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Boko Haram Nabs High Profile Hostage…in Cameroon

Further evidence this is a regional threat. “The Cameroonian military says members of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram have abducted the wife of the country’s deputy prime minister in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata.A local religious leader and mayor was also abducted from the same town.Separately, at least five people in northern Nigeria were killed in a blast – residents suspect Boko Haram.Boko Haram has stepped up cross-border attacks into Cameroon in recent weeks, as the army was deployed to the region.Militants have kidnapped foreign nationals in northern Cameroon before, including a French family and Chinese workers”  (BBC

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The United Nations has reported alarming rates of malnutrition in the Somali capital where aid agencies cannot meet the needs of 350,000 people due to insufficient funds, drought and conflict. (Reuters

A 33-year-old American doctor working for a relief organisation in Liberia’s capital has tested positive for Ebola, according to a statement from Samaritan’s Purse. (Reuters

A Sierra Leone Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment centre and took her to a traditional healer, died in an ambulance on the way to hospital, a health official said. (Reuters

Police were guarding an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone, the day after thousands marched on the clinic following allegations by a former nurse the deadly virus was invented to conceal “cannibalistic rituals” there, a regional police chief said. (Reuters

A South Sudan army spokesman that 140 fighters, most of them from the opposition forces, were killed in fresh rounds of fighting that broke out in Jonglei and Upper Nile states less than a week ago. Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army said 83 rebels were killed in clashes in Nassir, in Upper Nile state, and 52 in Ayod in Jonglei state. (VOA


Hamas Islamist militants agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in its conflict with Israel in the Gaza Strip. (VOA

Israel denies causing casualties at UN School on Thursday. (NYT

Four children were killed and five other people were injured when a rocket landed near their homes in Rafah, an Egyptian town in Sinai near the border with Gaza, security officials said. (Reutersd

Health officials in Libya say heavy clashes between army troops loyal to a renegade general and Islamist-led militias have killed 38 people — including civilians — in the country’s restive east.’ (AP


The United Nations’ new human rights envoy to Myanmar says camps housing tens of thousands of homeless Muslims are “deplorable.” (VOA

Thailand’s military rulers have written a temporary constitution that lets the army keep a great deal of power. (VOA

The Americas

A grave containing at least 400 people is unearthed in the Bolivian city of Potosi, with the remains thought to be those of colonial-era miners. (BBC

UNASUR Economy and Finance ministers have given a boost to the creation of a Bank of the South, as an institution to foster sustainable and balanced regional development. (Prensa Latina

Cuba marked the 61st anniversary of the beginning of Fidel and Raul Castro’s revolution with a leading official calling on islanders to be united and to defend the nation’s communist system. (AP


The new UN Human Development Report on vulnerability and resilience: ignoring trade-offs and an epic fail on power and politics (From Poverty to Power

The Affinity Between Iraqi Sunni Extremists and the Rulers of Saudi Arabia (IPS

Imagining a brave new world for girls (ODI

What countries are the most hypocritical on human rights? (Chris Blattman

Uncertainty About How Best to Convey Uncertainty (Dart Throwing Chimp

Editing ODA: What to Omit and Add in the Definition of Aid (David Roodman

Migration and my own children (Wait…What?

The BRICS Development Bank: Why the World’s Newest Global Bank Must Adopt a Pro-Poor Agenda (Policy Innovations

The Ebola virus and the vampire state (Mats Utas


A group of developing countries brought a tectonic shift at the World Trade Organization by turning the tables against the industrialised countries, when they offered a positive trade agenda to expeditiously arrive at a permanent solution for food security and other development issues, before adopting the protocol of amendment of the contested Trade Facilitation Agreement. (IPS

The exceedingly high cost for the new hepatitis C wonder drug, sofosbuvir, has sparked protests. (VOA


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Some Feel Good Inspiration

It’s been a rough week. Here’s some humanity-affirming medicine, via vUNICEF, about an incredibly brave and inspiring 11 year old living with HIV.


Development | | Leave a comment

Cease-Fire Agreement for CAR

The Forum for National Reconciliation and Political Dialogue for the Central African Republic wrapped up yesterday with the announcement of a cease-fire agreement, following three days of negotiations in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville. The peace talks, which brought together the transitional government, civil society stakeholders as well as the two key warring factions – the (mostly Muslim) Seleka and (mostly Christian) anti-balaka – are the first step in a long process of restoring peace and bringing about reconciliation. Following 15 months of intense confrontations, growing resentment between communities and an unstable security situation, the cease-fire brings some hope - albeit fragile - for a positive resolution of the crisis. 

Indeed, the cease-fire agreement is not a comprehensive peace deal, leaving out fundamental, key questions about disarmament and political reconciliation. The agreement is narrowly focused on the question of ending violence and the promotion of violence and hatred in the CAR. It does, however, include a reference to the territorial integrity of the CAR, following a “curveball” Seleka demand for partition  halfway through the negotiations. The negotiators – including the President of Congo and CAR transitional government representatives – were not expecting this request, and it initially created some confusion and chaos in the process. Within a day, however, the Seleka had dropped this demand, and signed the cease-fire agreement which stipulates that “all parties are renouncing to the partition of the Central African Republic.” According to the Seleka representative, the request was made obsolete once political power sharing was agreed upon.

Historically, Muslims have been left out of CAR governance, and a key dimension of success for building sustainable peace in the country will be whether there is an acceptable level of Muslim representation in the ranks of power. The transition from the current, temporary government to a democratically elected, representative government is going to present some challenges, particularly as the security situation also needs to be resolved in parallel.  The lack of agreement regarding disarmament is also of concern, and will need to be addressed in short order. The prime minister just announced a voluntary disarmament campaign for civilians to begin over the weekend, but a more comprehensive – and compulsory – campaign will be vital. In the context of a precarious cease-fire, where self-restraint is key, it is all too easy for the fragile equilibrium to be broken.

For Douglas Yates, African affairs analyst at the American University in Paris, “this conflict is not sustainable. In the long run, it will peter out.” Assuming that rational self-interest prevails in the CAR, this means that the warring parties have to be willing to work together to determine what mutually beneficial outcomes might look like. As shaky as the cease-fire is, it still represents a “much needed and encouraging first step” for CAR and the millions of people affected by crisis.

Security | | Leave a comment
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Massive Protests Erupt in West Bank

A Third Intifada?…At press time, there were media reports of clashes when thousands of Palestinian demonstrators marched from Ramallah to Jerusalem, confronting Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint, with some fatalities. This is a big deal. We recommend checking out Haaretz’ live blog for news of these fast developing stories.

Also, UNRWA reported that at least 15 people were killed when artillery struck a UN school functioning as a shelter for displaced Gazans.The death toll also includes an untold number of UN workers. Meanwhile, John Kerry drafted a ceasefire proposal while in Cairo. He leaves the region on Friday, but the negotiations go on. Here is an article about the devastation at the UN school, via AFP

New Human Development Report is Out..Norway is first and Niger is last.The annual measure of indices related to social development Improvements in life spans, education and incomes are slowing due to natural disasters, misguided government policies and worsening inequality in a world where the 85 richest people have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people, the United Nations said Thursday in its annual human development report.” (AP The Report:

Valerie Amos Wants Relief Funding Reform…The need has not kept up with the demand. Her interview is well worth a read. “The U.N.’s top humanitarian official called Thursday for major changes in the delivery of relief, as funding falls short because of a growing number of conflicts and disasters…In an interview in Tokyo, she offered several ideas for improving aid delivery and addressed the crisis in Gaza: (AP

Ebola Makes its Way to Nigeria…A Liberian man in his 40s is being tested for the deadly Ebola virus in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people. If confirmed, this would be the first time Ebola is found in Nigeria. (

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International AIDS Conference

The U.S. ambassador to Australia said it should not be a crime to be a member of the LGBT community. Ambassador John Berry told the 20th international AIDS Conference that the fight against the disease cannot be won by relegating segments of the population to the shadows. (VOA


An Air Algerie flight that went missing en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers has crashed, said an Algerian aviation official. (Reuters

Central African Republic’s mainly Muslim Seleka rebels signed a ceasefire with the “anti-balaka” Christian militia, after having dropped their demand for the country to be split in two along religious lines. (Reuters

Two UN human rights experts called on the Government of Nigeria and the international community for a swift and stronger response to the plight of some 3.3 million people displaced in the country due to violence since 2010, one of the highest numbers of IDPs in the world. (UNHCR

More than 2,000 Ghanaians took to the streets of the capital Accra on Thursday as part of planned nationwide protests against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the economy. (Reuters

Rising sea levels and increased tides have eroded most of the once-sandy beach along Kribi, Cameroon. Now beaches are reduced to narrow muddy paths. And local hotels, bars and restaurants are feeling the impact of this erosion directly in their pockets as tourists reduce in numbers. (IPS

GlaxoSmithKline said on Thursday it is applying for regulatory approval for the world’s first vaccine against malaria, designed for children in Africa. (Reuters

Nigeria could cut the number of polio cases to zero next year and be declared free of the disease in 2018 even though a national eradication campaign has had to contend with an insurgency in the north, Bill Gates said. (Reuters

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Danish diplomat Ellen Margrethe Loj as his new special envoy to South Sudan and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the world’s newest nation. (Reuters

Parents are taking their daughters to remote regions of Kenya to undergo female genital mutilation in secret, according to the head of the country’s new FGM prosecution unit. (Guardian

A new Ugandan sex-education campaign to reduce teen pregnancy, maternal mortality among young women and girls, and the cost of post-abortion medical care, is generating heated debate. (IRIN

Newly introduced land permits for resettled smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe will bring little gain to the thousands of beneficiaries who are struggling to get loans from banks to finance their operations, say farmers’ organizations and analysts. (IRIN


The United Nations’ World Food Program is appealing for $10 million in emergency aid to help Palestinian civilians facing food shortages in Gaza. (VOA


Two Finnish aid workers with an international Christian organization were shot dead on Thursday in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat, officials said. (AP

China plans to extend a railway line linking Tibet with the rest of the country to the borders of India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020 once an extension to a key site in Tibetan Buddhism opens, a state-run newspaper reported. (VOA

Australia’s human rights commissioner on Thursday said conditions at an asylum-seeker camp on Christmas Island have “significantly deteriorated” with children plagued by despair and suffering symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Yahoo

The Americas

Haiti is set to vaccinate 200,000 people in three departments against cholera starting in August. (WHO

Around the US, food assistance agencies are trying to come up with new ways to feed hungry kids in the summer. In Hopkins County, Ky., they’re using mobile vans to take food to where kids live. (NPR

The Colombian armed forces kill eight rebels from the left-wing National Liberation Army in an operation in eastern Arauca province. (BBC


How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire (UN Dispatch

How can politics change to serve future generations (on climate change, but lots of other stuff too)? (From Poverty to Power

Patriarchy allows child marriage and female genital mutilation to flourish (Guardian

Empowering DR Congo’s Sexual Violence Survivors by Enforcing Reparations (IPS

We will not banish AIDS until we banish stigma (ONE Campaign

Why Ebola epidemic is spinning out of control (CNN

Why Are We Ignoring a New Ebola Outbreak? (NY Times

The Implications of India’s 2014 Budget for Financial Inclusion (Center for Financial Inclusion blog

Top of the Morning | Leave a comment

Iraq; Middle East; Mali

Iraq: The SG met with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki in Baghdad today as well as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to review the ongoing security crisis. The SG congratulated Fouad Massoum on his election as Iraq’s new President and remarked that a new government “will strengthen the unity of the country, fight effectively against terrorism and ISIS, as well as uproot the seeds of sectarianism and division.”

Middle East: The SG condemned the attack on an UNRWA school in Gaza that killed many “including women and children, as well as UN staff.” Although it remains unclear who is responsible for the attack, the incident highlights the need to stop all fighting immediately.

Mali: UN Peacekeeping mission in Mali initiated a search operation for the Air Algerie plane that disappeared en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers. According to Mali’s president, wreckage of the flight has been spotted between Aguelhoc and Kidal.

Human Development Report: UNDP launched the 2014 Human Development Report today in Tokyo. The report explores “structural vulnerabilities” and shows an overall decline in poverty, but 800 million people remain at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. The report also includes a new Gender Development Index to measure the gender gap in human development achievements.

Afghanistan: The audit of the Afghan presidential election resumed today with a new set of criteria proposed by the UN for determining fraudulent ballots.

CAR: Peace talks in Brazzaville successfully resumed after a brief suspension on Tuesday. CAR groups signed an agreement on the cessation of hostilities during yesterday’s final round of the forum.

South Sudan: UNMISS reported continued heavy firing this morning in Nassir between SPLM/A In Opposition forces and SPLA troops.

Nigeria: The SRSG for West Africa condemned the killing of Nigerian civilians yesterday and over the weekend by Boko Haram killing more than 130 people.

MINUSMA: The SG appointed Diane Corner of the UK as new Deputy Head of MINUSCA.

UN Direct | Leave a comment
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How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire

As the conflict in Gaza drags on there’s a renewed diplomatic effort to secure a ceasefire. I speak with Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation about the complex diplomatic efforts underway, the critical role that Egypt is playing, and why things may get bloodier before they get better. Hanna also offers one possible solution in which both sides can save face as they lay down their arms.

Have a listen. This is an important and timely conversation.




Previous episodes

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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