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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The Last-Ditch South Sudan Peace Talks Are On the Brink of Collapse

Leaders met in Addis Ababa yesterday in a last ditch effort to bring peace to South Sudan after 18 months of war. The conflict that shattered the temporary peace achieved after a 2005 agreement with Sudan continues to take its toll on the country’s population and threaten regional security. However, despite strong pressure from the international community, the South Sudanese government walked away from yesterday’s talks without signing the proposed agreement, leaving many to wonder what is left to be done to finally resolve the conflict.

A History of Violence

Over the last 65 years, South Sudan has known little peace. With the exception of a 10 year period from 1972 to 1982, war has been a way of life for the South Sudanese. For successive generations, war has been a constant condition that defined the state and their lives. There were high hopes for peace in 2011 when the country officially gained its independence from Sudan, but conflict broke out in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, even before the South Sudan celebrated its official independence.

Conflict continued with various groups throughout the country until a power struggle fractured the ruling government in December 2013, a mere 17 months into the country’s independence. The resulting civil war has already killed tens of thousands of people and displaced nearly 2 million people.

Peace Deal on the Ropes

The high stakes of the conflict has brought regional and international heavyweights into the fold to try and find a solution to the fighting. The current peace process is led by the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and supported by the United Nations, the African Union, the Western troika of the US, the UK and Norway, as well as China and the EU. But even with economic and political pressure exerted by all these players, progress has been slow as both the South Sudanese government led by President Salva Kiir and the main rebel group led by Riek Machar dragged their feet. Only the threat of additional targeted sanctions brought Kiir to the talks at the last minute in an effort to meet IGAD’s deadline of August 17 to sign a peace deal after numerous rounds of negotiations. In the end, while Machar signed the deal in a ceremony held in Addis Ababa, Kiir left without signing, calling the agreement a “sellout” and leaving little hope that a resolution will be reached within the 15 day timeframe for additional consultations granted by IGAD.

The current proposed peace plan, negotiated over a period of 17 months, offers a transitional power-sharing government, a plan for a permanent constitution and the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to ensure accountability for all sides of the conflict. But despite the hardship experienced by civilians – the UN estimates that 4.6 million people are in need of food aid – and the growing pressure to reach a peace deal, the warring factions have been hesitant to stop fighting. Numerous ceasefire agreements over the last 18 months have failed, often within hours or days of going into effect. Yesterday’s attempt to finalize the peace agreement illustrated this hesitancy once again, and demonstrated how much further the country has to go before real peace can be achieved.

In many ways the conflict and the difficulties in resolving it are the outcome of the South Sudan’s long history of conflict. When war becomes normal, it also becomes the preferred solution to all political problems and the impetuses to find peace disappears. Many of the country’s political elites, both within the government and the various rebel groups, earned their political clout on the battlefield. With a poorly developed local civil society and few civilians in positions of power, it will take far more incentive than just the threat of sanctions to change the course South Sudan is on.

Discussion

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Bombing in Bangkok

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

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

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

Africa

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

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

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

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

MENA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asia

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

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

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

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

The Americas

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and the rest

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

Opinion/Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion

comments…

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Questions and answers on how the European Commission helps refugees

Who is a refugee?

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

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

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

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

How many refugees are there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is World Refugee Day?

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

Humanitarian situation and needs

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

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

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

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

The European Commission’s humanitarian response

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

Humanitarian aid delivered by the European Commission helps:

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

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

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

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

Refugees and development policy

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asylum in the EU

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

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

For further information

European Agenda on Migration

Homepage of DG HOME

Homepage of DG ECHO

Homepage of DG Europeaid

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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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