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U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: What To Expect

Over 50 African countries will be represented in DC next week for the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit. The high-level gathering, which will bring together presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers from a majority of African nations, and will be a unique opportunity to deepen and widen the U.S.-Africa relationship on a number of fronts.  Here are a few key areas to watch during next week’s summit:

Economic partnership at the forefront

The agenda for the summit is heavy on the business and trade discussions, reflecting a particular interest and focus of the Obama administration on growing the economic ties between the U.S. and Africa. Hosted by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Bloomberg Philanthropies head and former Mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg, the U.S.- Africa Business Forum, held on August 5, will bring together some serious political and economic heavy-weights – from former president Bill Clinton and vice-president Joe Biden, to the CEO of Coca-Cola, Mastercard and the head of the World Bank, the star-studded day-long event is central to next week’s summit. As the United States seeks to expand its commercial presence on the continent, the outcomes of this forum will be interesting to watch.

One of the key trade topics will likely be whether the “seamless renewal” of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), promised by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 will go through as promised. Granting preferential access to U.S. markets for African countries, this key trade agreement between the U.S. and Africa has been at the core of economic policy towards the continent for the last 14 years, and is set to expire in 2015. Analysts are calling for Congress to act and renew this agreement, a call which is likely to be reprised by summit participants in DC next week.

Peace and security 

The U.S. security agenda in Africa has been driven primarily by dealing with transnational threats across a vast east-west swath of the continent, primarily the Sahel region but also extending deeply into eastern Africa. Terrorism and radicalism rank high in the list of priority areas for U.S. engagement on security issues in Africa, but dealing with trafficking and other shadowy networks has also been a key preoccupation. The U.S. has also been involved as a peace broker, with somewhat limited success, in places like South Sudan. Part of the difficulty with advocating an agenda of peace and security at a multilateral government summit is that many of the governments represented at the Summit are parties to the violent conflicts that have been rocking the continent – these are sensitive topics that do not lend themselves well to drilling down in such high level, highly political forums. At most, we should expect to see some basic, lowest-common-denominator language about a commitment to peace and security. Conflict and security experts are not holding their breath for any significant or new commitments from the Obama administration on security issues.

Human rights

There has been much chatter about how the lack of civil society participation in the Summit – despite the last minute decision to include a civil society forum on the first day. It is unsurprising that human rights, democratization and fundamental freedoms are not high on the agenda. Indeed, similarly to peace and security issues, these thorny topics often shine a light on some of the less savory policies, practices and behaviors of some African governments. The We Are Africa campaign managed to get the civil society forum on the agenda, which was an important accomplishment. But, as John Kerry’s relative silence on freedom of expression during his recent trip to Ethiopia – immediately after journalists had been jailed without charges – demonstrates, human rights issues take a back seat to trade and economic ties.

The U.S.-Africa Summit is the capstone event of the Obama administration’s engagement with Africa. It is long overdue – indeed, most other key global economic actors have already been engaging with African leadership at similar summits for years.

African Leaders' Summit Graphic from the Brookings Institute: http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/africa-in-focus/posts/2014/06/17-us-africa-leaders-summit-pugliese-westbury-sy

African Leaders’ Summit Graphic from the Brookings Institute:

Summit watchers will be looking for concrete commitments on the expansion of trade and economic ties. While civil society concerns with regards to civil and political rights seem to be overshadowed, business owners and private sector actors – on both sides – will be paying close attention to the promises and outcomes of the summit.

Rights | | Leave a comment
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Gaza Ceasefire Falters. Is there a Plan B?

That did not last long. A ceasefire announced last night in a joint statement by John Kerry and Ban Ki Moon crumbled after four hours. The details are still murky, but it seems that Hamas has captured an Israeli soldier.

The ceasefire was brokered by the United Nations special representative in the region, Robert Serry. He is a career diplomat, originally from the Netherlands, who has served as the UN’s “special coordinator” for the Middle East peace process since 2007. (He’s a well known trouble shooter. A few months ago, he traveled to rebel occupied Crimea where he was briefly kidnapped by separatists).  The ceasefire, while it lasted, called for 72 hours of calm in which humanitarian relief organizations in Gaza could be resupplied and families could begin to assess the damage to their homes in Israel and Gaza.

This kind of humanitarian pause is central to the international community’s strategy for securing a longer ceasefire agreement. As John Kerry put it, ““by stringing together enough temporary periods of quiet … there might yet be a way for the Israelis and the Palestinians to begin talks on a long-term solution.”  The idea is that a humanitarian pause in the fighting, perhaps for 72 hours, could give both sides some breathing room and space to negotiate a more durable ceasefire.

This is now the second time in one week that this tactic has failed. The question going forward is whether or not to try again or find another approach?

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WHO Ups the Ebola Ante

The head of the World Health Organization is meeting with the presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in Conakry to launch a new, $100 million plan to curb the Ebola outbreak. Meanwhile, those three presidents are skipping the African Leaders Summit in DC next week to focus on the outbreak. “The Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan in West Africa identifies the need for several hundred more personnel to be deployed in affected countries to supplement overstretched treatment facilities. Hundreds of international aid workers, as well as 120-plus WHO staff, are already supporting national and regional response efforts. But more are urgently required. Of greatest need are clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilization experts, logisticians and data managers. The plan also outlines the need to increase preparedness systems in neighbouring nations and strengthen global capacities.” (WHO http://bit.ly/1k9U44w)

For his podcast, Mark talks to a WHO official who explains why this particular outbreak has been so difficult to contain. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1zz8YVN)

A Ceasefire in Gaza? A joint statement from Ban Ki Moon and John Kerry announces a new humanitarian pause: “This humanitarian cease-fire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place. We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian cease-fire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the cease-fire. This cease-fire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.” (State Dept http://1.usa.gov/1rO46aX)

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Africa

About $100 million of funding is needed from international donors to pay for food-security programs in the Sahel, the UN has warned, as more than 20 million people continue to face shortages. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1zzrY6v)

The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has risen to 729, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday, after 57 deaths were reported between July 24 and 27 in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zzqQ2T)

The World Health Organization is not recommending any travel restrictions or border closures due to the Ebola outbreak and there would be a low risk to other passengers if an Ebola patient flew, the airlines association IATA said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zzqWYc)

Nigerian forces have arrested two Boko Haram suspects who were travelling with a 10-year-old girl with explosives strapped to her, the government said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/Xk3XT4)

Agricultural experts say that small-scale farmers in Africa can play a key role in ending food insecurity in the region – if they are included in the value chain. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xk5ZCR)

Standard Chartered Plc has pledged a further $3 billion to the White House initiative- Power Africa, which was aimed at improving access to electricity in Africa. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1zzxcze)

Coffee growers, dealers, experts and farmer organizations in Cameroon are all piling blame on faulty government policies dating back to the early 1990s and calling for renewed subventions to farmers. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zzyRVs)

A renowned economist, Kwame Pianim, says Ghana is facing a major economic crisis since the dark days of the economic recovery efforts of the 1980s. (Ghanian Chronicle http://bit.ly/1rMUwEZ)

MENA

Islamic hard-line militias, including the group accused by the United States in a 2012 attack that killed the ambassador and three other Americans, claimed control of Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, after overrunning army barracks and seizing heavy weapons. (Denver Post  http://dpo.st/1rO7kuS)

A senior diplomat from the Philippines is flying to north Africa to supervise the evacuation of 13,000 citizens from Libya after a Filipino worker there was beheaded and a nurse gang-raped. (BBC http://bbc.in/1rO6MVX)

Food price rises as far back as 2008 are believed to be the partial culprits behind the instability plaguing Arab countries and they have become increasingly aware of the importance of securing food needs through an international strategy of land grabs which are often detrimental to local populations. (IPS http://bit.ly/1zzzONm)

The White House said Thursday there’s little doubt Israeli artillery hit a United Nations school in Gaza, a deadly incident that a spokesman called “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1rMUFbI)

Asia

The mammoth task of auditing eight million votes cast in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election will restart on Saturday, the electoral commission said on Thursday, but disputes still hang over the process. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zzz4YS)

From Vietnam to Burma, the leading drug against malaria is losing potency, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. On the plus side, the same issue of the journal reports that a new antimalarial drug looks promising in an early test. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xk6vRo)

Thailand’s military government this week approved a $23 billion, eight-year plan to upgrade the national railway system, marking another effort to boost and reshape the economy. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xk7kJV)

A UN official who went to Vietnam to assess religious freedom there said Thursday that security agents closely monitored his visit and people he wanted to meet were harassed and intimidated. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zzug5L)

Nepal’s May 2014 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act ruled out amnesty for rape during the country’s decade-long civil war that ended in 2006 with 16,000 dead and more than 100,000 displaced. However, despite this provision, activists say survivors of war-time sexual violence will hit a wall if they try to file their cases now. (IRIN http://bit.ly/XkeNsp)

The Americas

Venezuela is gearing up to pass a new law to combat discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, in a country where the epidemic claims nearly 4,000 lives and infects 11,000 mainly young people every year, including increasing numbers of women. (IPS http://bit.ly/1zzrmhe)

Argentina blames the US for its default, calling the mediator in debt negotiations which ended in failure “incompetent”. (BBC http://bbc.in/Xk4LHB)

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zzsVfa)

A key committee of the World Bank’s governing board Wednesday spurned appeals to revise a  draft policy statement that, according to nearly 100 civil-society groups, risks rolling back several decades of reforms designed to protect indigenous populations, the poor and sensitive ecosystems. (IPS http://bit.ly/Xk4x3p)

Opinion/Blogs

Who is going to pay for international development? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1zzs4uQ)

Research/Report

Five years ago, delivering food aid was all about hauling cargoes of wheat, rice and maize around the world. Today, instead of queuing for rations, recipients are quite likely to be given the means to buy their own food. As the cash transfer sector matures, IRIN spoke to experts to discuss the latest innovations and lessons learned. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1zzA674)

Investing in nutrition through agriculture (IFAD http://bit.ly/1zzrcGP)

The effects of climate change on children (UNICEF http://bit.ly/1zzre1o)

New research shows urbanization may be bad for people’s health, unless planners develop cities that allow healthier lifestyles and environments. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xk5uc0)

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SG; Security Council; Middle East

SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire.  Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.

Security Council: Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl briefed the SC this morning on Gaza. Amos reported the efforts of UN agencies such as UNRWA, WFP, WHO, and UNICEF, but noted that the relief effort is stretched and called for daily humanitarian pauses as well as additional funds from Member States to provide adequate assistance. Via teleconference, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General noted that UNRWA was in dialogue with Israel and is expected to conduct an investigation into the attack on yesterday’s school attack.

Middle East:UNRWA Commissioner-General also briefed the press today from Gaza expressing UNRWA’s condemnation of the attack on a UN school yesterday as a violation of international humanitarian law. He noted that eight UNRWA staff members have been killed in the conflict and 220,000 people remain displaced in UNRWA’s 85 schools. He also highlighted that humanitarian assistance is difficult in conflict areas and as more people continue to be displaced, aid will reach a precipice and the occupying power will have to assume responsibility to assist those in need.

Iraq: Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq expressed concern over rising levels of violence in Iraq and called for unconstrained humanitarian access to deliver assistance to the 1.4 million displaced this year.

Ebola: Ebola cases in West Africa have reached 1,323 with 729 deaths. The number of individuals infected has increased in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and Liberia’s government also announced that it is closing down its schools across the country to stop the spread of the virus. Despite the epidemic, WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions and continues to work with the Sub-regional Ebola Outbreak Coordination Center and is launching a $100 million plan to control the Ebola outbreak.

Argentina: As Argentina faces its second default in 13 years, the SG expressed that his foremost concern is for the Argentine people as he hopes the impact on the people will be as small as possible. Argentina’s economic situation raises questions about the sovereign debt restricting process to be addressed by Member States in further discussions.

DGACM: The SG appointed Catherine Pollard of Guyana as Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management.

UN Direct | Leave a comment
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This Ebola Outbreak is So Hard to Contain. Here’s Why

Ebola is spreading out of control in west Africa. More than 600 people have died, with the outbreak spread across three countries…and counting. There have been ebola outbreaks in the past, but this one is unlike anything the international health community has experienced. Why is this outbreak so hard to contain? What are local and international health workers doing to contain the outbreak? Why is it spreading? And what needs to be done to put it under control? I speak with Gregory Hartl of the World Health Organization in Geneva who answers these questions and more.

Have a listen!  And if you are interested in twice-a-week podcast episodes about global affairs, subscribe on iTunes. 

 

Previous episodes

Episode 27: Daniel Drezner, counter-intuitive wonk

How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire

Episode 25: Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, USA. Long-time AIDS-Fighter

How Humanity is Winning the Fight Against AIDS

Episode 24: Joseph Cirincione, Nuclear Policy Wonk 

A Migrant’s Story: Why are So Many Children Fleeing to the USA?

Episode 23: Live from the UN 2014 (Volume 2); A special edition with a slew of UN officials.

Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

 

Podcast | | Leave a comment
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Cholera Comes to Cameroon

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Cholera Comes to Cameroon…”A cholera epidemic has hit northern Cameroon, killing more than 200 people in less than a month. The government of the central African nation and aid agencies say some of the affected persons are refugees fleeing the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram.” (VOA http://bit.ly/1n32XYF)

Ebola Watch

In the midst of a national doctors’ strike, Nigerian authorities are now working to prevent an outbreak of Ebola, after the country’s first patient died last week. (VOA http://bit.ly/1uH23ef)

Nigerian health authorities are in the process of tracing more than 30,000 people who could be at risk of contracting Ebola, after the virus surfaced in Lagos. (VOA http://bit.ly/1uH4Tjg)

The 39-year-old doctor leading the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone has died from the virus. The country’s chief medical officer says Dr. Umar Khan died Tuesday afternoon. (VOA http://bit.ly/1uH4cXb)

Britain on Wednesday held a top-level government meeting to discuss the spread of the highly-contagious Ebola virus in West Africa, saying the outbreak was a threat it needed to respond to. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1uH9BgQ)

Africa

Ugandan activists opened a petition Wednesday at the constitutional court seeking to overturn tough anti-gay laws that have been condemned by rights groups as draconian. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zvwwe0)

The controversial South African politician Julius Malema has released a book entitled The Coming Revolution. The book and political ambitions of the young militant is causing worry within political circles. (VOA http://bit.ly/1uH1W25)

PEPFAR, the biggest funder of HIV programmes in Kenya, is set to significantly scale down its funding, a move activists and government officials believe could negatively affect the country’s fight against the disease. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1n3d8MJ)

Girls and young women who allege they were sexually abused by a British Airways pilot in African schools and orphanages plan to sue the airline, a law firm representing them said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1uHb4nB)

Human rights and gay rights activists urged President Barack Obama to ensure that the issue of anti-gay discrimination in Africa is on the agenda at next week’s summit in Washington with more than 40 African leaders. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/Xft4Xo)

MENA

Lebanese authorities have started to enforce new measures that would limit the number of Syrians entering Lebanon as part of efforts to reduce the more than one million refugees from the war-shattered nation already within their borders. (VOA http://bit.ly/1uH5em3)

After days of fighting, Islamist groups in Libya have seized the headquarters of the Libyan special forces in the eastern city of Benghazi. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xfq25d)

Asia

More than 150 people are feared trapped after a landslide swept through a village in western India. Officials in Maharashtra state said the mudslide buried at least 40 homes in a village near Pune early Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1uH4Pjy)

A United Nations-backed tribunal has begun the second trial of the two surviving senior members of the Khmer Rouge. (VOA http://bit.ly/1n35P7O)

The effort to end polio is taking a toll on Pakistan’s already overstretched health system. With more children dying of measles and diarrhea, some question whether the focus on polio is worth it. (NPR http://n.pr/1n37fzo)

Health workers in Pakistan are trying to convince parents to let their children take a vaccine, but the program faces violent opposition. Researchers from Harvard polled the parents; the results surprised them. (NPR http://n.pr/1uH5zW3)

The Americas

Argentina is in default, says S&P. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1u1rHpU)

A US federal appellate court rejected arguments that women could seek abortions outside the state, saying no state can farm its constitutional duties out to its neighbors. (NPR http://n.pr/1uH5wt5)

The US imposes travel restrictions on Venezuelan government officials it says are linked to human rights abuses during recent protests. (BBC http://bbc.in/1zvyU4E)

Opinion/Blogs

Why I have become more pessimistic about Israel (Vox http://bit.ly/WN2Qvt)

“But they have a space programme!”: untangling the foreign aid debate (New Statesman http://bit.ly/1uH11Pm)

How to End the Gaza War (IPS http://bit.ly/1uH5GAK)

Somalia Food Shortages Worsened By NGO Policy and Anti-Terrorism Laws (African Arguments http://bit.ly/1zvze3s)

Diving Into The Challenge (850 Calories http://bit.ly/1uHlraM)

Is cash king? The revival of the cash versus food transfers debate (Impact Evaluations http://bit.ly/1uHn6NK)

Letters Left Unsent (book review) (Aidnography http://bit.ly/UBzZsd)

Why I think the fatality rate in the current Ebola epidemic suffers from undercounting (haba na haba http://bit.ly/1uHnUCl)

Watch the men who harvest cocoa try chocolate for the first time (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/UBAEK2)

Research/Reports

The United Nations is calling for an end to Human Trafficking as it marks the first World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The plan focuses on preventing trafficking, prosecuting offenders and protecting victims. It calls on states to set up national programs that implement these measures. (VOA http://bit.ly/1n36Bll)

A “pretty good” malaria vaccine is on track to be the first to market. It only prevents infection about one-quarter to one-half the time, so it’s not as good as most vaccines. (VOA http://bit.ly/1n35x0F)

New study shows ‘what works’ in terms of operational leadership in humanitarian agencies (ALNAP http://bit.ly/1n36V3y)

Sharply higher interest rates around the world could combine with weaker growth in emerging markets to slice as much as 2 percentage points off global growth in the next five years, the International Monetary Fund said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/XfrPrb)

 

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