Issues & Analysis
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Development: World has not woken up to water crisis caused by climate change – IPCC head

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

By: Nita Bhalla, Feb 3 2015

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A farmer removes dried grass from his sugarcane field in Muzaffarnagar, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which is on the verge of drought because the monsoon rains are several weeks late. Picture July 19, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

 

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Water scarcity could lead to conflict between communities and nations as the world is still not fully aware of the water crisis many countries face as a result of climate change, the head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists warned on Tuesday.

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a rise in global temperature of between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century.

Countries such as India are likely to be hit hard by global warming, which will bring more freak weather such as droughts that will lead to serious water shortages and affect agricultural output and food security.

“Unfortunately, the world has not really woken up to the reality of what we are going to face in terms of the crises as far as water is concerned,” IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri told participants at a conference on water security.

“If you look at agricultural products, if you look at animal protein – the demand for which is growing – that’s highly water intensive. At the same time, on the supply side, there are going to be several constraints. Firstly because there are going to be profound changes in the water cycle due to climate change.”

Development experts around the world have become increasingly concerned about water security in recent years.

More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanisation, over-extraction of ground water and expanding populations mean that many nations such as India face serious water shortages.

In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams and nuclear plants.

The dry months of June and July, during which there are frequent power cuts and water shortages, offer a snapshot of the pending water crisis in India.

Hospitals in New Delhi cancelled surgery at one point in 2013 because they had no water to sterilise instruments, clean operating theatres or for staff to wash their hands. Upmarket shopping malls selling luxury brands were forced to switch off air conditioners and shut toilets.

Pachauri said it was necessary to bring in technology to help harness water more efficiently, particularly in agriculture where there is a lot of wastage.

“Naturally, this (water crisis) is also going to lead to tensions – probably some conflict between riparian groups and riparian states,” he said.

India, as both an upper and lower riparian nation, finds itself at the centre of water disputes with its eastern and western downstream neighbours – Bangladesh and Pakistan – which accuse New Delhi of monopolising water flows.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Tim Pearce)

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

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On the Media: Book Review – Media and Development by Martin Scott

Martin Scott’s Media and Development, published in 2014.

Martin Scott’s Media and Development, published in 2014.

Original article found on: The Source 

By: Ann Hendrix-Jenkins on Jan 28, 2015

We work in an era when technical specialties dig ever deeper into their own rabbit holes of complexity and nuance, while simultaneously calls resound for a next generation of global health and development based on integration, “silo-busting,” and cross-cutting approaches, including capacity development.

In his book Media and Development, Martin Scott, of the University of East Anglia, confronts this dichotomy head on by sketching out three separate media related “fields,” while considering their (at times uneasy) relationships within the one world of global development.

Through delineation and comparison, he highlights their unique conceptual and practical potentials, and then considers their sometimes symbiotic, sometime divergent natures. Overarching all, Scott notes how fast-moving trends in communication technologies that are opening up new frontiers within each.

The three fields:

Communication for Development (C4D). Inclusive of approaches known as behavior change communication, social and behavior change, and entertainment-education, C4D traditionally aims to foster pre-determined awareness, attitudes, and ultimately behaviors that have proven to contribute to better health or development. Well established and relatively well funded, this field boasts the ability to make credible links between donor investments and desired health outcomes.

Media Development. By focusing on the development of a sound in-country media sector, this relatively young development approach aims to support essential foundations for democracy, good governance, human rights, healthy markets, advocacy opportunities, and more.

Media Representations of Development. Characterized by the author as the portrayal of the “global South” and development efforts to Northern audiences, these take the form of humanitarian appeals, NGO fundraising efforts, news, documentaries, films, novels, reality TV, and more. Such efforts often attempt to show both causes and solutions (usually entailing Northern intervention) to global poverty, disease, inequity and more. Among global development practitioners, this wide-ranging set of ideas and formats doesn’t get much notice, and is not often analyzed as a whole, or for its effects on the other fields.

As a premise for considering the state of—and possible futures for—global health and development, the novel juxtaposition of these three fields provides fresh food for thought, including a range of capacity development implications. Foremost, Scott clearly presents the case for recognizing these perspectives as potentially powerful, he warns that too often proponents unfairly elevate them to “magic bullet” status. With that qualification, he explores the transformative role they might play in international development—if we both reimagine them and better position them within this larger context.

Beginning with C4D (but with application to all three) Scott reminds development practitioners to put aside the false assumption that the mere dissemination of information is sufficient to create change. Another idea to jettison: development as a linear process of modernization that eclipses the “traditional.” Media and technology-based approaches are extremely susceptible to these failed premises. [Editorial note: how many photos have we seen of indigenous laughing with amazement at their digital images, presumably shared with them by a foreigner.] Both assumptions are anathemas to true capacity development based on the “agency and distinctiveness of local populations.” (p.33) Conversely, media efforts—within any of the three fields in question—carefully designed and employed to foster agency and voice have incredible potential. For example, what Scott designates as “media hybrids”—e.g. media-based advocacy for policy change or to address inequities—have successfully challenged social or legal structures in many places. Regardless of the model employed, a key role for global development practitioners that becomes apparent throughout this book is that of facilitator, rather than technical expert, technologist, or content supplier.

Scott’s exploration makes wonderfully apparent an entrenched problem of development. Within global health, for example, we are firm in our rational, scientific self-assurance gained from successes based on established biomedical facts and proven using tools like randomized control trials. Too often, we have transferred that certainty to other areas that are not based on predictable physical realities, e.g. communication, policy, advocacy, governance, democracy, and finance. Given the intangible, highly context specific and variable nature of these focus areas, we must unpack our inherent biases (basically, that we know best), change our premises, and THEN imagine development solutions. If our media efforts are based on such biases, they will simply be a new version of the same old thing.

With regard to conceptualizing media development, Scott likens it to “nailing jelly to the wall.” But one thing is clear: again, simply digitizing the old formats is not the way forward. The tenets of classic journalism and freedom of expression hold strong, but as applied with an open mind to emerging models including citizen journalism, crowd-sourced content, and a voice for civil society within or alongside elite- and government-owned and controlled media. Ultimately a strong media can play the role of watchdog, set agendas, and serve as a civic forum. An enabling environment of laws, policies and regulations must be in place to foster a diverse media landscape. All of these—and more—jelly-like  parameters call for diverse and creative approaches to fostering a thriving “media sector.”

Next, Scott breaks humanitarian communication of Northern NGOs into three categories: shock effect appeals, deliberative positivism, and post-humanitarian communication. While the first two attempt to relay the “reality” of life in the global South in order to generate engagement, the third gains attention through NGO brand appeal and new forms of engagement including “clicktivism:” online activities such as sharing on Facebook, and signing online petitions. This shifts the emotional focus to the audience’s own selves, rather than on the people of the global South. While the author doesn’t take a stand on the approaches, Scott makes the case that perhaps the most problematic aspect of this whole “field” is the lack of understanding of causal links between it and mass stereotyping, foreign aid and political decisions, news coverage, and other important implications.

It’s exciting to see this “field” get fresh and serious consideration given extraordinary influence these media approaches must have on the fundamental beliefs and ideas of millions of people in the global North. Yet, a stronger critique is surely warranted, given the appalling nature of much of the content, which is often appears designed to simply fulfill short-term fundraising efforts, rather than promote nuanced understanding.

In sum, this book provides an accessible overview for students, and a timely stock-taking for experienced professionals trying to keep up with dizzying rates of change. Thus, this book speaks to any “career at the intersection between media and development.” (p. 195)

As the fields of media, communication and technology are at times thoughtlessly conflated, yet also actually converging at points, the implications are myriad. Scott portrays media within development, media about development, media as a delivery device, and media’s role in fostering change. A widening range of actors are involved, and he notes the potential value of incorporating a political economy perspective. While he cautions against undue influence of ICT4D technologists who rely on an “innocent, techno-fascinated worldview” (p.197), he also recognizes how “new media can promote interactivity, debate, decentralized networks and greater individual autonomy.” (p. 202) Then again, media can also have the opposite effect.

More than ever, design and implementation of development efforts must take into account the larger contexts: Scott cites the need “to speak of media’s role in social change, rather than development.” (p. 199) Scott recognizing that his wide-ranging exploration might raise more questions than provide answers. Nevertheless, any shortcuts that don’t include grappling with these ideas are likely to do just that—fall short.

While Scott’s book doesn’t focus on capacity development per se—that might call for a second volume—the one-step removed nature of capacity development fundamentally lends itself to taking the long and bird’s eye views to enable us to strategically support locally-conceptualized, locally-driven and locally-implemented employment of media formats and communication content to promote equitable global health and development through social change.

This book review was written by Ann Hendrix-Jenkins for LenCD. Ann has an MA in International Development from American University and 25 years of experience in international development and global health. Ann currently works at Futures Group as a Technical Director on Capacity Building. 
Contact Ann on Twitter @AnnHJenkins or by email AHendrix-Jenkins@futuresgroup.com
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Selections from “The Fruit of Our Labor” will air on the TV show, WORLDDOCS

Selections from “The Fruit of Our Labor” will air on the TV show, WORLDDOCS, broadcast on Fairfax Public Access (cable channel 10  in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford counties and the towns of Falls Church, Leesburg, and Fredericksburg in Virginia) on Monday, Feb. 2nd at 10 AM, Thursday, Feb. 5th at 1 AM, and Sunday, Feb. 8th at 8:30 PM. Thank you for allowing us to show it.

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WORLDDOCS airs on Fairfax Public Access (cable channel 10) in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, and Spotsylvania counties in Virginia on

Mondays at 10:00 AM, Thursdays at 1:00 AM, and Sundays at 8:30 PM; on Montgomery Community Television (cable channel 19) in Montgomery and Prince

Georges counties in Maryland on Tuesdays at 9:00 PM and Thursdays at 11:00 PM (live-streamed at www.mymcmedia.org); and on DCTV (Comcast channels 95 & 96/RCN channels 10 & 11) in Washington, DC at various times (live-streamed at www.dctv.org).

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U.N. Rights Chief Says He’ll Shine a Light on Countries Big and Small

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is a member of the Jordanian royal family. CreditFabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
 GENEVA — IN a 20-year career at the United Nations, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has had more than a few opportunities to witness the human capacity for cruelty, but nothing seared his memory quite like two scenes from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

In one, he is traveling in a United Nations convoy when the car of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary fighter pulls alongside, and on its hood is the severed head of a Bosnian Muslim child adorned with a United Nations peacekeeper’s blue helmet.

That episode and the plight of two young girls shot by a sniper in Sarajevo have left him decades later, as the new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, still asking, “How can you comprehend this?”

“I mean there’s a degree of villainy that is so disturbing and so beyond our ability to process it mentally that it leaves you asking questions,” he said in a recent interview. “It leaves you with the feeling that you’ve got to try and do what you can at some stage to prevent this.”

A prince in Jordan’s reigning royal family, Mr. Zeid struck some human rights activists as an improbable choice for a job upholding the rights of the world’s downtrodden. It could be seen as an unusual outcome for someone who had started professional life as a policeman, with five years in Jordan’s desert police before joining the United Nations.

Yet those familiar with his career applauded the choice. “He had all the attributes we wanted,” Kenneth Roth, the Human Rights Watch executive director, remarked of the prince, who has agreed to drop his royal title in his new post. “He is a man of stature and principle with a long and demonstrated commitment to human rights.”

“He’s someone who was seared by the experience of the U.N. in Bosnia,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, a close friend and former adviser to the former secretary general, Kofi Annan. “Zeid came out very much with a view that if the U.N. was to stand for anything, it would have to stand for the victims of aggression.”

He is also “an absolutely cool-blooded realist about what is politically possible,” added David Harland, a former United Nations colleague who now heads the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Geneva-based conflict mediation organization, attributing some of Mr. Zeid’s achievements to “charm, clarity and a sharp knife.”

The question among human rights experts was whether Mr. Zeid would use his office as a pulpit to publicly criticize the misdeeds of nations, as did his predecessor, Navi Pillay, a doughty South African jurist, or opt for the more traditional approach of discreet back-room conversations.

Mr. Zeid’s answer, four months into the job, seems to be pragmatic use of all available levers. By working diplomatic channels, he will make his first official country visit next week to the United States, which, according to Ms. Pillay’s staff, never even replied to her repeated requests for a visit. He believes negotiations are making headway on a visit to China, another prominent country that never found a convenient date to receive Ms. Pillay during her six years in the office.

Still, Mr. Zeid saw the controversy stirred up by Ms. Pillay as a “telling signal that this was an office on the rise,” and living up to a pledge given in his first statement on the job, his public comments have been unflinching: condemning the “meanspirited house of blood” of the Islamic State’s extremists; denouncing Sri Lanka’s outgoing government for obstructing the work of an inquiry into war crimes allegations and bluntly reminding the United States of its obligation under international law to prosecute all those responsible for C.I.A. torture, including the policy makers and higher-ups who gave the orders as well as those who carried out the interrogations.

LIKE his predecessors in the office, Mr. Zeid has taken criticism for his stands, including personal attacks. “If it’s anything it’s childish, it’s a cheap shot and it’s not acceptable,” he said. “‘Deal with the substance’ is the message I would like to focus on.”

He resists the efforts of some nations to hold his office to a narrow interpretation of its mandate. “I think they don’t necessarily understand how the international system has come about and how it exists,” he said. “If all of us stuck rigidly to mandates given us by governments, there would be no peace on this planet.”

It’s a view shaped by his years of experience of multilateral negotiations in the United Nations and a conviction that individuals, not governments, have played the key part in creating the international order. “Everything we see in agreements across the spectrum comes from the space between where your instructions end and you as a thinking negotiator invest your own thought,” he said.

Mr. Zeid’s record at the United Nations illustrates the point. He spent years pushing it to account for its missteps in the Balkans, specifically its failure to avert the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica. “He was the one who absolutely didn’t let it go, who said we have to understand what happened and we have to understand what we can learn from this, that it doesn’t happen again,” recalled Mr. Harland, who worked with Mr. Zeid on the report that eventually was completed.

Later, Mr. Zeid led negotiations that would lead to creation of the International Criminal Court in 2002, and as president of the Assembly of States Parties — the court’s managing body — fended off the Bush administration’s effort to emasculate the fledgling court. “It’s not governments that brought this court about, it really was 60 individuals who decided they wanted this court,” he said. “I’m not sure if there had been 60 other individuals representing the same governments you would have had it.”

“I still look back and think it was the most intense, wonderful experience,” Mr. Zeid remarked. “One realized early on that this is what those who had established Nuremberg had aspired for,” he recalled, referring to the trials of Nazi war criminals after World War II. “This was going to be a permanent feature that would limit the excesses of humankind in war or peace, regarding the violence they visit on each other.”

THAT remains a work in progress, but in taking over the human rights portfolio, Mr. Zeid now has the task of holding countries to account across the full spectrum of economic and social rights.

Ending conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, stand out as human rights priorities, Mr. Zeid said, but so are the government failures that allow six million children under 5 years old to die of preventable diseases every year. “If ISIL killed six million people a year, you wouldn’t be able to talk about anything else,” he said, referring to the extremist Islamic State, “so why is it that we don’t look aggressively at the right to better health.”

One minor detail no one bothered to tell Mr. Zeid before he took up the job was that the office was running out of money. It depends on the voluntary contributions of member countries for 60 percent of its funding, and some see little merit in helping to bankroll a critic. So as one of his first actions, even before he could turn to the cause of defending rights, he had to cut 50 posts. “Not a great start. Mr. Popularity from Day 1,” he said.

This year he will find himself embroiled in budget battles, trying for a slice larger than the 3 percent, or $265 million, the United Nations now devotes to human rights and peacekeeping, despite their outsize role in the organization’s activities.

“It’s a trifle,” Mr. Zeid said. “You can hardly convince yourself that it’s a serious commitment by states, given the enormity of the task before us.”

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Development, On the Media: The Great Debate – Freedom of Information and Media in the UN’s New Global Development Goals

Original article found on: The Source
Posted on January 20, 2015Bill Orme
UN Representative, Global Forum for Media Development

This Monday, the UN General Assembly began its final phase of negotiations over the UN’s next set of global development goals, which will succeed the expiring Millennium Development Goals and guide international development priorities and aid funding for the next 15 years.  The debates will continue in weekly sessions every month through July, with the new “Sustainable Development Goals” to be adopted in September.

These new goals could provide an unexpected long-term global boost to public access to what should be public information, from official and private sources alike.

Or they may not – but we’ll know within a few months.

The ‘SDGs’ differ from the MDGs in that they are intended to be universal, applying to the developed North as well as to the South, with goals ranging from poverty eradication and disease prevention to gender equity and environmental protection.

They also differ notably from the MDGs in that they include – as currently drafted, despite objections from many UN member states   – several quite specific obligations intended to promote just and effective governance.

Among those proposals, to the surprise of many UN observers, is a commitment to public access to information, as one of the 169 proposed SDGs ‘targets,’ which still need to be backed up by agreed factual ‘indicators.’  Those yet-undetermined indicators could include legal guarantees and the actual observance of the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media and regardless of frontiers” – to cite the prescient but nonbinding language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

World leaders and development experts advising the UN on the post-2015 goals have stressed the need for freedom of expression and independent media in monitoring and ultimately achieving these goals.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his official recommendations to the General Assembly on the post-2015 agenda last month, pointed to “press freedom, access to information and freedom of expression” as essential “enablers of sustainable development.”

Yet as debate gets underway this week, it remains uncertain whether any clear commitment to the public’s right to all relevant information – from governments or elsewhere – will be included in the 2015-2030 “Sustainable Development Goals” that the UN General Assembly will adopt in September.

In the 18 months of UN negotiations over the 17 proposed  “SDGs” that are now being debated, draft references to “independent media” and “freedom of expression” were deleted in response to objections from several influential UN members, including Security Council powers Russia and China. Yet surviving in the agreed final text, in the 16th of the 17 recommended goals, is a “target” requiring all countries to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”

As UN diplomats convened for the post-2015 negotiations Monday, there was clearly growing resistance to any major redrafting or reduction of the painfully achieved compromise proposal for 17 goals, out of concern that any gains in precision or practicality would be outweighed by losses in substance and impact.

But the 169 aptly named ‘targets’ remain very much in the crosshairs, vulnerable to rewriting or elimination for a variety of practical and substantive reasons.  As an Austrian diplomat noted at the UN Friday, the current SDGs proposal would in effect obligate UN agencies to monitor 32,617 different data sets from 193 governments on 169 targets on an annual basis – a task that would be politically and technically daunting, if not impossible.

Technically, however, progress on access to information is not that hard to track, UN officials acknowledge. Moreover, many governments and civil society activists from North and South alike have strongly endorsed the proposed target on access to information, improving its chances of survival.

Leading international human rights groups, in a joint message to the UN Friday as civil society representatives met with UN officials in New York to discuss the post-2015 deliberations, stressed the need for “transparent monitoring and accountability mechanisms at the national level which are underpinned by a safe and free environment for civil society, and access to information.”

Also on Friday, the team of statisticians and economists advising the UN on indicators for the proposed SDGs released its penultimate draft report, with newly added recommendations for Target 10 of SDG 16.   The experts in the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network proposed that UNESCO monitor the adoption and implementation of legal guarantees of public access to information, as well as cases of journalists killed in the line of duty. Separately, under goals aimed at economic development, the report proposed indicators from the International Telecommunications Union on progress toward universal access to online information.

That’s a significant advance. The soberly phrased inputs of UN technocrats in this contentious area – showing that freedom of information and media is not only important but measurable, and in fact already measured by the UN in many ways – may overcome political and practical concerns in some wavering countries.  But diplomats stressed to NGO representatives at the UN Friday that transparency and accountability provisions in the SDGs remain vulnerable without sustained public support from civic activists in coming months – and more active coverage of the issue by the journalists whose interests an access-to-information commitment would help protect.

Original article found on: The Source
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Haiti: Haitians Worry World Bank-Assisted Mining Law Could Result in “Looting”

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

Written by Carey L. Biron

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The road to Baradares in north central Haiti. The aim of the new draft mining law appears to be a massive expansion of Haiti’s mining sector. Credit: Lee Cohen/cc by 2.0

The road to Baradares in north central Haiti. The aim of the new draft mining law appears to be a massive expansion of Haiti’s mining sector. Credit: Lee Cohen/cc by 2.0

WASHINGTON, Jan 13 2015 (IPS) – With Haiti’s Parliament having dissolved on Tuesday, civil society groups are worried that the Haitian president may move to unilaterally put in place a contentious revision to the country’s decades-old mining law.

Starting in 2013, that draft was written with technical assistance from the World Bank. Last week, a half-dozen Haitian groups filed a formal appeal with the bank’s complaints office, expressing concern that the legislation had been crafted without the public consultation often required under the Washington-based development funder’s own policies.

The aim of the new draft mining law appears to be a massive expansion of Haiti’s mining sector, paving the way for the entry of foreign companies already interested in the country’s significant gold and other deposits.

“Community leaders … are encouraging communities to think critically about ‘development’, and to not simply accept projects defined by outsiders,” Ellie Happel, an attorney in Port-au-Prince who has been involved in the complaint, told IPS.

txbx“These projects often fail. And, in the case with gold mining, residents learn that these projects may threaten their very way of life.”

Haiti’s extractives permitting process is currently extensive and bureaucratic. Yet the new revisions would bypass parliamentary oversight altogether, halting even a requirement that agreement terms be made public, according to a draft leaked in July.

Critics worry that this streamlining, coupled with the Haitian government’s weakness in ensuring oversight, could result in social and environmental problems, particularly damaging to a largely agrarian economy. Further, there is question as to whether exploitation of this lucrative minerals wealth would benefit the country’s vast impoverished population.

“The World Bank’s involvement in developing the Draft Mining Law lends the law credibility, which is likely to encourage investment in the Haitian mining sector,” the complaint, filed with the bank’s Inspection Panel on Wednesday, states.

“[T]his increased investment in the mining sector will result in … contamination of vital waterways, impacts on the agriculture sector, and involuntary displacement of communities. Complainants are also concerned about the exclusion of Haitian people from the law reform process, particularly when contrasted with the reported regular participation of the private sector in drafting the new law.”

An opaque process

The complaint comes five years after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, and as political instability is threatening reconstruction and development progress made in that catastrophe’s aftermath. Elections have been repeatedly put off for more than two years, and by Tuesday so many members of Parliament are slated to have finished their terms that the body would lack a quorum.

On Sunday Haitian President Michel Martelly indicated that a deal might be near. But the leftist opposition was reportedly not part of this agreement, and has repeatedly warned that the president is planning to rule by decree.

The Inspection Panel complaint, filed by six civil society groups operating under the umbrella Kolektif Jistis Min (the Justice in Mining Collective), contextualises its concerns against this backdrop of instability. “[T]he Haitian government may be poised to adopt the Draft Mining Law by decree, outside the democratic process,” it states.

Even if the political crisis is dealt with soon, concerns with the legislation’s drafting process will remain.

The Justice in Mining Collective, which represents around 50,000 Haitians, drew up the complaint after the draft mining law was leaked in July. No formal copy of the legislation has been made public, nor has the French-language draft law been translated into Haitian Creole, the most commonly spoken language.

“The process has been very opaque, with a small group of experts from the World Bank and Haitian government officials drafting this law,” Sarah Singh, the director of strategic support with Accountability Counsel, a legal advocacy group that consulted on the complaint and is representing some Haitian communities, told IPS.

“They’ve had two meetings that, to my knowledge, were invite-only and held in French, at which the majority of attendees were private investors and some big NGOs. Yet the bank’s response to complaints of this lack of consultation has been to say this is the government’s responsibility.”

The Justice in Mining Collective is suggesting that this lack of consultation runs counter to social and environmental guidelines that undergird all World Bank investments. These policies would also call for a broad environmental assessment across the sector, something local civil society is now demanding – to be followed by a major public debate around the assessment’s findings and the potential role large-scale mining could play in Haiti’s development.

Yet the World Bank is not actually investing in the Haitian mining sector, and it is not clear that the institution’s technical assistance is required to conform to the safeguards policies. In a November letter, the bank noted that its engagement on the Haitian mining law has been confined to sharing international best practices.

Yet Singh says she and others believe the safeguards do still apply, particularly given the scope of the new legislation’s impact.

“This will change the entire legal regime,” she says. “The idea that bank could do that and not have the safeguards apply seems hugely problematic.”

A World Bank spokesperson did confirm to IPS that the Inspection Panel has received the Haitian complaint. If the panel registers the request, she said, the bank’s management would have around a month to submit a response, following which the bank’s board would decide whether the complaint should be investigated.

Parliamentary moratorium

Certainly sensitivities around the Haitian extractives sector have increased in recent years.

Minerals prospecting in Haiti has expanded significantly over the past half-decade, though no company has yet moved beyond exploration. In 2012, when the government approved its first full mining permit in years, the Parliament balked, issuing a non-binding moratorium on all extraction until a sector-wide assessment could take place.

Meanwhile, Haitians have been looking across the border at some of the mining-related problems experienced in the Dominican Republic, including water pollution. Civil society groups have also been reaching out to other countries in the Global South, trying to understand the experiences of other communities around large-scale extractives operations.

Current views are also being informed by decades of historical experience in Haiti, as well. Since the country’s independence in the early 19th century, several foreign companies have engaged many years of gold mining.

That was a “negative, even catastrophic, experience,” according to a statement from the Justice in Mining Collective released following the leak of the draft mining law in July.

“Mining exploitation has never contributed to the development of Haiti. To the contrary, the history of gold exploitation is one marked by blood and suffering since the beginning,” the statement warned.

“When we consider the importance of and the potential consequences of mineral exploitation, we note this change in the law as a sort of scandal that may facilitate further looting, without even the people aware of the consequences.”

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

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Development: European Citizens Call for Increased Aid to Developing World

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

Written by Thalif Deen

Edited by Kitty Stapp

In Tapoa, Burkina Faso, a region bordering Niger, the European Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO) funds the NGO ACF to provide health and nutrition care as well as food assistance including cash transfers for the poorest families. Credit: © EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie/cc by 2.0

In Tapoa, Burkina Faso, a region bordering Niger, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) funds the NGO ACF to provide health and nutrition care as well as food assistance including cash transfers for the poorest families. Credit: © EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie/cc by 2.0

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 2015 (IPS) – An overwhelming majority of citizens in the 28-member European Union (EU) – which has been hamstrung by a spreading economic recession, a fall in oil prices and a decline of its common currency, the Euro – has expressed strong support for development cooperation and increased aid to developing nations.

A new Eurobarometer survey to mark the beginning of the ‘European Year for Development,’released Monday, shows a significant increase in the number of people in favour of increasing international development aid.

The survey reveals that most Europeans continue to “feel very positively about development and cooperation”.

Additionally, the survey also indicates that 67 percent of respondents across Europe think development aid should be increased – a higher percentage than in recent years, despite the current economic situation in Europe.

And 85 percent believe it is important to help people in developing countries.

“Almost half of respondents would personally be prepared to pay more for groceries or products from those countries, and nearly two thirds say tackling poverty in developing countries should be a main priority for the EU.”textbox

Presenting the results of the survey, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said, “I feel very encouraged to see that, despite economic uncertainty across the EU, our citizens continue to show great support for a strong European role in development.

“The European Year will give us the chance to build on this and inform citizens of the challenges and events that lie ahead during this key year for development, helping us to engage in a debate with them,” he added.

Jens Martens, director of the Bonn-based Global Policy Forum-Europe, told IPS the Eurobarometer demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of EU citizens support global solidarity and strengthened international cooperation.

“This is good news. Now, EU governments must follow their citizens,” he said.

EU positions in the U.N.’s upcoming post-2015 development agenda and Financing for Development (FfD) negotiations will become the litmus test for their global solidarity, said Martens, who is also a member of the Coordinating Committee of Social Watch, a global network of several hundred non-governmental organisations (NGOs) campaigning for poverty eradication and social justice.

EU governments must translate the increased citizens support for development now into an increase of offical development assistance (ODA), but also in fair trade and investment rules and strengthened international tax cooperation under the umbrella of the United Nations, he declared.

According to the latest available statistics, only five countries – Norway (1.07 percent), Sweden (1.02), Luxembourg (1.00), Denmark (0.85), United Kingdom (0.72) and the Netherlands (0.67) – have reached the longstanding target of 0.7 of gross national income as ODA to the world’s poorer nations.

In an interview with IPS last November, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon singled out the importance of the upcoming International Conference on FfD in Ethiopia next July.

He said the ICFD will be “one of the most important conferences in shaping the U.N.’s 17 proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs)” which will be approved at a summit meeting of world leaders next September.

Ban cautioned world leaders of the urgent need for “a robust financial mechanism” to implement the SDGs – and such a mechanism, he said, should be put in place long before the adoption of these goals.

“It is difficult to depend on public funding alone,” he told IPS, stressing the need for financing from multiple sources – including public, private, domestic and international.

Speaking of financing for development, Ban said ODA, from the rich to the poor, is “is necessary but not sufficient.”

Meanwhile, the economic recession is taking place amidst the growing millions living in hunger (over 800 million), jobless (more than 200 million), water-starved (over 750 million) and in extreme poverty (more than one billion), according to the United Nations.

In a statement released Monday, the European Commission provided some of the results of the Eurobarometer on development: At 67 percent, the share of Europeans who agree on a significant increase in development aid has increased by six percentage points since 2013, and a level this high was last seen in 2010.

One in two Europeans sees a role for individuals in tackling poverty in developing countries (50 percent).

A third of EU citizens are personally active in tackling poverty (34 percent), mainly through giving money to charitable organisations (29 percent).

Most Europeans believe that Europe itself also benefits from giving aid to others: 69 percent say that tackling poverty in developing countries also has a positive influence on EU citizens.

Around three-quarters think it is in the EU’s interest (78 percent) and contributes to a more peaceful and equitable world (74 percent).

For Europeans, volunteering is the most effective way of helping to reduce poverty in developing countries (75 percent). But a large majority also believe that official aid from governments (66 percent) and donating to organisations (63 percent) have an impact.

The European Commission says 2015 promises to be “hugely significant for development, with a vast array of stakeholders involved in crucial decision-making in development, environmental and climate policies”.

2015 is the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the year in which the ongoing global post-2015 debate will converge into a single framework for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

2015 is also the year that a new international climate agreement will be decided in Paris.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

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First three excerpts released of Haitian made films

Haitian Perspectives in Film

Five years ago, January 12th, 2010, Haiti was shattered by one of the world’s worst disasters.  A 7.0 earthquake killed upwards of 300,000 people, disrupted Haiti’s already fragile infrastructure, and left hundreds of thousands without families, friends and homes.

In 2015 CSFilm is releasing 10 new films in our series Haitian Perspectives in Film. During an intensive training provided by Community Supported Film, Haitian civil society leaders, journalists and artists, used their local knowledge to produce 10 short films that provide a unique opportunity to experience Haiti as it is lived by street vendors, business women, artists, farmers and more. We are releasing their stories a few at a time over the next months.

Here are excerpts from the first three:


Owned and Occupied by Bichara Villarson, 1:47; Haitians are building earthquake safe housing efficiently and cost effectively. One Haitian organization and community show us what is possible with a little money and a lot of community input, ownership and participation.


Rubble by Robenson Sanon, 2:02; Artists use the trash that fills roads and rivers after rain storms, and pickings from the earthquake rubble that still remains in huge sections of the city, to comment on the failed infrastructure and recovery efforts;


Konbit by Steeve Colin, 1:39; Urban activists bring the rural Haitian tradition of the Konbit, shared labor, to the country’s most dangerous ghetto. Neighborhoods and youth, divided by gangs and extreme neglect, create urban gardens and clean up the slum through a locally-led participatory approach.

These films help ensure that Haitian experience informs the international conversation about the urgency of locally owned and implemented economic and social development.

Please put these films to good use. Contact CSFilm or Groupe Medialteratif to organize a screening and discussion.

And please let our Haitian storytellers hear what you think about their films and their community’s story. Email us at info@csfilm.org.

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Haiti: Then and Now

Original photo essay and article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Sparkling white walls, palm trees, and a gazebo paint a serene mask on the hospital in Gressier, an oceanfront town 22 kilometers south of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

“At first look you see it’s beautiful,” said Vaudrise Paul, a 31-year-old midwife in charge of the maternity ward. “But if you come in, you see it’s so small, there’s no equipment, there’s no staff.”

The hospital is five years old, built after the powerful earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010. In the aftermath, charities and nonprofits rushed to Haiti’s aid in an expensive and broadly disappointing relief effort. I went to Gressier in May at the suggestion of Dr. Reynold Grand Pierre, Director of Family Health at the Ministry of Health. I was exploring new programs to improve maternal care; Pierre had spoken with such vitriol about the broken, disjointed system of healthcare that both depended on and was destroyed by the global charity sector. He told me Gressier was an understaffed mess, but when I arrived it felt serene and perfect, cooled with sea breezes from the beach down the road.

As I entered the verdant grounds, I wondered if the minister had been sending me on a goose chase to undermine my reporting. I shouldn’t have doubted though.

In the aftermath of the earthquake there have been countless picturesque projects on this gorgeous Caribbean island — shells of schools with no teachers, gleaming new hospitals with no staff. Many charities have come and gone, and even those that stay largely have short-term contracts. My motorcycle driver, Junior, told me his wife had birthed each of her three children since the earthquake in a different clinic — following a word-of-mouth network about ever-shifting programs and projects to find affordable options for her deliveries. The strings of these myriad distinct programs do not knit into a safety net for Haiti, and mothers are left to advocate for themselves.

Allyn Gaestel is a recent Pulitzer Center grantee. Read her full story here.

Original photo essay and article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

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Haiti: Who Owns What in Haiti?

The island of La Tortue, off the northern coast of Haiti, has become best known as a place where Haitians facing hard times set sail for lot bo dlo—the other side of the water. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was first ousted, in 1991, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted and repatriated some eighteen hundred “boat people” who had fled Haiti’s north coast en route to South Florida. Recently, though, one British-American company has been working to bring large numbers of people in the other direction, from South Florida to La Tortue. In July, Carnival Corporation, the cruise-ship company, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Haitian government, which would allow a port to be opened on the island’s Pointe-Ouest beach, to serve as a stopover for its Caribbean ships. Haitian officials claimed that the development would create two thousand jobs, and would represent a major step forward in a plan for tourism to propel the nation’s economy. Five years after an earthquake caused an estimated $8.1 to $13.9 billion in damage—more than the country’s G.D.P. at the time—Haiti remains plagued by chronic underemployment and poverty.

The port deal is now at risk, however, because the ground onto which Carnival’s passengers would disembark may not have been the government’s to offer. In 1970, François (Papa Doc) Duvalier, Haiti’s President at the time, agreed to lease much of La Tortue to a Texas businessman named Don Pierson, with the aim of creating a free port; Pierson’s son, Grey, now holds the lease. The contract gave Don Pierson’s company a ninety-nine-year lease, and specified that he would develop the island’s infrastructure for tourism. Though Pierson soon began signing deals to that end, including one with Gulf Oil, for three hundred million dollars, the development project never got off the ground.

Occasionally, Grey Pierson says, Haitian officials would “rediscover” the project, and, in 1998, two years after his father’s death, a delegation came to Dallas to see him. As he tells it, he put up the Haitians at the Loews Anatole and held a meeting with them at the offices of the Texas Rangers’ ballpark. He told them that his father had procured four hundred million dollars in commitments to La Tortue. Leslie Voltaire, an architect and urban planner who was serving as the adviser on infrastructure and urban planning to René Préval, Haiti’s President at the time, was present at the meeting; Voltaire recalls that Pierson wanted the four hundred million dollars in compensation. (Pierson denies that.) The discussions went no further.

“I think that Carnival didn’t know that,” Voltaire told me, referring to the 1970 deal with Pierson. “If Carnival sees that there is that land issue, they won’t come.” Carnival confirmed to the Miami Heraldthat it did not learn of the dispute over ownership until several months after signing the agreement. (The newspaper further reported that yet another entity, Hotel Mont Joli SA, holds a lease on Pointe-Ouest.) Pierson, for his part, says that he has not been contacted by Carnival or Haitian government officials regarding the matter.

Similar uncertainty over land ownership has played out across Haiti as the country attempts to attract foreign investment in tourism, mining, manufacturing, and agriculture—often without clear knowledge of who, precisely, owns what. The country’s present difficulties with land ownership are a function not only of its twentieth-century dictators but of Haiti’s history as a former slave colony. After achieving independence, in 1804, former slaves discovered that the land they had taken from their owners would not be theirs to keep. The country’s revolutionary leaders, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Toussaint Louverture, thought it best for land to be held in large swathes, by the state. “Having survived the brutality of the slave system and then the violence of the revolution, the ex-slaves strongly believed that the land should be theirs; land ownership would give freedom its full and true meaning,” the historian Laurent Dubois writes in “Haiti: The Aftershocks of History.” But the early debates over who would control Haitian territory “revolved only around the question of which group of elites would profit from Haiti’s new order—not what that order would look like.”

“Now there is a fight between the Haitian bourgeoisie and peasants who want to control the land,” the Haitian sociologist Bernard Etheart told me. The tension played out over the past two centuries with governments often bequeathing parcels of land to various groups, only sometimes to take them back later, subsequent disputes over territory, and little regard for formal title throughout. Peasants in rural Haiti generally worked the land under an informal system of tenancy, in which they established de-facto ownership over small plots of land, then joined their plots with their neighbors’, usually members of their extended families, and farmed the land collectively. The land would typically remain under the name of just one family member—but no records of these arrangements were provided to the state.

Many people have sometimes claimed to own the same parcel of land, while other plots of land had no identifiable owner. Cases in which title could be established are rare (though Etheart traced one going back to Spanish colonial times). A 1997 study, conducted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and Haiti’s agriculture ministry, estimated that ninety-five per cent of all land sales in rural Haiti had been conducted without going through legal formalities.

In the wake of the massive earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010, resolving long-standing land-ownership issues has been a low priority for Haiti’s leaders, even as they regard tourism, mining, and other industries affected by questions of title as crucial to the island’s economic development. France is helping to fund Haiti’s land-management office, but the Haitian government hasn’t allocated the resources it would take to create a national cadastre (a survey of the country’s land). Joab Thelot, a coordinator for the National Office of the Cadastre, says that it wouldn’t take much—just three million dollars a year—to pay the salaries of trained surveyors and buy the vehicles they would need to get around. In recent years, though, Haiti’s parliament has allocated his office just a third that amount.

Indications from Haitian officials regarding how they will handle the uncertainty over ownership have raised further concerns. In addition to the Carnival case, in August, 2013, President Michel Martelly’s government, which had come to power two years earlier, announced a major investment on the small island of Île-à-Vache, aimed at turning it into a tourist destination. A few months earlier, the government had published a decree meant to establish that state-owned land on the island could be used only for tourism and public utilities. The announcement may have been intended to avoid the kind of embarrassment that the government later experienced with Carnival. The hundreds of people who had been farming and living on Île-à-Vache for generations responded by staging protests, which haven’t halted construction.

As Martelly pushes ahead with his development agenda, he has given few indications that he intends to address the pervasive issues relating to land ownership and insecurity that have undermined development in Haiti for two hundred years. On Tuesday, the day after the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, a deal to set terms for new elections fell apart and the country’s parliament dissolved, leaving Martelly to rule by decree. The latest bout of political turmoil makes it even less likely that Haiti will be able to address the basic conflicts over land that threaten to inhibit the island’s economic development.

Original article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

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Haiti: Five Years after Haiti’s Earthquake, International Community Still Must Act to Address Urgent Needs, CEPR Co-Director Says

Original article found on: Center for Economic and Policy Research

January 12, 2015

Cholera Eradication, Housing, Sanitation and Safe Water Remain Underfunded

Washington, D.C.- Five years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake killed some 217,300 and displaced 1.5 million people, the international community still needs to act to address ongoing urgent needs, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. While the international community pledged over $10 billion for relief and reconstruction following the quake, much of that assistanceultimately went to agencies and contractors from the donor countries themselves, while Haitian organizations and the Haitian government were largely sidelined. Hundreds of people continue to die from cholera each year in Haiti as water and sanitation remain sub-standard, while fewer than 10,000 new houses have been built to house the hundreds of thousands who lost their homes in the earthquake.

“This is a shameful milepost for the international community, as so many urgent needs in Haiti remain a full five years later,” Weisbrot said. “Countries such as the United States, France and Canada share a particular burden for these failures, since these countries have trampled upon Haitian sovereignty and sidelined Haitian institutions throughout the country’s history.”

In October 2010, Haiti was hit with a second disaster when a cholera epidemic began downriver from a base for United Nations troops. Over 8,774 [PDF] people have died from the disease since – hundreds of them last year, and more than 700,000 have been infected. The U.N. has refused to take responsibility, leading to lawsuits on behalf of cholera victims and their families, and the U.N.’s cholera eradication plan remains woefully underfunded.

“The ongoing cholera epidemic is a humanitarian disaster directly caused by the international community,” Weisbrot said. “By the U.N., whose troops caused the outbreak through reckless behavior, and by the U.S. government, which had previously deliberately held up millions in loans to upgrade Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure.”

The ongoing lack of adequate housing – and the tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who remain in settlement camps – marks another area where the international response has failed to address urgent needs.

“The post-quake housing story is one of scandal, profiteering and tragedy,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who wrote about the housing response in detail for the Boston Review, explained. “Certain contractors got tens of millions for housing that they didn’t deliver, while authorities have still been able to claim success by pointing to how fewer people remain in IDP camps. But many of these people were forcibly evicted from the camps, often with no place to go. The displacement crisis continues; it is just hidden now.”

Housing contracting by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an example of the lack of transparency that has dogged the response effort, with subcontractors often unknown and therefore unaccountable. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year, is meant to foster greater transparency in U.S. government contracting in Haiti through regular progress reports to Congress.

Weisbrot and Johnston noted several other key challenges for Haiti that could be aided by a more effective international response, including high poverty, high unemployment [PDF], the lack of jobs offering a living wage, and Haiti’s struggling agricultural sector, which could be supported were food aid funds used to purchase harvests from Haitian farmers rather than undercutting the sector through exporting lower-cost U.S. grains.

Original article found on: Center for Economic and Policy Research

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On the Media, Afghanistan: Violence, threats and insecurity – The challenges of reporting in Afghanistan

Original article found on: IFEX
By Alexandra Theodorakidis
5 December 2014
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
This statement was originally published on cjfe.org on 1 December 2014.

 

Violence against journalists in Afghanistan has been steadily increasing in 2014 with the withdrawal of foreign troops and a decrease in international aid. Five journalists were killed in the first four months of 2014. As control over Afghanistan’s national security transfers from international to Afghan forces and peace talks continue with the Taliban, there has been some uncertainty as to what will happen to the media and free expression in the country, especially as it underwent presidential elections.

CJFE’s 2014 Tara Singh Hayer Award winner Kathy Gannon was one journalist caught in the crossfire. She and her longtime friend and work partner, photographer Anja Niedringhaus, were covering the run-up to the elections in April 2014 when an Afghan police officer suddenly opened fire into the back of their vehicle. Niedringhaus was killed instantly, while Gannon was severely injured.

The latest upsurge in violence against journalists follows a short period of opening and development in the media. Pre-9/11 Afghanistan under Taliban rule had restricted access to independent media, both local and international. There was one Taliban-controlled radio station, used for state announcements and religious proclamations. Things began to change after the US invasion of Afghanistan that saw control lifted from the Taliban and transferred to an ostensibly more democratic system. In 2014, there are “175 FM radio stations, 75 TV channels, four news agencies, and hundreds of publications, including seven daily newspapers, Internet cafés in major cities and mobile phones in the hands of about half the population of 29 million people.”

While Afghan journalists have made great strides in establishing media outlets and providing Afghans with comprehensive coverage of local and national events in recent years, there are still many challenges being faced by local and foreign journalists alike, namely, harassment, threats and lack of support from government authorities.

Afghanistan currently ranks sixth on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Global Impunity Index. According to CPJ, fatalities are higher among foreign journalists than local journalists. Many Afghan journalists have been specifically targeted, kidnapped or intimidated by the Taliban, local warlords and on occasion by Afghan government or security officials. The situation is particularly bad if they are associated with Western media, which is being increasingly smeared by the Taliban and similar armed groups. Nai, a non-profit organization supporting open media in Afghanistan, reports 52 incidents of violence against journalists so far this year.

British-Swedish journalist Nils Horner was killed in March 2014, targeted while reporting on a suicide bombing that had occurred earlier in the year in Kabul. A Taliban-splinter group claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that Horner was not a journalist but a spy working for MI6. However, there is no concrete evidence that this group actually carried out the murder. Cilla Benkö, the director general of Horner’s employer Swedish Radio, said that Afghan authorities have not been very active in seeking the actual perpetrators of this crime, likely because Horner was a foreign correspondent.

Journalists not only face threats and attacks from terrorists but also intransigence from government officials who are uncooperative and withhold access to information. Authorities have been known to make threats in order to deter journalists from pursuing a story. The situation is even worse for women who are still largely underrepresented in the Afghan media.

According to a female journalist who heads a radio station in Balkh province, being a female journalist is particularly challenging. They face sexual harassment and threats from officials, strangers and sometimes even family members. Cultural constraints on women in Afghanistan often restrict them to work inside the office, instead of venturing out to do field work. In many places in Afghanistan, the idea of women undertaking public roles and working is considered taboo. Additionally, there is pressure on women working in the media from family elders to quit their jobs in order to avoid wider repercussions for the entire family, or because they view the career as unseemly. Lack of training and resources for women in the media is also a serious issue.

In September 2014, Palwasha Tokhi Meranzai, a female Afghan journalist, was killed inside her home by an unknown assailant. She had received a death threat relating to her reporting about a month before her murder; despite evidence that the motive was tied to her profession, Afghan security services persist in treating it as a robbery.

Since early 2013, press freedom organizations have noted a decrease in the number of women currently working as journalists in Afghanistan due to the culture of fear created by religious militants such as the Taliban and related organizations. Shaffiqa Habibi, director of the Afghan Women Journalist Union, told CPJ in 2013 that she estimated that 300 of the 2,300 professional female journalists had stopped working out of fear for their personal safety.

While there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future of a free press in Afghanistan and the safety of journalists working in the country, many are taking steps to ensure they will be safe in their work. In August, 20 female journalists in the northern province of Jawjzan formed the first union of female journalists in Afghanistan. The union aims to promote women’s rights in the region and provide training and support specifically geared to women in the field. Similar unions have been established in other provinces across the country.

There is also evidence that the current Afghan government might be softening towards journalists; a New York Times correspondent, expelled from Afghanistan earlier in 2014 over a story he wrote on the presidential elections, was recently allowed to re-enter the country. Matthew Rosenberg was told to leave Afghanistan by the administration of former President Hamid Karzai after he penned an article stating that a group of government officials had formed an interim government in the hopes of seizing power during the election’s stalemate.

On October 5, Mohammad Daoud Sultanzai, an adviser to newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, said in a statement that if a journalist has a credible source for a story, they should be allowed to write it, as per the law. Although there has been a spike in violence over the last year towards journalists working in Afghanistan, there remains cause for optimism that the country can continue to develop a strong independent press. If the current government continues its commitment to protecting the rights of journalists and freedom of the media, Afghans may be able to avoid returning to the oppression and censorship they experienced under Taliban rule.

Alexandra Theodorakidis is a former CJFE intern and current freelance journalist based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @AlexandraTheo.

Original article found on: IFEX

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On the Media: UN Secretary General Calls for Media in Post-2015

Original article found on: The Source

Posted on December 8, 2014Rosemary D’Amour

 

The campaign for media and access to information’s inclusion in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals gained a new advocate last week in UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who reaffirmed their importance in a synthesis report for the SDGs.

The report, noting the evolving information needs of communities and the necessity of supporting institutions for inclusive societies, cites access to information and media as integral to the post-2015 development agenda, a topic which CIMA has been following closely over the last  year.

“Press freedom and access to information, freedom of expression, assembly and association are enablers of sustainable development.” ~Synthesis Report of the Secretary General on the Post-2015 Agenda

Ban’s report is welcome support for what has been a lengthy challenge for press freedom and freedom of information advocates, including the Global Forum for Media Development and Article 19, who have spearheaded initiatives to get these issues on the table at United Nations Open Working Group sessions.

“The Secretary General’s report today echoed civil society calls for post-2015 commitments to freedom of information and media both as crucial rights-based ends in themselves and as practical necessities for monitoring progress towards all the proposed new goals,” GFMD said in a press release last week.

However, the process is not over yet. The road to final adoption of the SDGs faces significant roadblocks from authoritarian countries opposed to media’s inclusion on the indicators. On another front, the SDGs have come under criticism of late for the 17 goals and 169 targets proposed, which some member states feel would be challenging to implement by 2030. Ban’s synthesis report, which highlights the necessity of these goals, comes as a strong recommendation for their adoption.

The Global Forum for Media Development has launched a campaign to keep media and freedom of information as part of the post-2015 process. We recommend you join the coalition and take a look at their resources, including the video below.

Original article found on: The Source

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Press Coverage: “Handing Over the Camera”

Connecticut College Magazine, By Josh Anusewicz, Fall 2014

A full PDF version of the original Connecticut College Magazine article can be found here.

JUDE0531

Since being struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010, the Caribbean nation of Haiti has been portrayed by the domestic media as a land of struggle and poverty, where help from the outside is the Haitian people’s only hope.But documentary filmmaker Michael Sheridan ’89 knows there is another story. Haitians are starting their own initiatives to recover, and Sheridan wants them to tell their stories in their own unique way. To do that, he is turning the typical documentary style on its head.Sheridan, the founder and director of Community Supported Film (CSFilm), is training Haitian storytellers in the production of 10 short films that will focus on the causes of and solutions to the economic and social development challenges Haiti has faced since the earthquake.

Handing Over the Camera quote

“We want to bring the Haitian perspective into the conversation about these humanitarian issues,” he says. The project will bring together CSFilm, Haitian media organizations, and Haitian and international NGOs, and the finished product is expected to be broadcast by Haitian and international outlets.

Sheridan founded CSFilm in 2010 and completed a similar film project in Afghanistan that same year. “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film” was awarded

 the $10,000 Promotions Prize at the International Short Film Festival in Switzerland and has been discussed in forums across the United States, from town halls to the halls of Congress.

Sheridan says he came up with the idea for CSFilm to fuse his interests in teaching and filmmaking, while also helping local people take control of the stories being told about their economic and social development challenges. “I realized that if we really wanted to understand the plight of others or help them, we needed to understand the problems and solutions from their perspectives,” he says.

His passion for advocacy was developed during his college years — or, perhaps more accurately, between college years. Having grown up working in the theater, Sheridan took a sabbatical from college after his junior year to embark on a two-year independent study of the theater of other cultures. The two-year trip turned into a seven-year journey through Europe, during which he found himself deeply immersed in social and political movements.

After returning to Connecticut College to complete his senior year in 1989, Sheridan took a job at the international development organization Oxfam America in Boston. It was there that he partnered with a colleague on a documentary about poverty in Guatemala and began to focus on filmmaking. His work has appeared on PBS, ABC, TLC and Discovery Channel.

In 2013, Sheridan took part in TEDxConnecticutCollege, where he discussed media consumption and its impact on how we see situations faced by others. “We all have to demand an improvement in our news diet — a balanced diet that is less self-centered, that includes local perspectives, and would help us be better informed,” Sheridan told students.

 

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Development, Haiti: Art, an economic stake in the country’s development

Original article found on: Haiti Libre 

11/30/14

 

Photo

As part of the implementation of the Strategic Plan for the Development of Haiti (PSDH) developed by the Government, the Council for Economic and Social Development (CDES), an agency of the Primature, recently completed a three-day workshop on the theme “The world of arts and trades through the credit system”, which took place around three fundamental axes: the valuation of arts, trades and occupations according to the various trades; accompanying mechanisms for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the financial system and its adaptation to new economic challenges.

The Office of the Deputy Minister (Marie Carmèle Rose Anne Auguste) responsible for human rights and the fight against extreme poverty is involved in this project together with other government ministries and public agencies.

In her speech, the Minister Auguste highlighted the importance of arts and culture in the development of the country “The arts should be the engine of our economic development. Our culture, the talent of our artists and our craftsmen is our greatest wealth,” appealing to investment in the arts the Minister added “Our artists of sensitive neighborhoods need sustained coaching, good tools to work, adequate environment that enables them to work in peace.”

The Minister Delegate believes essential to build of integration centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods that will be, according to her “places of high culture where will will meet and will will commune all social strata of the Nation.”

At the end of the forum, a series of recommendations was formulated concerning inter alias : the development of a social credit system to finance the activities of artistic creation, the supervision of artists and craftsmen, a strong training in marketing management and customer service and the creation of tens of Community integration Centers, across the country.

 

Original article found on: Haiti Libre 

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Afghanistan: Afghan women’s voices must be heard to build a better country

Original article found on: The Guardian 

By Samira Hamidi*; 11/21/14

*Samira Hamidi is the former director of the Afghan Women’s Network in Afghanistan

 ‘We have failed to address why men and women are not considered equal citizens in most of the country.’ Photograph: Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images

‘We have failed to address why men and women are not considered equal citizens in most of the country.’ Photograph: Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images

“This is your world, shape it or someone else will” – Rula Ghani, Afghanistan’s first lady

I recently attended a programme launch for women’s empowerment where Afghanistan’s first lady, Rula Ghani, was the keynote speaker. She ended her speech with the powerful statement above that inspired many of us there.

However, it made me think. In the real world of Afghan women, how many are able to do this? How many have real opportunities and support for this from male family members and colleagues?

Women’s participation in and contribution to Afghanistan have improved. It is always pleasing to read how women’s rights have been boosted in Afghanistan in education, health and government. It is also very positive tha one of the reasons for the presence of the international community in Afghanistan is to address women’s rights. But this progress has been limited to the big cities where people are fairly well educated and understand the concept of women’s rights. We have failed to address why men and women are not considered equal citizens in most of the country.

The London conference on Afghanistan, on 4 December, is considered an important opportunity for both the Afghan government and international community to discuss their mutual commitment and collaboration after this year, when the majority of US and UK troops leave. While it is encouraging that the UK government will host civil society, including a side event for women, before the conference, there is little information on how many women will be involved in the official delegation of the Afghan government. Discussions and negotiations over the final communique are under way, yet women’s groups within the government and the women’s movement have not yet been consulted. There is also limited information on the Afghan government’s priorities for this conference.

In the past 13 years, women’s representation has been limited. Despite three female ministers in the cabinet, 27% in the parliament and senate, nine women in Kabul’s high peace council and two to three per province in 31 provinces, women’s participation is rarely seen in important national discussions, decisions, authority and leadership. Women in these positions have failed to fully address the needs of other women.

The international community, particularly the UK government, has played an effective donor role to support women’s rights in Afghanistan. So far, the funding has supported the implementation of short-term projects by women-led organisations, but the absence of meaningful political and diplomatic pressure on policymakers to ensure women’s equal participation has always been felt.

It is promising that the UK Department for International Development (DfID), with the support of the UK-based British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group, plans to bring 50 civil society representatives to the London conference. But the women’s rights agenda seems to be missing. Past experiences have shown that the civil society delegations usually have a broader agenda to lobby for, which could see women’s concerns left to one side. As an activist, I was disappointed to hear that the visa applications for the women’s delegation – which had a specific agenda to discuss women’s concerns and recommendations – was not supported by the organisers.

Where both the Afghan and UK governments have priorities under their national action plans on women, implementation of these plans is a challenge. When female leaders are not engaged in national discussions and decisions, where international supporters do not prioritise women’s rights as per their commitments, it clearly shows a lack of interest and political will to address women’s rights.

We still hope to see a good representation of women in the Afghan government’s official delegation at the London conference. The UK government as co-host must ask for the meaningful participation of these women, a specific women’s rights event where they can make recommendations, and for these to be included in the final communique.

Afghan women have the ability to think about their country’s development, contribute to it and lead positive change. Women should be given an equal opportunity to make a better Afghanistan.

 

Original article found on: The Guardian 

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Development: It’s Time to Rethink How We Do Development

A group of development experts issues a plea for reform.

BY MATT ANDREWS , LENI WILD , MARTA FORESTI, NOVEMBER 25, 2014

Last month, a group of experts tried to set a different tone. Coming together in a workshop entitled Doing Development Differently, we tried, rather unusually, to focus on what the development community has been doing right — to share stories about projects, policies, and reforms that fostered real change by not doing development in the usual way.

Rather than getting stuck on what doesn’t work, the workshop participants set out to examine recent development successes, and attempted to understand precisely why they worked.

Check out Natalia Adler describing how she worked with a team to promote a “user- centered” approach to public sector reform by giving public servants in Nicaragua a 100 day challenge to experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of services (by registering a child’s birth or visiting a health clinic, for example). Or take a look at Zac Brisson‘s work on coming to grips with the realities of fiscal behavior in Nigeria (as a prelude to trying to reform this behavior), or at Jaime Faustino‘s presentation about transformational change in the Philippines, achieved through clever work with teams and coalitions to change the status quo on issues like property rights or public health tax.

These and other examples are inspirational. When presented alongside each other, however, they generated more than inspiration. Attendees at the workshop identified a number of core principles that seem to characterize successful development initiatives across very different country contexts and program objectives. The findings highlight that, while development comes in many shapes and sizes, the success stories offer some overarching lessons about how change happens, providing valuable clues to how development support can have the most impact:

First, these initiatives tackle local problems by inviting local people to debate, define, refine and address the issue at hand in an ongoing and iterative process.

Second, they involve agents at all levels (political, managerial, and social), which legitimizes the initiatives by building ownership and momentum into the process. They are “locally owned” in reality, not just on paper.

Third, the initiatives work through local conveners who mobilize all those with a stake in progress (in both formal and informal coalitions and teams) to tackle common problems and introduce relevant change.

Fourth, they blend design and implementation through rapid cycles of planning, action, reflection, and revision (drawing on local knowledge, feedback, and energy) to foster learning from both success and failure.

Fifth, these approaches manage risks by making “small bets,” pursuing activities with promise and dropping others.

And finally, these initiatives foster real solutions to real problems that have real impact, thus building trust, empowering people, and promoting sustainability.

These principles aren’t entirely new, having been central to the “structured flexibility” and “learning process” approaches produced by people like Derek Brinkerhoff and David Hulme in the 1980s and early 1990s. They are found in recent work as well, including the Overseas Development Institute’s Politically Smart, Locally Led work and theProblem-Driven Iterative Adaptation approach currently being adopted in research projects Harvard’s Building State Capability program.

We recognize that many might find the above principles to be common sense. Unfortunately, however, common sense is not always the most common of the senses.Indeed, what is striking is that many development projects, policies, and reforms still do not adhere to such principles. This is true for many initiatives that are externally supported and for many that are driven by developing country governments. We therefore see the need to identify these principles clearly. We also believe it is vital to state our belief that development initiatives will have more impact if these principles are followed.We aim to keep identifying initiatives that follow these principles and to help diffuse their positive impacts more broadly than is currently the case. We will work together as an emerging community of practice and welcome any and all who agree that development can and should be done differently. To start in this direction, our community at the workshop ambitiously decided to capture all this in a statement — the Doing Development Differently manifesto — that reflects the views of those at the workshop, many of whom have signed onto it. It reaffirms commitments for locally led problem solving, for mobilizing multiple stakeholders to take action, for managing risks by taking “small bets” and, above all, maintaining a focus on real results — tangible improvements that have real impact.

Our hope is that this is just the beginning.

Starting small, we want to expand. Limited by time, resources, and our locations, the workshop brought together a group that was necessarily small. But it’s clear that there are people and groups around the world already doing development differently, and their voices deserve to be heard. Practically, our manifesto includes an open invitation to all those who share our principles to join a growing community of practice that can share experiences and strategies adopted in the field of development. As part of this, we made the commitment to host our next convening in a developing country, with much more representation from different regions.

The workshop generated a rich set of cases and examples of doing development differently. They’re now available on the Harvard and ODIwebsites (where you can watch individual talks, or link to related reports). But we’re all too aware that this can look like cherry picking. To overcome such reservations, we aim to launch a dedicated “library” and to crowdsource evidence from around the world on programs that have achieved results (and those that haven’t) based on these principles. We also want to bring in historical experience, too — there’s a long history of at least the past 40 years of attempts to work in this way. This should provide a practical resource for anyone wanting to know more.

We are also dedicated to supporting others. We’ve already begun to work with some of the major donor funders on changing how they do development. We want to support much more peer-to-peer learning, too — connecting Nigerian “small bet” innovators with those who’ve already tried and succeeded (or failed) elsewhere. So watch this space.

It’s time to build on development’s positives, rather than singing an old and sad song about its failure. We are committed to becoming builders, by identifying agents and organizations doing great work, often at the margins and at great risk. Will you join us by signing the manifesto and sharing your experience?

UNICEF/Nicaragua-2013/ Terán

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On the Media: The Kremlin Is Killing Echo of Moscow, Russia’s Last Independent Radio Station

Original article found on: The Daily Beast

By Anna Nemtsova, 11/07/14

For years, if you asked politicians whether Russia had freedom of speech, they’d cite Echo of Moscow. Now the station may be fighting its last battle, its editor tells The Daily Beast.

Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

The situation sounded ridiculous to the 89 journalists who work for Russia’s most famous independent radio station, Echo of Moscow, and to many of its 7 million listeners across the country. Circumventing Echo company policy and going over the editor in chief’s head, Gazprom-Media, the company’s main shareholder, fired one of Echo’s most respected hosts, Alexander Plyushchev, and ordered security not to let journalists into their office Friday morning.

What for? Officially for an “insensitive” tweet by Plyushchev earlier this week about the accidental death of the elder son of Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff. Plyushchev later apologized and deleted the tweet. But Echo editor in chief Alexei Venediktov sees the incident as a pivotal incident in the “long-term war” the Kremlin has fought against the radio station, he told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview.

That war has been a long one. Venediktov has weathered many battles as Echo’s editor, and his own life has been threatened. One morning a few years ago, the editor left his apartment to find an ax stuck into a log on his doorstep. During the last few months of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Venediktov and his colleagues have appeared on multiple black lists, labeled as “enemies of Russia,” “Russophobes,” and members of a “fifth column.”

But this time, Echo is coming under attack from all sides. “This war is being fought on all fields, starting in the Ministry of Natural Resources and ending with the prosecutors,” Venediktov said. It is clear to the veteran editor that if he lets the authorities fire his reporter today, tomorrow there will be no Echo of Moscow. So Venediktov has decided to take the “illegal attacks” on the station to court, though his chances of success are low. “Plyushchev’s case was a way to show us the mechanism for Echo’s destruction,” he said. “The order comes from the very top. The Kremlin is determined to eliminate Echo’s policy by dismissing me, the station’s editor in chief, and the core reporters.”

Does Venediktov have any hope that Echo of Moscow will survive this battle? “I don’t think so,” he said. “Look outside your window. We are just a part of the landscape.”
To the millions of Russians who listen to Echo both on the radio and online, the idea of life without Echo is unthinkable. Muscovites call their favorite station “Ukho Moskvy” (Ear of Moscow) and see it as an institution, a compass for society. Echo has documented all the crises of the post-Perestroika era, wars, conflicts, scandals, and protests. “In all our worst crises, politicians have always supported us, since they knew that once every door was closed to them, if they were blackmailed or discredited, Echo would always give them a chance to speak out, as our policy is not to participate in any media or political wars,” radio host Olga Bychkova told The Daily Beast on Friday.

Echo’s microphone has always been available to any top politician, from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Hillary Clinton; opposition leaders; social workers; and even random Russians, calling in to Echo’s live shows day and night. For Russians, losing Echo would be as painful as losing NPR would be for Americans or losing the BBC would be for Britons. But in Russia, there is no alternative to Echo.

Would the Kremlin and its supporters regret losing Echo? “I don’t think any Russian patriot will miss them,” said Yuri Krupnov, an analyst for a pro-Kremlin think tank and a blogger for Echo, said in an interview on Friday. “Echo has very professional journalists, but all of them have purely neoliberal views. We don’t need a radio station with an agenda.”

But is there any chance Russia will get an alternative to Echo, a stage for wide-ranging discussions? “No, there is no demand for professional journalism,” Krupnov said. “The team in power want to keep things as they are now.”

For over two decades, if you asked Russian politicians whether there was freedom of speech or democracy in Russia, the answer would be: “Yes, look, we have Echo of Moscow.” So what got the Kremlin so angry at Echo of Moscow this time? It may come down to Ukraine: On the Echo show With My Own Eyes on October 29, Sergei Loiko of the Los Angeles Times and Timur Olevsky of Rain TV described covering the battle for the Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine. Two days later, for the first time in Echo’s 25-year history, the authorities presented the station with a written warning, with the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications accusing Echo of “extremism.”

The war against Echo has coincided with the rise of Russian nationalist and pro-Kremlin movements. Last weekend, on Russia’s Unity Day, about 60,000 demonstrators gathered in central Moscow, waving placards that said: “An Attack on Russia Is an Attack on Me.” A majority of Russians take the economic sanctions imposed by Europe and United States deeply personally, as an attack on Russia’s sovereign policy. The sanctions have consolidated Russian support for Vladimir Putin, pushing the president’s approval rating to 84 percent. Does Venediktov have any hope that Echo of Moscow will survive this battle? “I don’t think so,” he said. “Look outside your window. We are just a part of the landscape.”

 

Original article found on: The Daily Beast

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Afghanistan: Life in Kabul – Will Afghan women finally stop being seen as a freak show?

Original article found on: The Telegraph

By Heidi Kingstone, 7 Nov 2014

Heidi Kingstone spent four years uncovering the lives of Afghanistan's women Photo: REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Heidi Kingstone spent four years uncovering the lives of Afghanistan’s women Photo: REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

This is one of my clearest memories of life in Kabul.

The year was 2007, I had just arrived in the city and spring had come early. The sun shone and women swam in the cold water.

Men and women wearing bikinis lounged by the poolside, swam in the cold water and drank Martinis, inside the large compound that welcomed foreigners, but banned Afghans.

But just outside, past the secured parameter, women enveloped in blue burqas gingerly navigated rocky and unpaved roads, bound by harsh centuries’ old traditions where even looking at a man could result in death.

The contrast couldn’t have been any starker. It’s just one example of the jarring realities of life inside the ‘Kabubble’.

I’d travelled to Afghanistan to uncover life in one of the most turbulent corners of the world. In the four years I was there, I visited air bases and brothels, saw friends kidnapped and witnessed suicide bombings. I interviewed people in all the different corners of this mysterious place, from gunrunners to warlords, fashionistas to powerbrokers.

And, as a passionate advocate for women’s rights, I wanted to gain an understanding of how women lived and functioned here.

Back then even Hamid Karzai’s wife, Zeenat, a gynaecologist, was rarely seen outside the presidential palace.

But, fast forward to this September, when the new Afghan leader, Dr Ashraf Ghani, praised his wife, Rula, in public – where she sat prominently beside him. The new First Lady intends to be an advocate for women’s rights during her husband’s term. To many, it looks like the long awaited new dawn.

Rula Ghani, left, with her husband, Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani

Rula Ghani, left, with her husband, Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani

Women’s rights in Afghanistan have long been contested ground.

In the Twenties, King Amanullah planned for the emancipation of women – something that was considered so radical it ultimately led to his abdication. Educating girls formed part of the original Nato-Isaf mandate when forces entered the country in 2001. And women’s rights were later enshrined in the new Constitution – but they remain as fragile as the political situation. Insecurity in several provinces has already forced girls to abandon their education.

Just a few days ago, the UK ended 13 years of combat operations in Afghanistan and the last troops left Camp Bastion.

In a conservative country, where many still oppose women having any role outside the house, progress is dependent on international financial aid.

This is already drying up. Women fear losing the small gains they have made (although it was urban middle-class women, rather than poorer families in rural areas, who benefitted).
No wonder many are hoping that Rula Ghani’s entrance into the public sphere will lead to change, and a higher status for women.

But there is no magic wand. Afghanistan has the dubious distinction of coming top of countries voted worst in which to be a woman. Domestic violence is endemic, and the majority of women are illiterate.
That is what drew a huge number of people, like me, to venture to Afghanistan: a desire to help such women.

Over the last decade, gender development programmes have mushroomed: women have been employed in NGOs; received scholarships; worked as cleaners, worked as administrators; taken part in a variety of small projects in the home, or in workshops – bringing in extra cash and small moments of independence.

Many Afghan women are illiterate. Photo: EPA/NAQEEB AHMED

Many Afghan women are illiterate. Photo: EPA/NAQEEB AHMED

But there is also a sense, sometimes, that our view of Afghan women is a bit like a modern day version of the circus freak show.

In the northern part of the country, I once interviewed a very old woman who had one tooth and long grey plaits that poked out from her headscarf and hung down her back.

The fierce Afghan sun and a long hard life had weathered her skin. We spoke through a translator. She had been a beneficiary of a small project that improved the quality of the fruit and vegetables she grew in her garden and sold at market.

It was low-tech stuff – just some kit to keep insects from eating the produce. Of course, I remember her smile when she talked about the impact this had made on her life. But what I really remember is her words when she told me how she’d learnt that women could work outside the house and had value.

So, was Britain’s endeavour worth it for women? Yes and no.

We built a false economy, inadvertently made many corrupt people rich, and made many promises we couldn’t keep – not least changing the lives of women.

The narrative on Afghanistan is changing here – as is the collective feeling about involvement in far off places we really know nothing about.

“There is a frantic scrabbling for some kind of legacy of success amongst the senior British military,” says Frank Ledwidge, author of Losing Small Wars – about military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They realise that their spinning and lying is going to catch up with them. The line now is ‘Helmand may be a mess, but at least the rest of the country has not descended into total chaos’.

“What kind of success is that? How was that worth 453 lives and £40 billion?”

British troops in Afghanistan. Photo: Christopher Pledger/The Telegraph

British troops in Afghanistan. Photo: Christopher Pledger/The Telegraph

The place that I called home for more than a year is fast disappearing.

Against a backdrop was war, the fabulous Kabubble offered a great network of fascinating people, crazy parties, bizarre occurrences and Afghan hospitality. It was a country at the crossroads of history. My book, Dispatches from the Kabul Café, chronicles this era from the perspective of an expat (me). This was a unique moment in time; where restaurants, five-star hotels, bursts of artistic creativity and hope flourished side-by-side with death and a pervading sense of imminent doom.

That has already started to fade. Friends and colleagues have left, including myself, moving on. Others were murdered by the Taliban. But I think we all treasured our time there.

Afghanistan takes hold of the soul.

Journalists are programmed to be cynical, often for good reason. There was so much hope in the beginning but Afghanistan has proved a tough country to change, despite its many wonderful young and educated people who are working for a better future – especially for women.

Can Mrs Ghani help? That remains to be seen.

 

Original article found on: The Telegraph

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Development: International Development Is Broken. Here Are Two Ways to Fix It.

Original article found on: New Republic

By Michael Hobbes, Nov 18 2014

 

So I just wrote this essay about all the reasons I think international development, as we currently carry it out, can never achieve its own objectives. One thing I didn’t have room for was the ideas I’m excited about, development projects that meet, at least partially, our outsized expectations of them. Here are two such ideas, and why I think projects like these—technical, slow, un-viral—are the future of development.

Payment by Results

For those of you who’ve never implemented a development project, here’s how it works: You write a proposal to a donor. They agree, in principal, to fund your idea. Then you negotiate what your ‘indicators’ will be. These are the data points the donor will use to determine if you did what you set out to do, whether your project was successful.

Let’s say you’re proposing a project in Zambia, you want to decrease malaria rates. You get the European Commission (EC) to give you $1 million to train Zambian nurses to go house to house handing out malaria treatments, training mothers on symptoms and doses.

You and the EC come up with some indicators they’ll use to evaluate your project after it’s finished: You have to provide 10 training sessions per year, they have to be attended by at least 20 nurses, and all the nurses have make 1,000 home visits within a year of the training.

These sound pretty robust, right? The donor is saying, if we’re gonna give you money, you have to spend it like you told us you would.

But look how each of those indicators is tied to the process, not the outcome. Maybe 20 nurses attended your training, but none of them worked in clinics in high-malaria regions, or they read the newspaper during the training, or they only attended because they wanted the per diems. None of those indicators are related to the thing you actually set out to do.

I’ve done projects in Sub-Saharan Africa where our indicators were the number of Facebook likes we got, how many pages our summary reports were, how many trips to the field we made. Donors send auditors to get the sign-in sheets from our events and copies of PowerPoints we gave.

It’s not just individual projects that fall into the gap between inputs and results. Lant Pritchett’s The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain’t Learning documents how the international push for improved school attendance—as opposed to improved literacy, professional skills, and cognitive ability—led to overburdened teachers and crowded schools. According to a 2012 UNECSO study, 130 million kids—about one-quarter of the total worldwide—finished elementary school without basic literacy and math skills. In Nigeria, 52 percent of girls who finished six years of education were still illiterate, a rate that actually increased from 2002, right in the middle of the worldwide push for universal enrollment.

Payment by results does this upside-down: You’re paid for the result. How you get there is up to you.

So if the same project was administered under payment by results—sometimes called pay-for-performance aid or cash-on-delivery aid—you’d do a baseline survey before you started the project. One thousand Zambian kids, let’s say, die of malaria each year in the region where you’re carrying out your project. If, after you’re finished, that number has fallen to 500, you get the $1 million. If it doesn’t, you don’t.

As an employee of an international NGO, someone who spends a lot of time saving, scanning, and filing receipts for coffees in African airports, I love this model. I like that it gives us space to be creative. If we were being judged on our outcome rather than our process, we’d be free to pivot midstream. Maybe the training events aren’t working, and we should meet with nurses during their shifts at the hospitals. Maybe home visits aren’t reaching working mothers, so we should do village-wide weekend events. Because our indicators are related to activities rather than outcome, we couldn’t change our approach if it wasn’t working.

It also gives us the incentive to be cost-effective. If we spend $800,000 on the project and we get the $1 million grant, we can spend the surplus hiring more people, tweeting about our results, doing a fundraising drive. Under the current model, it’s the exact opposite: I have to go to the field, I have to give those training sessions; otherwise, I don’t get reimbursed.

The charity GiveDirectly has gotten a lot of attention lately for simply giving cash to poor people, no questions asked. The idea is that poor Kenyans have the best information on how poor Kenyans should spend their money, and aid agencies and Western donors should just them the means to do so and get out of the way. Payment by results is a step toward applying the same model to development charities themselves.

Not that payment by results is perfect. We could fake those improved death statistics, for one thing. Or we could spend half our budget bribing a politician to increase spending in our district, get our better death rates through graft.

In a survey of the evidence for and against payment by results (spoiler: there isn’t much), the NGO coalition Bond pointed out that this model puts all the financial risk on NGOs, and would encourage them to favor “tested” development projects rather than trying something riskier or more innovative. “One UK NGO,” the report notes, “reported having internal discussions on whether to include disabled children in the target group for an intervention funded through payment by results when their contract would not have paid them the additional cost required.” For me, it’s the untested-ness of payment by results that gives me the greatest trepidation about using it on a large scale. It sounds great, sure, but so did all the other development projects in the unmarked shed behind where they give the TED Talks.

Still, results-faking, profit maximizing, stat-juking, it’s not like those are new risks. Facebook likes aren’t exactly a perfect measure of impact, after all, and I could already be faking my sign-in sheets and my hotel receipts. The reason I don’t has nothing to do with accountability to my donor. It’s because I genuinely want my projects to succeed, not just to look like they do. I’d love it if a donor gave me the freedom to find that out for myself.

The ‘Data Revolution’

A friend of mine works at Amazon.com. Her job is to monitor the activity on the site and make tweaks, down to the millisecond, to maximize how much people buy. Thousands of people at Amazon do the same thing: This is how they know exactly which shade of yellow the “buy” button should be to make you click it. Every time we talk about work, I feel this chasm between how much she knows about her job and how much I know about mine.

Like I say in my essay, we basically have no idea what makes kids in poor countries go to school or not, why their moms vaccinate them or don’t. While Amazon is making tweaks to its business model, we’re reversing ours every time a new study gets published.

Much of the reason for this, boringly, is that we simply do not have very good data on the developing world. Statistics from poor countries are notoriously noisy and imprecise, clouded by political incentives and baseless external projections. In Madagascar, for example, a census hasn’t been carried out since 1993. The 2006 Nigerian census was mired in controversy, politicians accused of inflating numbers to increase political, ethnic and religious representation for their districts. “We do not really know our population,” the chairman of the country’s National Population Commission said at the time.

Morten Jerven’s book Poor Numbers (wonks only please) notes that many of the economic statistics you read from Sub-Saharan Africa—GDP, prices, income levels—are bold extrapolations from meager data points. The UN has price figures, for example, for 47 Sub-Saharan African countries, covering 1991 to 2004. But less than half of 1,410 observations have actual data behind them. The rest are projections, assumptions, a finger in the wind. For 15 of the countries, the UN has never received any data at all. This is how Guinea is either the seventh poorest country in Africa (out of 45) or the eleventh richest, depending on which source you’re using. Jerven compares the three main rankings of per capita GDP and sees Liberia jump 20 places.

Here’s the World Bank’s chief economist for Middle East and North Africa in 2011, calling Africa a ‘statistical tragedy’:

Today, only 35 percent of Africa’s population lives in countries that use the 1993 UN System of National Accounts; the others use earlier systems, some dating back to the 1960s. … Consider the case of Ghana, which decided to update its GDP last year to the 1993 system. When they did so, they found that their GDP was 62 percent higher than previously thought. Ghana’s per capita GDP is now over $1,000, making it a middle-income country.

Nigeria did the same thing in 2013, rebased its economic statistics, and saw its GDP jump up by 89 percent. These are the statistics development projects are based on, what they are trying to change. It’s like trying to lose 20 pounds without a mirror and stepping onto a different scale every day.

This is where “the data revolution” comes in. Amanda Glassman, a member of the Data for Africa Working Group, notes that most of the development statistics—how many people can read, who is at risk of starvation—come from household surveys, many of which are carried out by international monitoring and evaluation teams checking to see whether NGOs are spending donor money wisely (there’s those indicators again).

The problem with these surveys is that they’re not aligned between donors. So the Gates foundation team comes to a village, asks everybody their age and their weight and what they’ve been vaccinated for. Next month, Oxfam comes and asks them their height and their education level and how well they can read. The next month the World Bank comes and … you get the idea.

Meanwhile, the clinics and schools and local statistics offices, the bodies that are actually mandated to gather this kind of information, are cut out of the process. They don’t have the staff or budgets to carry out their own investigations, and none of the donors report their findings back. If Bill Gates or the World Bank or whoever finds high rates of TB, they’re not obligated to give this information to the agencies responsible for addressing it. The official line is basically “we’ll take it from here, guys.”

This is understandable in the short-term. Local agencies don’t have the staff to solve large-scale problems, and they might be undertrained, corrupt, or flapping in the political winds. In this Development Drums podcast, the interviewees mention that statistics offices get calls from politicians, ordering them to make the numbers look like they’re improving.

But in the medium- and long-term, it means that African authorities stay under-resourced, de-capacitated, out of the loop. Replacement of local authorities by international NGOs might even be partly responsible for Liberia and Sierra Leone’s slow response to the Ebola outbreak: After decades of being bypassed by international health charities, local public health services didn’t know about, and weren’t able to respond to, conditions in their own country. When international foundations come in with their own statistical programs and skip the local authorities, the locals are cut out of information about their own countries.

But now we know about this problem! Since Jerven’s book, the dearth of development data has gone from obscure and insoluble to urgent and achievable. The Data for Africa Working Group report identifies efforts by the Gates Foundation, USAID, Rockefeller Foundation, UN, and World Bank to improve statistical agencies all over Africa.

Like the last idea, this one also warrants some skepticism. This is not the first time rich countries have sent experts to poor countries with the aim of improving their institutions. Technical assistance, as they call it in development lingo, has been found to be one of the least effective forms of aid.

But the potential of a more unified approach to gathering data is profound. Statistics are how development agencies diagnose problems and identify effective solutions. “Big data” gets overhyped these days, and real-time data collection in rural areas sounds like exactly the kind of development gimmick that will become the next One Laptop Per Child. But when it comes to the basic numbers—population, economics, living conditions, many parts of Africa would benefit from any improvement at all.

Neither of these ideas is all that sexy, they’re not going to get shared on UpWorthy or make you reach into your pocket for your PayPal password or whatever. They’re methodological, technical, there’s no fancy new technology or smiling celebrity at their prow. We’re not talking game-changers here, more like game-slightly-tweakers.

But the more I look at development, the more I think the age of the game-changer is over. Sixty percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries; only 14 percent of them are in fragile of conflict-prone ones. The countries still getting aid are getting less and less of it. Charles Kenny, who wrote an entire book about how much better the developing world is now than it used to be, points out that in the 1990s, 40 percent of aid-receiving countries relied on donations for more than one-tenth of their budgets. Now, that’s below 30 percent, and dropping.

Not that we should ignore the Afghanistans and Burundis of the world, but by 2030, up to 41 countries are going to move into the middle-income bracket. Increasingly, their challenge, as ours, will be the distribution of resources, not the creation of them. The development technologies of the future aren’t going to be boreholes and school buildings. They’re going to be labor inspectors, census bureaus, government administrators, state pensions: All the boring stuff that makes our own countries function.

So yeah, that’s why I like these ideas. One of them says, either help us or go home. The other says, if you’re going to be here, know the problem and whether what you’re doing is solving it.

In 1998, Amartya Sen won a Nobel Prize, in part, for showing that a famine had never occurred in a functioning democracy. It’s never that there isn’t enough food to go around; it’s that authoritarian governments don’t set up the mechanisms to provide it, at a decent price, where it’s needed.

The more I learn about development, the more I think the same principle applies to prosperity itself.

 

Original article found on: New Republic

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