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]

Turkey to host landmark World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24

Turkey will play host to the ground-breaking World Humanitarian Summit, the first such summit of its kind, on May 23-24, in Istanbul. The summit, spearheaded by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is aimed at discussing humanitarian issues in detail.

The high-profile summit will attract up to 5,000 participants, including statesmen, businessman, NGOs, international agencies, and representatives of communities affected by refuge crises. The summit will suggest to countries sustainable policies and measures to address shortcomings and difficulties in the humanitarian system.

Turkey itself is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population, and it has spent $10 billion on the refugee crises on its soil since 2011.

In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranking of aid allocated, Turkey came in second with $2.42 billion following the U.S.. However, in terms of aid as a percentage of its gross national product (GDP), Turkey ranks first.

[Anadolu Agency]

Australia’s foreign aid budget hits rock bottom

Cuts to Australia’s foreign aid budget as introduced last year are being maintained in the 2016 Budget. The latest reduction follows the biggest cut on record, with $1 billion slashed from the aid program 12 months ago.

Indonesia once again bears some of the brunt of the cuts, losing another 5% of funds, around $15 million, on top of a 40% cut last year. Two key nations involved in the government’s offshore refugee processing program, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia, emerged unscathed in the latest savings.

The government’s failure to restore the Australian aid budget is short-sighted and likely to damage Australia’s international reputation, aid agency CARE Australia has warned.

CARE Australia CEO Dr Julia Newton-Howes welcomed a modest increase to funding for humanitarian emergencies, but said the nation turned its back on the world’s poor.

“The Government’s refusal to reverse the final scheduled cut to the aid budget means Australia will become the least generous we’ve ever been with the lowest ratio of aid to the size of our economy ever,” she said. “Overall, the cuts will still be damaging to Australia’s international reputation and to our long-term interests, especially at a time when many other developed nations are increasing aid budgets.”

[Business Insider]

Granted a new life by the Pope

On a warm evening in Rome, as waiters flapped tablecloths for outdoor diners at a trattoria down the cobbled alley, Ramy Al Shakarji leaned back on a bench and laughed as he described how the head of the Roman Catholic Church, plucked him, a Muslim, from a squalid refugee camp in Greece and flew him to a new life.

“When we were given the chance to come to Rome, my wife and I took about three minutes to decide ‘yes,’” he recalls. Making the offer to move to Italy was Daniela Pompei, an official with Catholic charity Sant’Egidio, which was asked by the Vatican at the last minute to find families and then host them back in Rome at its refugee shelter in the bustling Trastevere neighborhood.

Al Shakarji, 51, stopped laughing as he described the moment Francis greeted him before the flight. “I felt security and peace–a man like this is a father to the world,” he said.

The trip to Rome was the end of a long journey that started in Dair Alzour, a Syrian town under siege by Islamic State, where Al Shakarji recalls a rebellious neighbor’s decapitated head hanging from a balcony for three days. In March of last year, Al Shakarji decided to risk fleeing down mined roads and past snipers to reach Turkey, taking his wife and three children with him.

Another of the Syrians brought to Rome with Francis is Nour Essa. Her grandfather was a Palestinian who fled the new state of Israel in 1948 and settled in Syria. “The difference is there were two sides in 1948, whereas in Syria you can’t understand how many sides there are,” said Essa, 30.

Essa had escaped some of the initial turmoil of Syria’s civil war. She was living in Montpellier, France, while studying for a master’s in microbiology, before returning to her job in 2013 at Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission. She then married and had a child, but the war was creeping into her Damascus suburb. The couple fled, starting a terrifying, 10-day journey across ISIS-held territory in an ambulance and then in a cattle truck.

Stopping in Aleppo, her husband was ordered to fight by ISIS fighters–“real monsters,” said Essa. But a smuggler guided them through minefields toward Turkey, where after waiting out rough seas and numerous tangles with Turkish police, they made it to Lesbos on March 18, packed into a dinghy at night with 50 other refugees.

“I was shocked when we were asked if we wanted to go,” Essa said. What she is sure about is that no Muslim leader has made the gesture the pope did. “Muslim governments should be ashamed,” she said. “Instead of helping refugees, they close borders and stop visas for Syrians. If you want to work in Saudi Arabia, you cannot get a visa now.”

[LA Times]

Changing the world from Seattle

At Cascade Designs, just south of downtown Seattle, something new is coming off the shop floor: a compact, no-frills water purifier designed to bring clean water to struggling populations in rural Africa.

The device, able to chlorinate water by the 55-gallon drum, was designed with help from several big nonprofits, including one funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private philanthropy, and the United States military. And it is an example, in its mix of altruistic and profit-seeking motives, of how fortunes earned a generation ago at Microsoft, the computer software giant, are still shaping economic life here.

Microsoft, co-founded by Mr. Gates and Paul G. Allen, put Seattle on the map as a tech-rich city before the boom of dot-coms. Mr. Gates and Mr. Allen then took some of the billions they made and, starting in the early to mid-2000s, set out to work on global health at the Gates Foundation, and fundamental science in cell and brain research at the Allen Institute.

The result: In trying to change the world, they are also changing their backyard. Their causes, such as clean water, sanitation and health, are spawning a new ecosystem of global health care companies, research institutes and academic expertise at places like the University of Washington.

A study sponsored last year by the Washington Global Health Alliance said that global health–a mix of research, logistics and manufacturing–now accounts for more than 12,000 jobs in Washington state and nearly $6 billion in economic activity. In addition, there are growing networks of second-generation, nonprofit leaders who were schooled at the Gates Foundation or Allen Institute, and have now filtered out to form a kind of self-reinforcing army. Seattle is first in the nation in private foundation revenue per capita, according to the Urban Institute, with two and a half times the amount of the No. 2 city, San Francisco, where philanthropic technology wealth has also soared.

[NY Times]

Humanitarian aid agencies pulling back from Europe’s “Refugee Prisons”

“We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalized for a mass expulsion operation,” declared Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) official Marie Elisabeth Ingres this week, joining the chorus of major humanitarian institutions pulling their operations from Greek island refugee “hotpots” that have been transformed into nightmarish prisons. “We refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.”

As ever-increasing numbers of war and poverty survivors reach Greek islands, the land masses have become ground zero for a newly escalated European Union crackdown, which decrees: “All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey.” Before being subject to mass expulsion, refugees are being forcibly held in “hotspots” that were created under a separate EU agreement last year.

Since the deal went into effect, 934 people had arrived in Lesvos alone and are “being held at a closed registration and temporary accommodation site in Moria on the east of the island.” Numerous humanitarian organizations testify that the sanitation and public health conditions at this location are dismal. While they have been providing critical humanitarian support for the people at Moria—from medical care to hygiene assistance to daily essentials—they say they can no longer do so in good conscience. This includes MSF, Oxfam, Save the Children, and the Norwegian Refugee Council, among others.

Oxfam announced in a statement it is suspending all aid operations to “protest to the suspension of migrants’ rights by the EU and Turkey.” Save the Children also announced that it has suspended all activities “related to supporting basic services at all detention centers on the Greek islands due to extreme concerns that newly-arrived vulnerable children and their families are in danger of unlawful and unjustified custody for sustained periods of time.”

Giovanni Riccardi Candiani, country representative for Oxfam in Greece, rebuked the detention of people “who committed no crime and who have risked their lives in search of security and a better future.”

[AlterNet]

Airlander a game changer for humanitarian airlifts

A new titan in eco-friendly transportation is taking over the European skies. The HAV (Hybrid Air Vehicle) Airlander 10 is the biggest airship in the world designed specifically for humanitarian uses.

With a cargo capacity of 10 tons and the ability to fly for weeks without landing, the ship can soar to any location carrying supplies and resources to communities in need.

Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden and key investor in the Airlander, told the New Yorker,“You want to put a hospital into Africa? You put the whole hospital in the inside of this – whoosh. Start the generator. … With these vehicles, you could drop off a 20-ton slab of water that is clean, drinkable, to an African village. It’s astonishing what you can do that you just can’t do with anything else.”

As well as being the largest philanthropic vehicle of its kind, the Airlander only uses a quarter of the fuel regular airplanes do because of its reservoir of helium that creates buoyancy.

Even though it’s as long as a football field and the height of two double-decker buses, the ship can land vertically on any terrain – including water – making it especially capable for search and rescue missions.

“I’m not expecting to get my money back anytime soon, I just want to be part of it,” Bruce said regarding his $380,000 investment. ”Being a rock person, I could put it up my nose, or buy a million Rolls Royces and drive them into swimming pools, or I could do something useful. There are very few times in your life when you’re going to be part of something big.”

The ship’s maiden test flights are scheduled for later this month over the hangar’s airfield in Bedfordshire, England so it can accrue the air time necessary to be validated by the Civil Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

[Good News Network]

Alan Kurdi and why Canada embraces Syrian refugees

“The government of Canada has a long and proud tradition of providing protection to those who need it the most by providing refuge to thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people,” says Faith St. John, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada in Vancouver.

“I’d really say it’s in our national DNA to stand up and respond to these situations of upheaval and humanitarian crisis around the world,” says Louisa Taylor, director of Refugee 613, a grassroots coalition of individuals and nongovernmental organizations advocating refugee resettlement in Ottawa. “We see ourselves as a nation of immigrants, we can empathize with people in these situations,” she adds. “It’s also important that we’ve responded to these refugee crises for a long time, going back at least to the Vietnamese in the ‘70s, so Canadians tend to say, ‘We can do this, we’ve done this before many times.’”

It would be impossible to explain the outpouring of support and compassion that allowed Canada to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees in a matter of weeks without taking into account the impact on Canada’s national psyche of the death of Alan Kurdi. Alan was the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned while crossing the Mediterranean with his family last September and whose body washed up on a Turkish beach–to be famously photographed as he was picked up and cradled by a Turkish police officer.

For Canadians it became personal when it was learned that his family had relatives in British Columbia and had been trying to legally immigrate to Canada before giving up in desperation and taking to the sea.

Says Ms. Taylor. “When it became known that his family had been trying to get to Canada, it was like a national punch to the gut,” she adds. “People were saying ‘That’s not Canada,’ that if we had been true to our values the Kurdi family wouldn’t have got in that dingy and Alan would be preparing for nursery school in B.C.”

[CS Monitor]

Humanitarian fears hang over Balkans migrant talks

Balkan countries along the well-trodden migrant path towards northern Europe met Wednesday to explore ways to stem the flow despite growing fears that tighter controls will spark a humanitarian crisis, particularly in Greece.

The talks come after figures showing Europe’s migrant headache continuing to rage, with over 110,000 people arriving in Greece and Italy so far this year alone, following more than one million in 2015.

The influx has boosted anti-immigration parties, driven a wedge among many of the 28 members of the European Union and thrown into doubt the continent’s cherished passport-free Schengen Zone that is crucial for commerce.

Sparked by sparked by Austria’s much-criticized introduction last week of daily migrant limits, countries throughout the western Balkans have begun unilaterally to impose restrictions. Most recently, Macedonia has closed its frontier to Afghans and introduced more stringent document checks for Syrians and Iraqis seeking to travel to northern and western Europe. The restrictions have caused a bottleneck of thousands of people at the Greek-Macedonian border.

Amnesty International hit out Wednesday at Europe’s “shameful” response, saying most EU countries had “simply decided that the protection of their borders is more important than the protection of the rights of refugees”.

[AFP]

Will international NGOs survive?

International NGOs (INGO), whether humanitarian, human rights, development or environment, are all facing a set of critical and far-reaching crises.

Their very legitimacy is in question from all sides: governments, southern partners, donors, and even their own staff. The critiques are myriad. Southern organizations and governments argue that INGOs are unaccountable and have too much power; humanitarian agencies, meanwhile, fail to consult beneficiaries and local groups effectively, and it’s unclear where donors’ money goes. At home some politicians argue that INGOs shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds them by campaigning while receiving government grants. Conversely, they’re accused of not campaigning enough; that they are apolitical, and too close, in some cases, to the corporate sector.

In spite of what some perceive as great successes of the sector – reaching the 0.7% foreign aid target or international debt relief – there is no backing away from the view that the sector needs, at the very least, a tune-up, if not a wholesale revolution to enable it to face modern times.

Social innovation seems to be rising up around INGOs, making them appear out-dated and static. Social enterprises are rapidly occupying the service delivery space where INGOs once led, with a fresh wave of philanthro-capitalists seeking out “beyond charity” solutions to poverty.

The sector’s traditional approach to challenge has been to develop codes of practice, joint charters, or training schemes. Some go further: Action Aid and Oxfam have shifted their headquarters to the global south. But such approaches feel a bit like changing a warning sign on a poorly engineered aircraft – they still have a high likelihood of failure.

It is unlikely that INGOs will survive, at least in their current form, without a direct full-frontal assault on the sector.

[An Opinion printed in The Guardian]

Pope delivers a stinging critique of both US and Mexico for mistreating the poor and marginalized

On Wednesday, Pope Francis unleashed another aspect of his complex public persona: The disappointed prophet who excoriates world powers for mistreating the poor and marginalized.

Celebrating Mass in Ciudad Juarez, a city just across the border from the United States, Francis delivered a stinging critique of leaders on both sides of the fence, calling the “forced migration” of thousands of Central Americans a “human tragedy” and “humanitarian crisis”. … “Injustice is radicalized in the young,” the Pope said during his homily before a congregation of more than 200,000 people. “They are ‘cannon fodder,’ persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs.”

The Bible readings at the Mass told the story of Jonah, another angry prophet. The Bible passages set up the Pope to blister injustices in Mexico and indifference in the United States, casting both countries as modern-day Ninevehs. “Go and tell them that injustice has infected their way of seeing the world,” the Pope said, describing Jonah’s mission to rouse the city of Nineveh from the morass of moral decay. “Go and help them to understand that by the way they treat each other, ordering and organizing themselves, they are only creating death and destruction, suffering and oppression.”

It was a grand geopolitical gesture from the Pope’s political playbook, mirroring his prayer at the wall separating Palestinian territories and Israel in 2014. It also thrust Francis into the polarized debates over immigration in both the United States and Mexico.

[CNN]