Category Archives: Current Events

Where the Governors Got it Wrong: Resettling Syrian Refugees in the United States

Source: Jakarta Post

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

Overview

In the last few days, the world witness one of the horrible terror attacks against humanity – the terrorists attack in Paris, which led to 129 people dead. Terror has no place in this world and now it is the time for us to unite to fight terror to the end. Those killed in Paris and other parts of the world were killed because they were free people. People who believe in freedom, liberty, justice, and free will.

The terror attack in Paris unearth issues that need to be addressed diplomatically to bring to an end the Syrian crisis. It is now time to unite our forces and energies against this terror, which means focusing our strategies, tactics, resources, and man power as a united force against IS.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all this people are victims and Syrians and those of North Africa are the primary victims of terrorism. Syrians in particular had to go through all the hardships to escape terror at the front of their homes.

They walked thousands of miles, starve in most instances for days, weeks and months just to survive this terror. Many could not make the journey as they involuntarily fled from their homes. No one really wants to leave the place they consider home and everyone who is a refugee knows that that is a fact even if they are resettled to heaven. Home will always be home and nothing earthly can replace it. The meaning attached to home are not easily transfer to places refugees eventually seek refuge. It takes time to call a new place home.

Source: Rescue

It is not the time for us to turn away from those who fled violence and terror in their home country. The moment we stop helping others is the moment we deny our humanity and undermine our values, principles and all that we are and so dearly believe in. Today, they are refugees and seeking our help – tomorrow we could be in need of something else and we might seek help from others.

The United States is a great nation not because we have powerful weapons and large guns. We are great as a people because of the values, principles and believes that we stand and live for. I do believe that we can do this. We can shelter, provide medicine, food, clothes and peace of mind for Syrian refugees that need our help.

The United States refugee resettlement program is one of the rigorous resettlement programs in the world as far as I know and experienced. I had conducted over 10 different presentations across this country creating awareness of refugees’ issues and also about how the US Refugee Resettlement process works. If you are interested, please click below.

The US Refugee Resettlement Program

Refugees are not just taken out of a refugee camp and displaced setting and resettled to a third country. The process of resettlement takes between 1-2 years and even longer depending on several factors. The processes listed as “durable solution” to end “refugeeness” are a). local integration (in the primary host country), b). repatriation (going back home) and resettlement (relocated to a third country.

Resettlement is the last resort of all three durable solutions and the most preferred of all the three options. Thus, before discussing how the US Resettlement Program works for the benefits of Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and his colleagues from other states across the political divide and for those at the senate who plans or are planning to pass a legislature to restrict or block the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the United States.

IT SHOULD BE KNOWN THAT STATES DO NOT HAVE ANY LEGAL OR LEGISLATIVE SIGNIFICANCE TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT REFUGEES CAN BE ADMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES AND FOR THAT MATTER IN THEIR RESPECTIVE STATES. The admissions of refugees in the United States is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government of the United States.

a. Local Integration

When refugees flee from their home country and enters another country in most cases bordering their home country. They are in most instances welcomed and registered by the appropriate refugee agency of the country.

Usually, this prior registration process is jointly implemented by the government of the host country and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Thus, the point here is that, if well coordinated, each refugee is registered and provided with some sort of identification. At that point, they officially gain refugee status. The process of local integration in the primary host country is a long process and also depends on the state hosting the refugee population and thee refugee themselves.

For the state, aspects that are considered include, but are not limited to the population, economy, national security, the refugee population itself, etc. For effective refugee management, the moment refugees are admitted, the process to find a durable solution should start immediately, because you want people to settle and live freely.

However, local integration in the host country should be encourage since refugees can easily transition back home once the situation, which caused them to flee cease to exist in their country of origin.

Also, one reason while local integration should be encouraged is because in most instances the primary host country shares similar cultural and ethnic diversity of the seeking refuge. This is not to say that the relationship is perfect, but people relationships cross national borders.

However, one reason why most refugees don’t seem to choose local integration as a durable solution is that, they are easily targeted due to cross borders attacks. I am not very sure if they might be the case in Libya and Syria, but in West Africa for example, rebels from Liberia were accused of staging attacks of refugee camps in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Similar incidence were reported in the Great Lakes Region in Eastern Africa. If well planned, local integration in the primary country of refuge can be an effective solution to cease refugee status.

b). Repatriation

Unlike local integration, repatriation is done when a refugee decides to return to his or her home country when the condition of fear, which causes the refugee situation cease to exist back home. Again, like local integration, voluntary repatriation is done at the free will of the refugee.

However, if the conditions back in their home country for which they fled cease to exist and refugee population still refuse to return home voluntarily and local integration is rejected by the refugee population and the resettlement isn’t possible, their refugee status can terminated because cessation clause in the host country’s refugee policy specifies that “once the condition of fear for which the refugee fled his or her country cease to exist” their refugee status can be terminated by the government of the host country.

The good thing about voluntary repatriation is that, if well planned, returnees (i.e. former refugees) can be relocated back to their communities and start the rehabilitation, reintegration and reconstruction process back in their country. In most cases in the event of a voluntary repatriation, refugees returning home are provided with some assistance (financial or logistical) to help facilitate transition when they return.

c). Resettlement

Within the refugee cycle, resettlement is the optimal choice, but the most difficult stage of the durable solution to the refugee crisis. Usually, the initial determination to resettle a refugee family is a product of several processes. First, in the traditional sense; that is, resettlement that is initiated from the UNHCR is conducted after several interviews (aka counseling sections with a refugee/a refugee family) and a UNHCR Case Worker.

When it is determined by the UNHCR staff that a refugee or a refugee family life is at stake in the host country and the prospect of returning home is unlikely, that individual and his family are recommended to the consulate of a refugee resettlement country. Once that process gets started, the consulate in question takes over the process and all files relating to that individual and his/her family members are turned over to the consulate office responsible for resettlement processing. This process according to the US Refugee Resettlement Program is known as Priority I.

Secondly, for humanitarian reasons, refugees can be resettled to a third country. That is, special humanitarian concerns could warrant the US to issue the admission of refugees in the United States. The current humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees falls into this bracket of the US Refugee Resettlement program known as Priority II.

Thirdly, another way a refugee is resettled to a third country (third country in this narrative means resettlement country and usually means a developed country that can provide the needs of the refugee family that is consider for resettlement) at least for the case of the US Refugee Resettlement Program is through Family Reunification, which is Priority III.

In this refugee resettlement program,refugees are admitted to the United States through a family member (parents), spouse and unmarried child under 21 years of age, who was a refugee themselves and are either a permanent resident or citizen of the United States. Even given that, the person being applied for by his relative in the US has to demonstrate refugee status in the country where the application is sent to the US Consulate for processing.

Thus, now that we know that refugees are not just resettled once they leave their country, even though the case of Syrian refugees could challenge this convention, because we have thousands of people landing on the shores of Europe. It is paramount for countries that are interested in resettling Syrian refugees to coordinate their efforts and also work with those countries like Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, etc to see how those already undergoing some sort of biometric processing could be resettled.

Also, the massive influx of refugees in Europe is also creating a humanitarian crisis and in this case, the UNHCR and other agencies needs to work with the governments of resettlement countries to start processing refugees for resettlement, but first addressing their immediate needs.

Now, with a clear picture of what resettlement is like and the various types of resettlement listed in the US Resettlement Program, I will now focus on more specifically how the resettlement process, irrespective of which type works.

Source: US Department of State

Step # 1. Overseas Processing Entity (OPE)/UNHCR

US Refugees resettlement is a tough process. The resettlement process starts with initial interview of the refugee applicant by a UNHCR staff or a staff member of an Overseas Processing Entity (OPE), a contracting firm of either the UN Refugee agency or the Department of State or the country initiating the resettlement process.

The goal of the interview with OPE or UNHCR staff is to work with the refugee seeking to be resettled to make sure that their records are right and to also determine if their case merits resettlement. This is usually called pre-screening. Some refugees get denial letters from this process if they failed to justify why they need to be resettled or denial could be if their names are red flag or had prior criminal records that could serve as a ground to deny resettlement.

All along the resettlement process, prospective refugees to be resettled get letters of approval after each stage of the resettlement process. However, the three most important stages are during the pre-screening, interview with the US Immigration staff and after the results of medical examination. Now a days, refugees don’t get deny because of their prior medical conditions. This used to be the case in the past in the early 1980s, 1990s and early part of 2000, but things change after 2003.

That is, refugee application for resettlement has to justify why resettlement is the optimal choice over local integration and repatriation. Simply put why can’t you integrate in your current host country and why can’t you return home? If the responses to these two questions along with other questions that may be asked by the interviewer are not satisfactory or there are misleading information in the story-line, they can be denied resettlement and their case will remain at that level…done!!

However, if they have a solid reason why resettlement is the optimal choice over other options, than a staff of the OPE will schedule a second interview. This time to prepare and finalize paperwork after which it will be forwarded to the US Consulate and a State Department or Department of Homeland Security staff will schedule an immigration interview, we is thorough and comprehensive and scary, at least to the refugee applicants.

Step # 2. Interview with USCIS Staff

Typically, the wait time between the last interview at OPE to the interview held by member of United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) staff from the US Consulate usually takes between 3-4 months interval. This off-course depends on the case load available.

This time doesn’t account for relatively 6-7 months wait period going through the OPE Pre-screening processes. Prior to meeting with the USCIS/State Department staff, name checks are conducted to make sure that the individual is not flag in anyways and has no prior arrest warrant or anything that could cause national security concerns once admitted in the United States. Once that is done, the staff of the US Consulate conducts a face-to-face interview only with the individual and or his family and member and a decision of their refugee resettlement application are verbally announced at the end of the interview follow by a letter.

Once it is determined that they have legitimate reasons of fear for which resettling in the United States surpass local integration in the primary country of refuge and repatriation is not possible, their case are approved at the scene or few days letter and an admissions letter issued by the US Consulate. If their stories are inconsistent or information became available is security concerns, the staff more reason to have their resettlement application in the US denied.

The result of such process is made know in a letter signed by the US Department of State official who conducted the interview for which you were under oath. Not every refugee is interview by the FBI and or CIA. The determination as to whether or not an individual refugee applicant seeking resettlement in the United States will be interview by one or either agency is based on the national origin and the high risk country outlined by the US Department of State and the US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS).

Step # 3. Medical Examination and Screening

This stage is where all the medical conditions for resettlement in the US are met. It is a comprehensive medical examination, which involves physical, blood works, malaria treatment (if the refugee is originating from a malaria-induced eco-region), etc. About 15-30 years ago, refugees applicants used to be denied due to HIV + status, but now with the advancement in medicine against the fight with HIV, the conditions for denial based on HIV + status is no longer effective and outdated and those refugees who are HIV positive are provided treatment starting in the country of host until to arrive in the US.

Step # 4. Cultural Orientation

Cultural orientation is usually conducted by OPE or the appropriate agency contracted to educate newly “to be resettled” refugees to the United States. The cultural orientation class usually last for 14 days at the hourly duration of 7 hours daily. Trained educators go through every aspects of the American ways of life from accessing public transportation, to banking, how to dial 911, etc. A certificate of completion is awarded to each participant. Participation and completion of all classes/sections is mandatory to the resettlement process or you forfeit eligibility.

Step # 5. Travel Arrangements

This is one of the joyous stage as a refugee when you know that you are about to travel, but not just yet. At this stage, the airline ticket(s) are booked and you signed a promissory note to repay the money used to purchase the ticket on your behalf. Usually, repayments of the airline ticket is done through the resettlement agency in the US. However, each refugee can elect to send their checks or payment directly to the collection agency, which will most likely be the resettlement agency. Each refugee and or a refugee family is given about 12 months after arrival to start repayment. At least grace period is better than that of the student loan repayment. Lol!

Step # 6. The Resettlement Agency (US Based)

This stage is done without the prior consent of the refugee applicant. Resettlement agencies such as Catholic Charity, Church World Service, and Lutheran Immigrants and Refugees Service or Ascentria Care just to name a few are assigned refugees cases to facilitate the process of integration into American ways of life.

The resettlement agency prior to the arrival date of the refugee receives all the document on each family member per refugee family and start putting things together. Once the refugee and his family arrives, the agency helps with attaining SSN, State ID, process application for the Department of Homeland Security Work Authorization Card for the next three months, healthcare or health insurance, public library cards for those interested, schools and colleges, etc. Basically, it is expected that within 9-12 months, each resettled refugee family will be able to navigate the system and gradually start to face out of the resettlement agency. However, that is just talk as most refugees take more time to get adjusted to the system and be able to stand alone.

Step # 7. Departure to the United States

Once all of steps 1 to 6 are satisfied, it is that time that we can say good bye to friends on the refugee camp or displace center. It is usually a time of joy and sadness. Joy because as you look behind you once saw mayhem, but in front you finally see peace, peace of mind, love, happiness, and safety. Sadness because many of your friends and even family members are left behind at the refugee camp.

All departures transportation services are coordinated between the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, TSA, and USDHS. Usually, refugees admitted to the United States are transported on regular transport planes accompanied by a convoy from IOM and in some cases UNHCR.

Each refugee is given a white plastic bag, which contains all their relevant documents sealed for US Immigration Official to open and evaluate for screening and verification purposes at the port of entry (i.e. where they first land in the US). At the immigration desk, each arriving refugee are further screened by the immigration official, biometrics are taken including photos and the sealed brown envelop taken and the admissions letter stamped and an I-94 issued. The I-94 is a legal entry document, which can be used until a green card/permanent resident card is mailed and returned once the refugee becomes a US Citizen.

Step # 8. In the US

At the port of entry, resettled refugees are met by a case manager or staff from the refugee resettlement agency and a family member, if they have one. From there, the resettlement agency takes charge and helps the newly resettled refugee integrate into the American society, which can be a long process depending on the individual, the resources that are available and their willingness to work things out as quickly as possible. The rest now becomes the normal routine.

In these processes, we collect significant amount of data can I share some light on whether or not someone is an extremist. The US has one of the rigorous resettlement screening processes in the world. If we allow ourselves to be carried away by fear because of IS and other islamic extremist entities, we only undermine our strengthen, the values and principles we stand for.

The Syrians people do need our fullest support and this is not the time to turn away from our neighbors when they need our hand.

So, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, while the decision to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States is out of your power. The federal government has put in place a system with years of credible work that can yet be used to provide Syrian refugees with the assistance they need to resettle in the US and also ensure the American people that their safety is at the alter-most center of the process. I have written this post because I was a product of the US Refugee Resettlement Process and I am not a Terrorist.

An Open Response to “Tony Blair’s: The clear lesson of Iraq war”

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

Recently, Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of UK wrote an opinion piece in the CNN Opinions in which he still seems to maintain that the invasion of Iraq was inevitable and that he and George Bush’s acts of war were justified and that he (Tony Blair) literally found it “it hard to apologize for removing Saddam.”

We all know the main cause or causes for the invasion of Iraq and that as Blair maintains – was not because Saddam or Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that neither Saddam and his regime facilitated directly or indirectly to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

The subject of the human costs of the war in Iraq was of significant interest to me, which facilitated contact with one of the senior researchers at Medact with the permission to use their published empirical data of the impacts of the war in Iraq on ordinary Iraqis.

This post is not in reflection of that work, but an open response to the recent opinion piece written by Former Prime Minister of the UK in the CNN Opinion. You can read his claims, positions and reflections leading to the war in Iraq and the consequences thereof.

With that being said, I will now focus the rest of this post to specifically address each points of reflection stated by Mr. Blair.

The source of the post that is being segmented here for discussion was taken from CNN.

Blair: “The actual lesson of Iraq is not complicated but clear. When you remove the dictator — no matter how vicious and oppressive — you end one battle only to begin another: How to stabilize and govern the country when the ethnic, tribal and particularly religious tensions are unleashed after the oppression has been lifted. This is the true lesson of both Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Macedo: I concur with you Tony that when a dictator is removed, it is more likely that a more vicious, barbaric and oppressive dictator comes into picture. That is true on so many levels because once suppressed one seems to pass on to others what they might have gone through themselves. While this view may be contested by others, we see one oppressor being replaced by another oppressor. it is just as the Bible says, if a demon is removed from you and you didn’t fill your heart and body with those of Christ, demons ten thousand times powerful and vicious than what you had before will occupy your body and spirit.

Thus, the people of Iraq did not call for their leader to be removed. You and George Bush Jr. lied on the pretext that Iraq had WMD, had links to Al-Qaeda and pose a national security threat to the US and her allies.

A war that started with lies can not end with truth. So, you can’t make what is lie true, because it isn’t. Unlike the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan had a reason, which was justified, given the terror mentality, ideology and practices of the Talibans.

Blair: “But it doesn’t mean that it is right to keep the dictator in place. Or possible. Because the lesson of what used to be called the “Arab Spring” — beginning in 2011 — is that with young and alienated populations deprived of political rights, these dictatorships no longer had the capability of maintaining control.”

Macedo: The question that one should be asking Tony is that at what period does a dictator becomes an enemy? At what point being a dictator is okay in the national security interest of the UK or the US, since as Tony suggested, “doesn’t mean that it is right to keep the dictator in place?”

The list of dictators backed by Western Countries including the US and UK. At what point we are comfortable to walk at the palaces of dictators and at what point we feel confident to take them out? A dictator is always a dictator and we can not like one over the other because their means of governing contradicts our values and principles.

The situations of Arab Spring, whether that naming was coined by those of the Middle East and North Africa or by the West was such that most of the protestors were initially requesting for reform and not revolution. With external influences, the later became the status quo and language of the protestors over the former. Revolution became the slogan rather than reform. These paradox became especially complicated in Syria, which eventually led to the current mayhem.

Blair: “The real choice for the Middle East was, and is, reform or revolution. So when we come to reassess Iraq, it is possible to disagree strongly with the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003, to be highly critical both of the intelligence on WMD and the planning for the aftermath, and yet still be glad that he is gone.”

Macedo: The decision to remove Saddam Hussein is in no way connected to the situations of the Arab Spring. First and foremost, there weren’t any protest in Iraq requesting for reform or removal? If those existed, which I believe did, the people of Iraq had the will and if they wanted such change, they could have done just that and wouldn’t request the UK and US for any assistance.

You may be gratified that removing Saddam was better and the right thing to do irrespective of whether or not WMDs were found or not is still thinking that your acts were justified even when 7+ billion people now living, know that you lied and you are an idiot who fails to acknowledge when he goes wrong.

Blair: “Indeed, had he and his two sons been running Iraq in 2011 when the regional revolts began, it is hard to see how the upheaval would not have spread to Iraq and hard to see that he would not have behaved like his fellow Baathist Bashar al-Assad rather than like the presidents of Egypt or Tunisia who stood down. The probability is that Hussein would have tried to cling to power by whatever means no matter how brutal.”

Macedo: Rightly, you can’t predict the past because it is irrelevant and insignificant; given that it is the past.Trying to argue your case by insinuating an irrelevant case building on what if in the past, demonstrates that you are not only mentally incompetent, but also a very unstable individual.

We can most certainly learn from the past and what the youth and children of today learned from your crude and unacceptable behavior and the unwillingness to accept responsibility by lying for hidden motives, is not to follow bad leaderships you and President Bush put us into.

The main reason we have upheavals today in the Middle East and elsewhere in North Africa is practically because of people like you. Failed leaders who think they can commit crimes and get away with it. I bet that the main inner reason you wrote this post is because of the desire to free yourself, but relented. You and Bush were wrong and we know that you lied!

Blair: “In Iraq, we would have had a leader from the Sunni minority keeping out the Shia majority; in Syria, of course, we have the opposite — a Shia-backed leader from the minority keeping out a Sunni majority. The consequences of this would have been vast.”

Macedo: I find it troubling reading your scripts, which speaks more into your personality when you used the words “we would have had” or “we have the opposite.” These words speak into the attitude of control. It is always what we want and that is what we should see in distant countries.

Whether or not Shia or Sunni are at war against themselves is not ours to impose who “we” think can settle the scores. Everywhere we put our soldiers and politics, we see war, conflicts, instability, more violence and terror and also more refugees and internally displaced people.

Remember, that the peoples of the Middle East lived together for thousands of years before we even existed in the west. How did they managed to survive the total mayhem and chaos you are describing is surprising.

Blair: “Of the four nations in a state of trauma today in the region — Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya — only one has a government that is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (with whatever difficulty), is doing so with full international support, has its leader recognized by both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and one who visits the White House. It is correct, as Fareed Zakaria’s documentary describes, that Iraq has been hugely expensive in lives lost and money spent. I understand completely the anger and anxiety this causes.”

Macedo: It is interesting that Blair figure that the mess he and Bush instituted brought no good to anyone not even the people of Iraq. Suicide bombings happens anytime today in Iraq. No one is safe! Not even a baby that is born today.

Iraq is like a melting pot that is at the brink of collapse to islamic extremists of all sorts. All because Blair and Bush decided that starting a decade of war would be the right thing to do to remove Saddam out of the picture. Saddam has being long dead and gone and still the situations in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East (which we assumed at the time of our invasion) would have turned to be good are even worst than ever before.

In the midst of all this are the innocent people killed and displaced because of the stupidity of two empty headed individuals. Yes, the war in Iraq is expensive, but more importantly and as a reminder, it resulted into the deaths of thousands of innocent souls that could have live even with Saddam still there.

I bet you on that one. So, don’t try to romanticize your evil feelings by suggesting that you “completely understand the anger and anxiety that are associated with the games you and Bush played on us and the lives of those killed in Iraq. You should be lucky that you and Bush have not being indicted for world crimes and crimes against humanity for the atrocities committed in Iraq based on lies!!

Blair: “But we do not yet know the cost of Syria or Libya. In both cases, we sought regime change. And in Libya we achieved it through military power. I make no criticisms of these decisions. I know better than most how hard they are.”

Macedo: Yes, I agree that you know “better” than most how hard they are because you didn’t push your head hard enough to thoroughly evaluate the issues before launching attacks in Iraq.

The west sought and pushed for regime change in both Libya and Syria. The initial perspectives were reform, but the languages you use from your palaces had an influence on the moment. The cost of war or regime change in Libya is clearly known and even my little son can articulate that to me – failure, madness, mayhem, more extremisms, and eventually a failed state with the lab full of democracy failures.

All amount to waste of time and resources as we continue to see Libya shredded like toilet paper between various terror and militia groups on one side of the leadership vacuum and a failed pro-western, supposingly democracy-induced government that is practically worthless and powerless.Right in the middle you have innocent souls hurt, killed and starving.

Rightly said that you can’t make criticisms of their mistakes to remove Gaddaffi with force and now Libya turns out to be just like Iraq – mayhem, upheavals, more terrors, and killings, while the people continue to suffer more than 10 times before and you sit and write crap.

Blair: “However, it is not immediately plain that policy on Libya and Syria has been more successful than Iraq. As for ISIS, it is true that it was formed after Hussein’s removal. But it is also true by 2009, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups were largely beaten in Iraq, and it was in Syria — after 2011 — where ISIS came to prominence and became the threat it is today.”

Macedo: There isn’t any policy in Libya and Syria. There wasn’t any! All there were was regime change at the favor of the west and not ideally for the people of those countries. We needed people we could control so that we get constant supply of their oil because for some reason the oil leaking down our elbows after the gulf war were running out so we needed more.

For Libya, Ghaddafi had a long standing prize that we wanted to paid with dignity. Ghaddafi long echo that he was fighting not just against the “true” protestors, but against those of islamic extremism.We overlooked that and facilitated his quick surgical, with out any legitimate solution post-Ghaddafi and the end result today is a failed Libyan state run between several extremists groups including IS and others as well as militia in the mountains along the coastal plains and pseudo western-back regime.

Blair: “I accept some of the strictures about the planning in Iraq, which had centered on the consequences of humanitarian disaster post-invasion and what would happen to the institutions of the country or if Hussein used WMD. But, part of the reason why Iraq became very difficult was that we did not perceive the full scale of the underlying extremism and its attendant violence. Where this type of extremism operates, there is a limit to what planning can do. They need to be fought against.”

Macedo: I agree that you and Bush because of pool planning and a full assessment of the large-scale impacts of the war on ordinary Iraqis that you bear the full responsibility and not some of the responsibilities. Saddam did not use WMDs because he did not had one in the first place.

Given that you keep alluding to something that didn’t exist after the facts are now know uncovering the bunch of lies told to us, it seems like you have not fully agree with yourself on this moral responsibility.

The difficulties to fight extremisms should not limit our ability to infiltrate their intelligence to facilitate our quests to defeat them. Suggesting that the nature and manner of extremism and how they operates would limits our ability to defeat them precisely undermined our capacity to fight terror and also suggest that we are incompetent.

Blair: “Underlying all of this is something Western policy is not yet wanting to admit: There is a deep-rooted problem originating in the Middle East — the product of a toxic mix of abused religion and bad politics — that has given rise to an ideology based on radical Islamism and that is now a global challenge.”

Macedo: This is the crust of the problem and this is the very reason we should be very cautious not to see everything arising from the Middle East in the eyes of bullets. Diplomacy well played and planned could be used to work out most of all the issues we find chaotic today and most of those we sought to settle with guns. Overall, we can not impose our will and values on others and doing that exemplifies the characteristics of dictatorial regimes.

The people of the Middle East have eyes, ears, brains, etc like us and they know and understands what they want. Countries in the Middle East have battle extremism for decades and they know how to work out their problems with or without our bullets.

Blair: “Of course, some will say we should never have gone into Iraq because that gave the extremists an opportunity. But my point is that had we never removed Hussein, it is not at all clear that we would be in a better position today post-2011 — or that he would not have used the erosion of sanctions (and, back then, $100 a barrel oil) to go back to his old games. Not until the Middle East has gone through its painful transition to modernity will we be able to pass a full judgment on the effects of decision to go to war in 2003.”

Macedo: Tony, the decision to go to war in 2003 was wrong. It was the wrong war on the wrong time, place and people. Everything about going to Iraq was wrong. It is not in your power and control to decide how the people of a country or region live. You and Bush should be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. You lie for the wrong reason and allow our ladies and gentlemen to died not mentioning the thousands of civilians who lost their lives and millions today displaced as refugees. There is nothing else that we need to wait for to determine how our involvements and roles in Iraq translate into promises we made. We failed because the war in Iraq was wrong and shouldn’t have happened in the first place. We Americans allow our leaders to go unpunished even when they lied. But those who lied and hurt others have their consciences to live with and Blair writing this post is just few steps aways to fully acknowledging that his role in the 2003 war in Iraq was wrong.

Blair: “But when I think of the hundreds of thousands of victims of Hussein — the bloodshed and instability his wars caused the region and his people — then, for all the mistakes that were made and for which those of us involved have always apologized, I think history will be more balanced in its judgment.”

Macedo: History is never balance because those things that constitute his-story are unbalance. Also, suggesting that your sins are equal to his sins makes you no different from the dictator you dethroned anyways. Tony, your closing statement is not as convincing that would be expected from a educated person like you. The war in Iraq was wrong and you must fully take responsibility for your actions.

The way forward for African universities

 

During a speech at the University of Johannesburg on 30 July 2015
Former South Africa President THABO MBEKI during a speech at the University of Johannesburg on 30 July 2015

This is the text of a speech delivered at the University of Johannesburg on 30 July 2015



I think the critical phrase is – “situate higher education at the centre of the development agenda”

We have gathered here at the University of Johannesburg to consider an important matter – “Moving Africa’s Universities Forward”.

I am certain that it is a matter of common cause among us and particularly the distinguished leaders of our universities that there has been extensive discussion over the years relating to the matter of the role and place of the African university in the 21st century.

We also have the advantage that only four months ago we had the first African Higher Education Summit on Revitalising Higher Education for Africa’s Future, which was held in Dakar, Senegal.

Even before that, in 2009, the Association of African Universities issued its “Abuja Declaration on Sustainable Development in Africa: The Role of Higher Education”, adopted at its 12th general conference of that year.

Even earlier, in 2006, UNESCO convened a colloquium at its headquarters in Paris under the theme – “Universities as Centres of Research and Knowledge Creation: An Endangered Species?”.

Though this colloquium was not focussed on Africa, nevertheless it came to conclusions which are directly relevant to the very theme this summit has convened to discuss.

I have mentioned all these initiatives to make the point that I believe that we have a pretty good idea of the matters on which we should focus to move Africa’s universities forward.

What remains to be done is to elaborate the practical and realistic programmes that should be put in place to achieve the objectives which have been identified.

I am certain that it is not necessary for me to list the catalogue of measures on which Africa must act to achieve our common objective of moving our universities forward. You are in any case better educated about this matter than I am.

However, it may not be amiss if I recall the principles mentioned in the draft declaration and plan of action adopted at the Dakar African Higher Education Summit. As you know, the document says:

“We agree to be guided by the following principles:

1. Provision of high quality, pan-African and globally competitive education;

2. Promotion of world class culture of research and innovation;

3. Provision of adequate resources;

4. Promotion of access, equity, and accountability;

5. Promotion of institutional autonomy and academic freedom;

6. Pursuit of operational excellence in institutional management;

7. Pursuit of the engagement of African academic communities in higher education policymaking;

8. Strengthening linkages to society, economy, and employers;

9. Building inter-institutional collaborations; and,

10. Pursuing mutually-beneficial internationalisation initiatives.”

I believe that all of us here are perfectly familiar with the detailed obligations which attach to honouring these principles including with regard to such matters as:

  • Increasing student enrolment, paying attention to the involvement of women;
  • Increasing the appropriately qualified teaching staff to maintain the necessary teacher/student ratios;
  • Ensuring adequate access to books and journals, the internet and ICT;
  • Building the physical infrastructure to enable the university to discharge its teaching, learning, research and community responsibilities;
  • Addressing issues of epistemology and curriculum development;
  • Attending to the matter of the employability of the graduating students in the economy, the state and the community;
  • Instituting a quality assurance system;
  • Focusing on the issue of the expansion of knowledge through research, publication and the access of students both to the practice and outcomes of research and encouraging innovation;
  • Optimising learning and research possibilities by establishing linkages among the African universities and institutes and establishing centres of excellence, including research institutes and universities, and drawing on the African intelligentsia and professionals who have left the continent through the so-called brain drain;
  • Increasing the intake of students and lecturers especially from other African countries while avoiding weakening the capacity to deliver quality higher education in any one of our countries; and generating the necessary funds to finance all these complex processes on a sustainable basis.

Needless to say, the challenge to achieve these objectives is not merely a technical matter. I strongly believe that it requires the right mind-set to bring about the important changes which I suppose are a matter of common cause.

In this respect, with your permission, I would like to cite some comments that have been made on the matter of the future of the African university, comments with which you will be familiar.

In his paper, “Tertiary Education and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa at the Dawn of the Twenty First Century: A Lost Hope, Or Present Opportunity?”, Raphael Ogom [of DePaul University, Chaicago] said: “In its current form, design and content, (sub-Saharan African higher education) is of limited relevance in the context of rapid social and economic changes in the region and bears little connections to the local economy and society.

“Modelled after European higher education, it has evolved from educating only a few highly qualified students into mass systems of lower quality (Bollag, 2004). This expansion, unfortunately, has not been accompanied by a grounded re-development of curricula that reflects, and is better suited, to the realities of the Sub-Saharan Africa environment and development needs.

“A re-think and re-design of the mission of higher education from the current curricula of theoretical sophistication, mismatch, and irrelevance to one that holistically aligns the educational system with the local industry and overall development needs, is long overdue… [Without this] it is likely, and regrettably so, that the socio-economic development promise of tertiary education in Africa might remain a lost hope at the dawn of the 21st century and beyond.”

I am certain that you are better placed to judge whether this assessment of our universities is correct. However I am certain that there is no gainsaying the fact that none of the changes proposed even at the Dakar Summit would make sense outside the context of the transformation urged by Professor Ogom.

In the 2009 Abuja Declaration I have mentioned, the Association of African Universities said:

“The real challenges for sustainable development in Africa are the promotion of economic and industrial development, the eradication of poverty, the resolution of conflicts, and the optimum use of its natural resources.

“[And yet] the African higher education research agenda tends to focus on purely academic and scientific objectives in order to ensure publication in refereed journals, with little regard to developmental needs because of the ‘publish or perish’ syndrome.

“Most of the research works in Africa are rarely relevant to the search for continental solutions to health, education, water, climate change, energy and food security – all sustainable development indices.

“Where research has been conducted in relevant areas, the findings have remained largely on shelves and unavailable to those who need to take action or implement the often useful recommendations.”

These observations are directly relevant to the important matter of the funding of higher education to which I will return.

But before I do so, please allow me to quote some comments made by emeritus professor Eldred Durosimi Jones of the University of Sierra Leone in his 2004 paper on “African Academics and African Universities in the Twenty-First Century: Needs and Responsibilities”.

Professor Jones writes: “[The] division between the privileged and the under-privileged [in Africa] has resulted in social and political instability which is bound to continue as long as a significant section of society is left out of the full participation for and enjoyment of the benefits of development.

“What then are some of these challenges that our academics must face if they are to fulfil their role in the surrounding society? They are to produce men and women who in addition to their particular skills as scientists, engineers, teachers, social workers, priests, artists etc., must be sufficiently aware and committed to eradicating this social scourge.

“Whatever their individual professional skills, students must emerge from our tertiary institutions with this social awareness… Programmes must be devised, preferably a general programme to be undertaken by all students irrespective of their particular discipline early in their courses of study.

“All the students should come out of such a course aware of their environment and their place in it. In these days, it must be realised that this environment is becoming increasingly global… Our aim in teaching should be to produce men and women who are both critical and creative. Our students should be encouraged to be thinkers and doers rather than accumulators of facts and received knowledge. This must be so if they are to be instruments of change, working towards the realisation of a just and consequently, stable society.”

This brings me to the very important matter of the generation of the funds needed to finance the changes needed to move Africa’s universities forward. In this regard I will refer only to the issue of public funds.

Correctly the Dakar Summit said it is necessary to “increase investment in higher education to facilitate development, promote stability, enhance access and equity; develop, recruit and retain excellent academic staff and pursue cutting-edge research and provision of high quality teaching. Appropriate investments are required at institutional, national, regional, and international levels.”

It then said: “Sustained efforts must be undertaken led by governments, and including all key stakeholders in higher education, to situate higher education at the centre of the development agenda. Establishing such a priority is a prerequisite to guarantee its funding.

“The expansion and provision of quality higher education will require proportionally higher, sustainable, and predictable levels of public funding.”

I think the critical phrase in these paragraphs is – “situate higher education at the centre of the development agenda.”

This is the development agenda to which the Association of African Universities referred, which would be addressed by the transformed universities of which Professpr Ogom wrote, sustained by the relevant research the Association of African Universities spoke about and promoted by the socially conscious graduates Professor Jones visualised.

The Dakar summit said the sustained efforts to situate higher education at the centre of the development agenda should be led by our governments.

I think this is wrong or perhaps I should say that it requires prior preparation.

Somewhere deep in its bowels, the Dakar declaration makes the critically important undertaking that: “African higher education institutions shall commit themselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, public service and provision of solutions to the development challenges and opportunities facing African people across the continent.”

In my view this important paragraph should have been placed in the very preamble of the declaration.

In all humility I would have rephrased it to read something like this: “We have gathered at this 1st African Higher Education Summit to consider the strategic question of what the African universities should do effectively to help advance the African development agenda.

“We are firmly convinced that higher education on our continent should be situated at the centre of the African development agenda.

“Accordingly, the African higher education institutions shall commit themselves to public service and the provision of solutions to the development challenges and opportunities facing African people across the continent through the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and community service.”

As all of us know, at independence and for some time after that, our countries viewed our universities with great pride. Indeed many of these were a direct product of our liberation from colonialism.

In very practical ways these universities were indeed situated at the centre of the African development agenda through the supply of the required educated cadre, the generation of ideas to advance the development agenda and engagement in the upliftment of communities.

There is fairly extensive literature about how the then healthy relationship between the state and the university was weakened and destroyed. In many instances, if not most, this was linked to the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programmes by the Bretton Woods institutions and the perception among the African ruling elite that the universities were serving as centres of political opposition to this elite.

These combined in a process which led to the impoverishment and weakening as well as the marginalisation of the African University from both the state and the development agenda.

Thus did it come about that in many African countries governments came to consider expenditure on universities and therefore higher education as a burdensome but unavoidable cost rather than an absolutely necessary and beneficial investment.

I therefore think that one of the major tasks our universities must undertake is advocacy to convince the so-called political class in Africa that they are indeed situated at the centre of the African development agenda and therefore need new investment significantly to improve their capacity to discharge their responsibilities relating to that development agenda.

It is only once they are convinced about all this that it would be possible for our governments to lead the process which would result in the substantially larger public funding that is required and without which many of the radical changes that need to be made will not see the light of day.

We are very fortunate that when it approved the document “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want” in January this year, the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government also endorsed the objective contained in that document, namely: “[To] build and expand an African knowledge society through transformation and investments in universities, science, technology, research and innovation; and through the harmonisation of education standards and mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications [as well as] establish an African Accreditation Agency to develop and monitor educational quality standards across the continent.”

Perhaps the recognition of the need for an African knowledge society to achieve the Africa we want by 2063 is exactly the message we need to signal the commitment of our political leadership to provide the resources which will enable the African university to play its role, firmly situated at the centre of the Agenda 2063 development vision.

Time will tell how well the African state and the African university respond to the shared challenges they face!


Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Rand Daily Mail and was retrieved on 10/28/2015 and published here at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article remains those of the author. Please cite the original and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

 

 

 

President Sirleaf Commissions US$5.7 Million Coca-Cola Company Investment in Liberia; Describes the New Economic and Social Initiatives as First Vote of Confidence after Ebola

President Sirleaf makes remarks at the commissioning of the Alexander Cummings Model Science and Technology School on Monday, October 26, 2015

President Sirleaf makes remarks at the commissioning of the Alexander Cummings Model Science and Technology School on Monday, October 26, 2015 
Photo Credit: James M.Garresen / Executive Man

 

Monrovia, Liberia – President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has challenged Liberians to create the enabling environment for businesses investing in this country to feel safe, expand and grow.
“It will not work if people are going to destroy businesses; it’s not going to work with placards all over the place; it’s not going to work unless businesses know and have confidence in our policies, laws and in the way that we do things,” she cautioned.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader sounded the caution when she officially commissioned a new US$5.7 million PET (plastic) bottling line, a new science and technology school and officially launched the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation’s five new Water Health Centers that will provide safe water access to over 61,000 Liberians at the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company and Duport Road, respectively, on Monday, October 26, 2015.
President Sirleaf described the new economic and social investment initiatives as the first vote of confidence in Liberia after the deadly Ebola virus disease.
“Today let me say to all Liberians, this is the time for commitment,” the Liberian leader appealed; noting that the country’s economy is going through some difficult times given that our main exports – rubber and iron ore – are now facing depressed global crisis.
She noted that with the decline, Liberia must find other initiatives to be able to promote businesses to create those exports and the means whereby the gaps that now exists because of global crisis can be filled by expansion into other areas.
President Sirleaf indicated that though the environment has to be created by government policies and practices, it also has to be created by every Liberian who wants to see jobs, see business expand and wants to see where we, like neighboring countries can export to other places. “The challenge is to every Liberian to make sure that what they do, how they act, how they support, how they join in creating this environment will enable us to achieve our development objectives,” she said.
She noted that though there have been periods of interruption and contraction in Liberia over time, the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company, like Firestone-Liberia, has remained with Liberia despite these difficulties.
She further urged the Coca-Cola Company to bring in a juice manufacturing plant that will have juices made in Liberia for domestic consumption and possible export to other countries. “All these years for Liberia not to have a juice producing plant is totally unacceptable,” she said, adding that now is the time to create that plant for the production of juices for us too.
She thanked all those who made it possible to see the dream of Coca-Cola Company become a reality.
For his part, the Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer of Coca-Cola Company, Mr. Alex Cummings said, “Liberia may have been fractured by the tragedy of Ebola over the last year but its spirit of optimism, ambition and progress will never be broken.”
He pointed out that Coca-Cola has been ever-present in Liberia for over 65 years and their commitment to investing  in economic and social initiatives remains as strong as ever as they increase their contribution to supporting sustainable growth of both their business and the communities they serve.
The Coca-Cola Bottling Company’s first PET bottling line begins production at its Monrovia facility immediately. The new capabilities will expand Coca-Cola’s beverages to include more convenient plastic bottles for Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, and water. It will also serve as a regional export hub for Sierra Leone and Guinea. An estimated 7,500 direct and indirect employment opportunities will be created over the next five years across Coca-Cola’s locally sourced supply-chain of distributors, retailers and material suppliers.
As part of Coca-Cola Africa Foundation’s Safe Water for Africa program, it launched five new Water Health Centers in Liberia. A total of seven new Centers will be inaugurated by the end of the year (2015), providing safe, clean water access and sanitation to a total of 61,000 persons.
In a related development, President Sirleaf dedicated the newly constructed the Model Science and Technology School situated on Duport Road.
Speaking at the dedication, the Liberia President stressed that fundamental to any growth in business or any aspect of our society are education and skills. “If you lack that, you cannot grow the capacity to be able to manage the business, to be able to create the high level jobs for Liberians.”
She hoped that with the dedication of this model institution, it can be an example that one can still be a motorbike taxi driver or hold a job and still go to school because if you do that it will sustain you for life. “These facilities are meant to provide an opportunity to many who will learn here and set the example as they go out,” she said, “You are the hope of the family.”
President Sirleaf challenged the Coca-Cola Bottling Company to sit with the Ministry of Education just to see how this model school can be replicated in other parts of the country.
The Chairman of Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Alfonso Libano, who also made remarks said, “Liberia’s progress over the past decade has been driven by growing employment opportunities and widening access to basic community needs,” he said, adding further that by creating new direct employment opportunities within our bottling plant, and providing access to advance education facilities and safe water, they hope to help transform the opportunities available for current and future generations while providing more beverage choice than before to Liberian consumers.
Education Minister George Werner stressed that education is a public good of which the state is the duty bearer and since President Sirleaf began her service to the country, this government has worked hard to address several issues in education not least of which are the following five: access, equity, quality, safety and learning outcome.
Minister Werner indicated that though there have been much progress, there are challenges which the government alone cannot solve. The necessity for partnerships with government is paramount.
He thanked everyone who, one way or the other, contributed to the success of this initiative.
The Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer of Coca-Cola Company Alex Cummings said that this effort signifies the “golden triangle”- government, civil society, and business working together to solve society’s problems. He said as a system, they are committed to being a part of every community where they live and work; Liberia is no exception.
Mr. Cummings said they are proud of the school because he believes the school will not only teach skills of science and technology and math; but also teach the self-skills of values of integrity and honesty. “This school will focus on educating the best and brightest Liberians and we make no apologies for that,” he said, promising that whoever has the intellect and ability will be able to attend this school; warning though that it will be based on merit.
He committed to working with the Ministry of Education so that five-ten years from now this school will look like it does today. He promised to also work with the community to make sure that that is the case.
 
The new Model Science and Technology School will provide state-of-the-art technical facilities for an intake of over 300 students. The school built with partner support from the Ministry of Education, Paynesville City Corporation and Chevron Liberia Limited will further expand to include 12 classrooms as well as a science and computer laboratory, library and other academic facilities.

Article Disclaimer:  This article was published by the Executive Mansion of Liberia and was retrieved on 10/28/2015 and published at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

What makes Donald Trump so Popular?

 

 

 

 

 


Written by Dr. Richard Schmitt, Author at Out of the Woods


It is tempting to blame the voters for the tremendous uproar Donald Trump has been creating. He is a super sized celebrity. The newspapers and the radio cannot deal with him enough.  Every day brings a new episode of Donald being naughty and getting away with it. The voters, it seems, do not know the difference between a celebrity and the leader of the government.  Trump, it is clear, is not qualified to be president however entertaining he may be.  But voters nevertheless like him best in a large field of candidates.

In order to understand Trump’s popularity, however, you have to look at the other side of the political spectrum, at Bernie Sanders in the US and now Jeremy Corbyn in Britain.

Two days ago Jeremy Corbyn was selected the leader of the Labor Party. The conservatives, the Tories, are at the moment the majority party in parliament and the prime minister is a conservative. The Labor Party, the opposition, 10 years or so ago elected Tony Blair, who fell all over himself in his eagerness to join George Bush in the ill-considered war in Iraq. But now Labor  has  chosen a very different leader. Corbyn calls himself a socialist; he is a champion of the working people. One of his proposals is for having not only a minimum wage but also a maximum wage; he would put a cap on the obscene incomes of the very rich. Corbyn is committed to oppose the austerity measures that have mainly affected the poor. He has been, and continues to be, a firm opponent of war as a major foreign policy initiative. He opposed the Iraq war. He will not support British participation in the war in Syria.

Corbyn is unconventional. He travels by bike. He does not own a car but shamefacedly admits to owning two bikes.

Corbyn is critical of the lack of serious debate in the Britsh Parliament. Too much time, he thinks, is spent trying to look good, to appeal to specific constituencies. The business of governing is  neglected. Debates lack substance.

In the US, Bernie Sanders is our Jeremy Corbyn. He is primarily interested in saying what he believes needs to be said. He too declares himself a socialist; he is on the side of the poor. He speaks out continually against inequality and injustice. He does not hesitate to advocate higher taxes on the very rich.

There is an interesting contrast between Sanders ( and Corbyn ) and politicians in the mould of Hilary Clinton. Her first thought is not about what are good policies but about whether she is going to offend anyone by what she says. The effect on potential voters and, more importantly, important donors seems her main concern, not what is best for the country she wants to lead. Her first interest is in being liked by the electorate and the millionaires who finance elections. What she proposers as government policies must first pass the popularity test. Would you buy a used car or a used government from this woman?

There can be no doubt that voters at the moment are really disillusioned with the political style of the Hilary Clintons of this world. They do not want to be manipulated by politicians whose main concern is to say what voters want to hear. They are looking for politicians who are talking about the condition of the country and of the world and about remedies they propose.

Conservatives are in the same frame of mind. But they will not flock to Bernie Sanders. They have Donald Trump who does not hesitate to speak his mind, who refuses to weigh every word fearful that he might offend someone.

To be sure, Trump speaks out offensively on matters that have no bearing on the well-being of the nation. His speech disturbs not because he is principled and cares for his country, and for the world but because he is ill-tempered and compensates for massive insecurities by talking only about himself.

But Trump too wants be elected for who he is and for what he thinks, not for his carefully vetted speeches that aim at pleasing voters and misleading them. Trump will not be elected because, in the end, he is not serious and not qualified. But his supporters trust him to say what’s on his mind,not what he thinks his audience wants to hear.

Politicians have for a long time spoken in the deceptive tones of used car salesmen. What the voters are looking for in the candidates is a modicum of honesty. Sanders and Trump are frontrunners because they are not trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to anyone. That is hugely refreshing for many, even those who may not be fully persuaded by the candidates’ message.


This article was published online at Out of the Woods and retrieved on 10/08/2015 and published here for educational and information purposes only.


 

Green Energy for the Poor

Kenyans studying by solar-powered light. CreditWaldo Swiegers/Bloomberg


SEPT. 9, 2015


An innovative business model combining solar power and cellphones is electrifying parts of rural Africa that are far from the grid.

It’s called M-KOPA. The “M” stands for “mobile,” and “kopa” means “to borrow.” The company’s customers make an initial deposit, roughly $30, toward a solar panel, a few ceiling lights, and charging outlets for cellphones — a system that would cost about $200. Then they pay the balance owed in installments through a widely used mobile banking service, based on how much energy they use. The solar units are cheaper and cleaner than kerosene, the typical lighting source, and once they’re fully paid for after about a year the electricity is completely free. More than 200,000 homes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda use M-KOPA’s solar systems.

Creative, bottom-up solutions like M-KOPA are emerging across Africa and the developing world. Scaling them, and quickly, is the challenge. Around 1.3 billion people worldwide still lack access to electricity, including two out of three sub-Saharan Africans. An enormous divide exists between the global rich and the global poor, from energy access and technology to wealth and infrastructure. But the divide is not immutable, and momentum for solutions to bridge it are emerging from all over the world.

Later this month, the United Nations will aim to take another important step to close that gap by agreeing on Sustainable Development Goals, including goals on ending extreme poverty and ensuring adequate access to energy. It is important that the word “sustainable” has been given a prominent place in the agenda, because while many global trends are going in the right direction, one is certainly not: the climate. Without acting on climate change, we risk undermining the development gains that we have achieved so far and widening the gap between the rich and the poor. The economic growth we have seen to date will be unsustainable in the face of increasing climate disasters.

Climate change hits the poorest people the hardest. The poor are more likely than the rich to live in places vulnerable to climate-related weather events and more frequently suffer from diseases that can be exacerbated by climate change. The World Health Organization predicted last year that in 2030 climate change will lead to 48,000 additional deaths due to diarrhea, 60,000 from malaria, and 95,000 from childhood undernutrition. The vast majority of these will take place in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

It is clear that we cannot tackle poverty successfully without also tackling climate change. That’s why enterprises like M-KOPA are so important: They help to bridge the divide between the global rich and global poor in a low-carbon way. Small-scale solar is only a start. Africa attracted $8 billion of investment in renewables last year, and the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that its potential for wind and solar power amounts to more than 1.5 trillion gigawatt hours per year. There’s plenty of room for both bottom-up innovation and top-down support for green energy.

 

In addition to energy access, better land use can make a real difference as well. For example, farmers in Niger are using new agroforestry techniques to produce more grain than ever before. By interplanting trees on cropland and allowing extra shrubs to grow, the farmers restore degraded land, lower greenhouse gas emissions and increase agricultural productivity. And they are directly reaping economic benefits, with gross annual incomes going up for over a million households by an average of $1,000, more than doubling real incomes.

Today this is in Niger; tomorrow, if this were global, restoring just 12 percent of degraded lands to production could raise farmers’ incomes by $40 billion per year and feed another 200 million people.

Investing in sustainable infrastructure in areas like energy, land use and cities is a no-brainer. But the biggest obstacle is coming up with the initial financing for these investments, even though we know that they will pay for themselves in the long run.

Much of the financing needs can be met through more effective mobilization of private investment. For example, a renewable energy procurement program in South Africa has mobilized $14 billion in domestic and international private financing for sustainable infrastructure. When the market fails in providing private finance, development banks can step in by providing technical assistance and guarantees. Better mobilization of countries’ own domestic resources is also critically important.

Low-carbon investment is gathering momentum around the world, and the founders of M-KOPA aren’t the only ones being creative. Investors are increasingly turning to new, more efficient forms of finance. “Green bonds” that support low-carbon and climate resilient infrastructure more than tripled in 2014 to reach $37 billion.

The global divide between the rich and the poor is far from closed. But with smarter anti-poverty and energy-access measures and a focus on sustainable finance, the future for Africa and the rest of the developing world can be bright, in more ways than one.


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a former finance minister of Nigeria and was a managing director at the World Bank from 2007 to 2011.


 


This article was initially published online on New York Times Opinion Page and was retrieved on 09/10/2015 and posted for educational and information purposes only.


 

 

Bodies found dead in a truck near border, while asylum seekers flow into Hungary

News Stories, 28 August 2015

© UNHCR/B. Baloch
Exhausted asylum-seekers after days of walking take some rest at the Rozke police centre before being moved to detention centres elsewhere in Hungary.
By Melissa Fleming, Geneva

GENEVA, Aug 28 (UNHCR)  The UN refugee agency said it was “deeply shocked and saddened” at the grim discovery yesterday of the bodies of 71 people inside a truck abandoned near the Austrian border with Hungary.

“This tragedy underscores the ruthlessness of people smugglers who have expanded their business from the Mediterranean sea to the highways of Europe. It shows they have no regard for human life and are only after profit,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a press briefing in Geneva.

Austrian police said that they believed the truck came from Hungary and entered Austria on Wednesday night or early on Thursday morning, and that the victims might have been dead for one or two days. Their identity is still unknown but it is presumed that they were being transported by smugglers.

After establishing that there were no survivors, the truck was closed again by the police and moved to another location for further investigations. Police said that they counted at least 20 bodies but the actual number is likely to be much higher.

“This tragedy also highlights the desperation of people seeking protection or a new life in Europe. UNHCR hopes this incident will result in strong cooperation among European police forces, intelligence agencies and international organisations to crack down on the smuggling trade while putting in place measures to protect and care for victims,” Fleming said.

UNHCR has reiterated its call to European countries to approach the refugee crisis in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation and to provide those seeking safety in Europe with safe legal alternatives to dangerous irregular voyages. These legal avenues include resettlement or humanitarian admission programs, flexible visa policies and family reunification.

“This week, the Hungarian border police have been intercepting more than 2,000 people crossing the border from Serbia every day. On Wednesday, police reported 3,241 new arrivals, including 700 children. This is the highest number in a single day so far this year,” Fleming detailed.

She added that these people, a majority of whom are refugees from Syria, including many women and children, are coming in large groups of over 200 people, walking along the rail tracks or crawling under barbed wire, as work continues on a 175 kilometres long wall at the border between Hungary and Serbia.

“Fear of police detection makes many of them rush through the razor wires, sustaining cuts and injuries in the process. UNHCR staff at the border report that many people are arriving on wheelchairs pushed by relatives, while others are in need of urgent medical assistance,” Fleming explained.

Police take the new arrivals to a pre-registration centre in Röszke in southern Hungary, near the Serbian border and some 184 kilometres away from the capital, Budapest. The centre in Röszke does not offer adequate conditions for the exhausted, hungry and thirsty asylum-seekers who have spent many days on the road.

In Röszke, new arrivals are searched by the police and their details recorded, before being sent to registration centres, further inland. Asylum-seekers are kept in mandatory detention between 12 and 36 hours, and then handed over to the Office of Immigration and Nationality to process their asylum claims. Hungary’s four reception centres have a maximum capacity of 5,000 people.

“Overcrowding and long waits result in frustration for the asylum-seekers. The Hungarian police do not have social workers or enough interpreters in Arabic, Dari, Pashto and Urdu, which makes it hard to communicate with asylum-seekers,” Fleming continued.

Over 140,000 people have sought asylum in Hungary so far this year, according to the latest official statistics, compared to 42,000 people last year. Most of those lodging asylum applications this year are nationals from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and they include around 7,000 unaccompanied children or separated from their parents.

Many refugees and migrants choose to leave Hungary for other countries in Europe. Every day up to 500 people sleep at the two main train stations in Budapest where volunteers look after their basic needs, including food, clothing and urgent medical attention, and where the city authorities give them access to sanitation facilities. In order to provide more adequate accommodation, the city authorities are planning to open a transit facility, with UNHCR’s technical advice.

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