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Middle East; Iraq; Afghanistan

Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones. UN Humanitarian officials also expressed concern over the unfolding health disaster in Gaza as the region’s medical facilities are on the verge of collapse due to the three weeks of conflict. OCHA reported that 1,777 Palestinians and 66 Israelis have been killed. Despite Israel’s proposed seven-hour ceasefire for today, Hamas did not agree and the international community continues to call for a ceasefire as parties met in Cairo over the weekend to discuss terms of agreement.

Iraq: The SG expressed alarm over Islamic State forces taking over Sinjar and Tal Afar districts in Iraq. The SRSG for Iraq reported 200,000 displaced civilians in need of food, water, and shelter. The SG called on the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to work together to address the security needs of the country. UNAMI and OCHA continue to work with humanitarian partners to provide supplies to meet the needs of those displaced.

Afghanistan: The audit process for Afghanistan’s Presidential election run-off results continues as the UN called for the full commitment of parties to complete the process without further interruption. An airlift operation was launched to collect ballot boxes in Kabul for auditing under domestic and international observers, UN advisors and media.

Libya: UNSMIL welcomed the meeting of the Council of Representatives as it provides the necessary steps to safeguard the security, safety, unity, and sovereignty of Libya to provide an environment of inclusive political dialogue. UNSMIL continues to condemn the violence in Tripoli and Benghazi and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Ebola: WHO and West African leaders continue to call for contributions from the international community for the $100 million response plan to fight the spread of Ebola as reports indicate that the death toll has risen to 887 out of 1,603 cases. WHO Chief Margaret Chan announced that WHO will convene an Emergency Committee meeting on August 6-7 to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.” The two US aid workers infected with the virus are to be treated at Emory University Hospital in Georgia.

Africa Summit: Leaders from across the African continent convene this week in D.C. for the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit . The Summit focuses on investment in up-and-coming economies in Africa as well as democracy-building, education and health care. Ambassador Power spoke at the Summit today regarding the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as a “new, modern, multilateral network that brings civil society together as an equal partner with government.”

South Asia: OCHA reported that over 100 people were killed by a landslide in India. The Government of India is working to clear debris and recover bodies and OCHA’s Asia Pacific regional office is in close contact with Indian authorities. Heavy South Asian rains caused another landslide in Nepal on Saturday with an expected death toll of 150. The Resident Coordinator is working with humanitarian agencies to prepare a response.

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Episode 28: Nancy Birdsall


Nancy Birdsall’s career includes long stints at the the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank before founding her own cutting edge research institution. The international development pioneer and founder of the Center for Global Development discusses how she got her start in international development in the 1960s and how the field has changed since then.

It’s an interesting conversation with great digressions and diversions about the history of the American approach to international development. The conversation kicks off with a discussion of the African Leaders summit underway in DC.

If you like what you hear, subscribe on iTunes.

Previous episodes

Why this Ebola Outbreak is So Hard to Contain

Episode 27: Daniel Drezner, counter-intuitive wonk

How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire

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


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Another UN School Hit in Gaza

At least 10 people were killed when Israeli shells struck near a UN school in southern Gaza sheltering some 3,000 people. The condemnations were particularly strong from the USA after this latest attack on a UN school. “Israel announced a seven-hour truce in parts of Gaza on Monday after pulling many of its ground forces out of the Palestinian territory, a strategic pause that left open the possibility of a renewed large-scale assault on Hamas…Shrapnel from an Israeli missile aimed at militants on a motorcycle there tore through a United Nations school crowded with displaced Palestinians, U.N. officials said, drawing international condemnation of Israel…The Obama administration said it was “appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling”—the third fatal blast at a U.N. shelter since the conflict began.” (WSJ

“Over 50 African countries will be represented in DC this week for the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit. The high-level gathering, which will bring together presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers from a majority of African nations, and will be a unique opportunity to deepen and widen the U.S.-Africa relationship on a number of fronts.  Here are a few key areas to watch during this week’s summit.” (UN Dispatch

Official Schedule from the White House:

Some analysis from Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development

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WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said health and relief workers have been trying to educate families in the Ebola affected regions of West Africa about how to bury their loved ones without exposing themselves to the virus. He said people who touch the dead could be putting themselves at risk. (VOA

Talks between South Sudan’s warring parties about the formation of a transitional government failed to take off this week as aid officials battled to address a worsening humanitarian crisis in oil producing regions from the devastating seven-month conflict. (WSJ


United Nations humanitarian officials have warned of a widespread health disaster in the Gaza Strip unless the ongoing fighting stops immediately. The officials Saturday criticized the lack of protection for doctors and medical facilities in Gaza, saying the region’s medical services are on the verge of collapse. (VOA

Egypt has increased the amount of electricity it provides to Gaza and urged Israel to repair power lines damaged during Israeli bombardment that has left at least one million people without electricity, an Egyptian official said. (Reuters


A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck southwestern China on Sunday, killing at least 150 people in a remote mountainous area of Yunnan province, causing some buildings, including a school, to collapse. (VOA

China suffered its worst industrial accident in a year on Saturday when an explosion killed at least 69 people and injured more than 120 at a factory that makes wheels for U.S. carmakers, including General Motors. (VOA

Sri Lanka must stop deporting Pakistani asylum seekers, a practice banned under international law, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said. (Reuters

A vaccine worker in Pakistan explains why she continues doing her work, despite deadly attacks by the Taliban. (NPR

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election plunged deeper into crisis on Sunday when one of the main contenders accused a deputy of President Hamid Karzai of orchestrating fraud in favor of his rival. (VOA

There is no chance of finding any of the more than 150 people who are believed to have been buried by a massive landslide in northern Nepal, an official said Sunday, as rescuers struggled to dig through piles of rock, mud and trees. (AP

More than 400,000 people in eastern India face the risk of flooding after a landslide that killed at least nine people in neighboring Nepal, an Indian government official said on Sunday, as thousands were being evacuated. (Reuters

The Americas

The number of unaccompanied minor immigrants who have crossed into the United States has officially surpassed the 60,000 expected in the Obama administration’s initial estimates, according to Department of Homeland Security data. (CNN

Following a presidential election in Panama earlier this year, John Kerry, now US Secretary of State, congratulated the country on its “peaceful and orderly.” Has Panama genuinely moved from a “narco-kleptocracy” to a peaceful and orderly democracy in just 25 years? (BBC

An American aid worker infected with the deadly Ebola virus while in Liberia seems to be improving but authorities are monitoring his condition closely, the top U.S. health official said on Sunday. (Reuters

The worst Ebola outbreak in history is heaping new pressure on US regulators to speed the development of treatments for the deadly virus, which has killed more than 700 people since February. (Reuters


Visualizing progress against tuberculosis (Humanosphere

Rwanda is setting the pace for progress against HIV/AIDS (Solutions Journalism Network

On AIDS: Three Lessons From Africa (NY Times

Why Bringing Ebola Patients To The U.S. Is The Right Thing To Do (AP

 What You’re Not Hearing About Ebola: Campaign to ‘Kick It Out’ (allAfrica

Hey aid worker, what’s your legacy? (WhyDev

 Where were the grassroots voices at the Girl Summit? (Guardian Professional

Interactive Quiz: Do you know Africa? (Washington Post

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U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: What To Expect

Over 50 African countries will be represented in DC next week for the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit. The high-level gathering, which will bring together presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers from a majority of African nations, and will be a unique opportunity to deepen and widen the U.S.-Africa relationship on a number of fronts.  Here are a few key areas to watch during next week’s summit:

Economic partnership at the forefront

The agenda for the summit is heavy on the business and trade discussions, reflecting a particular interest and focus of the Obama administration on growing the economic ties between the U.S. and Africa. Hosted by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Bloomberg Philanthropies head and former Mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg, the U.S.- Africa Business Forum, held on August 5, will bring together some serious political and economic heavy-weights – from former president Bill Clinton and vice-president Joe Biden, to the CEO of Coca-Cola, Mastercard and the head of the World Bank, the star-studded day-long event is central to next week’s summit. As the United States seeks to expand its commercial presence on the continent, the outcomes of this forum will be interesting to watch.

One of the key trade topics will likely be whether the “seamless renewal” of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), promised by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 will go through as promised. Granting preferential access to U.S. markets for African countries, this key trade agreement between the U.S. and Africa has been at the core of economic policy towards the continent for the last 14 years, and is set to expire in 2015. Analysts are calling for Congress to act and renew this agreement, a call which is likely to be reprised by summit participants in DC next week.

Peace and security 

The U.S. security agenda in Africa has been driven primarily by dealing with transnational threats across a vast east-west swath of the continent, primarily the Sahel region but also extending deeply into eastern Africa. Terrorism and radicalism rank high in the list of priority areas for U.S. engagement on security issues in Africa, but dealing with trafficking and other shadowy networks has also been a key preoccupation. The U.S. has also been involved as a peace broker, with somewhat limited success, in places like South Sudan. Part of the difficulty with advocating an agenda of peace and security at a multilateral government summit is that many of the governments represented at the Summit are parties to the violent conflicts that have been rocking the continent – these are sensitive topics that do not lend themselves well to drilling down in such high level, highly political forums. At most, we should expect to see some basic, lowest-common-denominator language about a commitment to peace and security. Conflict and security experts are not holding their breath for any significant or new commitments from the Obama administration on security issues.

Human rights

There has been much chatter about how the lack of civil society participation in the Summit – despite the last minute decision to include a civil society forum on the first day. It is unsurprising that human rights, democratization and fundamental freedoms are not high on the agenda. Indeed, similarly to peace and security issues, these thorny topics often shine a light on some of the less savory policies, practices and behaviors of some African governments. The We Are Africa campaign managed to get the civil society forum on the agenda, which was an important accomplishment. But, as John Kerry’s relative silence on freedom of expression during his recent trip to Ethiopia – immediately after journalists had been jailed without charges – demonstrates, human rights issues take a back seat to trade and economic ties.

The U.S.-Africa Summit is the capstone event of the Obama administration’s engagement with Africa. It is long overdue – indeed, most other key global economic actors have already been engaging with African leadership at similar summits for years.

African Leaders' Summit Graphic from the Brookings Institute:

African Leaders’ Summit Graphic from the Brookings Institute:

Summit watchers will be looking for concrete commitments on the expansion of trade and economic ties. While civil society concerns with regards to civil and political rights seem to be overshadowed, business owners and private sector actors – on both sides – will be paying close attention to the promises and outcomes of the summit.

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Gaza Ceasefire Falters. Is there a Plan B?

That did not last long. A ceasefire announced last night in a joint statement by John Kerry and Ban Ki Moon crumbled after four hours. The details are still murky, but it seems that Hamas has captured an Israeli soldier.

The ceasefire was brokered by the United Nations special representative in the region, Robert Serry. He is a career diplomat, originally from the Netherlands, who has served as the UN’s “special coordinator” for the Middle East peace process since 2007. (He’s a well known trouble shooter. A few months ago, he traveled to rebel occupied Crimea where he was briefly kidnapped by separatists).  The ceasefire, while it lasted, called for 72 hours of calm in which humanitarian relief organizations in Gaza could be resupplied and families could begin to assess the damage to their homes in Israel and Gaza.

This kind of humanitarian pause is central to the international community’s strategy for securing a longer ceasefire agreement. As John Kerry put it, ““by stringing together enough temporary periods of quiet … there might yet be a way for the Israelis and the Palestinians to begin talks on a long-term solution.”  The idea is that a humanitarian pause in the fighting, perhaps for 72 hours, could give both sides some breathing room and space to negotiate a more durable ceasefire.

This is now the second time in one week that this tactic has failed. The question going forward is whether or not to try again or find another approach?

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WHO Ups the Ebola Ante

The head of the World Health Organization is meeting with the presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in Conakry to launch a new, $100 million plan to curb the Ebola outbreak. Meanwhile, those three presidents are skipping the African Leaders Summit in DC next week to focus on the outbreak. “The Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan in West Africa identifies the need for several hundred more personnel to be deployed in affected countries to supplement overstretched treatment facilities. Hundreds of international aid workers, as well as 120-plus WHO staff, are already supporting national and regional response efforts. But more are urgently required. Of greatest need are clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilization experts, logisticians and data managers. The plan also outlines the need to increase preparedness systems in neighbouring nations and strengthen global capacities.” (WHO

For his podcast, Mark talks to a WHO official who explains why this particular outbreak has been so difficult to contain. (Global Dispatches Podcast

A Ceasefire in Gaza? A joint statement from Ban Ki Moon and John Kerry announces a new humanitarian pause: “This humanitarian cease-fire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place. We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian cease-fire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the cease-fire. This cease-fire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.” (State Dept

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About $100 million of funding is needed from international donors to pay for food-security programs in the Sahel, the UN has warned, as more than 20 million people continue to face shortages. (IRIN

The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has risen to 729, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday, after 57 deaths were reported between July 24 and 27 in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. (Reuters

The World Health Organization is not recommending any travel restrictions or border closures due to the Ebola outbreak and there would be a low risk to other passengers if an Ebola patient flew, the airlines association IATA said on Thursday. (Reuters

Nigerian forces have arrested two Boko Haram suspects who were travelling with a 10-year-old girl with explosives strapped to her, the government said. (Reuters

Agricultural experts say that small-scale farmers in Africa can play a key role in ending food insecurity in the region – if they are included in the value chain. (VOA

Standard Chartered Plc has pledged a further $3 billion to the White House initiative- Power Africa, which was aimed at improving access to electricity in Africa. (Guardian

Coffee growers, dealers, experts and farmer organizations in Cameroon are all piling blame on faulty government policies dating back to the early 1990s and calling for renewed subventions to farmers. (VOA

A renowned economist, Kwame Pianim, says Ghana is facing a major economic crisis since the dark days of the economic recovery efforts of the 1980s. (Ghanian Chronicle


Islamic hard-line militias, including the group accused by the United States in a 2012 attack that killed the ambassador and three other Americans, claimed control of Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, after overrunning army barracks and seizing heavy weapons. (Denver Post

A senior diplomat from the Philippines is flying to north Africa to supervise the evacuation of 13,000 citizens from Libya after a Filipino worker there was beheaded and a nurse gang-raped. (BBC

Food price rises as far back as 2008 are believed to be the partial culprits behind the instability plaguing Arab countries and they have become increasingly aware of the importance of securing food needs through an international strategy of land grabs which are often detrimental to local populations. (IPS

The White House said Thursday there’s little doubt Israeli artillery hit a United Nations school in Gaza, a deadly incident that a spokesman called “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.” (AP


The mammoth task of auditing eight million votes cast in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election will restart on Saturday, the electoral commission said on Thursday, but disputes still hang over the process. (VOA

From Vietnam to Burma, the leading drug against malaria is losing potency, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. On the plus side, the same issue of the journal reports that a new antimalarial drug looks promising in an early test. (VOA

Thailand’s military government this week approved a $23 billion, eight-year plan to upgrade the national railway system, marking another effort to boost and reshape the economy. (VOA

A UN official who went to Vietnam to assess religious freedom there said Thursday that security agents closely monitored his visit and people he wanted to meet were harassed and intimidated. (AP

Nepal’s May 2014 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act ruled out amnesty for rape during the country’s decade-long civil war that ended in 2006 with 16,000 dead and more than 100,000 displaced. However, despite this provision, activists say survivors of war-time sexual violence will hit a wall if they try to file their cases now. (IRIN

The Americas

Venezuela is gearing up to pass a new law to combat discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, in a country where the epidemic claims nearly 4,000 lives and infects 11,000 mainly young people every year, including increasing numbers of women. (IPS

Argentina blames the US for its default, calling the mediator in debt negotiations which ended in failure “incompetent”. (BBC

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. (VOA

A key committee of the World Bank’s governing board Wednesday spurned appeals to revise a  draft policy statement that, according to nearly 100 civil-society groups, risks rolling back several decades of reforms designed to protect indigenous populations, the poor and sensitive ecosystems. (IPS


Who is going to pay for international development? (Guardian


Five years ago, delivering food aid was all about hauling cargoes of wheat, rice and maize around the world. Today, instead of queuing for rations, recipients are quite likely to be given the means to buy their own food. As the cash transfer sector matures, IRIN spoke to experts to discuss the latest innovations and lessons learned. (IRIN

Investing in nutrition through agriculture (IFAD

The effects of climate change on children (UNICEF

New research shows urbanization may be bad for people’s health, unless planners develop cities that allow healthier lifestyles and environments. (VOA

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