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Commission on Status of Women Takes on Gender and Climate Change

Climate Change and gender are often treated as distinct and separate issues by policymakers in and out of the UN system. But there is more and more evidence that the two are interrelated in profound ways. As the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) wraps up in New York this week, attendees turned their attention to the relationship between climate change and gender equality.

Anna Falth, Manager of the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment of UN Women tells UN Dispatch that the nexus of climate and gender begins with unpaid care work.  It seemed like a tenuous connection at best, but there is a logical progression.  Falth explained that women are often the ones taking care of the home.  In places without reliable or affordable electricity and running water, hours of their days are spent fetching firewood for cookstoves and going to the nearest well. This type of unpaid care work also gives women little to no time for formal education or income generating activities.

Another less direct, but increasingly important, component of how climate change is a women’s rights concern is the changing labor market.  Falth says that women cannot “be bogged down by unpaid care work not taken care of by public services.”  It results in a vicious cycle.  Those very ‘public services’ that would lighten the burden of unpaid care work, including providing cleaner water, improved sanitation, and access to affordable utilities, are fields that require formal technical training and education of the variety the women do not have the time or opportunity to pursue.  UN Women has illustrated it quite clearly here.

Liane Schalatek, Assistant Director of Heinrich Boell Foundation North America, explained to UN Dispatch that the other component of the gender-climate nexus is a common development issue, financing. She says “climate change solutions could be discriminating” particularly in Africa because “gender dynamics of food procurement and distribution both within households and markets” and the unpaid care work economy are not often taken into account.

There is hope, however, with the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a financial mechanism set up to address and fund the outcomes of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Schalatek explains that the GCF has a “gender-specific mandate” so there is “no take it or leave it” when considering women’s rights in deciding on climate change solutions.

Of course, the gender consideration will come after the GCF accepts the pledged funds from member countries, which is what Schalatek says is “the larger, over-arching challenge.”  She notes that GCF is in the process of developing specific indicators to measure gender-sensitivity. As a result of their last Board meeting, much of the funds look like they will be allocated to adaptation, which seems to be the area most crucial to gender equality (because the majority of subsistence farmers are women).

In observing CSW58, one of the more basic problems in recognizing the nexus of climate change and gender equality is that women’s rights groups and climate change activists often operate in silos. Out of the 200 events at CSW58, only a few address the environmental concerns highlighted above – a cause for concern as climate change will disproportionately affect the more vulnerable populations.

Photo Credit: Woman farming near Timbuktu, Mali. UN Photo/Marco Dormino

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Top of the Morning: Grave Warning on Anti-Muslim Violence in CAR

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UN Rights Chief Issues Grave Warning on Anti-Muslim Violence in CAR

Some 15,000 muslims are stuck in enclaves in Bangui. “Thousands of Muslims in the Central African Republic remain in danger of being slaughtered despite the presence of international peacekeepers, Navi Pillay, the United Nations human rights chief, warned on Thursday, criticizing the international community for a slow and inadequate response to the country’s humanitarian catastrophe. Massacres that killed thousands in December and January have halted for the time being, but ‘inter-communal hatred remains at a terrifying level as evidenced by the extraordinarily vicious nature of the killings,’ Ms. Pillay said in a statement delivered in the capital, Bangui, at the end of a two-day visit. “This has become a country where people are not just killed, they are tortured, mutilated, burned and dismembered.” (NYT

Thousands of Migrants from North Africa Rescued at Sea

Most of the refugees are trying to make it to Europe via Libya. “Italian authorities say they have rescued more than 4,000 would-be migrants at sea over the past four days as the war in Syria and instability in Libya spawn new waves of refugees. The numbers of migrants reaching Italian shores generally rises this time of year as warm weather and calm seas make the Mediterranean Sea crossing from North Africa easier. But the U.N. refugee agency said the numbers so far in 2014 represent a 300 percent increase over the same period in 2013.” (AP

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Albert González Farran, UNAMID

Why There’s a New Outbreak of Violence in Darfur

Violence has re-ignited in Darfur in recent weeks, with civilians continuing to bear the brunt of the complex relationships between paramilitary forces and other armed groups.

Over 500,000 that have been forced to flee their homes over the past year as violence has aggravated.  Armed groups and paramilitaries that had been receiving funding, training and arms from the government in Khartoum are seeing that support dry up due to a stagnating Sudanese economy.  The armed proxies and other bands have subsequently split off from the government, forming various new factions that are now wreaking havoc on civilian territories in Darfur. These added layers, including inter-Arab fighting over land and resources, has caused the once isolated conflict to raise the ire of greater Sudan.

Last Wednesday U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, referred to one of these militias, the Rapid Support Forces, that are unleashing terror on the people of Darfur. The Rapid Response Forces are reported to be one of the paramilitary forces that had received money, training and weapons from the government that are now creating chaos.”We condemn the most recent attacks in South Darfur by Rapid Support Forces supported by the Government of Sudan,” she said in a  statement. ” Continued violence in the region, including recent clashes in North Darfur … has displaced approximately 120,000 people since January.”

Sudan lost the majority of its oil revenues after South Sudan’s secession in 2011. Since then, the country’s economy has adulterated, with a steady rise in inflation and unemployment. These economic troubles have added to the already crackling tensions in a war-torn nation.

Last week, Sudanese police killed a Darfuri Arab student from the University of Khartoum who was participating in a protest over the Darfur bloodshed. In the past the people of Khartoum have not heavily mobilized around the conflict. The student’s burial became a political affair, with chants of ”Revolution is the people’s choice!” Sudanese police teargassed numbers of demonstrators at the burial. Immediately following last week’s events, the University of Khartoum was closed indefinitely.

Though ICC-indicted President Bashir has called for a “national dialogue,” it seems that the economic slide, which has led to divisions in the once unified government ranks, is further splintering the already fractured nation. More violence, not less, is likely in Sudan’s future.

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What the MH370 Mystery Tells us About Southeast Asian Politics

MH370 has gripped the imagination of the world, knocking the Crimea and Venezuela off TV screens and fostering wide-spread international speculation, as well as a search that now involves twenty-six nations. But what does the continuing saga mean for Southeast Asian politics, a fractious affair at the very best of times?

The most obvious source of international friction over MH370 is — not surprisingly — between Malaysia and China. Out of the Beijing-bound jet’s 239 passengers, 152 were Chinese, giving China a particularly stake in the political game.

China and Malaysia do massive amounts of business together, with China as Malaysia’s top trading partner, and increasingly prosperous (if inequal) Malaysia serving as China’s third-largest Asian market. An October 2013 “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two nations hopes to bump bilateral trade to a healthy $160 million by 2017. 

Malaysia is home to a considerable population of ethnic Chinese, representing 24.6% of the total population of 28.3 million, per a 2011 census. Political policies favor the Muslim Malay majority and work to keep Chinese and Indian political hopefuls out of government jobs, a state of affairs that increasingly sits poorly with largely urban minority groups. 

The Malaysian government’s continuing failure to locate the jet, as well as it’s less than inspiring attempts to placate grieving family members, are likely to do little to improve the deeply important relationship between China’s leadership and their Malaysian counterparts.

Certainly, many Malaysian business leaders dependent on international trade and warm foreign relations are hoping that a resolution to this long, embarrassing nightmare will be forthcoming soon.

Indonesia has also come into conflict with Malaysia over the missing and highly public jet, deciding on March 18th not to give clearance for three countries to fly six foreign flights over its airspace. The planes remained on the ground in Malaysia, while Indonesian officials claimed that they required clearance from three different governmental agencies to permit the aerial search to continue.

Thailand, too, has received some regional flak for waiting so long to divulge its own radar knowledge of the progress of MH370. Thailand waited ten days to release radar data that may have showed the mystery flight just prior to its communications shutdown.

Thai leaders claimed that they didn’t offer the information because Malaysia hadn’t bothered to ask, raising eyebrows across the region.Numerous observers noted that the information about the flight’s likely path overthe Straits of Malacca might have proved exponentially more useful when the plane FIRST went missing.

Vietnam, for its part, has conducted itself und-ramatically, lending a hand to the continuing hunt in conjunction with other nations. It now looks unlikely that MH370 crashed over Vietnamese airspace or over land as was first suspected, instead heading towards the Straits of Malacca. It’s a revelation that has doubtlessly relieved Vietnamese leadership.

Finally, politics within Malaysia itself are being stained by the continuing hunt, as disgruntled Malaysians claim that the rest of the world now can see for themselves the dysfunction of the Southeast Asian nations leadership — and its lack of accountability and organization when things go wrong.

One thing is clear: everyone in the region desperately wants the plane to be found, before tensions over an errant jet and a highly-scrutinized international incident intensify. The regional failure to communicate and disagreement over how best to handle the MH370 disappearance reflects a deeply fractious relations between many ASEAN’s members.

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Copyright: WFP/Elio Rujano

Top of the Morning: Extreme Drought in Haiti

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Extreme Drought in Haiti

 Poor rains are forcing an extreme drought that is threatening livelihoods and causing food insecurity. “A drought is causing an extreme emergency in northeast Haiti, wiping out sorely needed crops and livestock, an official said Tuesday. Pierre Gary Mathieu of the government’s National Coordination of Food Security told The Associated Press that the eight-month-long drought in the region has caused the loss of two harvest seasons. It will take the area six months to recover.”  (AP

UN Aid Convoy Set to Enter Syria Via Turkey For First Time

Some NGOs have been using this route, but this is the first time that UN convoy, and one this large, will access Syria via Turkey. “A U.N. convoy of about 80 trucks is ready to cross the Turkish border into Syria for the first time, aid officials said Wednesday, in a step they hope will pave the way for humanitarian access to the country’s most desperate areas. The convoy became possible after the U.N. Security Council last month unanimously called on Syrian authorities and rebels to allow prompt access for humanitarian supplies across front lines and borders by the most direct routes. Last week, Syria granted its approval to the opening of the border crossing and sources said Turkey had also now given the delivery the go-ahead.” (Daily Star

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What are the “Best Buys” in Global Health?

What are the most crucial areas for investments in global health over the next five to ten years? That question was put to 1,500 international health and development professionals in a survey conducted by Devex, in partnership with the global health NGOs PSI and PATH (disclosure).

The results reveal a strong preference for investing in programs and projects that strengthen the infrastructure of health care systems. 63% of the respondents prioritized health systems strengthening as a key area for investment. The survey also revealed that 60% of global health experts believe that improving the ways that health care is delivered is the best strategy to strengthen health systems.



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It is telling that those on the frontlines of global health prioritize strengthening health systems–over, say, investing in new technologies and medicines to confront specific diseases. You can watch some of these experts, including some from the United Nations and partner organizations, discuss the implications of this finding and what they believe is a #BestBuy4GH. The livestream begins 3PM EST.

You can read the results of the survey in detail via PSI’s Impact Magazine.


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