Issues & Analysis
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ON THE MEDIA: Impact of Media on Health in Bangladesh

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bbc.co.uk, July 21, 2016

BBC Media Action conducted its first ever randomised control trial (RCT) on the impact of our health programming on audiences. In this blog, we explore some of the methodological challenges of conducting an RCT and ensuring randomisation in the field based on our work with pregnant mothers and women of childbearing age in Bangladesh.

This is the second blog in a two-part series on BBC Media Action’s Bangladesh RCT, read more about the results of the study in the first blog.

The ‘gold standard’ approach for being able to talk about an intervention causing an effect comes from the world of medicine: the randomised control trial (RCT). In this kind of study, one set of people – ‘the intervention group’ – receives the treatment while the other group – ‘the control group’ – gets a placebo. Only using this tightly controlled research methodology can we be certain whether or not the intervention caused the desired outcome.

Our RCT was interested in investigating how watching our Bangladeshi health programmes affect the key ‘drivers’ of healthy behaviour among women of childbearing age. These drivers include things like people’s knowledge of antenatal and early newborn care, their attitudes and beliefs around, for example, what to feed a newborn baby, and their intention to do things such as attending antenatal care sessions.

Our study involved 900 women of reproductive age as this group is the key audience we are aiming to influence with our programming, and took place over six weeks in February/March 2016 in two areas (Comilla in the South East and rural Mymensingh). Each day, a group of 30 women was sub-divided into groups of 10 (two treatments and one control) and were with us for around four hours. One treatment group watched our health drama Ujan Ganger Naiya (UGN) (Sailing Against the Tide), another group watched a closely related discussion programme that reinforced the health topics covered in the drama and a third control group viewed a television programme about a non-health topic.

Since mass media can reach anyone and everyone, evaluating whether a mass media intervention has had any causal effect on audience behaviour is notoriously tricky. Let’s look at some implementation challenges that our research team had to overcome:

First, we had to recruit a control group – one that had not been exposed to the treatment – which meant only recruiting participants who had never seen or heard anything about these shows. (See our previous blog for a description of the research design for this trial).

Another challenge was avoiding contamination – ensuring that people did not discuss what they had viewed. Each day, women were collected from different unions (local Bangladeshi political districts) so that there was no risk of anyone going home and speaking about the trial with a future participant. If participants needed to leave the room during the trial, they were escorted to make sure that no one conversed with each other.

The biggest challenge – ensuring randomisation – i.e., making sure the groups were more or less alike on all key variables – is a common difficulty in RCTs. To address this challenge, we created a randomisation matrix so that women were randomly assigned to the three groups and given a colour-coded wristband. There were three colour possibilities which referred to three treatment groups, i.e. one group was shown UGN and a non-health related programme, the second was shown UGN and Natoker Pore (NP) (After The Drama), the follow up discussion show, and the third group was shown an educational drama and discussion show – both on topics unrelated to health. Moreover, which colour band stood for which group was not revealed either to the participant nor the researchers at any stage and was also changed every day. This is known as a double blind process where neither the researchers nor the participants are aware of the treatment allocation to ensure there is no chance for bias.

This means we can be confident that the changes we saw were not due to some pre-existing selection bias such as education level or age.

“It was the most tense part of the study because everything hinged on achieving the randomisation which is difficult with 900 women and their children running around. We allocated most of our attention and resources to this during the fieldwork,” said Sanjib Saha, former Head of BBC Media Action Research, Bangladesh.

Besides all this, it is also vital to ensure comparability. To do this in our study, a health service provider gave the women a standard briefing on maternal health issues – the same as the one given by health workers when visiting women in their homes – to assure that there was a pre-trial standardisation of health knowledge. The briefing was identical each day across all groups. Those in the control groups were given a non-health related briefing.

Finally, a word is in order on ethics. As with any research we conduct, we took all steps possible to ensure that this research upheld the highest international ethical standards, at all phases of the research. Ultimately, we sought to ensure that all participants were protected from harm that might result from their participation in the study. This was a time-consuming study to be involved in, particularly for women with small children. We tried to smooth the process by arranging transport to and from the testing facility, making provisions for chaperones and providing lunch and child care at each of the test centres. All participants provided informed consent, were guaranteed anonymity and were apprised of their right to withdraw from the study at any point. We also made sure that a frontline health worker was available on site throughout the study to answer any questions.

The study was successful. We now know that our health programmes in Bangladesh are having a significant effect on some of the key drivers of health-related behaviours – especially knowledge and intent – in a laboratory setting. We are also reassured that, for knowledge and behavioural intent, watching a factual programme alongside a drama seems to be beneficial.

The BBC Media Action Research and Learning team manages a global cohort of more than 100 researchers around the world who inform, evaluate and generate evidence on BBC Media Action projects across the countries in which we work.

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AFGHANISTAN: Afghan men have a responsibility to fight for women’s equality

Noorjahan-Akbar

Noorjahan Akbar: “Equality for women is not a threat to men. It is only a threat to sexism and good men must join the effort to making equality a reality.”

afghanistantimes.af, By M. Nadeem AlizaiJune 13, 2016  —  For years the Afghan policymakers have blamed insecurity for hampered development activities in the country. The picture they project is incomplete and full of flaws. As per statistics of Ministry of Public Health, suicides in Afghanistan exceed deaths by war and homicide combined annually. Instead of plugging the loopholes, Afghan lawmakers, leaders and high-ranking officials are distorting the facts.

In other words they have turned a blind eye to the reality that accelerating the development process requires full participation of women as they account for half of the country’s talent base. Unfortunately, some elements in the parliament, religious circles and the power corridors have created barriers to women’s empowerment. The development process of the country is stalled by gender discrimination. Women can play a more active role in development of the country if their rights were protected. There is no denying to the fact that empowering women demand joint efforts towards fighting discrimination in its various forms. Respecting women’s rights and their empowerment lay in the best interests of Afghanistan.

Talking on the super serious issue of gender equality, Noorjahan Akbar said that even before war, gender-based violence was rampant in the country.

Ms Noorjahan Akbar is women’s rights advocate and has been named one of Forbes’s “100 Most Powerful Women of the World”—an achievement for both Afghan women and men. The list of her achievements is lengthy. With a Masters in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, she is not only writing on women’s rights but also engaged in multiple campaigns to end gender-based discrimination. She is the founder of Free Women Writers.

In an exclusive interview with Kabulscape, she suggested that the legislators should approve the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) without change to serve the purpose.

The following is an excerpt from the interview:

Kabulscape: How can we protect Afghan women’s rights?

Noorjahan: First and foremost, we should talk about security. It is the number one concern for women around the country and it doesn’t just concern the Taliban and extremists, but also street harassment, and other forms of violence and threats women face in public. Without women’s active participation in all areas of public life, we cannot expect women’s situation, or the country’s situation for that matter, to improve. Without female doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, police officers, etc. it is hard for women to make progress and change cultural and social norms. This is why we need to focus on improving women’s security. Terrorists are a serious threat to our security, and so is public harassment of women. Terrorist attacks and sexual harassment in public spaces discourage women from participating in the society in meaningful ways. By fighting both, we can ensure not only women’s increased participation, but also a better life for all of us.

Kabulscape: How important is the role of religious scholars in protecting women’s rights?

Noorjahan: Religious leaders can help improve women’s situation by not promoting sexist and backwards interpretations of religious texts. They have a responsibility to speak out against gender-based violence (including forced and early marriage) and other forms of oppression of women that are not protected by religious laws, but rather by religious figures who have little awareness of religious text and promote hate and sexism.

Kabulscape: How can media play effective role in safeguarding women’s rights?

Noorjahan: By promoting positive female role models. Our girls have a right to see that they can succeed and that women can be powerful agents of change. While reports on gender-based violence can be effective in raising awareness about the problem, the most important way in which media can empower women is by promoting positive images of women’s participation in society and fighting the stigma associated with strong women working in public.

Kabulscape: Do you think that women’s rights violation is an old phenomena or result of the over three decades of war in Afghanistan?

Noorjahan: Both contribute. We cannot argue that before war Afghanistan was a safe haven for women. Even before war, we had gender-based violence, girls didn’t have access to schools, women were not allowed to work outside, and polygamy was rampant. However war has exasperated violent crime against women and it has increased child marriage and many other problems. The root of misogyny is the same regardless.

Kabulscape: It is said that many female lawmakers are not interested in protecting women’s rights. Do you agree?

Noorjahan: To some degree. I think it is important to realize that female lawmakers are attacked more than male ones. They are observed more closely so they are more careful about what they can and can’t do. They are held to a different standard from male lawmakers. However no one can deny the fact that many of these female lawmakers made it to the parliament because of women’s votes and they have a responsibility to protect women’s rights using their position, but the same goes for all law makers. Women made a high percentage of voters for all of them. They should all realize that women are also their constituents and they must take women’s needs and rights into account. For that to happen we also need to increase accountability and transparency and we need to put real pressure on our lawmakers to stand with us.

Kabulscape: How can female parliamentarians protect women’s rights?

Noorjahan: Voting for a female Supreme Court judge would be a good start. Passing EVAW without changing it is another important thing they can do.

Kabulscape: What will be a good strategy to empower women?

Noorjahan: Investing in women’s education and economic empowerment. These two are of the most important factors for gender equality. When women make their own money or are acknowledged for their unpaid financial contributions at home, they are more likely to be decision makers and more likely to decide the course of their own lives. When women are educated, they are more likely not only to get jobs, but also to stand up for their rights and the rights of other women.

Kabulscape: Do you think that increase in female literacy rate will help to overcome the issue of violence against women?

Noorjahan: Yes. Increase in literacy can make it possible for women to learn about their rights according to the law and demand those rights. It also opens doors for employment, economic empowerment, creating networks of support with other women, and advocating for equality. Illiteracy is the number one obstacle to creating a real grassroots movement of women in Afghanistan.

Kabulscape: In your opinion, what is the best approach to educate women and girls to fight for their rights on social, political and economical front?

Noorjahan: By investing in their education and giving them hope. So much of our news and public discourse focuses on the negative consequences of women’s empowerment (they idea is that if women are empowered, there will be a backlash that will hurt), but it is important to realize and promote the idea that if women are empowered, our entire communities are empowered.

Kabulscape: The tradition of ‘Baad’ or giving away of girls to settle a dispute is a serious hurdle for women to overcome. What would be the best way to fight this obsolete tradition?

Noorjahan: Religious leaders must speak up on this. Baad is not in Islam. It is a tradition that commodifies women’s bodies, opens them up to increased possibility of gender-based violence, and treats women’s bodies as men’s property. To end it religious leaders who have been promoting Baad need to correct themselves and end the mis-education. By the same degree a more fundamental way of ending this and other harmful traditions is by creating a culture of respect for women as full human beings- not sisters, daughters, wives, mothers, things for men- but full human beings. If we respect women as people we are less likely to sell them off or use their bodies to settle disputes.

Kabulscape: Many organizations claim that they are working for women’s rights protection but there is no visible effect of their work on lives of women, especially those living in remote areas. Many women see these organizations as business enterprises to get donations. How Afghan women can convey their grievances to the government in presence of such organizations?

Noorjahan: There are some organizations that are not honest in every sector, but because of the negative propaganda and sexism and attacks on women’s organizations, we only focus on women’s organizations when it comes to corruption. It is true there are some corrupt organizations that claim to work for women, but there are many great organizations as well and their work is unacknowledged, ignored and threatened. Media has been largely responsible for negative perceptions of women’s organizations, but women’s organizations also have to make a bigger effort to create real connections and networks with women in the grassroots level and prove themselves worthy of women’s trust.

Kabulscape: What shall be the approach of Afghan women to pressurize the parliament to approve the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women?

Noorjahan: It is important for the parliament to approve this law. I have campaigned for it. Many people have worked for it tirelessly, but at this point given the increased number of extremists in the Parliament, I think we need to focus our efforts somewhere else. I am afraid that if we bring it to the Parliament again, it will be changed into an anti-woman law with no substance. The signature by the president is enough for its implementation and this president will be here for a couple more years so I don’t think the law is facing threats. We need to focus our effort on implementing it and raising awareness about it to compact negative perceptions created by religious leaders who are anti-woman.

Not all men are rapist, violent or harassers- but nearly all men are silent when they see these atrocities and almost all rapists and harassers are men. This is a harsh reality, but to change it Afghan men have a responsibility to fight for equality and respect for women. A more equal society will serve not only women but all of us as it will allow us to live as full human beings and beyond restrictive gender roles. It will be better for our country as we will all be able to contribute to rebuilding it and it will be better for our children as they will be able to see respectful role models upon which to base their lives. Equality for women is not a threat to men. It is only a threat to sexism and good men must join the effort to making equality a reality.

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HAITI, ON DEVELOPMENT: This volatile Haiti slum is undergoing a makeover — now what?

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Workers carry buckets in a construction site as they build new houses in Fort National, Port au Prince, Haiti. Fort National is a neighborhood that was partially destroyed during the earthquake of January 12, 2010. Andres Martinez Casares.

 

miamiherald.com, BY JACQUELINE CHARLES, 8/12/16  —  At the top of the hill where an old colonial fort overlooks the immaculate grounds of a razed presidential palace, newly built sidewalks and widened alleys lead into new residential communities being shaped by tree-lined courtyards, indoor plumbing and towering condominium-style apartments.

Below, bulldozers move listlessly from one partially-built concrete structure to another along a once battered Rue Estiméas construction workers beat back scorching heat and hammer as fast as they can.

“Imagine if all of the houses were like this,” Ulrick Gilles, a 40 year-old unemployed husband and father, said from the confines of his newly constructed government-subsidized second floor apartment in one of this capital’s most quake-ravaged neighborhoods. “Even if you couldn’t call it a paradise, it would still allow people to live better lives.”

A haphazardly-built and volatile slum that foreign donors and international aid groups once shunned, Fort National is getting a long-overdo makeover courtesy of a little-used co-property law that finally allows Haitians like Gilles, who lost his house in the cataclysmic Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, to be homeowners again.

Though the law initially came into existence in 1974 and was strengthened in 2009, it wasn’t until former President Michel Martelly issued more protections in a 2011 executive order that the government and international community dared use it.

“You’re slowly seeing the transformation of a neighborhood,” said Claude-André Nadon, senior program manager with theUnited Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which has built 600 new housing units and repaired more than 1,200 in eight neighborhoods since the earthquake left 1.5 million homeless. “This place was a disaster zone.”

Fort National’s transformation comes as 61,302 Haitians continue to live underneath squalid tents, and as Haiti and foreign donors continue to face enormous challenges in providing permanent housing amid dwindling aid dollars and a deepening political crisis.

The country’s failure to replace the 100,000 houses leveled by the quake by all accounts has been the biggest failure of the reconstruction response. Haiti and U.S.-financed housing projects have been slammed for shoddy construction and unaccountable contractors, while both governments also have come under fire for failing to follow through on housing goals.

Haitians are no different from a guy in Miami or Canada. They want to live in a decent home. Claude-André Nadon, senior program manager with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

But if there’s anything close to a model of the lessons learned over the years, it is Fort National. The construction of almost 300 single and condo-style units, installation of street lights and the rehabilitation of water kiosks and streets may seem small. But supporters note that it’s changing the facade of an informal settlement, and providing employment and training to locals in proper and anti-seismic construction techniques.

“I am not just hiring five guys; I am hiring everyone from the neighborhood,” Nadon said. “So when that guys asks for an extension [on his single unit] he’s going to ask the foreman and that foreman now knows how to do it properly. Their way of building has completely changed.”

Said Clément Bélizaire, executive director of Haiti’s Housing and Public Buildings Construction Unit: “The housing is very nice; well-built; the engineering? A-plus. But the real success of Fort National and everything that has had to do with housing is the change of mentality.”

Nadon and his team first visited National in 2011. They spent three years negotiating with gang leaders and community residents to launch the project, and then with skeptical residents to give up their plots and shacks — sometimes barely larger than a bedroom — in exchange for decent corridors, public spaces and a 376-square-foot apartment.

In lot of cases people didn’t want to move,” he said. “All would say, ‘Haitians don’t like living on the second flood; they don’t want to live together.’”

Eventually, many would agree. Some would even donate as much as 80 percent of their land back to the community in order to allow the chaotic landscape of vacant plots and sweltering tin and tarp-covered shacks to be transformed.

“Haitians are no different from a guy in Miami or Canada. They want to live in a decent home,” Nadon said. “[Eventually] they understood that in order to have something like this, you need space. You need space to put septic tanks, you need space to have water pipes coming in, you need space to have the trees. After a while they get it.”

When people see them they say, ‘These houses should be on the main street.’ They aren’t the kind of homes you hide in a corridor. Fritzner Oriol, 49, Fort National resident

Bélizaire, the housing czar, said the co-property law makes a lot of sense in a densely populated Haiti, but “the social mobilization to get people to think rationally and not selfishly” is quite a challenge.

“We’re living in the city and we want to live in rural mode,” he said. “Everybody wants to have their own yard; everybody wants to have their own house; nobody wants to share walls with neighbors. When you share a wall, you cut the costs. We have to start thinking multilevel housing.”

The concept first surfaced months after the quake when then-President René Préval vowed to rebuild Fort National. Préval dispatched government bulldozers to remove rubble. He also asked international aid organizations to re-direct cash-for-work dollars to the slum, and he tapped the head of his state construction agency — and eventual presidential pick — Jude Célestin to build two-by-three-feet wide units for 6,000 displaced families.

Célestin, an engineer who is once more seeking the presidency, proposed constructing multistory apartments instead. Some $174 million was approved for Fort National’s reconstruction by the parliament as part of the budget, and the no-bid contractwas given to a firm owned by powerful Dominican Sen. Felix Bautista.

But 2010 presidential elections would bring chaos and a broken promise. A newly elected Martelly scraped the Fort National project, and reallocated the funds to initiatives. Among them:3,000 units at Morne-a-Carbrit on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince that were so poorly built by one of Bautista’s firms that Bélizaire’s housing division refused to accept many of them.

Everybody wants to have their own yard; everybody wants to have their own house; nobody wants to share walls with neighbors. When you share a wall, you cut the costs. Clément Bélizaire, executive director of Haiti’s Housing and Public Buildings Construction Unit

In recent weeks, the original Fort National project has come under scrutiny as a Haiti Senate Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission raises questions about the awards, and Bautista’s relationships with Martelly and some Haitian officials.

Headed by Sen. Youri Latortue, a one-time Martelly adviser, the probe is supposed to focus on a decade’s worth of government disbursements under Venezuela’s Petrocaribe discounted-oil program. Most of the focus, however, has been on the already investigated Bautista contracts.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who awarded the Fort National contract to one of Bautista’s firms, has said it was done so legally under an emergency law. He calls the Senate inquiry a “political witch hunt,” and has accused senators of trying to make him a scapegoat because no one can say what happened to the $174 million, including $22 million he disbursed under Martelly for the homes.

“Do you see 20,000 [new] homes in Fort National?” Bellerive said on Vision 2000 radio station. “That is what I contracted for.”

The challenges of building in an existing community are visible along Rue Estimé where new construction is interrupted by pockets of empty lots.

“There is nothing there because one guy has refused, for many reasons,” Nadon said as construction workers move up and down the main street. “Sometimes it’s because they are scared it’s not going to happen, or it’s pressure from other people who don’t want the project to succeed.”

Unfortunately, the project is nearing its end even as the needs remain “endless,” Bélizaire said, because the $20 million in funding from Canada, the U.N. and two other donors has run out. Despite Haitians reluctance to share a wall, he said, the government is finding success with multistory dwellings. Similar constructions were done in the low-income communities of Morne Hercule and Morne Lazarre. The U.N. first applied the co-property law in Morne Lazarre to build three-story condominiums.

“Fort National benefited from what we did in Morne Hercule and Morne Lazarre,” Bélizaire said, hoping donors keep the revitalization going. “There’s a big difference between showing somebody something on a nice layout plan, 3-D designs and pictures and when you actually take the people, put them on a bus and bring them to … talk to the beneficiaries.”

Fritzner Oriol’s two-story tin shacks sits in the middle of a palm tree-lined courtyard of yellow and lime colored apartments. He proudly boasts that he turned several of his distrusting neighbors from skeptics into believers that the program was good for the long-neglected community.

Ultimately, there was one person Oriol, 49, could not convince.

“One of my sisters doesn’t agree because she wouldn’t get any benefits out of it,” Oriol said, explaining why his shack is the only un-built structure in the courtyard.

“There are a lot of beautiful houses inside these corridors,” he said. “When people see them they say, ‘These houses should be on the main street.’ They aren’t the kind of homes you hide in a corridor. I am a product of the neighborhood, I know what I am talking about because I know what kind of neighborhood we had.”

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ON THE MEDIA: Can mass media cause change?

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bbc.co.uk, July 14, 2016

Can the mass media cause changes in an audience’s knowledge, attitudes and intention to practice behaviors? At BBC Media Action, we have just successfully conducted a randomized control trial (RCT) to investigate this chain of causality in a prime time health TV drama in Bangladesh.

This is the first blog in a two-part series on BBC Media Action’s Bangladesh RCT, read more about the methodology underpinning the study in the second blog.

Do BBC Media Action programmes cause changes in our audiences? Do our television and radio shows increase knowledge, make people think differently or change their actual behaviour? In short, what is happening as a direct result of our programmes?

The answer is: we could never be sure. Our research has long shown that our audiences become more knowledgeable, change their attitudes and take different courses of action. However, we weren’t previously able to scientifically prove that our shows caused these changes. Yet now we definitively know our programmes made the difference – thanks to the use of a‘randomised control trial’ (RCT).

Why use an RCT to answer this question? To explain, an RCT is an experimental research design, in which people are assigned, at random, to groups. One set of people, the ‘treatment’ group, receives the intervention, while a second set, the ‘control’ group, gets a placebo. All other conditions are held constant so that the only difference between the groups is whether or not they receive the intervention. Only using this tightly controlled research methodology can we be certain whether or not the intervention caused the desired outcome.

What does that look like when you are studying the media? Our RCT was interested in investigating how watching our Bangladeshi health programmes affects the ‘key drivers’ of healthy behaviour among women of childbearing age. We consider key drivers to be precursors of behaviour, like people’sknowledge of antenatal and early newborn care, their attitudes and beliefs around, for example, what to feed a newborn baby, and their intention to do things such as attending antenatal care sessions.

In Bangladesh, we are currently airing a health-based drama called Ujan Ganger Naiya (UGN) (Sailing Against The Tide). This programme resembles many prime time family dramas, with storylines around the themes of falling in love, marriage and the important role that mothers-in-law play in Bangladeshi marriages. But the production team also weaves key elements of health knowledge into the dramatic arc, such as the recommendation that four antenatal child care visits are ideal for a pregnant mother. UGN is closely linked to a follow-up discussion show called Natoker Pore (NP) (After The Drama), in which some of the characters from the show, a medical expert and a real-life contributor review some of the key issues explored in the episode.

So one treatment group watched UGN while the control group watched another show produced by the BBC Media Action team in Bangladesh with an educational focus. This helped ensure that production values were consistent.  A second treatment group was also included in the study to investigate whether watching the discussion show alongside this drama has more of an effect than just watching the drama on its own. In short, our research questions were focussed around the short term impacts caused by watching the drama alone vs. watching it together with the discussion programme.

The results from BBC Media Action’s first-ever RCT are very encouraging:

  • Women who watched the drama – particularly those who saw the drama and factual discussion programme – showed significantly higher levels of knowledge across all of our measures of antenatal and early newborn care than the control group.
  • Women in both treatment groups (i.e. all those who watched either one or both of the health programmes) reported improved attitudes on several of the reproductive and maternal health statements we asked them about.
  • Women who watched both programmes reported higher levels of ‘efficacy’– in other words, they had greater self-belief in their ability or capacity to do something – than those who watched the drama alone, who in turn reported higher levels of self-efficacy than those in the control group.
  • When women who watched the drama were asked about a hypothetical future pregnancy, they were more likely to say they intended to pursue a number of healthy behaviours than those in the control group. Women who also watched the factual show responded positively to even more intended behaviours than those who only saw the drama.
  • In order to be effective, the clarity and consistency of messaging across the two programmes needs to be carefully managed. Programmes were less successful at shifting negative attitudes and increasing self-efficacy regarding certain antenatal and early newborn care practices such as attending at least four antenatal care sessions and exclusively feeding breast milk to a new-born.

So, why does all of this matter?

From a methodological standpoint, the RCT constitutes an important piece of evidence for isolating the impact that media and communication can have within the development sector. In this particular instance, we can now say that our health programme caused positive change in the short-term knowledge, confidence, behavioural intent and attitudes of women of child-bearing age in Bangladesh – precisely the audience we are trying to reach. We also now have evidence that watching the health programme alongside a closely related discussion programme has further positive effects – an important learning for production teams.

As BBC Media Action’s Senior Health Advisor Sophia Wilkinsonnotes:

“Often, there is a lack of funding to enable really strong study designs that tell a clear story. So it’s really exciting to have this evidence from Bangladesh that shows that entertaining television drama can indeed increase people’s knowledge and their intention to do something. Even more exciting, is that we seem to have proved our theory that exposure to more than one format will have a greater effect than just one programme! This all helps to strengthen the case for communication for development.”

The BBC Media Action Research and Learning team manages a global cohort of more than 100 researchers around the world who inform, evaluate and generate evidence on BBC Media Action projects across the countries in which we work. Former BBC Media Action Quantitative Research Manager Paul Bouanchaud was a key contributor to this piece.

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AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan political crisis: Entitlement vs democracy

The domestic dimension of the Afghan conflict is the absence of agreement among the elites on the framework and principles of political power, writes Moradian [Reuters]

Only legitimate, effective and sustainable politics can untangle the country from its multitude of challenges.

aljazeera.com, 8/14/16, Opinion, by  — If war is the continuation of politics by other means, then the four-decade-old Afghan war has become one of the world’s most entrenched political puzzles, involving many actors and dimensions.

The growing political crisis within the Afghan National Unity Government is compounding the ongoing security and economic crises in the country.

According to the agreement that was brokered by the United States Secretary of State John Kerry, the National Unity Government would have to implement a number of electoral and political reforms by September 2016, including organising parliamentary elections and conveying the constitutional Loya Jirga, the grand assembly.

No meaningful step has been taken to honour those promises. Many are anxiously watching how Washington and the Afghan government will handle the looming September deadline.

Former President Hamid Karzai has begun expressing his desireto challenge Washington for the US’ perceived role in delaying the required reforms.

Moreover, Washington is consumed by its own electoral fever and its reliance over its leverage.

Unfortunately, the underlying causes and possible corrective measures are being overshadowed by Washington and Karzai’s macho duel, Ashraf Ghani’s clever strategy of delay and deception, and Abdullah Abdullah’s haplessness.

US’ doublethink approach

The US military intervention in late 2001 heralded a prompt victory over the Taliban and initiating a promising and inclusive political process. It also enjoyed an unprecedented local and international consensus and legitimacy.

However, soon Iraq proved more attractive to Washington and hence its diversion from the Hindu Kush mountains to the Tigris-Euphrates river.

The domestic dimension of the Afghan conflict is the absence of agreement among the elites on the framework and principles of political power.

That distraction was further worsened by US’ doublethink approach to Afghanistan. This Orwellian concept denotes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinctsocial contexts.

This was and continues to be manifested at three mutually reinforcing levels: the US’ internal decision making, its regional policy and Washington’s approach to the Afghan political scene.

From early 2002 to date, Washington remains undecided as why, how, and for how long it should remain committed to Afghanistan.

There has been an unfinished struggle between the US policy community’s strategic approach to Afghanistan and the White House’s calendar-based impulse.

OPINION: Ethnic polarisation – Afghanistan’s emerging threat

Regionally, the US remains confused about its regional partners and adversaries. Pakistan was designated as US’ major non-NATO ally, while the most lethal Afghan terrorist group, the Haqqani network, was described by the US’ most senior military officer in 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, as veritable arm of Pakistan’s military.

Washington’s handling of Afghan political milieu also suffered from a doublethink approach: promising to build a functioning democratic order while working mainly with corrupt actors and empowering ethno-nationalists.

Karzai’s multiple personalities

Karzai has become a globally-recognised politician and statesman. He sees himself as indispensable to Afghanistan’s stability and survival, while firmly believing in the political mastery of his fellow Pashtuns.

He neither advocates a suppressive theocratic order nor supports liberal secular dispensation. Such often-contradictory orientations have made him highly skilful and manipulative – a tribal, patriotic and cosmopolitan politician.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai [Getty]

Washington’s choices were a key determinant in the rise of Karzai. One can see two versions of him: Karzai I was when he was seen by Washington as malleable, charming and helpful between 2001 and the 2007-2008 period, when Washington not only sidelined his rivals but, more importantly, gave him “a winner-takes-all” strong presidential system with itsinstitutionalised ethnic hierarchy.

During this period, Karzai was the good guy and the Mujahideen leaders were seen as the bad guys.

Karzai II (2007-2008 and present) was mainly a product of Barack Obama’s Afghan policy, which was essentially premised on disengagement from the region. Karzai II became the bad guy, and peace with the Taliban was elevated as US’ salvation.

OPINION: The end of Pakistan’s double-games in Afghanistan

Karzai’s strategy has been essentially a combination of manipulation of rivalling power-brokers, charm-offensive of unthreatening constituencies and brinkmanship with Washington.

His reluctance to confront the Taliban and his role in engineering the 2014 presidential election in favour of Ghani are among his bitter legacies, while he is praised for his inclusive temperament.

Ghani’s double- pronged strategy

A former World Bank consultant and anthropologist, Ashraf Ghani shares a number of characteristics with his predecessor, while pursuing different strategies.

He sees himself as a saviour destined and determined to restore the Ghilzai Pashtuns’ lost political mastery against the Durrani Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns.

Washington must resist the temptation for personalisation of its challenges and strategies. The country does not need a saviour or an indispensable fatherly figure.

His strategy has been sidelining his electoral rival Abdullah Abdullah, favouring Ghilzai Pashtuns in political life by usingthe means of patronage and charm-offensive of the West.

In other words, there are two Ghanis: Ghani I, an authoritarian, tribal and divisive figure for the Afghan constituencies; and Ghani II, a reformist, modernising and visionary leader for Western and donor interlocutors.

For the latter, he projects himself as the good guy, while portraying Abdullah and Karzai as the bad guys.

OPINION: Afghan forces should learn from NATO’s mistakes

However, he continued to be haunted by the disputed 2014 presidential election. Apart from himself and his core supporters, there is hardly any constituency that considers him a clean winner of the 2014 presidential election.

Even the broker of the recent political agreement, Kerry has been quoted as saying, “If fraudulent votes were discounted, the gap closed significantly in Abdullah’s favour.”

It’s the politics, stupid

The domestic dimension of the Afghan conflict is the absence of agreement among the elites on the framework and principles of political power.

There are four broad approaches: Taliban’s terror campaign, former Mujahideen’s jihad dividends; ethnic entitlement and democratic politics. The ongoing and growing political crisis in Kabul is mainly waged by the two latter approaches.

Fortunately, there are important assets and opportunities that can help the country weather its turbulent transition from a constant struggle to reasonable stability and peace.

The massive participation of the ordinary people from all ethnic groups in recent elections has shown that the Afghans are striving for democratic governance, unlike their anti-democratic elites.

The Afghan constitution and the political agreement that gave birth to the Afghan National Unity Government provide a clear roadmap for the way forward.

Washington must resist the temptation for personalisation of its challenges and strategies. The country does not need a saviour or an indispensable fatherly figure.

Only legitimate, effective and sustainable politics can untangle the country from its multitude of challenges.

Davood Moradian is the director-general of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, former chief of programmes in President Hamid Karzai’s office and chief policy adviser to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Can we get out of the private sector bad, public sector good trap?

Small business are part of private sector-led development, not just multinational corporations. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

Related: I quit my development job and ate some humble pie: this is what I learned

My inherent cynicism isn’t without evidence: there is an endless list of corporate wrongdoing in the developing world. The private sector has different incentives from the public or NGO sector and markets don’t necessarily reward good behaviour. Indeed, quite often, at least in the short-term, they offer the strongest incentives for those who can find ways to cut standards and lower costs, exploiting anyone and everything in their wake.

But nonetheless, I still think its time to get beyond the rhetoric. The arguments have hardly changed in fifteen years, and, quite frankly, I’m bored. The lines are pitched as an argument between the pragmatists and the idealists: those who partner with the private sector, and those who campaign against them. On the one side, you get Care’s partnership with Cargill, or Wateraid’s partnership with Diageo. For this camp, collaborating with the private sector is perceived as necessary and inevitable. Governments have failed people, they might say, and NGOs can’t deliver to scale. Putting a private-sector lens to the challenge of development has brought innovation and the newly worn phrase “disruption” to a tired industry.

For others, however – let’s call them the idealists – private sector-led development removes people’s rights and individual freedoms, while further embedding corporate control of everything. For this camp, NGOs who partner with the private sector have undermined our mutual, long-term cause.

The pragmatists are certainly more in favour with the government of the day. The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID)’s new minister, Priti Patel, the former tobacco lobbyist who once wanted to axe the entire department, will continue the priorities already set by her predecessor. Private-sector led development will be her calling card, and collaborations between NGOs and the private sector will be at an even greater premium. Any NGO wanting a future funding relationship with DfID will be expected to tow the line. They were already giving roughly a third of their budget away to the private sector or private sector partnerships with NGOs. This could easily rise.

The idealist in me is concerned. Development agendas centred around rights and freedoms have been taking a back seat to the business of economic development – the pragmatists seem to have won. DfID’s statement of purpose says, among other things:“we’re ending the need for aid by creating jobs” as if development were just a matter of employment.

Related: Forget ‘developing’ poor countries, it’s time to ‘de-develop’ rich countries

So who is right? The pragmatists or the idealists? Are those who eschew private-sector partnerships just ideologues, blind to modern realities? Or has the NGO sector really sold out to the highest bidder, throwing their ideals out the window?

It’s worth pointing out that in roughly the same period as we’ve seen a rise of private-sector led development, we’ve also seen some worrying trends: rising levels of inequality over the past 15 years, more insecure work, environmental degradation and tax evasion on a massive scale. NGOs who enter into partnerships are clearly not to blame for these outcomes, but should we be asking: have they aided and abetted their rise, concentrating power into the hands of the wealthy?

Frustratingly, it’s not that simple. Moral clarity makes campaigning easier, but as Duncan Green pointed out to me recently: NGOs, even more radical ones, spend a lot more time working with the private sector than they care to admit. “Small farmers and SMEs or cooperatives are as important a part of the private sector – if not more so – than big irrelevant corporations,” he said. We need to reframe this debate, he argued: it’s not about private v public, but about size, scale, and form.

Related: We won’t conquer the mountains of the SDGs without humility

The crux of the matter is the relevant role of NGOs. A DfID model sees NGOs as just one vehicle to deliver economic growth, to help raise standards in the private sector or to provide some basic services to the poor. Where NGOs sing, however, is in their ability to challenge unfair structures, not to pander to them. Can NGOs really be both partner, and provocateur? Instead of bringing influence and innovation, have relationships with the private sector rendered NGOs role as advocate, watchdog and change agent, marginalised and ineffective?

Sunita Narain, the chief executive of India’s Centre for Science and the Environment, speaking recently at the Institute of Development Studies’ 50th anniversary conference, said that many in development believe that over the past period, we’ve empowered society through the growth of the market. Instead, she asked us provocatively: “Which society? The poor or the rich?”

If private sector-led development, and the partnerships it brings, can be about genuine power shifts, then I would shout from the rooftops. But for now, that small, cooperative private sector that Green refers to is hidden in the shadows, lacking power and toothless. Most NGOs will continue to take big corporate cash, while holding their critical tongues of dissent. All private sector development is certainly not bad – but the type of private-sector led development, I fear, that Patel foresees, is far from this type of genuine shift.

Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow @GuardianGDP on Twitter.

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AFGHANISTAN: Young people don’t see a future in Afghanistan, so they’re leaving

2016-05-25_11.24.031470857710

This mural on a blast wall in Kabul shows a picture of the perilous journey that hundreds of thousands of Afghans make to Europe each year in search of a better life. It was drawn by ArtLords activists during Art Activation Day, an event to bring awareness to the country’s brain drain problem and to encourage people stay in Afghanistan and invest in their society. (Omaid Sharifi/Omaid Sharifi)

washingtonpost.com, by Melissa Etehad, Aug. 12, 2016 — The well-educated, 20-year-old woman did not want to leave Afghanistan, but she said she had no choice.

After receiving death threats because of her work on women’s rights, she feared for her life and left in 2013 — feeling guilty, but intending to return after a few months when the security situation at home improved.Three years later, the young woman, now 24, lives in the United States and does not know when she will go back to Afghanistan. She told her story on the condition that her name not be used because of concern that her family in Afghanistan could be in danger.“I left because I didn’t feel safe anywhere,” she said. “Afghanistan doesn’t need another dead body or another dead woman.”She is one of a growing number of educated young people who, frustrated by their country’s growing insecurity and lack of job opportunities, have been leaving Afghanistan in record numbers.The woman, who earned her master’s degree in the United States, said that growing violence against women contributed to her decision to leave Afghanistan. Her parents agreed and told her not to return. In recent years, many of her friends have also left Afghanistan — partly because of the violence and the country’s depressed economy. “I know a lot of people who are leaving because they don’t have jobs and they are scared they can’t feed their children,” she said.

As a result of unemployment and the insecurity that has followed a resurgence of the Taliban after the withdrawal of U.S. and international forces at the end of 2014, Afghanistan’s economy showed minimal growth in 2015 — about 1.5 percent, according to the World Bank. Combined with increased fighting between government troops and insurgents, that instability is causing some of Afghanistan’s brightest young minds to flee the country.

“Everybody anticipated that this was going to be a problem because of the drop-off in the economic opportunity after the bulk of international forces were transiting out,” said James Cunningham, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2014. “Unfortunately, the government effort to reorganize itself to deal with the economy didn’t materialize as they had hoped.”

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that a large part of Afghanistan’s economy in recent years was built around the war, so brain drain was inevitable because a lot of jobs disappeared after the foreign troops left.

Although there are no reliable figures for the number of Afghans who leave each year, there was a mass exodus in 2015. Afghans accounted for 20 percent of the more than 1 million refugees who reached Europe’s shores in 2015, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and nearly half of them were young adults.

As more educated young people pack up and leave Afghanistan, government officials, who are depending on the younger generation to rebuild the country, are becoming increasingly concerned.

Cunningham said it is important to find ways to encourage Afghans to remain in their country. “There are many people who are staying and continue to tough it out, and what they can do is quite noteworthy, actually,” Cunningham said. “My last year and a half in Afghanistan, I kept telling Afghan leaders that this was a really unique opportunity . . . and that they should take advantage of it,” he said of the country’s talented youth.

Shaharzad Akbar returned to Afghanistan after finishing her studies at the University of Oxford in 2010 and works in the project-management sector in Kabul. The 28-year-old says that even though she studied abroad and has relatives who left the country, she always planned to return to Afghanistan.

“We feel a sense of responsibility as people who are privileged with an education,” she said. “If we give up, who can we expect to stay behind?”

But she also understands the fears and frustrations of many of her peers. “Every morning when I leave the house, I don’t know if I’ll come back,” she said. “Every time I’m stuck in a traffic jam, I’m nervous about what could happen.”

Feroz Masjidi, an assistant professor of economics at Kabul University, also decided to return to Afghanistan after studying abroad. After finishing his studies in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship, Masjidi returned to Afghanistan in 2011. The 31-year-old said that he encourages his students to stay but that the government also needs to come up with more long-term solutions and help build confidence in the country so that Afghans will invest in it.

President Ashraf Ghani has made stemming the brain drain a priority. Last year, Afghanistan’s National Unity Government started a program called Jobs for Peace to stimulate more employment and restore faith in the economy. However, a lack of funding may limit the impact of this initiative, according to the World Bank.

The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations started a social-media campaign to discourage people from making the trip to Europe, warning of the potential life-threatening dangers involved on the journey there.

Even if the government promises to create jobs for young people, it cannot change the fact that the economic outlook in Afghanistan is not promising in the near future, Felbab-Brown says. The World Bank estimates that gross domestic product growth will be 1.9 percent in 2016, which would mark the third year in a row it would be below 2 percent.

About 55 percent of the population is under age 20, according to the World Bank, and unemployment is hovering around 22 percent.

Bolstering the private sector and encouraging entrepreneurship are important steps toward lessening the brain drain, says Laurence Hart, the International Organization for Migration’s head of mission and special envoy for Afghanistan.

Young Afghans also have been involved in creating initiatives to motivate people to invest in the country. Omaid Sharifi, co-founder of ArtLords — a group that paints murals on blast walls around prominent buildings in Afghanistan — said that he wants to restore hope through the arts. Some of the group’s most popular murals feature giant eyes with the slogan “I See You” written near them, designed to fight government corruption and encourage transparency. Sharifi’s most recent project is aimed at tackling the brain drain problem.

“Thousands of young Afghans are leaving the country,” he said. “So I want to do an art activation day, where we paint nine to 10 murals in one day, have street art and also show a movie about immigration.”

Even for those like the young woman who left in 2013, Afghanistan is still home.

“I want to help out, and I want to participate in rebuilding [my country],” she said. “But I want to make sure if I die, it won’t be in vain. And right now, I’m not sure it won’t be in vain.”

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Is the End of Global Poverty Closer than You Think?

cgdev.org, Center for Global Development, 8/5/16, 9780198703525Andy Sumner

In a new CGD paper we find that:

  • The poor, on average, live at about the same level: they are not necessarily better off in developing countries with higher average incomes
  • Most developing countries could speed up the end of poverty dramatically without waiting years for economic growth to do the job
  • Up to 77 percent of global poverty could be ended via new taxation and the reallocation of public spending

Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that a nation’s people died not because of a food shortage but because some people lacked entitlements to that food. In a new CGD working paper with Chris Hoy, we ask if a similar situation is now the case for global poverty: are national resources available but not being used to end poverty?

The short answer is yes (but don’t stop reading…). We find that approximately three-quarters of global poverty, at the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day, if not higher poverty lines, could now be eliminated—in principle—via redistribution of nationally available resources. We argue that the findings provide a rationale for a stronger consideration of some national redistribution for purely instrumental reasons: to reduce or end global poverty faster, rather than waiting years for growth.

Three Key Findings

First, we argue in the paper that global poverty lines ought to be extended beyond $1.90 per day. That’s not too controversial we know. We note that about $2.50 or $5 per day are respectively the approximate value of the average of national poverty lines ofall developing countries and the average of national poverty lines of all countries—so a truly global poverty line for the latter. Even those may be insufficient as a World Bank paper points towards a line of $10 per day as the daily consumption associated in longitudinal studies with permanent escape from poverty.

Second, surprisingly, we find that the poor in general live at about the same level. The poor are not necessarily better off if they live in developing countries with higher average incomes or consumption. Indeed, we find for example, the average poor person in extreme poverty in Brazil is actually worse off than in the DR Congo, meaning that the average consumption of a poor person under the $1.90 global poverty line in Brazil is less than the average consumption of a poor person in DR Congo (yes, you read that correctly). The average poor person in Ethiopia is only slightly worse off than the average poor person in China or India.

Third, and this is the controversial bit, it is generally assumed that most, if not all developing countries have insufficient domestic capacity to raise taxes or reallocate public spending to fully address extreme poverty let alone higher poverty lines. In general, this is no longer the case at $1.90 or $2.50 per day and even at $5 per day potentially for much of global poverty. In short, most developing countries have the financial scope to dramatically speed up the end of poverty based on national capacities without necessarily having to wait for economic growth. We find that three-quarters of global poverty could be ended via new taxation and reallocation of public spending (yes you read that right too).

Now the controversial bit. The reallocation of public spending would be away from regressive fossil fuel subsidies which cover for example cheap petrol and largely benefit richer groups in society and towards cash transfers to the poor. We also consider what we call ‘surplus’ military spending and its relocation to cash transfers to the poor. We know this is going to be contentious but we define ‘surplus’ in our paper as ‘more guns than the neighbours,’ meaning annual military spending above the country with the regional lowest per person. If that sounds just too controversial, don’t worry, the regressive fuel subsidies alone would cover seventy percent of global poverty.

In terms of new taxation alone, we find that almost all countries with a GNI Atlas per capita over $2000 per capita could end $1.90 poverty, or even $2.50 poverty.

What happened? Since the beginning of the millennium, high growth rates in many parts of the developing world have not only reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty, but have also significantly increased the number of people who live in a group who aren’t poor. In fact a group who wouldn’t even be poor in the US as they live above the US poverty line. This has created a new capacity for redistribution through the potential to raise taxes. And the next surprise is those taxes aren’t necessarily high. The marginal tax rates would be in the order of 1-2 percent in some populous developing countries like Brazil and China. Again, if this all sounds too radical, just recall the regressive fuel subsidies alone would cover seventy percent of global poverty.

All of the above would suggest one could revisit the classifications of countries by low and middle income in favour of thinking about countries in terms of their capacity to end poverty. This could entail something fairly simple: just double the low income to middle income threshold from approximately $1000 GNI Atlas per capita to about $2000 per capita.

The conclusion of our paper is that these findings demonstrate an instrumental case for redistribution—to ultimately speed up the end of global poverty. Of course the political economy of redistribution would not be easy even if the maths are convincing. The good new is over 100 developing countries already have cash transfer schemes in place so the mechanisms are there in principle to get the cash directly to the poor and theevidence on impact on monetary poverty is compelling.

We think our findings may come as a surprise because the data points towards the fact that the causes of much of global poverty are increasingly a question of national political economy rather than resource scarcity. In fact, that very idea on the shifting causes of much of global poverty is one that I’ve been exploring in a new book out soon but more on that in a future blog.

In short, fiscal policy—and who pays and receives what—is a political choice or contract that governments or elites make with the rest of the population. So if you care about ending global poverty, there is now a case for looking more closely at national redistribution for purely instrumental reasons: to end global poverty quicker than waiting for growth alone to do the job.

In the same way that Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that people died from lack of entitlements—and not lack of food availability—our data underscores that while national resources are available to help end poverty, they are not being used for this purpose. Time to ask the question of what matters most: cheap gasoline for the richest groups, more guns than the neighbours, or giveaways to end three-quarters of global poverty?

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AFGHANISTAN, ON THE MEDIA: Badakhshan’s journalists discuss media’s role in women empowerment

Badakhshan’s journalists discuss media’s role in women empowerment

wadsam.com, July 29, 2016 – Three experts on women empowerment and more than 60 journalists gathered at Feyzabad’s women’s centre to discuss the media’s role in women empowerment. The event was hosted by the Social Association of Journalists in North Afghanistan (SAJNA) and the Afghan-German Cooperation.

The result of the event was that media has a crucial responsibility in promoting women’s participation in society. It has the power to spread messages and raise awareness for the challenges women face. Most importantly, media has given women a voice which has allowed them to actively engage with the Afghan government, interest groups and society at large.

The meeting was attended by three Afghan experts Zofnun Hesam Natiq, Director of the Department of Women Affairs (DoWA) in Badakhshan, Najia Sorush, women’s rights activist and Nasima Sahar, representative of the Afghan-German Cooperation.

Natiq underlined the Afghan society’s need for women’s participation: “A country cannot develop in a sustainable way if half the society is excluded from the process.” She added: “Today, I would like to invite all Afghan media to help women in assuming their role in society. Let us show how capable, skilled and strong Afghan women are.”

Najia Sorush highlighted the crucial role media has played in the past in strengthening Afghan women: “Media not only changed the minds of women, but more importantly, it changed the minds of men as well. Men increasingly provide support for the women around them.”

Nasima laid out the Afghan-German Cooperation’s wide range of activities for women: “In Badakhshan, the German government provided funding for the construction of a dormitory for female students, a women’s garden and an education centre. Furthermore, in conducting internship and training programs for women in areas such as IT, English, tailoring, food processing and disaster prevention, the German government supports women empowerment as well.

During the second part of the media meeting, the Q&A session, the experts answered questions from more than 60 national and local TV, radio and newspaper outlets. When asked about her expectation in the media landscape, Zonfnun replied: “I wish to see more investigative and in-depth reports on gender-related topics, because it makes stakeholders realise that they are accountable for what they do”.

“Media Meetings 2016 – Afghan media for Social Responsibility” are a series of regular events held by the Afghan-German cooperation and SAJNA. The meetings bring together experts from the public sector, civil society, development organizations and the media to discuss important development issues.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: African Leaders Driving Push for Industrialisation: UN Official

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016, ipsnews.net, by Lyndal Rowland – Industrialisation in Africa is being driven by African leaders who realise that industries as diverse as horticulture and leather production can help add value to the primary resources they currently export.

This is an “inside driven” process, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) told IPS in a recent interview. “I’ve heard that message from the African leaders.”

The African Union ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ sets out a plan to transform the economy of the 54 countries in Africa based on manufacturing, said Li.

The process received support from the UN General Assembly on Monday with a new resolution titled the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).

The resolution was sponsored by the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China in collaboration with the African Union, said Li.

“These steps create a momentum that all “industrialization stakeholders” in Africa must take advantage of,” said Li.

The resolution called on UNIDO to work together with the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Economic Commission for Africa to work towards sustainable industrialisation in Africa over the next 10 years.

The types of industrialisation African countries are embracing often involves adding value to the primary commodities, from mining or agriculture, that they are already producing.

It includes horticultural industry, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, beneficiation, adding value to minerals mined in Botswana, and shoe and garment manufacturing in Ethiopia, said Li.

However Li noted that in order to attract foreign investment in industrialisation, developing countries need to “do their homework.”

This can include building the necessary business infrastructure required for new industries in industrial parks.
“We have already seen some countries move ahead with attracting investments into industrial parks (including) Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,” said Li.

Li pointed to recent examples from Ethiopia and Senegal, where the respective governments have invested millions of dollars in building industrial parks to attract foreign investors that create jobs and exports for these two Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Currently, there are 48 LDCs around the world, of which 34 are in Africa.

Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

The decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that these LDCs can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries. Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

LDCs in Africa have had “very low and declining shares of manufacturing value added in GDP since the 1970s”, noted Li.
By investing in industry, these countries can add value to their primary exports, including through agro-industry, as is the case in Ethiopia, whose main exports include coffee, gold, leather products and live animals. “Manufacturing connects agriculture to light industry” noted Li, such as through food processing, garments and textiles, wood and leather processing.

Moreover, industrialisation does not necessarily have to be incompatible with the shift to a low carbon economy, said Li, since use of resource and energy efficient production methods and renewable energy in productive activities such as agro-industry, beneficiation, and in manufacturing, in general, will lead the economy onto a low carbon path.

The world’s least developed countries are following in the footsteps of other countries which have already achieved development, in part due to the industrialisation of their economies.

LDCs are “really eager to learn from those countries (that have) already gone through this process so that is why we have established South-South cooperation,” said Li.

However industrialisation does not only benefit the developing countries which want to attract it.

“Firms in today’s manufacturing powerhouses such as China, India and Brazil that are faced with rising wages at home are searching for locations that offer competitive wages, and appropriate infrastructure,” said Li.

With populations in many countries around the world beginning to age, Africa also has a comparative advantage to offer with growing young populations in many African countries.

“With its young and growing population, some indications show that Africa has the potential to become the next region to benefit from industrialization, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors,” said Li.

By providing employment and opportunities for these young people at home, industrialisation can also address other issues, including migration, inequalities and climate change, noted Li.

“Industry means creating jobs and incomes and industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes,” he said.

The Role of the G77

Li noted that UNIDO works closely with all developing countries, often through the Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 developing countries at the UN.

“The G77 and China has diverse membership, including Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Islands Developing States, and Middle Income Countries, located in almost all regions of the world and with diverse range of priorities with respect to industrial development,” he said.

“In LDCs, labor-intensive manufacturing is promoted to create jobs.”

“In middle-income countries moving up the technology ladder into higher value added manufacturing is targeted.”
This can include collaborations with “science, technology and research and development institutions, targeted foreign investment promotion, and other relevant services,” said Li.

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HAITI, ON DEVELOPMENT: OAS Needs New Leadership

OAShuffingtonpost.com, by Mark Weisbrot Co-Director, Center For Economic And Policy Research, Washington, D.C., July 11, 2016

Luis Almagro, the current Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) has abused his position and authority more flagrantly and outrageously than any predecessor in recent years. In his lack of judgment and disregard for political and diplomatic norms he resembles Donald Trump. And like Trump, he is increasingly seen as an embarrassment within the organization for which he is the standard bearer.

The OAS has been manipulated by Washington many times over the years in the service of regime change. Twenty-first century examples include Haiti (2000-2004, and 2011), Honduras (2009), and Paraguay (2012). It was in response to Washington’s manipulation of the OAS, in the process of consolidating the 2009 military coup in Honduras, that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was formed. It includes all countries in the hemisphere except the United States and Canada.

But in these other cases, Washington had to pretend it was doing something other than carrying out a political campaign against a sovereign government. Almagro is much more brazen. Like the communists of Karl Marx’s time, he “disdains to conceal his views.” He is a radical and seeks to win his goals by any means necessary.

His main goal at present is to get rid of the current government of Venezuela. In the run-up to the congressional elections there last December, he worked tirelessly to try and convince the media and the world that the government was going to rig the elections. When the vote count was universally acknowledged as clean, he made no apologies but simply switched tactics.

Almagro’s latest offensive involves invoking the OAS Democratic Charter, which allows the organization to intervene when there is an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state.” Never mind that Venezuela still has an elected president, unlike Brazil, where a cabal of corrupt politicians has manipulated the legislative and judicial branches of government to suspend the head of state in a desperate effort to protect themselves from investigations for corruption. Almagro’s offensive is about politics, not democracy. It’s about what Washington and its right-wing allies want for the region.

Exhibiting a profound lack of respect for the political norms of Latin America, Almagro posted an article by Washington Post editorialist Jackson Diehl on the OAS website. The articlepraised Almagro for “revitalizing the OAS” with his crusade against a member state. It is no more appropriate for the head of the OAS to campaign against a member country than it would be for the head of the European Commission to do so in Europe.

In Latin America there is a deep historical tradition that values national sovereignty and self-determination, however incomprehensible and arrogantly dismissed those concepts may be in Washington. Diehl is a hard core neoconservative, an American supremacist who uses the editorial pages of the Washington Post to trash almost all of the left governments of the region, and to support military intervention anywhere that it might vaguely serve “American interests.” He was one of the most prominent and vocal supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with the Post running 27 editorial board pieces supporting the war in the six months prior to the invasion.

Basking in the praise of someone like Jackson Diehl, for any literate Latin American, is the equivalent of Trump’s infamoustweet quoting Mussolini.

There are immediate and risky consequences of Almagro’s malfeasance and abuse of power. Venezuela is confronting an economic and political crisis and the country is politically divided. The political opposition in Venezuela is also divided; as throughout its 21st century history, some want to advocate peaceful and electoral change, while others want to overthrow the government. A normal leader of the OAS would do what the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is doing — try to promote dialogue between the two opposing forces. Since the main opposition group (MUD) and other opposition leaders refuse to meet with the government, UNASUR has enlisted José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (former prime minister of Spain), Martín Torrijos (former president of Panama), and Leonel Fernández (former president of the Dominican Republic) to meet with both sides in order to facilitate dialogue.

But Almagro is not interested in promoting dialogue; he is more interested in using the OAS, and its reach in the media, to delegitimize the Venezuelan government, a goal that Washington has pursued for most of the past 15 years.

Impatience with Almagro within the OAS is mounting. Many governments have publicly criticized him, and several have called for his resignation. He had previously been denounced by former president Pepe Mujica of Uruguay, whom he had served as foreign minister.

Most importantly, in June, 19 countries (a majority of the OAS membership) ordered that the Permanent Council of the OAS discuss his behavior. This is long overdue, and hopefully will lead to a change of leadership.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the new book “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy” (2015, Oxford University Press).

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AFGHANISTAN: Finally Standing Up to Pakistan

An Afghan National Army soldier holds tightly to a rocket propelled grenade launcher. Flickr/Georgia National Guard

An Afghan National Army soldier holds tightly to a rocket propelled grenade launcher. Flickr/Georgia National Guard

nationalinterest.org, Adam Gallagher, August 4, 2016

In recent months, Pakistan’s pernicious Afghan policy has come under heavy criticism in Washington. In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad noted that while most states have a gap between their declared and actual policy, “In the case of Pakistan, the gap is huge.” Indeed, “Pakistan’s current policy and conduct would better merit its inclusion on the State Department’s list of state-sponsors of terrorism,” the former envoy argued. With the Taliban now on the offensive, Khalilzad argued that “the Taliban’s resilience can be attributed above all to the strategic decision of the Pakistani military and intelligence services to provide sanctuary and support to these groups.”

With many on the Hill advocating for a cessation of U.S. assistance to Pakistan, Khalilzad also told lawmakers that the drone strike against Mansour has “created a golden hour to confront Pakistan” and force it to choose between its support for the Taliban and the Haqqani network, or its relationship with the United States, and the attendant economic and international support that it provides to Islamabad. Aziz’s surprising confession and the circumstances surrounding Mansour’s killing—let alone the host of other incriminating evidence—provide the perfect opportunity for the United State to increase pressure on Pakistan, ignore Islamabad’s dissembling and push for an end to support for the Taliban. After all, as Khalilzad notes, “Pakistani policy is the principal cause of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.”

The war in Afghanistan is now America’s longest, and it has spent more in inflation-adjusted dollars than on the Marshall Plan. Following a recent decision, President Obama will leave office with 8,400 U.S. troops in country, passing the baton on to the next president. Over the last fifteen years, the war effort has been consistently undermined by Islamabad’s duplicitous Afghan policy. There has been considerable hand-wringing within the Obama administration regarding troop levels, and much less public discussion of Islamabad’s role in Afghanistan. With an increasingly dangerous Islamic State wing, which recently just conducted the biggest attack in Kabul in years; Al Qaeda’s continued presence; and an unbowed Taliban, Washington is doing itself no favors by ignoring Pakistan’s support for extremist groups.

Long before Islamabad was even admitting that the Afghan Taliban were residing in Pakistan, Karzai cogently analyzed the Afghan war and a critical reason for its intractability, albeit without conventional diplomatic tact. If the next president hopes to bring the Afghan war to a close and leave the country on a viable path for prosperity and security, she or he will have to pressure Pakistan to change course. Just ask Hamid Karzai; he’s been saying so for years.

Adam Gallagher is a writer and editor based in Washington, DC. He is a senior writer for Tropics of Meta and his work has appeared in the Huffington Post, the National Interest, theDiplomat, and for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, among other outlets. He can be followed on Twitter@aegallagher10.

Image: An Afghan National Army soldier holds tightly to a rocket propelled grenade launcher. Flickr/Georgia National Guard

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ON DEVELOPMENT: The Next UN Secretary General Should Be a Woman – and Must Be a Feminist

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

Opinion by Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

Oxford, UNITED KINGDOM, Aug 3 2016 (ipsnews.net) – The process for arguably the top political job on the planet is well underway.  And the time is right for a woman and a feminist to take the helm.

The United Nations (UN) Security Council is continuing its consideration of candidates for the next UN Secretary-General, with the next “straw poll” due to take place on Friday August 5th.

Backed by public debates and online campaigns, this selection process for the Secretary-General has been the most transparent and accessible yet – driven in part by tireless efforts from civil society.

But the decision to appoint essentially rests with the Security Council’s five permanent members in what has been, since 1946, a remarkably secretive selection procedure, one which has given us three Europeans, two Africans, two Asians and one Latin American – all men – in 70 years.

This process has never produced a female secretary general.

In 2006 the Secretary-General selection process included only one woman in seven candidates. This time round, half the current candidates are women. There is no shortage of talent. Yet the initial signs are not promising. The Security Council’s first straw pollon July 21st saw only one woman among the top five.

The absurd male monopoly on the UN’s top job must come to an end. The next Secretary-General must be both a woman and a feminist, with the determination and leadership to promote women’s rights and gender equality.

The long selection process ahead must reverse this. The absurd male monopoly on the UN’s top job must come to an end. The next Secretary-General must be both a woman and a feminist, with the determination and leadership to promote women’s rights and gender equality.

Growing up as an activist under an oppressive dictatorship in Uganda, the UN was a friend to those of us who fought our way to freedom, as it was for the millions that joined decolonization struggles in the African continent. Today, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Climate Agreement agreed in 2015 are testament to the UN’s global role and reach, and a legacy of Ban Ki-moon’s outstanding leadership.

Yet the UN is failing to meet its founding tenets to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”and uphold human rights for those who are powerless. For the UN’s new leader, reversing this sounds near-impossible amidst protracted conflicts, a lack of respect for international humanitarian law and a massive global displacement crisis.

Fulfilling the pledge to “leave no one behind” is perhaps the biggest political challenge. The new Secretary-General must grapple with the spiralling crisis of extreme economic inequality that keeps people poor, undermines economic growth and threatens the health of democracies. And a low carbon pathway will not happen without strong UN leadership to drive drastic reductions from the richest in our societies, whose lifestyles are responsible for the majority of them.

Choosing a woman goes far beyond symbolism and political correctness. The discrimination of women and girls goes to the core of any and all analyses of the world’s economic, political and environmental problems.

A feminist woman Secretary-General will, by definition and action, ensure gender equality is put at the heart of peace, security and development. In doing so, she will truly champion the UN’s core values of human rights, equality and justice.

Such an appointment – far too long in coming – would fulfil promises given by world leaders 21 years ago at the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to nominate more women to senior posts in the UN. In the past decade, women have filled less than a quarter of senior roles at the organization, according to UN Women. Shockingly, as recently as last year women made up less than 17 percent of Under- and Assistant Secretary-General appointments.

A new feminist UN Secretary General will ensure that more women serve as heads of UN agencies, peacekeeping missions, diplomatic envoys, and senior mediators who collectively can strengthen the global peace and security agenda. Without women’s equal access to positions of decision-making power and a clear process to get there, gender equality, global security and peace will never be realized.

And it will take a woman feminist Secretary-General to advance the bold, comprehensive women’s human rights agenda in intergovernmental fora that is needed to address the multiple and intertwined challenges facing us in the 21st century. Only a woman feminist Secretary-General can ensure financial support reaches women’s rights movements – proven to have made progress on addressing the challenges of violence against women and girls, climate change, conflict and economic inequality. They can ensure that feminist and civil society movements are not just observers in policymaking, but active and equal participants.

She should, too, boost international efforts to empower women economically – thus strengthening national economies and prosperity for all – and tackling the harmful social norms that trap women in poverty and powerlessness.

The new Secretary-General must also reimagine the role of the UN in a world radically different to the one it was set up to serve and be bold in leading its reform.

The UN must be made more inclusive, accountable, democratic, effective, and reflective of a world in which political and economic power has shifted. And the UN must be able to protect its unique role as a genuinely multilateral institution that acts in the interests of all people and all countries. Integrity must not be undermined by the influence of private sector actors and their money.

The Security Council, particularly the five permanent members, must choose change and progress over continuity. They must have the foresight to ensure they listen to the voices of the public and select the Secretary-General that the world and the UN needs today: a woman and a feminist.

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AFGHANISTAN: Afghan civilian casualties soar to record high, UN says

An Afghan man prays in front of the graves of victims of a suicide attack in Kabul,  July 25 2016 - Rahmat Gul/AP Photos

An Afghan man prays in front of the graves of victims of a suicide attack in Kabul, July 25 2016 – Rahmat Gul/AP Photos

thenational.ae Kabul — Civilian casualties in Afghanistan soared to a record high in the first half of 2016, the UN said on Monday.

Children in particular are paying a heavy price for growing insecurity as the conflict escalates, said the UN report which comes days after the deadliest attack in Kabul since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.

Between January and June, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 were wounded. It was a four per cent increase in casualties compared to the same period last year, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) said.

The casualties have reached their highest level since the UN began issuing its authoritative reports in 2009.

“Every single casualty documented in this report – people killed while praying, working, studying, fetching water, recovering in hospitals – every civilian casualty represents a failure of commitment and should be a call to action for parties to the conflict to take meaningful steps to reduce suffering,” Unama chief Tadamichi Yamamoto said.

The casualties include 1,509 children – or about one-third of the total, a figure the UN described as “alarming and shameful”. It was the highest toll ever recorded by the UN over a six-month period.

The statistics are a grim indicator of growing insecurity in Afghanistan as the Taliban step up their nationwide insurgency and the ISIL group seeks to expand their foothold in the east of the country.

The UN report said insurgent groups including the Taliban were responsible for the majority – 60 per cent – of civilian casualties.

But it also reported a 47 per cent increase in the number of casualties caused by pro-government forces, compared to the same period last year.

“The testimony of victims and their families brings into agonising focus the tragedy of … this protracted conflict since 2009,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The family that lost a breadwinner, forcing the children to leave school and struggle to make ends meet; the driver who lost his limbs, depriving him of his livelihood; the man who went to the bazaar to shop for his children only to return home to find them dead.”

The report comes after the deadliest attack for 15 years in Kabul on Saturday killed 80 people and left hundreds maimed, an assault claimed by ISIL.

The twin bombings tore through crowds of minority Shiite Hazaras as they gathered to demand that a multi-million-dollar power line pass through their electricity-starved province of Bamiyan, one of the most deprived areas of Afghanistan. Those figures were excluded in the UN report.

But the assault illustrates the report’s finding that suicide bombings and complex attacks are now hurting more civilians than roadside bombs.

“Parties to the conflict must cease the deliberate targeting of civilians and the use of heavy weaponry in civilian-populated areas,” Mr Al Hussein said.

“There must be an end to the prevailing impunity enjoyed by those responsible for civilian casualties – no matter who they are.”

The report said that growing air strikes by Afghan forces also contributed to the rise in civilian casualties as new aircraft were deployed.

It also voiced concern over the human rights violations of pro-government militia groups, which act outside the law in some Afghan provinces.

* Agence France-Presse

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HAITI: Haiti 101 Years After US Invasion, Still Resisting Domination

Demonstrators march during a protest in Port-au-Prince, January 2016. | Photo: AFP

Demonstrators march during a protest in Port-au-Prince, January 2016. | Photo: AFP

telesurtv.net, July 27, 2016, By: Justin Podur

The U.S. presidential candidates can be looked at from the perspective of Haiti. One candidate has an extensive record there. The other has some historical parallels.

The U.S. invaded and occupied Haiti 101 years ago today, and remained there for 19 years. Accomplishments of the occupation include raiding the Haitian National Bank, re-instituting slave labor, establishing the hated National Guard, and getting a 25-year contract for the U.S. corporation, United Fruit.

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There was a pretext for the invasion—the assassination of Haiti’s president in 1915. But to understand the event, which has lessons to draw from a century later, it is necessary to look more closely at the invader than the invaded.

In 2016, the United States is living through a presidential campaign with a candidate willing to exploit racism and pander to anti-immigrant sentiment. Police are killing Black people in cities across the U.S.

Having drawn down troop levels in its two big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. still runs airsrikes and drone strikes in the region and covert actions all over the world. The U.S. is still the determining voice in Haiti’s politics and economy. In other words, 101 years after its invasion of Haiti, the U.S. retains two features: violent racial inequality and empire.

The U.S. presidential candidates can be looked at from the perspective of Haiti. One candidate has an extensive record there. The other has some historical parallels.

The Clintons have treated Haiti as a family business. In 2010, after an earthquake devastated the country, the Clinton Foundation was among the horde of non-governmental organizations that stepped up their role in the, still unfinished, rebuilding phase. Haiti’s social sector had already been taken over by NGOs and its streets—since the 2004 U.S.-led coup and occupation—were patrolled by United Nations troops.

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The Clinton Foundation received pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid to rebuild Haiti. The crown jewel of the Foundation’s work: the disappointing Caracol Industrial Park, opened in 2012, which promised and failed to expand Haiti’s low-wage garment-processing industry, long a source of foreign profits and little internal development.

Hillary Clinton made her own interventions into Haitian politics as secretary of state. At a key moment in Haiti post-earthquake politics, Clinton’s state department threw its weight behind presidential candidate Michel Martelly.

His electoral legitimacy was dubious and his presidency led the country to a constitutional crisis when people mobilized against another stolen election in 2015. That crisis is still ongoing, and will no doubt provide pretexts for the next U.S. intervention.

To try to imagine the impact of Trump on Haiti, one need only look back a century. As Trump continues his seemingly unstoppable march to the White House, he is compared to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and other populist buffoon-politicians. Woodrow Wilson, the invader of Haiti in 1915, may be a better example of the damage a president can.

When Woodrow Wilson became president, he set about doing what today would be called “Making America Great Again.” Decades had passed since the U.S. Civil War. The post-war Reconstruction involved efforts to desegregate cities and government workplaces and make a place for newly-freed Black people.

Wilson reversed these efforts, strengthening racial apartheid in the U.S. His administration made sure there were separate bathrooms in federal government offices.

Although Trump is unlikely to re-introduce segregation, something else happened under Woodrow Wilson’s rule that is relevant in this context: white vigilante violence and lynchings spiked.

Wilson created a permissive environment for such atrocities. First elected in 1912, Wilson only got around to making a statement against organized white violence—called “mob violence” or “race riots”—in mid-1917.

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When more riots broke out in 1919, this time designed to suppress the democratic impulses of Black soldiers returning from WWI, the NAACP implored Wilson to make a a statement. But it was Wilson, himself, who had restricted Black soldiers to non-combat roles during the war.

In foreign policy, Donald Trump’s pronouncements have been predictably incoherent and uninformed. But Woodrow Wilson’s presidency suggests that domestic policies of racism will not be confined to the domestic arena.

Wilson sent U.S. troops all over Latin America—Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua and of course, Haiti—which may have gotten the worst of it all. Racist wrath has been a constant in Haiti’s history since it won its independence in a slave revolt, and Wilson unleashed that wrath on the island during the 1915-1934 occupation. Chomsky’s “Year 501” gives a flavor for what U.S. occupiers were thinking and doing:

“Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, found the Haitian elite rather amusing: ‘Dear me, think of it, Niggers speaking French,'” he remarked. The effective ruler of Haiti, Marine Colonel L.W.T. Waller, who arrived fresh from appalling atrocities in the conquest of the Philippines, was not amused: “they are real nigger and no mistake … real nigs beneath the surface,” he said, rejecting any negotiations or other “bowing and scraping to these coons,” particularly the educated Haitians for whom this bloodthirsty lout had a special hatred.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while never approaching the racist fanaticism and thuggery of his distant relative Theodore Roosevelt, shared the feelings of his colleagues. On a visit to occupied Haiti in 1917, he recorded in his diary a comment by his traveling companion, who later became the Occupation’s leading civilian official.

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Fascinated by the Haitian Minister of Agriculture, he “couldn’t help saying to myself,” he told FDR, “that man would have brought $1,500 at auction in New Orleans in 1860 for stud purposes.”

“‘Roosevelt appears to have relished the story,” (Hans) Schmidt notes, “and retold it to American Minister Norman Armour when he visited Haiti as President in 1934.”

Chomsky conclude this section of horrifically racist quotes from the U.S. elite about Haiti with a warning, “The element of racism in policy formation should not be discounted, to the present day.”

Nor should Haitian resistance.

The U.S. occupation of 1915-1934 faced a rebellion led by Charlemagne Peralte. Marines assassinated him and circulated a photograph of him crucified. Rather than intimidating Haitians, the photo enraged them and cemented Charlemagne Peralte’s place as a national hero.

If Haitians had a say in the U.S. presidential election, a case could be made for the devil-you-know of Clinton rather than the risk of a new Woodrow Wilson in Trump. But subjects of the empire can’t vote, only citizens. The U.S. tried to set the tone of master 101 years ago.

But people still resist.

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IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEES: Narrow National Interests Threaten Historic Refugee Agreement

Border guards in Bangladesh refused entry to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in 2012. Credit: Anurup Titu/IPS

Border guards in Bangladesh refused entry to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in 2012. Credit: Anurup Titu/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016, ipsnews.net, by Aruna Duttoriginal – Narrow national interests are threatening to derail an upcoming UN summit which aims to bring countries together to find a more humane and coordinated approach to large movements of refugees and migrants.

The existing system, which was established after World War II, is struggling to cope with record numbers of displaced persons, Peter Sutherland, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for International Migration said at an event at the International Peace Institute in New York last week.

Sutherland criticized the ethos prevailing over the debate concerning refugees. “It is not compassion but order, and keeping people out that has dominated the debate,” he said, adding that the negative dialogue “has bred xenophobia, racism and nationalism.”

Words like “erecting walls,” are cheap, said Sutherland, and the UN must stand strong and reverse the rhetoric.

Amnesty International, which has long supported radical change in the existing agreement to accommodate increasing migration, has warned that a few nations were working through the prism of “narrow national self-interest” and these few countries may scupper Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s initiative to end the refugee crisis.

Amnesty also warned that a group of “unlikely bedfellows” including Australia, China, Egypt, India, Russia, Pakistan and the U.S., among others, risk bulldozing the only worldwide effort under way to provide concrete action to deal with the global refugee crisis affecting 20 million people.

The UN and organizations like Amnesty are appealing to these nations to change their positions to meet the challenge so that the new Global Compact on Refugees can be adopted at a UN Summit planned for Sept. 19.

“As time runs out to finalize what could and should be a game-changing agreement, so much hangs in the balance. Millions of refugees around the world are in desperate need – 86 percent live in low and middle-income countries often ill-equipped to host them, while many of the world’s wealthiest states host the fewest and do the least. This situation is inherently unfair,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, is quoted saying in a press release July 25.

Instead of the new Global Compact on Refugee Responsibility Sharing, “What looms instead is possibly a shameful historic failure, with some states sacrificing refugees’ rights for selfish national interests,” Shetty added.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been calling for a new approach to large movements of refugees and migrants, and in May he set out some proposals in a report to the General Assembly, including for internationally agreed compacts on refugees and migrants. These include global responsibility sharing where no country takes on more than their fair share of refugees.

Amnesty warned that even the term “responsibility-sharing” is in jeopardy and the whole deal may be delayed because some states want absolute parity. The international rights organization blames a lack of political will and willingness to tolerate the preventable suffering of millions of people by continuing to build fences.

At the IPI meeting last week, Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco and upcoming Co-Chair of the Global Migration Group, said migration had built the history of humankind for thousands of years. “It should be a positive discussion, recognizing the importance of migration. … It is not an issue of conflict between North and South.”

Karen AbuZayd, Special Adviser on the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, said the work of setting up concrete mechanisms is “all in the hands of member-states.” The UN’s 2030 Development Agenda she said, frames migration in a positive manner, contrary to mainstream media’s portrayal.

“We must not lose sight of the bigger picture: the positive ones, the success stories,” that come out of migration. AbuZayd also pointed out that the majority of refugees are children and refugee children are five times less likely to attend school.

Syrian refugees today account for 30 percent of the Lebanese population and 20 percent of the population of Jordan.

In order to respond to this crisis, countries like Lebanon, have gone into serious debt, while the six richest countries host less than 9 percent of the refugees, according to Oxfam calculations.

Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory are home to 50 percent of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers, but account for under 2 percent of the world’s economy.

Oxfam’s analysis concludes that the United States, China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom hosted 2.1 million refugees and asylum seekers in 2015 – just 8.88 percent of the world total.

Questioned whether it is important for richer countries to provide finance through very low-interest loans to these countries, or invest in more humanitarian assistance, Mais Balkhi, the Advocacy Manager of Syria Relief and Development, told IPS that said it has to be all these steps and more.

“It’s important for the richest countries to share the responsibility including hosting more refugees themselves in addition to providing both finance assistance to hosting countries neighboring Syria and increasing humanitarian aid.”

The Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, speaking at a recent forum on migration and development, noted that of late, the public debate on migration and refugees has been dominated by security concerns.

Eliasson stressed the need to recognize that, overall, human mobility has a positive impact on development and is a driver for economic prosperity and social progress. Jan Eliasson also said that  “While there are trans-national frameworks to deal with the environment, trade and finance, we lack a similarly comprehensive approach to the governance of international migration — one linking migration, human rights and development.”

But Balkhi told IPS that the existing treaties, such as the human rights treaty, would be enough if they were being implemented, which is not the case in many UN member states.

“I think there should be a plan and a strategy to implement existing treaties and not creating new ones. States should be held accountable when human rights are not applied.”

On Jul. 25, the UN General Assembly voted for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to join the UN as a related organization, a step which may indicate a move towards greater coordination of migration related issues within the UN system.

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AFGHANISTAN: A Rock Between Hard Places

Harpviken-Tadjbakhsh-Cover-webhurstpublishers.com
New Book: “A Rock Between Hard Places-Afghanistan as an Arena of Regional Insecurity”
by Kristian Berg Harpviken And Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh

What has driven neighboring states to intervene in the Afghan conflict? This book challenges mainstream analyses which place Afghanistan at the center — the so-called ‘heart’ — of a large pan-Asian region whose fate is predicated on Afghan stability. Instead Harpviken and Tadjbakhsh situate Afghanistan on the margins of three regional security complexes — those of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf — each characterized by deep security rivalries, which, in turn, informs their engagement in Afghanistan. Within Central Asia, security cooperation is hampered by competition for regional supremacy and great power support, a dynamic reflected in these states’ half-hearted role in Afghanistan. In the Persian Gulf, Iran and Saudi Arabia fight for economic and political influence, mirrored in their Afghan engagements; while long-standing Indo-Pakistani rivalries are perennially played out in Afghanistan.

Based on a careful reading of the recent political and economic history of the region, and of Great Power rivalry beyond it, the authors explain why efforts to build a comprehensive Afghanistan-centric regional security order have failed, and suggest what might be done to reset inter-state relations.

Kristian Berg Harpviken is Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh teaches at the Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), Paris, and is Associate Researcher at PRIO.

‘There are few more insightful analysts of Afghanistan’s region than Kristian Berg Harpiven and Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh. Their new book challenges us to rethink our received understandings of how Afghanistan might relate to, and be affected by, its neighbours, and should be required reading for all scholars, diplomats and international officials interested in the stability of Southwest Asia.’ — William Maley, Professor of Diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University; author of Reconstructing Afghanistan: Civil-Military Experiences in Comparative Perspective

‘A very useful review of regional politics at a time when Afghanistan’s neighbours are more important to its fate than ever before.’ — Antonio Giustozzi, author of The Army of Afghanistan: A Political History of a Fragile Institution

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ON DEVELOPMENT: School out of reach for nearly one in 10 children worldwide, UNESCO says

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Many children out of school live in areas of conflict, others are girls living in societies that do not advocate educating women

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK, July 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Some 263 million children worldwide, nearly one in 10, do not go to school, posing a daunting hurdle to the United Nations’ efforts to educate all children by 2030, the U.N.’s cultural agency UNESCO reported on Friday.

The number is “staggering,” yet marks an improvement from 2000 when some 374 million children did not attend school, UNESCO said.

Many children out of school live in areas of conflict, others are girls living in societies that do not advocate educating females and others live in countries that do not make secondary school compulsory, the report said.

Children in their late teens are four times more likely to be out of school than younger children, it said.

“Our focus must be on inclusion from the earliest age and right through the learning cycle, on policies that address the barriers at every stage, with special attention to girls who still face the greatest disadvantage,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova in a statement.

U.N. member nations last year adopted a set of global goals for 2030 that included a call for children around the world to complete primary and secondary school.

“These new findings show the hard work ahead if we are to reach this goal,” Bokova said.

Armed conflict poses a major barrier to education, UNESCO said.

Around the world, 22 million out-of-school children of primary education age live in conflict areas, it said.

Also, many children not in school live in sub-Saharan Africa, where three out of five children of secondary school age are not in classes, it said.

UNESCO said while primary and lower secondary education are compulsory in nearly every country, upper secondary school is not. Also, it said older children are often of legal working age.

It said globally 15 million girls of primary school age will never attend classes compared with about 10 million boys, and more than half those girls live in sub-Saharan Africa.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Too hot to work: global warming to cost $2 trillion in lost productivity

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The first three months of 2016 have broken temperature records and 2015 was the planet’s warmest year since records began in the 19th century;

By Beh Lih Yi, https://twitter.com/@BehLihYi

JAKARTA, July 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rising temperatures caused by climate change may cost the world economy over $2 trillion in lost productivity by 2030 as hot weather makes it unbearable to work in some parts of the world, according to U.N. research published on Tuesday.

It showed that in Southeast Asia alone, up to 20 percent of annual work hours may already be lost in jobs with exposure to extreme heat with the figures set to double by 2050 as the effects of climate change deepen.

Across the globe, 43 countries will see a fall in their gross domestic product (GDP) due to reduced productivity, the majority of them in Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, China, India and Bangladesh, researcher Tord Kjellstrom said.

Indonesia and Thailand could see their GDP reduced by 6 percent in 2030, while in China GDP could be reduced by 0.8 percent and in India by 3.2 percent.

“Current climate conditions in tropical and subtropical parts of the world are already so hot during the hot seasons that occupational health effects occur and work capacity for many people is affected,” said Kjellstrom, a director at the New Zealand-based Health and Environment International Trust.

He said the increasing need for rest “is likely to become a significant problem” as climate change makes the hottest days hotter and leads to longer periods of excessively hot days.

Kjellstrom authored one of six papers on the impact of climate change on health that were put together by the United Nations University’s International Institute for Global Health in Kuala Lumpur and published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health.

Kjellstrom warned that the lowest-paid workers – those in heavy labour, agricultural and manufacturing – were most at risk of exposure to extreme heat.

He urged countries to take “decisive action” to tackle global warming.

“Failure will cause the frequency and intensity of disasters to worsen dramatically beyond 2050, and the situation at the end of this century will be especially alarming for the world’s poorest people,” the researcher said.

The other papers in the series showed around 2.1 million people worldwide died between 1980 and 2012 due to nearly 21,000 natural catastrophes such as floods, mudslides, extreme heat, drought, high winds or fires.

In Asia Pacific, 1.2 billon people have been affected by 1,215 disasters – mostly flood, cyclones and landslides – since 2000.

In April, 175 countries signed a Paris climate deal to restrain the global rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The first three months of 2016 have broken temperature records and 2015 was the planet’s warmest year since records began in the 19th century.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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AFGHANISTAN: Pakistan plans talks with Afghanistan, UN agency over refugees’ return

PKrefugees

Afghan refugees arrive to be repatriated to Afghanistan, at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office on the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan, August 26, 2015. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed

Reuters, Thursday, 30 June 2016

The number of Afghans voluntarily returning from Pakistan has plummeted this year

* Pakistan has world’s second largest refugee population

* Just 6,000 Afghans returned home this year, vs 58,211 in 2015

* Afghanistan says working with Pakistan to tackle refugee woes (Adds Afghanistan minister’s comment)

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik

ISLAMABAD, June 30 (Reuters) – Pakistan plans talks with Afghanistan and the United Nations refugee agency to move longtime Afghan refugees to camps at home, the foreign office said on Thursday, after the numbers of those returning plunged this year.

Pakistan has the world’s second largest refugee population, with more than 1.5 million registered, and about a million unregistered, refugees from neighbouring Afghanistan, most of whom fled the Soviet occupation of their country in the 1980s.

The U.N. says the number of Afghans voluntarily returning from Pakistan has fallen to about 6,000, well below last year’s 58,211, as violence worsens in Afghanistan, where the government and its U.S. allies are battling a stubborn Taliban insurgency.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it would immediately approach Afghanistan on the political and diplomatic fronts, while the ministry for frontier regions would engage with the U.N. refugee agency and Afghanistan’s ministry of refugees.

The talks would seek ways to ease “early returns as well as the possibility of shifting Afghan refugees gradually from Pakistan to safer and peaceful areas of Afghanistan, where the Afghan government should establish settlements,” the foreign office said in a statement.

Hussain Alemi Balkhi, the Afghan minister for refugees and repatriation, said, “We know that the refugees face harassment and hardship, and we are working with Pakistani authorities to address these problems.”

He confirmed plans for a three-way meeting on July 19 with Pakistan and the U.N. refugee agency.

On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif allowed the 1.5 million registered refugees to stay on for six more months.

The registration deadline extension came soon after officials told Reuters at least 500 Afghan refugees had been arrested in the northwestern border province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and deported as a security risk.

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said more than 2,000 refugees were arrested in the last month, and 400 deported to Afghanistan. (Additional Reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik)

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