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Top of the Morning: Kurdistan’s Economic Declaration of Independence

Iraq’s Kurds are making moves.For sale: One million barrels of crude oil. Attractive discount offered. Currently sitting off Moroccan coast.That’s what the Iraqi Kurds are offering potential buyers, much to the fury of the government in Baghdad. It amounts to a declaration of economic independence, fraying the already tattered ties holding Iraq together. Here’s how it works:The Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG, deals with oil exploration companies independent of the central government. Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total are among the companies working in Iraqi Kurdistan. The crude produced there goes through a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan in the Mediterranean. Then it’s loaded onto tankers and floats about until it finds a buyer.” (CNN

USAID and Partners Re-up Maternal and Child Health commitments. “USAID will spend up to $2.9 billion of the agency’s resources to continue the fight for maternal and child health in 24 countries.While child deaths have dropped from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012, 16,000 children and 800 mothers are dying every day, says the U.S. Agency for International Development. “The goal of ending preventable child and maternal death is within reach. Two years ago, USAID partnered with organizations around the world to help achieve this goal.” says administrator Rajiv Shah.” (VOA

The president of the UN General Assembly gives Mark an update of the intergovernmental process to replace the MDGs.  Global Dispatches Podcast

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Mali called on the United Nations to speed up deploying the remainder of its promised 12,000-member peacekeeping force and station more troops in the West African nation’s turbulent north. (Reuters

More than 50 people have been killed in two days of clashes in Central African Republic, witnesses and officials said, with foreign troops struggling to stop recurrent violence between Muslim and Christian communities. (Reuters

The Government of the DR Congo and partners launched a measles monitoring campaign, in addition to an existing polio monitoring campaign, in the community of Kimbanseke. (UNICEF

Sudan’s Minister of Information said his government did not re-arrest or detain Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, the Christian woman whose death sentence for apostasy was overturned by an appeals court Monday. (VOA

Medical personnel in French-speaking Central African countries say obstetric fistula haunts 40 percent of women. (VOA

Senegalese farmers say they have been squeezed out by an influx of private investors acquiring fertile arable land in the Senegal River Valley where he has worked as a farmer for the last two decades. (IRIN

The Zimbabwe government has awarded a $1.3 billion thermal power generation project to China’s Sino Hydro after another Chinese company failed to conclude the contract, a minister said. (AP…)

Residents of West Point, Liberia hope that one day they will be relocated from the beach as the continuous environmental degradation has resulted in most of the land eroding into the Atlantic Ocean. (IPS


Aid agencies in Iraq are straining to support the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the violence amid unclear government policies, lack of funding and a multiplicity of humanitarian actors flooding in to respond. (IRIN

A bill aimed at encouraging more births by outlawing sterilisation and vasectomies has passed a first reading in Iran’s parliament, media reported on Wednesday. (AP


Burma says it will not turn away from reforms in the wake of a controversial raid on a Buddhist monastery and the arrest of five monks. (VOA

The system for registering, protecting, and finding durable solutions for asylum seekers in Indonesia risks becoming overburdened – potentially sparking unrest – as migrant arrivals continue and Australia’s maritime immigration policy deters boat journeys, officials and activists say. (IRIN

The Americas

Chile has made a commitment to the international community to improve human rights in the country and erase the lingering shadow of the dictatorship on civil liberties. (IPS

Latin America joined Argentina in the dispute over the so-called vulture funds, and called for unity to avoid the plundering of natural resources in the region. (Prensa Latina

Hundreds of British investors are looking to take legal action to recover lost money after being convinced to buy land in Brazil in the run-up to the World Cup. (BBC

Mexico’s national commissioner against addictions, Fernando Cano, criticized the failure of the authorities to address the drug problem in Mexico, following the release of new data that substance abuse has doubled in the past decade, in Mexico. (Prensa Latina


Food fight: Coast Guard bill could limit aid to hungry (Al Jazeera America

Higher Food Prices Can Help to End Hunger, Malnutrition and Food Waste (IPS

Can aid donors help support LGBT rights in developing countries? (ODI

Education aid gets children into school but it’s not the smartest solution (Guardian

Did Boko Haram really abduct 91 more people? No one knows (Christian Science Monitor


Should Africa Limit Presidential Terms? (OSIWA


New Victorians must leave Gates and Bono in the savannah’s dust (Forbes


Forgetting Nigeria’s girls (Vox




When the United Nations began negotiating a Code of Conduct for Transnational Corporations back in the 1970s, the proposal never got off the ground because of vigorous opposition both from the powerful business community and its Western allies. (IPS
A consortium of faith-based organisations made a declaration at a side event Wednesday at the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference On Disaster Risk Reduction, to let the United Nations know that they stand ready to commit themselves to building resilient communities across Asia in the aftermath of natural disasters. (IPS

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Africa’s Big Farming Challenge

Ed note. This piece by Strive Masiyiwa, a member of the Africa Progress Panel, appeared in Project Syndicate and is reprinted with permission. 

HARARE – Launching a business can be hard work, especially in Africa, where weak governance systems and inconsistent access to critical resources impede success. For Africa’s farmers, the challenges are particularly pronounced. Given the vast economic and social benefits of a dynamic and modern agricultural sector, providing farmers with the incentives, investments, and regulations that they need to succeed should become a top priority.

The recent boom in Africa’s telecommunications sector – which has revolutionized entire industries, not to mention people’s lifestyles – demonstrates just how effective such an approach can be. There are more than a half-billion mobile connections on the continent today; indeed, in many respects, Africa leads the world in mobile growth and innovation.

Why has Africa been unable to replicate that growth in the agriculture sector? Why, instead of bumper crops, does Africa have an annual food-import bill of $35 billion? According to the Africa Progress Panel’s latest annual report, Grain, Fish, Money – Financing Africa’s Green and Blue Revolutions, the problem is straightforward: the odds are stacked against Africa’s farmers.

This is particularly true for smallholder farmers, most of whom are women. These farmers, who cultivate plots about the size of one or two football fields, typically lack reliable irrigation systems and quality inputs, such as seeds and soil supplements. Moreover, they rarely earn enough to invest in the needed machinery, and cannot gain access to credit.

As if that were not enough, farmers are facing increasingly volatile climate conditions that increase the likelihood that their crops will fail. Maize yields, for example, are set to decline by one-quarter over the course of the twenty-first century. And, when the crops are ready, farmers face major obstacles – including inadequate rural road systems and a lack of cold storage facilities – in delivering them to the market.

Despite these risks, which dwarf those faced by the telecoms industry, Africa’s smallholders remain as efficient as their larger counterparts – a testament to their tenacity and resilience. Yet, instead of supporting farmers, African governments have erected even more obstacles to growth, including excessive taxation, insufficient investment, and coercive policies.

Africa’s farmers need an enabling environment that enables them to overcome the challenges they face. In such a context, the continent’s agricultural sector could unleash a revolution akin to that fueled by the communications industry.

The good news is that both the private and public sectors – motivated by soaring demand for food, especially in Africa’s rapidly growing cities, and rising global food prices – seem ready to propel this shift. Private firms have begun to channel investment toward Africa’s agricultural sector, including through initiatives like Grow Africa (of which I am co-Chair), which facilitates cooperation between national governments and more than a hundred local, regional, and international companies to achieve targets for agricultural growth. Over the last two years, these firms have pledged more than $7.2 billion in agricultural investment.

For their part, African governments and development partners, recognizing the central role that agriculture can play in their economic-development agendas, have begun to reverse a three-decade decline in public investment in agriculture. In fact, agriculture has the potential to reduce poverty twice as fast as any other sector.

The impact of such efforts is already becoming apparent in many parts of the continent. From Ghana to Rwanda, high levels of agricultural investment are fueling impressive economic growth in rural areas, thereby boosting job creation and reducing poverty and hunger.

But these gains remain fragile. To sustain them, African governments must recommit to the African Union’s Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, which includes a pledge to channel at least 10% of their budgets toward agricultural investment. And, they must provide farmers with the infrastructure, energy supplies, and supportive policies that they need in order to get their products to the market.

The communications sector also has a key role to play. Mobile technology has already begun to transform Africa’s agricultural industry, by providing farmers with valuable information like market prices, input support through e-vouchers, and even access to credit. Many of these innovative services are more accessible to African smallholders than they are to their American or European counterparts.

Finally, private-sector actors, farmers’ organizations, and civil-society groups must cooperate to advance agricultural development. For example, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, supplies high-quality seeds – many of which are drought-resistant – to millions of smallholder farmers across the continent.

The African Union has declared 2014 the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. With broad action on policy, investment, and technology, Africa’s farmers can double their productivity within five years. It is time to give the agriculture sector the opportunity that all Africans need to usher in an era of shared prosperity.

Strive Masiyiwa, a member of the Africa Progress Panel, is the founder and chairman of Econet Wireless. He is also the co-Chair of GROW Africa, and Chairman of the Board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

Development | | Leave a comment

Getting Children out of Goldmines

A powerful video from UNICEF about efforts to deter and prevent children in Burkina Faso from undertaking dangerous work in goldmines.

Rights | | Leave a comment

Top of the Morning: Global Aid for Disaster Relief Reaches Record High

International Aid for Disaster Relief is Soaring…The USA and UK topped the list of international donors. ”Global spending on humanitarian relief soared to a record $22bn…last year as conflicts in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria combined with natural disasters such as typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, drove donors to pay out more emergency aid than ever before.Donations from governments reached $16.4bn (£9.63bn) last year, a 24% rise from 2012 figures, says research group Development Initiatives” (Guardian  The Chart (click through for interactive version)

Yet Another Mass Kidnapping by Boko Haram…The group is very much on the ascendent. “Kummabza resident Aji Khalil said Tuesday the abductions took place over several days last weekend in an attack during which four villagers were killed. Khalil is a member of one of the vigilante groups that have had some success in repelling Boko Haram attacks with primitive weapons. Khalil said suspected Boko Haram militants took about 60 married women and girls, some as young as 3, and 31 boys from the villages of Kummabza, Yaga and Dagu, all in Borno state, as reported by local Nigerian media. “Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot,” Khalil said. (VOA

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The United States welcomed the release from a Sudanese jail of a Christian woman sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy after refusing to revert to Islam under Sudan’s Sharia Law. (VOA …and she was rearrested hours later. (Reuters

The tit-for-tat attacks against rival religious groups in Central African Republic threaten to create the conditions for a genocide reminiscent of Bosnia in the 1990s and requires swift efforts by the government and the international community to stop the violence, said a new report by the International Federation for Human Rights. (AP

Rebels have boycotted a new round of peace talks to end South Sudan’s conflict because of a dispute about who should attend, those involved in the protracted negotiations said. (Reuters

Cameroon’s military has arrested 40 suspected Boko Haram militants in the north of the country. (VOA

In West Kordofan state, an estimated 67,000 displaced people and approximately 33,000 refugees from South Sudan are in urgent need of humanitarian aid according the Government’s Humanitarian Aid Commission and humanitarian actors. (OCHA

The IMF warned that Zimbabwe’s economy remains fragile with a “precarious” level of external debt that needs to be addressed. (AP

The United States said it was boosting its humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic to $118 million in fiscal 2014. (AP

Representatives of some of Ethiopia’s biggest aid donors have announced that they will send a team to the southwest of the country to investigate persistent reports of human rights abuses amongst the tribes living there.

A government-approved programme to give micro-loans and training to young people in rural areas is helping to stem the influx of migrants to Zimbabwe’s urban centres. (IRIN


The United Nations estimates that over 2,000 people have been killed in the renewed Iraq violence. (UN News Center

Shi’ite residents describe a massacre in northern Iraq. (WaPo


About 50,000 Pakistanis have crossed into eastern Afghanistan to escape air strikes over the past 10 days and 435,000 have fled within their homeland, which could fuel the spread of polio as many are not vaccinated, U.N. agencies said. (VOA

Vietnam’s rejection of 45 key recommendations in its UN human rights review has drawn criticism from activists. (VOA

The first organized opposition to Thailand’s military coup has emerged, with an exiled leader vowing to work with fellow dissidents to restore “democratic principles.” The formation of the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy was announced Tuesday in an open letter by Jarupong Ruangsuwan. (VOA

Tobacco companies have largely snubbed an Indonesian law requiring them to put graphic health warnings on all cigarette packs, another setback for anti-smoking efforts in a country that’s home to the world’s highest rate of male smokers and a wild, wild west of advertising. (AP

As nations try to better plan for responding to and recovering from disasters, the United Nations has convened a gathering of some 40 countries in Bangkok to discuss how to ensure that human and economic losses are kept to a minimum. (VOA

The Americas

The United States is telling Central American parents there is no path to American citizenship for the thousands of unaccompanied children who are entering the U.S. illegally in hopes of escaping poverty and crime in their native lands. (VOA

A video depicts the conditions faced by child miners in Bolivia. (Guardian

White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice cast the protection of gays from global discrimination, abuse and even death as one of the most challenging international human rights issue facing the United States. (AP


Why polio in Brazil is as scary as Ebola in West Africa (Humanosphere

Male gender-based violence: a silent crisis (ODI Is Getting Bigger; Here’s How to Make It Better (CGD

Five takeaways from Australia’s new foreign aid policy (WhyDev

Individual versus community incentives for service provision (Running Randomized Evaluations: A Practical Guide

A Piketty Protégé’s Theory on Tax Havens (NYT

Male gender-based violence: a silent crisis (ODI


They Come in Ones and Twos (Warscapes


Surging environmental crime, from illegal logging to elephant poaching, is worth up to $213 billion a year and is helping to fund armed conflicts while cutting economic growth, a UN and Interpol report said. (Reuters

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The Taboo Against Chemical Weapons Remains Strong

The Nobel Peace Prize winning Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons certified that all of Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been either taken out of the country or destroyed.  Of course, Syrians are still being killed in ghastly numbers by conventional weapons. And there are even reports that toxic agents like chlorine gas are being dropped from barrel bombs by the Assad government. Still, in a conflict that has seen very little progress, the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile can be considered a success –and also offer a potential guide for how this awful conflict may finally come to an end.

The elimination of Syria’s chemical stockpiles is a success in its own right. These are inherently indiscriminate weapons and since World War One the laws against the use of chemical weapons has generally held strong. The Syrian government’s violation of these laws last September shocked the conscience of the international community and lead quickly to a determination on the part of the Obama administration to enforce this taboo, by force if necessary.

The Security Council, including Russia and China, rallied around the idea that chemical weapons were a step too far, even in a conflict as brutal as this. The Council created the OPCW mission and compelled the Syrian government to cooperate with it.  This was the one instance in the Syrian conflict in which the international community, namely the Security Council, lived up to its role as the guarantor of international peace and security. And, in so doing the taboo against the use of chemical weapons in warfare remains strong.

This moment also shows that progress on Syria is possible, but that progress requires the unity of the Security Council. If there is to be an international diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis, it will have to run through the Security Council. And for that to become manifest, Russia and the United States need to get on the same page. This happened with the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, so there is no inherent reason that the Security Council can’t come together for a lasting solution to the Syrian crisis.


Security | | Leave a comment
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Top of the Morning: Ebola Outbreak “Out of Control”

Ebola Outbreak ‘Out of Control’…A very dire warning from MSF about the outbreak in western Africa. “MSF is having difficulty responding to the large number of new cases emerging in different locations.“We have reached our limits,” said Janssens. “Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by MSF in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites.” The scale of the current Ebola epidemic is unprecedented in terms of geographical distribution and the numbers of cases and deaths. There have been 528 cases and 337 deaths since the epidemic began, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures. An Ebola epidemic in West Africa is out of control and requires massive resources from governments and aid agencies to prevent it from spreading further, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said Monday.” (MSF

Egypt: Al Jazeera Journalists Sentenced to Prison…The verdict comes one day after John Kerry visited Cairo, with promises to resume military aid. “Two of the journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison, and the third was given 10 years, the three additional years apparently for his possession of a single spent bullet. The case has drawn condemnation from international rights groups and Western governments because there was no publicly available evidence that the journalists had either supported the Brotherhood or broadcast anything inaccurate.”

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Chinese workers have abandoned road construction and mining exploration sites in northern Cameroon in the wake of last month’s kidnapping of 10 workers by suspected Boko Haram rebels. (VOA

Thousands of people have fled their homes in northern Liberia following an invasion of caterpillars – which have overtaken houses and schools, destroyed crops and contaminated water sources. (VOA

A Sudanese woman on death row for refusing to renounce her Christian faith had her sentence canceled and was ordered released by a Khartoum court on Monday, the country’s official news agency, SUNA, reported. (VOA

South Africa’s AMCU union declared a five-month platinum strike “officially over” on Monday as thousands of miners roared their approval when leader Joseph Mathunjwa asked if they wanted to end the longest work stoppage in the country’s history. (VOA

Residents of the Central African Republic city of Bambari say that a militia attacked a nearby Muslim village and killed 18 of its inhabitants. (AP

At least 20 people were killed in inter-clan violence in northern Kenya on Sunday, the police said, further destabilising one of Kenya’s most volatile regions. (Reuters

Two million children under five die each year in central and western Africa, accounting for almost a third of all deaths worldwide in that age range, the UN children’s agency said. (AP

The first-ever United Nations Environmental Assembly is underway in Nairobi, Kenya, where more than 150 high-level delegations are addressing environmental sustainability challenges. (AP


Middle East analyst Nezar al-Sayyad said US Secretary of State John Kerry’s call on Egypt’s new leaders to embrace democracy and press freedom may fall on deaf ears because Egyptians do not seem to be interested. (VOA

A group of Egyptian human rights activists is calling on the United Nations to send a fact-finding mission to Egypt to investigate human rights violations against women, including sexual abuse and rape. (VOA

The international chemical weapons watchdog charged with ridding Syria of its stockpile says it has received the last of the country’s toxic chemicals identified for removal. (VOA

Non-state armed groups in Syria have used children as young as 15 to fight in battles, sometimes recruiting them under the guise of offering education. (Humano Rights Watch


A Thai police general has announced he will give cash rewards to those turning in photos or videos of anyone illegally expressing a political stance. (VOA

Sri Lanka’s government should take action to prosecute acts of communal violence and promote peace, say observers, following the worst clashes in five years that left at least two dead and over 80 injured. (IRIN

A shortage of viable evacuation centres in areas hit by Typhoon Haiyan has humanitarians and officials in the Philippines concerned that survivors will not have alternative accommodation in case of another one. (IRIN

A mine in China, where people have worked for decades, leaves a nearby village poisoned by arsenic and hundreds of residents stricken with cancer. (Reuters

The Americas

The World Health Organization says it found a strain of the polio virus at an international airport in Brazil in March, but there are no human cases. (BBC

The Argentine government publishes an advert in US newspapers denouncing the recent US Supreme Court ruling in favour of hedge fund investors holding its defaulted bonds. (BBC

Starting this fall, 25 percent of all US hospitals — those with the worst records for infections and injuries — will lose 1 percent of every Medicare payment for a year. (NPR


The Good and Bad News in the Fight Against Polio (UN Dispatch

Oxfam tweet stirs UK controversy for being too political (Humanosphere

Analysis: Looking beyond IGAD in South Sudan (IRIN

Eastern DRC: Stop Fixating on Conflict Minerals (Think Africa Press

Somaliland’s leading lady for women’s rights: ‘It is time for men to step up’ (Guardian

Transforming Development: Tackling sexual violence in war needs gender justice in peace too (IDS

Is China’s Anticorruption Crackdown Really a Crackdown on Anticorruption Activists? (Global Anticorruption Blog

Pacific women and contraceptive use: what are the barriers? (DevPolicy

Using Knowledge to Fight Poverty in Africa (AfricaCan End Poverty

Landmine ban success reaps results; strict adherence, rapid clearance, and assistance for victims remain crucial (Campaign to Ban Landmines

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