Points of Progress: Australian wildlife begins recovery, and more

1. United States 

The nation’s oldest law school has appointed its first black dean. On July 1, civil procedure and federal courts scholar A. Benjamin Spencer will take over as dean of William & Mary Law School. The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, has never hired an African American dean to lead any school in its 327-year history.

Ian Bradshaw/Courtesy of UVA Law School

A. Benjamin Spencer

For Mr. Spencer, breaking barriers has been a family tradition. In 1986, his father became the first African American federal judge in Virginia, and his grandfather was Notre Dame’s first African American professor in Indiana. President Katherine Rowe, who became the college’s first female president in 2018, said Mr. Spencer “brings that broad view of legal practice, together with a deep appreciation of the ethos of the citizen lawyer.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

2. Chile 

Chile has published a new climate action plan, committing to cut fossil fuels around a “social pillar” framework that protects vulnerable groups. As climate advocates around the world demand a “green recovery” from COVID-19, many welcome Chile’s pledge to focus on easing inequality and tying economic recovery with environmental reform. Chile is the second South American country to update its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. The country aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 – no small challenge for an economy based on emission-heavy industries such as mining and agriculture – and to cut emissions from deforestation 25% by 2030. Once Chile overcomes the coronavirus crisis, Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt said the country “will enter a rehabilitation phase which must be sustainable.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation, The Guardian)

3. Germany

In a unanimous vote, the German parliament has approved legislation to allow rabbis to act as military chaplains for the first time since 1933. Before Adolf Hitler came to power, military rabbis were relatively common, but for nearly a century only Protestant or Roman Catholic chaplains have been allowed in the service. The change is welcomed by lawmakers from all parties and Jewish groups. “Military rabbis will make their advice available to the Bundeswehr [Germany’s armed forces] as a whole,” said Josef Schuster, president of the German Jewish Central Council. The measure was introduced in December by Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who said she plans to introduce similar laws allowing imams and Christian Orthodox priests to also serve as religious leaders in the armed forces. (Deutsche Welle)

4. Malawi 

The United Nations is working with communities in Malawi to help about 53,000 children with albinism safely attend school. Since the program has been running, several participating districts report dropout rates have fallen to around 5%. Albino children often are kept at home by their parents out of fear they will be kidnapped, attacked, or killed because of misconceptions that albinos hold magical powers. 

Thoko Chikondi/AP

Catherine Amidu (right) laughs with her friend Aishain in Machinga, Malawi, Feb. 9, 2020. Catherine faces risks because of her albinism.

The Joint Program on Girls Education is working with schools, local leaders, and police to create more supportive learning environments and teach students how to protect themselves. “For any child, anywhere, education is not a luxury. It’s a necessity and fundamental right regardless of their status,” said Maria Jose Torres, the United Nations resident coordinator. (UN News)

5. Australia

A koala has been born at the Australian Reptile Park in New South Wales for the first time since the 2019-20 bushfires killed more than 1 billion animals nationwide. Over 240 days, more than 13 million acres burned across New South Wales destroying thousands of homes and wildlife habitat. The koala population was especially devastated, and wildlife parks are continuing to rehabilitate injured animals and work to fortify the next generation. The new joey poked her head out of her mother’s pouch in a May 26 Facebook video posted by the Australian Reptile Park. The post called the joey “a sign of hope for the future of Australia’s native wildlife” and announced her name: Ash. (ABC, CNN)


The International Olympic Committee reports record high representation for women across its 30 commissions, continuing its trend toward parity. Women now fill 47.7% of its positions, up from 20% in 2013 when the IOC began its commitment to advance gender equality. 

Denis Balibouse/Reuters

The International Olympic Committee, headquartered in Switzerland, is close to reaching gender parity.

The IOC also appointed two new female commission chairs: Eleven are now led by women. Thailand’s Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul will chair the Culture and Olympic Heritage Commission, while former Chinese speedskating champion Zhang Hong will coordinate the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games in South Korea. “There is always more that can be done,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, “and we can make progress only if we work on this together.” (Reuters, International Olympic Committee)


Concerned Malawian advocates for Government to recognize Indians as Malawi’s 11th ethnic tribe

By Duncan Mlanjira

After conducting an intensive research and investigation of Malawi’s historical records, concerned citizen, Yamikani Nicholas Kachingwe is advocating that the Government should initiate a Bill in Parliament to officially recognize and accept Indians as Malawi’s 11th ethnic tribe.

The 35-year-old Kachingwe, who has great interest in current affairs, news and storytelling, is running the campaign through the website www.currentaffairsmalawi, appealing and suggesting to all relevant authorities in Malawi to seriously consider the request.

Yamikani Nicholas Kachingwe

He says according to his research, Malawi has 8 main ethnic groups and 1 minority groups that comprises Indians and mixed races.

These ethnic tribal groups are the Chewa; Lhomwe; Yao; Ngoni; Tumbuka; Nyanja; Ngonde Hamba; Sena; Mang’anja and the minority ethnic groups comprises Indians, mixed race and Europeans, who constitute 2% of the population.

Chewa culture

He chronicles the tribes and ethnic groups as follows:

Chewa Tribe are remnants of Maravi people, originally from Malabo, Zaire (now called Democratic Republic of Congo) and came to Malawi in the 16th Century. Their well-known clans are Banda and Phiri and they constitute 36% of the Malawi population.

The Lhomwes originally came from Mozambique between 16th-17th Century and constitutes 18% of the population.

The Lhomwes

The Yao tribe is originally from Mozambique and Tanzania. By 14th-15th century, they were arleady in Malawi and they constitute 14% of the population.

The Ngonis are originally from South Africa, from the clans of Zulu and Nguni and constitute 12% of the population.

Ngoni culture

The Tumbukas are originally from southern Tanzania and eastern Zambia and constitute 9% of the population.

The Nyanja, popularly known as Tonga and commonly found in Northern Region of Malawi, constitute 2% of the population.

Then there is the Ngonde Hamba, which — according to Kachingwe’s research — are the least populated ethnic groups with 1% constituting of the population.

Sena culture

The Sena tribe is an ethnic group, with origins in northwestern region of Mozambique in Tete Province, Manica Province, Sofala Province and Zambezi Province. They are also found in Malawi and Zimbabwe near their respective borders with Mozambique.

The Mang’anja are a Bantu people of central and southern Africa, particularly around Chikwawa in the Shire River valley of southern Malawi. They speak a dialect of the Nyanja language and are a branch of the Amaravi people.

“With this information, we can all agree that Malawi is a great nation made up of different tribes, most of which came from other countries and made Malawi their home,” opines Kachingwe.

Malcolm X

He goes on to quote African-American civil rights activist, Malcolm X who said: “I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.”

Kachingwe goes on to say: “According to historical facts about Malawians of Indian origin, the first Indian settler was Adam Osman who emigrated to Malawi in 1885.

“He first settled in Nsanje. After him many other Indian immigrants followed suit.

“In 1963, for the first time before our independence on 6th July 1964, Abdul Sattar Sacranie was appointed as the first Indian Mayor of Blantyre and served till 1967.

“He was a personal legal advisor to the first Malawian Prime Minister and President, late Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. His legal firm is still in existence — the Sacranie & Gow.”

Kachingwe also dug out that the country have had many other popular politicians such as late Honourable Ishmael Kassin Surtee, who was

the first Indian and 4th Speaker of Malawi Parliament after Independence — served from October 1964 to 1971.

“We have had Indian traditional chiefs, politicians, ward councilors, bishops, teachers and many other professionals.

Sacranie on second row, third from right

“The Nyasaland Indian Association was registered and established on 14th September 1922. On 19th August, 1938 they held their reunion meeting with approval and authority from many Indian organizations such as Indian chamber of commerce, Nyasaland Indian Traders association, Indian Sports Club, Goan Social Club and the Oriental Club.”

Nyasaland Indian Association commitee

The meeting of 94 members most of whom were wholesale traders, included Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims was chaired by late M.G. Dharap chaired the meeting and the elected members to run its affairs were M.G Dharap, C.K. Raman, A.M. Ravel, N.M. Suvama, Hussein Ahmed, S.O. Sacranie, M.G. Menon, H.S. Dias, Haridas Amarsi, P. Dayaram and Dr Hazuh Singh — according to the records.

“The first Indian primary school was opened in 1940 at Songani, 10 miles from Zomba and in 1943 a second was opened in Limbe, financed by Suliman Sacranie, Omar Hassam Janmehammed and some funds from South African Indians.

“There was no secondary school for Indians until 1959,” Kachingwe says.

Fast forwarding to current day, as of December 2016, over 8,000 persons of Indian origin reside in Malawi with most of them of Gujarati origin. By 2020, the population number has tripled or even beyond.

“With such humbling relationship between India and Malawi plus the history of Indian immigrants in Malawi, who have 3rd and 4th generations still living in Malawi, I am proposing to the Government of Malawi to consider to initiate a Bill in Parliament to approve and allow Indians to be recognized as a tribe of Malawi,” Kachingwe says in conclusion.

“Their selfless efforts and patriotism helped to built and develop Malawi; Indians fought for the freedom of Malawians before and after Independence and they continue to stand tall for the dignity of Malawi and Malawians till now.

“Come to think of it; Central High School, Mount View Primary School were founded by Hassam Khamboo and Mrs Sacranie with great help from Indian community.

“Dharap Primary School in Blantyre [now called Namiwawa along the Presidential Drive to Sanjika Palace] and Livimbo Primary School in Lilongwe were built by Indians.

“Our neighboring countries have arleady started to recognize and embracing them as a tribe.

“President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kenyan government announced on July 22, 2017, that the Asian community would be officially recognised as the 44th tribe in Kenya — recognising the community’s contribution to Kenya from the dawn of the nation.

The case in Kenya

“Then what can fail us? We are the Warm Heart of Africa and our history cannot start or be told without mentioning the Indian forefathers.

“Imagine the young Indian children who were born in 60’s till now, who were raised and educated in Malawi; got married and are now working towards contributing to the nation through taxes and in many other ways.

Coronavirus alert

“Most of them are now holders of Malawi National Identity Cards as well Malawi Passport holders and they have only known Malawi as their home country and yet today they are deemed as foreigners.

“It is now time and proper that they be constitutionally recognized as a tribe of Malawi,” says Kachingwe in the appeal.


How Cities Can Turn COVID-19 Crisis into an Opportunity to Build Better

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations


Johnny Miller is a photographer, documentary maker and UN-Habitat Champion based in Cape Town South Africa.

High rise apartments & green spaces contrast with the adjacent sprawling slum area in Mumbai, India. Credit: Johnny Miller

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jun 12 2020 (IPS) – From shocking death tolls to widespread job losses, there is no understating the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the world’s cities.

Health care systems, economies, and social lives have been upended by a virus for which the world was totally unprepared.

But even as cities struggle with basic needs like providing a safe environment for all, there is as an opportunity for long-lasting changes to make our cities both more prosperous and equitable and less vulnerable to future shocks such as highly contagious diseases.

Cities and local governments should be recognized for steps they are already taking to build public health, social, and economic resilience during this crisis. They are disinfecting public transport and are keeping public spaces clean.

They are mobilizing both professional and volunteer networks to source, make, and distribute personal protective equipment for frontline workers. They are making sure food reaches older persons who are self-isolating for their own safety and struggling families with children who are no longer going to school, being challenged equally by new ways of working such as home schooling and home office.

This unprecedented moment requires emergency action and social solidarity. We can seize on this brief window to “retro-fit” and make permanent improvements by both delivering the fundamentals of sustainable cities from the pre-pandemic era and adopting the measures that are likely to be necessary in the post-pandemic era.

Our future cities need to be resilient, sustainable, inclusive and equitable. They need to be forward-thinking, able to innovate and better positioned to withstand shocks and catastrophes like the Covid-19 pandemic.

To do this they will need to respect core human values of dignity and care, and invest in citizens’ health along with decent shelter, clean water, and free education. They will recognize that diversity is a strength, and that achieving equality of outcomes for all means safeguarding the rights of expression and culture.

Future cities must rethink and reorganize their built environment using the lenses of equity and access. COVID-19 has exposed the reality of profoundly divided populations. Regenerating neglected urban areas can bring healthy, sustainable benefits to local communities, which in turn increases city resilience as a whole.

Connecting communities with people-friendly parks, green spaces, and community-aligned infrastructure allows neighborhoods to prosper and thrive once more.

We see some cities embrace the “new normal’. Lyon has a plan to more permanently house 1,500 homeless people who were offered temporary shelter during France’s lockdown. Cities around the world have closed streets to cars in order to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

Already, Seattle and Paris have said some of those changes will be made permanent. Bogota, one of South America’s most cycle-friendly cities and already a leader in sustainable transport, just dedicated over 70 more kilometers of bike lanes on top of the 550 that already exist.

With the disruption of global supply chains and long-distance air travel, it is possible that future cities will look and act more locally, with localized and self-sustaining networks of food production, green spaces, and even power generation.

By moving away from a reliance on overseas producers, we can unlock the true value of neglected assets and resources within communities which currently lie dormant.

At the same time, the cities of the future will be more reliant on digital technology and the wide utilization of the internet even as children learning from home eventually go back to school and knowledge workers connecting remotely will eventually return to spending more time in the offices again.

Even in the poorest regions of the world, city dwellers are beginning to rely on the internet for education, business, banking, and social relationships. COVID-19 has already opened our eyes to a world where only those with the freedom and privilege to be able to access the online world are the ones able to access all society has to offer.

The current crisis provides an opportunity for cities to ensure that digital services are available to everyone, but they need to take a proactive approach to digital technologies.

This could include investing in community broadband and free public wi-fi, providing digital literacy and skills to older people and marginalized communities and making websites and online platforms accessible to people with disabilities. Bridging the digital divide, already a pre-pandemic challenge, will be essential to building back better neighborhoods.

The good news is that many cities already see the benefits of resilient, inclusive societies, and some areas like Kerala state in India are weathering the COVID-19 storm well even without massive financial resources.

This is showing that focusing on public health delivery in a compassionate, equitable way, is just as important as economic stimulus to the recovery of a region once the pandemic is over.

The choices we make in the next year will define our societies for an entire generation and perhaps beyond. Let’s use this opportunity as a fulcrum to leverage the future that we know we can build together.