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ICSU paper on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published by Nature

Getting to Know the “Sustainable Development Goals”

The Millennium Development Goals are expiring in 2015 and they will be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a big year for international development–and humanity — as complex diplomacy is underway at the United Nations to finalize what’s called the “Post 2015 Development Agenda.”

Here with me to discuss the process of creating the Sustainable Development Goals, the substance of those goals and the key points of contention is Minh-Thu Pham of the United Nations Foundation. This is a super helpful discussion for anyone who cares about international development, global do gooder and diplomacy. Have a listen!


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General Assembly hall

And the Newest Members of the Security Council Are…

Update: Turkey lost to Spain in the third round of voting.

The General Assembly is holding elections today to replace five permanent members of the Security Council. The two year terms of Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Korea, Rwanda are expiring. They will be replaced by other members of their regional group. This means that there are two seats open for Africa and Asia, two seats open for the WEOG (Western Europe and Other Group) and one seat for Latin America.

This election would be a bit of a snoozer if not for the fact that Turkey is running in a competitive election for a seat.

The Latin American countries decided amongst themselves to nominate Bolivia for their one seat; and the African and Asian countries nominated Angola and Malaysia for their two seats. This means there’s one competitive election: Turkey, New Zealand and Spain are vying for the two seats being vacated by Luxembourg and Australia. (A candidate needs the support of two thirds of the General Assembly in order to win the seat.)

In practice this means the real drama will be whether or not the General Assembly wants to select a frontline state to the Syrian conflict as a battle rages just a mile from Turkey’s border in the Kurdish town of Kobane. And the answer is…

Now, both Turkey and Jordan — two of the countries arguably most affected by the Syria crisis — will now serve on the Security Council in 2015. In practice this may not change much. So long as veto-wielding members USA and Russia remain at loggerheads, the ability of the UNSC to determine the course of this conflict and its resolution will be limited.

But one area where this might affect outcomes is on the question of Palestinian statehood. Mahmoud Abbas is trying to gin up support for a Security Council resolution that would set a deadline for the two state solution and Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Turkey would almost certainly be one more vote in favor of this measure.

The USA is opposed—and could veto it if it needed to. But the USA would very much like to avoid having to cast a veto, which would be diplomatically costly and embarrassing. One way to avoid a veto is by lobbying the other member states to vote against or abstain from the measure. If a Security Council resolution fails to gain 9 affirmative votes, it fails. This is precisely what happened in 2011, during the last big push by Palestine at the Security Council. The measure failed to get the requisite 9 votes (they were one shy), so the vote never occurred and the USA was saved from casting a veto.

This drama will unfold again this year at the UN Security Council. With Turkey on the council, the USA is more likely to face the uncomfortable decision of whether or not to cast a veto–which, in effect, could be read by many as a veto against the two state solution, which is a policy the USA adamantly supports. So again, this could be very awkward and damaging the US credibility on the Arab-Israeli conflict and possibly undermine foreign policy priorities elsewhere.  

Bottom line: these elections matter!

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Shoddy Infection Controls in Texas

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As word comes of a second American health worker is infected with ebola, there’s news that the Dallas Hospital did not implement recommended safety measures, suggesting that even more hospital workers may be at risk. ”Health care workers treating Thomas Eric Duncan in a hospital isolation unit didn’t wear protective hazardous-material suits for two days until tests confirmed the Liberian man had Ebola — a delay that potentially exposed perhaps dozens of hospital workers to the virus, according to medical records. The 3-day window of Sept. 28-30 is now being targeted by investigators for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the key time during which health care workers may have been exposed to the deadly virus by Duncan, who died Oct. 8 from the disease.” (Dallas Morning News

Liberia health worker strike is over…for now… “The strike is over, according to all the health workers of the Republic of Liberia. Our concern is the people of Liberia.  We do not want the people in Liberia to be at risk. Because of this, all the health workers, we met today and we decided that we are going to cut off the ‘go-slow’ to listen to the international community to see how best they can come in and try to provide better incentives for the health workers of the Republic of Liberia,” said Joseph Tamba, president of the National Health Workers Association. (VOA

Quote of the Day:  “The kind of threat [ebola] poses to the American way of life essentially makes it the North Korea of peanut allergies.” –barely parody from Teju Cole in the New Yorker


As thousands of U.N. staff volunteer to work in Ebola-stricken countries in Africa, the Staff Union has called for safety measures to protect personnel on the ground. (IPS

Good on Tanzania, which said it willgrant citizenship to some 200,000 refugees from neighbouring Burundi, a move hailed by the UN refugee agency. (AFP

Experts from around the world are certain that climate change is playing a major role in the difficulties hundreds of thousands of African farmers are experiencing. (IPS

A senior official in Rwanda’s reconciliation process is calling on South Sudan to apply lessons on how Rwanda came back from the dark days of the 1994 genocide, in particular the system of the gacaca courts. (VOA

Nigeria’s government has promised to protect schoolchildren. It has been six months since 200 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram and Nigeria’s northern states continue to live in fear. (Deutche Welle

Sluggish courtrooms, swamped clinics and parents forgoing food are becoming the norm as Ebola opens cracks in Sierra Leonean society. (Guardian

Two principal recipients of malaria grants in Nigeria have been implicated in fraud and financial irregularities, following an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, and have committed to returning some $350,000 to the Global Fund. (GFO


The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said on Wednesday he had asked the European Union to grant legal entry to more Syrian refugees who are risking their lives trying to reach Europe illegally by sea. (Reuters


Thailand’s interim prime minister, who seized power in a military coup, suggested Wednesday that the country’s next elections may not occur until 2016, although he earlier set a target date of October 2015. (AP

Sri Lanka on Wednesday banned foreigners from a former battle zone, the government said, weeks after the United Nations began an investigation into alleged war crimes in the final phase of a 26-year conflict between the army and separatist rebels. (Reuters

Lawmakers here are urging President Barack Obama to put transparency in the extractives sector at the centre of an upcoming trip to Myanmar. (IPS

Organizers say concern about the spread of the Ebola virus is expected to impact attendance at China’s largest international trade fair, which kicks off Wednesday. (AP

The Americas

From January to September of this year an estimated 230 migrants died trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. (VOA

Brazilian police shut down an illegal abortion ring in the Rio de Janeiro area, arresting 47 people including doctors and police officers. (BBC

Fidel Castro has reprinted a New York Times editorial calling for the end of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. (AP

President Dilma Rousseff and Aecio Neves, her challenger in a tight election contest, engaged in a bare-knuckle debate that saw the pair trade accusations of corruption and fiercely argue over who could rekindle Brazil’s economy. (AP

Scores of children have been rescued in a raid on a sex trafficking ring in Colombia, including an 11-year-old girl allegedly sold for $1,000. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced that they found 55 minors and arrested 12 people on Saturday. (VOA

The CDC is putting more resources into helping hospitals prepare and handle Ebola patients. This, after a nurse treating Ebola patient Thomas Duncan in Dallas became infected with the virus. (NPR


This map shows all the countries where voting is mandatory (GlobalPost

South Africa: As World Food Day Approaches, One in Four S. Africans Are Hungry (SACSIS

Study Confirms 13,000 Dead in Boko Haram Conflict (Africa Check

Top-Notch Impact Studies On Development ‘On the Rise’ (SciDevNet

Hiring Reform at WHO (Center For Global Development

Too young to watch. Old enough to get married. (Duval Guillaume

Do African Union Governance Reviews Work? (all Africa

Women in Tanzania set for equal land rights – let’s make sure it happens (Guardian

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Malawi WFP ant-stunting program

Not on A-1: Stopping Stunting in Malawi

Stunting occurs when a child does not receive proper nutrition in her first months and years of life. The child does not grow properly, intellectually or physically. This can have wide ranging social consequences and perpetuate cycles of poverty. Combating stunting through providing education and access to proper nutrition is therefore one key way that the international community and local partners are fighting extreme poverty. This video from the World Food Program in Malawi shows one way that’s being accomplished.

It’s a good news story for a bad news cycle!


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A WFP food voucher WFP/Challiss McDonough

This Does Not Bode Well For Afghanistan

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Funding shortfalls have forced the World Food Programme to cut rations for up to a million people in Afghanistan, an early sign that aid money may dwindle as the international combat mission winds down. They need $30 million to close the gap. “We have had to cut down the rations of the people we are assisting, just so that we can buy some time so we don’t stop altogether,” said country director Claude Jibidar.” (Guardian

The Rich Keep Getting Richer…The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, according to a Credit Suisse report which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession. “Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,” said the annual report, now in its fifth year. (Guardian

Rather discouraging news on ebola…The death rate in the Ebola outbreak has risen to 70 percent and there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week in two months, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday. (AP

Legitimately encouraging news on ebola…The WHO may declare the outbreak over in Nigeria and Senegal in the coming week, demonstrating that traditional epidemeological methods to contain the outbreak can work, (UN Dispatch

Quote of the Day: “He is really the first World Bank president who thinks of the bank as being primarily about relief rather than development,” — Bill Easterly, from an otherwise glowing article about Jim Kim. (NYT


MSF says that despite promises from various countries to help stem the spread of Ebola, to date, few pledges have translated into concrete action on the ground. (VOA

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has exposed major gaps in development aid, prompting a rethink of the balance between building health systems and tackling specific diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. (Reuters

France said it agreed to set up new treatment centres for Ebola in Guinea after the United States asked for further assistance to fight the deadly epidemic in West Africa. (Reuters

The US and UN leaders called for “more robust” international efforts to tackle Ebola, after medics in Liberia demanded danger money to treat patients in what officials termed the worst health crisis of modern times. (AFP

The head of the United Nations’ Mali mission is to quit to take up a new job as the Netherlands’ foreign minister, the Dutch government said on Tuesday, opening up a vacancy in the west African nation at a time of growing instability. (Reuters

Mozambique’s upstart opposition vowed to take on the two traditional political heavyweights by offering a non-violent alternative in polls taking place this week amid low-level conflict. (AFP

German hospital says UN medical worker infected with Ebola in Liberia has died. (AP

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. (VOA


War against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq threatened on Tuesday to unravel the delicate peace in neighbouring Turkey after the Turkish air force bombed Kurdish fighters furious over Ankara’s refusal to help protect their kin in Syria. (Reuters

Shiite rebels who recently overran Yemen’s capital on Tuesday seized control of a key port city on the Red Sea and a province south of Sanaa in a stunning new blitz that is certain to deepen the country’s turmoil, security and military officials said. (AP

The U.N. chief visited Gaza on Tuesday to give a push to international reconstruction efforts following a devastating summer war, saying the destruction was “beyond description” as Israel allowed the first shipment of construction materials to enter the coastal strip since the fighting ended in August. (AP

Despite a highly-symbolic British vote to recognize Palestine as a state, the road to official recognition is still fraught with obstacles, experts say, with the hoped-for two-state solution a long way off. (AFP

In Zarzis, a small port city of some 70,000 in southeastern Tunisia, fishermen plying the Mediterranean have become inadvertent saviours, rescuing boatloads of illegal migrants to Europe setting out from the shores of Libya. (IRIN


Inspectors hired by a group of Western clothing brands found 80,000 safety problems at all the Bangladesh factories they visited as part of an initiative launched after a building collapse last year killed more than 1,100 workers. (GlobalPost

Despite worsening U.S.-North Korean relations, an American charity is ramping up efforts against an epidemic of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the isolated country, where it says it is making inroads in fighting the deadly disease. (AP

Thai authorities have arrested two men charged with human trafficking, police said on Tuesday, following the discovery of 134 suspected victims in southern Thailand at a time when the military government is under international pressure to tackle the crime. (VOA

The Americas

Bolivian leader Evo Morales says he will not run for a fourth term as president in 2020, as exit polls suggest he has been re-elected for a third time. (BBC

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck late on Monday off the coast of El Salvador and Nicaragua and was felt across Central America, killing at least one person, but there were no immediate reports of major damage. (Reuters

One of Colombia’s most violent cities is successfully using science to combat crime. (BBC

Corruption and tax evasion are flagrant violations of human rights in Latin America, where they contribute to inequality and injustice in the countries of the region, according to studies and experts. (IPS


Why I am Afraid of the African Disease of Ebola (Africa is a Country

With Ebola Crisis Looming, Where is the Surgeon General? (Global Information Network

The majority of Burkinabé favor progressive change on gender rights (Africa is a Country

We can no longer ignore Ebola’s wider impact particularly on women (Guardian

Cuba’s Aid to Ebola-Hit Region Overlooked (SACSIS

Does the introduction of ambulances improve access to maternal health services in rural Ethiopia? (Development Policy

Money Transfer via Twitter Coming Soon (CFI

The Guardian view of new thinking on global inequality

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Image credit Samaritans Purse

Some Good News On Ebola

First, the bad news. As of today, there’s been 8,914 cases and 4,457 reported deaths from ebola. There is no evidence that the outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia are coming under control. “It’s still moving geographically and it’s still increasing in capitols,” said Bruce Alyward, the WHO’s point person on Ebola response in a briefing to reporters this morning. So long as the outbreak is out of control in these countries, we can expect more imported cases elsewhere in the world, both the countries bordering the affected countries and here in the United States.

But even as the outbreak metastasizes in those three countries, the WHO is preparing to declare the outbreak over in two other West African countries: Nigeria and Senegal

Ebola was first brought to Nigeria by a sick Liberian on July 20. Nigeria’s patient zero resulted in twenty infections and eight deaths in two cities: Lagos and Port Harcourt. In late August, an infected student from Guinea brought ebola to Senegal. He survived and did not infect anyone else.

The incubation period for this ebola virus is at most 21 days. The WHO will declare an outbreak over 21 days after the last high risk exposure–which includes health care workers treating an infected patient. So, for the WHO to declare an outbreak over requires rigorous monitoring over 42 days with no new cases detected.

If no new cases emerge in Senegal, that 42 day period will be reached on Friday. And if no new cases emerge in Nigeria, the WHO will declare on Monday that the outbreak is over in Nigeria. In both instances, contact tracing, palliative care and rigorous infection controls have stopped the outbreak. This demonstrates that traditional epidemiological strategies to contain the outbreak can work, even in resource poor settings like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It’s just a matter of getting the resources and political to scale up the response. Therein lies the rub.




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