United Arab Emirates $8.8 billion in foreign aid

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Chairwomen of International Humanitarian City in Dubai, called for establishing a data bank to allow governments to document their humanitarian work. 

The Humanitarian Logistic Data Bank will depend on of the use of technology in charitable aid for a quick response to those in need, said Princess Haya, wife of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, during the second day of the World Government Summit.

“We have to move away from conventional ways of providing aid. Innovation is necessary for humanitarian aid,” she said to a crowd of delegates, as she highlighted the role of smartphones in changing forms of aid in developing countries such as limiting the spread of Ebola in west Africa and targeting those in need in a quick manner. Drones and satellites were among the technologies that helped in providing aid.

Princess Haya noted that the United Arab Emirates has topped the list of donors to foreign aid, reporting a 34 per cent increase in 2015, reaching $8.8 billion.

She praised the UAE food bank initiative, recently launched by Shaikh Mohammed for the Year of Giving. “While reports show that current food waste is worth $2.6 trillion, which can feed three times of world’s population including the 800 million hungry people.”

[Khaleej Times]

Canadian view on xenophobic United States immigration and refugee fears

About 300,000 permanent immigrants come into Canada every year. That’s equivalent to about one percent of its population, one of the highest ratios in the world.

Canadians see immigration as critical to their economic success. The nation has invited in so many immigrants that today, one-fifth of the population is foreign-born. And Canadians don’t seem to wrestle with anti-immigrant nativism that has erupted in the U.S. and Europe.

These days, Canadians are taken aback when they look south. They see the climate of fear and anger that has broken out in America toward Spanish-speaking and Muslim immigrants.

“Canada has looked at the United States in many ways as an example of a welcoming society,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. “And it’s disheartening for many Canadians to see the United States be so fearful, to be so xenophobic and not to be more welcoming to other folks in the world.”

Some Canadians wonder if that most American motto – E pluribus unum–”Out of many, one” – has moved north.

[NPR]

Syrian Christian family, visas in hand, turned back at US airport

Two brothers, their wives and children left war-torn Syria with 16 suitcases and crossed the border into Lebanon. They were finally on their way to the United States after working for almost 15 years to join their family members stateside.

But after their flight landed in Philadelphia on Saturday, the two families were told to get on a flight back. It was because President Donald Trump had just signed an executive order denying citizens from seven countries, including Syria, entry into the United States.

Sarmad Assali and her daughter, Sarah, are among the relatives who were waiting to welcome the families to the United States. Sarmad Assali said they received a call from authorities Saturday morning telling them their relatives would not be allowed to enter the country.

The Assalis, US citizens who live in Allentown, Pennsylvania, weren’t able to make contact with their family members until they were already headed back overseas. One of the brothers told Sarmad Assali they were not allowed to make calls or use the Internet while they were held.

According to the Assalis, their family members do not speak English very well and were told by authorities they could either be detained and have their visas taken away, or they could take the first flight back to Doha. Frightened and facing a language barrier, the six family members chose the second option.

The Assalis are Orthodox Christians, one of the most persecuted groups in Syria.

[Read full CNN article]

Dismayed Evangelical groups urge Trump to not block refugees to America

Several evangelical groups have spoken out against an executive order by President Donald Trump which will apparently block refugees from coming to America.

“The lengthy delay imposed in this ban further traumatizes refugees, most of whom are women and children, keeps families separated and punishes people who are themselves fleeing the terror we as a nation are rightly fighting to end,” Scott Arbeiter, World Relief president.

The order, expected to be signed as early as Friday, looks to temporarily block refugees coming to America from Syria, and will halt visas for Muslim-majority nations like Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.  The total refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017 are also set to be capped at 50,000, which is less than half of the 110,000 total that former President Barack Obama had called for.

World Relief said that it “expresses dismay” at the prospect, and pointed out that the U.S. already has a tight security process when it comes to screening refugees, which includes vetting by Homeland Security and other agencies, multiple interviews, biometric scans, and other safeguards.

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said, “Christians and churches have been welcoming refugees for 2,000 years, and evangelicals are committed to continue this biblical mission. Thousands of U.S. evangelicals and their churches have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past 40 years … We don’t want to stop now,” Anderson said.

[The Christian Post]

Who Gives More To The Developing World: Aid Donors Or Migrant Workers?

In a given year, developing countries may get $131 Billion in official aid, and another $431.6 Billion in remittances — money sent home by migrants who are working abroad.

That’s the astounding number in the World Bank’s new Migration and Development Brief. The total in remittances has been going up yearly and is expected to keep rising, the report predicts, though the rate of growth has slowed a bit because of the drop in oil prices, which affects money earned by migrants in oil-producing countries.

The way the money is spent in developing countries is a tremendous boon, Dilip Ratha, lead author of the brief and head of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development says. A lot of it goes to meeting basic needs, like food, but it also is invested in “child education and health, maternal health, older people’s health” — and in local businesses.

For the family members, the money “is like a lifeline,” Ratha says. It can help break the “cycle of poverty”

[NPR]

8 people have as much money as half the World

Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published by Oxfam to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos.

Oxfam’s report, ‘An economy for the 99 percent’, shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been feared. It details how big business and the super-rich are fueling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day.”

Oxfam’s report shows how our broken economies are funneling wealth to a rich elite at the expense of the poorest in society, the majority of whom are women.

The richest are accumulating wealth at such an astonishing rate that the world could see its first trillionaire in just 25 years.  To put this figure in perspective – you would need to spend $1 million every day for 2738 years to spend $1 trillion.

The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth:

  1. Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
  2. Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
  3. Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
  4. Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
  5. Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
  6. Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
  7. Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle  (net worth $43.6 billion)
  8. Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)

[By Oxfam ]

Utah and Mormons are the most generous givers in America

Utah is tops among all 50 US states in generosity, according to a new report released this week at WalletHub. The report breaks down “generosity” into two main categories–a state’s rate of volunteerism and the percentage of income its people spend on charitable donations.

In Utah, people donate an impressive 6.6% of their income to charity. New Hampshire was the stingiest, with just 1.6% of income given away.

Utah also ranks first in the percentage of people who say they donated their time (56%) and the total number of hours they volunteered (75.6 per person, nearly four times the volunteer hours of the lowest state, Kentucky).

Given Utah’s majority Mormon population it’s not surprising that the state came first in charitable giving. According to social science research, Mormons rank first among all religious groups in the United States in terms of charitable giving, donating 5.2% of income.

That’s barely half of the 10% “gold standard” that Christians are taught to strive for. But it’s nearly two percentage points higher than the next-most-generous group, Pentecostals who give 3.4%, not to speak of Roman Catholics (1.5%), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (.9%).

The nonreligious average 1.1%.

[Religion New Service]

Refugees: “They are just like us”

A few weeks ago, I scrambled to evacuate my area with the only five items I could grab–my phone, passport, water, money, and medicine–in the 30 seconds before I had to flee.

Many of the roughly 65 million refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people around the world today have had to make panicked choices like these. But my own “escape” was far away from that. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had organized the Forced From Home exhibit. The aim was, in part, to put the staggering numbers of the crisis into tangible terms for those of us who don’t have to contemplate actually being forced from home.

We got on a raft like the ones in which so many have risked, and lost, their lives in recent years–though this one stayed on dry land–and later, we were detained at a fenced border where our various legal classifications determined our future. At each stop, hardships from the journey forced us to give up one item, until we were left empty-handed in front of staged refugee tents–where in real life another series of ordeals await those who make it that far.

MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, the international aid group and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is touring the exhibit through five U.S. cities this fall, with a series of West Coast stops planned for next year. With the Forced From Home exhibit, MSF is trying to communicate, in concrete terms, the reality of people fleeing.

Tatiana Chiarella, an MSF nurse from Brazil who has been touring with the exhibit, explained: “For people living in the U.S., or even my people in Brazil, we are so far from the situation that you may hear their stories but you don’t realize it could happen to any one of us.” The people she treated “were just like us, they were doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, and suddenly this happened–they have war in their countries and they have to flee for their life and for their families–and they lost everything.”

On the tour I took, I met a student from Charleston, South Carolina, who said: “It pains me to see how unaccepting communities can be of refugees especially when a good amount of people in the U.S. can trace their ancestry to people who left their home because of economic or political issues.”

[Anna Diamond, The Atlantic]

Trump thoughts on Humanitarian Aid

No one knows what the Trump administration has planned for U.S. foreign aid programs and other global initiatives that fight poverty and disease. But the president-elect has commented on a number of global issues. Here’s some of what he has said in speeches and interviews.

In an interview with The New York Times in March 2016, Trump said he was in favor of providing humanitarian aid — the umbrella term for food and disaster assistance — depending on how friendly a country was to the U.S.

But he would also redirect some aid dollars to domestic issues, reports Humanosphere. “It is necessary that we invest in our infrastructure, stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us and use that money to rebuild our tunnels, roads, bridges and schools.”

Clean water: “Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water,” Trump said in an interview on science, medical and environmental issues with Chemical & Engineering News in September 2016.

Syrian refugees: At a rally in Minnesota on Monday, Trump said he would suspend the Syrian refugee program. According to The Guardian, he said: “We will pause admissions from terror-prone regions until a full security assessment has been performed and until a proven vetting mechanism has been established.”

[NPR]

Which 10 countries host half the world’s refugees?

Ten countries accounting for 2.5 percent of world GDP are hosting more than half the world’s refugees, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

Fifty-six percent of refugees are being sheltered in 10 countries.

“A small number of countries have been left to do far too much just because they are neighbors to a crisis,” said Amnesty Secretary-General Salil Shetty, presenting the report titled “Tackling the global refugee crisis: from shirking to sharing responsibility.”

Amnesty said the top refugee hosting country was Jordan, which has taken in more than 2.7 million people, followed by Turkey (more than 2.5 million); Pakistan (1.6 million) and Lebanon (more than 1.5 million).

The remaining six nations listed in the top 10 each hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees: Iran (979,400); Ethiopia (736,100); Kenya (553,900); Uganda (477,200); Democratic Republic of Congo (383,100), and Chad (369,500).

Amnesty said many of the world’s wealthiest nations “host the fewest and do the least.”

“It is time for leaders to enter into a serious, constructive debate about how our societies are going to help people forced to leave their homes by war and persecution,”said Shetty.

“If every one of the wealthiest countries in the world were to take in refugees in proportion to their size, wealth and unemployment rate, finding a home for more of the world’s refugees would be an eminently solvable challenge.”

[AFP]

Obama: Children not “fearful of other people because of where they’re from”

“Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria?” 6-year-old Alex wrote to U.S. President Obama. “Can you please go get him …We will give him a family and he will be our brother.”

Obama read the note earlier at the UN Leaders’ Summit on Refugees held in New York, and the White House posted it online Wednesday.

This how Alex’s letter came into the conversation: “The humanity that a young child can display, who hasn’t learned to be cynical, or suspicious, or fearful of other people because of where they’re from, or how they look, or how they pray, and who just understands the notion of treating somebody that is like him with compassion, with kindness,” Obama said Tuesday, “we can all learn from Alex.

Obama, in his speech, chided world leaders for not doing enough to help refugees. He called the global refugee crisis “one of the most urgent tests of our time.” Obama commended Germany and Canada as exemplary nations for providing these people support, and announced the U.S. would increase the number of refugees it accepts in 2017 by nearly 60 percent.

[The Atlantic]

Zuckerberg Chan fund pledges $3 Billion to banish disease

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla on Wednesday pledged $3 billion over the next decade from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative established by the couple, toward helping banish or manage all disease.

“We plan to invest billions of dollars over decades,” Zuckerberg said. Late last year, they had pledged to donate 99 percent of their Facebook holdings or some $45 billion to “advance human potential and promote equality.”

“This is a big goal,” Zuckerberg said, “But we spent the last few years speaking with experts who think it is possible, so we dug in.”

The first investment being made as part of what the Zuckerbergs hoped would become a “collective” effort will be $600 million for the creation of a Biohub in San Francisco. The Biohub will bring together engineers and scientists from three prestigious California universities to help the effort.

“Mark and Priscilla are inspiring a whole new generation of philanthropists who will do amazing things,” said Microsoft billionaire turned global philanthropist Bill Gates, who has made improving health around the world a top goal at the foundation he created with his wife.

[AFP]

Imagine how $5,000,000,000,000 could change the world

The U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost taxpayers nearly $5 trillion and counting, according to a new report released to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the attacks.

Dr. Neta Crawford, professor of political science at Brown University, released the figures in an independent analysis of U.S. Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Veteran Affairs spending. Crawford’s estimate includes budget requests for the 2017 operations in Afghanistan–which are poised to continue despite President Barack Obama’s vow to withdraw troops from the country by then–as well as in Iraq and Syria.

Separate reporting late last month by the U.K.-based watchdog Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found that the Pentagon could only account for 48 percent of small arms shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11–meaning more than half of the approximately 700,000 guns it sent overseas in the past 15 years are missing.

What’s more, a recent Inspector General audit report found a “jaw-dropping” $6.5 trillion could not be accounted for in Defense spending.

Crawford’s report continues: “Interest costs for overseas contingency operations spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023. By 2053, interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion unless the U.S. changes the way it pays for the war.”

And, Crawford notes, that’s a conservative estimate. “No set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come home to the U.S. and its allies in the form of wounded veterans and contractors,” the report states. “Yet, the expenditures noted on government ledgers are necessary to apprehend, even as they are so large as to be almost incomprehensible.”

[Common Dreams]

Kofi Annan on the African Green Revolution

Twelve years ago, when I was UN Secretary-General, I called for a “uniquely African Green Revolution” to transform agriculture and the life chances of hundreds of millions of people on the continent. Progress has been remarkable.

With the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was created in 2006. In just a short period of time, it has become a preeminent leader in transforming Africa’s agriculture and food systems. Smallholder farmers have obtained access to better seeds, sustainable agricultural techniques and financing, while thousands of agri-businesses have been created and expanded.

For over a decade, African countries have put a much greater emphasis on investment in agriculture and supporting the continent’s farmers. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), launched by African leaders in 2003 and reiterated in the Malabo Declaration of June 2014, provides a clear framework to accelerate investment and coordinate countries’ efforts.

International donors have thrown their weight behind these national efforts. From a surge in donor investment stemming from the 2009 G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, to the agreement by the global community to prioritize hunger and malnutrition in last year’s Sustainable Development Goals, the tide is turning.

The last few weeks have given more reason to celebrate. In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation, the United States Congress in July passed the Global Food Security Act. This significant legislation reaffirms the United States’ commitment to ending global hunger, poverty and child malnutrition through President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative by supporting developing countries to improve their agriculture and broaden food systems.

This latest good news comes as African heads of state, international donors and hunger advocates from around the world gather in Nairobi, Kenya, for the African Green Revolution Forum. It is an opportunity not only to celebrate collective progress but also to commit ourselves to step up the battle against hunger and malnutrition.

[CNN]

Are rich nations turning their back on the world?

Yves Daccord, 52, is director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This 153-year-old institution has a continuing mission to protect the victims of war, with direct assistance and by promoting and strengthening the international laws and principles that guard their well-being.

Daccord believes this mission has never been harder. “The gap between the humanitarian needs of the people and the response they receive, not only from us, from anybody, is increasing. …It’s changing quickly.”

The more than 60 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons worldwide is the most since World War II, and more than 600 million people now live in conflict-affected countries. By 2030 two-thirds of the world’s poor will live in “fragile” states–those unable to deal with the extra burden of natural disasters or war.

In response, the Red Cross’ budget has had to grow by 50 per cent in just four years.

There has always been conflict, there are always disasters. What worries Swiss-born Daccord is that he senses a withdrawal, a vacancy at the top. “Today at the top leadership [level] there is a sense of ‘My God, we don’t know how to handle that’.”

Daccord laments a “very inward-looking” Europe that has squandered a decade in which it should have been a world leader in humanitarian work.

[The Age]

Preserving our humanitarian gains

Recently six of the biggest humanitarian organizations issued a joint plea for international action, in a report that warned of “a dramatic increase in protracted conflict and displacement, combined with an ever-increasing number of natural disasters [which have] resulted in widespread human suffering, loss of dignity, dashed hopes and death”.

The organizations, which included CARE, International rescue, Oxfam, Save the Children and the World Food Program, presented a doomsday scenario. “Preserving and enhancing the gains civilization has made over the past few centuries is at serious risk,” the report said.

“Unfortunately the needs are running at an unprecedented level of increase across the entire global community,” World Food Program (WFP) chief Etharin Cousin said.

Most of the programs of the WFP used to be disaster-related. But now 80 per cent of its large emergency responses are conflict related, Cousin said. And the trouble is, aid doesn’t end war. “If conflict is what is driving you and… you don’t have political solutions to the conflict, it requires us to continue to provide support.”

The “ongoing plea” is “that the world not turn away from those in need… We live on a small planet and we are all responsible”.

[The Age]

“Pakistan’s Mother Teresa” passes on to his reward

Prominent Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi has died at age 88 in a Karachi hospital.

Edhi was born in 1928 in a village called Bantva inside what is now India’s Gujarat state. In 1986 he  received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service. The Edhi Foundation operates ambulance services, orphanages, women’s shelters, dispensaries and morgues in several Pakistani cities.

Revered by many as a national hero, Edhi created a charitable empire out of nothing. He masterminded Pakistan’s largest welfare organization almost single-handedly, entirely with private company and donations.

He was known as Angel of Mercy and was considered Pakistan’s “most respected” and legendary figure. In 2013, The Huffington Post said that he might be “the world’s greatest living humanitarian.”

It was said that Edhi’s war was against prejudice, cruelty. No politics, no fatwas, no greed. Just humanity for the sake of humanity.

[Al Jazeera / Wikipedia]

Privately sponsoring a Syrian refugee family in Canada – Part 1

Aliye El Huseyin, a Syrian refugee, arrived by plane in Toronto on Feb. 29, with her husband, Omer Suleyman, and their three children, after a 14-hour flight from Ankara and an equally long drive from Mardin, the city in southeast Turkey where they had lived since fleeing the catastrophe of Aleppo.

They were carrying everything they owned in five 20-kilogram bags: 1,500 Syrian lira (under $10, all the money they had); three Syrian coffee pots, three kilos of Syrian coffee; four kilos of Syrian tea; a Tupperware container of her favorite seasonings; a bar of Aleppo’s famous olive-oil soap; her Koran; 20-odd hijab headscarves, … a cracked cellphone containing the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of everyone she knew; and, tucked carefully away, the keys and deed to her apartment in Aleppo.

Now living in the greater Toronto area of Scarborough, Aliye, and Omer have cooked 25 dishes for their guests, to break the day’s fast on the first night of Ramadan. Aliye is a gifted cook, and Omer made his living for a while as a chef in Turkey.

They’ve invited the core of their sponsor group, the private citizens who stepped up last fall as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees, helping to make Canada the second-most-generous country in the world last year in terms of all resettled refugees.

Whatever else an outsider might call the band of Torontonians who sponsored Aliye and Omer Suleyman as refugees – privileged bleeding hearts and citizens who don’t know how else to address an unsolvable world are two options that come to mind – the sincerity of their commitment is undeniable.  Read more

Privately sponsoring a Syrian refugee family in Canada – Part 2

The Rosedale United Church had taught the [private sponsor] group how best to resettle refugees. There are three ways this can happen, one of which is as Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs: Canada is the only country whose immigration laws mandate its citizens’ right to do this). Of the promised 25,000 Syrian refugees who arrived by the end of February, a third were purely private sponsorships. (Many thousands more are currently coming through the system.)

Raising private money for the Syrians turned out to be as easy as melting butter in a pan. The sponsoring group had $40,000 in hand in a scant six weeks. Other groups moved just as quickly. A posse led by a broadcaster bagged $130,000 with a single group e-mail she sent to 50 people.

This sponsor group split into a slew of subcommittees: liaison, logistics, housing, finance, education, resources, employment. While Mary McConville scoured potential apartments in four neighborhoods, Lawrence and his team searched for schools. Meanwhile, Jane Gotlib solicited furniture and clothes from volunteers. So much stuff was proffered, she created a registry to track what the Suleymans still needed. The sponsors stocked the refrigerator, too, from a Middle Eastern supermarket.

The six core members met every two weeks, with two-page written agendas and e-mailed follow-ups. Medical checkups and immunizations? Arranged and chauffeured. ESL lessons? Booked. After three years of war stress and no dental care, the Suleymans, like many Syrians, were experiencing a crisis of their own: The group instantly raised another $6,500 for all their dental work, but a dentist pal of the group’s refused to take payment.

The government pays refugees like the Suleymans a $1,486 monthly stipend, for six months (government-sponsored refugees get it for a year), and $1,350 a month in ongoing child tax credits. The Suleymans have saved somewhere between $12,000 and $18,000 as a cushion at the end of their first year in Canada, just as the group steps away, financially.

They’ll need it. “Without our contribution,” one of their sponsors said, “they’ll both need full-time minimum-wage jobs to have the same level of income they have now with our contribution.”

[The Globe and Mail]

Most people want to accept refugees, survey finds

A new survey of 27 countries found that significant majorities of people would welcome refugees into the country and even consider taking them into their home. The study, commissioned by Amnesty International, says four in five people would “welcome refugees in their country, community or home.”

In 20 of the 27 countries, more than 75 percent of respondents said they would let refugees in their country. Only 17 percent said they would refuse refugees entry to their country.

These statistics, the rights group argues, shows how governments turning their backs on refugees are “badly out of touch with reality.”

Given all the drama sparked by refugees in the West, the figures are quite staggering, particularly in places like Germany, where an influx of migrants has rocked the country’s domestic politics.

Globally, two out of three respondents agree that national governments should do more to help refugees fleeing war or persecution, according to Amnesty International.

[Washington Post]