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Top of the Morning: Rwanda Genocide Commemorated Today

Top of the Morning from DAWNS Digest. 

It Was 20 Years Ago….Rwanda and the International Community is commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide today. Who will attend? There is an official ceremony in Kigali attended by world leaders, including Ban Ki Moon. Samantha Power is leading the US delegation, and is stopping in Kigali as part of a regional trip that includes a stop in Central African Republic. Who will not be there? France. In an interview on Sunday, Paul Kagame accused France of complicity in the genocide, further straining relations between the countries. Best stories on the genocide’s legacy in the region and Rwanda today? “Paul Kagame Doesn’t Give a Damn” by Buzzfeed’s Jina Moore; “A Good Man in Rwanda” by BBC’s Mark Doyle; “A Puzzling Tale of Growth and Political Repression, from the Guardian’s Datablog

And UN Dispatch will be commemorating the genocide with a series of posts today.

What You Need to Know About the Afghan Elections…1) They were much less violent than feared. 2) They are the first post Karzai elections, so the field is wide open…. “The leading candidates going into the vote were Ashraf Ghani, 64, a technocrat and former official in Mr. Karzai’s government; Abdullah Abdullah, 53, a former foreign minister who was the second biggest vote-getter against Mr. Karzai in the 2009 election; and Zalmay Rassoul, 70, another former foreign minister. 3) It will be a long time until we find out who wins.  New York Times

 Credit: Unburied bones of victims of the Rwandan genocide at a memorial centre. Image by Flickr user DFID – UK Department for International Development (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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Famine Looms in South Sudan, And No One is Doing Enough to Stop It

The UN is warning that the worst famine in Africa since Ethiopia in the 1980s may befall South Sudan if humanitarian relief to the country is not significantly increased. To put this in context: 400,000 people are estimated to have died as a result of famine in the early 1980s.

There are now 1 million people displaced by conflict in South Sudan. In order to stave off a widespread food crisis, farmers need to plant seeds ahead of the rainy season which starts this month. But many of these farmers have been displaced by the civil war; and a significant number of those who were not displaced may still have their planting season interrupted by ongoing conflict. In the meantime, the humanitarian relief effort is significantly underfunded. The UN Says it needs $230 million in the next month to avert disaster.

“We’re in a race against time,” the [UN South Sudan humanitarian] coordinator, Toby Lanzer, told reporters in Geneva. In a stark message to world leaders, he said, “Invest now or pay later.”

About 3.7 million people, close to one-third of the total population, are already at severe risk of starvation in South Sudan, a crisis now ranked by the United Nations on par with Syria’s, Mr. Lanzer said. He appealed for only the most essential needs, food, water, seeds and farming tools, to allow the South Sudanese to plant crops before the end of May, when rains bring the planting season to an end.

The people of South Sudan are victims of their leaders’ incompetence and negligence, but also of a larger international humanitarian relief system that has come under unprecedented stress.

In the last 13 months, there have been four concurrent acute emergencies: Syria, the Central African Republic, the Philippines’ Typhoon and South Sudan. This has stretched UN agencies and relief NGOs thin. Donors are not filling the funding gaps. A $6.5 billion Syria relief appeal is only 16% funded; a $550 million CAR appeal is only 22% funded; and of course the South Sudan appeal is struggling at only 30% of a $1.2 billion appeal.

Funding for humanitarian relief operations in these places are secondary or tertiary priorities for most donor countries. Compare this to Ukraine, where the US Congress swiftly approved $1 billion in loan guarantees — a sum that would prevent famine in South Sudan and fill all the current humanitarian needs in CAR.

There’s enough of money in the coffers of most donor countries to stave off famine in South Sudan. $230 million is not a hugely significant sum in budgetary terms, particularly when spread across several donors. Right now, though, it does seem as if that money is going to come in time to save the people of South Sudan from starvation.

Image credit: UNMISS on Facebook  





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Top of the Morning: USAID Launches Global Development Lab

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

USAID Launches New Global Development “Lab”….USAID and 32 partners from the non profit and corporate sector launched a $1 billion project to foster technical innovation to end extreme poverty by 2030. Hillary Clinton attended the launch event in New York, since it stems in part from reforms enacted while she was Secretary of State. What will this do? USAID’s Lona Stall “The lab has ambitions of disruptive technologies and game-changing solutions really helping improve the lives of 200 million people in five years: things like eliminating the transmission of HIV/Aids from mother to child using the Pratt Pouch – a two-cent package [of antiretroviral drugs] that looks like a ketchup packet – or looking at how you get electricity access out to rural communities without building the kinds of grids that previously were a big part of development programmes.” Deeper dive, plus some dissenting voices: Guardian

By the numbers: UN Refugee Agency announced that it’s now registered 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. To put this in some context, In April 2012 — one month after the start of the uprising and brutal suppression —  there were 18,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. One year later, there were 356,000. Now, the number has exceeded one million. UNHCR says that it registers 2,500 new refugees everyday. That is more than one person a minute. (UNHCR

Bad Idea of the Day →  Fake Cuban Twitter Subterfuge. (AP

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syria map

Map of the Day: 1 Million Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (And Counting)

Today’s map comes via The UN Refugee Agency, which announced today that it has now registered over 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

syria map

To put this in some context, In April 2012 — one month after the start of the uprising and brutal suppression —  there were 18,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. One year later, there were 356,000. Now, the number has exceeded one million. UNHCR says that it registers 2,500 new refugees everyday. That is more than one person a minute.



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Happy Anniversary, Arms Trade Treaty

This week marks the first anniversary of the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

Legally-binding and multilateral, the aim of the ATT is to regulate global trade in conventional weapons and curb the illegal trade of all arms.  Since the treaty was approved by the UN General Assembly on June 3, 2013, supporters have been pushing to get the necessary 50 member states to ratify the treaty in order for it to enter into force.  This ‘Race to 50,’ as NGOs have dubbed it, has reached a total of 31 countries, including the 18 which ratified the treaty yesterday.

Though some of the biggest players in the $80 billion industry of conventional arms trade ratified the treaty today, the world’s largest exporter and importer still have not. The USA and India are allowing baseless fears of threats to national sovereignty get in the way of the greater good and ratifying ATT.

President Obama has actually signed the treaty but it awaits ratification in the U.S. Senate. (And this could be a very long wait).  To give one example of the obstacles the ATT faces in the US Congress,  the Omnibus appropriations bill was signed into law in January, contained a provision that none of the funds appropriated for this year “may be obligated or expended to implement the Arms Trade Treaty until the Senate approves a resolution of ratification for the Treaty.”  The embargo on funds stems from a basic misunderstanding of the treaty.  Organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) interpret ATT as infringing on national sovereignty and domestic laws regarding the right to bear arms.  The treaty actually does neither.  It sets out to mainly stem the illegal cross-border sales of arms in order to prevent genocide and human rights violations. It does not affect domestic possession and self-defense laws in any way.

Furthermore, the NRA’s interpretation of the export controls portion of the treaty is incorrect. Their major complaint is that the U.S. would now be collecting ‘end user’ information on purchasers of imported firearms and would keep that information on file for the exporting country. The U.S. already does that for any number of imported goods.  The ‘end user‘ information is collected for customs duties and security purposes.  The customs controls do not limit the ability to purchase a gun. Textiles and fresh produce have more import/export controls than personal firearms.

India, recently declared the world’s largest importer of arms, faces far less domestic opposition to the bill but the heart of the issue is still national sovereignty.  One of their reasons for abstaining from the June 2013 General Assembly vote is that the treaty’s original purpose, to curb the illicit trafficking of arms, has been manipulated.  ATT also attempts to regulate legal, conventional arms sales.  India says this equates their military purchases for defense against Pakistan and China to the arms purchases of human rights abusers in Congo or Sudan.  On the surface, it may appear so, but ATT would not stop India from purchasing arms for their self-defense, merely make it more regulated.

Sujata Mehta, India’s former Permanent Representative, also argues that unilateral decisions by developed country exporters could put her country at risk, since Article 6 of ATT gives the Security Council deciding power on whether sovereign nations can trade arms.  However, Mehta and others refuse to address the core of the whole issue: India’s dangerous over-reliance on foreign arms.  Defense Minister A.K. Anthony’s call for more domestic defense production back in February 2013 must have fallen on deaf ears. With corruption in the military procurement sector, general state inefficiency, and lack of a clear legislative structure for the private sector to get involved, this may not happen – India may continue to ignore the human rights atrocities of armed conflict and not ratify ATT.

The “Race to 50″ continues as 19 more countries are needed to ratify in order to enter it into force. But without the world’s largest exporter and importer of arms ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty, it stands to reason the treaty will not have nearly as large of an impact as it could.

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Top of the Morning: Neglected Tropical Diseases Get a Little Less Neglected

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Neglected Tropical Diseases Become a Little Less Neglected…The Gates Foundation, World Bank and other big donors have pledged an additional $240 million to fight neglected tropical diseases. What are these? Things like Guinea worm, river blindness, sleeping sickness, Leishmaniasis, and other mostly parasitic diseases that tend to affect the poorest of the poor. Why are they neglected? Because they have not historically attracted the same amount of attention as the Big Three: AIDS, Malaria and TB. There is not much of a market for medicines that could treat these diseases.  These are “the ancient diseases of poverty.”  What’s Changed? The international health community and a consortium of drug makers are investing in treatments for these diseases. This new funding comes on the heels of pledges last year to combat intestinal worms that disproportionately affect children. Deeper Dive: The World Health Organization’s most recent NTC report:

A Milestone: It’s the One Year Anniversary of the UN Arms Trade Treaty. (UN

A Rumor Squashed: USAID has denied a rumor that Rajiv Shah may be among the potential picks to replace former U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell, who resigned this week. (Devex

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