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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.

Key global development and media publications released in 2013

Photo: Flickr/Frerieke.[UPDATED April 16, 2013]

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Food security alerts, updates and briefings

RefWorld Refugee updates from the UNHCR, OCHA and others

The World Bank World Development Indicators (WDI) 2013 (forthcoming mid-April, 2013)

UNICEF Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress (press release Progress shows that stunting in children can be defeated; Story, April 15, 2013)

Hunger • Nutrition • Climate Justice Dublin 2013 conference papers and media resources (April 15-16, 2013)

UNICEF, WHO Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (press release April 12, 2013)

UN FAO FAO Food Price Index April 11, 2013 (forthcoming: May 9, 2013). Currently 212 (March 2013 Index), the Index is high by historical standards but below the (real and nominal) peak of 238 in February 2011.

ODI At cross-purposes: subsidies and climate compatible investment (Fuel subsidies dwarf climate efforts, April 11, 2013)

ODI, DIE, ECDPM European Report on Development 2013: Post 2015: Global Action for an Inclusive and Sustainable Future (press release April 9, 2013)

Economic Commissions on Africa Economic Report on Africa 2013: Making the Most of Africa’s Commodities: Industrializing for Growth, Jobs and Economic Transformation (press release: Africa must boost commodity-based industrialization to grow economy, end poverty March 25, 2013)

UN 2013 Human Development Report: The Rise of the South (press March 14, 2013)

Milo Vandemoortele et al.Building blocks for equitable growth; lessons from the BRICS (ODI press release: What makes Brazil the fairest BRIC of all? March 6, 2013)

John P. Banks et al. Top Five Reasons Why Africa Should Be a Priority for the United States (Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings, March 2013)

Jerry Z. Muller Capitalism and Inequality: What the Right and the Left Get Wrong (Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2013)

UN MY World global survey

Andy Sumner Who are the poor? New regional estimates of the composition of education and health ‘poverty’ (ODI working paper 378, March 2013)

David Booth Facilitating development: an arm’s length approach to aid (ODI March 2013)

Anna Locke, Giles Henley, Sharada Keats and Steve Wiggins Diverting grain from animal feed and biofuels: can it protect the poor from high food prices? (ODI March 2013)

Romilly Greenhill, Annalisa Prizzon, Andrew Rogerson The age of choice: how are developing countries managing the new aid landscape? (ODI March 2013)

Katie Harris, David Keen and Tom Mitchell When disasters and conflicts collide (ODI press release: Somalia, Afghanistan and Niger ranked the most vulnerable countries to ‘deadly duo’ of conflict and disasters February 2013)

Freedom House Freedom in the World 2013 (release materials January 16, 2012)

Isabella Massa et al.Shockwatch Bulletin: monitoring the impact of the euro zone crisis, China/India slow-down, and energy price shocks on lower-income countries (ODI press release: Shockwatch: a look at Africa’s most vulnerable economies January 2013)


2012 Development and Media Publications and Resources

Donors pledge assistance to Syrian refugees, Concern chief draws parallel with Cambodia

Domiz Camp in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, is the temporary home to thousands of Kurdish Syrians, most of whom have arrived since September 2012. Photo: Jodi Hilton/IRIN.The Irish Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello T.D, today announced €1.65 million in funding to support thousands of Syrian families forced to flee their homes.

The funding, which is being provided to Irish NGOs, Concern, Goal and Oxfam, brings Ireland’s total support for communities afflicted by the conflict in Syria to almost €10 million. Announcing the funding today, World Refugee Day (June 20), Minister Costello said:

“Again Ireland is showing leadership in response to the worsening crisis in Syria, which has left almost seven million people in urgent need of assistance. This funding will enable Concern, Oxfam and Goal to provide clean water, sanitation, food and blankets to those who have been left homeless by the conflict both within Syria and in neighbouring countries.

“Countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have shown immense generosity in hosting such large numbers of Syrians seeking refuge, but have come under great strain as a result.”

The United Nations this month launched its largest ever appeal in response to the Syrian conflict, requesting $5.2 billion (€3.9 billion).

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has so far received 28% of the $3 billion (€2.3 billion) which it has appealed for.

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.

World: significant elections still to come in 2013

Elections should not be confused with democracy or freedom. Dates and information about upcoming elections are featured in the World and Media international development diary. Photo: Auntie P/Flickr.Between 1976 and 2003 there was a steady increase in the number of free countries – as classified by Freedom House – and a corresponding reduction in the number of countries that are "not free" or partially free". In recent years, there has also been an apparent increase in the number of elections that have been held. However, elections should not be confused with democracy or freedom. Progress on freedom has stalled.

While some elections are obvious shams. Many others are sometimes described as "free and fair" because of what is detected on polling day regardless of how the state marginalises and intimidates any opposition to the dominant party in between elections. Mugabe's re-election as president of Zimbabwe in July was described at the time by both the African Union and the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) as free and fair.

Dates and information about upcoming elections are featured in the World and Media international development diary. Below are among the notable elections still to come in 2013. Some might be free and fair. Others may be described as such but will be neither.

20.10.2013 Rerun of annulled 2013 Maldives presidential electionMaldives

In a split 4-3 decision on Monday October 7, the Maldives Supreme Court annulled the results of the September 7 presidential election and suspended a scheduled presidential run-off election. It scheduled a fresh vote for October 20 after a candidate challenged the outcome, citing irregularities.

The removal of former President Mohamed Nasheed from power 20 months ago, amid a mutiny by police, has been followed by political turmoil. Nasheed had won a first round on September 7 with 45.45 percent of the vote. - Reuters

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.

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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

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.

Rainbo Centre sign

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

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.

Midwife Annie Mafinda

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

Safiatu Jalloh, counselor

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

Midwife Many Sowa

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

Rakel Larson

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

Chief Officer Balogun Dixon

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

Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah

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

Police Family Support Unit

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

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.

Joseph Rahall

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