The emerging donors to global development

The rise of emerging economies such as Brazil and China has not only lifted millions of people out of poverty, but offers new opportunities and resources for development elsewhere.

China, which is poised to become the world’s largest economy, is now a major source of aid and private investment for development, providing 20% of private foreign direct investment in developing countries. Brazil’s foreign aid budget has increased fivefold since 2005. Turkey gives more of its national income in aid than the average Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country, while the United Arab Emirates is the most generous of today’s donors, handing over 1.25% of its national income for development assistance.

The contribution of emerging donors to global development could be even greater through closer cooperation with traditional donors. The 29 member countries of the OECD’s development assistance committee account for 90% of global development aid and have decades of experience behind them. Yet, they can learn a lot from countries that have recently made the transition out of poverty and know from their own experiences which policies work best.

If the world is to meet its goals for sustainable development, traditional donors must think more globally, cooperate more closely with emerging donors and mobilize the huge sums that exist in untapped resources.

[The Guardian]

Outrage as ICC drops case against Israel for attack on humanitarian flotilla

Folowing the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor announcing she will not take action over Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists, the ICC is being accused of “defying justice”.

The ruling came despite the court’s acknowledgement that Israel likely committed war crimes. ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated Thursday that “there is a reasonable basis to believe” that Israel committed “war crimes” in its attack on the Mavi Marmara vessel, echoing the findings of a 61-page report by ICC prosecutors.

The Center for Constitutional Rights blasted the court’s decision: “It is outrageous that the ICC is refusing to prosecute Israeli officials despite acknowledging that there’s a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed. For the court to say the case ‘would not be of sufficient gravity’ to justify further action when the Israeli Defense Force attacked international vessels in international waters, killed nine people and seriously injured many more, defies any reasonable understanding of justice and international law.”

“Calling it a war crime is encouraging, but there is a factor of disappointment that they will not take this investigation further,” Ehab Lotayef of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition told Common Dreams. “Israel commits war crimes against unarmed civilians in many incidents, whether inside occupied territories in Gaza or the West Bank, whether against internationals or locals.”

The Mavi Marmara was one of six ships in 2010, organized by an international coalition of campaigners for Palestinian rights, blocked and raided by Israel while attempting to break the siege of Gaza. For the past six years, solidarity ships have sought to sail to Gaza from around the world, but since 2008, none have reached their destination.

Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara on the May 31, 2010, immediately killing nine people and wounding over 50, with one person later dying from the wounds sustained. An eighteen-year-old U.S. citizen was filming the raid when he was shot several times, including in the face at point-blank range, resulting in his death.

[BBC/Common Dreams]

WHO slams BigPharma for failing to produce Ebola cure

Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), voiced her condemnation  against the pharmaceutical industry for neglecting to create a vaccine for the Ebola virus, despite the disease having menaced West Africa for almost 40 years.

Chan slammed Big Pharma for causing the problem — simply put: the market-oriented pharmaceutical industry lacks incentive for coming out with a vaccine in a timely manner, because treating West Africans doesn’t bring in the money.

“Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D [Research and Development] incentive is virtually non-existent,” she said. “A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay. WHO has been trying to make this issue visible for ages. Now people can see for themselves.”

The World Health Organization announced in a statement that it will begin distribution of an experimental vaccine in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by early 2015. More than 90 of the world’s leading scientists participated in the collaborative effort, from national and university research institutions, government health agencies, ministries of health and foreign affairs, national security councils, and several offices of Prime Ministers and Presidents.

Also participating in the research and development were drug regulatory authorities, the MSF (Doctors Without Borders) medical charity, funding agencies and foundations, the GAVI childhood immunization advocacy group, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the World Bank Group.

No other country has so far contributed as much to global health care expertise in the Ebola crisis has Cuba. The small island nation with few financial resources and a population of only eleven million people has particularly exemplified a more effective way to tackle Ebola: With more than 4,000 medical workers already on the ground in Africa, by late October Cuba sent another 350 personnel, most of them doctors and all with specialized training.

After Cuba, the international organization Medecins Sans Frontieres also has deployed 270 international health care specialists working in the affected countries, while making an effort to contract locals as well.


AIDS in South Africa

A former UN special envoy for AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, has condemned the UK’s Department for International Development for cutting their aid budget. The activist has claimed this as a “death warrant” for millions of South Africans suffering from AIDS.

As a consequence of South Africa gaining “middle income” status, foreign aid contributors have been reluctant to continue donating millions in aid.

Despite the fact the South African government proclaims the country’s economic resurgence, millions of ordinary South Africans are still reportedly blighted by the specter of AIDS. Over 6 million people live with HIV, which is the largest number worldwide. While 2.5 million sufferers are receiving anti-retroviral drugs, there are still 3.5 million untreated cases in the country.

According to the Human Sciences Research Council, 760 people in South Africa died from AIDS every day in 2012.


Rainfall makes Gaza emergency even worse

This weekend’s rainfall flooded Gaza, leaving both the displaced along with residents extremely vulnerable to the extreme weather.

Saad al-Din al-Atbash, head of Gaza’s water authority, told Anadolu Agency that “The recent war destroyed everything in Gaza, many sewage pipes and water networks are still buried under the rubble”. This, along with the damaged electricity network, has been further aggravated by the weekend storm.

Al Bawaba reports that “streets in Khan Younis in Gaza were swamped and contained homes filled with water”. Thousands of displaced Palestinians are living in tents or caravans, which have little or no protection from the rain.

The mayor of Khuzaa warns that the effect of rain could be more difficult that the war itself. “As winter approaches, there will be a humanitarian disaster in Khuzaa because we can’t control the route of floods after the war has changed the structure of the landscape and destroyed all constituents of life in the town including water, electricity and telecommunication networks and infrastructure,” he said.

UN agencies estimate that around 90,000 homes must be rebuilt, in addition to hundreds of schools and other major infrastructure, which were systematically destroyed in Israel’s attack.

Israeli authorities announced that the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings would be closed until further notice, according to the Ma’an news agency.


Turning Gaza into a super-max prison

According to the United Nations, 100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, leaving 600,000 Palestinians – nearly one in three of Gaza’s population – homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian help. Roads, schools and the electricity plant to power water and sewerage systems are in ruins. The cold and wet of winter are approaching.

It is astonishing that the reconstruction of Gaza, bombed into the Stone Age, has tentatively only just begun two months after the end of the fighting. Aid agency Oxfam warns that at the current rate of progress it may take 50 years to rebuild Gaza.

Where else in the world apart from the Palestinian territories would the international community stand by idly as so many people suffer – and not from a random act of God but willed by fellow humans?

As far as the agreement reached in Cairo this month for Gaza’s reconstruction, donors pledged $5.4 billion – though, based on past experience — much of it won’t materialize. In addition, half will be immediately redirected to the distant West Bank to pay off the Palestinian Authority’s mounting debts.

One Israeli analyst has compared the proposed solution to transforming a third-world prison into a modern US super-max incarceration facility. The more civilized exterior will simply obscure its real purpose: not to make life better for the Palestinian inmates, but to offer greater security to the Israeli guards.

For some donors exasperated by years of sinking money into a bottomless hole, upgrading Gaza to a super-max prison looks like a better return on their investment.

[Excerpts of an article by Jonathan Cook, a Nazareth- based journalist]

China key to shaping future global humanitarian action

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, concluding a two-day mission to China today said the world can learn a great deal from the Asian country’s experience in building disaster management and response capacity.

Every year China suffers from serious floods, droughts, typhoons and earthquakes, so there has been substantial investment in developing its disaster management capabilities including forecast technology and emergency planning.

China has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in managing natural disasters, and is one of a small group of countries that is able to deploy an international search and rescue team with the operational capability to handle difficult and complex technical search and rescue operations.

[UN News Centre]

Relief efforts in Syria hampered by lack of access

Escalating fighting, insecurity and a lack of access to deliver critical assistance continue to hamper United Nations efforts to respond to the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria, a top UN relief official says.

Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, warned that conditions in the conflict-riven country were worsening, while the UN and partners struggled on the ground to deliver assistance in a timely manner.

“Food, medicines, and other assistance is just a short distance away from those who desperately require it,” she said, speaking on behalf of Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. “And if the parties grant access, we can deliver. We can save lives. But our requests have so far gone unanswered,” she added.

The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has led to well over 150,000 deaths, and more than 680,000 people have been injured. It has also spawned a refugee crisis in which some 2.5 million people are being sheltered in neighboring countries. At least 10.8 million people are in need of assistance inside Syria, including at least 6.5 million who are internally displaced.

[UN News Centre]

UN agency warns Somalia on verge of food crisis

Still reeling from a devastating famine which struck the countryside in 2011, Somalia once again sits on the brink of another humanitarian crisis as a poor rainy season followed by severe bouts of floods threaten local harvests, the United Nations agriculture agency warned today.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expressed concern over the fates of more than one million people who are now in critical need of assistance, noting that there has been a 20 per cent increase in just six months in the number of those requiring urgent humanitarian help. In addition, the UN agency observed, two million more people are experiencing threats to their food security.

“If we’ve learned anything from the devastation of the 2011 famine, it’s that early warning signs must lead to immediate action,” Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, said. “We know from experience that quick responses to early warnings are crucial to prevent disaster and are less costly than emergency responses to full-blown humanitarian crisis,” he added.

[UN News Centre]