UN Ready for Breakaway Nations but the Pace Remains Slow

Africa, Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

Armed Conflicts

South Sudan’s independence from the rest of Sudan was the result of a January 2011 referendum held under the terms of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the decades-long civil war between the North and the South.

South Sudan’s national flag (centre) flies at UN Headquarters following its admission as the 193rd Member State. Credit: UN/E. Schneider

South Sudan’s national flag (centre) flies at UN Headquarters following its admission as the 193rd Member State. Credit: UN/E. Schneider

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 5 2021 (IPS) – When the United Nations renovated its building at a cost of over $2.1 billion, as part of a seven-year refurbishing project back in 2014, the seating in the cavernous General Assembly hall was increased from 193 to 204—primarily in anticipation of at least 11 new member states joining the world body sooner or later.


But the pace of new member states joining the UN, primarily from half a dozen breakaway regions dominated by separatist movements, has remained slow.

East Timor, described as the first new sovereign state of the 21st century, broke away from Indonesia and joined the UN in May 2002.

The UN played a significant role in supporting the democratic process in the country, now known as Timor-Leste. The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was deployed from 1992 to 2002 to administer the territory, exercise legislative and executive authority during the transition and support capacity-building for self-government.

Meanwhile, the Republic of South Sudan (population: 11.3 million), which seceded from Sudan, was the last of the 193 UN member states, joining the world body in July 2011.

But at least one potential member state— Kosovo– has been knocking at the door trying to seek admission rather unsuccessfully primarily because of opposition from one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

The UN’s relatively new member states, beginning in the 1960s, included Singapore (1965), Bangladesh (1971) and six republics, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, resulting from the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Still, if political fantasies become realities, a lineup of new U.N. member states may include potential breakaway regions, including Kurdistan, Western Sahara, Chechnya, Abkhazia, Catalonia, Scotland and Palestine—not forgetting Tibet and Taiwan whose membership will be shot down by China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UNSC.

But currently the most likely candidate is Tigray which is moving towards an independent state after nearly eight months of fighting against Ethiopian military forces, described as one of Africa’s most powerful, this time backed by Eritrea.

If it does happen, Ethiopia would have generated two breakaway states: first Eritrea which became independent of Ethiopia in 1993, and now Tigray, with a population of 7.1 million.

The Tigray Independence Party (TIP) has long campaigned for secession from Ethiopia which it described as an “empire”.

Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of Tigray, was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “even if the conflict ends soon, Tigray’s future, as part of Ethiopia, is in doubt”.

In the Times report on July 4, Gebremichael said “The trust has broken completely. If they don’t want us, why should we stay?”. Still, he added, nothing has been decided because “It depends on the politics at the centre”.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the UN, told reporters on July 2 the Security Council has held six closed-door meetings “and the situation in Tigray has not improved.”

She said the open meeting last week was the first opportunity to show that African lives matter as much as other lives around the world.

“But an open meeting is not enough,” she said, pointing out that “what we need to see is action on the ground.”

“We need to see a ceasefire that is permanent; that all of the parties agree to. We need to see the Eritrean troops return to their own border. We need to see unfettered access for humanitarian workers. “We need to see accountability for the atrocities that have been committed.”

“And at this moment I just want to express, again, our sympathy for the many losses of lives, including for MSF (Doctors Without Borders) staff who were killed recently,” she declared.

Meanwhile, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) says the Tigray People’s Liberation Front is in control of most of the Tigray region, including major towns.

William Davison, ICG’s Senior Analyst, said the Front has achieved these gains “mainly through mass popular support and by capturing arms and supplies from adversaries.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week he is deeply concerned with the present situation in Tigray.

“It is essential to have a real ceasefire paving the way for a dialogue able to bring a political solution to Tigray.” He said the presence of foreign troops is an aggravating factor of confrontation.

“At the same time, full humanitarian access, unrestricted humanitarian access must be guaranteed to the whole territory. The destruction of civilian infrastructure is totally unacceptable,” he declared. 

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Nigeria’s Twitter Ban Is Part of a Larger Attack on Civil Society

Africa, Civil Society, Headlines, Human Rights, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

While the Twitter ban surprised many, the government’s action against social media platforms has long been threatened and is part of a long-term strategy to bend civil society and force Nigeria’s citizens into compliance with the government

Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria, addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly, 2019. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

LAGOS, Nigeria, Jun 9 2021 (IPS) – Four years ago, Omoregie* and his friends were arrested without cause and taken into custody. When they got to the station, Omoregie watched as the police began to beat his friends. Afraid, he began to discreetly tweet about the attacks as they took place.


I and many other Twitter users could read his fears while he called for help through his tweets. Taking action as a lawyer, I was able to secure his release within a few hours with the help of other activists through the police unit responsible for citizen complaints.

I had been thinking of Omoregie this week when the government of Nigeria banned the use of Twitter in the country, making use of it a criminal offense. The ban followed the social media platform’s deletion of a tweet from President Muhammad Buhari in which he threatened violence against people in a region in the country’s South East where attacks had been made on public infrastructure.

While the banning of Twitter surprised many, the government’s action against social media platforms has long been threatened and is part of a long-term strategy to bend civil society and force Nigeria’s citizens into compliance with the government. Twitter has been a major source of activism and news in Nigeria

While the banning of Twitter surprised many, the government’s action against social media platforms has long been threatened and is part of a long-term strategy to bend civil society and force Nigeria’s citizens into compliance with the government. Twitter has been a major source of activism and news in Nigeria.

Nigerians spend almost four hours on social media daily and Twitter is the second largest social media platform after Facebook. Most public debates begin on Twitter and the platform often sets the tone for national news carried on traditional media. It has become the platform to hold government, institutions and powerful individuals accountable.

It has also long been a place for activism and to organize protests, including last year’s EndSARS protests, which led to the eradication of the Special Anti Robbery Squad. Ninety-nine people were killed during the EndSARS protest in Nigeria and Twitter helped to expose these abuses. This was most evident during an attack by police and the military on protesters at Lekki Bridge in Lagos.

Documentation of the attack, including a livestream by media personality DJ Switch forced senior military officers to intervene and later acknowledge the attack took place. Since livestreaming the attack, D.J Switch has been forced to seek asylum in Canada as a result of threats to her life.

This efficacy for activism has drawn government’s attention.

About two years ago, Nigerian government introduced a social media bill that sought to regulate the social media space and criminalize simple comments that authorities deemed ‘falsehoods’ or hate speech with fines and jail terms.

As a lawyer and an activist, I appeared before a Senate committee at the public hearing and gave statements about how we use social media to help fight human rights violations, consumer rights, and even to help find missing persons. After the public hearing, the bill was abandoned but, as we saw with last week’s Twitter ban, the Buhari administration did not give up on its ambitions to restrict social media.

They took their opportunity with last week’s shutdown. Nigeria’s judicial system has been effectively on strike for the past two months, so the Twitter ban was implemented without the oversight of the courts. In addition to banning Twitter, the government has demanded licensing of all social media platforms as well as services which stream news and entertainment via the Internet.

All of these restrictions aim to control freedom of expression; a right guaranteed under Nigeria’s Constitution as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights–both of which Nigeria has signed.

The Twitter ban also comes as the Nigerian government increases offline crackdowns on citizen action. They have repeatedly trampled on the right of citizens to assemble and protest in physical space. Activists have been shot at by police and military and many arrested while protesting peacefully. Twitter has also been used to shine a light on these crackdowns.

Since the ban against Twitter was announced, the government has wasted no time in implementing punishment for users. Immediately after the announcement, Nigeria’s Attorney General directed the arrest and prosecution of anyone using the Twitter app.

Practically, this will mean police will be empowered to search telephones for the app. Police searches of phones—and unhappiness with those searches—are not new to Nigerians and were one of the reasons for the EndSARS protests.

The draconian ban also begs the question, if Twitter, a global platform which helps to spotlight the government excesses can be shut down, what safety is there for Nigeria’s local media, journalists and citizens? With the Twitter ban Nigeria risks further sliding into dictatorship and there will be fewer ways to organize challenges to it.

Some will argue that Twitter is to blame for its banning because it overstepped in deleting a tweet from President Buhari that Twitter argues violates its policy. But even if we accept that Twitter was wrong to delete a tweet, the federal government’s reaction to ban a platform so important to public debate and activists is petty and an extreme overreach.

It is time for the world’s democracies to take concrete steps and forestall Nigeria human rights violations. Censorship of independent voices is often a means to shut down accountability and enable autocratic rule.

Allowing the Twitter ban by a few politicians without criticism would signal that the world endorses autocracy. The world’s silence and inaction are an endorsement of the Twitter ban, a shrinking of the ability of civil society to organize and a violation of the rights of 200 million Nigerians.

*Not his real name

Nelson Olanipekun is a human rights lawyer and advocate who uses technology and law to accelerate the pace of justice delivery. He is a 2021 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

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How Nigeria’s Police used Telecom Surveillance to Lure & Arrest Journalists

Africa, Civil Society, Democracy, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Jonathan Rozen* is Senior Africa Researcher at Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

NEW YORK, Feb 19 2020 (IPS) – As reporters for Nigeria’s Premium Times newspaper, Samuel Ogundipe and Azeezat Adedigba told CPJ they spoke often over the phone. They had no idea that their regular conversations about work and their personal lives were creating a record of their friendship.


On August 9, 2018, Ogundipe published an article about a communication between Nigeria’s police chief and vice president. Days later, police investigating his source issued a written summons, CPJ reported at the time.

It was not addressed to Ogundipe and made no mention of his article or the charges he would later face of theft and possession of police documents. Instead, as Ogundipe recounted, police called Adedigba for questioning in connection with a slew of serious crimes, allegations that evaporated after police used her phone to summon her friend to the station.

Ogundipe’s experience is one of at least three cases since 2017 where police from across Nigeria used phone records to lure and then arrest journalists currently facing criminal charges for their work.

In each case, police used the records to identify people with a relationship to a targeted journalist, detained those people, and then forced them to facilitate the arrest.

The police methods reinforce the value of internet-based, encrypted communications at a time when authorities have also targeted journalists’ phones and computers to reveal their sources. Those prosecuted in all three cases are free on bail.

Nigerian journalist Samuel Ogundipe (Photo: Samuel Ogundipe)

“If the police called me and said we have something to ask you, I would go there…this is just their tactics,” Ogundipe said.

Ogundipe and Adedigba told CPJ that police made no secret of the way they had established their relationship, showing them each call records they claimed to have obtained from the pair’s cellphone network providers—Nigeria-based 9mobile, a subsidiary of the UAE-based Etisalat telecom company, and South Africa-based MTN, respectively.

“[Police have] been checking who I’ve been talking to…[in order to] see who was close enough to me to be used as bait,” Ogundipe added.

CPJ’s repeated calls in late 2019 and early 2020 to Nigerian police spokesperson Frank Mba rang unanswered.

The 2003 Nigerian Communications Act mandates that network service providers assist authorities in preventing crime and protecting national security. Regulations for enforcing it grant senior police officials the power to authorize requests to obtain “call data” from telecom companies without a judicial warrant, according to CPJ’s review.

That data includes where and when regular phone calls and SMS messages took place and between which numbers, according to documents reviewed by CPJ and interviews with three individuals with knowledge of police requests for call data in Nigeria. All three requested not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Nigeria has over 184 million active mobile phone lines, with roughly two million lines added every month to service its estimated 190 million people, according to 2019 data released by the national telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). SIM card ownership for these lines is tracked under a 2011 regulation, which CPJ reviewed, mandating the collection of personal information, including fingerprints and photos, that police can access without a warrant as long as a senior-ranking officer gives written approval.

Other NCC regulations, released in October 2019 and reviewed by CPJ, detail police permissions to intercept communications under certain circumstances.

At the time of publishing, Ogundipe told CPJ his next court date had yet to be scheduled, but two journalists who were taken into custody at the end of 2019–Gidado Yushau and Alfred Olufemi–were preparing for their fifth hearing scheduled in Kwara State for March 4.

Similar to Ogundipe and Adedigba, police used call records to identify individuals that could be used to lead them to their targets, those affected told CPJ.

Nigerian journalist Gidado Yushau (Photo: Gidado Yushau)

Yushau, publisher of The News Digest website, and Olufemi, a freelance reporter, were charged in November 2019 with criminal conspiracy and criminal defamation in connection with a complaint over a May 2018 News Digest report Olufemi wrote about a factory owned by Sarah Alade, now special adviser to Nigeria’s president. Alade and other representatives of the factory did not answer calls or declined comment when CPJ reported on the case.

The first journalist police used to track down Yushau and Olufemi worked in another city for an unrelated news outlet. Wunmi Ashafa, a Lagos-based journalist with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), told CPJ that police tricked her into meeting, then made her summon her colleague, Yusuf Yunus, who in turn was used to facilitate the arrest of the Digest’s web developer, Adebowale Adekoya. The officers claimed to know they were connected from their call records.

Police were “tracking all the people that are calling me, that I’m talking to,” Yunus told CPJ in an interview. “The network provider has said that this line and this line have spoken at this particular hour,” he said police told him. Ashafa and Yunus said they were released after police detained Adekoya.

“I don’t know why they decided to do that,” Ashafa told CPJ, adding that she missed a meeting at her daughter’s school because police involved her. “They apologized to us, to myself and Yunus, that that was the only way they could get [Adekoya].”

Mistaken for the Digest’s publisher, Adekoya described being held for five nights, driven over 1,200 kilometers—including to Abuja and Kwara State—and threatened with detention if he did not lead the officers to Yushau and promise to help bring Olufemi into custody, before his release.

Nigerian journalist Alfred Olufemi. (Photo: Alfred Olufemi)

CPJ reached Peter Okasanmi, a spokesperson with the Kwara State police, by phone in January. He declined to comment on Yushau and Olufemi’s case because the trial was ongoing, but described how police regularly used telecommunications information to make arrests.

“We are able to track the culprits by use of technology through the SIM [cards] that were registered,” Okasanmi said. “Suspects, they are usually like kidnappers…we use all of those gadgets to track their locations and get them arrested…we have our own equipment we are using,” he added, without elaborating.

On November 4, CPJ contacted NCC spokesperson Henry Nkemadu by phone and upon his request sent questions regarding security agencies’ access to communications data, but received no response. Subsequent calls to Nkemadu and other NCC officials went unanswered.

Police used a similar tactic in 2017 to arrest Tega Oghenedoro, the Uyo city-based publisher of the Secret Reporters news website who writes under the pseudonym Fejiro Oliver, CPJ reported this month.

He faces cybercrime charges related to reports alleging corruption in a Lagos-based Nigerian bank and is due in court on May 28, CPJ reported.

Isaac Omomedia, an aide to the governor of Delta State, told CPJ in October 2019 that he did not know Oliver, but that they had a mutual acquaintance, Prince Kpokpogri, the publisher of Integrity Watchdog magazine.

In March 2017, Omomedia arrived at a hotel in Asaba, the Delta State capital where he lives, after receiving a call to collect a parcel from the DHL delivery company, he told CPJ.

Instead, he was met by six police officers who questioned him about Kpokpogri, someone they claimed to know he was in touch with by reviewing his call records. On their instructions, Omomedia said he invited Kpokpogri to a meeting.

Kpokpogri told CPJ that police arrested him upon arrival, drove him over 200 kilometers to Uyo, and told him, in turn, to summon Oliver. The officers had identified him because they had “bugged” both his and Oliver’s phone lines, he remembered them saying. Kpokpogri said police arrested Oliver when he arrived and drove them both over 350 kilometers to Benin City; Oliver was then flown to Lagos and Kpokpogri was released without charge.

Kenneth Ogbeifun, the Lagos-based investigating officer in Oliver’s case, requested emailed questions when contacted for comment by CPJ in January 2020. Follow-up emails and messages went unanswered.

CPJ also reached an officer who confirmed his name as Moses and that he was part of the team that arrested Oliver on behalf of Lagos police, but when asked about how Omomedia and Kpokpogri were used in the arrest, the line disconnected.

Those involved in Oliver’s arrest, and the chain leading to Yushau and Olufemi, told CPJ they relied on the Nigeria-based Globacom, also known as Glo, India-based Airtel, or MTN for their cell phone service.

“I will give you the number used to commit the crime and you have only 60 minutes to produce the details,” the Premium Times quoted Isa Pantami, Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy, as saying in late 2019. Operators that failed to produce data would be sanctioned, according to that report.

CPJ called the ministry of communications and digital economy in mid-January. Philomena Oshodin, a deputy director, said that she was not the relevant person to comment before the line went silent; follow up messages went unanswered.

Between November 2019 and January 2020, CPJ reached out to public relations departments at MTN, 9mobile, Airtel, and Glo, and emailed questions to representatives for each about security agencies’ access to telecom user data in Nigeria. None replied with answers by date of publication.

“You’re reporting as a journalist, which is not a crime…[but] you feel you’re being punished,” Ogundipe told CPJ, reflecting on his arrest and prosecution. “It’s very scary…it’s difficult to predict how far these guys will go.”

For information on digital safety, consult CPJ’s Digital Safety Kit.

*Jonathan Rozen is CPJ’s senior Africa researcher. Previously, he worked in South Africa, Mozambique, and Canada with the Institute for Security Studies, assessing Mozambican peace-building processes. Rozen was a U.N. correspondent for IPS News and has written for Al-Jazeera English and the International Peace Institute. He speaks English and French.

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Balanced and Gender-Inclusive Education is a Smart Investment

Africa, Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Education

Pupils at the Elangata Enterit boarding primary school in Kenya’s Narok County. Experts say that a balanced education includes enabling girls to participate at the same level as boys. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

DJIBOUTI CITY, Jan 27 2020 (IPS) – Fihima Mohamed’s mother never attended school and until two years ago she could not read or write. Mohamed’s mother had been born in neighbouring Somalia but was sent to Djibouti as a young girl to live with her aunt. The expectation had been that she would have a better life by escaping the ongoing conflict in her home country at the time.


Instead, Mohamed’s mother became a domestic servant to her aunt — a circumstance that showed her that her own daughter’s future would be just as difficult if she too did not go to school.

Born and raised in the Republic of Djibouti, Mohamed told IPS that most of her childhood was spent in school or studying.

Between the ages of six and 16 years, she was driven by the vivid pictures her mother painted of the life that awaited her if she did not stay in school and perform well — one of domestic abuse. “I was told that as a woman, education would give me freedom,” she said, remembering how her mother was not able to make major household decisions and did not have the freedom to determine what direction her life took.

But her mother did make a decision that determined the course of Mohamed’s life. She opted not to buy the fish her children enjoyed so much for their meals and instead spent the money on private tuition classes for her daughter to supplement her schooling.

“I attended public school during the day, and at night, two hours of private school tuition. My mother sacrificed a lot to raise 25 dollars per month to pay for these night classes,” she said, explaining that she went to those classes not for her own sake but also so that she could help her three younger siblings with their homework.

The sacrifice paid off and Mohamed was placed among the country’s top-five students for her high school final exam. She received a scholarship to study in France for four years.

Fast track to 2020, Mohamed holds a bachelor’s degree in law and political science, and a Master’s degree in refugee studies. She is a social entrepreneur, a gender and environment activist and the founder of the Women Initiative, a local social movement for the empowerment of women and girls.

She said that Djibouti is among a growing list of developing countries were education attainment levels have significantly narrowed between boys and girls. United Nations statistics indicate that the gross primary school enrolment rates for girls have risen to nearly 61 percent.

This emerged during the 3rd International Summit on Balanced and Inclusive Education that is currently being held in Djibouti City, in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.

Organised by the Education Relief Foundation (ERF), over 200 delegates and government representatives from over 35 countries rallied behind an education pathway that leaves no one behind.

  • According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, there is an increasing number of countries in the global south where, on average, educational attainment gaps are now relatively small.
  • These countries include Cambodia, Kenya, Cuba, Myanmar and Ethiopia.
  • In Myanmar, for instance, primary school enrolment rates stand at 88 percent for girls, and 90 percent for boys.
    • Additionally, in secondary level, enrolment rate for girls is at 62 percent and 57 percent for boys.
    • Even at tertiary level, enrolment rates for girls stand at 19 percent, compared to 13 percent for boys.

Countries struggling with gender parity in education include Togo, Burkina Faso and Burundi.

Togolese Prime Minister Komi Selom, Klassou confirmed that alarming gender inequalities exist, despite the existence of innovative strategies towards an inclusive education system.

“We have school canteens to provide school free meals, free medical cover for school-going children and the newly approved year-on-year budgetary increase to the education sector,” he said during the summit.

  • The Global Gender Gap Report indicates that in Togo, enrolment in primary school is at 88 percent among girls, and 94 percent for boys.
  • Secondary school enrolment for girls is at 34 percent for girls and 49 percent for boys.
  • At tertiary level, 10 percent of girls enrol vis-à-vis 19 percent of boys.

“Efforts to narrow this gap include a new government commitment to allocate at least 25 percent of its national budget to the education sector,” he said.

Fahima Mohamed says Djibouti is among a growing list of developing countries were education attainment levels have significantly narrowed between boys and girls. She called for more investments to ensure that girls participate at the same level as boys. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Mohamed told IPS that ongoing consultations on education will bring the global south a step closer towards “building fairer and more inclusive economies by transforming our education systems to ensure that every child has access to quality education”.

She explained that ultimately the idea was to embrace an education system that reflects the reality of children in the global south. This also included improving educational infrastructure and content so that the latter could be more diverse to reflect the multiple-cultural narrative of the global south.

Nonetheless, Sheikh Manssour Bin Mussallam, President of ERF, emphasised that balanced and inclusive education systems are not solely about having more children in classrooms, but the “construction of systems that makes exclusion impossible”.

“Our education systems should guarantee that marginalised groups participate under balanced and equitable conditions. The transformative power of education is only true if education itself is transformed and driven by forces that uphold equality and equity,” he said during the opening day of the summit.

Data by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) shows that existing education systems are far from equitable, prosperous and sustainable.

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 21 percent of girls are much more likely to be out of school at primary school age compared to 16 percent of boys.
  • Globally, UNESCO statistics indicate that sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the worst rates of education exclusion. One in four children in South Asia, and one in five children in sub-Saharan Africa will never enter school.
  • Equally alarming, World Bank statistics show that children with a disability are more likely to never enrol in school at all. Overall, only one in four children with disabilities complete secondary school.
  • Additionally, primary school completion rates are 10 percentage points lower for girls with disabilities compared to girls without disabilities.

“In Sri Lanka where girls are consistently outpacing boys in both education access and achievement, our main challenge is lack of financial and technical resources to address the [requirements] of special needs children,” P.C.K. Pirisyala, director of education at the Sri Lanka Education Administrative Service, told IPS.

“Developing countries are grappling with a lack of teachers to provide adequate training and material to provide disability-inclusive education,” she said.

She further said that a lack of resources (both technical and financial) and a lack of schools equipped to accommodate special needs children has made it difficult for these children in the global south to access education and participate with their peers.

“This forum will provide the global south with a roadmap that reflects these realities, and bring us closer to the dream of balanced and inclusive education for all by 2030. This is all in line with the [U.N.] sustainable development goal four on education for all,” she concluded.

The summit runs until Wednesday, Jan. 29.

 

2020 Is the Decade of Action & It Has to Be a Sprint

Africa, Armed Conflicts, Climate Change, Conferences, Crime & Justice, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Labour, Peace, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

Opinion

Hosted by the governments of Kenya, Denmark and UNFPA, world leaders gather for the 3-day Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 to advance sexual, reproductive health & rights for all. November 12, 2019. Photo Courtesy: Redhouse Public Relations

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31 2019 (IPS) – Happy New Year, Kenya. 2020 marks a decade of action towards the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Peace and development are inextricably linked, with each making the achievement of the other far more likely. This puts the conflict-prevention and development work of the UN at the heart of the agenda in East Africa, but in a multi-agency and programme environment, making meaningful progress is challenging.


Aware of this, the UN began a process of structural reforms led by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres who made reforms of the United Nations, a priority at the very beginning of his term in January 2017. The aim being to deliver better results through cooperation, collaboration and integration. 2019 was the year that the impact of these reforms became real and nowhere more than in the peace, conflict-prevention and development pillars of the UN’s work.

At the country level, that shift towards a nimble, 21st century UN challenges deeply entrenched practices and operations. In a country team with over 23 individual agencies, funds and programmes, the reform process can be complicated, even messy.

To the credit of the Kenya country team, we overcame the challenges of ceding long-held agency interests for the collective good and achieved some ground-breaking milestones in our partnership with governments, civic organizations and the private sector.

The most outstanding was our venturing out to confront challenges that transcend borders. East Africa faces major threats to peace and development across multiple fronts, and respective UN country teams have, in a remarkable show of teamwork, sought to harmonize their responses to these threats. Internecine border conflicts and the effects of climate change together make a formidable challenge that brought together UN teams from Kenya and Uganda, in a pact that seeks to bring sustainable development to the Karamoja triangle.

This pact follows from another successful regional collaboration project on the Kenya-Ethiopia border where communities accustomed to recurrent hostilities are now reaching out to each other to find solutions to common socio-economic challenges.

We believe that our regional surge towards prevention, peacemaking and diplomacy will have a particular impact on the youth, who suffer an enduring sense of being neglected and ignored. This narrative is a breeding ground for extremism and radicalization, so addressing such concerns was a key point of deliberation during last July’s African Regional High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism and the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Nairobi.

The same regional approach was behind the initiative by Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Somalia to sign the Declaration and Action Plan to End Cross-border FGM in April 2019. This was the first time multiple countries had come together to tackle this pernicious cross-border crime.

But there remain many in the region still left behind by development, and we continue to stand up for them through our UN Development Assistance Framework 2018-2022. The framework’s gender equality and rights focus is unmistakable, because in too many communities, the simple fact of being born female shatters one’s chances of living in full human dignity.

Our focus on giving a leg-up to those left farthest behind has attracted a positive response from our partners in national and county governments. By staying in lockstep with national priorities on issues such as health, agriculture and housing, the common thread of messages from our partners is that we are staying effective and responsive to the ambitions of Kenyans.

As 2020 beckons, the decade of action starts and it has to be a sprint to deliver on the SDGs, the UN team in Kenya is rolling up its sleeves with greater urgency, ambition and innovation. We will enhance regional cooperation and private-public partnerships as we work with the Government towards lifting millions of the citizens of this region out of poverty and upholding their human rights.

We are re-imagining ways of delivering development in ways such as the co-creation of an SDG innovation lab between the Government of Kenya, the Centre for Effective Global Action at the University of California in Berkeley, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the UN. The SDG Lab will kick off with support for the delivery of Kenya’s Big Four agenda by harnessing, big data, technology and innovation to achieve scale and impact.

As a UN country team, we got off the blocks in 2019 in pursuit of UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed’s challenge to “flip the orthodoxy” for the repositioning of the UN. We have dared to go beyond the typical and will do whatever it takes to respond effectively to the challenges faced by Kenya’s people, now and in the future.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

 

Right to Food Denied by Poor Policies and Inaction

Africa, Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Food Sustainability, Global, Headlines, Health, Multimedia, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment, Video

MILAN, Italy, Dec 3 2019 (IPS) – Global food systems are ripe for transformation if people are to be nourished and the planet sustainable, says Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur of the Right to Food of the United Nations Human Rights Council.


Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur of the Right to Food of the United Nations Human Rights Council speaking at the 10th International Forum on Food and Nutrition convened in Milan. Credit: Busani Bafana / IPS

Elver, told delegates at the 1oth International Forum on Food and Nutrition convened in Milan by the Barilla Centre, that the world needs food citizens who will act responsibly in promoting food equality and reducing food waste, which underlie global food and nutrition insecurity in the world today.

Food citizens are responsible for protecting the right to food through multi-actor actions including promoting a conducive environment that will secure food for all while promoting dialogue around food access, production and equitable distribution.

Citing the situation in Zimbabwe, Elver said the food crisis was a blot on the right to food that the world must respond to with urgency.

“The situation in Zimbabwe in mind boggling,” said Elver who has just returned from a mission to Zimbabwe to access the situation. “We need to know what is going as we talk about the need to diet, many in Zimbabwe eat once a day if they are lucky and food aid basically maize, just one meal a day. .. This is a very serious issue that we do not know it beyond the sustainable.”

Elver spoke with IPS on her mission to Zimbabwe. Excerpts of the interview:

IPS: You have just come back from Zimbabwe, what did you see?

Zimbabwe is an amazing country but if it facing a lot of challenges. It does not have basic public services and only four hours a day electricity and I understand that and government buildings, companies and some restaurants are using generators. But also you need fuel for the generators and for your car – if you have money to buy gas (fuel). The system is collapsing. People do not have time to work, because they either have to wait for gas for hours and hours and have to wait in front of the banks to get cash and 24 hours and transportation is very expensive. It is a vicious cycle and something should give in internally and externally because this has affected the food situation in the country too.

What has these challenges mean for the right to food?

That is a major problem. The root causes are a man-made journey to starvation. Every person in Zimbabwe has a responsibility to act. It did not come from drought. Yes drought is there. Other countries had a drought. Zambia had a drought, Mozambique had a drought and Cyclone Idai but Mozambique had huge aid from outside and Zimbabwe only got ten percent of it because of the sanctions.

What has been the impact of sanction on food security?

The intentional community should consider lifting the sanction because sanctions in the 20 years have had multiple impacts on the ordinary people’s lives. They talk about the targeted sanction but the sanctions are targeted by US, UK and EU, they are living perfectly fine and they do not travel a lot outside as they are high level government officials. It is okay for them but for the ordinary people it is not. They are suffering because all the international aid is blocked in one way or another. Investment is not coming. No one wants to invest in a country under sanctions.

Ask the IMF or World Bank why they cannot give the money to them. All the money they try to help Zimbabwe with goes to the NGOs and international organisations. If you are given $100 million, the people on the ground only get 20 percent of it. This is bad and this must change.

Is lifting sanctions everything to get Zimbabwe out of its challenges?

That is an important question. The government should make some democratic reforms, the freedom of speech, and freedom of association and give the opportunities to the people because the people are peaceful. The first thing is that the government should sit together with the opposition and all parties in a democratic manner and to think about how they can help their people together.

Land reform has been done in the last 20 years gradually here and there and there has been some kind of complaints as to why white farmers need compensation and black farmers are dysfunctional, these are myths going round. Black farmers are dysfunctional because they did not get any help from the government. You need first of all credit and you need technical help and you need seed and the government is in a terrible shape to give all these things. Of course there is disfunctionality but they cannot access resources there is land but they cannot do anything with it. If people find one square metres of land they just produce on it. The main problem is this corn based reliance. People are so obsessed with sadza, who brought maize to Zimbabwe? We should think about that.

Are you saying food diversification is a solution to the food problem?

Of course. The traditional food in Africa is very much good for the environmental conditions. Traditional small grains do to need too much water like maize and they should go back to this.

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