Monthly Archives: December 2017

Pakistan orders international aid organizations to end operations

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The government of Pakistan has instructed at least ten foreign-funded aid organizations to wrap up operations in the country within sixty days, Reuters reports.

The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), which represents sixty-three international aid groups in the country, told Reuters that at the end of November the Ministry of Interior had responded to applications from ten of its members with “letters of rejection.” “Wind up operations/activities of above said INGO within sixty days,” the letters stated, without giving any reason for the directive.

Pakistan has toughened its stance toward domestic and international aid groups in recent years, and has accused some of using their work as a cover for espionage, Reuters reports.

In a statement, Open Society Foundations (OSF) said its office in Pakistan is seeking clarification from the government. While the organizations whose applications were rejected can lodge an appeal within ninety days, it is not clear how the process will be managed.

South Africa-based ActionAid also received a “letter of rejection” from the ministry. “During the lengthy INGO registration process,” ActionAid country director Iftikhar Nizami said in a statement, “we provided all the information and documents required and are confident we comply with all necessary rules and regulations.”

Trump Administration’s threats to retaliate after UN Jerusalem vote concerning

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CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, has voiced its deep concerned by the Trump Administration’s recent stance that countries should not receive U.S. development assistance because of their differing views on the location of the U.S. embassy in Israel.

While any such move will be subject to congressional checks and balances, CARE believes that American leadership is reflected by full funding for international programs, particularly where there is the greatest need.  U.S. foreign assistance has saved lives, reduced poverty and limits the spread of disease; and in turn creates a safer, stronger, and more prosperous world.


A solution for the world’s water crisis?

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The impending crisis posed by water stress and poor sanitation represents one of the greatest human challenges for the 21st century. According to the United Nations there are over 750 million people that do not have access to an improved source of drinking water, and water demand from industry is expected to increase by 400 per cent between 2000 and 2050 globally. Estimates are that half of the world’s population will suffer severe water shortages by 2050. This will be compounded by the world’s population growth, set to increase from 7.6 billion at present to 9.8 billion by 2050. This indicates that the requirement for fresh water and management of wastewater will dramatically increase.

Meanwhile, two chemical engineering academics from Swansea University have written a landmark handbook which gives a clear picture of the current state-of-the-art developments in salinity gradient processes in desalination, which are being widely accepted as one of the most promising processes to improve energy efficiency in desalination.

Seawater desalination is poised to become one of the main alternative freshwater resources as almost 60 percent of the world’s population live less than 36 miles from a seacoast. Membrane based processes and desalination have emerged as technologies that will answer these challenges.

Professor Nidal Hilal, Director of the Centre for Water Advanced Technologies and Environmental Research (CWATER) at Swansea University and Editor-in-Chief of the International journal Desalination, and Dr Sarper Sarp (Lecturer in Chemical Engineering) both from the College of Engineering, Swansea University are the co-authors of the handbook titled ‘Membrane Based Salinity Gradient Processes for Desalination’. Students, scientists and engineers will be able to see, for the first time, in one reference work the process development for low cost desalination and membrane preparation for salinity gradient applications.

[Swansea University]

Six aid workers safely accounted for in South Sudan

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The Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Alain Noudéhou has today welcomed news of the safe return of the six aid workers who went missing four days ago in South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal region.

The six aid workers, including one international and five national staff, working with Solidarités International, HealthNet TPO, and AFOD, are all accounted for.

Noudéhou reminded all parties of their obligation to respect the neutrality of on-going humanitarian operations and facilitate safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers providing life-saving aid to vulnerable people throughout the country.


Undocumented Afghans continue returning to Afghanistan

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is responding to a substantial increase in the return of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan and Iran. Since January 1, 2017, over 538,754 undocumented Afghans have returned to their country due to diverse factors, including deteriorating protection in Pakistan and Iran.

Most of those returning have lived outside of Afghanistan for decades, and will need support from the government and humanitarian actors both on arrival and as they seek to reintegrate.

This figure represents a significantly lower rate of return than in previous years, but another surge in returns could occur at any time. The rate of return is influenced by a number of political, security and other related factors both in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

The International Organization for Migration was established in 1951. IOM is the principal intergovernmental organization dealing with migration issues and the only global migration agency dealing with all aspects of migration.


South Sudan crisis enters fifth year “a children’s refugee crisis”

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Marking four years since the outbreak of South Sudan’s civil war, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi appealed for urgent action by all sides to settle the conflict: “The world cannot continue to stand by as the people of South Sudan are terrorized by a senseless war.”

Noting that 63 per cent of all South Sudanese refugees are under 18, Grandi labelled the situation “a children’s refugee crisis” and stressed that: “many children are arriving unaccompanied, separated and deeply traumatized.”

The South Sudan conflict has created the largest refugee crisis on the African continent. The six countries neighboring South Sudan host two million refugees, while nearly seven million citizens inside the country are in need of essential humanitarian assistance. UNHCR estimates the refugee population could exceed three million by December 2018.

Refugees are hosted by South Sudan’s immediate neighbors — Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, which are struggling with instability and large-scale displacement of their own nationals. All six have continued to keep an open door, as growing numbers of refugees flood in against the backdrop of dwindling financial resources.

The High Commissioner called on the parties to the conflict to find a political solution. Brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a peace initiative in South Sudan is intended to revive a stalled 2015 peace agreement for the country.

[UN High Commissioner for Refugees]

Three months after deadly hurricanes hit Caribbean, thousands of children still in need of assistance

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Three months after two category-5 hurricanes – Irma and Maria – barreled through the Caribbean, causing widespread damage and loss of life, thousands of children remain in need of support across the region.

Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, caused extensive damage to the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, Haiti and Cuba. Hurricane Maria then wrought additional damage across the region, with UNICEF estimating that the two hurricanes left 350,000 children in need of humanitarian assistance.

“Three months on, UNICEF is still on the ground in these countries and territories, working on programmes to support children and families in rebuilding their lives and returning to a sense of normalcy,” said Maria Cristina Perceval, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

However, challenges remain, with many of the most vulnerable families still feeling the effects of the storms. In Dominica, over 35 per cent of children – particularly those living in shelters – are yet to be enrolled in education activities. In Antigua & Barbuda, many children and families remain in shelters and are unable to return home.

“While life is returning to normal for many, children and families who have lived through these storms will need committed, sustained support to get their homes, communities and lives back on track,” added Perceval.

[UN Children’s Fund]

The Engine of Impact: Funding

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Somewhat paradoxically, most nonprofit executives spend more time and effort on financial matters than their counterparts in the business sector do. For people in the nonprofit sector, that’s an unfortunate fact of life. Nonprofit leaders, whether they like it or not, must take seriously their obligation to secure adequate funding for their organizations. Funding is one component of the engine of impact that every nonprofit organization must build and tune to become truly effective.

Go Where the Money Is. When the bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he gave a memorable (if perhaps apocryphal) reply: “Because that’s where the money is.” Going “where the money is” means recognizing that individuals account for most philanthropic giving in the United States today. In 2016, Americans gave $389 billion to charitable causes, and 72 percent of that sum came from individual donors. (Foundations accounted for 15 percent, bequests for 8 percent, and corporations for only 5 percent.)

Meet Donors Where They Are. Successful fundraisers interact with donors on their terms and enable them to give in a way that makes them comfortable. Once you have identified and investigated a potential donor, create a roadmap for your conversation with that person. Then, in the meeting, resist the urge to wax rhapsodic about how compelling your nonprofit is, and instead focus on asking questions in order to understand what motivates the donor. In this way, you will be able to establish points of connection between your organization and the donor’s interests.

Master the Ask. “The ask” is the essential, albeit often daunting, process of asking a specific donor for money to support your organization. Be ready to provide a plan for how your organization will use the donation and a clear explanation of how the donated funds will further your mission. In considering how much to request, aim to specify an amount that will enable your organization to cover the full costs of a program or project, including overhead expenses. Then, once you receive a donation, don’t forget to express your gratitude. “Stewardship is by far the most ignored and overlooked aspect of fundraising. If you thank your donors and steward their donation with care, you’ll find that asking them for money gets easier, not harder.”

[Excerpts from “Engine of Impact” by William Meehan and Kim Starkey Jonker]

Major challenges to a complete bridging of the Digital Divide

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If we visit a typical rural village in a developing country, we encounter these challenges to a bridging of the so-called Digital Divide:

  1. In most rural villages there is inadequate infrastructure to support tech. In many villages, there is limited or no electricity, which makes powering phones or towers difficult. Many villages have no signal to support mobile telephony. In places that do have a signal, it is typically 2G and thus does not support most fintech services, which require 3G or above to function properly.
  2. Among poor households, there are few smartphones, and even the feature phones are owned by the men. This leaves women with limited or no access. In addition, they also typically have hopelessly short battery life, screens that shatter easily, and a persistent problem with ‘fat finger error’ that makes them almost unusable. Furthermore, the cost of data needed to make fintech transactions is usually prohibitively expensive.
  3. Most villagers are “oral”. They – along with another 1 billion-plus people across the planet – cannot read, write, or understand the long number strings necessary to transact on mobile phones.
  4. Providers have made little effort to tailor interfaces or use-cases for the low-income market. The vast majority of fintech providers develop solutions for the affluent and middle classes. This makes logical sense – these segments have the money (and connectivity) to use the solutions.
  5. Furthermore, villagers value personal relationships – particularly when it comes to money. The idea of trusting technology that they do not understand for anything except very basic payments is out of the question.
  6. The regulatory environment and consumer protection provisions remain too weak to secure the poor. Many have already lost money in basic money transfer transactions. Millions are negatively listed on credit bureaus and in the databases of large banks because of digital credit.

Until we address these six fundamental barriers to the deployment and use of fintech by the poor, it will indeed remain irrelevant to them.  In fact, we risk exacerbating the digital divide and leaving the poor and vulnerable behind.


On slave auctions in Libya

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In the wake of the CNN report on human auctions in Libya, there has rightly been a surge in concern for the thousands of Africans languishing in inhumane conditions in detention camps. Political leaders in Europe and Africa, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki, have condemned the situation. After years of flailing diplomacy and lonely advocacy, it seems the world is finally ready to talk about the humanitarian disaster in Libya.

But while this new wave of attention is welcome and necessary, it does raise key questions: Why did it take so long to have this near-unified voice of condemnation on a well-researched and well-covered issue that has been in the public domain for the better part of the last decade? Why now and not before? And more importantly, what does this delayed reaction say about race and racism in international humanitarian work?

This information is not new. International organizations, politicians, and journalists have all reported the dire conditions facing African migrants in Libya from at least 2010.

The vast majority of the world’s refugees and migrants today are Asian and African, unlike in the 1940s when the original instruments of protection were negotiated.

Bottom line: Countries only want “good migrants” – where “good” means primarily white and/or wealthy.  Helping black and brown bodies is couched in the polite language of  “helping them where they are”. Race and racism are at the heart of the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis, but, to date, humanitarianism has been reluctant to talk about it in stark terms.

[Read full IRIN article]