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Old media reports deprive Rwandan genocide survivors of the right to be forgotten

Audience at the main Rwandan genocide commemoration event at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali on the 7th of April, 2014. Photo: Sally Hayden.

One of the biggest challenges following the Rwandan genocide was getting it classified as such. As the international community faltered and fiddled and failed to appreciate what was happening, Rwandans shouted their experiences through shrouds of shock, grateful to anyone would listen and believe that such horror was possible.

Now with each anniversary those stories and images reappear throughout the media. And many survivors, once so grateful for a voice, have come to resent this exposure.

This issue first came to my attention in a conference in the Rwandan parliament on the weekend that this year's official period of mourning began. As questions were taken from the floor, a passionate voice piped up. “I'm not asking about what happened because I was there and I have seen it, but there is another issue now. As survivors we all wanted to tell and to say what had happened. There are at least two or three women I know pregnant from rape, they only wanted to talk. But twenty years later you still see your image coming out from BBC, CNN...” Speaking, I learn, is Odette Nyiramilimo, a physician, former government minister and current East African senator. Ethnically a Tutsi, she survived the genocide in the Hotel des Mille Collines, a scene later depicted in the film 'Hotel Rwanda'.

We meet again a few weeks later. Nyiramilimo sits in a bright, airy office, on the fourth floor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A portrait of President Paul Kagame hangs over her head. She's busy; her phone buzzes as we talk.

She tells me story after story.

The story of a girl, aged 15 during the genocide, who was taken by her parents' killers to the DRC and raped. When she escaped she was pregnant, and after she gave birth to a son she handed him to relatives to raise so she could attend university and start her life anew. She met a boy and they got engaged; then he travelled to Canada to finish his schooling. There, on the TV, he saw old footage of her speaking about her rape and called her in shock. With her engagement over, the girl called Nyiramilimo asking “what do I do? I don't want that story to be following me my whole life. Now I am well, I just finished university and I want to be normal.”

Integration and empowerment of women can break the cycle of poverty and discrimination

Judith from Rwanda took out a microfinance loan from VisionFund after taking in her nephew Moses who had been abandoned. By trading fruit and expanding her business, she has managed to feed and clothe Moses and send him to school. Photo: VisionFund.On Friday (March 15), the UN Commission on the Status of Women ratified a declaration entitled ‘End Violence Against Women’, matching the theme of International Women’s Day, which was marked earlier in the month. VisionFund’s Dianne Lowther writes about the place of women in the fight against poverty.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” It was another reminder of women’s central role in society and the hardships that too many women face. The World Bank states that violence can be both a result and a cause of poverty and women and children are among those worse affected.

According to the United Nations, women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty as they are more likely to be poor and at risk of hunger due to discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets.

Some estimates suggest that women make up 70% of the World’s Poor and headlines, even in developed countries, indicate that many women face wage gaps compared with their male counterparts. Not only are they often paid less but they can also be relegated to unsafe and low salaried work. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, approximately 8 out of 10 women workers are considered to be in vulnerable employment.

However when these women are given a chance at engaging in economic development, it can have a hugely positive impact on helping families to climb out of poverty. Aid organisations the world over have marvelled at women’s fortitude and determination to strive for their families and build a better future.

Could a debt initiative for poor countries be applied to Greece?

There is little prospect of an end soon to anti-austerity protests in Athens. Photo: Barry Gunning.As Cyprus finalises a controversial bailout agreement due to start tomorrow (March 19), its debt-ridden Mediterranean neighbour Greece continues to be crippled by protests. Could a radical solution that was applied to poor countries in the past now work for Greece?

In the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in 1996, international lenders agreed to slash the debts for some nations if they implemented key reforms aimed at stabilising public finances.

For years, the IMF and governments tried to help developing countries with short-term rescue loans but most only started to recover only when their debts were substantially reduced.

The IMF and World Bank have now approved HIPC deals with 36 countries such as Afghanistan, Bolivia, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua - and provided US$76 billion in debt-service relief.

The IMF claims the original aim of the HIPC was “to ensure that no poor country faces a debt burden it cannot manage”. Though Greece is not poor by international standards, the IMF's forecasts suggest the country’s debt will exceed a massive 200% of GDP by 2016.

And the European Commission estimated in October that, despite the multi-billion euro bail-out funds, government revenue will only reach 43.5% of GDP by next year.

Ireland and Kenya are set to lead UN negotiations on development strategy but in what direction?

Kenya faces many development challenges including ethnic violence, corruption, high unemployment, crime and poverty. It now has a chance to help shape the global development agenda.  Photo: A member of The El Molo fishing community on lake Turkana, northern Kenya, Siegfried Modola/IRIN.

This month, Ireland and Kenya were appointed to lead UN negotiations on the post-2015 development strategy. Ireland’s and Kenya's roles will be led by their respective Ambassadors to the United Nations, David Donoghue and Macharia Kamau. They were appointed as "Co-Facilitators to lead open, inclusive, and transparent consultations on the post-2015 development agenda" by UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa.

The post-2015 strategy is intended to replace the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire next year. The Goals have provided significant direction to global development strategies since they were agreed fourteen years ago.

Irish Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North-South Cooperation, Seán Sherlock T.D., outlined the importance of the leadership roles: "The role we have been given is pivotal in addressing the ambitious challenge to end global poverty and hunger in a generation. It will require Ireland to work closely with all members of the United Nations to secure a set of new goals which are ambitious and transformative. We will be defining an agenda for global action to end poverty and hunger and to ensure sustainable development worldwide by 2030"

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D., described Ireland's appointment as "a huge honour... and a great responsibility". He said: "It is testament to Ireland’s standing internationally, to our proud record of promoting human rights, to our long-standing participation in peacekeeping across the world and to our diplomacy (and) a recognition of the effectiveness of the Irish Aid programme."

He added: “This significant new role will build on Ireland’s important work on international development during our EU Presidency in 2013, and on the MDGs at the United Nations.”

The MDGs were a series of development outcomes, such as to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day.

Not every target was met in every country but huge progress has been made. The goal of halving the proportion of people earning less than $1.25 a day was met in 2010. Halving the numbers suffering from hunger in 1990 should be almost met by 2015.

Unreported cuts: 17,000 fewer children under five to die tomorrow

Soraya gets a check up at the local medical health clinic in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. The clinic is funded by the World Bank's Strengthening Health Activities for Rural Poor Project (SHARP). The drops in global child mortality rates since 1990 equate to over 6 million fewer child deaths in 2012. In Afghanistan, it equates to 80,000 fewer deaths last year. Photo: Graham Crouch / World Bank.Since 1990, the proportion of children under five that die each year has nearly halved. According to a recent report from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation*, it has dropped by over 50% in all regions except for sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

The figures are immense. Despite population growth the number of under-five deaths worldwide has declined from approximately 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million last year. This progress made over 22 years translated to around 17,000 fewer small children dying per day in 2012. Yet, every single day, 18,000 children under age five did die.

These daily totals of deaths – either averted or that could have been averted had there been greater political will – dwarf almost all the suicide bombs, atrocities, accidents, negligence, shootings and abuses that filled the news in the more than two decades since 1990. The 6.6 million that died in 2012 were almost invisible. Programs such as this partnership that cut childbirth deaths in a Sudanese hospital in half are barely reported.

To put these figures in perspective, one could look at mortality rates in conflict-affected countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq the under-five mortality rate still dropped from approximately 45 to 34 per 1000 live births between 2000 and 2012. Last year, there were about 35,000 under-5 deaths but some 11,000 child deaths may have been averted relative to the mortality rate in 2000 and tens of thousands averted over the whole period.

Philippines among countries let down by donor promises on climate change adaptation

Super Typhoon Haiyan Approaches the Philippines, 07 November, 2013. Photo: NOAA.[BRUSSELS] Yet another round of UN climate talks begins today (November 11), this time in Warsaw, occurring against the backdrop of Typhoon Haiyan, which has reportedly killed at least 10,000 people in the Philippines. But two new papers point out that funding promised to help countries adapt to climate change have been insufficient and untransparent.

In fact, from 2010 to 2011, commitments for adaptation finance decreased in the Philippines, according to a joint paper by Oxfam, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The paper looked specifically at a 2009 commitment made by rich countries - which came to be known as “fast-start finance” - to fund developing countries’ adaptation efforts. Another recent Oxfam paper also showed that rich countries have failed to keep that 2009 promise.

At the opening of the UN talks in Warsaw, Naderev Sano, the Philippines’ climate change negotiator, reportedly announced that he would embark on a voluntary fast until there was action that would protect his country’s future.

Funds short

The 2009 fast-start finance commitment, which called for developed countries to provide US$30 billion between 2010 and 2012, was made at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen. At the same meeting, the developed world promised to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020.

A number of think-tanks and academics have since underlined the difficulty of identifying and accounting for this money because of discrepancies in reporting, the lack of a common understanding of what “adaptation” and “vulnerability” mean, and a lack of transparency. 

DRC: Analysts cautious about significance of M23 peace delcaration

Congolese refugees board a truck at Bunagana on the Uganda-DRC border. Over 800,000 may been displaced by conflict since it began March 2012. Government forces captured the M23 rebels main base in Bunagana on October 30, 2013. The sides declared an end to hostilities on December 12. Photo:  Samuel Okiror/IRIN, May 2012.The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the former rebel group known as the M23 Movement signed declarations on 12 December formalizing agreements to end hostilities in eastern DRC.

The declarations, together with a Final Communique on the Kampala Dialogue, were released by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community - which together sponsored almost a year of fitful peace talks in the Ugandan capital. The documents articulated each sides’ commitments on a range of issues, including M23’s renunciation of rebellion and transformation into a political party; the government’s limited offer of amnesty to combatants; the release of prisoners; the demobilization and reintegration of former rebels; national reconciliation and justice; and social security and economic reforms.

Kinshasa also committed itself to quickly moving ahead to facilitate the return of refugees, in line with tripartite agreements signed with neighbouring states, and to help internally displaced civilians, who number more than two million in eastern DRC, go back home.

Through his spokesman, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the declarations constituted a “positive step towards ending cycles of deadly conflicts that have caused immense suffering to the Congolese people.”

Yet analysts remain divided on whether political dialogue or military means is best to address the problem of armed rebellion in eastern DRC, even as focus now shifts to the northeastern Orientale Province, after relative success in North Kivu. Some argue for a mix of both: “neutralizing” armed groups while engaging in security sector and institutional reforms.

Obama's Africa legacy may be judged by what happens in South Sudan

President Obama at a Ministerial Meeting on Sudan on September 24, 2010. Photo: U.S. State Department.The Economist's Matthew Bishop described this as 'an incredibly important week' for Africa. The biggest ever summit between the US president and African leaders concluded on Wednesday (August 6) in Washington DC. During the summit, President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in new investment and trade with Africa.

President George W Bush significantly grew aid to Africa relative to his predecessors, though sometimes controversially, particularly in relation to AIDS prevention. The Obama administration has continued to provide significant funds to tackle global health issues, including new health funding announced Monday (August 4).

However, there have been distinctive policies under the current administration. For example, there appears to have been a significant shift towards focusing on trade and direct investment with Africa, mirroring the shifts that have occurred in government policy in several other countries, such as Ireland and the UK. This week's US-Africa summit is important as a symbolic statement as it is practically. It recognises the continent's emerging economic power and potential over the last 15 years. The summit may be seen as an important part of the Obama administration's Africa legacy, as will its handling of the Arab Spring.

The US has also been heavily involved in the process which led to independence for South Sudan.

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Gender-based violence in Sierra Leone

Freetown Rainbo Centre staffRainbo Centre signWorking to prevent violence
Midwife Annie MafindaSafiatu Jalloh, counselorMidwife Many Sowa
Rakel LarsonChief Officer Balogun DixonMadam Julia Sarkodie Mensah
Police Family Support UnitCourtroom posterJoseph Rahall
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Freetown Rainbo Centre staff

Staff, including midwives, counsellors and security guards, at the Freetown Rainbo Centre, in the Princeses Christian Maternity Hospital, which deals with rape crises. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Rainbo Centre sign

Rainbo Centre sign which hangs in all three centres in Sierra Leone. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Working to prevent violence

Six members of a men's group in Kenema, Sierra Leone run by IRC. They are working to change men's attitudes and stop violence before it starts. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Midwife Annie Mafinda

Midwife Annie Mafinda, with toys in the counselling room at the Freetown Rainbo Centre. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Safiatu Jalloh, counselor

Safiatu Jalloh, counselor with the Rainbo Centre in Kenema. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Midwife Many Sowa

Many Sowa, midwife at the Kenema Rainbo Centre, Sierra Leone. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Rakel Larson

Rakel Larson, United Nations Displaced Persons representative, working with Irish Aid on the Saturday Courts project. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Chief Officer Balogun Dixon

Balogun Dixon, Chief Officer Pademba Road Prison, at the Freetown Courthouse. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah

Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah, Consultant Master and Registrar of the Sierra Leone Judiciary. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Police Family Support Unit

The Family Support Unit in the Kenema Police Force, pictured outside their station. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Courtroom poster

Poster on the walls of a courtroom in the Freetown Courthouse building offering socio-legal support for victims of gender-based violence. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Joseph Rahall

Joseph Rahall, Executive Director of eco-NGO 'Green Scenery', at their offices in Freetown, Sierra Leone.