Monthly Archives: October 2018

The fight against malnutrition

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Everybody wants to end hunger. That is what all UN-member countries stated when signing the 2030 Agenda for a better world: the second of its 17 goals aims at eradicating all forms of malnutrition (which include overweight, obesity or micronutrient deficiencies) and ensuring that everybody has access to nutritious and healthy foods.

In 2017, the world was home to 821 million hungry people, almost 2.2 billion overweight people and 670 million obese adults (and this number is rising). On top of that, at least 1.5 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies that undermine their health and lives.

What do we really need to do to eradicate all forms of malnutrition? In the first place, we need to acknowledge that this battle should receive high priority. The fight against hunger should not slip down in the list of global priorities such as climate change, migrations or population growth

Secondly, we need more funds. It takes money to make things happen and Governments —the real game-changers— need resources to pave the way towards environmentally, economically and socially sustainable food systems.

Governments can’t do it on their own, nor can those with deep pockets acting alone. The same applies to international agencies, NGOs, civil society and/or the private sector working. We really need to combine and align our efforts.


The Palestinians see a few bright spots

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Last week, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour hosted a reception for diplomats from 40 countries the Palestinians are encouraging to get involved in their negotiations with Israel, effectively downgrading Washington’s role as the premier broker.

He accompanied Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to a meeting with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, who reiterated his support for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which assists Palestinian refugees. Mansour also helped collect $118 million in pledges to partially make up for U.S. funding cuts to UNRWA.

On Thursday, Mansour was elected to the presidency of the Group of 77, the largest bloc of developing nations. The position, which speaks for countries representing 80 percent of the world’s population, gives the Palestinians a notable voice at a time when their relations with the United States are virtually nonexistent.

“It was only a few years ago that we raised the flag of the state of Palestine before the United Nations. And it was only yesterday that the state of Palestine is chairing the largest negotiating voting bloc in the history of the United Nations. Shouldn’t I be hopeful?” said Mansour.

So far, support for Palestinian causes at the United Nations has done little to improve prospects for peace with Israel or living conditions for most Palestinians, particularly those in the Gaza Strip. The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is closer than ever to the Trump administration, and the administration is a staunch defender of Israel at the United Nations.

In the past year, the United States has dropped out of the U.N. Human Rights Council, citing its “unrelenting bias” against Israel. It recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy to the contested city. It closed down the PLO office in Washington, citing its lack of progress in joining negotiations with Israel. And it cut financial aid to Palestinians, including $300 million to UNRWA that helped fund secular schools in Gaza.

Mansour cited a December vote in the General Assembly in which 128 nations condemned the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while only seven countries besides the United States and Israel opposed the measure. He also noted that a U.S. draft resolution in the Security Council in June condemning Hamas for the violence in Gaza was rejected 14 to 1, with only the United States favoring it.

[Washington Post]

UN Court orders US to lift Iran sanctions linked to humanitarian goods

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The United Nations’ highest court, located in The Hague, on Wednesday ordered the United States to lift sanctions on Iran that affect imports of humanitarian goods and products and services linked to civil aviation safety.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice is legally binding, but it remains to be seen if the administration of President Donald Trump will comply.

Trump moved to restore tough U.S. sanctions in May after withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers. Iran challenged the sanctions in a case filed in July at the International Court of Justice.

In a preliminary ruling, the court said that Washington must “remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from” the re-imposition of sanctions to the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation.

The court also told both the United States and Iran to “refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute.”


Indonesia tsunami devastation mounts

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Over 1,300 people are confirmed to have been killed by a Tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi last Friday. The global international crisis response system is kicking into high gear right now, but relief efforts are in a race against time.

Speaking from the island’s main city Palu, a relief worker with Mercy Corps sent an message to reporters stating: “The situation in Palu remains grave. Food and water is scarce and many of the people I have spoken with haven’t eaten in days — and that is the situation in Palu, a city which is receiving support. People at the epicentre of the quake are still largely cut-off from the aid effort.”

“Critical roads remain closed, destroyed or blocked by the quake, and a lack of fuel means that even if the roads were open, we might not be able to reach those affected. In such a geographically challenging context as Indonesia, fuel is of critical importance: it powers the diggers that are needed to clear roads, the generators in hospitals and displacement camps, and the trucks that are needed to cover the hundreds of kilometers of affected area. Without fuel, there won’t be aid deliveries.”

The Tsunami was triggered by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and swept through a Palu bay, the terminus of which is the city of Palu, which has a population of 380,000.

This is a system coordinated through the United Nations, in which NGOs, governments and UN agencies take on specific tasks necessary in an emergency like this.  It already appears that the logistical challenge of importing relief items will be immense.

Aid could be delivered via a “humanitarian land bridge” from Jakarta to Sulawesi, [a spokesperson for the UN Migration Agency] said, noting that the idea had been implemented following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, from Jakarta to Aceh and from Medan to Aceh.

Delivering aid to Sulawesi through the port of Palu, continues to be a major challenge, however, the IOM spokesperson explained. “The port itself has not been damaged (but) the cranes and gantries and the equipment you would use to remove goods from vessels have been badly damaged,” he said, adding that in some case they had been “completely knocked down, and access to the port itself is very difficult.”

[UN Dispatch]

Impact Investing

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Three years after Amit Bouri’s birth in Northern California, his parents divorced. His mother returned to school to study accounting. She and her son would be on public assistance for the next six years, until she finished her degree and started her career. Bouri’s social conscience, and his awareness of the value of a social safety net, date back to those days. Now, the former strategic consultant runs the Global Impact Investing Network, an organization of investors seeking to achieve social and environmental impact as well as competitive returns. Some excerpts from our conversation with Bouri, 40, about the landscape for impact investing:

Q: What exactly are impact investments?         A: They’re investments made in funds, companies, or projects with the intention of generating a positive social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. The investments can be in any range of sectors and across asset classes, around the world.

Q: What kinds of returns are we talking about?     A: Over 90% of impact investors are either meeting or exceeding their financial-return expectations. It’s not an act of charity or philanthropy, but rather a strategy that belongs in an individual or a firm’s investment portfolio.

Q: So many big firms have created impact funds lately. Why?     A: Large institutional investors, as well as individual clients, are seeking opportunities to put their capital to work to build a more sustainable world. …The Paris Climate Accord of 2015 was very successful in gathering private-sector interest in managing climate risk and opportunities to invest in a sustainable energy economy. The adoption of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals drove a lot of interest among CIOs and CEOs of major institutional investors and asset managers.

In a generation, impact investing will be widespread, and it will be business as usual to think about impact across your investment portfolio, from the largest institutions to everyday individuals who want to ensure they have the money to retire—but also to invest in the world they want to retire in.


US yogurt billionaire’s ‘Humanity first’ solution to immigration

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Hamdi Ulukaya, a Kurd who built yogurt empire Chobani after immigrating to the US in the mid-90s, is challenging Americans to rethink the way they view immigration.

Ulukaya has sought to keep his mission of assisting refugees above the political fray. But on occasion he has denounced the administration’s immigration policies and the way it enforces them. The issue is deeply personal for Ulukaya — a self-made billionaire who grew up tending goat and sheep in rural Turkey.

Ulukaya said, “I have nothing against ‘America first’, but ‘humanity first’ too.”

Ulukaya started recruiting immigrants and refugees to work at Chobani in 2010 — a strategy that drew vicious attacks from far right-wing conspiracy theorists who have spread lies about the company, including allegations Chobani embarked on a secret plot to increase America’s Islamic population.

About 30 percent of Chobani’s employees are immigrants or refugees. He says his employees and suppliers are worried. “They ask, ‘What’s gonna happen to me, will I be able to see my mother, or if they’re gonna come and visit me?’ ”

Ulukaya calls America a “magic land,” alluding to its historic standing as a beacon of hope and opportunity. “Above and beyond all, I hope the idea of magic land doesn’t get damaged,” said Ulukaya.


Mobilizing resources to meet the needs of international refugees

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Over the last several years, Hamdi Ulukaya has been making a passionate pitch to assist refugees through Tent Partnership for Refugees, Ulukaya’s nonprofit dedicated to helping improve the lives of refugees. He argues that resources, especially from corporate America, should grow to match a historic migration crisis that has displaced over 65 million people worldwide, including 25 million refugees.

Ulukaya, who launched Tent in 2016, has successfully urged companies to develop solutions by “mobilizing resources, innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit of the business community.”

This week, Tent added 20 brands to a growing list of partners pledging to hire refugees or help them build a better life. The latest companies to commit to the cause include Hilton, pasta maker Barilla, Microsoft and Uniqlo. In total, Tent has secured promises from more than 100 companies.

Ulukaya is alleviating the plight of refugees at a time when the US government is reducing foreign aid and lowering the number of refugees the US will admit. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced a refugee cap of 30,000 in 2019 — the lowest level since 1980.

“Even if governments were stepping up to do the right thing, which many, including the US government, are not, the crisis is too big for government,” said Samantha Power, the former US ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017, as she presented Ulukaya the Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Award this week.