ISIS Captures Palestinian Refugee Camp

Yarmouk is a long suffering settlement. Things are poised to get much worse. “Islamic State (IS) militants have entered the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Damascus, activists and Palestinian officials say. Clashes erupted between the militants and groups inside the camp, with IS seizing control of large parts of the camp, reports said.The UN says about 18,000 Palestinian refugees are inside the camp. IS militants have seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq. But this is the group’s first major attack near the heart of the Syrian capital.” (BBC http://bbc.in/1yCjhqp)

A Horrid  Week for Aid Workers…”The International Red Cross has issued a warning about the safety of humanitarian workers in modern conflict zones after three of its staff were killed in three separate countries on the same day. The three volunteers with the Red Cross and Red Crescent were all killed on Monday, in apparently targeted attacks as they were working in Syria, Yemen, and Mali.” (Telegraph http://bit.ly/1COYBAK

Welcome to the ICC’s newest member…The Palestinian Authority became a member of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, with a low-key ceremony at the court’s headquarters marking the high-stakes move. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BNqjsH)

Human Achievement of the day: 117. That was the age of the world’s oldest person, Japan’s Misao Okawa. She passed away one month after turning 117. “Her birth on March 5, 1898 predated the Wright brothers’ first powered human flight by five years, she was already a teenager when World War I broke out and in her 70s by the time of the first moon landing.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1xYC4l0)

Africa

A day after becoming the first politician in Nigerian history to succeed a sitting leader by ballot, president-elect Muhammadu Buhari promised on Wednesday to “spare no effort” to defeat Islamist militant group Boko Haram. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1C9CVKq)

Sierra Leone found 10 new Ebola cases during a three-day countrywide shutdown, an official said Wednesday, declaring that the West African country is now at the “tail end” of the epidemic. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ghg0D2)

Unknown attackers fired shells at a United Nations base on the outskirts of a town in northern Mali early on Wednesday, residents said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1xzNfAb)

The U.N.’s human rights chief said Wednesday his office has received reports that Boko Haram fighters retreating from advancing military forces in Nigeria murdered women and girls they had taken as “wives,” along with other captives. (AP http://yhoo.it/1DpTkBF)

Africa’s envoy to the European Union warned Wednesday that EU plans to process migrants in the countries they leave or transit on their way to Europe are “a dangerous approach.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ghg85D)

The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that it would lend Burundi $6.9 million to shore up the aid-dependent central African nation, months before a presidential election in June. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BNqSCT)

MENA

Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed Shiite rebel positions Wednesday across Yemen as a missile strike on a dairy factory killed 35 workers, authorities said, as both sides disputed who fired on it. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HjxxJz)

Egypt and Nigeria accounted for an “alarming rise” in the number of death sentences handed out around the world in 2014, often on the back of security concerns, Amnesty International said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Ghg7yu)

Jordan on Wednesday closed its main border crossing with Syria amid fierce clashes between rebels and pro-regime forces for control of the post. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HjxzB8)

Asia

Thailand’s junta lifted martial law in most of the nation, but 10 months after staging a coup, it remains firmly in control — with new laws invoked Wednesday that essentially give it absolute power. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HjxCwS)

A rockslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed at least nine miners, and rescuers were searching for around 20 others, state media reported on Wednesday, two days after the accident. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1HjxIVh)

Thousands of doctors in Nepal stayed away from work at clinics and hospitals Wednesday to support a colleague who has been on a hunger strike for 10 days demanding reforms in medical education and services. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HjxwW2)

Residents of the Micronesian State of Chuuk were struggling to clear the roads of huge pieces of debris and return to damaged homes Wednesday as Super Typhoon Maysak cut a destructive path across the central Pacific leaving at least five dead. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HjxFc3)

Female genital mutilation, banned by the WHO, seems to be common in the three Muslim-majority southern provinces of Thailand, but officials are taking no action. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1I5BtkM)

The United Nation Children’s Fund on Tuesday denied a media report that measles has broken out in North Korea. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OZXcfD)

The Americas

Mexican police have arrested a man in connection with the 2010 massacre of 72 migrants, officials said Tuesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HjxCNr)

The death toll from heavy rains and flooding that battered Chile last week has risen to 23, with another 57 still missing, and President Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday she would cancel upcoming trips to lead ongoing reconstruction efforts. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BNqQe7)

The once-popular presidents of Brazil and Chile have both seen their approval ratings plunge amid corruption scandals that have battered their center-left governments, according to polls released Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Hjxu0m)

The Brazilian army began to pull out of one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent slums on Wednesday, with police assuming responsibility for security in the area. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HjxDkn)

In addition to other forms of discrimination, lesbian and bisexual women in Cuba face unequal treatment from public health services. Their specific sexual and reproductive health needs are ignored, and they are invisible in prevention and treatment campaigns for women. (IPS http://bit.ly/1GhlZI3)

…and the rest

Turkish security forces on Wednesday shot dead a female assailant after she and an accomplice sought to attack the Istanbul police headquarters, as the city reeled from its second deadly shoot-out in two days. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Hjxy03)

A record number of migrants will drown in the Mediterranean this year if the current death rate remains unchecked, after 10 times as many migrants lost their lives during the first three months of 2015 as during the equivalent period in 2014. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1I5BvJt)

Trevor Noah, the South African comedian chosen to replace Jon Stewart as the new host of the late-night comedy parody, “The Daily Show” was feeling the heat on Twitter on Tuesday for past comments he made about Jews and women. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GhmaTY)

Opinion/Blog

A Human Rights Catastrophe is Unfolding in Yemen. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1MzY9gb)

The way we give disaster aid to poor countries makes no sense (Vox http://bit.ly/1Ca4bsk)

Trevor Noah is funny but he’s no Jon Stewart, South Africans say (Fusion http://fus.in/1Ca4jYN)

Where Do the World’s Hungriest People Live? Not Where You Think (Huffington Post http://huff.to/1InqNuv)

Nepal’s failed development (Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/19KV7U8)

Will Nigeria’s New President Live Up to His Country’s Promise? (CGD http://bit.ly/1DpYE86)

SDGs: The 169 commandments (The Economist http://econ.st/19KUtpE)

Key points in Buhari’s Nigerian election win (AFP http://yhoo.it/1GhfmFJ)

#Nigeriadecides: how Buhari’s election played out on Twitter (Guardian http://bit.ly/1I5B2Xu)

Syria pledging conference: Three key trends (IRIN http://bit.ly/1xzKgHP)

World Leaders Lack Ambition to Tackle Climate Crisis (IPS http://bit.ly/1GhlyxA)

Nigeria: Analyst Predicts Security Revamp After Buhari Victory (Deutsche Welle http://bit.ly/1xzO0Jo)

A Key Climate Deadline Passes. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1yCkduR)

Discussion

comments…

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East Asia and the Pacific: Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong

On February 2, Counselor Tom Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne led a U.S. delegation to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong in Pakse, Laos. The Friends of the Lower Mekong, a donor coordination group, came together with the countries of the Lower Mekong to discuss the connection between water resources, energy needs and food security. Accompanying Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne were representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy.

The health of the Mekong River is essential to the economic growth and sustainable development of the region. In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60% of the protein intake for the entire country. The river irrigates the “rice bowl” in Vietnam, where more than half of the nation’s rice production is concentrated in the provinces that make up the Mekong delta. In Laos, Thailand, and Burma, the Mekong is an important artery for transportation, a water source for aquaculture and agriculture, and a generator of electricity.

Meeting participants discussed the challenges of ensuring a future in which economic growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems. The meeting brought together senior officials from Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam alongside representatives from the United States, the Mekong River Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union, and the governments of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

At the meeting, the U.S. delegation announced several new initiatives, including the launch of USAID’s Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative (SMEI). Through the SMEI, the United Stateswill promote the use of alternative energy and low-emission technologies. The delegation also announced that the Department of State will organize and send a Sustainable Energy Business Delegation to the region later this year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will provide technical assistance on hydropower management. In conjunction, Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne announced that the State Department will contribute $500,000 in support of a Mekong River study on the impacts of hydropower on the community and environment.

The Friends of the Lower Mekong will also work together to strengthen the capacity of Lower Mekong countries to more effectively implement social and environmental safeguards such as environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental analyses. The U.S. government, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the Government of Australia plan to jointly develop a Regional Impact Assessment Training Center at the Asian Institute of Technology Center in Vietnam.

Under the auspices of the Lower Mekong Initiative the United States is continuing successful projects like Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) to provide technical assistance to the region on land and water use management, renewable energy, and infrastructure development. $1.5 million will be spent on SIM projects in the Mekong region this year.

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Secretary's Remarks: From a Swift Boat to a Sustainable Mekong

More than four decades ago, as a young lieutenant in the “brown-water Navy,” my crew and I journeyed down the Mekong River on an American gunboat. Even with the war all around us, in quiet moments we couldn’t help but be struck by the beauty and the power of the river — the water buffalo, the seafood we traded for with local fishermen, the mangrove on the sides of the river and inlets.

Long ago, those waterways of war became waters of peace and commerce — the United States and Vietnam are in the 20th year of a flourishing relationship.

Today, the Mekong faces a new and very different danger — one that threatens the livelihoods of tens of millions and symbolizes the risk climate change poses to the entire planet. Unsustainable growth and development along the full reach of the river are endangering its long-term health and the region’s prosperity.

From the deck of our swift boat in 1968 and 1969, we could see that the fertile Mekong was essential to the way of life and economy of the communities along its banks. In my many visits to the region since then as a senator and secretary of state, I’ve watched the United States and the countries of Southeast Asia work hand in hand to pursue development in a way that boosts local economies and sustains the environment.

Despite those efforts, the Mekong is under threat. All along its 2,700 miles, the growing demand for energy, food, and water is damaging the ecosystem and jeopardizing the livelihoods of 240 million people. Unsustainable development and the rapid pace of hydropower development are undermining the food and water needs of the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the river.

What’s at stake? In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60 percent of the country’s protein. In Vietnam, it irrigates the country’s “rice bowl” that feeds the fast-growing economy. Throughout the region, the river is a vital artery for transportation, agriculture, and electricity generation.

The Mekong rivals the Amazon for biodiversity. Giant Mekong catfish and the Irrawaddy dolphin are unique to the river, and scientists are constantly identifying new species of animals and plants across the delta. Some of these newly discovered species could one day hold the promise of new lifesaving drugs.

The challenge is clear: The entire Mekong region must implement a broad strategy that makes sure future growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water, and a healthy ecosystem. Pulling off this essential task will show the world of what is possible.

The fate of this region will also have an impact on people living far beyond it. For instance, U.S. trade with the Mekong region increased by 40 percent from 2008 to 2014. This trend has meant more jobs for Americans and continued economic growth for countries across Southeast Asia.

Meeting this challenge requires that we work with these countries to address very real development needs even as we work to sustain the environment. This requires good data for proper analysis and planning, smart investments, strong leaders, and effective institutions to manage the Mekong’s riches for the benefit of everyone in the region.

To that end, we joined with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, to launch the Lower Mekong Initiative. Its goal is to create a shared vision of growth and opportunity that recognizes the river’s role as an economic engine and respects its place in the environment.

That is why this week (Feb. 2 and 3) the United States and the government of Laos are co-hosting a major meeting of senior officials from the five lower Mekong countries, the United States, and the European Union in Pakse, Laos, where the Mekong and Xe Don rivers meet. They will be joined by representatives of the private sector and donors like the Asian Development Bank to work on a blueprint for a sustainable future.

At the meeting, we will launch the Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative, a plan to encourage the countries of the region to develop programs that will redirect their investments to innovations in renewable energy and other sources that do not harm the environment.

This is not a question of dictating the path of development in these countries. Rather, it is about the United States and other countries working alongside our partner nations to establish a consistent set of investment and development guidelines that ensure long-term environmental health and economic vitality all along the river’s path.

This partnership is an essential part of the broader effort by President Barack Obama and the entire administration to support the people of the Asia-Pacific region, and a further sign of our commitment to helping these vibrant economies and emerging democracies.

For Americans and Southeast Asians of my generation, the Mekong River was once a symbol of conflict. But today it can be a symbol of sustainable growth and good stewardship.

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Ebola: UN envoy says intense response needed for western Sierra Leone and Guinea-Mali border

9 December 2014 – The United Nations, working with its national and international partners to halt the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, is currently focusing attention on bringing down the high levels of transmission in western Sierra Leone and ensuring that cases do not cross the border from Guinea into neighbouring Mali, the UN Special Envoy on Ebola Dr. David Nabarro said today.

Dr. Nabarro also told a press conference in Geneva that the national response, with support from the international community “is right, is working, and real progress is being made.”

He later briefed by video link the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. and told members debating the response to the Ebola outbreak that he believed the needed capacity should be in place in the three most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of January next year.

Meanwhile, in a message to a special meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Ebola preparedness in Bangkok, Thailand, the head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Anthony Banbury, drew attention to the need for more international responders as part of the district-by-district strategy.

“We need logisticians, information management people, we need epidemiologists,” Mr. Banbury said. “In this war that we are fighting now, our most valuable soldiers are epidemiologists, people who can understand this disease, who can help us hunt it down, who can work in the villages and identify any new outbreak so that we can quickly respond and bring it under control.”

Back in Geneva, Dr. Nabarro, specified two areas of particular concern in the current battle to eradicate the Ebola in West Africa.

The first area of concern, Dr. Nabarro said, was western Sierra Leone, in particular, the capital Freetown, and Port Loko, where there are high levels of transmission and “a much more intense response” is needed.

He did say that some of the most experienced Ebola responders in the world were working in that area, together with UNMEER’s “Western Area Surge team,” the Government, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and partners to ensure there were enough beds and burial teams.

The UN envoy explained the logistical difficulty of staffing the Ebola treatment units with 300 beds that require some 300 people. The staff needed to change shifts every three to four hours because of the heat of the protective clothing, and each changeover was a dangerous moment, as was each interaction with patients, particularly with needles.

The second concerning area, Dr. Nabarro said, is the northern part of the interior of Guinea, known as Guinea Forestiere. “UNMEER is also working very closely with Mali to ensure cases do not cross the border and if they do, that they could be dealt with very quickly,” he said, noting that he had been working closely on that with the President of Mali, as well as with the UN peacekeepers stationed there.

On a positive note, Dr. Nabarro drew attention to a the N’Zerekore Treatment Centre in Guinea headed by a doctor from Niger, which he described as “a truly extraordinary” example of international, African and local cooperation, built with money from the European Union and constructed in 25 days of 24 hour shifts by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) with Red Cross volunteers and others there.

Stressing that “communities are at the heart of the response,” he said “You couldn’t do this without local community involvement.”

Dr. Nabarro said he is very pleased with the response from the UN family, as well as the global response. Regarding Africa’s response, he said African countries, small and large, have rallied their resources to fight the epidemic that has affected 17,800 people and left 6,331 dead.

About the kinds of people being sought in the response, he said that they are those with clinical skills to treat patients; with epidemiological skills to follow the disease and its progression; with anthropological skills to understand community challenges; and with managerial skills to ensure proper management of different parts of the response.

“All the people needed to be skilful teachers because increasingly the whole effort was to teach national personnel, medical and non-medical,” he said. “People who had worked on infectious diseases, particularly in developing countries, and people who could stay for three months or more, were particularly wanted.”

In his message to the ASEAN ministers meeting on Ebola preparedness in that part of the world, UNMEER’s Mr. Banbury referred to the experience of Southeast Asia with SARS and noted how “preparedness is absolutely essential to protect the citizens of those countries, to protect the economies and to protect the regions and the world as a whole.”

He also said what is lacking in the response are trained epidemiologists to work in the field, and he urged ASEAN countries to send health care works to fight Ebola in West Africa, saying that would not only help to quickly bring the outbreak to an end, “but it also helps spread critical experience and expertise that can be part of preparedness measures for the future.”

In Liberia today, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia launched the “Ebola Must Go” awareness campaign in the capital Monrovia, UNMEER reported.v

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EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

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EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

Román Escolano, EIB Vice-Président and Bhutan ‘s Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Dorji

08/12/2014

Rights Free

On Thursday 4 December, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term financing institution and Kingdom of Bhutan signed a Framework Agreement under which the Bank can start financing capital investments in the country.

The agreement was signed by the EIB Vice-President with special responsibility for the Bank’s activities in Asia, Román Escolano and his Excellency Lyonpo Namgay Dorji, Finance Minister of the Royal Government of Bhutan in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan.

The EIB is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and its shareholders are the EU Member States. Its remit is to make long-term finance available for viable projects in order to contribute towards EU policy objectives. Outside the EU, the Bank support projects that contribute to economic development in countries that have signed association or cooperation agreements with the EU or its Member States.

In Asia, the European Investment Bank has so far signed Framework Agreements with Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

The signing of the Framework Agreement represents the first step of the EIB to support development projects in Bhutan. EIB is cooperating closely with the European Commission and the EEAS, in support of the EU’s policy objectives in the country. In pursuing sustainable investments in Bhutan, the Kingdom of Bhutan and EIB already discussed potential projects in the country, namely in the areas of energy and water infrastructure.

The EIB has been active in Asia since 1993 under mandates granted by the EU Council and the European Parliament. During this period the EU bank has signed contracts in the region for a total of EUR 5.6 billion. On 1 July 2014 the EU’s new External Lending Mandate, covering the period 2014-2020, entered into force. Part of the current mandate is dedicated to Asia, enabling the EIB to finance operations that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation or the development of sustainable economic infrastructure. Additionally, the EIB can also draw on its own resources under the Climate Action and Environment Facility or the Strategic Projects Facility to finance relevant projects on a selective basis.

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And the Most Corrupt Countries Are…

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North Korea and Somalia, says the latest corruption perceptions index from Transparency International. “More than two thirds of the 175 countries in the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). Denmark comes out on top in 2014 with a score of 92 while North Korea and Somalia share last place, scoring just eight. The scores of several countries rose or fell by four points or more. The biggest falls were in Turkey (-5), Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda (all -4). The biggest improvers were Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (+5), Afghanistan, Jordan, Mali and Swaziland (+4). (TI http://bit.ly/1pUDLeX)

Desperate times….The World Food Program is resorting to crowd funding to feed 1.7 million Syrian refugees because our humanitarian system is broken (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12ngoPX)

Ebola

A health official says another Sierra Leonean doctor has tested positive for Ebola, the 11th from that country to become infected. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yPNhSc)

British actor Idris Elba and a host of international football stars launched a public awareness campaign on Wednesday to help halt West Africa’s Ebola epidemic and recognise the health workers fighting the deadly disease. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNOKGp)

To understand how Ebola came to Taylortown, how it spread in the village and how it eventually ended in the village is to understand how the epidemic might end in Liberia, and what will be left behind. (NPR http://n.pr/1pUEtZE)

Africa

Four Somalis were killed when a car bomb hit a United Nations convoy near the capital’s international airport on Wednesday, showing the threat still posed by insurgents despite their recent loss of territory. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPAvmB)

Kenyan trade unions have urged non-Muslim public sector workers including teachers and doctors to leave the country’s lawless northern region, site of two deadly attacks by militants in the past two weeks, because of the security risks. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPuW7U)

Lawmakers in Cameroon, which is battling to stop the advance of Nigerian Boko Haram militants on its territory, will vote in the coming days on whether to impose the death penalty on those found guilty of involvement in acts of terrorism. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNMCi4)

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday rejected prosecutors’ attempts to have the trial against Kenya’s president adjourned until they had enough evidence and set a week deadline to proceed or withdraw the charges. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNMUFH)

The UN-sanctioned military mission to Somalia, known as AMISOM, is taking on a new role after freeing much of the country from al-Shabab control. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNRaos)

A multilingual mobile phone-based resource operated by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Ethio Telecom, and created by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), has proved a huge hit. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1yPIkZw)

Presidential polls in Namibia have incumbent prime minister Hage Geigob of the ruling SWAPO party leading with 84 percent of the roughly 10 percent of votes officially released so far but the new electronic polling gizmos are leaving some Namibians skeptical. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNRXGc)

MENA

An Egyptian judge sentenced 185 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death on Tuesday over an attack on a police station near Cairo last year in which 12 policemen were killed. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPBgvW)

Syrian refugees across the Middle East, some in exile for a fourth winter, face freezing temperatures, hunger and increasing hostility from locals as governments struggle to cope with the humanitarian crisis. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPGrMu)

The United Nations has begun investigating Israeli attacks that hit UN facilities during last summer’s Gaza war and how Palestinian militants came to store weapons at several UN schools, officials said on Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNRfc3)

HRW urged Turkey on Wednesday to remove from its border with Syria landmines which have killed three people and wounded nine among more than 2,000 Syrian refugees camped in a minefield. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1pUAcFE)

Belgian legislators from the ruling coalition are working on a non-binding resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, adding to the groundswell of support within the European Union. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yNnvx3)

Asia

Research on a male birth control pill from Indonesia shows that it is 99% effective. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1yPBLGz)

Hundreds of people marched through the central Indian city of Bhopal Tuesday, waving flaming torches to commemorate the thousands who perished in the world’s deadliest industrial disaster 30 years ago. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNPYSd)

India is forcing women and girls with disabilities into mental institutions where they are “treated worse than animals,” said Human Rights Watch in a new report. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPFbZP)

The two top generals of the junta running Thailand on Wednesday defended the May 22 coup that ousted the civilian government but told international audiences in Bangkok they are committed to a return to democracy. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPH6h8)

It looks like Tajikistan is following a regional trend by drafting legislation that may sharply restrict the activities of foreign-funded non-governmental organisations. Activists say the bill threatens to hinder the operations of hundreds of organisations working on everything from human rights to public health. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNStnC)

Afghanistan will send a delegation to Iran to ask the government to extend temporary visas to allow 760,000 Afghan refugees who have no documents and risk deportation to stay on for at least a year, an Afghan government spokesman said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzB6H)

Afghanistan’s foreign donors should press the Afghan government to prevent a further deterioration in the country’s human rights situation and support services crucial to rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said. (AI and HRW http://bit.ly/1yNA7nQ)

The Americas

Venezuelan opposition leader faced questions from prosecutors Wednesday over her alleged involvement in what the government says was a plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yNpzFd)

Mayor of the Honduran municipality of Victoria, Sandro Martínez, assumed the commitment of turning it into a model of food and nutritional security and environmental protection by means of municipal public policies based on broad social and community participation and international development aid. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNS9VT)

Destruction of the Peruvian Amazon is rising after expanding over more than 145,000 hectares (560 square miles) last year – an 80 percent jump from the start of the century, the government said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1vNT2xx)

Afghanistan has the world’s highest number of children killed or wounded by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, followed by Colombia, according to a leading anti-landmine group. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzM21)

In the past 15 years, studies in Africa have found that circumcision lowers men’s risk of being infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. Being circumcised also reduces men’s risk of infection with the herpes virus and human papillomavirus. Those health benefits prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s proposed recommendation that doctors counsel parents of baby boys and teenagers, as well as men, on the benefits and risks of circumcision. (NPR http://n.pr/1yNt7XY)

Opinion/Blogs

Did the movement to reform development start above a Chipotle? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1vOyvZW)

The World Food Program is Crowdfunding to feed Syrian Refugees Because our Humanitarian System is Broken (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12ngoPX)

One Village’s Story: How Ebola Began And How It Ends (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1vOywgl)

#ISurvivedEbola Campaign Releases First Video (Global Voices http://bit.ly/1yPCUxH)

Why are people with disabilities being denied their right to food? (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1vNRnrT)

‘Why we need to end drug war’ (CNN http://cnn.it/1vNPziz)

How to make the developing world’s cities better … and it’s not just about money (Guardian http://bit.ly/1vNPHia)

Stand in Solidarity with Courageous Women’s Human Rights Defenders (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNRKm9)

Bob Geldof’s Band Aid – Thank You but Africa’s Image Is Sagging (The Independent http://bit.ly/1yNyEOp)

The ADB Says Poverty Is Rising in Asia: I Have My Doubts (CGD http://bit.ly/1pUGvJd)

Research/Reports 

Marleen Temmerman, director of the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said that a safe, effective vaccine exists to stop cervical cancer and that it’s advisable for girls age 9 to 13 to get vaccinated before they become sexually active. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPEAHF)

This year is on track to be the hottest on record, or at least among the very warmest, the United Nations said on Wednesday in new evidence of long-term warming that adds urgency to 190-nation talks under way in Lima on slowing climate change. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzJmJ)

Thousands of men, women and children fleeing war-ravaged countries face dreadful holding conditions and a dysfunctional reception system after risking their lives in smuggling boats to reach Greece’s Aegean Sea islands, an international medical aid organization warned on Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pUAXP4)

Developing nations called on the rich to do more to lead the fight against climate change in line with scientific findings that global greenhouse gas emissions should fall to net zero by 2100 to avert the worst impacts. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1yNsbmy)

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Second Ministerial Conference of the Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online

European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 30 September 2014

Second Ministerial Conference of the Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online

The Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online has been up and running since 2012. Concrete goals have been set and additional countries have joined forces, but the fight to eradicate the online exploitation of children is far from complete.

At the invitation of EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström and US Attorney General Eric Holder, global decision-makers are meeting in Washington for the second ministerial conference of the Global Alliance (30 September).

Ministers and representatives from participating countries, experts from law enforcement authorities, the private sector, victim advocacy groups and frontline organisations will assess how to expand the fight against global proliferation of child sexual abuse online.

The threat to young people posed by online sex predators is on the rise. Challenges are constantly evolving. Every time a picture of an abused child is shown that child is being abused, over and over again. The global alliance shows our collective willingness to fight this hideous crime, something we can only do by working together. Our collective promises must become a reality“, said Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström.

Together, thanks to the hard work of the Global Alliance countries, this important, life-changing work has enabled us to intervene to rescue numerous child victims suffering at the hands of abusers; to arrest and prosecute those who did them harm; and to begin the long process of healing for each one of these survivors,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “I have no doubt that this work will continue – and be amplified – by the work we’re discussing today.”

Child sexual abuse online is a crime that knows no borders. Child abuse images circulate easily across jurisdictions and perpetuate victimisation of children whose abuse is depicted and disclosed time and again. Child pornography offenders are increasingly operating in international online groups that use sophisticated technologies to frustrate the efforts of law enforcement who investigate their crimes. Different laws and policies across jurisdictions represent a challenge for law enforcement.

This is why international cooperation is crucial and why commitments under the Global Alliance aim to improve victim identification, prosecute perpetrators more successfully, increase awareness and reduce the number of child sexual abuse images available online.

Progress achieved and future potential actions under the Global Alliance will be discussed at the conference. A first report summarising the commitments that participating countries have undertaken in order to reach the four political targets has already been issued.

At the conference the Commission will also hand-over the secretariat and presidency tasks of the Global Alliance to the US authorities.

Background

On 5 December 2012, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström together with US Attorney General Eric Holder launched a Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online (IP/12/1308 and MEMO/12/937).

From 48 countries initially, the Global Alliance currently consists of 54 countries: the 28 EU Member States, Albania, Armenia, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Canada, Costa Rica, Georgia, Ghana, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, South Korea, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Serbia, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and United States.

The countries of the alliance are committing themselves to a number of policy targets and goals (Declaration on the Launch of the Global Alliance and Guiding Principles), notably:

  • enhancing efforts to identify victims and ensuring that they receive the necessary assistance, support and protection;

  • enhancing efforts to investigate cases of child sexual abuse online and to identify and prosecute offenders;

  • increasing children’s awareness of online risks;

  • reducing the availability of child pornography online and the re-victimization of children

Useful Links

Cecilia Malmström’s website

Follow Commissioner Malmström on Twitter

DG Home Affairs website

Follow DG Home Affairs on Twitter

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“Regional integration and global developments – a view from the European Union”

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

“Regional integration and global developments – a view from the European Union”

World Economic Forum

Istanbul, 29 September 2014

Dear Prime Minister, Mr Ahmet Davutoğlu,

Dear President,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to get this opportunity to address you all and to give you a view from the European Union on the issue of regional development and global developments, after the meeting of minds you’ve had over the last two days. Indeed I believe that regional development can also come from further developing such bonds between regional leaders and stakeholders.

When we discuss the challenges facing the European Union and the wider region today, it is important to bear in mind the starting point: that the European Union as such is precisely a project meant to overcome the divisions of the past and deal with those challenges. That European integration was always meant to be, and will always need to be, a tool to help its member countries face the issues they cannot successfully face alone. That bringing Europe as a region together is the only way to protect our interests and defend our values in a rapidly evolving world. And that the same logic of regional integration and increasing cooperation is at the heart of what the European Union does both internally and internationally, especially with its immediate neighbours.

That is as true today as it was when European integration took off after the Second World War.

That is where our lasting commitment to regional integration comes from.

Because then, and now, when times change, institutions need to change as well. So let me briefly recall what the current pace of change we are facing means for our governance at global and regional level. I will then try and highlight how I see the need for the world order to adapt itself to these new challenges. To conclude, I will say a few words on EU-Turkey relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we speak, times are changing drastically, in some cases even dramatically. The rate of technological progress is unprecedented, global economic integration is rapidly expanding, issues like climate change and international migration are affecting all of us.

Trade flows and supply chains cross borders with increasing ease, information travels globally and decision-making centres are spread across the globe as well. So political decision-making and cooperation must rise above national borders too. The political mind-set needs to evolve as well.

One of the main questions of our times is whether or not we succeed in adapting our governance institutions to such a changing, complex and challenging global environment, and how. Governing structures need to evolve to support more dynamic societies, empower them get the most out of the opportunities that globalisation offers in terms of jobs, travel, knowledge and innovation, education and exposure to new ideas. They also need to shield them from some of the harmful effects of globalization like the growing threat of increasing international terrorist networks. Institutions are there to support us, and they need a certain flexibility to be able to do so.

This is particularly true in times of change and crisis, when hard questions are asked of governments everywhere. Around the world, we now see a triple gap of confidence widening: a gap between markets and states; between states amongst one another; and last but not least between governments and the governed. As a result, political institutions and economic systems across the world are under pressure.

This is, let’s be clear, not a “European” or “Western” issue.

True, in democracies such gaps show easily. But this is not – as some would have it until a few years ago – a problem aggravated by democratic openness. The legitimacy question is a fundamental one everywhere, and indeed democracies are better suited to deal with such issues than the ‘pressure cooker’ model of undemocratic or less-democratic systems. Our openness, the accountability of our political structures and the diversity inherent in our model of society, is what allows us to be more flexible and to adapt better to changing environments.

But for that to happen, we need leadership and we need cooperation.

That is why events such as this one organised by the World Economic Forum can really make a difference.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let’s be honest: today, our governance systems are in many cases sub-optimal.

Few would deny that we struggled to deal with the global financial crisis. In many ways we had to improvise and the creation of the G20 – I will come back to it in a moment – was a clear illustration that our governance models needed to adapt to a totally new situation. Indeed, a lot of what we have done since the financial crisis, most obviously in the European Union but beyond as well, was trying to remedy the defects of our financial and economic governance systems.

Even fewer would deny that the ongoing war in Syria or the emergence of a totally new form of terrorism in the region, to take only these examples in the current international turmoil in the Middle East, are showing the inadequacy of some governance systems. And the actions taken by the United Nations, as well as the support given by countries around the world including in Europe, are a necessary effort to deal with the situation collectively.

As a result of systemic defects or delay, we must also admit that there is some popular scepticism about both regional and global governance systems. This could, in the longer term, undermine them. Sometimes, they are seen as over-powering and interfering – as you can note from emotional protests against the World Trade Organisation, for instance. At other times, they are damned as ineffective – as if often claimed of the United Nations. And indeed, they may even be criticised for being both – which is sometimes the case of criticism of the European Union, that some criticise because it is too intrusive in Member States’ competences; others because it does not rely on sufficient coherence of Member States’ action. Such criticism may or may not be true, but it undoubtedly underlines an increasing need for greater legitimacy in our institutions, as well as enhanced effectiveness.

The regional dimension is part of that effort.

There is frequently a gap also between regional and global decision-making. Global bodies such as the UN and the WTO explicitly recognise the desirability of regional input and support – but the truth is that we have no established model or mechanism for how this should take place. In some cases the gap between global and regional decision-making is widening. A clear example is the relative stasis of the WTO agenda compared to the proliferation of regional or bilateral trade deals.

Besides, interdependence and interconnectedness are evolving fast, but the dynamic propelling us towards a “global village” and shared decision-making is confronted by that of a world which seems to be drifting apart. The renewed claim for identity at subnational or local level can sometimes be seen as a threat to the Nation State model, potentially leading to greater fragmentation. Globalisation has shortened the distances but has not erased differences in political and social models and has sometimes even exacerbated them. Today, we live not just in economic, scientific and technological competition with each other, but also in a broader geo-political competition of models of governance. Differences seem harder to bridge – at a time when the need to bridge them is much greater.

On top of that, the dynamic of divergence between East and West, North and South, seems set to continue. It is no exaggeration to say that power and influence are shifting, but I do not necessarily consider this as a “loss of power” of the West – I see it as part and parcel of truly global integration, which, if implemented according to some values and principles, can be a true win-win situation for the different players in our world.

In concrete terms we have seen challenges to the post-war bodies, on which global governance was based, such as the UN, the IMF and World Bank. A certain amount of complexity may be part of the new reality, but new competing institutions could further complicate regional and global governance. So the real question in my view is: do we want to focus on cooperation and collaboration or on competition?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Against this backdrop, how do we see the world order shifting and adapting itself?

A first, major development which I already mentioned is the emergence of the G20 in response to problems of global economic governance.

The economic liberalisation, and therefore also: the economic interdependence that has been so spectacular and successful over the last two decades came under threat as soon as the financial crisis erupted. The need for openness and for a global response was more obvious than ever before, namely by collectively resisting pressures of naked and ugly protectionism. But that in itself was not enough to bring it about, because the temptation to go it alone and try to survive the crisis by ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ policies was very strong. We simply had to step up our common engagement.

I vividly remember when French President Sarkozy, then holding the rotating Presidency of the European Council, and myself went to Camp David in October 2008 in order to try to convince President George W. Bush to join our call to act against the crisis in a concerted and convincing way. This led to the G20 in its current format, at Heads of State or government level, and the hugely important effort to globalise the response to the crisis at that stage. Since then, the G20 has become the only truly global forum for coordination of economic policies between its members, giving concrete shape and form to a lot of the concepts that the European Union has brought to the table, for instance on a framework for balanced and sustainable growth, on financial regulation and supervision or on action against tax evasion and fraud.

The development of the G20, from which Turkey is a member and will hold its next presidency, is a constructive and an institutional response to the problems we face together. As such, it is one of the most significant transformations of the global system – in the short term probably the most important one – and its creation certainly helped to avoid much more negative scenarios that might well have happened without it.

A second, major test for global governance is climate change, on which we had an important UN Summit in New York last week where I had the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our times. It ignores borders, disrupts societies, undermines development and destroys our global commons. It is by its very nature a problem we can only face together. At the same time, climate change also presents an opportunity to reinvent our economies in a cleaner, leaner, greener and more efficient way. But we, the international community, can only grasp this opportunity and defend our shared planet if we show courage, vision, determination – and unity.

The European Union has been and remains at the forefront of efforts to address climate change. In 2005, we created the world’s first and largest carbon market with the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). In 2008, we set the most ambitious targets for domestic emissions’ reductions, renewable energy and energy savings under our 2020 framework. This ambition is paying off. The European Union is on track to meet our targets.

And we try to lead by example in the future as well. The European Commission has proposed an ambitious reduction target of 40% of domestic emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, plus a renewables target of at least 27% and energy savings of 30%.

So, the European Union will be ready to agree a comprehensive, global and binding climate treaty at the end of next year in the Paris Summit. And we urge those countries with the greatest responsibilities and capabilities to get ready as well. Climate change is probably the most obvious example of the need for stronger global governance.

At the same time, we must also assist the most vulnerable countries, many of which are less able to take action on climate change, but who nevertheless suffer the consequences. For that reason, over the next 7 years, the European Union aims to allocate more than €3 billion in grants to support sustainable energy in developing countries. This will leverage between €15 and €30 billion in loans and equity investment, to plug gaps in energy infrastructure and businesses, to power schools, homes and hospitals in a sustainable manner. In total, Europe will provide €14 billion of public climate finance to partners beyond its borders over the next seven years.

We need to keep up the momentum on climate action, and foster a true coalition of all stakeholders, not just governments and international organisations but business leaders, financial institutions, and civil society. This concerns us all.

A third, major evolution in global governance is the increasingly dense web of trade agreements that spans the globe – not least around the European Union’s free trade agreements.

This too is a case of rules and institutions following economic reality, while shaping it at the same time. Open trade needs to go hand in hand with a rules-based system and a level playing field for all nations, citizens and companies, otherwise its effectiveness and legitimacy will suffer gravely.

Over the last five years, Europe was able to conclude a new generation of deals with South Korea, Singapore, Colombia, Peru, Central America, and Canada; we finalised economic partnership agreements in Africa, with West Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC); we resumed negotiations with the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur); we launched important negotiations on free trade agreements (FTAs) with Japan, India, Vietnam and Thailand, and on an investment agreement with China. And we took the unprecedented step to start negotiations with the United States of America on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). All this shows clearly: the European Union as the world’s largest trading block remains open for business. The crisis has not prompted us to pull up the drawbridges – on the contrary.

Now, we have always made it clear that this system of deeper bilateral ties, for us, is a second-best option. Indeed, we have only resumed bilateral and regional negotiations once it was regrettably but unmistakably clear that a multilateral trade deal encompassing the whole of the WTO membership was not forthcoming because some of the most important players were not ready for a global agreement. And in the EU we have made sure that our bilateral agreements, all of which go much beyond what would be possible multilaterally, are building blocks and not stumbling blocks for the multilateral trading system. It is a good example of pragmatic policies of bilateral and regional integration adding up to a race to the top, instead of a race to the bottom.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since we are here in this historical and great city of Istanbul, let me conclude with some words about Turkey – a country that I respect and admire so much – and also about Turkey-EU relations.

EU-Turkey relations are almost as old as the EU itself! We are close partners – and it is absolutely critical that we sustain and deepen this partnership. I think both Europeans and Turks understand this shared interest very well.

The EU is Turkey’s central trade and investment partner. In 2013, 41.5% of Turkish goods exports went to the EU and 36.7% of all imports of goods came from the EU. The great majority of all foreign direct investment in Turkey comes from the EU. With the customs union, Turkey has access to the biggest internal market in the world. Also, I believe that adopting the EU acquis – as required by the agreement – encourages and facilitates investment in Turkey.

Turkey has gone through tremendous changes over the past ten years. The most spectacular change obviously concerns the economy: thanks to a series of difficult but smart reforms after the big crisis of 2001. Turkey has become a much wealthier country, with a 5% annual growth on average, entered the G-20 club and qualified as a functioning market economy, one of the economic criteria for EU accession.

Turkey has also made progress in its alignment with the EU legislation even if we consider that the picture is mixed as regards the political criteria.

Let me stress that the EU stands by Turkey’s reforms. I have to say that Turkey is the biggest recipient of pre-accession assistance from the EU – it benefited from €4.8 billion in the period 2007-2013. For the next programming period 2014-2020 Turkey will benefit from around €4.5 billion. Strategic priorities include support to political reform and democratisation, including rule of law and human rights, social development and social inclusion, development towards a resource-efficient low carbon economy, increased inter-connectivity, and progress towards alignment with the EU.

We welcome the fact that the new Government has tabled its EU Strategy, which is intended to reinvigorate Turkey’s work on its European path. We would like to see this clear European commitment on the Turkish side. On the European side, I would like very much to see new chapters open as soon as possible, in particular chapters 23 and 24.

So, Turkey is and remains a key partner for the EU. This has been repeated many times by the Council of the EU and by the Commission, and I’m sure this will again be one of the central messages of the upcoming Progress Report.

Take any major challenge we are faced with – from the economic crisis and energy security to migration policy or terrorism – Turkey appears as a strategic partner for the European Union and as part of the solution. Not to mention of course Turkey’s crucial role in its neighbourhood – which is also the EU’s neighbourhood. The way Turkey has so far offered shelter to a million of Syrian refugees and recently to Kurdish refugees is very impressive. But to be able to tackle all these challenges, Turkey strongly needs the EU, too! We are bound to succeed together. There is also a large, untapped potential for cooperation between us. This ranges from foreign policy to counter-terrorism, the economy, trade, energy, migration policy and the visa dialogue.

I know there are some, both in the EU and in Turkey, who have doubts about EU enlargement. But let me tell you I am convinced EU enlargement will continue because a bigger Europe is a stronger Europe.

In 2012, EU GDP was 23% of world GDP, amounting to €13 trillion while our share on the global population is just 7%. Accession benefited both those countries joining the EU and the established member states.

Enlargement extended the internal market, opened trade and financial flows and created new opportunities for businesses and companies to firms in the EU and in the incoming countries. Trade between old and new member states grew almost threefold in less than 10 years preceding the 2004 and 2007 enlargements and fivefold among the new members themselves. Central and Eastern Europe grew on average by 4% annually in the period 1994-2008. It is estimated that the accession process itself contributed almost half to this growth over the period 2000-2008.

The economic dynamism of these countries generated three million new jobs in just six years from 2002 to 2008. Growth in the acceding countries contributed to growth in the old member states through increased investment opportunities and demand for their products. It contributed 0.5 percentage point to cumulative growth of EU-15 in 2000-2008. German exports to the 12 countries that joined in 2004 have almost doubled since then, totalling €124.5 billion last year.

These figures speak for themselves. EU enlargement was and is a good thing for Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Government structures are stubborn things.

But facts, as we know, are even more stubborn.

So we need to be ready to change the way we work when faced with new realities, in order to better serve and protect our citizens.

In a world where threats and opportunities are ever more global, I am confident we will find solutions that transcend the traditional boundaries of politics as well.

Pragmatism and conviction will overcome all pessimism. After ten years at the helm of the European Commission, I can say that this is not wishful thinking. This is simply the lesson I draw from all what was achieved to overcome the worst part of the financial and economic crisis, as well as to face new global challenges.

Thank you very much.

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FACT SHEET: The Equal Futures Partnership – Commitments and Progress to Expand Women’s Economic and Political Participation

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

September 22, 2014

THE PROMISE OF EQUAL FUTURES

In response to President Obama’s challenge to other heads of state to break down barriers to women’s economic and political participation, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Valerie Jarrett launched the Equal Futures Partnership on behalf of the United States in September 2012. 

The Equal Futures Partnership is an innovative multilateral initiative that encourages member countries to empower women politically and economically.  Equal Futures partner countries commit to taking actions including legal, regulatory, and policy reforms to ensure women lead and benefit from inclusive economic growth, and that they fully participate in public life.

Equal Futures partners include Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Multilateral stakeholders including UN Women and the World Bank and leading businesses and non-profit institutions also support the Partnership.

Commitments to Action

Each country participating in the Equal Futures Partnership works closely with key stakeholders in their countries, including civil society, to identify policy and program priorities.  They then set achievable goals as commitments within the Partnership, exchange best practices and lessons learned, and report on progress.

This year, Chile, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have joined the Partnership.  Highlights from new member commitments include the United Kingdom’s efforts to accelerate its work to tackle the gender pay gap, address the problem of workplace discrimination, promote female entrepreneurship, and increase the number of women in leadership positions both in the corporate world and in other important decision making positions.  They will also work to give women the opportunity to talk directly to policymakers to make their concerns heard.

Partners continue to advance in the implementation of their commitments – for more information on progress visit here.

Support from Multilateral Partners

To advance the goals of the Equal Futures Partnership, we collaborate with multilateral partners to help countries strengthen and implement their efforts.  The World Bank Group, host of the second high-level Equal Futures meeting, will continue to work with Equal Futures partners to identify opportunities for collaboration in the advancement of women’s rights in each country and to support implementation of country commitments, through technical assistance, advisory services, and financing, where appropriate.  The Bank will disseminate lessons learned on effective programs and initiatives, drawn from impact evaluations, the gender innovation labs, and other bank led partnerships, which can inform the efforts of Equal Futures partners.  UN Women will work with the Equal Futures Partnership in the areas of economic and political empowerment and ending violence against women through technical advice, knowledge and capacity development, facilitating and sharing of best practices, and supporting implementation of commitments at the country level.  UN Women will use its Knowledge Gateway to disseminate experience coming from the Partnership.

JOINING THE PARTNERSHIP

Countries committed to promoting women’s political and economic participation are welcome to join the Equal Futures Partnership.  Government representatives and other interested stakeholders may email EqualFutures@state.gov for more information.

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Press Releases: U.S. Engagement in the 2014 ASEAN Regional Forum

On August 10 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, Secretary of State John Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the 21st Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), an annual gathering of foreign ministers and senior officials representing 26 countries from Pakistan to the Pacific Rim, and the European Union. The ARF is the region’s main foreign minister-level forum for promoting security, and this year it addressed pressing political and security issues including: maritime cooperation in the South China Sea and diplomatic solutions to decrease tension among claimant states; concerns over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear program and human rights situation; the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza; and regional cooperation on issues ranging from cyber-security to nonproliferation to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). The ministers adopted statements on cooperation for offshore oil spill incidents and maritime and aeronautical search and rescue.

The ARF ministers also endorsed ARF activities held during the past year and approved over 20 proposed activities for the coming year. These activities cover several key security areas, including: preventive diplomacy; maritime security; disaster response; counterterrorism and transnational crime; and nonproliferation and disarmament. The United States is actively engaged in all areas and is committed to working through the ARF to shape a rules-based order that is stable, peaceful, open and free.

Preventive Diplomacy

A top priority for U.S. engagement in the ARF is advancing the forum from a body focused on confidence building to one capable of preventive diplomacy. Preventive diplomacy refers to timely, non-coercive and peaceful methods consistent with international law to deal with disputes and conflict.

  • In March, the United States, Brunei, China, and New Zealand hosted a Roundtable on Training Resources for Preventive Diplomacy in Wellington, New Zealand that established a foundation for future preventive diplomacy training in the ARF.
     
  • Building on momentum from the Wellington roundtable, the United States with support from the United States Institute of Peace will partner with China, New Zealand, and Thailand to hold a preventive diplomacy training course later this year.
     
  • Leveraging regional think tank and academic expertise is important to the development of an effective, comprehensive approach to regional preventive diplomacy. To this end, the United States will co-chair with New Zealand and Thailand a Preventive Diplomacy Symposium to facilitate the exchange of ideas between governmental and non-governmental experts on how best to implement preventive diplomacy training in the ARF.
     
  • The United States submitted input to the ARF Annual Security Outlook, which provides a comprehensive outline of U.S. regional security policies and capabilities in the region, to encourage full transparency in military resources and strategy among ARF members.

Maritime Security

With over 40 percent of the world’s seaborne trade flowing through the Asia Pacific, maintaining open sea lines of communication and ensuring freedom of navigation and other lawful uses of the seas are critical for regional security and stability. As a Pacific nation, the United States continues to prioritize maritime security cooperation through the promotion of freedom of navigation, international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and unimpeded lawful commerce.

  • In May, the United States, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea hosted the Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security in Bali, Indonesia, concluding a three-year co-chairmanship. The agenda focused on building confidence and sharing best practices on safety of navigation, maritime search and rescue, and combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Participants also exchanged views on pressing maritime security issues in the region, including concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea, where tensions have risen over disputed territorial and maritime claims. The United States will continue to encourage greater multilateral cooperation through increased transparency and confidence building as it continues its co-chairmanship of the Maritime Security ISM for another three years, partnering with Japan and the Philippines.
     
  • The United States, through a partnership with Brunei, China, Japan, and Singapore, promoted positive maritime cooperation through two marine environmental protection workshops that focused on offshore oil spills, leading to the ARF Ministers’ Statement on Cooperation.
     
  • The United States will also co-chair a seminar next year on counter-piracy with Japan, Malaysia, and India, that will address challenges faced by coastal countries in addressing piracy and armed robbery in Asia.

Disaster Relief

Seventy percent of all natural disasters occur in the Asia Pacific, costing the region $68 billion annually over the past ten years. Through continued, dedicated efforts, ARF participants have made considerable progress in the area of disaster relief, taking lessons learned, including from the recent super typhoon Haiyan, and working to improve the capabilities of ASEAN’s Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre).

  • The United States has participated in three ARF Disaster Relief Exercises (DiREx), including as co-chair in 2009. In order to strengthen regional cooperation and improve regional disaster response, the United States will continue robust participation and support for DiREx in 2015, led by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and supported by U.S. Pacific Command and other U.S. agencies.
     
  • Climate change is a complex strategic driver with significant economic, societal, and political implications. Initiatives to adapt to a changing climate are already underway in the Asia Pacific, including in the ARF, where the United States and Brunei will co-chair a climate change adaptation workshop to build regional awareness and capacity to address this challenge. The United States is also working with Singapore and Vietnam to promote the use of renewable fuels within the U.S.-Asia-Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership.
     
  • The United States is working with Australia and Malaysia to develop a multi-year strategic exercise plan for the region’s various HA/DR bodies and mechanisms—namely the ASEAN Committee on Diaster Management, ARF, the ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting Plus and the East Asia Summit— to prepare us to better coordinate delivery of life-saving relief in future disasters.

Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime

The ARF addresses four core areas in its work on counterterrorism and transnational crime: illicit drugs; cyber security; counter-radicalization; and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) issues. The ARF is making efforts to improve collaboration among regional governments to address these issues:

  • The United States is working with Singapore to conduct the next in a series of cyber workshops focused on developing confidence building measures for the region. As national security interests are increasingly tied to cyberspace, the development of confidence building measures that facilitate increased transparency, greater cooperation, and improved capacity within the region is essential to reducing the risk of future conflict.
     
  • The ARF Cross-Sectoral Security Cooperation on Bio-Preparedness and Disaster Response project, led by the United States and the Philippines, is a series of workshops and activities designed to implement the best practices approved by the 20th ARF. ARF participants can draw from their best practices to develop their respective national guidelines and enhance regional capacity for preparedness and collective response to a biological event .
     
  • This year the United States, Indonesia, and Myanmar will host a workshop on migration and human security to strengthen regional knowledge and capacity to address the human security challenges of migration and to promote the benefits of legal, safe, and orderly migration.
     
  • The United States and Malaysia will co-chair a workshop on mitigating demand for illegal wildlife trafficking in the Asia Pacific. Wildlife traffickers have become increasingly well-armed and organized, and what was once small scale or opportunistic killing has escalated into the coordinated slaughter of endangered and protected wildlife commissioned by terrorist organizations and organized crime syndicates. This joint U.S.-Malaysian effort will complement wildlife trafficking-related activities planned in APEC and other fora, as well as the work of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

Nonproliferation and Disarmament

The ARF is the premier regional venue for multilateral cooperation on nonproliferation and disarmament issues through tangible capacity building programs and open discussions to coordinate efforts and build common understanding.

  • The United States partnered with other members to institutionalize the discussion on nonproliferation and disarmament issues in the ARF and to develop a work plan that promotes balance for the three central pillars of the global nonproliferation regime: preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and advancing global disarmament efforts.
     
  • This year, the United States, the European Union, and Singapore will host a technical workshop on nuclear forensics.

Space Security

Capitalizing on the first ARF space security workshop, the United States, Indonesia, and Japan will lead a workshop to explore the benefits of space assets for ASEAN states, address current issues facing the space environment, and assess approaches to space security to ensure the benefits for future generations.

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