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Where Humanity Will Live in 2050

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Our Urban Future…A new UN report predicts a sharp rise in urban living. “Two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, posing unique infrastructural challenges for African and Asian countries, where 90% of the growth is predicted to take place…Africa is projected to experience a 16% rise in its urban population by 2050 – making it the most rapidly urbanising region on the planet – as the number of people living in its cities soars to 56%. The report predicts there will be more than 40 megacities worldwide by 2050,each with a population of at least 10 million. Delhi, Shanghai and Tokyo are predicted to remain the world’s most populous cities in 2030, when each is projected to be home to more than 30 million people.” (Guardian

Happy World Population Day!

A Child Migrant’s Story: What is compelling this surge in migration to the USA, particularly of unaccompanied minors? Who are these children and families? And what is their journey like? Mark speaks with Gary Shaye of Save the Children, which is running a relief operation in Texas for children and families that have made it across the border. (Global Dispatches Podcast


Amnesty International has published the names of people suspected to have committed human rights violations and war crimes in the Central African Republic. The human rights group says these individuals must be investigated and held accountable in order for the country to begin a peace and reconciliation process. (VOA

More than half of China’s foreign aid of over $14 billion between 2010 and 2012 was directed to Africa, the government said on Thursday, underscoring Beijing’s interest in the resource-rich continent to fuel its economy. (Reuters

The number of hungry people in Somalia will increase this year for the first time since the 2011 famine as drought is starting to bite, the United Nations said. (Thompson Reuters Foundation

Health workers in Liberia are said to be fleeing and returning from their areas of assignment due to the increasing number of Ebola patients. Some are said to have died from treating patients infected by the deadly virus. (The New Dawn

A new study by two British universities says Somalia’s piracy problem can be sustainably solved by building roads and harbors to encourage people in remote areas to engage in legitimate trade. (AP


The United Nations has evacuated dozens of foreign staff from its mission in Libya due to a deteriorating security situation in the North African country, a U.N. spokesman said on Thursday. (Reuters

Palestinian deaths from Israel’s aerial attacks in Gaza rose sharply on Thursday, while militants there fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, reaching new targets spread across a vast swath of the country. (NYT


John Kerry arrived in Afghanistan Friday on a key mission to try to quell tensions over disputed presidential polls which have triggered fears of violence and ethnic unrest. (AFP

India’s new government has unveiled what it says is a roadmap to revive economic growth, which has fallen to its lowest level in nearly two decades. (VOA

The US military is scaling back its counter-terrorism assistance program in the southern Philippines after more than a decade of regular rotations. The move comes despite persisting security threats in the region. (VOA

Four reporters and the chief executive officer of a magazine in Myanmar have been sentenced to 10 years at hard labor in prison on a national security charge for investigative stories about a weapons factory. (AP

The Americas

The Nicaraguan government has confirmed the country’s first two cases of people infected with a mosquito-borne virus that has spread quickly through the Caribbean region this year. (AP

Panama’s new president Juan Carlos Varela’s key challenges include dealing with slower economic growth, rising inflation and the goal of reducing poverty.


“Help” is Hurting Africa (Medium

I’m getting tired of ‘corporatization’ claims regarding the development industry (Aidnography

What Can South Africa Learn From India’s Response to Sexual Violence? (Daily Maverick

The west’s peanut butter bias chokes Haiti’s attempts to feed itself (Guardian

Q&A with Simon Denyer: India’s Massive, Complex Democracy (VOA

The Elusive Quest for Women’s Land Rights (CGD

Q&A with Rita Manchanda: Conflict and Women’s Rights (VOA

The Brics New Development Bank and Currency Reserve Arrangement At a Glance (GEG Africa

Can the New African Court Truly Deliver Justice for Serious Crimes? (ISS

Obama’s Quick Fix Won’t Solve the Regional Refugee Crisis (IPS


A cash injection of as little as $12 per month for an impoverished family could determine whether a child eats properly or goes to school or not. With cash transfer programmes around the world now having a profound impact on the lives of poor people, the debate is less about whether to implement them than how to do so. (IRIN

The dealings of public finance institutions, which use billions of euros of taxpayers’ money to fund private sector projects in poor countries, remain shrouded in secrecy and skewed to favour the governments of wealthy states, according to a coalition of NGOs. (Guardian

Some of the statistics in the latest Millennium Development Goals report are up to four years old, according to the lead author of the UN’s recent report. (SciDevNet

Between 2009 and 2012, an estimated 94,000 newborn deaths were averted as a result of the scale-up of these malaria interventions during pregnancy. Countries attaining high coverage and use of malaria control interventions during this period saw child mortality rates fall by as much as to 20%. (WHO

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Middle East; Lebanon; Saudi Arabia

Middle East: The SG briefed the SC this morning on the situation in the Middle East. He condemned the rockets fired from Gaza into Israel as well as Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza and warned of an all-out escalation if both sides fail to exercise restraint.

Lebanon: The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon visited the north-eastern region today to examine the conditions of the 376,000 displaced Syrians. The Humanitarian Coordinator commended the generosity of Lebanon and reiterated that the UN will continue to encourage the international community to assist the country and share Lebanon’s burden.

Saudi Arabia: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay expressed concern for the treatment of peaceful human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. She urged authorities to release those held in connection with peaceful advocacy of human rights.

Japan: OCHA reported that a landslide yesterday killed a 12 year old boy ahead of Typhoon Neoguri which is expected to reach Japan tomorrow.

New Syrian Envoy: Ambassador Samantha Powers welcomed the SG’s appointment of Mr. Staffan de Mistura to replace Lakhdar Brahimi as the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Syria.

Urbanization: UN DESA released the 2014 revision of the World Urbanization Prospects report stating that the current 54% of the world’s population that inhabits urban areas today will jump to 66% by 2050. The report highlights the need for successful urban planning in order to meet the needs of growing urbanization.

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A UN View of the Gaza Conflict

“Maximum restraint” is the maxim at the United Nations.

Earlier today, Ban Ki Moon briefed a special security council session on the current crisis in Israel and Palestine. From the UN News Center 

 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today warned the United Nations Security Council of the “risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza” and made an urgent appeal for maximum restraint, saying his “paramount concern is the safety and well-being of all civilians, no matter where they are.”

“Today, we face the risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza, with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable – and preventable only if Hamas stops rocket firing,” the Secretary-General told the urgently-called meeting of the Security Council Thursday morning on the Middle East, which he told reporters yesterday that he had requested.

The Secretary-General said over the past several days, the Palestinian factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired more than 550 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel, and the Israeli Defence Forces have launched more than 500 airstrikes on Gaza.

“It is now more urgent than ever to try to find common ground for a return to calm and a cease-fire understanding,” he said.

“Once again civilians are paying the price for the continuation of conflict,” Mr. Ban said. “My paramount concern is the safety and well-being of all civilians, no matter where they are. It pains me – and it should pain us all – to be reliving circumstances that are all too reminiscent of the two most recent wars in Gaza.”

So far, both sides are not heeding his call. The death toll so far is neatly 70 and counting in Gaza, including many children. Meanwhile, rockets are raining down deep inside Israel (though no Israeli has been injured so far).

From the UN’s perspective, this is first and foremost a humanitarian calamity. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is a UN humanitarian organization dedicated to supporting the needs of Palestinian refugees, is reporting that several of its facilities, including six schools and two hospitals, have sustained damage.

From a political standpoint, this crisis is likely to demonstrate further divisions at the Security Council, with the United States not likely deviating from its role as Israel’s defender-in-chief. Should the conflict drag on for much longer, I would suspect that some members of the Security Council would draft a resolution (or at least a non-binding “presidential statement”) calling for a ceasefire. At this point, it is not likely that the USA would support these efforts; they would likely block consensus required for a presidential statement calling for a ceasefire. Also, if it came to it, the USA would also likely pull out all the necessary diplomatic stops to avoid having to veto a resolution calling for a ceasefire.

This dynamic played itself out back in 2012, when Israel launched a weeklong assault on Gaza following a barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza.  What has changed since then, from a Security Council point of view, is that Russia and the United States have become increasingly antagonistic, with both parties maneuvering to force the other to cast potentially embarrassing vetoes. I would not be surprised if Russia presses hard for a ceasefire resolution that it knows the USA would veto.

Photo Credit: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

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A Migrant’s Story: Why are So Many Children Fleeing to the USA?

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There is a refugee crisis in the USA.

Since October over 50,000 children and tens of thousands of families have streamed across the southern border of the United States. What is compelling this surge in migration, particularly of unaccompanied minors? Who are these children and families? And what is their journey like?

I speak with Gary Shaye of Save the Children, which is running a relief operation in Texas for children and families that have made it across the border.  He discusses the circumstances in which children and families come to the USA from central America and tells stories from his recent visit to the border.





Previous episodes

Episode 23: Live from the UN 2014 (Volume 2)

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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Sudan’s Gloomy Birthday

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South Sudan celebrated its third independence day and things have never been worse. “A political crisis that devolved into fighting last December has displaced 1.4 million people and left an estimated 10,000 people dead. Activists working in and around the young nation are concerned about its future.Chief among the concerns is humanitarian problems caused by protracted instability. Assistance is only reaching 2 million of the 4.5 million in need, said Noah Gottschalk, Senior Policy Advisor for Oxfam America , in a press briefing yesterday. That is not even what is most worrying. ‘South Sudan is at very serious risk of experiencing a famine this year,’ said Gottschalk. ‘We have the opportunity now to prevent a famine.’ (Humanosphere

Plus…A group of seven major international aid agencies said they face a shortfall of $89 million just when the South Sudan humanitarian crisis edges closer to the risk of famine. Speaking out on the 3rd anniversary of the country’s independence they warned their aid efforts to help hundreds of thousands of people caught up in the conflict was under threat due to a lack of funds.

And…Floods, malaria and malnutrition are making life worse for internally displaced people staying at camps in South Sudan. (VOA

Afghan Civilian Deaths on the Rise…”The number of Afghan civilians, including children, killed in violence rose by nearly 17 percent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2013 as the fight is increasingly taking place closer to homes in populated areas, the U.N. said. (AP


Warning about the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic, WFP said that the violence there was threatening humanitarian assistance and creating major difficulties for relief workers in the field. (UN News Centre

The world is tantalizingly close to wiping out Guinea worm, a 3-foot-long parasite that emerges from a blister in the skin. Only 17 cases have occurred so far this year. Next year there could be zero. (NPR

With around 365,000 DRC nationals dispersed across several countries in the Great Lakes region, many of them for almost two decades, the traditional triad of “durable solutions” – going home, integrating for good locally, or moving to a third country – remain “largely elusive”, according to the UN Refugee Agency. (IRIN


Iraqi security forces found 53 corpses, blindfolded and handcuffed, in a town south of Baghdad early on Wednesday, local officials said. (VOA

The sarin gas possibly used in Syria was originally supplied by a British firm in the 1980s. (The Independent

More than 35,000 people have been displaced in Yemen’s Omran province, a local government refugee agency said on Wednesday, a day after Shi’ite Muslim tribal fighters overran the provincial capital following fighting that killed more than 200 people. (AP

Bahrain interrogated its top opposition leader on Wednesday after expelling a senior U.S. diplomat for meeting him, a remarkable slap at Washington from the ally that hosts the U.S. Navy’s Middle East fleet. (VOA


Leaders of the BRICS nations will launch their long-awaited development bank at a summit next week and decide whether the headquarters should be in Shanghai or New Delhi, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Wednesday. (Reuters

India’s new government presents its inaugural budget this week in the first substantive test of whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver on ambitious promises to revive stalled economic growth. (AP

The rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on an overnight train in Thailand have prompted a nationwide call for stricter enforcement of rape laws and a weekend rally that will defy military restrictions on public gatherings. (Reuters

Sri Lanka has banned civil activist groups from holding news conferences and training for journalists, with the organizations rejecting the move as unconstitutional. (AP

The Americas

Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion to address an immigration crisis that has seen tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America cross illegally into the US. (VOA

British companies will be able to sue the Colombian government in the international courts for the first time under a controversial investment treaty that critics say will make it harder for the Latin American country to carry out land reform a key component of its ongoing peace process. (Guardian


Getting at the root of extreme weather’s connection to civil conflict (Humanosphere

Environment Should be Priority in China’s Urbanisation Spree (IPS

Q&A on push to treat young immigrants as refugees (AP

South Sudan: little to celebrate as war and hunger mar independence day (Guardian

Analysis: Iraq’s minorities under fire (IRIN

Health service gaps in Africa led to Ebola epidemic (ODI


The 48 least developed countries, described as the poorest of the world’s poor, want to be an integral part of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda currently under discussion. (IPS

An AIDS research team at Iowa State University will not get the final $1.38 million payment of a National Institutes of Health five-year grant after a team member admitted last year to faking research results, the NIH said. (AP

Britain has played a key role in galvanising international attention towards the problem of undernutrition, but the government needs to target its policies on those most in need and better engage the private sector in its efforts, according to the UK aid watchdog. (Guardian

Despite effective drugs having been available for over 50 years, TB still kills a million people a year, making it the world’s single deadliest infectious disease after AIDS. (IRIN

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Understanding Afghanistan’s Education Crisis

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As Afghanistan’s political elites are locked in a heated dispute over last months presidential election results, one critical issue to the entire afghan population is being overlooked.

In the 2013 Survey of the Afghan People by the Asia Foundation, 78 percent of men and 90 percent of women said that they somewhat or strongly agree that men and women should be provided with equal educational opportunities. This is a large portion of the population, but even now only 37 per cent of school students are girls. This seems like a big improvement given in 2000, only a few hundred girls went to underground schools, but the reality remains that receiving schooling beyond third grade remains a dream for the majority of Afghan women and girls.

According to reports by the Afghan Ministry of Education and Child Info only 9.2% of Afghan girls make it to secondary school compared to a still-low 28% for boys. In fact, even in the Survey of the Afghan People, 76 percent of the women interviewed had no education at all. If the majority of Afghan people, 83% according to Asia Foundation, agree that women should have equal access to education, why are so few girls attending and graduating schools?

When I visited a few schools in Faryab in northern Afghanistan I received one of the answers.

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While working as a freelance reporter for Save the Children International, I visited a girl’s school in the rural district of Belcheragh. The school building was located on top of a little hill and modest. Save the Children had supported the building of the school so it seemed like one of the more well-off schools in the region. In fact, this was one of the first schools I had gone to that didn’t have ruins in rural areas in Faryab. Despite having a building, a group of girls were sitting over a plastic carpet on a porch outside the building due to lack of space. The vast majority of the students at the school were from the uzbek ethnic group and wearing traditional flowery scarves. Very few of them were wearing the black dress and white scarf uniform designated for female students in Afghanistan. I was first directed towards the teacher’s room to conduct interviews. The headmaster of the school was Mohammad Omar, a white-bearded man who spoke passionately about women’s education and its importance. Also the village’s head (Arbab) told me that people in his village were very supportive of women’s education and there are only a few families that don’t send their younger daughters to school, however because of lack of teachers, the school only goes up to sixth grade. Mohammad Omar’s resources are stretched thin. In addition to teaching several classes and directing the teachers, he assists the parent-teacher association and gives religious sermons in the village.

Faryab is also one of the provinces with an extreme shortage of teachers. Many of the teachers I met at this school were students themselves. Maaria, a seventeen year old sixth grade student who was pregnant with her first child, taught the third grade. Another teacher, Rukhshana was transferred from her home city of Maimana to the village because of the lack of teachers. She says that most families at her new home village are very supportive. “My husband and my son are always beside me. They both volunteer at the school and my husband is part of the PTA.” Even so, with a teacher from Maimana and volunteers, several of the classes I visited did not have teachers. The few teachers circled around the school to teach twenty to thirty minutes in every class. Maaria told me that while students spend about five to six hours in school every day, they usually receive only about one hour of teaching from a teacher. The rest of the time is spent idly or doing homework.

The school in Belcheragh is not the only one with a shortage of teachers. Another school in Qaisaar area has only two female teachers and a considerably lower number of female students. A teacher and religious cleric in Gorziban told me that the biggest problem they had for girls was lack of female teachers. People were supportive of women’s education. “Recently, there has been a mullah, cleric, who moved here from Pakistan, who dissuades people from sending their girls to schools, but no one pays attention to him. They listen to me,” he said, but girls couldn’t continue education because there is a shortage of teachers to teach higher grades. This is a cycle that repeats itself. Parents are reluctant to send their daughters to schools with male-only teachers. Girls don’t graduate high school so they don’t become teachers and the shortage of teachers continues.

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Today, women account for 30 percent of the teachers in the country. According to the Central Statistics Organization of Afghanistan, Faryab has 7,000 teachers and only one third of them are women. The government is aware of the shortage of teachers. The program that gives teachers like Rukhshana incentives to move to rural areas is replicated in many parts of the country. But this alone is not able to fight the scarcity of teachers in schools, especially given only 24 percent of teachers in Afghanistan are qualified according to the law. Since 2001, many organizations including UNICEF, Save the Children, and Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan have worked tirelessly to increase the number of female teachers. However, with less than 10% of girls graduating high school largely due to lack of female teachers, Afghanistan has a long way to go to ensure a sufficient number of female teachers and increased education for girls.


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