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Checkpoint and camp for refugees from Ukraine in Rostov Region

Ukraine is Now the Largest Displacement Crisis in Europe Since the Balkan Wars

As fighting between the government and pro-Russian rebels continues in Eastern Ukraine, displacement from the conflict is reaching new heights. By October, UNHCR estimated that more than 800,000 people have been displaced, representing the largest displacement of people in Europe since the Balkan wars. It is the latest refugee crisis in a year that has seen several, and is stretching resources thin.

In many ways the displacement mirrors the conflict itself. Of those internally displaced within Ukraine, 95% come from the conflict ridden regions of the east and have fled to government-controlled Western Ukraine. Meanwhile an estimated 387,000 Ukrainians have applied for refugee status or residence in Russia, although the total number of Ukrainians in Russia is unknown as a visa is not needed to travel between the two countries. As the conflict drags on, the lines between the two sides remain and stretch into those most vulnerable.

Unfortunately it comes at a time when the resources of the international community are already stretched thin by refugee crises in the Middle East and Africa. Significant funding shortfalls already threaten key programs for the displaced from Syria in Iraq as winter begins and UN aid agencies are struggling to meet demand for assistance arising from conflicts in Northern Nigeria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali and Libya. In this context, the crisis in Ukraine comes at the worst possible time for those trying to address the needs of the displaced.

The Ukrainian government is trying to do its part in helping out the displaced. A new law on IDPs passed by parliament last month creates a special registry for the displaced to help track those forced to leave their homes and match them with needed social services. The system aims to limit the bureaucracy IDPs face in trying to access aid and services, as well as meets several requests from the UN and EU to facilitate further international aid such as not taxing foreign financial assistance. In return, the EU is looking to ramp up assistance through its Support to Ukraine’s Regional Development Policy that issues grants to local municipalities for IDP aid and rebuilding efforts in cities damaged through the conflict but now fall under government control.

Nonetheless, despite pledges for assistance and the non-discrimination clause included in the new IDP law the displaced continue to face difficulties in gaining housing and employment. As is often the case, the warm welcome that IDPs first experienced in other regions has cooled as the burden of their care and the conflict wears on. The continued politicization of the conflict is also taking a toll as citizens of Eastern Ukraine are increasingly seen as interchangeable with the pro-Russian rebels, an attitude that leads to discrimination and the ostracizing of those who have paid the biggest price for the conflict so far. As existing communities are increasingly turning away IDPs, the government is rushing to build townships for IDPs to settle in, hopefully before the cold Ukrainian winter sets in.

There are several other refugee crises in the world, many of which are larger than Ukraine. But the displacement crisis still poses a serious political and economic problem for Ukraine and an overwhelmed international aid community. As the conflict drags on, the number of displaced will increase even as the will – and the means – to help them shrinks.

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Typhoon Haiyan

This Week Marks the One Year Anniversary of one of the Strongest Typhoons in History

Ed note. This is a guest post by Sundaa Bridgett-Jones Associate Director, International Development, The Rockefeller Foundation

A year ago this week, international humanitarian agencies were rushing to the Philippines to respond to Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms to make landfall in modern history. The storm impacted 16 million people in the Philippines and killed over 6,300 people. A year on, we can draw lessons from the response so that communities may be better prepared next time a calamitous weather event strikes.

With climate change making severe weather events more frequent, make no mistake: there will be other deadly storms of this, if not greater, magnitude. Which means that now is the time to take action. The lesson of Haiyan, and of so many other catastrophic events, is that we must think differently about our future and reassess our past approaches. And the key difference needs to be that we look ahead through a lens of resilience, making investments that will allow individuals, organizations and systems to survive and adapt regardless of what challenges may come their way.

We need to invest in resilience because it can help save lives. It can also save precious resources that are needed for solving myriad development challenges. One example is in the coastal Vietnamese city of Da Nang where residents had access to a revolving loan fund to stormproof their houses by raising foundations to reduce flooding or securing roofs against high winds. When Typhoon Nari hit Da Nang in 2013, all 244 households that completed the housing upgrade emerged damage free.

Investing in resilience now makes economic sense. In 2012, the economic costs of weather-related disasters alone amounted to roughly $160 billion worldwide. Estimates by the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction suggest that $1 spent on prevention can save $4 being spent on post-disaster reconstruction.

One way we can foster resilience is by engaging people with strong local knowledge in both defining problems and finding new solutions. To do just that, the Global Resilience Partnership, spearheaded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency, and USAID, is inviting cross-sector, multi-disciplinary, teams to apply to the Global Resilience Challenge. The Challenge aims to address resilience issues in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia, the regions with the highest needs, by surfacing solutions that address local realities.

Staring back on this somber anniversary of Haiyan, the Challenge is seeking to play a role in changing the future course of how disasters affect communities – minimizing their impact, and hastening the rebound, while ensuring that day-to-day everyone’s lives are better.

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Nigeria Map

Boko Haram Attacks School Children, Once Again

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Some victims were as young as 11. “At least 47 people were killed and 79 were wounded Monday by a suicide bombing outside a school in northern Nigeria, police said. The attacker was disguised as a student when he set off the explosion in a government boarding school in the town of Potiskum, police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said…The explosion took place at 7:50 a.m. local time outside the principal’s office, where students had gathered for a daily speech…In February, Boko Haram gunmen killed at least 40 students when they opened fire and threw explosives in student hostels in a government boarding school in the town of Buni Yadi, in Yobe state. And last year, 42 students were killed when Boko Haram gunmen attacked dormitories with guns and explosives in a government boarding school near Potiskum.” (CNN

Tweet of the Day: Actually a series of tweets from the the founder of the (excellently acronymed!) Diaspora African Women’s Network, Semhar Araia. Upon news that artists were planning to re-record the horribly patronizing “Do They Know that it’s Christmas” to raise funds for ebola relief she tweeted: “You know how#BandAid30 could celebrate its anniversary? By NOT doing another BandAid & instead supporting existing Africa#Ebola campaigns.”

Local Malala Backlash…The All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, which claims to represent 150,000 schools across Pakistan, declared that Monday would be “I am not Malala” day and urged the government to ban her memoir, “I Am Malala,” because it offended Islam and the “ideology of Pakistan.” (NYT

Cuban Twitter fallout…USAID is preparing internal rules that would effectively end risky undercover work in hostile countries, such as the once-secret “Cuban Twitter” program it orchestrated. (AP

Vaccine clues from WWI…The elusive dysentery vaccine might be possible, thanks to a soldier who fought in World War One, according to researchers in a study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet. (VOA

Community Bulletin: The ASTMH Annual Meeting has wrapped. Looking for the big news and highlights? The Society along with its partners has pulled together original and curated content from the meeting, including: 10 Ebola Insights from the Annual Meeting (this is the stuff you’re not hearing anywhere else) Full audio of the Ebola media briefing and Why malaria is rebounding in Tanzania


The United States has opened the first of 17 Ebola treatment units it is building in Liberia. (AP

A pretty amazing story of how the outbreak in Mali was successfully contained. (NYT

The U.N. atomic agency said on Monday it had sent Sierra Leone equipment first used in nuclear processes that can help it quickly diagnose the deadly Ebola virus and it was also in contact with other West African states about their needs. (Reuters

Doctors Without Borders called Monday for a change of strategy in the fight against Ebola in Liberia, to fund rapid response teams rather than huge isolation units. (AFP

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered four soldiers and their commanding officer to be punished for their actions during a protest over an Ebola quarantine in August, a government statement said. (Reuters

Do they still not know it’s Christmas, in Africa? Musician and philanthropist Bob Geldof, who in 1984 inspired a generation of rock stars to record a charity single for Africa, will raise money to combat Ebola with a new version of the song. (Reuters

More than 100 Filipino peacekeepers returning from almost a year in Liberia will be put in quarantine on an isolated island on arrival this week to check for Ebola, the military said on Monday, adding there were fears how the public might react. (Reuters

Google launched a campaign Monday to raise money to fight Ebola, tossing $10 million into the pot and saying it will match donations to the fund two to one.


The United Nations said it has sent its first aid convoy from Sudan into South Sudanese territory, with enough supplies to feed 45,000 people for a month. (AFP

A U.N. team investigating allegations of a mass rape in Sudan’s North Darfur say they have found no evidence of the reported attack. But a senior U.N. official says it is not yet possible to confirm that no rapes took place. (VOA

Human Rights Watch has criticised a draft agreement to bring peace to conflict-hit Mali, saying Monday the deal would not provide justice for abuses committed by all sides. (AFP

Residents of war-torn South Sudan are enduring “unspeakable abuse and violence” as well as the threat of famine, said a report from the International Rescue Committee. (Yahoo

Forty-eight hours after the latest ceasefire deal in South Sudan, a battle broke out on Monday between government troops and rebel fighters in which 29 combattants died, said a military spokesman. (AP

Opposition parties, civil society groups and religious leaders adopted a plan for a transitional authority to guide Burkina Faso to elections, after a popular uprising forced longtime president Blaise Compaore from power. (Reuters

With hundreds of soldiers from its member states successfully completing a series of joint exercises and manoeuvres in Congo, the Economic Community of Central African States says its Multinational Force for Central Africa, is now ready to intervene in local conflicts and be part of global anti-terrorism initiatives. (IRIN

Ethiopia’s policy of leasing millions of hectares of land to foreign investors is encouraging human rights violations, ruining livelihoods and disturbing a delicate political balance between ethnic groups, a think tank report has found. (Guardian


An Israeli soldier and an Israeli woman were killed on Monday in separate stabbing attacks that the authorities attributed to Palestinian men, rattling Israelis and intensifying the political pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (NYT

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has established a board of inquiry to investigate deaths, injuries and damage to United Nations premises during this summer’s Gaza war as well as the discovery of weapons in vacant U.N. schools. (AP

The FAO warns that an additional $38.5 million in support is urgently needed to prevent Iraq’s agricultural sector from collapsing and an already-worrisome food security situation from further degenerating.

Egypt’s most active militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has sworn allegiance to Islamic State, the al Qaeda offshoot which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, according to an audio clip posted on its Twitter account. (Reuters

Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Monday that the U.N. envoy’s proposal to implement a cease-fire in the embattled northern city of Aleppo was “worth studying.” (AP


After a struggle lasting decades, Aung San Suu Kyi is now losing a fight to erase a constitutional clause, authored by Myanmar’s generals, designed to permanently block her from leading the nation. (GlobalPost

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he sees momentum building for a Washington-backed free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific, after arriving in Beijing on the first leg of an eight-day Asia tour. (Reuters

More than 200 boat people held in southern Thailand will be pushed back out to sea, police said on Monday, despite calls by rights group to stop a policy that puts would-be asylum seekers at risk. (Reuters

WFP says it has enough donations to stay open in North Korea for the rest of this year but is uncertain whether it will be able to operate there beyond next March. (AP

People covered their bodies with mud to protest against the Philippine government’s ineptitude and abandonment; others lit paper lanterns and candles and released white doves and balloons to remember the dead, offer thanks and pray for more strength to move on; while many trooped to a vast grave site with white crosses to lay flowers for those who died, and to cry one more time. (IPS

The Americas

Colombians are being kept off their farms by armed groups and illegal businesses. Those fighting for land restitution have a blunt message for British firms and politicians. (Guardian


A wide-ranging conversation with ONE Campaign executive director Tom Hart on topics from PEPFAR, to the MCC to the Jubilee Campaign to his Alaskan upbringing. (Global Dispatches Podcast

A Cambodian Journalist Was Killed Trying to Cover Illegal De-forestation (UN Dispatch

Ebola cases fall in Liberia, rise in Sierra Leone, and concerns persist (Humanosphere

What do 600 papers on 20 types of interventions tell us about how much impact evaluations generalize?  (World Bank Development Impact

Ebola Today Could Mean Illiteracy Tomorrow In West Africa (NPR

An aid loan is not just a throw of the dice (David Roodman

The Lesson of London’s Sewers for Clean Government (CGD

Poll: is it time for a woman to lead the UN? (Guardian

Could Addis Deliver a Global Deal Around Sustainable Infrastructure Finance? (CGD

Famous founders: A blessing or a curse? (WhyDev

Fighting Impunity: The Role of Sanctions in Ending Conflict in Congo (Enough Project

Who do you think you are? (Wait…What?

The Bullshit Files: The “Mandela” Ray Ban “Sculpture” in Cape Town (Africa is a Country

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Forest Banteay Chmaar - Forest near the Banteay Chmaar temple in Cambodia's northwest, October 2014.

A Cambodian Journalist Was Killed Trying to Cover Illegal De-forestation

Forest Banteay Chmaar - Forest near the Banteay Chmaar temple in Cambodia's northwest, October 2014.

Environmental journalism can be a deadly business, particularly in rapidly developing economies that depend on resource exploitation to fuel their growth.

The October 12th murder of Cambodian deforestation journalist Taing Try has, once again, shown how dangerous a business covering environmental topics really is. Further, the murder highlights how corruption in the ranks of both loggers and journalists may be contributing to an already murky media picture of the true scale of deforestation and environmental degradation in the Southeast Asian nation.

Cambodia has long had a contentious relationship with dissent, and in recent years, the activists and journalists who have covered deforestation have found themselves at considerable risk. Cambodia’s swiftly disappearing forests contain large quantities of beautiful and exceedingly valuable rare wood: despite conservation pacts and protected areas, ancient trees, including the rosewood that is currently in high demand in China, continue to vanish at a very fast clip.

The Cambodian government, dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, is often complicit in or at least turns a blind eye to the predations of illegal logging on its turf. Per figures released by Global Witness, the incidence of illegal logging in Cambodia has risen considerably since 2010, as valuable wood is clear-cut from development concessions, liberally doled out by the government to deep-pocketed private companies.

In the middle are locals dependent on the forest to survive, activists, and the local journalists who cover the corruption implicit in the Khmer logging industry.

Into that category fell Taing Try, who worked for a local publishing network and regularly covered environmental and logging issues. Try appears to have witnessed a cart carrying illegal timber, and was shot in the forehead after his car was stuck in the mud. Three men were charged with the murder in Kratie Province.

Taing Try was not the first environmental journalist or activist to die in this way in recent years. The 48-year-old Try was in fact the second journalist to be killed in Cambodia since the year began, with at least 12 murdered since 1993. In a prominent recent case that was condemned around the world, environmental activist Chut Wutty was shot and killed while accompanying two journalists from the English-language Cambodia Daily newspaper in April of 2012, and is now mourned as an environmental hero by activists around the country.

The narrative may seem both well-worn and tragic, but it’s not quite as simple as a sad tale of  heroic journalists fighting against corruption and environmental destruction.

While it is true that extortion charges are an exceptionally handy way of silencing environmental reporters, the allegations of wrong-doing in Cambodia are common and some claims appear credible – and even Freedom House has noted that low pay motivates some reporters to accept or even actively seek bribes in exchange for staying quiet.

A Phnom Penh Post story published in October, and a Al Jazeera piece released last week found that some Cambodian journalists covering illegal logging are less interested in conservation and considerably more interested in receiving kick-backs and payments from lumber traffickers and other bad actors who are willing to pay to not be exposed. Try himself had been accused of illegally extorting timber in 2012, though the charges were later dropped.

As the Al Jazeera piece found, “ghost” newspapers that rarely or never publish are common in Cambodia: an authority from the Cambodian Center for Media Studies estimates that only 20 out of the nations’ 400 registered newspapers regularly publish. A number of these papers likely operate as vehicles for bribe-seeking.

The danger of this bribe-seeking behavior – or just the rumor of it – is real. On the 16th of October, two reporters in northern Preah Vihear province were chased after they attempted to photograph a truck carrying timber, with police accusing the journalists of attempting to extort money from the truck driver in exchange for suppressing a story.

Meanwhile, on the 21st, two Kratie reporters were charged with extorting money from villagers, claiming that they were harboring illegal wood inside their homes, a crime which the journalists say that they were unjustly charged with.

Corruption in journalism isn’t just a problem for loggers and villagers. If the allegations are true – and even if they aren’t – extortion rumors in environmental reporting cast corrosive doubt on the hard work of ethical, honest reporters, making it that much harder for them to do their jobs.

Forced to contend with both accusations of corruption and the risk of being beaten or murdered for their efforts, ethical journalists may well decide to stay quiet, or find other topics to cover.

Taing Try’s murder has highlighted that true facts about the extent of deforestation are hard to come by, and that the price of a misstep can be as high as death. Meanwhile, as intimidation and corruption swirl around the topic of the environment, Cambodia’s forests continue to be spirited out of the country on the top of flat-bed trucks.


Image credit: Faine Greenwood Forest Banteay Chmaar – Forest near the Banteay Chmaar temple in Cambodia’s northwest, October 2014.

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Tom Hart

Episode 40: Tom Hart

Tom Hart was at the center of the biggest international development debates of the last 15 years. Now serving as executive director of the ONE Campaign, Hart lobbied for forgiving the debt of the world’s poorest countries in the late 1990s, and in the early 2000s he helped pass the world’s largest program to combat HIV/AIDS. In this episode. Hart tells the genesis story of the Jubilee Campaign, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. And “Genesis” is apt–Tom grew up in Alaska the son of an Episcopal minister and became the Washington, D.C. lobbyist for the Episcopal church. It’s a very interesting story, accessible and interesting for wonks and non-wonks alike.  Listen below or subscribe to download the podcast.

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Another West African Country Poised to Defeat Ebola

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The spread of ebola from Guinea to Mali seems to be under control. The one imported case, a two year old girl who traveled by bus from Guinea, passed away. Contact tracing and isolation seems to have prevented the further spread of the virus in Mali. This counts as very good news.   Mali will probably have limited the outbreak of Ebola to one case if there are no new patients next week, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said. Malian and international health workers reacted “much faster” after the first case was confirmed than in other West African countries, Teresa Sancristoval, head of the emergency unit for Ebola at Doctors Without Borders, said in an interview yesterday. Mali has the equipment to deal with a small outbreak and MSF is training workers, she said.” (Bloomberg


Quote of the Weekend: Ban Ki Moon in a WaPo op-ed “The rate of new Ebola cases shows encouraging signs of slowing in some of the hardest-hit parts of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — and that’s good news. The full-scale international strategy to attack Ebola through safe burials, treatment facilities and community mobilization is paying dividends.” (WaPO


A Fatal Police Shooting in Jerusalem may portend more unrest.  “Israel’s Arab minority observed a one-day general strike on Sunday to protest the fatal police shooting of a young Arab man over the weekend, an event that raised tensions here and prompted charges that the Israeli police resort to force rashly when dealing with Arab citizens.” (NYT




Relatives of Ebola patients in Sierra Leone criticized hospitals for rejecting sick people and not moving fast enough to tackle the outbreak. (VOA


The African Union, African Development Bank and regional business leaders have set up a $28 million crisis fund to help areas hit by the Ebola outbreak, the AU said in a statement. (AFP




The West African regional bloc ECOWAS called on the international community not to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso after the military took control of a transition following the resignation of longtime President Blaise Compaore. (Reuters


The United Nations’ top advisor on preventing genocide appealed for dialogue and greater freedoms in Burundi, which he said needed to avert “the worst” ahead of elections next year. (AFP


Since last month, 120 people have been slaughtered in a wave of mysterious overnight massacres near Eringeti, sowing panic and shattering confidence that Congolese and U.N. forces were making progress in stabilizing the region. (Reuters


One person was killed in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa on Sunday after youths rioted to protest against the killing of an alleged Islamist militant. (Reuters


The Electoral Commission of Zambia has begun preparations to organize a presidential election to replace the late President Michael Sata as required by the constitution, according to Chomba Chella, deputy director for elections. (VOA


South Sudan’s rebels said Sunday they did not expect the government to respect a truce and agree to a peace plan, despite renewed pledges to end an 11-month civil war. (AFP


Intended as a safe haven, a camp housing tens of thousands of people fleeing conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region is becoming a virtual prison with armed militias roaming outside. (AFP


Burkina Faso’s political parties and civil society groups were on Sunday due to adopt a transition plan for the west African country after the ousting of veteran president Blaise Compaore. (AFP




Several Syrian friends of an American aid worker held by the Islamic State group and threatened with decapitation called Saturday for his release, saying he converted to Islam and was helping Syrians. (AP


The United Nations Security Council urged political forces in Yemen to unite, as serious ruptures appeared in the impoverished nation’s nascent cabinet. (AFP


Iraqi officials said Sunday that the head of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was wounded in an airstrike in western Anbar province. Pentagon officials said they had no immediate information on such an attack or on the militant leader being injured. (USA Today




Chinese President Xi Jinping is promising $40 billion to help Asian nations improve trade links in a new effort to assert Beijing’s ambitions as a regional leader. (AP


Two Americans freed by North Korea have returned safely to the United States. (VOA


The Americas


Protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero attack government buildings after grisly details of the deaths of missing students emerge. (BBC


The fight over gay rights in Haiti has become one that’s largely over visibility. The question of how closeted gays should be is the subject of internal struggles for many gay Haitians, the root of infighting among advocates and part of a broader societal struggle over what behavior is to be permitted in public. (Al Jazeera


Arizona’s frustrations over federal enforcement of the state’s border with Mexico spawned a movement nearly a decade ago to have local police confront illegal immigration. Now, the state’s experiment in immigration enforcement is falling apart in the courts. (AP


Seizures of homemade methamphetamine labs are down by nearly half in many Midwestern US states, but use of the drug remains high as people increasingly turn to cheaper, imported Mexican meth. (AP




Podcast: Mariam Mayet on how Western aid can do more harm than good to African farmers  (Humanosphere


Darfur Has Faded From the Headlines, But It’s Still a Total Mess (UN Dispatch


In denying Haiti cholera deaths, UN risks violating its core purpose (GlobalPost


A Strategy for Rich Countries: Absorb More Immigrants (The Upshot


How ColaLife learned to think outside the crate (The Guardian


Ban Ki-moon: The Ebola fight is far from over (The Washington Post


Voices: Ebola establishes dictatorship in Sierra Leone (USA Today


A year after its defeat, could the M23 make a comeback? (Congo Siasa
What really happens to your donated clothing? (WhyDev

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