bit.ly/1EhFhiN)

Thailand, One Week After the Bombings. Is Another Free Speech Crackdown Coming? (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1JtIGXu)

Development under conflict: How to react to a crisis (Devex http://bit.ly/1MRrpyv)

Buying condoms won’t make you Africa’s “HERO” (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1ETD0VD)

China bashing: American campaign ritual or harbinger of tougher policy? (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1ETD0oK)

5 trends that explain why civil society space is under assault around the world (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1Ub771W)

A U.S. Court Jeopardizes Corporate Transparency Rules, in the Name of Free Speech (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1JtILun)

Rwanda’s gender gap: banks must stop failing female entrepreneurs (Guardian http://bit.ly/1V7mfQd)

Why the New Sustainable Development Goals Won’t Make the World a Fairer Place (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1Lv0LIz)

Discussion

comments…

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New Global Population Estimates from the UN

The report from the number crunchers at the UN also show that life expectancy in the least developed countries has increased sharply over the last 6 years. “The world’s population is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050 and exceed 11 billion in 2100, with India expected to surpass China as the most populous around seven years from now and Nigeria overtaking the United States to become the world’s third largest country around 35 years from now, according to a new United Nations report released today. Moreover, the report reveals that during the 2015-2050 period, half of the world’s population growth is expected to be concentrated in nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Indonesia and Uganda.” (UN http://bit.ly/1KApafa)

The Largest Refugee Camp in the Middle East Turns 3 Years Old…The Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, which opened July 29 2012, has some 81,000 Syrian residents and can’t take any more. “With Za’atari at capacity, the number of urban refugees seeking shelter in Jordan’s second camp, Azraq, increased fourfold in the first six months of this year,” UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery told a press briefing in Geneva. In the first half of 2015, 3,658 people returned to Azraq from urban areas, compared to just 738 in the second half of 2014. This trend is driven by increasing vulnerability of urban refugees in Jordan whose savings are depleted after years in exile, and who are unable to find secure legal livelihoods. Those living in Amman, in particular, are trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the Middle East.” (UNHCR http://bit.ly/1KAj4LX)

Where’s the money? Only one percent of Kenyan government spending can be properly accounted for, according to a report by the country’s auditor-general released just days after US President Barack Obama warned corruption was holding the country back. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JvuvpB)

Deadly Flooding in India…Flash floods triggered by torrential monsoon rain have killed at least 26 people in a west Indian state in the past 48 hours, authorities said Wednesday. (AFP http://bit.ly/1D97jMX)

Africa

The president of Nigeria made his first official state visit to neighboring Cameroon on Wednesday, as the two former enemies struggle to contain the mutual threat posed by Islamic militants carrying out suicide bombings across the region. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OANP)

Nairobi announced it was going to relocate street children to rehabilitation centers in the country. The move coincided with a project to clean up the streets before the president’s arrival. Many say there must be a better way to address the plight of the Kenyan city’s street families. (VOA http://bit.ly/1MtVoes)

Fears are growing that endemic graft in Tanzania will deny the majority of its people a fair share of the wealth generated by the country’s natural gas riches. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1JRP4Z6)

Sudan’s foreign ministry summoned the European Union’s representative in Khartoum to complain about “false information” it said the EU had disseminated about the number of refugees and displaced people in the country. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1MtVrqB)

Threatened by the advance of a desert that already covers two-thirds of Niger, the poor Sahel nation hopes to halt rapid deforestation by promoting natural gas. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Jvu9PM)

Nigeria has appointed a new boss for the amnesty scheme for ex-Niger Delta oil rebels, in a move seen by observers as an attempt to put back on track the programme which doused militancy in the oil-rich region. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JvupOH)

More than 5 million text messages have been sent to subscribers, who get health information and reminders for doctor’s appointments direct to their mobile phones – many of them in distant parts of Tanzania. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1DbeqnG)

US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ethiopia, which saw him speak out against democratic restrictions, was positive but Washington must maintain pressure on the government, an Ethiopian opposition figure said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1I1XFKv)

MENA

A car bomb exploded outside an Ismaili mosque in Yemen’s war-damaged capital Sanaa on Wednesday, killing four people and wounding six, health authorities and a security source said. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1KAklm0)

Saudi-led warplanes bombed targets in Yemen’s northerly Saada province, a stronghold of Iranian-allied Houthi forces, local officials said Wednesday, and a U.N. official accused both sides in the conflict of failing to respect international law. (VOA http://bit.ly/1KAktlu)

Turkey’s renewed conflict with Kurdish militants intensified on Wednesday as the government launched a new wave of airstrikes in northern Iraq and a blast temporarily crippled a key oil pipeline in southeastern Turkey. (WSJ http://on.wsj.com/1KAkzd0)

Asia

China’s widespread crackdown on rights lawyers and activists over the past three weeks has fueled growing concerns that President Xi Jinping is using the law as a tool to mute dissidents and those who defend them in court. (VOA http://bit.ly/1MtVpiz)

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence for an influential opposition leader and an aide to a former prime minister for his role in mass killings during the country’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OOL2Fb)

Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday registered for November elections to keep her seat in parliament and challenge the ruling military-backed party. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OR3g)

The Americas

The jaguar is being defeated by a ruthless, modern-day warrior: Powerful drug cartels are carving up its Central American natural habitat. In some areas, particularly in Honduras and Guatemala, the big cats are at risk of disappearing entirely. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1Db5EGe)

Organisers of the 2016 Rio Olympics are facing a serious challenge to clean polluted waters for sailing and windsurfing events. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Db5ONZ)

Concerns of a humanitarian emergency in Haiti are mounting as a growing number of Haitians returning to their country from neighboring Dominican Republic are living in rapidly growing tent cities with little resources. (CNN http://cnn.it/1D96S58)

The Brazilian government plans to use drones to strengthen its fight against slave labor in rural areas, the Labour Ministry has said. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1MtVrqE)

Opponents of President Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-implemented policy to cut carbon emissions from power plants are planning to use an unlikely and potentially potent weapon against him: the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that saved Obamacare. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1gmGfzq)

…and the rest

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde says the world economy is recovering but fragile and “faces some downside risks.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OF46)

Aid agencies have no problem agreeing that gender-sensitive programming is a good idea, but few have come up with concrete methods for evaluating the impact it has on those it is supposed to be helping. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Dbeyn6)

Western Union Co plans to invest more in its compliance and monitoring systems in a renewed effort to combat fraud and money laundering, a senior executive said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1DbePXf)

Opinion/Blogs

Unpacking Obama’s Message to the African Union (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1OOQTKK)

Why Local Content in Extractive Sector Won’t Work Without Home Grown Human Capital (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1Db4E4N)

Obama probably won’t be invited to speak at the African Union again any time soon (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1OOGEWD)

Did Malaysia merit its human trafficking upgrade? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Db5mzh)

Secret aid worker: sexual harassment and discrimination in the industry (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Db5L4J)

Analysts: Obama’s Africa Trip Underscores Drive for Foreign Policy Legacy (VOA http://bit.ly/1DP50Jo)

Will Kenya’s Heightened Security Leave With Obama? (RFI http://bit.ly/1DP6inK)

Africa Will Grow Faster When Private Sector Finally Steps Up (East African http://bit.ly/1DP6rHX)

South Africa: Rebranding Condom Campaign – Will It Work This Time? (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1DP6HH1)

5 things needed to turn the SDGs into reality (Devex http://bit.ly/1h5mIDO)

The Politics Behind Mobile Money in Ethiopia (CFI Blog http://bit.ly/1h5mInb)

Humans of Lagos offers a glimpse at daily life in the West African mega city (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1h5mHzz)

Zimbabwe’s Opportunity to Join the African Economic Success Story (CSIS Prosper http://bit.ly/1OOQTu0

Discussion

comments…

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EU reinforces its support to Central Africa

Today, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, signed the Central Africa Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) for an amount of €350 million for the period 2014-2020. 

The signature took place in the presence of Ministers and representatives of the Central African region, the Secretary General of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the President of the Commission for Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).

The programme, whose implementation will be monitored by a steering committee, will cover three areas: political integration and cooperation in peace and security (€43 million), regional economic integration and trade (€211 million, of which €135 million will go through the Infrastructure Trust Fund), and the sustainable development of natural resources and biodiversity (€88 million). Another €8 million is set aside to support technical cooperation and regional authorising officers.  

Commissioner Neven Mimica said: “Regional integration is only viable when driven from within the region. It is a means to fulfill the policy objectives set out in the Cotonou Agreement, and to build on the achievements which ECCAS and CEMAC have already made, in economic and monetary integration, in peace and security, in infrastructure and in environment and natural resources.”

 

Context

The region of Central Africa includes 11 countries: Angola, Burundi, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Sao Tomé and Principe. It has to be noted, however, that Equatorial Guinea never signed the revised Cotonou Agreement, and can therefore not directly benefit from EDF funding. The region has a total population of about 160 million with the Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for nearly half. It is a region rich in natural resources, covering the largest tropical forest area after the Amazon.

Previous funding for Central Africa under the 10th European Development Fund amounted to €165 million. 

For more information see also:

Press release: The EU boosts its support to recovery and development in the Central African Republic

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5040_en.htm

Factsheet: The EU engagement with the Central African Republic (CAR)

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5041_en.htm

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EU Threatens Big Sanctions on Burundi

Meanwhile, a grenade attack in a bar killed four people. These attacks are becoming more commonplace in the run up to the presidential elections next month.  “The EU is determined to adopt, if necessary, targeted restrictive measures against those whose actions might have led or might lead to acts of violence and repression and serious human rights violations,” EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg said in a statement. The European Union funds about half the annual budget of Burundi, one of the world’s poorest nations, and diplomats have said in the past donors would seek targeted sanctions rather than broad steps that could harm the population.” (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1GjuMq6)

More Violence in Northern Nigeria…”As many as 30 people were killed Monday after a bomb exploded at a bus station in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, in an attack likely to be blamed on the rebel group Boko Haram. The blast occurred near a fish market in the Baga Road area of the city, which has been repeatedly targeted in recent weeks by shelling, bombs and suicide attacks.” (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1Lh9b7m )

Quote of the Day The Pope is on a Roll: “It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn’t it?” he said to applause. He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries, saying “duplicity is the currency of today … they say one thing and do another.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1Gju10o)

Africa

Eritrea has defended its controversial policy of decades-long national service from which some 5,000 people flee each month, saying it has “no other choice” due to threats from long-standing enemy Ethiopia. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudO98)

European Union foreign ministers threatened to sanction individuals involved in Burundi’s political violence. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1N0YYdI)

Amnesty International called on Cameroon to immediately release 84 children who have been held for months without charge, after the teachers at their Quranic schools were accused of running terrorist training camps. (DW http://bit.ly/1GCzC47)

Somalia’s security agency said Monday it carried out a night raid on key targets inside a Shebab-controlled town in southern Somalia, targeting “senior” commanders. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudR4B)

Anglo-Irish company Tullow Oil said Monday it had settled a long-running tax dispute in Uganda by agreeing to the payment of a $250 million bill. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudQhj)

MENA

Israel disputed on Monday the findings of a U.N. report that it may have committed war crimes in the 2014 Gaza conflict, saying its forces acted “according to the highest international standards”. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RBRZ)

Israeli Druze blocked an Israeli army ambulance they believed was transporting wounded Syrian rebels on Monday, local authorities said, a rare confrontation underscoring Druze concern for brethren caught up in the civil war next door. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6Rxl5)

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Egypt to stop what it describes as “a politically motivated campaign” against the pan-Arabic Al Jazeera network.  A CPJ statement Sunday also called on Germany to release jailed Al Jazeera reporter Ahmad Mansour immediately. (VOA http://bit.ly/1TI2C1k)

Asia

An intense heat wave over three days has killed more than 180 people in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, officials said on Monday, leading authorities to declare an emergency as the electricity grid crashed and bodies stacked up in the morgues. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RvcY)

A co-ordinated Taliban attack on the Afghan parliament in Kabul has ended with all six gunmen killed, the interior ministry says. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Gjva8b)

Human Rights Watch on Monday criticized a Malaysian Islamic court for fining nine Muslim transgender women for cross-dressing and jailing two of them for a month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H6RrK6)

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is running for president next year, has resigned from the cabinet in a break with President Benigno Aquino as he is investigated for corruption. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RDJl)

Malaysian authorities Monday gave a Muslim burial to 21 human trafficking victims, believed to be Rohingya Muslim refugees, found in shallow graves in jungles bordering Thailand. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IudNlm)

Malaysia has stepped up health screenings at all entry points into the country, after the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was reported in neighboring Thailand last week. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1IudMxT)

The Americas

Authorities in Chile’s capital Santiago have imposed emergency measures amid rising pollution. According to city officials, pollution has reached a “critical level”. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Lw2Bb2)

Dozens of Central American migrants say they have managed to escape from a gang that abducted them in southern Mexico. They migrants told police they had been held for hours by armed men who stopped their bus, but later fought back and broke free from their captors. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Lw2Bru)

El Salvador has just experienced one of its most violent months since the end of the civil war in 1992, with 635 homicides reported in May for the country of just over 6 million people. June is on track to break that mark, with the latest bloodshed coming Sunday when suspected gang members killed two soldiers guarding a bus terminal in the capital. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H6RtBH)

…and the rest

The European Union launched a naval operation Monday to try to stop human-traffickers from bringing migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe in unseaworthy boats, a lucrative and at times deadly practice. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IudM0M)

Russia plans to extend a ban on Western food imports for six months starting from early August and may add new products to the list, in retaliation to extended European sanctions against Moscow, officials said on Monday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1eDO7vu)

Opinion/Blogs

Former Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky served four presidents and tells some great stories from her career in foreign policy. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1Lh9uyZ)

Pope Francis’ Timely Call to Action on Climate Change (IPS http://bit.ly/1Lw1k3J)

If we want to end poverty, we need to be able to measure it properly (Guardian http://bit.ly/1eDOWEN)

Argentine women hit back at violence (BBC http://bbc.in/1THXA4O)

Is South Africa On a Slippery Slope? (GroundUp http://bit.ly/1GCzv8E)

What if Beijing and Washington understood each other perfectly…but still clashed? (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1dbwiCu)

We must protect women and girls during crises (Devex http://bit.ly/1dbwuBJ)

On Child Mortality (An Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1eDRra7)

Anticorruption Co-opted:  Problems with the Purported Polygamy-Corruption Connection (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1QM9PhQ)
The failure of the TPP matters, but not for economic reasons (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1QM9QT2)

Discussion

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Questions and answers on how the European Commission helps refugees

Who is a refugee?

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

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

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

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

How many refugees are there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is World Refugee Day?

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

Humanitarian situation and needs

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

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

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

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

The European Commission’s humanitarian response

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

Humanitarian aid delivered by the European Commission helps:

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

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

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

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

Refugees and development policy

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asylum in the EU

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

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

For further information

European Agenda on Migration

Homepage of DG HOME

Homepage of DG ECHO

Homepage of DG Europeaid

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Boko Haram Strikes Deep Inside Chad

An attack in N’djamena is probably the farthest Boko Haram has ever struck outside of Nigeria. “Twenty-three people were killed and over 100 injured in twin suicide bombings targeting police in the Chadian capital Monday, with the government blaming Boko Haram militants for the bloodshed. They were the first such attacks in the capital of the central African nation, which has been on the frontline of the regional fight against the Nigerian Islamist group…The former French colony is part of a four-nation coalition also including Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger that was created to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency after the group stepped up cross-border attacks.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1cXs69d)

Where’s the vaccine? Three years after the mysterious MERS virus first emerged in humans, scientists and drugmakers say there is no excuse for not having a vaccine that could have protected those now falling sick and dying in South Korea. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1eirUTy)

Bashir Escapes…In a rather shameful move, the South African government ignored a South African court order (and its own obligations to the ICC) and let Omar al Bashir leave by plane to Sudan. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1cXs7u0)

Yemen Peace Talks Begin…There’s been no let up in the fighting, but UN sponsored peace talks have begun in Geneva. “UN-sponsored negotiations on the Yemen crisis have started in Geneva, with the aim of ending the bloody conflict in the country.” (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1cXswMR )

Africa

More than 200 domestic and international NGOs called on Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday to release two young activists arrested in March during a raid on a pro-democracy meeting in the capital Kinshasa. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GId0AL)

Two years after Ugandan legislators proposed a law that would condemn active homosexuals to death, a precedent is spreading throughout the region. Kenya is considering a similar law. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1eipPqX)

Kenyan security forces were slow to respond to attacks on villages along the country’s coast last year and afterwards arbitrarily detained and beat Muslims and ethnic Somalis as well as stealing personal property, claims a report by rights groups. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1eiq1GG)

East African bloc IGAD has released a new proposal for how it thinks power should be shared in South Sudan once peace is restored. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GIdM0t)

Senior members of Rwanda’s ruling party have endorsed a change in constitution so President Paul Kagame can seek a third term in office, the Rwanda Patriotic Front said on Monday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1SiNBkP)

Chronic kidney disease is a growing health burden in Uganda that is affecting the economic, social and physical livelihoods of patients and their family members. (IPS http://bit.ly/1GoAEka)

It is a cruel irony that many of the top doctors and nurses in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will not be around to help rebuild their health systems in the wake of Ebola, having succumbed themselves to the virus. For those that are, the biggest challenges are likely to be electricity, sanitation, and, most of all, water. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1GIdFSL)

African leaders meeting at a summit in Johannesburg on Monday agreed to send military experts to Burundi, which has been rocked by weeks of violence over the president’s controversial bid for a third term. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Lczl9g)

A new research project focuses on Africa’s capacity to prevent, contain and resolve conflicts. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GoAQzT)

MENA

Egypt announced an ambitious plan to reduce female genital mutilation by 10-15% over the next five years by mobilizing doctors and judges against a practice that still affects more than 90% of women in the country. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1LcxJwj)

Amnesty International called on Bahrain on Monday to free its most prominent opposition figure, a day before an expected verdict on charges that he incited violence against the Gulf Arab state’s monarchy. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1eirXPf)

Foreign investment in Africa surged in 2014, fueled in part by higher spending in North Africa as worries about the Arab Spring recede, according to a study by Ernst & Young. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1eis0dW)

A top official says the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees faces the worst financial crisis in its 65-year history, coming up short hundreds of millions of dollars in 2015, including for emergency operations in war-ravaged Gaza and Syria. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LczkSF)

Asia

South Korea has reported its 16th death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome disease, known as MERS. South Korean health officials said on Monday that the number of MERS cases has risen to 150. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GIe87i)

Amid criticism from its detractors that it is communalizing yoga, the Modi government on Monday selected an NGO run by a Muslim couple for holding a month-long yoga camp to mark the International Yoga Day on June 21.  (Times of India http://bit.ly/1cXszbD)

The Americas

With less than six months to go before the next full United Nations Conference of the Parties also known as COP 21 – widely regarded as a make-or-break moment for an agreement on global action on climate change – Caribbean nations are still hammering out the best approach to the talks. (IPS http://bit.ly/1MG97wd)

How slow can you go? The effort to get U.S. trade legislation through Congress, clearing the way for progress on an Asia-Pacific trade accord, is in limbo once again. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LczhX6)

…and the rest

The International Energy Agency on Monday warned temperatures could jump by as much as 4.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century and urged countries to improve their pledges on reducing emissions. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1eirUmO)

The European Commission is urging EU governments to send back migrants who cannot claim asylum, taking a tougher line to convince reluctant countries to receive new refugees fleeing Syria and Eritrea. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1eipggT)

Amnesty International urged world leaders Monday to radically overhaul refugee policies and create a comprehensive global strategy to deal with the crisis, describing it as the worst emergency of its kind since World War II. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LcziKA)

Opinion/Blogs

The amazing story of Kakenya Ntaiya who made a deal with her father she she was a child: she would submit to FGM if he let her stay in school. 25 years later she has advanced degrees from universities in the USA and is a pioneering educator in her home village in Kenya. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1ShGARv)

US House Passes Budget that Would Gut UN Peacekeeping and OCHA. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1cXrVuG)

GM Cotton a False Promise for Africa (IPS http://bit.ly/1einPPv)

What does Tesla mean for energy in Africa? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1GIctPh)

Refugee versus migrant: time for a new label? (IRIN http://bit.l/1SiN6az)

In Bashir fiasco, Pretoria makes clear Africa comes first (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GId03F)

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EUR 50 million Lilongwe water investment programme gets European backing

European financial and technical support for investment to alleviate critical water shortages in Malawi’s largest city was confirmed today by the signature of finance agreements confirming a new EUR 24 million loan from the European Investment Bank to support the new EUR 49.2 million investment programme to be implemented by Lilongwe Water Board. The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest lender for the water sector and owned directly by the 28 European Union member states.

New water investment is essential as the population of Lilongwe is expected to double in the next 20 years. Crucial upgrading and improvements to the city’s water infrastructure will be managed by the Lilongwe Water Board over the next four years and increase water supply in low-income areas where services are currently limited as well as reducing water leakage. In this way the new investment will ensure efficient use of the existing water network and scarce water sources, as the city is dependent on water from the Lilongwe River. The project will both improve reliable water supply for customers and share water management best practice staff of the Lilongwe Water Board under a dedicated technical assistance programme.

The new support by European Investment Bank for crucial investment in the capital city was formally agreed in Lilongwe today by Pim van Ballekom, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for lending in Africa and Goodall Gondwe, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development for the Republic of Malawi.

“On behalf of the people and Government of Malawi, I am very happy to have signed this project which will help the Government address some of the bottlenecks facing the Lilongwe Water Board.” said Goodall Gondwe, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.

“The European Investment Bank has a successful track record of supporting water investment that has helped to secure the supply of clean water to millions of people across Malawi. Our new engagement in the country demonstrates the EIB’s continued commitment to supporting water investment that improves lives across Africa and around the world. Being able to see at first hand the impact of previous water investment supported by the EIB in Malawi shows the crucial need to continue to upgrade existing water infrastructure and expand the supply of drinking water to more communities. I am confident that the new project confirmed today will improve the quality of water supply and waste water treatment in Lilongwe for many years to come.” said Pim van Ballekom, European Investment Bank Vice President.

“With this new investment project Lilongwe Water Board is closing the gap between supply and demand. By increasing the supply of quality water we will secure the supply clean drinking water for 250,000 people by 2021. This will involve addressing critical issues concerning water quantity and quality, quality of service, efficiency, and continued capacity building of the local water practitioners. We are proud of the strong history of partnership between the EIB and LWB, and we are very honoured for this cooperation to be strengthened today.” said Eng. Alfonso Chikuni, Chief Executive Office of the Lilongwe Water Board.

“Access to water remains a challenge for many Malawians but with EU and EIB support 372 public water kiosks have now been constructed in Lilongwe, providing safe drinking water for many thousands of Malawians. The EU has also contributed EUR 5.5M towards addressing water and sanitation issues in 7 Malawian cities and towns. I welcome the news that the Lilongwe water board and the EIB will continue working together towards reducing leaks and improving services for the city.” says EU Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann.

Mr. Alfonso Chikuni, Chief Executive Officer and other senior representatives of the Lilongwe Water Board, and Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann, Head of the European Union to Malawi, were also present.

The new investment programme managed by Lilongwe Water Board and backed by the European Investment Bank support will help to cater for expected increased demand for water in the city where water has been rationed for the last 3 years and the population is growing by 4% each year. This scheme includes increasing water storage capacity and supply by an additional 30,000 cubic metres of water a day to the city, construction of 100 water kiosks in low-income areas and replacing pipes and pumps that currently act as bottlenecks in the city water system. The water supply networks will also be expanded to areas of Lilongwe not currently connected.

Vice President van Ballekom is in Malawi for a three day official visit to the country, the first visit by high-level representatives of the largest lender for water investment worldwide. During the visit the EIB delegation will also visit successfully completed water investment projects previously financed by the bank. The new initiative represents one of the first public sector projects to be supported by the EIB since 2008.

Over the last five years the European Investment Bank has provided more than EUR 500 million to support water investment including in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in the Sahel, Cameroon in central Africa as well as Tanzania, Uganda, Lesotho and Zambia.

In 2014 the European Investment Bank provided more than EUR 2.5 billion to support infrastructure and private sector investment across Africa.

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