Introducing: The Development and Aid Worker News Service

For the past week my friend Tom Murphy and I have put the finishing touches to a project we call the Development and Aid Worker News Service–DAWNS Digest.

We provide a simple, email-based news clipping service that delivers a comprehensive snapshot of news that should be of interest to the aid, development and humanitarian community.  We have two editions: the GMT Edition which hits in boxes at 5 am GMT (to catch people on their way to work in Europe and Africa) and the EST Edition, for those in the Americas, which hits in boxes 9 am eastern time.

I copied today’s EST Edition below to give you a sense of what it looks like.  The idea is to keep it simple and light on the data so people with handhelds or weak connections can have easy access.

We’ve been testing it out for one week and it seems to be working well. We hope to make this sustainable by charging subscribers a small fee–$2.99/ month.

This is unrelated to UN Dispatch, but I thought folks might be interested. Feel free to check it out and sign up for a free trial if you are so inclined and let me know what you think!

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Dawns Digest 13 September 2011 — EST Edition

Top Story

Multiple Simultaneous Attacks in Kabul. US Embassy Taking Gunfire.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for a string of attacks in Kabul on Tuesday. The attack, which appears to target the US Embassy and a NATO compound in western Kabul, included at least one suicide bomber and multiple rocket attacks from militants perched on a high-rise overlooking the city center.  “Afghan officials said several attackers were behind the assault, but it was unclear precisely how many assailants there were or whether they were attacking from a single or multiple locations. The attackers were holed up on several floors of a tall, partially built concrete building that offered a bird’s-eye view of the secured diplomatic and military compounds about a half mile away. Flashes from gun barrels could be seen as the militants fired from their perch. Afghan security forces returned fire from the ground, sending puffs of concrete dust into the air as bullets slapped the building. ‘We don’t know how many suicide bombers are in the building,’ said Col. Abdul Zahir, of the criminal investigative division of the Kabul police. ‘They’re shooting at the embassy. We’re still in fighting position. We can’t say anything.’” (New York TImes  http://ht.ly/6sSx9)

Death Toll Climbs in Kenya Oil Pipeline Explosion

At least 82 people were killed on Monday when a leaky oil pipeline suddenly burst into flames in a densely crowded slum in Nairobi. A crowd had gathered by the pipe to siphon off oil section when the explosion occurred.  “These people died like goats,” said Kenya’s Vice President.

The Guardian explains that these kinds of accidents are frighteningly common in poor countries.  “In the last two years there have been at least 30 major pipeline explosions and leaks of oil and gas, and possibly hundreds of smaller ones. Many have led to injuries and deaths but there has been nothing on the scale of the Nairobi explosion since 2006, when around 270 people died after a vandalised oil pipeline exploded in the Abule Egba district of Lagos, in Nigeria.  The explosions mostly take place in poor countries because international oil and gas companies often fail to bury or protect their pipelines as they would have to do by law in rich countries. The easily accessible pipes, which often run through slums and informal settlements in burgeoning cities, are tempting to desperately poor communities, who often have no electricity and must rely on oil lamps for lighting and power.” (Guardian http://ht.ly/6spSt)

Russia Doubles Down on Opposition to Security Council Sanctions for Syria

Yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that at least 2,600 people have been killed in the crackdowns in Syria. Under normal circumstances, that news would serve as an impetus for passing a sanctions resolution to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on senior members of the Syrian government.  Not this time. The veto-wielding Russians are adamantly opposed. “Mr. Medvedev said that any new resolution ‘mustn’t automatically involve sanctions,’ adding that, ‘There is absolutely no need now for any additional pressure.’ Later, in a meeting with British Prime Minster David Cameron, Medvedev said a resolution was possible but would have to be ‘balanced.’ With Russia one of five permanent Security Council members who wield a veto over council action, Medvedev’s statements appeared to doom a resolution the US and European powers proposed last month. The resolution calls for an arms embargo and other sanctions aimed at stopping what the State Department has called Assad’s ‘despicable violence’ against his own people.” (Christian Science Monitor http://ht.ly/6sqQr)

Asian Floods

The death toll in Pakistan climbs to 209 people. 5.3 million are now affected by the floods. (AFP http://ht.ly/6smgZ)

Flooding in East India has killed 18 people and displaced 100,000. More rain is expected throughout the week. (Channel News Asia http://ow.ly/6skLT)

As rains continue to wreak havoc throughout the country, the Thai government is warning residents in northern and north eastern provinces to seek higher ground.  (Thai Gov’t http://ht.ly/6smZU )

Vietnam: Flood-waters from upstream An Phu District in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of An Giang has claimed at least four lives, damaged some residential property and over 117ha of rice and subsidiary crops. (Gov’t of Vietnam http://ht.ly/6sp1w)

Africa

Simultaneous bomb blasts at a commercial bank and police station in Bauchi, Nigeria has claimed at least seven lives.  (Vanguard http://ht.ly/6spcR)

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan told the nation that he is concerned that the recent attacks by Boko Haram will drive away foreign investors. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6squo)

HIV-positive Rwandans in discordant relationships will start taking antiretroviral treatment as soon as they test positive as part of a plan to boost national HIV prevention and treatment efforts. (PLUS News http://ht.ly/6slOt)

The World Bank is pledging $100 million to the African Capacity Building Foundation with other donors contributing an additional $24.6 million. (The Citizen http://ow.ly/6sp1h)

A report by the WHO-backed ‘Roll Back Malaria’ partnership says that malaria deaths may drop to close to zero by 2015 (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6stBf)

Continued rains in Uganda are a concern for people living in the mountains who are at risk of mudslides as well as all farmers whose crops will be affected. (IRIN http://ow.ly/6sorB)

Reports say Angola sentences 17 to jail for anti-government rally (Reuters, Via @USEmbPretoria http://tinyurl.com/3u5plup)

Middle East and North Africa

The International Monetary Fund officially recognizes the Libyan Transitional National Council as the government of Libya. The IMF says it is “ready to assist the NTC in its efforts to promote rapid and sustainable economic recovery as the country slowly emerges from a violent civil conflict.” (IMF http://ht.ly/6sTbD )

In a new report, Amnesty International says the Libyan TNC needs to do a better job of stemming human rights abuses by anti-Gaddhafi rebels to “prevent a spiral of abuses.” (Amnesty http://ht.ly/6sTAf )

17 guards were killed outside of a Libyan oil refinery by Gaddafi loyalists. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6sppR)

The Egyptian military has indicated that it will expand the state of emergency in response to rioting at the Israeli embassy over the weekend. (Global Post http://ow.ly/6slBO)

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two American hikers arrested in Iran two years ago, will be set free in two days according to President Ahmadinejad. (Guardian http://ow.ly/6sSlT)

Israeli authorities have resumed home demolitions in the West Bank after a month-long suspension. Five residential structures in the Um al Khayr Bedouin community near Hebron in the southern West Bank were demolished, displacing 20 people. (UNRWA http://ht.ly/6snam)

Gunmen killed 20 Iraqi Shi’ite pilgrims en route to Syria in the largely Sunni Anbar Province. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6sqom)

The UN refugee agency on Tuesday awarded its annual Nansen prize to the Yemeni Society for Humanitarian Solidarity and its founder for its work in assisting refugees who arrive in the country by boat. (Khaleej Times http://ht.ly/6sSZL )

Asia

Gunmen opened fire on a school bus in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing at least three people. (Reuters http://ht.ly/6sSOY)

The lack of an operating budget is one of the greatest obstacles to improving education in Afghanistan says the Ministry of Education. (IRIN http://ow.ly/6slZF)

In Gujarat state, India, at least 23 children suffering from thalassemia, a genetic disorder that requires regular blood transfusions, have been infected by HIV. due to transfusions taking place a government-run hospital.  (AP http://ow.ly/6skYj)

The government of Myanmar is going to proceed with the construction of a proposed dam in Kachin state, opposed by both locals and environmentalists. (AP http://ow.ly/6sleJ)

Ban Ki-moon has sent a report accusing Sri Lankan troops of killing tens of thousands of civilians to the UN Human Rights Council, bringing a potential international inquiry one step closer. (AFP http://ht.ly/6sSH4)

The Americas

The Defense Minister of Colombia has indicated that he would like to improve ties with neighbors Venezuela and Ecuador. (El Pais http://ow.ly/6soGl)

Human rights advocates face death threats in Guatemala after trying to make mining an electoral issue. (Policy Innovationsis.gd/8CIIEx)

China is making a big play in Caribbean nations with an offer to lend a total of $1 billion to fund infrastructure projects. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6sqyR)

Opinion

Representative Howard Berman released draft legislation that would rewrite the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.  Connie Veillette looks at the potential bargain points in the Global Partnerships Act and includes the consequences if they are not made.  She writes:

Congress and the Administration.  Congress complains that administrations act without consulting Congress.  Administrations complain that Congress micro-manages everything they do via earmarks, reporting requirements, notifications, and holds…

The potential bargain – Congress stops micro-managing in exchange for better consultation.  The administration gets more flexibility in exchange for a little more legislative legwork.

The consequences of no bargain – Congress passes more burdensome conditions that make it virtually impossible for aid to be managed effectively; funding gets gutted for lack of results.

Internationalists and America First-ers.  …Congress, and military engagement has occurred with regular frequency regardless of administrations.  The better framework is one of Internationalists and America First-ers, and we find each in both parties.

The potential bargain – Internationalists…agree to a better prioritized set of U.S. objectives in exchange for buy-in on the value of U.S. non-military engagement among American First-ers…

The consequence of no bargain – Foreign aid continues to be the punching bag of budget cutters even though it represents roughly 1% of the budget.  Partisans continue to fight over funding levels rather than the more important issues of agreeing on objectives and strategies.

Congress, Government Agencies, and Implementing Partners. [I]mplementing partners have developed a penchant for lobbying Congress for earmarks and directives that support their work.  These carve-outs make it very difficult to design evidence-based and country-owned strategies.

The potential bargain – Aid groups stop lobbying based on sector, project, or country. In exchange, the greater flexibility given to government agencies allows for a better and more predictable allocation of resources.

The consequences of no bargain – Authorizing and appropriations bills become so littered with directives that, in periods of budget austerity, groups resort to hand-to-hand combat over funds.  Turning the Capitol into the Roman Coliseum is just not a good idea.

The Body Politic and the American Public.  [W]hen queried about support for tackling global issues – HIV/AIDS, hunger – the American public gets it. What they fear is that not enough due diligence is being done with regard to whom we give aid, its effectiveness, and the potential for wasting money on ill-designed programs.

The potential bargain – The government does better evaluations and evidenced-based programming around a set of agreed-upon objectives in exchange for recognition among the public that this component of U.S. global engagement is needed and works.

The consequence of no bargain – Aid funding continues to be under attack until all that’s left is military assistance or the Department of Defense in charge of development.

In the end, I find more good reasons than bad to begin deliberations on a new legislative framework for foreign assistance…Unfortunately, to date, the White House and State Department have shown no interest, and without high level participation, this may end up being another squandered opportunity to advance U.S. interests and make aid more effective.

Center for Global Development  http://ow.ly/6srkB

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