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Council discusses conflict prevention, Ban meets Kagame and Zapatero, 1267 Committee Ombudsman announced, and more from the UN

SG: today the SG convened the first meeting of the MDG Advocacy Group in Madrid, which is co-chaired by Rwandan President Kagame and Spanish PM Zapatero.  He urged the Advocates to educate and inform on the MDGs and help send the message, especially in this time of economic uncertainty, that the Goals go beyond development and are about generating global economic growth.  This weekend, the SG travels to Geneva to attend the Third World Conference of Speakers of Parliament.

Security Council: today the Council held an open debate on conflict prevention and the settlement of disputes, the focal point of the Liberian Presidency of the Council this month.  Speaking on behalf of the SG, the DSG said that the UN has sought to strengthen DPA, which has supported more than 20 peace processes over the last year alone.  She added that there is a need to re-evaluate how to use the UN’s limited resources to maximize preventative action and build capacity for international preventative diplomacy.

Nelson Mandela International Day: today the UN commemorated the first Nelson Mandela International Day, designated July 18 (Mandela’s birthday) by the GA in November.

OCHA: today USG Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes allocated $41 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for under-funded humanitarian emergencies in 9 countries where people are affected by hunger, malnutrition, disease and conflict.  Humanitarian actors in Chad and DRC received the largest allocations.

1267: in a press conference yesterday, Ambassador Mayr-Harting of Australia – Chair of the 1267 Committee (Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions) – introduced the Kimberly Prost of Canada, the new Ombudsperson (the result of U.S.-sponsored Res. 1904).  In her capacity, Prost will deal with individual cases for delisting and provide independent reports to the Sanctions Committee, who will make final decisions.  In her remarks, Prost, a former judge of the ICTY, said the her objective is to provide individuals with an avenue for a measure of recourse to provide fundamental fairness and overall efficiency, effectiveness and enforceability of sanctions.  She will strive to maintain the two principles of independence and accessibility of her Office.  Answering a question of whether, and how, she will be involved in delisting requests by States (such as the recent U.S. request to delist some Taliban members), she said she will only deal with cases made by individuals – not States – and the issue of listing and delisting itself rests firmly with the Security  Council and 1267 Committee Members.  Ambassador Rice issued this statement on her appointment yesterday.  On a separate note, Staffan de Mistura, SRSG for Afghanistan, confirmed that Afghanistan has put in a request for 10 individuals to be delisted, which has been sent to the Security Council.

UN Millennium Campaign: ahead of the September MDG Summit, the UNMC issued this set of Global Policy Demands.  Significantly, the document urges developing countries to develop national action plans, localize the MDGs, allocate domestic resources, monitor progress and enhance accountability, while calling on developed countries to fulfill aid commitments (0.7% of GNI by 2015) and increase aid effectiveness, reform trade and agricultural  policies to remove barriers to growth in developing countries and analyze progress on MDG commitments.

Kabul Conference: speaking to the press July 13, Holbrooke addressed the upcoming Kabul Conference on Tuesday, July 20, reaffirming that it is not a pledging conference, but rather, a follow-up to the January 28 International Conference in London.  He said the Afghan-led Conference, called by President Karzai, may be the largest gathering of foreign leaders on Afghanistan since the 1970s.  The press reports that the SG is expected to attend.

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Some Global Health Efforts Just Make Sense

A new study from the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that Ethiopia could save 34 million dollars a year by meeting unmet demand for contraceptive services. It would save the medical costs associated with unintended pregnancies. Expanding contraceptive services would also empower women and improve the health of women and children.

It’s an excellent report, and the logic and the data are solid. Here are some excerpts:

“An estimated 21,300 Ethiopian women died from pregnancy related causes in 2008; about 7,300 of these women had not wanted to become pregnant.”

“Poor women have an especially hard time having only the number of children they want. Although their desired family size is larger than that of their better-off counterparts, poor women experience a larger gap between wanted and actual fertility. In 2005, the poorest women had 1.5 children more than they wanted, whereas the wealthiest, who likely have better access to contraceptives, had 0.9 children more than they wanted.”

And here’s the kicker:

“It would cost $118 million to fulfill half of unmet need for modern contraceptives and $182 million to supply all women in need of a modern method…These costs, which may seem high at first glance, are more than compensated for by the savings that accrue from avoiding medical care expenditures related to unintended pregnancies and unplanned childbearing. For example, the estimated costs of treating postabortion complications; providing prenatal, delivery and routine newborn care; and covering all obstetric emergencies currently total $183 million. These costs would be substantially higher—$279 million—without any modern contraceptive use…” In other words, spending money on contraceptives lets women choose their ideal family size and save the money which would be otherwise spent on unwanted pregnancies.

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Christy Turlington’s Documentaty about Maternal Mortality

Former super-model Christy Turlington-Burns is a well known advocate for maternal health.  She recently channeled her activism into a film that takes a hard look at the global plague of maternal mortality.  Her documentary, No Women No Cry debuted at the Tribecca Film Festival in April. Earlier this month, Turlington screened the film at the United Nations for Ban Ki Moon and other diplomats.

Chrysula Winegar of  Work.Life.Balance  attended the screening and offers a very powerful review 

The film is a moving examination of birth stories and cultural issues surrounding death in childbirth from Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala and the USA.  Most of these maternal deaths are preventable through good pre-natal care and decent medical access. Introduced by Secretary-General Ban, there were multiple acknowledgements throughout the post film discussion of Ban’s championship of this crisis, as the United Nations increases its focus on reducing maternal deaths.  Ms Turlington-Burns’, as she presented her film and discussed her motivations and the story-telling experience, spoke determinedly about the work to be done.
Janet, a Tanzanian woman, 9 months pregnant with her third child, walked 5 miles to the nearest clinic, then 5 miles home because she wasn’t progressing in her labor and had not brought any food with her.  Hours later, at nightfall, she trudged back again later when labor intensified.  When it became clear Janet needed additional help, the nearest hospital was a horrifically bumpy ride over several miles costing $30 – more than Janet’s family earned in a month.  Having delivered four babies, that car ride to the hospital has always been the hardest part – clawing the back of the taxi cab and begging the Manhattan traffic to disappear.  I can only imagine how Janet’s body felt as she was lunged from side to side.  She still hadn’t eaten, because there was nothing to eat at home or at the clinic.  For a glimpse into the film and Janet’s experience, take a minute to watch the No Woman No Cry trailer.

Read the entire review.  And watch No Woman No Cry.

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Two Days After ICC Genocide Warrant, Aid Workers Expelled from Darfur

The last time the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, in March 2009, Khartoum responded in kind by expelling several aid workers and organizations from Darfur. The expulsion of aid agencies back then had a profoundly deleterious effect on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, in particular for the provision of health services to victims of sexual assault.

Is history repeating?

Earlier this week, the ICC issued a second arrest warrant for Bashir — this time for the crime of genocide. And today, the International Organization for Migration is confirming that two of its international staffers working in Darfur have been booted from the country by Sudanese authorities. According to the IOM, no explanation has been given as to why these aid workers were expelled. An IOM spokesperson Jean-Philippe Chauzy would not speculate on the reasons behind the government’s decision to expel two senior staffers. In fact, he was quick to reject any suggestion that the expulsions might be a reaction to the ICC arrest warrant. 

It is understandable why the IOM would not want to speculate. As an aid organization, it’s primary role is to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations.

Still, harassment of the IOM could have dire humanitarian consequences throughout Darfur.  The IOM manages the so-called “common pipeline” of Non-Food Items –that is, goods such as medical supplies, tarps and tents–that make their way from donor agencies into Darfur. This is a key logistical role that supports the entire Darfur humanitarian aid operation. The IOM actually took over this role from the international NGO Care after CARE was expelled in 2009 after the ICC issued its first arrest warrant.

It would seem to me that the Sudanese authorities understand that the best way to obstruct the humanitarian operation is to strike at its logistical core.  But again, I’m saying that–not the IOM. Here is what the IOM is saying in its own words. 

From my telephone interview with IOM spokesperson Jean-Philippe Chauzy, who goes into depth about the IOM’s work in Darfur and how it might be affected by the expulsions.

IOMSpokesperson by UN Dispatch

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Why Girls? Because They are Ready to Change the World

Ed note: This week UN Dispatch and RH Realty Check are pleased to host a special series of blog posts on empowering adolescent girls in the developing world. We are calling the series “Girls Count,” which is the name of a series of reports from the Coalition for Adolescent Girls which seeks to elevate the profile of adolescent girls on the international development agenda and within strategies to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals”

By Ariana Childs Graham, coordinator of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.

Today, less than half a cent of every international development dollar is directed to adolescent girls; the rest of funding goes elsewhere. As long as girls remain invisible, the world misses out on a tremendous opportunity for change.

But: if she has assets – a social network, skills, knowledge, self-esteem, personal security – before that critical turning point, she has a much greater chance of staying on course. Her life can follow a different path, an ideal one, which takes her from her home into school – primary and secondary – and then gives her decent economic livelihood opportunities. If she has those resources readily available, she can have an impact on her future and the futures of her siblings: she becomes a hugely powerful agent of change.

The bigger picture of adolescent girls’ realities and the broader impact of their states of well-being was largely unclear in the past. However, the increasing base of knowledge within the Girls Count series commissioned has revealed several key facts, ultimately showing how adolescent girls will either accelerate growth or perpetuate poverty. It all depends on where we choose to invest existing resources.

We also need to engage all relevant stakeholders in the process – from international policy makers to local communities. Educators, men and boys, religious and community leaders in fact often control the environment for girls and have a strong influence over what happens. Involving girls themselves is also critical: research has shown how listening to girls’ insights and including them in the program designing process increases impact and effectiveness.

Change is indeed possible. See this example from Girls Speak: A New Voice in Global Development: 

In Upper Egypt, the Ishraq program initiated a process of social change in the community by engaging parents and boys in support of greater life opportunities for girls. An evaluation of the program found that parents who participated in Ishraq were dramatically less likely to agree that a girl should be beaten if she disobeys her brother than parents who did not participate, and early marriage rates also declined.

And this from Girls Count: A Global Investment & Action Agenda:

The MV Foundation’s Girl Child Programme in Ranga Reddy District of Andhra Pradesh, India, mobilizes communities and governments against bonded and child labor, including domestic labor, with the aim of returning girls to school. The foundation challenges traditional social norms by educating critical stakeholders on girls’ rights to an education. Community mobilization aims to make girl child labor a public issue—rather than a private, family one.

These are just a few of the success stories possible when girls are put at the center. Experts convened by the Coalition for Adolescent Girls have mapped out a platform for action to ignite change and improve the lives of adolescent girls around the world. These include:

• Economically empower adolescent girls by putting assets in girls’ hands.

• Focus HIV prevention on adolescent girls.

• Make health system strengthening and monitoring work for girls

It is up to all of us to foster the conditions that enable adolescent girls to thrive and unleash their full potential. Why girls? Because they are ready to change the world, but they can not do it alone.

For more information please visit:

Coalition for Adolescent Girls

International Center for Research on Women

Girl Up

The Girl Effect

The Girls Speak report

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Ban to Madrid, Helen Clark To Ghana, OCHA Mid-Year Review, and more from this day at the UN

SG: tonight he SG is off to Madrid to participate in the first meeting of the MDGs Advocacy Group tomorrow.

Haiti IASC Report: today USG Humanitarian Affairs Holmes launched the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (or IASC, a inter-agency forum for coordination involving the UN and humanitarian partners) report on the Haiti earthquake response.  The report offers an honest assessment of the UN and NGO response in Haiti and lessons learned for the future.  In achievements, it notes that despite the challenging environment, immediate objectives were largely met (including food assistance, emergency shelter, water and Cash-for-Work).  While not perfect, the cluster system and coordination structures between the military and humanitarian actors were critical and improved over time.  In statements made by Holmes and representatives of WHO, UNICEF, Concern Worldwide and IFRC (International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent), several lessons learned were apparent: while well-meaning, many of the humanitarian organization were not well-informed and posed challenges to the response; there is a need to better listen to the needs of the people on the ground; the risks of disasters must be reduced before they happen and this must be done more systematically; and national and local NGOs must be engaged to build capacity, which will help for the long-term.

UNDP: today UNDP Administrator Helen Clark is wrapping-up a three-day visit to Ghana, including the annual meeting of UN Resident Coordinators in Africa.  On Wednesday, she met with women’s leaders and lauded Ghana’s progress towards MDG3, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

OCHA mid-year review: Yesterday, USG Humanitarian Affairs Holmes issued OCHA’s mid-year report and appeal, revising the 2010 appeal upwards from $7.1 billion to $9.5 billion, due mainly to Haiti and regional African crises in the Sahel and CAR.  Since the original appeal was made, countries have pledged $4.53 billion, leaving $4.98 billion needed.  This money will go towards the goal of providing humanitarian assistance to 53 million people in 34 countries.

Israel: last night Ambassador Rice made remarks at a farewell reception for Israeli Ambassador Gabrila Shalev, who recently announced will be heading the Ono Academic College’s academic board next year.  Daniel Carmon, Ambassador Shalev’s deputy, is also finishing up his term at the Mission.  It is still unclear who will succeed Shalev as Israeli PR.

EU @ UN: The EU will soon be tabling a resolution at the GA which would give it the right to speak and have the same privileges of other Member States (v. observers), such as making proposals and submitting amendments to resolutions and circulating documents.  The Brits underlined that this would not undermine their seat at the Security Council.

Wolff: Former Deputy PR of the U.S. Alejandro Wolff has been nominated by President Obama to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Chile.

Image: flickr.

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