New EU support to provide access to energy to two million people in Africa

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, April 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The European Commission has today announced the results of the first call for proposals of an innovative programme for providing finance to bring electricity to the world’s poorest citizens. This initiative also shows that the EU has been a leader in the campaign to provide Sustainable Energy for All.

Grants of €95 million have been awarded for16 projects across nine African countries to provide access to energy in rural areas, an amount which will be translated into projects costing more than €155 million (through co-financing support by applicants) and bring electricity to more than 2 million people.

Commissioner Piebalgs said: “This shows that real results are being delivered and that the EU is scaling up proven successful projects which have a high impact on poverty reduction through sustainable rural electrification. Energy is fundamental for every area of development; from creating jobs and boosting growth to improving healthcare and enabling people to cook safely. Yet too often, people in rural areas have been left behind – a shocking 84% of those without access to energy now live in the countryside. We need to make sure that our work supports everyone, no matter where they live.”

This is a first step in a new innovative programme to bring electricity to many millions. Over the next 7 years the Commission aims to spend more than €2 billion in supporting energy in Africa. This will, in turn, leverage investments exceeding €10 billion, filling in the gaps for energy infrastructure and therefore allowing businesses, schools, homes and hospitals to get the electricity they require.

In addition, another Call for Proposals targeting rural electrification in fragile states (such as Burundi, Liberia, Somalia and Mali) is currently under evaluation and will deliver more benefits in these countries, where the energy needs are greatest. This will be the next step to ensure that EU’s efforts to provide sustainable energy where it’s most needed bear fruit.

Background

The funding announced today is the result of a ‘Call for Proposals’, which is an EU funding system which enables NGOs, government and private sector organisations to receive a grant for EU Funding based on their proposal for an innovative project.

The countries which will benefit from this initiative are: Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon, Liberia, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Rwanda. The European Commission will promote another 40 proposals received –but not selected – to private and public donors and development agencies. Therefore, the list of countries and the number of rural population benefiting from the Call results could further increase.

In addition, infrastructure projects financed through our innovative blending instruments and the Technical Assistance Facility available for all Sub-Saharan African countries are already delivering results and contribute to the EU support for Sustainable Energy for All objectives.

Worldwide, about 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity. Up to a billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks. More than 2.6 billion people rely on solid fuels (i.e. traditional biomass and coal) for cooking and heating.

A well-performing energy system that improves efficient access to modern forms of energy would strengthen the opportunities for the poorest people on the planet to escape the worst impacts of poverty. Access to energy provides people with the means to generate income – and that in turn creates wealth and new markets.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

Effective responses to HIV and AIDS addressed in Tanzania

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Religious beliefs and traditions in Africa continue to influence the way HIV is spread, especially among young women. There is a great need to understand these issues from a faith-based perspective, so that church leaders may engage in a constructive dialogue to help and support women threatened by the pandemic.

The recent International Training Institute (ITI) on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and HIV, held from 16 to 22 March, in Arusha, Tanzania, shed light on these issues. The training was organized by the World YWCA, with active participation from the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Addressing HIV and how it affects women in communities responds to the essence of several statements from the churches on HIV, the WCC’s work carried out through its project the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA), as well as the World YWCA’s commitment to women’s rights which prioritized HIV and AIDS among other issues since 1987.

The statements by churches and ecumenical organizations have outlined the key factors that fuel the HIV pandemic, especially among young women. These factors include stigma, discrimination, lack of information and access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services and HIV treatment.

Religious beliefs and traditions

One aspect of the situation which was reflected in discussions at the World YWCA training in Arusha was the influence of religious beliefs and traditions.

There are two sets of beliefs, including both “life-giving” and “life-diminishing traditions”. In some situations, these traditions restrict women’s and girls’ access to SRH services and compromise their decision-making abilities. This eventually exposes them to the risk of HIV infection.

Silence in the name of traditions is often maintained on matters related to sexuality. There is a pressing need to question such traditions.

In times of HIV and AIDS, it is important to reconsider the traditional definition of family, comprised of a man, woman and children. In order to respond to households headed by grandmothers, single parents or even children themselves, it is critical to consider that HIV in many ways has impacted and changed our socio-religious settings.

Need for dialogue, engaging religious leaders

Discussions at the Arusha training show that dialogue and advocacy are sorely needed to engage religious leaders in formulating effective responses to HIV and AIDS. This is crucial, as most religious leaders do not have the necessary skills and tools to address major crises related to the HIV pandemic.

Religious leaders must create “safe spaces” where HIV-positive children are supported. Such spaces facilitated by the religious leaders can help HIV-positive children to understand the real possibility of becoming teenagers living with the virus, and can bring positive change in prevention messages.

Churches to listen, with love and compassion

Following the Christian conviction that all people are created in the image of God, churches dealing with the HIV and AIDS threat need to listen with love to sexual minorities. Particular attention must be given to bisexuals, who due to stigma and discrimination are often forced to marry. As a result, they end up putting their partners at risk of HIV infection.

The understanding of churches varies in how to address HIV related issues. There are some churches that need to reject a prevailing mindset which declares HIV a curse and a punishment from God. Such a mindset eventually denies people living with HIV, including women and girls, of their basic rights to life, education and SRH services.

* Ayoko Bahun-Wilson works for the EHAIA based in Togo. Sophie Chirongoma, also engaged with EHAIA, is a member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians based in Zimbabwe. They shared these reflections from their participation in the World YWCA training in Tanzania.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

DR Congo: No More Delays for Justice / Enact Laws to Facilitate Trials for Grave International Crimes

KINSHASA, Dem. Rep. of Congo (DRC) April 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Democratic Republic of Congo should adopt a draft law establishing specialized mixed chambers for trying serious rights abuses, 146 Congolese and international organizations said in a joint declaration today. Parliament should also pass a draft law during the current parliamentary session to incorporate the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty into Congolese law. The parliamentary session began on March 15, 2014.

President Joseph Kabila and the Congolese government have recently pledged to strengthen the country’s capacity to tackle impunity for atrocities against civilians. The proposed specialized mixed chambers within the national judicial system would focus on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, and benefit initially from the presence of non-Congolese staff with expertise in this field. The ICC implementing legislation would bring the ICC definitions of these crimes under Congolese law and regulate cooperation with the court.

“Establishing specialized mixed chambers and adopting the ICC implementing legislation will increase the capacity of national courts to finally bring to justice those responsible for unspeakable atrocities in Congo,” said Justine Masika Bihamba, president of Synergie des Femmes, a network of Congolese women’s rights organizations in eastern Congo. “The Congolese authorities should now turn rhetoric into reality and take concrete steps for justice.”

The vast majority of those responsible for massacres, rapes, torture, forced recruitment of child soldiers, and burning of homes in Congo over the past two decades, especially in the eastern part of the country, have not been punished. While the two draft laws have been under consideration for several years, concrete advances have been made in the past several months that make their passage during this session of parliament a realistic possibility. The advances include revision by the government of the draft law on the chambers and adoption of the ICC implementing legislation by a parliament committee in December 2013.

“Repeated cycles of violence and impunity in Congo have inflicted horrific suffering on the Congolese people,” said Ida Sawyer, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch. “A new mechanism within the national judicial system is urgently needed to ensure those responsible for the worst crimes are finally brought to justice – and to send a warning to other warlords and army commanders that serious crimes will not go unpunished.”

To read the joint declaration, please visit: www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/01/democratic-republic-congo-no-more-delays-justice

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic

NEW YORK, April 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Secretary-General is concerned by the latest upsurge in violence in the Central African Republic. This further deterioration of the security situation in the country has resulted in additional fatalities, a high number of injured, and increased hardship for the population.

The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms all acts of violence against civilians, and against international forces working in the Central African Republic to re-establish peace and order. He stresses the fundamental importance of protecting civilians at all times.

The Secretary-General reminds all those who are involved in spreading the violence, including those directly or indirectly supporting or otherwise facilitating the actions of armed groups, that they will be held accountable for their actions and brought to justice. In this regard, he stresses the importance of quickly establishing a list of individuals who act to undermine peace, stability and security in the Central African Republic, as called for by Security Council resolution SCR 2127 (2013).

The Secretary-General reaffirms the full commitment of the United Nations to help the Central African Republic emerge from the ongoing crisis and to build peace.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

IOM Trains Officials, NGOs in Aid to Human Trafficking Victims in Puntland, Somalia

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM, in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Women’s Development and Family Affairs (MoWDFA), has organized a training in Puntland, Somalia on assistance to and referral of victims of human trafficking.

The training targeted 53 participants from international and local NGOs, Puntland ministries and UN agencies involved in protection issues, including gender-based violence (GBV) and child protection.

“Human trafficking is a social problem that needs to be urgently addressed in Puntland. MoWDFA supports and will continue to collaborate with partners to implement referral mechanisms and standard operating procedures (developed by IOM) to help victims,” said Ms. Amina Mohamoud Noor, Director of Child Protection at MoWDFA.

“The government of Puntland and MoWDFA will make sure that strong coordination among different actors is observed in the process of using this referral instrument established (to help) victims of trafficking,” said MoWDFA Minister Mr. Anisa Haji.

Puntland is a transit route for migrants from the Horn of Africa and the studies conducted by IOM indicate that trafficking of migrants is a major concern.

IOM supported the establishment of a Counter-Trafficking Board within the Puntland Authority to co-ordinate the actions of different ministries. It has also helped the police to set up a counter-trafficking unit in Garowe to investigate cases of human trafficking.

Since 2012, IOM through financial and technical support to the Puntland Authority and civil society organizations has assisted a total of 17 victims of trafficking, of whom 15 were girls under 18 years old.

“We believe that this is a tip of the iceberg. There are complicated scenarios where smuggling mutates into human trafficking. By raising awareness and understanding of human trafficking and strengthening the support network in Puntland, through this type of training, we can reach more of those who need help,” said IOM counter trafficking programme manager Hiroko Nishino.

IOM Somalia’s counter trafficking project is funded by Japan and the European Union.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

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