governments still underfunding health
23 July 2013 (IRIN) - Twelve years after African governments pledged
in the Abuja Declaration to allocate at least 15 percent of their
annual budgets to healthcare by 2015, just six countries have met
this goal [ http://www.un.org/ga/aids/pdf/abuja_declaration.pdf
Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Togo and Zambia have
met the target, and five other countries are spending at least 13
percent of their annual budgets on health, according to data [
] compiled by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
aggregate spending on health has increased - up to 10.6 percent from
8.8 - about a quarter of African Union (AU) member-states have
regressed and are now spending less on health than they were in 2001,
adds the WHO data.
Recently, the AU held another special
summit on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in Abuja, Nigeria,
dubbed Abuja +12, which provided an opportunity for African
governments and other stakeholders to review progress made and to
discuss what should be done to ensure health funding targets are met
renewed and bold commitment here in Abuja is essential as, drawing
from experiences in the AIDS response, we know that smart investments
will save lives, create jobs, reinvigorate communities and further
boost economic growth in Africa," said Michel Sidibé, the
executive director of UNAIDS, in a press statement. [
At present, funding for healthcare remains short of
requirements and is very unevenly spread across countries. According
to UNAIDS, an additional US$31 billion per year will be needed to
meet the continent's 15 percent health funding targets.
2011, at least 69 percent of the world's 34 million people estimated
to be living with HIV/AIDS were in sub-Saharan Africa.
there are encouraging signs. The number of new HIV infections fell to
25 percent in 2011 compared to a decade earlier.
main challenge in the fight against HIV and AIDS globally is how to
ensure universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support,
and. ensuring zero transmission of new HIV infections in children,"
wrote Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama in a blog article [
] in May.
Among 21 priority countries in Africa, the number of
children newly infected with HIV has fallen by 38 percent since 2009,
according to a joint AU-UNAIDS report
] launched at Abuja +12.
and TB burden
is also lagging behind in reducing cases of - and deaths from - TB
Globally, Africa is the only region not on track
towards halving TB deaths by 2015, and it accounts for almost a
quarter of the global caseload, according to WHO.
TB detection and drug-resistant strains of the disease, which can be
100 times more expensive to treat, pose significant challenges in
Africa. About 40 percent of TB cases in Africa go undetected, adds
Malaria is also a serious health problem. Eighty percent
of the world's cases and 90 percent of malaria-related deaths occur
"We are at a turning point for making
historical gains in Liberia's health sector - where no child dies of
malaria and every mother living with HIV can give birth to
HIV-negative children while living healthy lives themselves,"
wrote Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, in a statement [
] to the Global Fund.
Liberia allocates 18.9 percent of its
annual budget to healthcare, the second highest proportion in Africa;
Rwanda spends 23.7 percent.
to the AU/UNAIDS Abuja +12 report, there is an economic case to be
made for further investment in healthcare: For every year that life
expectancy rises across the continent, it argues, GDP will increase
by 4 percent. The average life expectancy in Africa is 54.4 years,
the lowest globally.
"A sick population cannot generate
the productivity needed to maintain the acceleration of our economy,"
said Ghana's President Mahama.
More funding for health could
also mean more jobs within the health sector. In 2012 for example,
the AU approved a business plan to increase the output of the local
"Focusing on three things that
Africa needs to do urgently - decrease dependency by growing African
investments, deliver quality-assured drugs sooner to the people who
need them, and leadership - the blueprint will help African countries
to build long-term and sustainable solutions," stated Mustapha
Sidiki Kaloko, the AU Commissioner of Social Affairs, in a statement
], ahead of the Abuja +12 summit. "Africa's health and our
prosperity are inextricably linked."
aps/aw/rz [END] This
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98459
consensus on implementation of cessation clause for Rwandan
12 July 2013 (IRIN) - The future of tens of thousands of Rwandan
refugees living in Africa remains uncertain nearly two weeks after
the 30 June deadline recommended by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for
the discontinuation of their refugee status.
recommended countries invoke the "ceased circumstances"
] for Rwandans who fled their country between 1959 and 1998. The
cessation clause forms part of the 1951 Refugee Convention and can be
applied when fundamental and durable changes in a refugee's country
of origin, such that they no longer have a well-founded fear of
persecution, remove the need for international protection. Both UNHCR
and the Rwandan government have pointed out that since the end of the
civil war and the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been peaceful, and more
than three million exiled Rwandans have returned home.
many of the estimated 100,000 Rwandans who continue to live outside
the country - mainly in eastern, central and southern Africa - remain
unwilling to repatriate, citing fear of persecution by the
government. Refugee rights organizations have also warned that human
rights abuses by the current government have caused a continued
exodus of Rwandan asylum seekers [
"We have been told time and again that Rwanda is safe
and there might be some truth in that. However, one wonders why the
call for cessation is happening while there are still people who are
seeking asylum," Dismas Nkunda, co-director of the International
Refugee Rights Initiative, told IRIN.
views on protection
far only four countries in Africa - Malawi, the Republic of Congo,
Zambia and Zimbabwe - have followed UNHCR's recommendation to invoke
the cessation clause, a fact that, according to Nkunda, "speaks
volumes" about how different African countries view this group's
need for protection.
In an article [
] in the July issue of a newsletter produced by the Fahamu Refugee
Programme, a refugee legal aid group, John Cacharani and Guillaume
Cliche-Rivard accused UNHCR of pressuring states to follow its
recommendation, "holding hostage the fate of more than 100,000
Rwandan refugees who, of their own volition, have decided not to
repatriate, yet continue to fear the end of their international
But in response to questions from IRIN,
Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR regional representative for southern
Africa, emphasized, "It is the responsibility and prerogative of
states to declare the cessation of refugee status." She said
UNHCR's role was only to make a recommendation based on its analysis
of conditions in the country of origin and how they relate to the
refugees' reasons for flight.
That only four states had
agreed to implement cessation as of 30 June did not in any way
indicate that UNHCR's recommendation was premature, she insisted. At
an April 2013 meeting of host states held in Pretoria, "some
states underscored that, for various legal, logistical, practical or
other considerations, they are not in a position to apply the
cessation clauses by 30 June 2013. Others have specified that, for
the time being, they will concentrate on taking forward other
components of the [comprehensive durable solutions] strategy, namely
voluntary repatriation and local integration".
Rwandan officials say the country is prepared to receive the refugees
], and has developed a comprehensive plan to repatriate and
reintegrate returnees. So far this year, an estimated 1,500 Rwandans
have returned home following government-operated "go-and-see"
"The conditions that forced them to flee no
longer exist," Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda, Maj Gen
Frank Mugambagye, told IRIN. "The government has established
three transit centres which are well equipped with shelter, education
and health services. These people will be given packages for three
months. We have mobilized the local authorities to receive and help
them reintegrate into the communities."
He added that for
Rwandans seeking local integration in host countries rather than
repatriation, the government will issue national identity cards and
passports that will allow them to retain their nationality.
spoke to government officials and UNHCR representatives in several of
the African countries that are hosting significant numbers of Rwandan
refugees to find out how they are handling the cessation
invoking the clause
Malawi is among the countries said to be invoking the cessation
clause, the process is still in its early stages. According to George
Kuchio, UNCHR representative for Malawi, the first step of informing
the 660 refugees covered by the clause of their right to apply for
exemption has just been completed, and the government has yet to
decide what options it will offer for local integration.
there are people who still have compelling reasons for not returning,
they'll be given the opportunity to have their say," Kuchio told
However, the principal secretary in the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Besten Chisamile, was
quoted in the local media as saying, "The situation in Rwanda
stabilized long ago, and there is every reason for the remaining ones
[refugees] to return to their home. We are working with UNHCR on
ensuring we repatriate them."
Malawi is host to a further 500 Rwandan asylum seekers whose
refugee status has yet to be determined but who are unlikely to be
covered by the cessation clause.
June, the Republic of Congo announced [
] that it would invoke the cessation clause for the 8,404 Rwandan
refugees it hosts. They will now have to choose between voluntary
repatriation, naturalization or applying for exemption.
who fail to choose one of these options will be subject to the laws
pertaining to foreigners' entry, residence and departure," said
Chantal Itoua Apoyolo, director of multilateral affairs in the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.
Turatsinzé, 49, who is among 2,500 Rwandan refugees living in
Loukolela, in the northern Cuvette region, said: "We've been
worried since hearing about the loss of our status. We'd love to go
back to Rwanda, but the conditions that would allow us to do that
willingly are not yet in place.
"There are often
arbitrary arrests in Rwanda. There is no freedom of expression, no
democracy. We don't think the time is right for voluntary
repatriation... There are no security guarantees there."
added, "I have already put in my request for naturalization as a
hosts 6,000 Rwandan refugees, about 4,000 of whom are covered by the
cessation clause. According to Peter Janssen, a senior protection
officer with UNHCR, the majority of these have applied for exemption,
but most have been rejected. "Officially their refugee status
has ceased, but the government has made it known that there will be a
possibility for people to acquire an alternative status," said
"That still needs to be fine-tuned, but it is
positive because, until a while ago, it looked like people would be
left without a status and have to return to Rwanda."
which is also following the recommendation to invoke the cessation
clause, is further along with the process.
Prior to 30 June,
72 cases comprising over 200 individuals who left their country
before 1999 were identified as falling within the scope of the
clause, out of about 800 Rwandan refugee and asylum seekers living in
the country. Those unwilling to repatriate who qualify for local
integration, either through marriage to a local or through employment
in certain professions, such as lawyers, doctors and teachers, have
been encouraged to apply for permanent residence or work permits.
However, they cannot be issued permits until they are in possession
of Rwandan passports, which the Rwandan government have yet to issue.
The majority who do not qualify for local integration but do
not want to return home have already applied for exemption from the
cessation clause. According to Ray Chikwanda, a national protection
officer with UNHCR in Zimbabwe, only six out of the 60 cases that
applied were successful. Those who were rejected have been encouraged
"Our reading of the situation is that until
there is a political consensus in the region [about invoking the
cessation clause], these appeal decisions are unlikely to be
released," said Chikwanda.
not invoking the clause
Republic of Congo
government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has said it will
not immediately invoke the cessation clause for the estimated 47,500
Rwandan refugees it hosts, but will instead adopt a phased approach.
Rwandan refugees will first be identified, registered and
asked if they want to return. Following a meeting in October, a
repatriation plan will be drawn up. Julien Paluku, governor of North
Kivu Province, where most of the Rwandan refugees have settled, told
the Associated Press that refugees who do not want to return home
will be allowed to apply either for a residence permit or for
Congolese nationality, which may be granted on a case-by-case
UNHCR has helped some 8,000 Rwandans return home from
DRC since 2012 and says it will continue to assist with
of 14,811 Rwandan refugees living in Uganda, about 4,100 individuals
fall within the scope of the cessation clause. However, the
government has not invoked cessation because ambiguities in the
country's Immigration Act and Constitution would hinder local
integration - an alternative to voluntary repatriation that host
states are supposed to make available as part of the comprehensive
For example, Article 12 of the
Constitution bars the children of refugees from qualifying for
citizenship, while sections of the Immigration Act effectively
preclude refugees from qualifying for permanent residence or work
"The government of Uganda has declared that,
pending the resolution of the [legal] ambiguities and the charting of
a way forward towards implementing local integration and alternative
legal status, they will not be invoking the ceased circumstances
clause," Esther Kiragu, UNHCR assistant representative for
protection, told IRIN. "They will, however, announce a date for
invocation in due course once the road map is clearly drawn."
a ministerial meeting convened by UNHCR in Pretoria in April 2013,
South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor said, "The
position of the UNHCR in relation to Rwanda has created anguish and
uncertainty among the refugee community in South Africa",
suggesting that much work remained to be done to clearly articulate
the reasons for the clause being invoked.
The South African
government has since informed UNHCR that it will conduct its own
research into existing conditions in Rwanda and consult extensively
with the local Rwandan community before making a decision on invoking
the cessation clause.
A local Rwandan refugee leader, who did
not wish to be named, commended South Africa's Department of Home
Affairs for "welcoming Rwandan refugee leaders, listening to
their concerns and fears of being returned to Rwanda, and sharing
with refugees the government of South Africa's position around the
ks/kr/nl/lmm/so/rz [END] This report
Africa's green revolution
8 July 2013 (IRIN) - Civil society groups are taking on the policies
of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which
promotes the use of genetically modified (GM) crops and Green
They argue that GM and Green
Revolution practices - those aimed at increasing developing
countries' crop yields through specific innovations - will, in the
long run, be detrimental to ecosystems across the continent. Earlier
this month, a coalition of almost 60 civil society groups across
Africa came out to protest AGRA ahead of the G8 Summit in
"Green Revolution technologies benefit relatively
few farmers, often at the expense of the majority. These technologies
produce concentration of land ownership, increasing economies of
scale (production has to be at a large scale to get into and stay in
markets), and a declining number of food-producing households in a
context of limited other livelihood options," they said in a
letter sent to AGRA's president, Jane Karuku. [
They also believe that the intellectual property of many
plant types may be transferred to large multinational corporations as
part of Green Revolution practices.
"Private ownership of
knowledge and material resources (for example, seed and genetic
materials) means the flow of royalties out of Africa into the hands
of multinational corporations," they said.
for the needy
was founded in 2006 through a partnership between the Rockefeller
Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It works with
smallholder farmers across the continent by giving them microfinance
loans, hybrid seeds and fertilizers to increase their crop yields. In
this way, AGRA hopes to alleviate hunger and poverty across the
"There are millions of skilled farmers in
Africa who simply need the tools," said Sir Gordon Conway, a
scientist and author of One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?,
speaking by video message at an agriculture conference in Nairobi. In
his book, he argues that both microcredits - to help smallholder
farmers - and macro-investment are needed for farmers to benefit from
Green Revolution technologies.
He believes traditionally
marginalized groups - such as women, youth and ethnic minorities -
will benefit from the use of new agricultural technologies targeted
at smallholders, and that the total number of hungry will be
drastically reduced. For example, Conway calculates that by ensuring
female farmers have access to the same productive resources as men,
the number of undernourished people globally could be reduced by 100
to 150 million.
"If we are going to feed some 9 billion
people by 2050 and do that in environmentally sustainable ways and in
the face of climate change, then we are going to need access to the
very best that modern science can offer," said Peter Hazell, a
leading agriculture expert who has worked with the World Bank and
International Food Policy Research Institute. "All technologies
have risks (e.g., cell phones may cause brain cancer) but as these
things go, GM crops seem to be doing rather well."
civil society groups disagree. "AGRA aims to move farmers in
exactly the wrong direction, by encouraging them to take on debt in
order to use more agrochemicals and corporate hybrid seeds,"
Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation told IRIN.
many years, NGOs across Africa have worked with farmers to encourage
them to stop using fertilizers and pesticides, and to improve their
soil health, their ecosystems, their seed diversity and their food
sovereignty. AGRA is undoing a decade of agro-ecological progress in
Africa by getting farmers into debt and back on the agribusiness
treadmill," she said.
Genetically modified crops are
allowed to be used commercially in only three countries in Africa -
Egypt, Burkina Faso and South Africa - according to Gareth Jones of
the African Centre for Biosafety. Of these countries, only South
Africa uses them extensively. Jones believes it is a mistake to think
their model could be replicated elsewhere across the continent.
legacies of colonialism and then apartheid left South Africa with a
well-resourced and supported white commercial farming sector, many of
whom (including maize, cotton and soya farmers) cultivate on large
pieces of land, using modern inputs," he told IRIN via email.
"Projects to get smallholder farmers in South Africa to grow GM
seed such as in the Makhathini Flats, though much heralded by the
biotechnology industry at the time, have been largely
The Makhathini Flats project, which
started to grow cotton in 2002, ended after just five years. High
loan repayments on the seed and poor climate meant that smallholders
were unable to afford to grow the crop. "There is no reason to
believe that the introduction of GM seeds would have different
results in the rest of the continent," Jones said. He accuses
initiatives such as AGRA of spurring the push for greater use of
genetically modified crops on the continent.
2012, over 350 civil society organizations wrote a statement
protesting AGRA's agricultural approaches. [
"We are concerned that as a result of the AGRA seed
program, the rich pool of African indigenous seed varieties will
become the property of corporate seed companies, displacing and
reducing farmers' access to indigenous varieties, and locking them
into an expensive high-input agricultural system," they said.
Signatories included the African Biodiversity Network, the African
Centre for Biosafety, Kenya Biotechnology Coalition, Participatory
Ecological Land Use Management, and ActionAid Tanzania and
These groups cite a 2009 study by the International
Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for
Development, conducted with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO), UN Environmental Programme, World Bank and others, which
concluded that industrial agriculture is not likely to be majorly
beneficial in mitigating hunger and poverty. [
2009, the three largest seed companies controlled more than a third
of the global seeds market, according to a 2011 study commissioned by
the Commission on Genetic Modification. [
Under most current legal frameworks, farmers growing
patented seeds are not allowed to use the seeds naturally produced
from their crops. Large firms such as Monsanto routinely sue
farmers who propagate their patented crops.
the same companies that own the seeds also own the chemicals; it is a
mafia-like cartel that has proven to be ruthless towards poor
small-scale farmers," Ruth Nyambura of the African Biodiversity
Network told IRIN.
But Karuku, AGRA's president, insists the
organization tries to collaborate with local partners to develop new
breeds of seed. In Kenya, she said, they work with the Kenya
Agricultural Research Institute, which then owns the patents to the
seeds, not large multinational corporations.
She also pointed
to growing populations and said that scarcity of land meant that
African farmers needed to increase the productivity of their crops.
With 239 million undernourished people in Africa, according to the
FAO's State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, she said there is a
need for strong action. "If we don't do anything, it will be way
more than that," she said. "We should be worried." [
"Nobody forces farmers to grow GM crops, so if they
prove less profitable than the alternatives, farmers will simply stop
growing them," noted Hazell. "Farmers have been able to
reduce the use of pesticides on many GM crops with significant
environmental and health benefits."
Still, the Gaia
Foundation's Anderson isn't convinced. "The most effective, and
cost effective, strategy for African food security would be to revive
seed-saving knowledge and practices among farmers," she said.
"If you separate farmers from their traditional practices of
seed saving, you destroy African farming."
This report online:
jobs offer skills, promise to Africa's unemployed
28 May 2013 (IRIN) - Although Africa's economy has expanded rapidly
in recent years, it has not kept pace with the growth of its youth
population or their need for jobs.
With almost 200 million
people between 15 and 24 years old - a figure that is set to double
by 2045, according to the African Economic Outlook's (AEO) 2012
] - the continent has the youngest population in the world. Yet
despite the increasing percentage of Africa's young people with
secondary and tertiary educations, many find themselves unemployed or
underemployed in the informal economy. Part of the problem, according
to the AEO study, is a mismatch between the skills young jobs seekers
have to offer and those that employers need.
increasingly digitalized economy needs workers with the skills to
capture and manage the vast amounts of data it generates. With
appropriate training, such tasks can be performed anywhere in the
world. Data generated by a high-tech company in Silicon Valley, for
example, can be processed by youth with smartphones or tablets living
in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. This means that digital work could
potentially alleviate the unemployment and poverty hampering
development in many African countries.
Both the private and
humanitarian sectors are starting to recognize this potential and
find ways to harness it.
for the future
Rockefeller Foundation recently launched Digital Jobs Africa [
], a seven-year, US$83 million initiative to improve the lives of one
million people in six African countries through digital job
opportunities and skills training.
Eme Essien Lore, the
foundation's Nairobi-based senior associate director, explained that
having identified youth unemployment as one of Africa's most pressing
problems, the organization was looking for ways to help young people
on the continent gain sustainable, long-term job opportunities.
"The reason digital employment really rose to the top
for us was because we saw the skills they get from these kinds of
jobs as a springboard to other types of employment," she told
IRIN. "We know young people take time to figure out what they
want to do. Also, we don't know what the future labour market is
going to look like. So we thought this was a very important sector
because it develops skills they can use whether they stay in the
digital economy or move into other sectors."
focus countries - Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and South
Africa - share particularly high youth unemployment rates and have
rapidly developing information and communications technology (ICT)
infrastructures. Some, such as Nigeria and South Africa, have booming
ICT sectors in need of labour, while others, such as Morocco, are
well-placed to meet demand from Europe and the US, said Lore.
Winnie Mwihaki, 24, is among 500 Kenyan youths from poor
backgrounds recruited by one of the Rockefeller Foundation's grantees
- San Francisco-based non-profit Samasource. Globally, the company
has connected an estimated 3,700 young people in nine countries to
paying work and hopes to expand this number to 5,000 by the end of
Samasource secures data- and content-processing jobs
from its US-based clients, and then uses its specially developed
software to break these large digital projects down into small
computer-based tasks it calls "microwork". This work is
then distributed to local partners that are responsible for
recruiting, training and managing employees.
companies in the business process outsourcing (BPO) and information
technology outsourcing industry, Samasource only employs people
living below the poverty line. Workers must also be between 18 and 30
years old, and preference is given to women, who are less likely to
have access to formal employment.
"Part of the criteria
is that people need to be literate in English," added Lauren
Schulte, director of marketing and communications at Samasource.
"They don't have to have any computer skills. We can bring
someone in with virtually no experience, and in a matter of weeks
they can start doing small tasks on a computer."
monthly salary of 13,000 shillings [$149], Mwihaki is able to assist
her mother, who had been struggling to care for their family of six.
"Because of the money I earn from here, I am now able to help my
mother [and] to also be a breadwinner in the family," Mwihaki
Mwihaki grew up in Korogocho, a sprawling slum in
Nairobi, where crime is commonplace. She was unable to proceed to
college after secondary school because her parents could not afford
"Now I will use part of what I earn from this job to
sponsor myself through college," she said.
is not the only company targeting disadvantaged people in low-income
areas with digital employment. Another Rockefeller Foundation
grantee, Digital Divide Data, operates on a similar principle and
employs more than 1,000 people in Cambodia, Kenya and Laos. Both
companies are considered pioneers of impact sourcing, which the
Rockefeller Foundation defines as "the socially responsible arm
of the BPO and information technology outsourcing industry".
relative newcomer to the sector, and another Rockefeller Foundation
grantee, is the Impact Sourcing Academy (ISA) in Johannesburg, South
Africa. ISA combines a training and job placement programme with a
fully functional call centre that gives its students the opportunity
to obtain practical work experience while earning enough money to
help support their families.
"We're not so much
interested in just giving them a job as a call centre agent,"
said ISA head Taddy Blecher. "We really want to make sure
they're doing part-time studies while they're working, getting access
to more knowledge and training so they can move into higher-level
Once graduates are fully employed and earning a
decent salary, they are encouraged to fund another student from a
similar background. Using this model, the academy is already about 65
percent self-funded and aims to be completely self-funded in the
Blecher described the Rockefeller Foundation
initiative as "a massive opportunity" for South Africa,
given the need for skilled labour to work in its booming BPO sector
and its 51 percent youth unemployment rate. "In a short period
of time, you can bring a family out of poverty and put them on a
whole new trajectory," he told IRIN.
now, evidence that impact sourcing really can lift families out of
poverty is limited to the small studies the Rockefeller Foundation
has conducted with Samasource and Digital Divide Data. "What we
want to do next is really measure the impacts on a household level,"
said Lore. "Anecdotally, we're quite convinced, but we need to
work on measuring over the next seven years."
Rockefeller Foundation does not stipulate a minimum wage that its
grantees must pay, and the line between a living wage and an
exploitatively low wage can be a fine one. "This is a sector
where companies' first priority is really around cost savings,"
acknowledged Lore. "If you take the example of someone living in
a slum, [a job like this] won't get them into a nicer neighbourhood.
But it might be able to buy food for the family and get younger
siblings into school," she said.
She added that the
demand for young people with these skills is such that they are often
poached by rival companies offering slightly higher salaries. "We've
seen that when people move from these jobs, usually after about two
years, they go on to better jobs. You rarely see people sitting in
these types of jobs indefinitely."
ks/ko/rz [END] This
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98114
pilots mobile courts for refugees
23 April 2013 (IRIN) - Uganda's government and the UN Refugee Agency
(UNHCR) have launched a pilot mobile court [
] system to improve access to justice for victims of crimes in
Nakivale, the country's oldest and largest refugee settlement.
magistrate's court, whose first session began on 15 April, will hear
cases of robbery, land disputes, child rape, sexual and gender-based
violence, attempted murder, and murder. The project - a collaboration
of the Uganda government, UNHCR, Makerere University's Refugee Law
Project (RLP) and the Uganda Human Rights Council - aims to benefit
some 68,000 refugees and 35,000 Ugandan nationals in the
"With the nearest law court currently 50km
away in Kabingo, Isingiro, access to justice has been a real problem
for refugees and locals alike. As a result many fail to report crimes
and are forced to wait for long periods before their cases are heard
in court," said a UNHCR briefing on the programme.
mobile court will hold three sessions a year. Each session will last
15 to 30 days and hear up to 30 cases. Officials hope to extend the
project to other refugee settlements in Uganda to enable more
refugees to access speedier justice.
"Most of the courts
are far away from the settlements, and refugee complainants faced
challenges of transportation for themselves and witnesses,"
Charity Ahumuza, programme manager for access to justice at RLP, told
IRIN. "With the courts brought to them, the cost of seeking
justice is reduced. The courts will also reduce the backlog of cases
that exist of cases that arise in the settlements."
have welcomed this initiative since it is about bringing justice
closer to them," John Kilowok, UNHCR Protection Officer in
Uganda, told IRIN.
the project could face a number of operational challenges, including
a need for funding and a shortage of trained court interpreters.
Uganda has over 165,000 refugees from the Burundi, Democratic
Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and South
"The settlements are far away, and distance in
accessing the court is likely to become a challenge. Language, too,
will be a problem. The service providers through UNHCR are conducting
training for interpreters to help in this issue," said RLP's
Ahumuza. "The sustainability of the courts, I believe, will
depend on availability of finances. However, the judiciary continues
to face financial constraints."
Angelo Izama, a Ugandan
fellow at the Open Society Institute, says the shortage of justice in
the refugee settlements is a reflection of poor access to justice
across the country, a situation that needs to be
"Improving the delivery of justice helps
tremendously given that, ordinarily, the severe case backlog makes
matters worse for nationals - let alone foreigners. The real crisis
now is not providing refugees and nationals in western Ugandan fast
relief but filling the many vacancies in the judiciary so that,
nationally, justice is expedited," he said. "While justice
processes improved on our side can help communities - both Ugandan
and foreign - live better governed lives, the ultimate investment
would be in improving governance across the border."
is need for a holistic approach to look at the refugee issues in
Uganda. We have to look at policy, immigration and defence lawyers
for fair trials. Will the suspects have access to defence lawyers, or
will they be accorded with lawyers to defend them in court?"
asked Nicholas Opiyo, a constitutional and human rights lawyer in
Kampala, Uganda's capital. "Sustainability is a very crucial
element in this court... If they don't put good and proper systems to
support this court, it will be a waste of time and money."
[END] This report online:
ICC takes on Mali
29 January 2013 (IRIN) - Concerns are being raised that the
International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war
crimes in Mali is placing a serious strain on an already
over-stretched and cash-strapped institution.
her first formal investigation since taking office, prosecutor Fatou
Bensouda on 16 January promised justice to victims of "brutality
and destruction" in three northern regions of Mali. But with a
shrinking team of investigators and a budget that has barely
increased despite a doubling of the workload, some analysts are
doubtful she can deliver.
"There are serious
questions to be asked of the new prosecutor as to whether it is a
drastic overstretch to have eight African countries being dealt with
simultaneously with essentially the same level of staff and the same
level of finance as her office was operating on before," said
Phil Clark, a lecturer in comparative and international politics at
the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.
"Is it really feasible for the office to be dealing with so many
The ICC intervenes in countries that cannot - or
will not - prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities. It is intended
as a court of last resort in countries where prosecutions are
unlikely to happen without its intervention.
funding in 2013 is around US$144 million, with possible access to a
contingency fund of up to $9.3 million, compared with $138 million in
2010. The prosecutor's office, which carries out the investigations,
was this year allocated $37 million. This represents an increase of
just $1.3 million since 2010 despite the addition of Mali, Kenya,
Côte d'Ivoire and Libya to the docket - and these countries were
themselves in addition to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),
Sudan, Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR).
are really at the edge of what they can do with their resources,"
said Kevin Jon Heller, associate professor and reader at Melbourne
ICC is examining claims of murder, mutilation, torture, attacks on
protected objects, executions, pillaging and rape since January 2012
when insurgent groups began their campaign to take over northern
Mali. French troops and the Malian army have been reclaiming captured
towns this month, but ongoing fighting means ICC investigators are
unlikely to be gathering evidence on the ground.
isn't like anyone from the ICC is going to Mali anytime soon,"
Court investigators will instead speak to
French troops, the Malian government and so-called intermediaries -
usually local human rights groups who gather evidence and contact
witnesses in areas the court cannot access.
Watch, Amnesty International and the International Federation of
Human Rights, among other groups, continue to actively investigate
human rights abuses in Mali.
The use of intermediaries
by ICC investigators has been controversial in previous cases,
particularly during the trial of the DRC's Thomas Lubanga. He was
] of using children to fight in his Ituri rebel group but the
intermediaries who helped prosecutors build the case were accused of
bribing witnesses. Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, who fought on the opposite
side in the Ituri conflict, was late last year found not guilty [
] of war crimes. The judges in that case were not convinced by the
witnesses or the evidence.
hope the ICC will not repeat past investigative mistakes in
intermediaries is unavoidable in those situations, because the
intermediaries will know the field very well, be able to contact
witnesses in a secure manner and arrange meetings in a way that can
be done safely," said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, advocacy
director in the international justice programme at Human Rights
"What needs to be improved is the way it is
done; [there needs to be more] understanding [that] it is not the
intermediaries who are conducting investigations but the
investigators, and checking who your intermediaries are - whether
they are credible and what kind of promises they have made to your
When possible, sending ICC
investigators to the scene of the alleged crimes is the best way to
investigate, she said. "It takes money to be able to deploy in
the field which we believe is necessary in order to do good
ICC had asked for $157 million in 2013 to reflect its growing
workload but major funders including the UK, France and Germany have
resisted any increases. All three, however, signed a Swiss government
letter to the UN Security Council earlier this month calling on it to
refer Syria to ICC.
Russia, China and the USA - none of them
ICC members - are unlikely to support such a
Mattioli-Zeltner questions this pressure to
add new cases to the already-crowded and unfinished docket.
is still more work to do in Darfur and DRC and now we are piling on
new situations," she said. "We don't think the states
parties have thought through what this means. It is very important
that states commit to the justice process but also commit to an
institution that has the means of doing its work properly.
this point we don't think the ICC has the resources to do more
situations, but we think there are a number of situations that
deserve ICC intervention."
Heller goes further: "I
think if the Security Council should refer Syria and not give more
money to the court, then Fatou [Bensouda] should refuse to
But a UN request to intervene in
Syria would be hard to resist for a young court that has yet to make
its mark. Clark says the ICC wants to be seen as an active player in
the conflict zones that matter most to the international
"The ICC is a new institution that is
trying to build its own legitimacy," he said. "It wants to
be an option the Security Council can use in times of war, but this
is leading the ICC to be too available even if they don't have the
The UN has already asked the ICC to
investigate in Sudan and Libya. In Côte d'Ivoire and Kenya, the
prosecutor's office initiated the cases, while the governments of
Mali, Uganda, DRC and CAR referred themselves to the
Mali's case the government asked the ICC to investigate in July 2012.
Once a government asks ICC investigators to come into their country,
investigators in theory, under their mandate, can pursue any case
they find, which means they could end up charging government
officials or members of the army. But to date, self-referrals have
resulted only in cases against rebels.
Heller suggests that
countries such as Uganda are using the ICC to "outsource their
criminal justice problems" and should prosecute their own rebel
groups. "Does the ICC need to spend all its time worrying about
Joseph Kony and the LRA? Of course not," he told IRIN. "If
Uganda can get their hands on Kony, with international help they can
give Kony a fair trial. Uganda has a very sophisticated legal
The Uganda case faced sharp criticism when
investigators failed to pursue evidence of widespread human rights
abuses by the Ugandan army.
Likewise, instances of alleged
extra-judicial killings carried out by the Malian armed forces this
month and documented by human rights groups such as the International
Federation of Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch, risk remaining
untouched by the ICC.
One problem is that ICC investigators
rely on governments to facilitate their visit to a country, which
makes it difficult for them to pursue cases on all sides, even if it
is within their mandate to do so, say observers. The ICC has no
police force and thus relies on the goodwill of governments to make
their investigations possible.
However, the ICC
Prosecutor put up the pressure on the Malian authorities on 28
January, issuing the following statement: "My Office is aware of
reports that Malian forces may have committed abuses in recent days.
I remind all parties to the on-going conflict in Mali that my Office
has jurisdiction over all serious crimes committed within the
territory of Mali, from January 2012 onwards." [
The prosecutor's office did not respond to IRIN's requests
for an interview.
lc/aj/cb [END] This report online:
for urban refugees in Kenya, but fear persists
24 January 2013 (IRIN) - Urban refugees in Kenya, threated with
relocation to overcrowded refugee camps, are breathing a sigh of
relief following a High Court ruling that has provisionally halted
On 18 December 2012, Kenya's Department of Refugee
Affairs announced that all refugees should leave urban areas and move
to refugee camps - the northeastern Dadaab complex for Somali
refugees, and the northwestern Kakuma camp for all others. It further
ordered an immediate stop to the registration of refugees in urban
The directive was in response to a number of grenade
attacks that have occurred in urban areas, follwoing Kenya's invasion
of Somalia in October 2011. The attacks have been widely blamed on
the Somali militant group Al-Shabab, although the group has not
The government was due to begin the
relocation of an estimated 100,000 urban refugees to camps on 21
January, but a ruling on 23 January by Justice David Majanja halted
the government's plan until 4 February, when a petition against the
directive filed by Kituo Cha Sheria [ http://www.kituochasheria.or.ke
], a local legal rights group, is scheduled to be heard.
am satisfied that, in view of the international obligations Kenya has
with respect to refugees, and the fact that under our Constitution
refugees are vulnerable persons, the petitioner has an arguable case
before the court, " the ruling stated. "A conservatory
order... is hereby issued prohibiting any State officer [or] public
officer agent of the Government from implementing the decision
evidenced by and/or contained in the Press Release dated 18th
December 2012 pending further orders of this court."
of refugee rights have welcomed the judge's decision. "This is a
very positive ruling by the court. We hope it will be widely spread
and reduce the fear the refugee community has experienced since the
December announcement," Melanie Teff, a senior advocate with the
NGO Refugees International [ http://www.refugeesinternational.org
] (RI), told IRIN. "Of course, a lot of harm has already been
done since the press release, and many urban refugees have already
Fatuma Diriye lived in Nairobi's Somali-dominated
Eastleigh neighbourhood for over five years. There, she ran a small
business and sent money and supplies to her children in Dadaab. She
recently moved back to Dadaab after the directive and police
"The police attacked my business several
times. I had to pay them some money to stay safe from the
harassment," she told IRIN, adding that she feels helpless now
that she is totally dependent on aid for her family's needs.
many refugees, the journey to from Nairobi to Dadaab is a treacherous
one; Jelle Ibrahim, a father of six in Dadaab's Hagadera camp, said
he had to go through five different police check-points along the
"We were asked to bring identification cards - when
I showed my travelling document, they put us in a separate place [for
questioning]," he said. "We were harassed until the
conductor of the bus intervened and paid some money to the
refugee complex, originally built to house 90,000 refugees, currently
hosts an estimated 500,000 Somali nationals. An influx of refugees
from Kenya's towns and cities would have a serious impact on the
ability of aid agencies and the government to provide
"Dadaab is overcrowded and under-resourced -
its population has risen by about 150,000 in the last year, while
funding has reduced by about half," Mark Yarnell, Horn of Africa
advocate for RI, told IRIN. "Insecurity remains a major issue in
Dadaab, and some refugees are actually returning to Somalia for this
Officials in Dadaab say they have not yet seen a
significant rise in refugee arrivals from urban areas, but fear they
would struggle to cope if they did.
"The number of
refugees arriving from Nairobi appears small. For the time being, it
does not have any impact on service delivery or life in the camp.
This can, of course, change if more refugees arrive," said Mans
Nyberg, senior external relations officer in Dadaab for the UN
Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
"We encourage all new arrivals
to reactivate their refugee cards so that they will get the benefits
they are entitled to as refugees," he added.
remaining in Eastleigh and other urban centres have expressed relief
that the directive will not take place immediately, but said they
continue to live in fear of police harassment.
now, we are happy from what we have heard and that the government is
not implementing their directives soon... We can't go back to camps
because even refugees residing in the camps have their problems.
Food, water, health and even space to settle is a problem due to the
number of refugee in Dadaab," said Ubah Hussein, who lives in
Eastleigh. "We would like to go back to our country, but still
there is no firm security and peace in most places."
is where our children call home... The government has put us in a
condition of fear, and we can't even move out of our houses. We are
lacking freedom of movement. We don't open our businesses," said
Abdi Mohamed, an elderly businessman in Eastleigh. "Some of my
neighbours have left for Mogadishu, and others are on course if the
government directives persist."
RI's Yarnell said he had
met with community leaders in Nairobi who had expressed fear of
police harassment and feelings of helplessness.
met community leaders from Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo,
Eritrea - people who have been in Nairobi for years, who described
feeling helpless and hopeless since the directive," he said.
"They regularly experience abuse - mainly extortion - by
security forces who detain them and ask for bribes...since the
directive, the bribes have gone up from about 500 shillings [US$5.70]
to 40,000 [$458], 60,000 [$687] and even up to 100,000
Eric Kirathe, Kenya's police spokesman, told
IRIN that extortion by police officers would not be tolerated and
advised refugees to report any such incidents. "Cases of
harassment and extortion are very unfortunate. There are channels for
reporting - from the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to police
headquarters to the Independent Police Oversight Authority...
Reporting to the media or talking about it in an ad hoc way won't get
results," he said.
Rights groups say the harassment of
refugees - and Somalis in particular - is not limited to security
forces, but also exists within wider Kenyan society. Rufus Karanja, a
programme officer with the Refugee Consortium of Kenya [
said there was growing concern about the safety of refugees in the
run-up to the country's 4 March general election.
2007, many refugees were victims of general xenophobia and
insecurity, and many were displaced. We are trying to come up with
contingency plans for them ahead of the coming election," he
told IRIN. "Much of the xenophobia is fuelled by the media, who
keep linking the attacks to Somali refugees... There is a need for
media sensitization on broad aspects of refugee protection."
number of civil society groups, under the umbrella of the Urban
Refugee Protection Network, on 22 January called on [
] the Kenyan government to end the abuse of refugees that had
escalated following the 18 December directive.
continue to pursue, through the courts, reports of extortion,
arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention of refugees by security
forces," Karanja said.
kr/mh/mod/rz [END] This report online:
Brief: Staples, not export crops, key to tackling Africa's poverty -
18 January 2013 (IRIN) - Africa could reduce its poverty levels
faster by focusing more on the production of staples rather than
export crops, according to a study [
] by the International Food Policy Research Institute
Authors of the study, conducted in 10 countries south
of the Sahara, noted, "One important finding is that producing
more staple crops, such as maize, pulses and roots, and more
livestock products tends to reduce poverty further than producing
more export crops such as coffee or cut flowers."
to the study, while more public resources would be required to
generate more agricultural growth, "such public investment in
staple sectors is probably cost effective".
argued that growth in the staple sector was more likely to benefit
the poor than growth in the agricultural export sector.
Mwani, an agricultural economist at the University of Nairobi,
concurred. "The agricultural export sector is generally
associated with large corporations, but the poor rely predominantly
on staples to survive."
Mwani added that growth in
staples had the effect of not only reducing poverty but also ensuring
"[Governments that] invest in staples have
the opportunity to increase food availability and, at the same time,
create wealth for smallholders," Mwani told IRIN.
development in sub-Saharan Africa, the study's policy conclusions
call for a focus on accelerating agricultural growth; promoting
growth in large agricultural subsectors; supporting growth across
several agricultural subsectors; and promoting growth in subsectors
with strong linkages to the overall economy and the poor.
[END] This report online:
Preparing for urban disasters - challenges and recommendations
10 January 2013 (IRIN) - Electrical engineers and hazardous waste
experts join emergency rosters. Power mapping becomes as important as
hazard mapping in emergency prevention and response. #fragilecities
shows up as often as #fragilestates in Twitter searches. Humanitarian
science fiction? No, welcome to what demographers call the new urban
millennium and the challenges, as well as changes, aid groups face
responding to emergencies in urban areas.
are using the same recipe from a rural camp situation in cities. Aid
tools and strategies have been cut and paste. This does not work,”
said the director of the France-based research, training and
evaluation NGO, Urgence, Réhabilitation et Développement (URD),
François Grünewald, who has researched urban risks and responses
for more than a decade.
is not enough to ask “Did we do it right?” by meeting basic
humanitarian aid standards known as SPHERE, but also, “Did we do
the right thing?” said Grünewald.
often than not, the answer has been no, he concluded.
analysed evaluations to highlight some lessons emerging from recent
urban disasters. What follows are challenges and recommendations
reported by groups from Manila to Mogadishu; insights from experts
consulted over the past year; and an “urban” aid toolbox
organizations have begun assembling but which they admit is far from
generally agree: Humanitarians are still ill-prepared for urban
emergencies, whether it be civil conflict in Syria or a “complex”
disaster like Japan’s 2011 earthquake followed by a tsunami,
resulting in fires, chemical spills and nuclear power accidents.
3.3 billion people live in urban areas, with one billion of them in
slums, a number that is growing by 25 million annually, according to
the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). Such growth
threatens to “become the tipping point for humanitarian crises,”
noted the journal, Forced Migration Review (FMR) [ ] in February
2010, which went to press soon after Haiti’s capital was hit by a
7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people,
injured more than 300,000 and has left some 360,000 others still
displaced almost three years later.
there were 19 million cubic metres of rubble and debris in Port-au
Prince, enough to fill a line of shipping containers stretching end
to end from London to Beirut
DRR [disaster risk reduction] and preparedness, mitigation, response
and reconstruction will come to dominate humanitarian policies and
programmes in the coming decades,” noted the review.
lessons and mea culpas from the aid response in Haiti are still
piling up: Not consulting local groups; no exit strategy; importing
foreign vehicles and goods without checking locally; coordination
between the military and humanitarians based on personality rather
than protocol; focusing on transitional, rather than permanent,
need to learn the “new rules of the game” of urban disaster
response, as the UK-based Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an
umbrella group of some 15 humanitarian aid groups, wrote in 2011 in
its compilation of lessons from Haiti.
what exactly are those rules? What sets apart acute vulnerabilities
from chronic poverty? How do you rebuild communities when there is
scarce land? What are humanitarians’ responsibilities to host
communities and the urban poor? And just when is a humanitarian’s
job done in a chronic emergency?
interventions present humanitarians with similar challenges to other
chronic emergencies (Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sahel )
not tied to a specific geographic area that often lacked clear
“triggers” of engagement.
aid workers have compiled from urban disasters - including
Philippines’ 2009 Typhoon Ketsana, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and
Japan’s 2011 twin disasters - still leave a “huge gap”, said
George Deikun, director of UN-HABITAT’s Humanitarian Affairs Office
in Geneva and one of the authors in FMR’s February 2010 special
is a lot of literature, but… it doesn’t bring together the
critical and necessary elements in the whole cycle of humanitarian
assistance to development,” he told IRIN recently. Humanitarians’
work typically has had a “shelf life [intervention period] of 90
days while governments in urban areas are looking to leverage
assistance to move on beyond saving lives to re-establishing
calculate that urban areas’ population growth - including residents
and refugees fleeing conflict - plus unenforced or non-existing
building codes can be fatal for urban residents already cut off from
city services due to lack of income, security or identification.
experts differ on how fast the countryside is emptying into urban
areas, most agree urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa are growing more
quickly than elsewhere, and that the Asia-Pacific region has the
largest number of urban residents, 1.8 billion as of 2011 (43 percent
of region’s population).
the displaced manage in cities, how their needs compare to the urban
poor and just what humanitarians’ responsibilities are to address
chronic (rather than acute) needs is still debated, according to
research on urban displacement and vulnerability by the UK-based
Overseas Development Institute’s Humanitarian Practice Group, which
noted that the best ways to support the urban displaced are “poorly
the crossroads of so many legal and illegal transactions, are also
becoming battlegrounds for a “`new’ kind of armed conflict … a
variation of warfare, often in densely populated slums and shanty
towns [featuring] pitched battles between the state and non-state
armed groups,” wrote Kevin Savage from World Vision International
and Robert Muggah, research director at Igarapé Institute, a
Brazilian think tank focusing on violence prevention and reduction.
At a meeting focused on
“adapting humanitarian efforts to an urban world” convened last
January by the Active Learning Network for Accountability and
Performance (ALNAP), [ ] a UK-headquartered network of humanitarian
experts and organizations, participants concluded that even with
their experience from urban disasters, “collective understanding is
patchy, informal and still largely undocumented. It is still too
early to say how best to respond to the challenge of urban disasters:
the rules have yet to be written.”
Work with and through municipalities wherever possible
Find and use neighbourhood networks and capacities, such as
home-owner associations, while recognizing that community and
neighbourhood is not the same
Work with the local private sector; do not compete unfairly
Focus on long-term homes, rather than short-term shelter
Keep people in or close to their neighbourhoods, if safe
Assume skills and resources can be found locally
Use cash to stimulate markets
Prepare now for the next big urban disaster
Health providers: use a common format for medical records
Avoid mass burials/cremations
Build violence-prevention into agency activities
Use community radio
Employ urban-oriented minimum standards
Track populations - and health epidemics - through mobile phones.
Consider alternatives such as mobile medical clinics to avoid
large-scale relief distributions, which can invite violence
Be aware that agency logos on relief items can, in urban markets with
consumers more attuned to image and branding, stigmatize recipients
Crowdsourcing - information gathered from the public through SMS text
messages or the Internet - can be a valuable source of information to
assess locations and needs, though it is still problematic in terms
of accuracy and ease-of-use
Conduct “one-hit” assessments instead of subjecting a community
to multiple visits
. Build resilience during recovery operations
Consider renters and squatters in resettlement plans
Avoid relocation camps on a city’s periphery as they can increase
displacement by drawing surrounding populations to camp services.
Rather, construct camps as close to neighbourhoods of origin as
Establish strict admission criteria for emergency care: it may be the
only free health care available and could quickly become overwhelmed
Focus on psychosocial support, often overlooked in an emergency
Establish strict admission criteria for emergency care: it may be the
only free health care available and could quickly become overwhelmed
Focus on psychosocial support, often overlooked in an emergency
DEC 2011, UNISDR 2012, ALNAP November 2012, UN-HABITAT 2011, December
2012 interview with George Deikun, UN-HABITAT/Chair of IASC reference
group on meeting humanitarian challenges
2009 the Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC) - an umbrella group
of humanitarian groups that sets policy for the aid community -
formed a reference group on “meeting humanitarian challenges in
urban areas”, setting a two-year action plan in 2010.
group pledged to prepare the industry better to respond to crises in
urban areas, by, among other things, launching a database of
urban-specific aid tools that aimed to be the clearinghouse for all
information on aid in urban emergencies (done); strengthening
technical surge capacity for urban emergency response (partially
done); developing or adapting humanitarian tools for urban areas
(partially done); promoting protection of vulnerable urban
populations (done). Developing guidance on supporting food security
in post-crisis areas and building preparedness and community
resilience into humanitarian policymaking are still incomplete as of
early January 2013.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),
UN-HABITAT, the Kenyan government and NGOs are trying to pilot a
“Multi-Hazard Response Plan” created in Kenya that brought
together local and national governments and almost 100 groups working
in urban areas to prepare for future urban emergencies. Kenya’s
election violence in December 2007 killed an estimated 1,200 persons
and displaced more than 660,000, many of whom sought refuge in cities
and have yet to return home.
even bringing together urban actors can be complicated, if not
impossible, noted URD.
to a report the group published in December 2011, new “players”
in urban settings include: gangs controlling the population, churches
exploiting their distress, social networks linked to the diaspora,
community-based organizations trying to attract aid for their
constituency, and private companies looking for clients in the aid
group is finalizing a “concept note” to call attention to the
impact on urban areas of Syria’s ongoing fighting, which the UN
estimates has killed 60,000 people since protests turned violent in
2010. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, in 2012 some
8,200 people died in areas surrounding the country’s capital,
the housing front, Shelter Project, led by the Norwegian Refugee
Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the
Geneva-based NGO Shelter Centre, working with other humanitarian
groups and agencies, is developing guidelines for moving people out
of emergency shelters into permanent housing. A draft is expected by
World Food Programme (WFP) is reviewing food-targeting practices and
with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is developing global
guidelines to strengthen urban food security and nutrition in
all the recommendations proffered following recent urban disasters
(see sidebar), five key challenges remain:
access. “International agencies are king in rural areas versus
cities where they play a supporting role,” said one aid worker. The
challenge of working with leaders from neighbourhoods and communities
(which researchers note are not necessarily the same), as well as
civil society staff and officials from multiple levels of government
- all necessary partners - becomes more complicated when the
government is a combatant in conflict, as in Syria.
chaos. According to URD, “multi-sector geographical coordination”
makes more sense in urban areas - where all aid is delivered by a
single level of authority - rather than the current “cluster”
model of crisis coordination in place since mid-2006, which divides
aid by issues, such as food, shelter or education.
Haiti, leadership posts of many sectors were vacant. Once in place,
the system was “too heavily bureaucratic” and not able to carry
out quick needs assessments; the health sector alone had more than
400 groups participating at one point. Theme-specific groupings were
unable to meet multi-sector challenges. Cluster meetings were
primarily conducted in English to accommodate the large number of
Anglophone emergency responders, which was often too fast-past paced
for local Francophone or Creole-speaking groups.
vulnerable communities. In cities the most vulnerable tend to be
highly mobile, untraceable and scattered. Refugees and internally
displaced persons may seek out sprawling urban areas for anonymity
due to fears of harassment, detention or eviction, making it
difficult to track, profile, register or document them. In turn, the
task of measuring the impact of satisfying humanitarian versus
economic needs is hard because conventional needs assessments do not
distinguish acute needs (such as war-inflicted health trauma) from
chronic ones (cholera borne of slum living and urban poverty).
and targeting assistance in cities is a “huge challenge” said
UN-HABITAT’s Deikun. “The problem with emergency response is that
it has to be done quickly and be done by yesterday. It relies on
existing data that is not always correct, and may be politically
distorted. Mapping vulnerable urban populations in high-risk
environments before the emergency strikes is rarely done.”
urban experts: Emergencies in urban areas require expertise often in
short supply: adapting water and sanitation projects to complex,
dense and underserviced urban environments; conducting urban
vulnerability and community resilience analyses and plans; developing
land use management plans and tenure guidelines; removing debris;
reconstruction of urban housing; resettlement of affected populations
from emergency shelter and trauma surgery - to name a few.
Haiti’s earthquake, the lack of trauma specialists and surgeons led
to inappropriate treatment, excessive unnecessary amputations and
health complications, according to multiple evaluations. The IASC
reference group on humanitarian challenges in urban areas has created
and is disseminating generic terms of reference for a number of these
specialists capable of responding to urban disasters.
strategy. Humanitarians are the “last ones” to develop an exit
strategy, said URD’s Grünewald. “The humanitarian is focused on
saving lives. We only think of it at the end.” The problem is when
there is no strong governance to take over and “the principal
activities of many agencies seem to be stuck in an extended relief
mode,” DEC noted. [ ] Bring along an urban adviser or development
specialist as early as the damage assessment, Grünewald counselled,
to decide when to exit.
concluded humanitarians can only do so much.
NGOs want to become engaged in slums. But all the money from all the
donors would only be a drop in the bucket - and there would still not
be an exit strategy… The Band-Aid system is messy and can only be a
POLICY: Communication technologies transform relief and
18 December 2012 (IRIN) - Since Africa's first mobile phone network
went live in 1994, mobile phone penetration has shot up to 65
percent; access to the internet is also increasing rapidly. Today,
information and communications technology (ICT) plays a central role
in promoting development and humanitarian assistance.
technology is reshaping the world we live in", said Gabriella
Waiijman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) Eastern Africa, at a recent event on technology, media
and humanitarian aid held jointly by OCHA and the NGO Adesco, in
"We need to engage with increasing availability
of information communications technology to ensure people have access
to the information they need in order to make the right decisions for
themselves, and make sure the right communications channels are in
place so they can communicate with us," she said.
the humanitarian and development sector is said to be entering a new
era of maturity, with people and agencies sharing resources,
embracing transparency, and improving effectiveness.
IRIN explores novel uses of ICT to promote development and deliver
SMS: Stephen Wang'ombe, a potato farmer near Nyeri,
Kenya, has seen brokers intimidate growers into accepting pitifully
low prices for their produce. But Wang'ombe uses M-Farm [
http://mfarm.co.ke ], a real-time
price information service on his mobile phone, to determine how to
price his goods. When brokers demanded he take 1,500 shillings
(US$17.50) for a 120kg bag of produce, he refused; he had used M-Farm
to learn that sellers in Nairobi were getting 2,000 to 2,300
shillings ($23 to $27) for the same amount. M-Farm also helps growers
cut out the middlemen by connecting them directly to retailers, and
it promotes cost-saving by encouraging them to pool their needs and
purchase in bulk. "Eighty percent of the food in Africa is
produced by small-scale farmers", said Jimmy Wambua, a food
security expert at M-Farm. "They're selling produce at higher
prices and closing the deals."
Crowd-sourcing: Ushahidi [
http://ushahidi.com/ ] is an
online crisis-mapping tool that collects data from the internet and
mobile phones during crises. The Danish Refugee Council is using it
to receive feedback about their humanitarian interventions. In
January, a beneficiary of the organization's cash transfer programme
in Mogadishu, Somalia, used the feedback site to lodge a complaint
via SMS: "My cash collection ID card was taken by force by one
of your staff in the Mogadishu office when I went to collect monthly
cash payments. I want to know why he took my card and would like your
help in getting it back. The staff who took my card accused me of
having a duplicate card, which is untrue." The programme gave
the beneficiary the confidence to voice his complaint, said Ivanoe
Fugali, a programme coordinator. An investigation identified a
problem in the system, which the organization then publicized on
Twitter and Facebook. "We're getting the information while we're
still working so we can make adjustments during the process,"
Twitter: Philip Ogola, an ICT officer at the
Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), has increased his organization's
Twitter [ https://twitter.com/KenyaRedCross
] following 26-fold in the last year. His real-time updates now reach
an audience of between 50 and 80 million every month. "It's an
emergency management tool," he said. He informs his audience
about anything that could put civilians at risk, from traffic
problems to fires, demonstrations and explosions. "We can issue
alerts, so it's easy [for people] to know the needs on the ground."
When public transport drivers went on strike in Nairobi at the end of
November, KRCS supported a Twitter campaign using the hashtag
#CarPoolKE to facilitate ride sharing, and worked with Ushahidi to
create a crowd-map of people in Nairobi willing to give rides, and
those in need of them.
Satellite imagery: Mapping technology
allowed the ICRC to rehabilitate and extend a water system in
Walikale, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from thousands of
miles away. ICRC bought a satellite image and had a Humanitarian
OpenStreetMap volunteer team [ hot.openstreetmap.org ] create an
urban map from it. Staff from the local water board then used the map
to identify water systems - saving significant time and money. "GIS
[geographic information systems] can provide good support, even for
small projects like that," said Jean Vergain of the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kenya, which also
uses Google Earth's satellite images and maps.
internet: In September, iHub - a hub for the ICT community in Nairobi
- began to monitor the internet for hate speech ahead of Kenya's
March 2013 general election; hate speech is believed to have
contributed to the violence that erupted after the country's 2007
polls. iHub members are looking not just at inflammatory comments
from within Kenya, but at the internet speech of the diaspora as
well. "You don't even have to be there for negative
communication to be going on," said Kagonya Awori of iHub
Research. She cited an 82.7 percent increase in internet users in
Kenya between 2011 and 2012, and said half of all users are on
Facebook. While greater internet connectivity has clear benefits, it
also poses potential dangers, and iHub is one of few organizations
keeping a watchful eye over the trend. Incidents of hate speech are
reported to Uchaguzi, a crisis map powered by Ushahidi, which, in
turn, reports them to the electoral authorities or relevant security
Radio: Radio is still the most ubiquitous form of
ICT and a favourite method of communication in a crisis. "It can
promote hope, connections and control of a situation," said
Jacqueline Dalton, a senior producer at BBC Media Action
[http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaaction/ ], the BBC's international
development charity. In Somalia, BBC Media Action partnered with the
BBC Somali Service to develop radio literacy programmes and hold
discussions about development and governance issues such as the
country's new constitution. "In a country with a rich oral
culture, where the Latin alphabet for Somali was adopted only as
recently as 1973, radio has, for generations, been the most important
medium in the country," a 2011 BBC Media Action report found.
The same remains true in many rural areas in sub-Saharan
jh/rz [END] This report online:
Landmine casualty rate dropping
29 November 2012 (IRIN) - Amid the odd relapse, progress towards a
world free of antipersonnel mines is inching forward. A decade ago,
the weapon was responsible for at least 32 casualties daily; by 2011,
the casualty rate had dropped to about 12 per day, the Landmine and
Cluster Munitions Monitor (LCMM) said in its 2012 report, published
on the 29 November. [
The report was launched ahead of the 12th Meeting of State
Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT), which will take place on 3
December in Geneva.
The report announced that mines and
explosive remnants of war had caused 4,286 casualties worldwide in
2011, the year under review. In 2011, three states - Israel, Libya
and Myanmar, none of them party to the MBT - used antipersonnel
mines. The use of the weapon by armed groups and militias was seen in
six countries in 2011 - Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan,
Thailand and Yemen - an increase over the previous year, in which the
landmines use by armed groups was recorded in only four countries.
Thus far in 2012, the only state known to use antipersonnel
mines has been Syria, another non-MBT signatory.
Hiznay, a senior researcher in the arms division at Human Rights
Watch, told IRIN, "It is of course a concern that non-state
armed groups (NSAG) continue to use the weapon as well as
victim-activated improvised explosive devices, which function in the
"This last point is subtle, but important,
wherein we are seeing many, many fewer factory-produced mines in
circulation and more and more improvised or craft mines in use,"
The LCMM said in a statement, "Active
production of antipersonnel mines may be ongoing in as few as four
countries: India, Myanmar, Pakistan and South Korea," although
there has been no recorded export of these weapons in recent years.
Eight countries - China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia,
Singapore, the US and Vietnam - reserve the right to produce
Hiznay said the "continued naming
and shaming is the primary vehicle where the stigma can be applied.
India, Pakistan and South Korea each have some form of export
moratorium on antipersonnel mines, so at least the proliferation
aspect of their continued production is contained. It would be good
to get Myanmar to start taking steps in this direction."
Armed groups are excluded from the MBT. But Swiss-based NGO
Geneva Call, which engages armed groups to abide by humanitarian law
during conflicts, works to get non-state actors to sign a "Deeds
of Commitment", such as abandoning the use of antipersonnel
Since 2000, Geneva Call has reached agreements with 42
armed groups banning antipersonnel mine use. Katherine Kramer, Geneva
Call's programme director for landmines and other explosive devices,
told IRIN that no armed-groups signatories to the Deed of Commitment
were known to have reverted back to using the weapons. [
Kramer said that armed groups see antipersonnel mines as
cheap and effective weapons, which they believed to compliment the
effectiveness of their smaller forces. The argument can be difficult
to counter, so instead the NGO uses humanitarian reasons to convince
armed groups to sign the Deed of Commitment. This tends to be more
effective on armed groups working closer with affected populations
There is an element of volatility to
working with armed groups. Some may splinter while others might
become governments, in which case they become eligible to sign the
"There are currently 24 [Deed of Commitment armed
group signatories] still active - [in] Burma/Myanmar, India, Iran,
the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, Western Sahara - although
seven of the signatories from Somalia are in the process of
integrating into the Federal State of Somalia," she said. [
contamination and clearance
LCMM said, "Some 59 states and six other areas were confirmed to
be affected by landmines. A further 13 states have either suspected
or residual mine contamination."
It noted that "steady
decreases in annual casualty rates continued in some of the most
mine-affected countries, such as Afghanistan and Cambodia, but these
were offset by increases in countries with new or intensified
conflicts, such as Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria."
About 190sqkm of mined areas was cleared last year, and more
than 325,000 antipersonnel mines and nearly 30,000 anti-vehicle mines
were destroyed. "The largest total clearance of mined areas was
achieved by programs in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Croatia and Sri Lanka,
which together accounted for more than 80 percent of recorded
clearance," the LCMM statement said.
233sqkm of former battle area was reportedly cleared in 2011,
destroying in the process more than 830,000 items of unexploded or
abandoned ordnance, as well as 55sqkm of cluster
munition-contaminated areas, with the destruction of more than 52,000
unexploded submunitions," the statement said.
action budget in 2011 was about US$662 million, the largest annual
total to date. Hiznay said, "Much of the increase in support is
coming from mine-affected states themselves - countries dedicating
national resources to deal with their problem - which now accounts
for about 30 percent of global funding. Croatia is good example of
there were setbacks for victim assistance, the LCMM said. "Direct
international support for victim assistance programmes through
international mine action funding declined by $13.6 million, an
almost 30 percent decrease from 2010."
But the "dirty
thirty", the moniker used for 36 states resisting membership of
the mine ban club - including three permanent members of the UN
Security Council; China, Russia and US - is gradually being
eroded. The Marshall Islands and Poland have recently signed, but
have yet to ratify, the treaty.
But the power of global
consensus has had an influence on those left out in the cold. States
"outside the ban treaty have taken intermediate steps that are
in line with the norm set by the treaty, be it through policy
reviews, like the US, extension of export moratoria, like Israel,
destruction of stockpiles, like Vietnam and Russia, and the apparent
cessation of use by Myanmar," Hiznay said.
long term hold-outs have joined, namely Finland, and hopefully Poland
will, too, by the end of this year. It is clear that the stigma
against the use [of mines] is as strong as ever," he said.
go/rz [END] This report online:
Imports, corruption drive up food prices
26 November 2012 (IRIN) - The Republic of Congo, which imports over
US$240 million worth of food a year, has seen sharply rising staple
food and fuel prices since the beginning of 2012, according to the UN
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a local consumer rights
A 25-litre tin of vegetable oil which sold in January
2012 for the equivalent of $32, is now going for $50, while less than
5kg of cassava has gone up from $1 to $2.6, according to Dieudonné
Moussala, chairman of the Consumer Rights Association.
said the price of a litre of kerosene had risen from 70 US cents to
$2.6 on the black market in the same period.
"I now buy a
kilo of meat from the slaughterhouse for 3,500 CFA francs [$7],
whereas it used to cost less than 2,000 [$4]," Carine Moutombo,
32, a mother of three, told IRIN.
"It is difficult to get
by and eat one's fill. The cooking money is no longer enough,"
"All the prices of imported frozen
products have increased because of corruption in the supply chain
[from entry at the port of Pointe-Noire to small retailers],"
"There are too many unofficial taxes and
too many checkpoints in the supply chain. Retailers and other
importers are corrupt at all levels. In the end, they pass on any
losses to poor consumers - hence the surge in commodity prices,"
"While we have not found the solution to
all the problems [related to imports]. We still have a long way to
go. That is why our country's struggle against food insecurity is key
in terms of public policy," said Minister of Agriculture and
Livestock Rigobert Maboundou in April. According to him the Congo is
a "food-deficit country".
To limit imports and
ensure food security, Congo launched in 2010 a US$26 million project
] to build "new agricultural villages". With this project,
"we have halved the import bill for eggs. We produced 6.6
million eggs in 2011, while imports are estimated at 13 million eggs
per year," said Maboundou.
In 2011, Congo also leased
180,000 hectares of arable land to a group of South African farmers
who have managed to plant 1,200 hectares of maize.
Congo imports almost half of the essential commodities it needs. You
need to know this to understand current soaring prices. Imported
products contain imported inflation," André Kamba, chief of
staff at the Ministry of Trade and Supply, told IRIN.
[END] This report online:
Trading your way out of poverty
23 November 2012 (IRIN) - As M23 rebel fighters marched into Goma, in
eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [
], a small group of people in the UK were watching anxiously to see
what would happen next. They had spent the past three years working
with coffee growers south of the city to get their goods on the
shelves of Sainsbury's, one of Britain's biggest supermarkets, as
part of a wider initiative to help Africa trade its way out of
The DRC coffee project was one of the first to get
funding from the UK government's Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund
], which was set up by the Department for International Development
(DFID) to encourage the food industry to buy more from Africa.
British companies were comfortable buying traditional crops from
traditional sources - coffee from Kenya, for instance, or cocoa from
Ghana - DFID believed further trade with Africa was inhibited by a
reluctance to explore products from untraditional sources.
Thomas of Nathan Associates, which manages the Fund on behalf of
DFID, explained: "We don't fund the business. We co-fund a
project within a business to try something out, to get them over the
risk hurdle which is preventing them doing it."
was a familiar African crop, but DRC was not a familiar coffee
source. Farmers in South Kivu had been growing extremely high quality
coffee, but because there was no easy access to markets, they had to
smuggle it across the lake to Rwanda. There, it was sold for far less
than it was worth.
Sainsbury's and its supplier, Twin Trading,
got a FRICH grant to work with a growers' cooperative in Kivu to
improve the quality and work out the logistics of exporting to the UK
The scheme was a success, says Thomas. "The important
thing was that they proved that extremely high quality coffee could
make it out from this area. Now in the latest, fourth round of
funding, the idea is to scale-up a bit, moving to the next valley
down and another cooperative and put in more equipment. But all the
coffee goes out through Goma, so obviously they won't be shipping
just at this minute."
the recipient of another first-round grant, a trading company called
Tropical Wholefoods, the risk was not political but about trying new
crops and methods [
One of the company's founders, Kate Sebag, told IRIN, "The
grant was to help our farmers diversify from pineapples and bananas
into berry crops - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cape
gooseberries. Strawberries and cape gooseberries have been the most
"Raspberries were always seen as the most
risky... Although they grew into large bushes, we got very little
fruit. I think our farmers felt that if a crop was not going to
survive the dry season without watering, it was better to grow
something else. We have learned a lot. It's what they call 'action
research' - you don't know until you try it."
there were other challenges, too. "In a country where there is
no tradition of eating dried fruit, it can be a challenge to get
people to dry to the right consistency; there's a tendency to
over-dry and obliterate the fruit just to make sure there's
absolutely no chance of its going mouldy.
"But the grant
from FRICH allowed us to take a risk, and to bring in strawberry and
raspberry plants and subsidize the sale of drying equipment to the
farmers. What I think this fund is good at is enabling innovation,
and it is willing to work with private companies. It recognizes that
private companies with an ethical orientation have a self-interest in
getting the product to market but also a commitment to service
provision for the farmers."
While first-round proposals
concentrated largely on familiar commodities, recent projects have
been more novel. For example the Eden Project and PhytoTrade Africa
are exploring a project to import and popularize baobab powder and to
develop a range of baobab products for the British market [
of a breakthrough has been achieved with the first grant to develop a
market for African meat in Europe, says Thomas. However, the
programme in question will see Namibian beef going on sale in Denmark
rather than the UK.
"Right from the start there was some
element of consciousness-raising," he told IRIN. "Not all
products were going to have Africa written all over them, but we were
never going to hide the African-ness of the products. But there are
some products from Africa it is hard to sell in the UK - like meat,
"I used to live in Namibia, so I know that
Namibian beef is absolutely fantastic, and Namibia is one of only two
countries in Southern Africa that are allowed to export meat to
Europe. But at the moment, virtually all the meat goes into food
processing; it's not sold as a prime cut, and a lot of that is about
perception. But the Danish co-op will be selling steaks branded as
'Savannah', an African brand with an acacia tree on the pack."
round of funding will be the last for the time being. It uses up the
rest of the £7.4 million (nearly US$12 million) allocated to the
Fund, which was the brainchild of DFID minister Andrew Mitchell, who
left the department in September.
DFID now has a new minister,
Justine Greening, and no decision has yet been made about the Fund's
future. "We are going to keep an eye on it, and draw any lessons
we can to see where we go from here, but the new minister has already
shown a very definite focus on helping countries to trade their way
out of poverty," a DFID spokesperson said.
This report online:
Accountability - holding armed groups to their word
12 November 2012 (IRIN) - A new database by the Swiss-based NGO
Geneva Call collating current and past armed groups' attitudes
towards international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law
(HRL), could be used to hold them accountable.
resource is a unique collection of humanitarian commitments made by
armed non-State actors (ANSAs). These commitments have been made in
different forms: unilateral declarations or statements, internal
rules and regulations, and agreements with governments,
inter-governmental and humanitarian organizations," says the
Maud Bonnet, Geneva Call's project coordinator, told
IRIN the database reveals armed groups "policies, commitments
and views on international humanitarian law and international human
rights law", as well as affording these groups an opportunity to
"share their positioning in regards to humanitarian norms".
Entitled Their Words, Directory of Armed Non-State Actor
Humanitarian Commitments, [ http://theirwords.org/pages/home
] the database is also aimed at national states, UN agencies, NGOs,
academics, the media and as "a resource for humanitarian actors
to hold ANSAs accountable," she said.
So far it contains
more than 400 documents from armed groups stretching from Senegal's
Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC) through to
Papua New Guinea' s Bougainville Revolutionary Army and numerous
updated versions of the Mujahedin's Layeha - the Taliban's code of
Among other things, it lists armed groups'
commitments in terms of the protection of civilians and children, the
use of land mines and the Geneva Convention.
mandate is to engage ANSAs and promote "compliance with the
norms of IHL and HRL". The organization focuses on ANSAs that
operate outside effective state control. The International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also worked extensively with armed groups
to instil respect for IHL and HRL.
Often consigned to the
margins, the window of opportunity for armed groups to abide by the
laws of war is curtailed by the state-bias of IHL and HRL.
stereotyping of conflicts between two conventional armies facing off
on a battlefield has in its own way brushed armed groups to the
sidelines, but the existence of such formations - from Spartacus's
slave revolt against Rome, to the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, and
armed groups involvement in at least 48 non-international armed
conflicts in 2011 - underscores their role in conflict throughout
on the type of documents - from communiqué, letter, or peace
agreement with governments, these documents can have [a] different
legal standing. ANSAs are usually not recognized as subjects of
international law. These documents could be used to hold the groups
accountable in case of violation of IHL," said Bonnet.
] armed groups as "organizations that are party to an armed
conflict, but do not answer to, and are not commanded by, one or more
states. This broad definition belies the wide diversity of such
groups and the complexity of contemporary warfare."
groups play a central role with respect to the humanitarian concerns
and legal issues involved in conflicts today. A group may fight
against the government of its own country, other rival groups, a
foreign state, or several states joined in a coalition. For the
affected countries, these armed conflicts stand in the way of
stability, prosperity, and development. For their populations, they
can spell uncertainty about the future, ruin, exile, suffering, or
death," ICRC said.
go/cb [END] This report online:
Is US action against use of child soldiers on the backburner?
5 November 2012 (IRIN) - The Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA) [
] was a prime example of US bipartisan human rights legislation:
sponsored by Democratic and Republican senators and signed into law
in 2008 by Republican President George Bush, the law entered into
force under the Democratic presidency of Barack Obama. But even armed
with this political consensus, the US consistently shies away from
using the full spectrum of the law, citing national security
Richard Clarke, director of London-based NGO Child
Soldiers International [ http://www.child-soldiers.org
], told IRIN the law, which calls for the withholding of military
assistance and arms exports from governments that continue to use
child soldiers, can provide "powerful leverage".
"However, for three consecutive years since the CSPA
entered into force, the president issued waivers based on US national
interests. With these repeated waivers, the potential impact of the
CSPA is seriously reduced, particularly if the waivers are perceived
to be the rule rather than the exception," he said.
September 2012 presidential memorandum
] said, "It is in the national interest of the United States to
waive the application of the [CSPA's] prohibition . with respect to
Libya, South Sudan and Yemen; and further determine that it is in the
national interest of the United States to waive in part the
application of the prohibition. with respect to the Democratic
Republic of the Congo [DRC], to allow for continued provision of
International Military Education and Training funds and nonlethal
Excess Defence Articles, and the issuance of licenses for direct
commercial sales of US-origin defence articles."
2010, Chad, DRC, and Yemen were also excluded from enforcement of the
act. In 2011, these countries [
] again escaped any action, as did South Sudan.
Amnesty International's US government relations managing director,
said in an October 2012 briefing, Ending the Use of Child Soldiers:
One Step Forward
], "The administration's argument that South Sudan is not
technically subject to the CSPA because they were not a country until
after the law went into effect might meet a legal standard of
credibility, but it does not do much for the children of South Sudan
nor does seem [to] portray US leadership on this critical issue in a
very positive light."
The government is aware of these
countries' continued use of child soldiers. The US State Department
said in its 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report [
] that the DRC's national army (FARDC) continues to forcibly recruit
children and "some army commanders actively blocked - with
complete impunity - efforts to monitor and remove children from their
units, an obstruction that has persisted for nearly three years."
According to the act, governments that recruit or use child
soldiers in armed forces or government-supported militias are only
eligible for assistance to address the issue of child soldiers
through the professionalization of their military.
Eaves, World Vision's US-based senior policy advisor for child
protection, told IRIN the US had improved its engagement with
countries using child soldiers but was "not holding countries
accountable to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act."
"when the United States government gives a waiver to a country
identified in the State Department's TIP report as a country using
children in their national military, this weakens the authority of
the law by not holding the country accountable for removing children
from their armed forces," Eaves said.
US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) children's rights advocacy
director, told IRIN the waivers showed the country was prioritizing
other issues, "including military alliances and
But "on the positive
side. the [Obama] administration has certainly stepped up its
diplomatic engagement with countries using child soldiers by
repeatedly raising the issue at senior levels," she said. Such
diplomatic engagement pushed Chad and South Sudan to sign action
plans with the UN to end their use of child soldiers, she said.
use of child soldiers
CSPA defines child soldiers not only as combatants but also as those
"serving in any capacity, including in a support role such as a
cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard or sex slave".
2000, the participation of child soldiers has been reported in most
armed conflicts and in almost every region of the world. Although
there are no exact figures, and numbers continually change, tens of
thousands of children under the age of 18 continue to serve in
government forces or armed opposition groups. Some of those involved
in armed conflict are under 10 years old," Child Soldiers
"Child soldiers have been used in
armed conflicts by 20 states since 2010, and. are at risk of military
use in many more," a recent report by the NGO [
The benefits of using child soldiers are myriad:
Apart from the often cited "virtue" of being easy to
indoctrinate, they are able to operate and maintain light modern
weapons and need less food than adults.
advantage has to do with children's relative lack of visibility when
reconnoitring an enemy position. In Uganda, for example, teenage
soldiers [in Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army] played a
significant role in the capture of Kampala [in 1986]. Dressed in
tattered clothes, they walked freely around the enemy positions in
the capital to gather information," said a 2011 report by the
International Review of the Red Cross [
of domestic legislation
gamut of international human rights and humanitarian laws and
international protocols bans the use of child soldiers; the
recruitment of children under 15 years old as combatants constitutes
a war crime. But globally, domestic legislation specifically aimed at
discouraging the use of child soldiers is thin.
Soldiers International's knowledge, only Switzerland and Belgium,
along with the US, have "have enacted laws to condition arms
exports specifically on a recipient country's record on recruitment
and use of children," said Clarke.
The Swiss 1998
Ordinance on War Material cites as a condition for export "the
situation in the country of destination, in particular with regard to
respect for human rights and the non-use of child soldiers." But
the Child Soldiers International report said it was "not known
whether weapons transfers have been denied on the basis of these
provisions and, if so, to which countries".
restricts weapons export to countries known to use child soldiers,
but this law also has its pitfalls. "By excluding armed groups
that are distinct from the state, it would not cover state-allied
armed groups," the Child Soldiers International report said. "In
the absence of publicly available information on how many licenses
have been refused and to where, the practical effect of the Belgian
law cannot be ascertained."
Clarke said other states -
Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the UK - claim
inclusive legislation prevents arms exports to countries using child
soldiers. "Other governments, including Chile, Israel, Italy,
Republic of Korea, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden and
Tanzania, claim that national laws or policies prohibit the transfer
of arms to governments responsible for human rights violations or
more broadly to situations of armed conflict."
influence of partial waivers
the US has pulled its punches with regard to the CSPA, even the law's
partial imposition has proved successful, leaving human rights
activists speculating about the effects its full use might have.
But even partial waivers could be used to greater effect, HRW
says. The partial waiver for the DRC limited US support for military
training, with a reported US$2.7 million withheld last year.
been particularly disappointed that the US has not used partial
waivers more extensively," HRW's Becker said. "The US
withheld foreign military financing to [DR] Congo for two years in a
row, and announced in September  that it would not provide
military training for a second battalion until the [DR] Congo signed
a child soldiers action plan with the UN. Just days after this year's
announcement, the Congo signed the action plan, after dragging its
feet for seven years."
The US, at a cost of about $15
million, has trained a battalion of the FARDC; the training leans
heavily on instilling a culture of human rights among the unit. The
battalion was previously stationed in Dungu in operations against the
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [
] and has since been redeployed to North Kivu's capital Goma. It is
expected the about 750-strong unit will be used in operations against
the armed group M23 [
]. Both armed groups extensively rely on child soldiers.
withhold a portion of military aid until governments end their use of
child soldiers will not jeopardize the US's alliances with these
countries, but it will send a strong message that ending the use of
child soldiers is a priority for the US," Becker said.
[END] This report online:
Promoting sustainable inorganic fertilizer use
18 October 2012 (IRIN) - There is growing need to promote inorganic
fertilizer use among smallholders to improve food production and food
security, especially among the world's poorest populations, but its
use must be sustainable, experts say.
"Fertilizers are an
important component in ensuring that the world can produce enough
food to feed its population, but there is need for farmers to be
sensitized that it has negative effects, too, like posing a threat to
life in lakes and coastal areas," Joseph Alcamo, chief scientist
at the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), told
Organic fertilizers come from plant or animal matter,
while inorganic fertilizers are mineral-based or synthesized.
Inorganic fertilizers can leave behind harmful deposits, increase
soil acidity or fail to replenish soil nutrients. Blending organic
and inorganic fertilizers, experts say, is the most sustainable
approach to increasing food productivity while saving the soils crops
are grown on.
"While the use of inorganic fertilizers
among Africa's smallholders is till-minimal, promoting a blend with
organic fertilizers is more sustainable in conserving the soil and
the environment," Jeremiah Mowo, a scientist at the
International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, told IRIN.
the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for an African Green Revolution,
African governments pledged to increase the level of fertilizer use
from an average of 8kg per hectare, to an average of at least 50kg
per hectare by 2015.
But a report by UNEP, the International
Fund for Agriculture Development, the World Bank and the World Food
Programme has warned against fertilizer overloading [
] and called for sustainable use of fertilizer, among other measures,
to avoid famines.
Excess fertilizer use has been known to lead
to eutrophication in bodies of water - the excessive growth of algae
that deprives other species of enough oxygen - which can create dead
"Over-use of fertilizers in farms, and especially
those near water sources, can lead to negative effects on fish and
aquatic life, which other segments of the population rely on for
their livelihoods," Alcamo added.
African countries are
increasingly issuing subsidies to smallholders to buy farm inputs,
which experts say will see an increased use of inorganic
"With subsidies, farmers in Africa are
increasingly using fertilizers to improve crop production, but the
question has always been the sustainability over time, both in terms
of saving the environment and ensuring soil fertility," Bramwel
Gumbe, a soil scientist at the Maseno University in Kenya, told
This report online:
Uneven progress in global TB fight
17 October 2012 (PLUSNEWS) - - The UN Millennium Development Goal
] of halting and reversing the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic by 2015 has
been achieved, and the world is on track to meet the target
of reducing global TB prevalence by 50 percent by 2015. But the
progress has been irregular, with Africa and Europe lagging behind
the rest of the world, according to the new Global Tuberculosis
report [http://who.int/tb/en/ ]
by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
"In the space
of 17 years, 51 million people have been successfully treated and
cared for... Without that treatment, 20 million people would have
died," Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Stop TB Department,
said in a statement.
report highlights successes in rolling-out a rapid TB diagnostic test
, as well as the successful implementation of collaborative HIV
and TB activities. Globally, 40 percent of TB patients had a
documented HIV test result, and 79 percent of HIV-positive people
received co-trimoxazole, an antibiotic preventive therapy, in 2011.
Additionally, progress continues
to be seen in the development of
new medical interventions
the report also took note of several issues threatening progress in
the fight against TB: In 2011, there were an estimated 8.7 million
new TB cases and 1.4 million deaths, 430,000 of which were among
people co-infected with HIV. In addition, a US$1.4 billion funding
gap for research and a shortfall of $3 billion per year for TB
control and care between 2013 and 2015 "could have severe
consequences for TB control".
"The momentum to break
this disease is in real danger. We are now at a crossroads between TB
elimination within our lifetime and millions more TB deaths,"
Africa and Asia continue to bear the highest
burden of the diseases, with India and China accounting for nearly 40
percent of the world's TB cases. Close to 80 percent of TB cases
among people living with HIV are in Africa. Although the report found
reduced rates of infection and deaths overall, Africa and Europe are
not on track to halve 1990 levels of mortality by 2015.
particular concern is the slow progress of the response to multi-drug
resistant (MDR)-TB. The report estimates that 3.7 percent of new
cases and 20 percent of previously treated cases were estimated to
Uganda - which is on WHO's list of high-burden countries that,
together, are responsible for more than 80 percent of the global
disease burden - the Ministry of Health says it urgently needs money
if it is to succeed in reversing the spread of TB.
funds are not enough. The costs for drugs, trainings, food for
patients, treatment follow-up, delivery of drugs to the patients,
monitoring the patients and supervision are exorbitant," said
Samuel Kasozi, MDR-TB coordinator in the Ministry of Health. "The
management of MDR-TB and TB cases requires enough finances. We are
supposed to follow and monitor these patients. But we have serious
The country recently started its
first treatment programme
] for MDR-TB, and has so far enrolled 30 people. While it has
purchased drugs for 300 patients, infrastructural and financial
issues have so far prevented more patients from starting the
treatment. The ministry requires $625,500 for constructing an
isolation ward at each hospital, $4,000 per patient for two years of
treatment, $400 per patient for laboratory reagents, $500 per month
for each patient's food and $7,000 per site for training health
"Most health facilities have inadequate human
resources. Some of them don't have both the number and quality of
personnel to handle the patients. MDR [TB] treatment requires
skilled and qualified doctors, medical officers, nurses, counsellors,
laboratory technicians and mental experts to handle the side effects
of the drugs," Kasozi added. "The laboratory equipment to
monitor patients is weak. Before you put someone on treatment, you
need to do some tests like culture and drug acceptability, kidneys
and liver. The gadgets are available but the reagents are
WHO is calling for "targeted international
donor funding and continued investments by countries themselves to
safeguard recent gains and ensure continued progress".
[END] This report online:
A timeline of Global Fund reforms
27 September (IRIN) - Change is afoot at the Global Fund to Fight
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2010, after allegations of fraud
among fund recipients in Mali, Mauritania and Zambia, the Global Fund
put together an independent, high-level panel to review its financial
controls and assess how grant money is spent. The Fund is now
implementing the panel's recommendations.
back at the reforms made over the past year.
February 2011 -
The Global Fund board commissions a high-level panel to review
financial controls and oversight mechanisms.
May 2011 - The
Fund establishes the high-level review panel, which includes former
President of Botswana Festus Mogae, former US Secretary of Health and
Human Services Michael Leavitt, and Gabriel Jaramillo, former banker
and UN Special Advisor to the Office of the Special Envoy for Malaria
August 2011 - The Fund delays the expected launch of its
Round 11 of funding.
September 2011 - The Fund postpones
Round 11 a second time [
]. The high-level review panel presents its report to the board; it
includes recommendations to streamline grant application processes,
increase focus on health outcomes versus inputs, and reformulate
several standing committees. The Fund's Strategy, Investment and
Impact Committee is born [
November 2011 - With US$2.2 billion in outstanding pledges,
the Fund is finally forced to cancel its Round 11 of funding. An
emergency stop-gap Transitional Funding Mechanism is put into place
to prevent interruptions in essential prevention, treatment and care
January 2012 - Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine
announces his intention to step down in March 2012. Jaramillo is
appointed General Manager, a new position created to oversee the
Fund's reform process. The new position is expected to reduce the
heavy demands placed on the executive director, which may have
contributed to criticism of Kazatchkine.
March 2012 - Germany
announces the first of four $65 million contributions to the Fund
slated for 2012, a move billed by the international health financing
mechanism as a "clear endorsement of new measures to improve
financial oversight and management." On the heels of Germany's
announcement, Japan pledges $340 million.
applications for grants under the Fund's Transitional Funding
April 2012 - The Fund announces changes to simplify
grant administration, including a 33 percent increase in staff
management positions, which comes after cutting almost 40 percent of
staff positions from other departments. It is part of a stronger
emphasis being placed managing the grants that fund disease
prevention and treatment.
July 2012 - After failing to
contribute to the Fund in 2011, Spain returns with a contribution of
$12.1 million [
August 2012 - The Fund appoints French financial advisor
Daniel Camus as its chief financial officer. Camus' appointments is
the Global Fund's third major staff announcement in four months,
following the March appointment of former GAVI internal audit
director Cees Klumper as chief risk officer and the May appointment
of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Seth Faison as
head of communications.
In late August, the Fund announces the
outcomes of the Transitional Funding Mechanism applications. In
total, 45 grant applications were successful. With an additional 11
due to be revised and resubmitted, the Fund could award as much as
$511 million under the mechanism [
September 2012 - The Fund announces the principles of its
forthcoming new funding model. Funding will be allocated by country
groupings, and mechanisms will be implemented to increase the
percentage of successful applications. The announcement signals the
Fund's move away from the 'round' system, in which calls for grant
applications were issued periodically, and shows growing emphasis on
disease investment frameworks to guide programming [
kn/rz [ENDS] This report on line:
The "unfinished business" of lowering child mortality
13 September 2012 (IRIN) - In 1990, an estimated 12 million children
around the world died under age five; by 2011, that figure had
dropped to 6.9 million. The message, from a new report by the UN
Children's Fund (UNICEF), is that with greater commitment to child
survival from governments and their partners, these figures can go
new data are cause to celebrate," UNICEF deputy executive
director Geeta Rao Gupta said at a press conference launching the
2012 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise
Renewed. "But this is unfinished business, and it is not just
about numbers. Behind every statistic is an unseen child, and a
grieving mother and father."
vast majority of child deaths are preventable. Almost two-thirds of
under-five deaths in 2011 were caused by infectious illnesses such as
pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, meningitis, tetanus, HIV and measles;
by contrast, in countries with very low under-five mortality rates,
there were almost no deaths from infectious diseases. More than
one-third of under-five deaths could be attributed to undernutrition,
and almost 40 percent occurred within the first month of life, often
due to preterm or delivery complications.
to the report, nine low-income countries - Bangladesh, Cambodia,
Ethiopia, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda - have
lowered their under-five mortality rate by 60 percent or more over
the last two decades. These countries used simple, tried and tested
methods to improve child survival: widespread immunization campaigns
for diseases like measles and polio; insecticide-treated mosquito
nets to prevent malaria; interventions ranging from folic acid
supplements to clean delivery practices to improve newborn survival;
and exclusive breastfeeding to address undernutrition.
global drop in under-five mortality works out to a decline of about 3
percent per year, but if the world is to meet the Millennium
Development Goals on child mortality and maternal health, child
deaths need to fall by 14 percent per year, according to the World
deaths are largely concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, which
accounted for almost half of these deaths in 2011, and South Asia,
where 33 percent of under-five deaths occurred. In a few instances -
Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali
and Somalia - under-five mortality actually rose between 1990 and
report also noted wide disparities within countries. Data from 39
countries show that children born into the poorest fifth of a
population are almost twice as likely to die before age five as those
born into the wealthiest fifth. Other factors that increase risk of
under-five death include: being born in rural areas; being born to
mothers without basic education; and living in areas affected by
violence and political fragility.
of the simplest interventions remain inaccessible in impoverished
parts of Africa and Asia. For instance, globally, less than one-third
of children with diarrhoea receive oral rehydration salts.
Uganda, which has registered a 49 percent decline in under-five
mortality since 1990, health workers say the cost of vaccines remains
a major hindrance, and the country's overburdened health system is
struggling to cope with the needs of one of the world's fastest
have some vaccines which have reduced illness among the children,
like pneumococcal and rotavirus, which are not wildly available in
health units due to high cost," Jolly Natukunda, a senior
paediatric consultant at Mulago National Referral Hospital, Uganda’s
largest referral facility, told IRIN.
according to Mickey Chopra, UNICEF's chief of health, the price of
many vaccines has fallen significantly in recent years through
negotiations between the GAVI Alliance and manufacturers and
suppliers of vaccines. In 2011, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer cut the
price of its pneumococcal vaccine - which prevents pneumonia,
meningitis and sepsis - by more than 50 percent for developing
countries, which now spend just US$3.50 per dose.
pledge to do more
June, UNICEF and its partners launched A Promise Renewed, a global
effort to reenergize the improvement of maternal, newborn and child
survival. Since its inception, more than 110 governments have signed
a pledge vowing to redouble efforts to reduce child mortality. The
movement aims to rapidly decrease under-five mortality by improving
countries' evidence-based plans; strengthening accountability for
maternal and child healthcare; and mobilizing support for the
principle that "no child should die from preventable causes".
It aims to prioritize the world's poorest people.
child's death is all the more tragic when caused by a disease that
can easily be prevented. That's why we have this global movement to
recommit to child survival and renew the promise to end child deaths.
This decline shows we can make this happen," UNICEF's Rao said. kr/so/rz
Armed groups should not be a law unto themselves
15 August 2012 (IRIN) - The vast majority of conflicts involve one or
more armed groups - in 2011 there were at least 48 non-international
armed conflicts involving about 170 armed groups - and while some
seek to conform to international humanitarian and human rights law,
others wear their complete disrespect for the laws of war as a badge
"It is the population at large who is placed
centre-stage in this type of [non-international] conflict, by both
rebel and regular forces. Civilians are both the prize and the main
victims of these wars," the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) said in its June 2011 International Review of the Red
Cross publication. [
The most infamous armed groups - such as Joseph Kony's
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and a range of Salafist-inspired
insurgency groups - employ terror to control affected populations.
There are also armed groups that see adhering to humanitarian
standards as a crucial component of the fight - although in both
cases their understanding of the Geneva Convention and its associated
protocols, which run to more than 500 articles, maybe lacking.
Olivier Bangerter, a former International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) advisor for dialogue with armed groups, said in a
2011 paper Reasons Why Armed Groups Choose to Respect International
Humanitarian Law or Not, [
] "It is questionable how far knowledge of the content of IHL
[International Humanitarian Law] by many commanders and fighters
really extends beyond some basic notions.few [armed] groups have
access to lawyers who are well versed in IHL; in most cases, their
knowledge derives from hearsay and reading matter of varying
NGOs, engaging and educating armed groups about their humanitarian
obligations is fraught with challenges. It may be seen as "conferring
legitimacy" on them - with affected governments citing
violations of sovereignty - or as falling afoul of international
Armed groups also vary widely.
Martin Lacourt, the head of ICRC's Unit for Relations with Arms
Carriers, told IRIN, "There is almost nothing in common between
the Hezbollah - with a strong chain of command and able to conduct
land, air and naval operations - and the Sabaot Land Defence Front
around Mount Eglon in Kenya. Armed groups represent a wide variety of
actors, from quasi-state organizations to a mere handful of
predators. Standardized approaches are doomed to fail, standard
material impossible to devise. The ICRC therefore aims at tailor-made
The ICRC has held workshops for commanders
of armed groups in the Philippines and Sudan to provide "input
in terms of IHL content. [but] only the armed group's leadership can
enforce IHL standards," he said. The humanitarian organization
has also disseminated IHL advice to armed groups in Central African
Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Gaza
"While few armed groups have effective education
and training systems, they all have some kind of doctrine, code of
behaviour and sanctions to penalize misconduct, including theft,
looting, cruelty, assault, rape and ill treatment of prisoners,"
Lacourt said. Though the ICRC can advise armed groups on IHL rules in
their policy documents, it does not endorse their codes of conduct.
"If integrated properly, IHL rules can be stated in a
way that is easy to understand and to be followed by members of the
armed group. Complex legal texts are unlikely to capture the
attention of fighters," the ICRC's June 2011 publication said.
And even discussions about the issue "may cause [armed] groups
to reflect on IHL and on their behaviour in comparison to it".
Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention, according to
the ICRC, binds non-state actors - including corporations and armed
groups - to about 140 of the 160 or so customary IHL rules that apply
But "while armed groups are bound by IHL and
other customary or treaty-based international law, they are excluded
from the processes making these laws, negotiating or signing treaties
and so on. This may reduce their incentive to comply," Ashley
Jackson, a research fellow on armed groups at the Humanitarian Policy
Group of the Overseas Development Institute, told IRIN.
Geneva-based NGO Geneva Call [ http://www.genevacall.org
] has developed three Deeds of Commitment (DoC) for armed groups,
including a prohibition against sexual violence and a call to protect
children from the effects of armed conflict.
first DoC in 2000 set out to get armed groups to abide by the Mine
Ban Treaty [ http://www.irinnews.org/printreport.aspx?reportid=87608
], a state-agreed international convention to outlaw the use and
stockpiling of anti-personnel mines. These efforts were originally
dismissed by some within the mine-ban community, and many governments
were adamant that armed groups might sign such a pledge but would
never respect it. Yet 42 armed groups have signed Geneva Call's DoC
banning anti-personnel mines and are abiding by it, allowing for both
internal and external monitoring and verification of their
Geneva Call is distilling 15 basic humanitarian
rules for armed groups into a training manual, including respect for
humanitarian actors and the humane treatment of opposition forces.
The organization's legal advisor Jonathan Somer does not envisage a
DoC similar to that used for anti-personnel land mines but added that
"nothing is on or off the table right now".
beyond the pale
of the rules of IHL are very difficult to monitor as they involve
judgment and deference, such as proportionality vis-à-vis civilian
casualties, precautionary measures in attack and the notion of
imperative military necessity. Even with respect to the mechanisms
available to monitor states, it is very difficult to determine when
violations have taken place," Somer told IRIN.
a deed of commitment addressing IHL compliance in general would bring
forth many greater challenges. We are taking it step by step. But it
is still important to promote ownership of IHL in general.and [for
armed groups] to take responsibility for internal implementation,"
Those proposing greater engagement with armed
groups on human rights and humanitarian laws see all as fair game.
Professor Marco Sassòli, director of Geneva University's
International Law Department and chair of Geneva Call's board, said
in his 2010 paper Taking Armed Groups Seriously: Ways to Improve
their Compliance with International Humanitarian Law [
] that to reject an armed group as beyond the pale "would mean
that those in need of the greatest protection would be deprived of
any protection efforts just because they are in the hands of a group
whose aims or methods are utterly rejected".
any rate, the more ANSAs [armed non-state actors] comply with
international standards, the harder it will be for outliers to
justify their noncompliance," Somer said.
said, "Even within more extreme groups, there may be those
members or local commanders that recognize the rationale behind
having laws in war. And it's also important to remember that these
groups evolve over time - for example, the Layha, or the Afghan
Taliban's code of conduct, has been revised in recent years with some
more harmful provisions, such as commands to burn schools or banning
engagement with NGOs, dropped."
deputy director of the children's rights division of Human Rights
Watch (HRW), said in a April 2012 internet seminar, hosted by Harvard
University's Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research and
the International Review of the Red Cross, "Some armed groups
care very much about being perceived as following the law, [although]
they may not care about the law itself, but care about the
Such groups include the Libyan rebels that
overthrew Muammar Gaddafi's government and Maoist rebels in India who
rationalized attacks on schools by saying they were occupied by
government forces. After HRW research revealed the schools had no
military presence, and local media and NGOs questioned the actions,
the school attacks "diminished," Coursen-Neff said.
armed groups open to IHL practices?
of humanitarian law are often already present in conflict societies.
In Somalia there is the traditional warfare creed of 'Biri ma Geido'
or Spared from the Spear, that requires some categories of people be
protected during conflict, including women, children, the elderly,
poets and peace negotiators, among others. Not all armed groups
adhere to this creed, however.
Religious beliefs and a
society's moral values can also place limits on behaviour during
conflict, but may also run counter to IHL.
and the kidnapping and enslavement of civilians observed during the
civil war in southern Sudan were carried out by horsemen who came
largely but not solely from Arab tribes whose traditional law of war
considers such practices to be normal," Bangerter said in his
But armed groups may respect humanitarian laws
for a number of reasons, from their own convictions or public
relations to the military advantages it may entail, he said. "Marxist
movements claiming to fight for the good of 'the people' frequently
have a code of conduct that prohibits a number of acts, such as
pillaging in any form, the ill-treatment of civilians and prisoners,
and violence against women."
On the other hand, military
advantage is also seen as a reason not to respect humanitarian law.
Child soldiers may be used to bolster forces and civilian shields or
terror tactics may be used to compensate for an armed group's
relative military weakness.
Bangerter suggests looking to the
Swiss Criminal Code's carrot-and-stick approach to promoting
compliance with IHL. "While criminalizing the financing of
terrorism by imposing a fine and/or a prison sentence of up to five
years, it [the criminal code] states that raising such funds cannot
be punished 'if the financing is intended to support acts that do not
violate the rules of international law on the conduct of armed
conflicts'. This gives an armed group wanting to raise funds in such
a prosperous country a serious reason to consider respecting IHL
go/am/rz [END] This report online:
Resettlement still a last resort
1 August 2012 (IRIN) - After five years of hoping and waiting,
Marie*, her husband Simeon* and their three children, refugees from
the Democratic Republic of Congo, finally received a phone call
telling them to pack their bags; they would be leaving South Africa
for Australia at the end of the month.
Simeon was unconcerned
by the short notice. "We've been ready for so long," he
told IRIN from the UN Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) offices in Pretoria
where the family had just learned the name of the city where they
would be restarting their lives in a few days.
said Marie, testing the word on her lips for the first time. "Do
you know where that is?"
For refugees with no possibility
of either returning home or permanently settling in their host
country, resettlement to a third country is considered as a last
resort. To call Marie and her family lucky is pushing it, after the
hardships they have endured, but it is true that only 61,600 refugees
were resettled in 2011, a fraction of the 780,000 that UNHCR
estimates to be in need of resettlement, and down from the 73,000
resettled in 2010.
"It's very labour intensive,"
explained Shant Dermegerditchian, a regional resettlement officer
with UNHCR based in Pretoria. "UNHCR has to make sure there's
integrity in the case, and that refugee status and the need for
resettlement is clear.
"As much as we can make the
recommendation for resettlement, the places are very limited and it's
ultimately the [resettlement] country that makes the determination if
they want to accept a person," he added.
countries have functioning resettlement programmes, with the USA
operating by far the largest, followed by Canada and Australia.
European countries have collectively offered only 4,000-5,000 annual
resettlement places in recent years.
resettlement options in Europe
large number of asylum seekers who independently make their way to
Europe has reduced support for resettlement there, said Torsten
Moritz, CEO of the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe, which
is leading a campaign to increase the number of refugee resettlement
places available in the European Union to 20,000 by the year 2020.
"The perception is Europe does asylum and the US does
resettlement," he told IRIN. "We're saying, we can do more.
Europe is one of the richest regions, despite the [economic] crisis,
and we're doing very little."
The EU Council recently
agreed to promote a policy of increased resettlement by offering
coordinating support and financial incentives to member states which
accept refugees for resettlement. "Most of the countries would
be keen to get some of the EU funding, but it's a completely
voluntary thing; it's nothing the EU can enforce," commented
Mortiz. "That's one of the reasons we felt we needed to put a
quota on the table."
within UNHCR, resettlement has its champions and its detractors,
according to Amy Slaughter, CEO of RefugePoint, a US-based refugee
rights organization which deploys its staff to UNHCR offices
throughout sub-Saharan Africa to boost their capacity to refer
refugees in need of resettlement. "One argument is that it's a
solution for so few and takes up a lot of resources," she said.
"In situations where the needs are vast, it's pushed to the
bottom of the priority list because they're busy taking care of
"But it's a vital long-term solution and
it has benefits for families in terms of assets gained in countries
of resettlement, such as education and finances."
Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement held in Geneva
recently, UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres advocated an
increase in resettlement numbers and that local UNHCR offices be held
accountable for meeting their resettlement targets.
attributed the dip in numbers last year to the deteriorating security
situation at Dadaab refugee complex [
] in eastern Kenya which hosts half a million mostly Somali refugees.
"A lot of resettlement countries have stopped sending their
officials there," she said.
According to Dermegerditchian
of UNHCR, the USA also introduced a new security procedure last year
which delayed many cases, particularly those of Somalis and Iraqis,
and saw the number of refugees resettled from South Africa drop from
387 in 2010 to just 81 in 2011.
"This year, things are
moving much better and we've already had 220 departures," he
Until a wave of xenophobic violence against foreigners
erupted in South Africa in 2008, [
] the country was considered fairly progressive in its treatment of
refugees and asylum seekers and as having little need for
resettlement. Since that time, most of the cases that UNHCR refers
for resettlement are victims of continued xenophobic attacks, many of
them Somalis attempting to run businesses in low-income areas where
their presence is viewed as a threat by local traders. [
Resettlement Handbook [ http://www.unhcr.org/4a2ccf4c6.html
] lists seven categories, at least one of which a refugee must fall
under to be considered for submission. The first is a lack of legal
or physical protection in the host country. Others include the
unavailability of life-saving medical treatment and risks particular
to women, children and survivors of torture. A "lack of
foreseeable alternative durable solutions" is the seventh
category, but in reality too many refugees fall into this category
for it to be applied except in rare cases.
mainly used as a protection tool here in South Africa," said
Dermegerditchian. "There is a lot of managing expectations and
we have to be clear that only one in 10 refugees [needing to be
resettled] have the possibility for resettlement."
life-threatening emergency, refugees can be resettled in a matter of
weeks, but the vast majority of cases take a minimum of six months
and more often several years starting with extensive interviews with
staff from UNHCR or one of its implementing partners, followed by
more interviews, security checks and medical screening by officials
from the resettlement country.
"After 9/11, there were
lots of added layers of security checks, especially for anyone with
an Arabic name," noted Slaughter.
For a refugee
desperate to escape an intolerable situation and make a fresh start,
the process can feel endless, particularly if it ends with a
rejection. Dermegerditchian said over 90 percent of the cases that
UNHCR submits for resettlement in the southern Africa region are
accepted, but Marie and her family were rejected by both the USA and
Canada before Australia agreed to take them.
convinced that they were rejected because two of their children
suffer from haemophilia, a genetic disorder that impairs the body's
ability to control bleeding, but Dermegerditchian was reluctant to
"Resettlement countries have their own
criteria; they only inform us of the reasons for denial in general
terms," he said. "In some cases UNHCR needs to re-interview
the refugee to make sure their stories are consistent. If we can't
find a problem, we resubmit their case to another country."
years of joblessness, denial of medical treatment for their children
and what they said was constant xenophobia from their neighbours,
Marie and Simeon's relief to be leaving their home of the last decade
"The fact that they're welcoming us [in
Australia] - it frees you psychologically," said Simeon.
a real name
ks/cb [END] This report online:
Humanitarian Day: Community health workers get the job
19 August 2012 (IRIN) - Doctors, nurses, activists and policy makers
have all been vital to Africa's HIV programmes, but supporting them
every step of the way has been an army of dedicated community health
workers and volunteers who care for people living with the
"I had a patient who was delirious and she bit
me. She was HIV-positive, and she could have infected me if I was not
already HIV-positive. It was terrifying," recalled Thab'sile
Ndlovu, a community care volunteer who assists people living with HIV
in a rural area near Siphofaneni, in central Swaziland. "That
was the day before I was chased by a bull when I was doing my rounds
in the area, and it was a week after I was bitten by a dog at a
The continent's community caregivers do more
than check in on patients to see if they have sufficient supplies of
antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, which suppress the virus . Caroline
Makhongo, a community health worker in Samia, a rural district in
western Kenya, says her days involve visiting and caring for sick
neighbours, helping patients get to the hospital, giving talks at the
local health centre and following up on patients who have missed
regular visits to the health centre.
"It is something you
do because you want to help," said Makhongo. "Without
[community health workers], many people would die of HIV as a result
of failing to finish their treatment or even fewer people would be
taking family planning services, but we help explain these things to
them and you see improvement."
World Humanitarian Day, on
19 August, recognizes the contributions of humanitarian workers like
Ndlovu and Makhongo, who often make enormous personal sacrifices in
their service to others. [ https://www.thunderclap.it/whd-iwashere
deepening financial crisis has taken its toll on the healthcare
system, with nurses [
] embarking on intermittent strikes to protest unsafe working
conditions and low pay. As the public health sector declines, Swazis
are increasingly relying on community volunteers to fill the gap.
Kenya, more than 10,000 community health workers have been deployed
in communities to help plug the shortage of professional health care
workers. They have helped scale-up HIV programmes including voluntary
counselling and antiretroviral adherence counselling.
health workers are particularly critical in providing services at the
lower levels of health care, because trained health professionals are
not always enough in resource-poor countries," Lucy Mathu, a
prevention-of-mother-to-child HIV transmission advisor at the
Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation, told IRIN. "Many
patients, especially in rural areas only have a one-off contact with
a trained health care professional, and this means the care these
patients need cannot continue without these volunteers. They are very
important in terms of passing on critical health messages."
Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where stigma
remains very high and HIV-positive people are often shunned, one NGO
is using HIV-positive volunteers to care for each other and to teach
the community about HIV.
"We are all
HIV-positive...volunteers oversee patients at home or in hospital,"
said Jean Lukela head of a national network of community-based
organizations supporting people living with HIV (RENOUAC). "We
organize community meals with the purpose of showing others that they
can eat with [HIV-positive people]."
The AIDS Support
Organization (TASO), one of Uganda's oldest local NGOs, has close to
5,000 volunteers; TASO officials say community workers are at the
centre of the organization's activities.
hospitals and health centres from getting filled up. Instead of
bringing these people to hospitals, we take care of and monitor them
at their homes," said Moses Batwala, TASO medical coordinator.
"The programme helps us take services nearer to the
Just 56 percent of health worker positions in
Uganda's public health system are filled, and community workers play
a vital role in plugging this gap.
approach is a very important component and has been demonstrated to
work," said David Apuuli Kihumuro, director general of the
Uganda AIDS Commission. "However, the system is too expensive...
the government can't manage it. Civil society organizations and NGOs
are better in doing it than the government."
also face funding issues, and community health workers - often just
as poor as the people they care for - regularly go above and beyond
the call of duty, sharing their food or buying food for sick
community members or spending their own money on transport to get
sick people to health centres.
need to get more support than what we have now. Many think we are
just good Samaritans without any needs," Makhongo said. "Some
of us get nothing at all, and some who get a little support have to
share it with the patients we look after."
2,000 Kenya shillings - about US$24 - every month to facilitate the
work she does, but this doesn't even begin to cover her
Volunteers for the DRC's RENOUAC say the people they
care for are so poor that they cannot afford basics like toothbrushes
and hand towels, let alone transport to health centres.
] show that while task-shifting - delegating tasks performed by
physicians to staff with lower-level qualifications such as primary
healthcare teams and community health workers - offers high-quality,
cost-effective care and is a viable response to Africa's lack of
health workers, it faces several challenges, including adequate and
sustainable training and funding for community health workers.
is a problem, because when donors hear the word 'volunteer', they
expect people to work and give of their time for nothing in return,"
said one Swazi health motivator who preferred anonymity.
do have affluent volunteers from the towns who can afford to work
without compensation, but most of our women - the rural volunteers
are mostly women - they live in extreme poverty," she added.
"They do not use their stipends as income but they need this
money to pay for bus fare, which can be expensive, and for lunches. I
know several volunteers who purchase blankets and necessities like
bathing tubs and even food for shut-in patients with AIDS."
work is also frequently physically strenuous. "I must go to the
stream with two 20-litre containers and fill them with water for Mrs
Simelane. She is too weak to fetch water, and her children are too
small to handle the containers. It is over a kilometre and I am
fortunate to use a wheelbarrow, but pushing those containers uphill
is hard!" Agnes Tshabalala, a health volunteer from Swaziland's
central Manzini region, said with a laugh.
Mathu noted that
the sustainability and success of the services provided by community
health workers was dependent on the amount of training and support
"Total voluntarism doesn't work at all,"
she said. "Make their work easy by giving them material support
and continuously improving their skills to improve the quality of
care they are able to provide."
[END] This report online:
AGOA uncertainty hurts textile workers
17 July 2012 (IRIN) - The livelihoods of tens of thousands of textile
workers in Africa is hanging in the balance amid growing anxiety
about whether a key provision of US trade legislation will be renewed
before it expires in September.
] was enacted by former President Bill Clinton in 2000 with the aim
of boosting trade and development in eligible African countries by
allowing them to export products to the USA, duty-free. A large
proportion of these products are garments, with exports from Africa
to the USA now representing more than US$800 million and creating an
estimated 300,000 new jobs mainly in Lesotho, Swaziland, Kenya and
Mauritius, according to a recent report [
] by the Brookings Institution. Madagascar's garment industry also
benefited from AGOA until it was declared ineligible following a coup
Aside from having preferential access to US markets,
the competitiveness of these clothing and textile products relies on
a provision of AGOA that allows manufacturers to import inexpensive
yarn and fabric from another country, such as India or China.
Although AGOA itself is not due for renewal until 2015, the
so-called Third Country Fabric (TCF) Provision is set to expire at
the end of September. Without it, fledgling textile industries all
over Africa are likely to flounder.
surrounding whether or not the provision will be renewed has already
resulted in a 30 percent drop in clothing orders from US buyers and
the loss of thousands of jobs since January, according to a coalition
of African manufacturers and US importers that has appealed to the US
Congress to approve the legislation as quickly as possible. [
textile and garment industry, which relies heavily on exports to the
USA, is the largest formal employer in a country where job
opportunities are scarce. According to Lesa Makhoabile of the Lesotho
National Development Corporation (LNDC), a decline in orders from US
buyers in recent months has already forced a number of companies to
lay off workers, while 15 out of 40 textile factories are at a high
to critical risk of closing down or downsizing.
[TCF] provision is extremely important to Lesotho because all the
companies that export to the US rely on it to remain competitive
since they are able to source cheap raw materials from Asia and
produce garments at affordable production costs," she told IRIN.
Most of Lesotho's 36,000 textile workers are women who are
often the sole breadwinners for their families. Laid-off workers do
not qualify for pensions but receive severance pay equivalent to two
weeks wages for each year they worked for the same
representative from the Swaziland Textile Export Association said the
looming expiry of the TCF provision was just one of a number of
reasons why Swaziland's garment manufacturing industry has shed over
two-thirds of the 30,000 textile workers it employed at the height of
production in 2004. These include the flagging US economy,
unfavourable exchange rates, a lack of local investment and minimum
wages for garment workers that are high compared to those earned by
The cost of living in Swaziland nevertheless
meant that the salary Cynthia Lushaba earned working at a textile
factory in Swaziland's main commercial hub Manzini was just
sufficient to cover the essentials. "I saved no money," she
said. "We were paid only enough for my children and me to have
two meals a day and pay our rent."
Lushaba, 34, was one
of about 200 workers retrenched from the factory in April. "We
were not told the reason but [the factory manager] said that business
was bad," she told IRIN. "There are no jobs in Swaziland. I
took the factory job when my husband started getting sick.
is no compensation for people like me," she added. "They
said I did not work so long to earn a pension and the government does
not give anything to people who lose their jobs. There is nothing, I
Donna Bawden, CEO of the Apparel Lesotho
Alliance to Fight AIDS, which provides HIV prevention and treatment
to Lesotho's textile workers, said there was confidence among local
manufacturers that the TCF provision would be renewed but that there
was also recognition of the need to become less reliant on US
markets. "AGOA is very important, especially in establishing the
industry here, but they're trying to diversify the market," she
Bills to extend key provisions of AGOA, including the
TCF have been introduced in both the US Senate and House of
Representatives and until now have had strong bipartisan support.
President Barack Obama is also in favour of renewing the provision.
However, there are fears that the bill may nevertheless be stalled by
partisan politics, particularly as the presidential election draws
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk reportedly told
participants at the 12th annual AGOA Forum, held in Washington last
month: "We are regrettably in an election year and I think some
people think partisan politics trump common sense." ks/cb
This report online:
Donor fatigue forces WFP to cut refugee rations
19 June 2012 (IRIN) - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has halved
food rations to refugees living in camps in at least four African
countries citing a funding shortfall.
The cuts have already
affected 16,000 refugees in Malawi's Dzaleka camp who have been on
half rations since March, while a further 120,000 refugees in Uganda
began receiving half rations of cereals in May.
WFP, another 100,000 refugees in Tanzania saw their maize rations cut
by 50 percent starting from last week, and rations for some 54,000
refugees living in Rwanda are expected to be cut in August unless
donors come forward with more funding.
"Even the full
ration wasn't enough," said Sanky Kabeya, a 24-year-old resident
of Dzaleka who spoke to IRIN at the end of March. [
] "I haven't taken breakfast this morning and many are in the
Gustave Lwaba, another resident of the
camp, said the usual monthly ration of 13kg of maize had gone down to
7kg, while rations of cooking oil, pigeon peas, sugar and salt had
also been cut by half. "There are people in the camp who rely on
relatives who've been resettled," he said. "The rest really
starve because the rations can't last a month."
Carter, country director for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malawi,
which runs a number of educational and other programmes in the camp,
said the cuts were "clearly leading to a fair amount of hunger.
I know children are coming to school hungry," she told IRIN.
"The food is only lasting two weeks and if they're on
their own it's much worse because they can't combine
Noting that only a very small percentage of the
refugees had any source of income, she said single mothers,
unaccompanied minors and the elderly and disabled had been
particularly hard hit by the reduced rations.
officer with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Malawi, Gavin Lim, said
his agency planned to carry out an assessment in the coming months to
determine the full impact of the ration cuts but that reports of more
women in the camp turning to survival sex were already coming
to become self-reliant
countries in southern and eastern Africa have an encampment policy
for refugees which restricts their freedom of movement and reduces
their chances of becoming self-reliant. Some earn a small income
running informal businesses outside the camps but competition with
often equally impoverished locals is fierce and has led to outbreaks
In May, a number of refugees who were selling
goods at a small trading centre outside Dzaleka were assaulted by
local traders who accused them of undermining their businesses.
According to Carter, the Malawian government plans to withdraw
trading licenses for refugees from July.
Many of Dzaleka's
residents have lived in the camp for over a decade. Indeed, an
increasing proportion of refugees today live in what UNHCR describes
as "protracted" exile (in 2011, more than seven million
refugees had lived outside their country for more than five years).
Donors are increasingly reluctant to shoulder the burden of feeding
these long-term refugees.
Commenting on the funding shortfall,
WFP spokesperson for east and southern Africa David Orr said: "There
is inevitably some donor fatigue regarding longstanding or protracted
refugee loads; these funding issues affect more than just food."
This report online:
Government plans naturalization of refugees
21 June 2012 (IRIN) - The Ugandan government says it is in
discussions to legalize and grant naturalization to thousands of
refugees who fled into the country in the 1960s and 1990s, mainly
from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
At an event
in the capital, Kampala, to commemorate World Refugee Day on 20 June,
Stephen Mallinga, Uganda's Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness
and Refugees, said the government had set up a committee that
included refugees and humanitarian agencies to discuss the mechanisms
"These are refugees who... have lost
touch with their countries of origin. Naturalization of these cases
is one possible solution and discussions are underway in this
direction," he said. "The naturalization of these refugees
will mean their stay in Uganda will not be illegal. They will be
Ugandans who are entitled to live and work in Uganda and have a
He said the refugees eligible for
naturalization would be those who have been in the country for
lengthy periods and have no interest in returning to their countries
of origin. Most of those matching these criteria were originally
Congolese and Rwandan.
Uganda would become the second East
African nation to naturalize refugees - in 2010 Tanzania naturalized
more than 162,000 Burundians who fled their homeland in 1972.
Cifende Anganze, a Congolese refugee representative, welcomed the
minister's announcement. "It will be a big milestone in the
lives of those who qualify for the citizenship. They will have new
opportunities in life," she said.
"This is a very
good gesture by the government. It's really a humanitarian act by
Uganda. These people who will naturalized will be integrated with the
local community and live together as one," said Mohammed Abdri
Ada, a representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) in Uganda. "In
Europe, it's basically supposed to take five years. But in Africa, it
takes about 30 to 40 years for one to be granted citizenship."
Uganda's Commissioner for Refugees in the Office of the Prime
Minister, David Kazungu, told IRIN that at least 5,000 refugees had
applied for citizenship. "All of them will be considered, and
those who qualify will be granted citizenship," he said.
exercise would contribute to solving the challenge of Uganda's heavy
caseload of 183,148 refugees and asylum seekers. According UNHCR
statistics from 1 June 2012; the country hosts 104,686 Congolese,
22,786 Somalis, 19,406 Sudanese, 16,160 Rwandans, 9,475 Burundians
and 6,734 Eritreans. There are also 2,124 Ethiopians, 1,640 Kenyans
and 137 others.
A continuous stream of refugees flow into
Uganda as people flee violence in the DRC's North Kivu Province and
Jonglei State in South Sudan.
Eight major settlements house
the refugees, mainly in the southwest and north. The overall
coordination and management of the settlements is handled by the
Office of the Prime Minister - under which the Ministry for Relief,
Disaster Preparedness and Refugees falls - in partnership with UNHCR
and a number of NGOs.
Naturalizing long-term refugees will
come as a relief to many Rwandans. A UNHCR decision to invoke a
cessation clause [ http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/47fdfaf1d.html
] - through which states and the UNHCR recognize changed
circumstances in refugees' countries of origin and allow for
repatriation - were at risk of having to return home [
] against their will. The cessation clause becomes effective in June
He pointed out that the country faced large gaps in
funding, while the number of refugees continued to rise, saying, "I
appeal to the international community to mobilize the requisite
resources in order for Uganda to meet the protection needs of these
This report online:
How close is an African criminal court?
13 June (IRIN) - The long-running spat between the African Union (AU)
and International Criminal Court (ICC) over perceived bias has
prompted the AU to push ahead with plans to form its own Africa-wide
criminal court, but analysts believe the move could complicate,
rather than enhance, international justice.
wants regional ownership of its crimes and its leaders," Alan
Wallis, an international justice lawyer at the Johannesburg-based
Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), told IRIN, but pointed
out: "There is a misbelief [by the AU] that Africa is being
targeted, as all cases before the ICC concern African situations, but
this ignores the fact that of those six [cases], three were referred
to the ICC by the countries concerned."
chairperson Jean Ping has accused ICC of "bullying" Africa,
with a key bone of contention being the 2009 indictment of Sudan's
President Omar al-Bashir for alleged atrocities committed in Darfur.
Plans for an African criminal court moved into an advanced
stage with a final draft protocol drawn up in Addis Ababa on 15 May.
It is widely expected to be adopted at an AU summit meeting of heads
of state in July.
The venue for the summit was originally
intended to be Malawi, but the host president, Joyce Banda, said it
would honour its ICC obligations and arrest Sudan's president should
he attend. The meeting was subsequently switched to Addis Ababa.
Adoption of the new court, according to analysts, requires
formalizing the crime of "unconstitutional change of
government", and it would require ratification by 15 AU member
states - a process which could take a few years.
jurisdiction envisaged by the new AU court replicates that of the
ICC, covering such things as the major international crimes of
genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity - and adds others
such as piracy, terrorism, mercenary activity, corruption,
money-laundering, human and narcotics trafficking and the illegal
exploitation of natural resources.
Calls by the AU "in
the interests of peace and security" on the UN Security Council
to defer or postpone legal proceedings against Bashir - and against
the alleged instigators of Kenya's post-electoral violence in 2008 -
have fallen on deaf ears.
Stephen Arthur Lamony, Africa
outreach liaison and situations adviser for the Coalition for the
ICC, an umbrella organization of 2,500 civil society organizations in
150 countries, told IRIN: "The AU feels ignored". He said
AU requests to defer legal proceedings in the two cases would remain
"a sticking point" between the AU and the ICC.
added that the ICC had been attempting to establish an AU-ICC liaison
office for "quite a while", but had not met with success.
African Court of Justice and Human Rights is supposed to be formed
through a merger of the African Court on Human and People's Rights [
] and the AU Court of Justice, [
] and is envisaged to comprise three sections: general affairs, human
rights and international criminal law.
According to the
court's draft protocol, the AU Peace and Security Council and the
office of the prosecutor will be eligible to submit cases; the
court's jurisdiction for international crimes will commence after its
inception. This means that the court would not trump current cases
being considered by the ICC regarding the Central African Republic,
Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Kenya and
Wallis said the court's composition, combining a human
rights function and criminal prosecutorial powers was "unprecedented"
under international law, and the process appeared to be rushed. "Here
is a completely new creature - a regional criminal court, with
identical jurisdiction to the ICC, but with no bridges between the
two and it is difficult to anticipate the potential implications and
Where the ICC will fit in, if at all, was
unclear. Lamony said the ICC has agreements with national courts but
not with regional courts. Wallis foresees confusion should the AU
court materialize. "In this regard guidance to African ICC
states parties on balancing the relationship between obligations
assumed through their ratification of the Rome Statute and the
anticipated obligations imposed by the proposed expansion, and the
legal implications, should be properly canvassed through further
state engagement. A wait-and-see approach may do more harm than
Jonathan O'Donohue, Amnesty International's legal
adviser for international justice, told IRIN: "The ICC already
exists, but it does not seem clear and it is not set out if there is
any relationship between the ICC and the [proposed] regional criminal
court. There is a danger of duplication [between the two
international criminal courts] and also the potential for conflict
over jurisdiction. This needs to be resolved before it goes any
ICC was established by the Rome Statute in July 1998 and the court
entered into force four years later and now counts 121 state parties
- 33 of which are African - but noticeable by their absence are the
USA, Russia, China, Israel, Sudan and India among others.
Established as an international court of "last resort",
it was designed to pick up the slack should domestic laws or local
criminal justice systems be unable to proceed against the major
international crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against
humanity. In August 2002 South Africa became the first African state
to enact the Rome Statute's provisions into its domestic law, and is
only one of four African states to have complied so far.
of the West?
2009, the AU adopted the Sirte Resolution calling for non-cooperation
by African ICC member states in the arrest of Bashir. Malawi (during
the presidency of the late Bingu wa Mutharika), Chad, Kenya and
Djibouti - all ICC state parties - have hosted Bashir since the
arrest warrant was issued and did not arrest him.
In a 2010
Institute for Security Studies monograph entitled The International
Criminal Court that Africa Wants, [
] the author, Max du Plessis, a practising advocate and associate
professor of law at South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal, cites
Bashir's arrest warrant as the "flashpoint" that spawned a
raft of allegations by the AU against the ICC, with the AU accusing
the ICC of being "a hegemonic tool of Western powers" and
of having double standards.
Don Deya, an advocate of the High
Court of Kenya and CEO of Pan African Lawyers Union which was tasked
with drawing-up the legal foundations of the AU's regional court,
said in a March 2012 article for the Open Society Initiative for
Southern Africa entitled Is the African Court Worth the Wait? [
] that there was no reason an African court and the ICC could not
work "harmoniously" to end impunity for international
crimes, "despite the current bitter divide between Africa and
Deya said in the article that the genesis for
the African criminal court was not the "furore" surrounding
Bashir, but three other pertinent issues - universal jurisdiction,
Senegal's impending prosecution of former Chadian President Hissene
Habré, and formulation of the international crime of
"unconstitutional change of government".
court's November 2006 arrest warrant for, and subsequent arrest of,
Rose Kabuye, the post-genocide Rwandan chief of protocol, in Germany
in 2008 was "a turning point", Deya said: The AU determined
that "African states. try international crimes on African soil."
AU report following a two-day meeting of justice ministers and
attorney-generals in May 2012, attended by 29 African states as well
as representatives of the African Court on Human and People's Rights,
the Pan African Parliament [ http://www.pan-africanparliament.org/
] and the Africa Prosecutors Association, [
] highlighted the cost implications of establishing an international
"Technically it is not a bad idea on
paper. Any forum that seeks to punish perpetrators of international
crime is a good idea. But the concern is that you create this
institution which may take years to formally get off the ground, but
technically could nonetheless allow for `forum shopping' by providing
a choice between the African criminal court and the ICC, and could
delay prosecutions and frustrate efforts at accountability,"
Lamony said many AU member states do not pay
their fees, which handicaps the continental body's operations. "I
do not know where they will get the money from [for the court]. In
the past [former Libyan president] Muammar Gaddafi would have
O'Donohue said there were also
concerns that the proposed combined AU court could see the criminal
functions of the court drain resources from the already
under-resourced human rights court and there "needs to be
clarity on the budgetary system".
The estimated average
cost of an ICC trial is about US$20 million or 14 percent of the AU's
overall annual budget. The ICC trial of former Liberian President
Charles Taylor cost about $50 million. The 2011 costs for the Special
Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL) were $16 million, while the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had a budget of
$130 million in 2010, with 800 staff involved in simultaneous trials.
The cost of individual criminal trials far outweighs those of
civil and human rights cases, Wallis said, adding: "The nature
of international criminal proceedings makes them extremely resource
intensive. Insufficient funding has the potential to prevent the
proper dispensation of justice and could raise questions about the
integrity and credibility of the court's future proceedings.
is no excuse in this day and age to make anything less than a perfect
criminal court. The experience of international criminal tribunals
demonstrates that states' broad support is essential to arrests and
assistance in investigations. The conceptualization of a regional
criminal tribunal must take into consideration the experiences and
shortcomings of other international criminal tribunals such as the
Special Court for Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia and ICTR and the ICC, so as to avoid
problems down the line." go/cb [ENDS]
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