Nov 202014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday criticized a recent amendment to the Criminal Code of The Gambia that creates a broad and vague offence of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by life imprisonment. He also expressed alarm at reports of a wave of arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals perceived to be homosexual in The Gambia.

The amendment to the Criminal Code was approved by the National Assembly earlier this year and signed into law by the President on 9 October 2014. It targets, among others, so-called “serial offenders” (meaning individuals with a previous conviction for homosexuality), persons living with HIV, and consensual same-sex partners of persons with disabilities – all of whom could be imprisoned for life. The new law replicates a section of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act denounced by the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary-General and the African Commission Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.

“This law violates fundamental human rights – among them the right to privacy, to freedom from discrimination and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. It adds to the stigma and abuses that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people already face in The Gambia,” High Commissioner Zeid said.

“Governments have a duty to protect people from prejudice, not to add to it. Public hostility towards gay and lesbian people can never justify violating their fundamental human rights. Instead, it requires increased measures to protect them against human rights violations. This has been reaffirmed by UN human rights mechanisms and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” he added.

Since the new law was approved, representatives of The Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency have been reportedly conducting door-to-door enquiries to identify, arrest and detain individuals believed to be homosexual, and some of those detained have allegedly also been subjected to violent attacks and mistreatment. In other countries, similar laws have also led to an increase in violence against members of the LGBT community, including mob attacks.

“I call on The Gambia to fulfil its international obligations to promote and protect the human rights of all persons without discrimination, to repeal all provisions of the Criminal Code that criminalize relations between consenting adults and to put in place an immediate moratorium on arrests on the basis of such laws,” the High Commissioner said.

Nov 202014
 

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) (http://www.philips.com) and the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation (http://www.snvworld.org), will be working together to improve access to clean cooking solutions in Africa by introducing clean and efficient household cook stoves to rural communities across the continent. The partnership aims to improve the health and well-being and income of rural populations while having a direct positive impact on the environment and will include research, community education and access to financing for adopting clean cooking technologies.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/philips-1.jpg

Photos: http://goo.gl/dbWwRJ

According to the World Energy Outlook 2012 (http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/WEO2012_free.pdf), a staggering 2.6 billion people still depend on traditional cook stoves or open fires for cooking and heating their homes. The health and environmental risks of this are considerable. Every week, 75,000 people – mostly women and children – get sick or even die as a direct result of inhaling smoke. And each day, 3.9 million tons of fuel wood are burnt, contributing to the daily loss of 200 km2 of forest (1). There are cleaner and more efficient cooking solutions available. But communities in rural areas do not know the benefits of clean cooking alternates or cannot access or afford to invest in them. Philips and SNV are joining forces to address this issue.

Philips’ ambition is to create meaningful innovations that matter to people and address the key challenges that confront society; this is why for the last 3 years, Philips has invested in the design and manufacturing of an innovative fan driven cook stove that can improve the lives of those who rely on wood or biomass for their daily cooking. These specially designed cook stoves can reduce smoke and carbon monoxide emissions by more than 90% compared to an open fire (2) thus reducing the health risks of indoor cooking. The cook stove utilizes pellets, wood or other biomass for cooking in a healthy, environmental friendly and fuel efficient manner. Philips is testing different financing and go-to-market models to ensure that this solution become accessible to people that would not be able to afford them otherwise.

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation has extensive experience with increasing access to clean cooking solutions for low income communities. They collaborate with and build capacities of local retailers to promote clean cooking solutions and increase local availability of cook stoves. SNV studies what people can afford, and sets up market based solutions including access to finance for households and small to medium businesses.

Over the years, SNV has invested in research to learn which cooking solutions are the healthiest, most economical, user-, and eco-friendly. Philips produces some of the cleanest products currently available on the market. To increase access to these products, SNV and Philips are now joining forces. They will collaborate in further research and promotion of clean cooking solutions.

According to Andy Wehkamp, SNV’s director of Renewable Energy, the partnership with Philips is a natural step. “We believe that inclusive business can play an important role in poverty reduction and low carbon growth. We want to increase the income and health of low-income groups in a climate smart way, while at the same time generating benefits for participating companies. By joining forces with Philips we expect to reduce the amount of people dependent on open fires or inefficient cook stoves for cooking. This contributes to a better environment, while low-income groups can enjoy better health and living conditions”

For Philips, the attraction of SNV is in their extensive Africa-wide network and deep understanding of the local environment. Christoph Castellaz, Head of Strategy and New Business Development, Philips Africa states “We welcome the opportunity to partner with SNV; Philips is passionate to invent and apply technology to help people but we need meaningful partnerships to co-create new solutions and new business models that can make innovations like our cook stove accessible and affordable to communities that need them the most.”

The collaboration between SNV and Philips will initially focus on Kenya (East Africa) and Ghana (West Africa); an official Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and Philips will be signed on 20 November 2014 during the assembly of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) in New York.

(1) Global Forest Resources Assessment (ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/008/A0400E/A0400E03.pdf)

(2) Reference source: Water boiling test version 4.2.2 done at accredited stove laboratory, Aprovecho Research Center, Oregon, USA.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Royal Philips.

For more information and/or interviews, please contact:

Elsa Scholte, Head of Communications

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation

Tel : +31 6579 31490

escholte@snvworld.org

Radhika Choksey

Philips Group Communications – Africa

Tel: +31 62525 9000

E-mail: radhika.choksey@philips.com

About Royal Philips:

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) (http://www.philips.com) is a diversified health and well-being company, focused on improving people’s lives through meaningful innovation in the areas of Healthcare, Consumer Lifestyle and Lighting. Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips posted 2013 sales of EUR 23.3 billion and employs approximately 113,000 employees with sales and services in more than 100 countries. The company is a leader in cardiac care, acute care and home healthcare, energy efficient lighting solutions and new lighting applications, as well as male shaving and grooming and oral healthcare. News from Philips is located at www.philips.com/newscenter

About SNV Netherlands Development Organisation :

SNV is a not-for-profit international development organisation. Founded in 1965, they have built a solid local presence in many of the poorest countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. SNV’s global team of advisors works with local partners to equip communities, businesses and organisations with the tools, knowledge and connections they need to increase their income and gain access to basic services. SNV’s work spans three sectors: Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, Agriculture, and Renewable Energy. In each sector, they link local initiatives to global programmes to connect to international best practice, enable economies of scale and create maximum impact. For details visit www.snvworld.org

Nov 202014
 

PRETORIA, South-Africa, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — This year we Europeans spent a lot of time remembering the centennial of the First World War. We live in an age – a very fortunate age! – where most young people in the European Union have never experienced war.

However, it is extremely important to remind ourselves and to remind young people especially that peace cannot be taken for granted. We have to value it and work for it.

Unfortunately, Europeans spent very little time remembering the suffering the First World War brought to Non-Europeans. Millions of Africans were dragged into a conflict which was not theirs to begin with.

I spoke about the African victims of this War during my travel to Tanzania in March.

South African soldiers were also involved in the fighting and an estimated 10 000 of them lost their lives in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Yet there is something else, something fundamental which Europeans ignore when talking about the First World War.

Countless articles and speeches deplore 1914 as a watershed that marked the end of European civilization. The war with all its industrialized brutality is described as a betrayal of European values. This reveals a very selective memory!

Europeans had long been ignoring exactly those “European values” of humanity, respect and freedom when it came to their interactions with Africans. Africans were not granted the same rights, even long after the formal abolition of slavery. They were denied basic human rights, justice and equality.

We Europeans have to face this bitter fact in order to overcome it and build a new relationship with Africa.

The system of double standards was most obvious in this country, South Africa. It even had its own name: Apartheid. Long after other nations of the continent had achieved their independence, the struggle for freedom in your country still had to go on.

Nelson Mandela said in his historic speech in Tunis in 1994 that Africa’s liberation was only complete with the liberation of South Africa. So here is another important anniversary for the continent and the whole world: 20 years of the New South Africa. Congratulations!

As we speak, West Africa is in the grip of a dangerous and often deadly virus: Ebola.

It has travelled to Europe and the United States. It is a global challenge which has to be dealt with globally. Germany takes part in this fight with financial and scientific assistance as well as staff on the ground.

But there is an even more dangerous phenomenon which resembles a virus. It can appear anywhere, anytime.

It is destructive and also often deadly.

It is the virus of violence.

Violence has been with humanity from the beginning. Cain slew his own brother.

And this is not the only hint in the bible. The potential for violence is in every human being, in every society.

Estimates say that every minute one human being is killed violently. So, since I started my speech that makes about six killings.

Yet, whenever we are faced with the images of mass violence we struggle for the right words – be it facing he Holocaust, the Killing Fields of Cambodia or the genocide in Ruanda – which was also exactly 20 years ago.

And whoever thought that in Europe the virus of violence was forever banned to the history books, had to learn a tough lesson this year in the Ukraine crisis, which has cost more than 3000 lives already.

This should not belittle the achievements of peace in the last decades. Europe has been quite successful in containing inter-state violence. In Africa, the end of the cold war also brought an end to many long-lasting civil wars.

So there is hope for all of us. Just like medicine has found many different remedies against deadly viruses, society has found different ways of reducing violence –

within countries but also on the international scene.

In my speech, I want to talk about three remedies – three factors in our common struggle against violence and for peace.

The first factor is participation:

People want to have their voices heard.

In societies with political participation the individual does not need to resort to violence in order to make himself heard.

Frustrations do not bottle up and erupt in violent conflict, as they recently did in the streets of Ouagadougou.

I continue to be a firm believer in open, democratic societies that not only allow, but encourage their citizens to participate. Democratic decision-making might sometimes take a little longer than the top-down approach, but it certainly brings better and more lasting solutions. That’s why, in my travels to Africa and other continents, I meet with governments – of course – but I also meet with representatives of civil society and of the democratic opposition.

South Africans struggled for the right to shape their own destiny. And they won it! Your democracy was hard fought for. Now, South Africa’s separation of powers with a strong judiciary stands as an example for many countries on this continent. But beyond that, you need a political culture. Madiba himself set a shining example by not running for a second term as a President in 1998 despite his immense popularity.

Today, the young people of Africa are much better informed and will demand the right to have their voices heard. My advice to governments in this matter is simple:

Listen to the people! And listen to Madiba, the most famous alumnus of this university!

By participation, I mean more than political participation.

I mean economic and social participation – I mean every man and woman’s right to improve their own lives.

Democracy without prosperity will run into trouble. People need access to basic services such as health or education. Germany continues to share her experience in this field, not only with South Africa, but also with other countries on the continent.

In Africa, I often see two things: one that makes me hopeful and one that needs work. On the one hand, I often see a great deal of solidarity among groups of the population – may they be from the same family, local community or ethnic group.

On the other hand, I see relatively weak state structures and institutions of social welfare in many African countries. So my question is: What can be done to extend the strong African solidarity to cover all citizens of a state?

This is much more than a technical question. Maybe South Africa and Germany can find ways to work together in that direction.

Maybe we can encourage a culture as well as institutions of solidarity.

Of course, in our efforts to expand economic participation, we need businesses, too.

I am happy to have a delegation of German business with me. German companies, especially small and medium-sized companies, have learned to operate in a way that values long-term relationships and a fair sharing of gains. They have learned to balance the interests of management and workers in a cooperative way.

And German companies and the state have created a system of vocational training that is the envy of the world. I just went to visit a vocational training center here in South Africa, the Commercial Advancement Training Scheme in Bramfontein, an example of our bilateral cooperation. We are very happy to share our experiences to give young people a perspective. Our Bi-National Commission will bring experts together to discuss all the issues of the implementation of vocational training.

Infrastructure is another factor of participation. Because how can people participate in the economy when they’re not well-connected by road or rail? How can governments provide goods and services if they cannot even reach parts of the country?

Infrastructure is crucial especially when economies grow quickly, as many economies in Africa. Take a country like Angola, which I visited in March: They do not make steps in economic development, they make jumps! That’s why they quickly need basic infrastructures: from roads to electricity to waste disposal.

German companies have a lot of infrastructure expertise. That is why Germany works on infrastructure projects all across this continent. For example, the German government has financed the renovation of the Goma airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This will improve access to this rich but very troubled region.

What does all this have to do with violence? I think being excluded from prosperity leads to frustration. Frustration leads to violence.

That’s why prosperity and participation need to go together! And that is a two-way street:

Only a strong, growing economy can create prosperity for everyone. And only a society where everyone is given the chance to participate, where young people find jobs, can grow its economy in a stable and sustainable way. That is the two-way logic of participation!

My second factor against violence is: rules. Now, that might sound very German to you. Germans love rules, don’t they?

I think this is more than a national preference. Everywhere, people and businesses need to rely on clear and fair rules. If the individual feels safe and minorities are protected, there is much less reason for violence to erupt. That is why states need the monopoly of exercising violence – simply to enforce the rules that apply to everyone, including the state itself.

But such a set-up requires a state which functions well and controls its territory.

In many parts of Africa, this is simply not the case. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, armed groups have taken the law in their own hands in some areas.

The suffering of civilians is immense.

In Nigeria, which I visited just a few weeks ago with my French colleague, Laurent Fabius, the fundamentalist group Boko Haram continues to terrorize the population. In other parts of the country, armed gangs challenge the authority of the state.

What can be done about this? We need to strengthen the immune system of these states!

The first thing are the rule-enforcers: police and, sorry to say, the military. They need to be strong, well-trained and accepted by society! That is why Germany is participating in five UN and nine European missions all over Africa to train police officers and also to teach police that it needs acceptance. It continues with the military. German forces have been cooperating with their counterparts in Africa for a long time. In recent years, a lot of this cooperation has taken place in European missions to rebuild African military forces to enable them to establish control of their states’ territory.

But there are other factors, too.

Let me give you just two examples: First, Armed groups need money. They are desperate for profits. Often these come from the exploitation of natural resources. Germany has invested much in certification of mines and minerals in the DRC. Once we know whether some material comes from a mine outside the rule based framework, we can make it more difficult for these products to enter the international markets and thus deprive armed criminals of their profits. The same goes for international efforts to stop poaching. Germany and Gabon started an initiative including the countries of destination and co-sponsored a resolution against poaching in the United Nations.

Second, armed groups need arms. If the international community stands firm and enforces its rules against the sale and distribution of small arms, we stand a much better chance to succeed.

Unfortunately, there are cases where all rules fail and all efforts to resolve a crisis fall on deaf ears. In the Great Lakes region, people have been suffering from violence of all forms. In these cases, the international community needs to step in and help to end the violence.

Recently, the United Nations’ largest Peace Keeping Mission, MONUSCO achieved some well noted successes in the fight against armed groups in the East of the DRC. It had the support of the Congolese armed forces and of the newly created MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade. Your country, South Africa has really played a vital role in this.

This example takes me to my third factor: responsibility.

It will hardly come as a surprise when I tell you that rules and international order won’t just fall into our lap. We need countries that are willing to step up and take on responsibility, also beyond their own front garden;

countries that are willing to protect rules and create elements of international order.

South Africa is one of these countries.

South Africa takes on responsibility for its continent. I think that, when it comes to systems of rules and order, Africa is ahead of many other regions. The African Union and the respective regional organizations have a vision for peace and security and prosperity, and this vision is embodied in the African Peace and Security Architecture and the African Governance Architecture.

African Regional Organizations have made it clear that military coups will not stand!

The latest example is Burkina Faso.

They have also made it clear that they will not let a terrible civil war, as in South Sudan, develop into a devastating regional conflict.

South Africa takes part in these efforts.

It stepped in during the recent crisis in Lesotho. South Africa is one of the key actors in the DRC, where one armed group, the FDLR, faces a deadline to disarm and disband by January or face military action. Maintaining this deadline, decided by the Security Council and supported by the African institutions, is a matter of international and African credibility.

Of course, my own region, Europe, has its own crises to deal with, too. We are still dealing with the aftermath of the most severe economic crisis that ever happened in our Union. And in Ukraine, we are faced with the biggest threat to peace and stability on our continent since the end of the Cold War.

In the face of all these crises, Germany, just like South Africa, will take on her share of responsibility and get involved to protect and promote the vision we share: a world run by rules and not by violence. Our support for the United Nations is well-known – we are the fourth largest financial contributor to its Peace Keeping Operations. But we are equally proud of our support for the African Union, including the African Peace and Security architecture, as our second largest partner after the EU.

I look forward to my discussions in Pretoria, to learn more about how South Africa is working for elements of international order – both as a strong member of the AU, and globally, as a member of the BRICS states.

The virus of violence is the oldest and the most dangerous threat to mankind.

I have talked about three different types of remedy – but looking at the world outside with its many conflicts, we all see how powerful this virus still is.

You, the young students in this room – you are the first generation that grew up in the new South Africa. I am aware that there are still many deep divisions in your country. But your country has set a strong example how violence and hatred can be overcome. You set up a Rainbow-Nation, not a Revenge-Nation!

Now, in the 21st century, when the world is growing ever closer together, the virus of violence is also becoming more global –

It transcends borders and spreads around much more easily. So all the more, we have to work hard and we have to work together to find remedies against it.

If the African youth, with all its energy and enthusiasm, joins the global struggle, the virus of violence will have a very difficult 21st century.

Thank you very much.

Nov 202014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Ebola situation assessment – 20 November 2014

As of today, Mali has officially reported a cumulative total of 6 cases of Ebola virus disease, with 5 deaths. Of the 6 cases, 5 are laboratory confirmed and one remains probable as no samples were available for testing.

These numbers include the 2-year-old girl who initially imported the virus into Mali and died of the disease on 24 October.

Intensive tracing and monitoring of the child’s numerous contacts, including many who were monitored in hospital, failed to detect any additional cases. All 118 contacts, including family members, have now passed through the 21-day incubation period without developing symptoms.

The virus was almost certainly re-introduced into Mali by a 70-year-old Grand Imam from Guinea, who was admitted to Bamako’s Pasteur Clinic on 25 October and died on 27 October. He has been reclassified as a Guinea case, as he developed symptoms in that country. No samples were available for testing.

Pasteur Clinic: direct and indirect links

All 5 cases in this new outbreak are linked, 3 directly and 2 indirectly, to the patient in the Pasteur Clinic.

The first was a 25-year-old male nurse who worked at the clinic and was assigned to care for the Imam. He was hospitalized on 8 November. His case was laboratory-confirmed on 11 November and he died the same day.

The second case was confirmed in a doctor who worked at the clinic and treated the Imam. He developed symptoms on 5 November and was hospitalized on 8 November. Laboratory confirmation was received on 12 November. He is currently undergoing treatment.

The third case was a 51-year-old friend of the Imam who visited him at the Pasteur Clinic. He developed symptoms on 7 November and died on 10 November from an undiagnosed cause. He is the country’s single probable case.

The friend’s infection led to an additional two confirmed and fatal cases. The first was a 57-year-old woman who had direct contact with the friend. She developed symptoms on 29 October. She was admitted to another clinic on 11 November and then transferred to a hospital on 12 November. She died that same day.

The second case was the woman’s son. He visited yet another clinic on 5 November and died at home on 14 November. Ebola infection was laboratory-confirmed in both cases.

Stepped up contact tracing

A massive effort is currently under way to identify all potential chains of transmission, monitor contacts, and prevent the outbreak from growing larger. At present 338 contacts have been identified and 303 (90%) of these have been placed under daily surveillance.

This rigorous “detective” work shows that the deceased nurse from the Pasteur Clinic had the largest number of contacts, at 98, including 75 family members.

As the successful experiences in Senegal and Nigeria show, aggressive contact tracing, which seeks to find and break every chain of transmission immediately after an imported case, can hold the number of additional cases to very small numbers and support a rapid end to the outbreak.

The Ministry of Health, with assistance from the WHO country office, has augmented the number of staff engaged in contact tracing by drawing on polio surveillance teams and using local medical students with training in epidemiology.

In addition, WHO has deployed 10 epidemiologists through its Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, or GOARN.

The country is also ramping up its capacity to perform exit screening at the Bamako airport.

Guinea: Many mourners attended the funeral

The Imam was buried in his native village of Kourémalé, Guinea, on 28 October. That event has now been investigated. Thousands of mourners may have attended the funeral. Some of them touched the body as part of the traditional funeral ceremony. About 300 contacts are being traced.

Experts in Mali and at WHO agree that Mali will remain at risk of further imported cases as long as transmission across the border in ongoing.

Nov 202014
 

NEW YORK, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the allegations reported in the media of mass rape in Thabit, North Darfur, on 30 and 31 October 2014. They called on the …

Nov 202014
 

LONDON, United-Kingdom, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An international project backed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and designed to prevent the deaths of pregnant women, new mothers and infants in Africa, is to be officially launched today.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/st-john-international.jpg

Photo 1: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1566

Photo 2: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1565

Some 1 million newborn babies and around 179,000 women die every year in Sub- Saharan Africa as a result of complications in pregnancy, labour, during delivery and in the first month of a child’s life.

Today, the global healthcare charity St John International (http://www.stjohninternational.org) signals an attempt to turn that tide, with the launch of its new Mother and Baby Programme.

The initiative has been made possible thanks to a Big Lottery Fund grant of £257,365, allowing the charity to mobilise community based volunteers on the ground in Malawi and Zambia, and provide support to households and increase access to health service.

For generations St John International (also known as the Venerable Order of St John) has been providing community based first aid, healthcare and related services to people in need throughout the world.

Trial activity has already seen the Mother and Baby Programme team visiting the communities of Malawi and Zambia, to identify the most urgent need. St John also has plans to roll out the programme in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe by raising further funds.

“The reduction of the horrendous death rates amongst Mothers and Babies was set as a Millennium Goal. Huge strides have been made and the St John programme will be another significant step along the way,” said Sir Paul Lambert, Secretary General of St John International.

“Our teams of local volunteers and healthcare professionals have seen with their own eyes what tragic circumstances are in existence, and how many lives are being needlessly lost.

“With the generous support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and our superb support from the Big Lottery Fund, the Mother and Baby programme has a vision of ‘a world where communities take action to strengthen the health of women and children’. Adding his voice to the campaign, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “I passionately support the work of St John and their unique community volunteer led approach towards improving community health around the world and addressing maternal and newborn health in Africa. Without healthy mothers and babies, communities cannot flourish and develop. So investment in this area of healthcare is absolutely vital.”

Volunteers will be trained in topics such as basic hygiene, planning for birth, danger signs during pregnancy, maintaining temperature in newborns, cord care, post natal care needs and risks. With the acquired knowledge and skills, the volunteers will carry out home visits to thousands of households to educate and give advice to women as well as men about the importance of maternal and newborn health.

St John International is seeking to engage the support of corporates, particularly those who have had or currently have, an interest in the communities of Malawi and Zambia.

“Unlike many programmes this does not rely on outside agencies,” added Sir Paul.

“Our local St John Ambulance organisations in Malawi and Zambia will recruit additional volunteers from within the community and after giving them first aid training will train them to provide the support in maternal health and newborn. The generous grant from the Big Lottery will allow the programme to start, however, after 3 years our local St John Organisations will be funding these programmes themselves.

“This is a low cost high impact programme and £150,000 is enough to roll out another programme in another country for a year.” commented Sir Paul.

The issues surrounding maternal and newborn health is one of the key priorities in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015. St John International and its Associations have a crucial role to play in contributing to the MDGs as they have unique access to hard-to-reach communities.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of the Venerable Order of St John.

NOTE TO EDITORS

Media Contact:

Chiao Kwan

Tel: +44 (0)20 7553 9319

Email: chiao.kwan@orderofstjohn.org

About the Venerable Order of St John

The Venerable Order of St John (also known as St John International) (http://www.stjohninternational.org) is a global international healthcare charity, whose organisations provide first aid, health care and community based support services in over 40 countries around the world.

About the Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery. The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 we have awarded close to £6bn. The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1st December 2006.

Nov 202014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate human rights violations in Eritrea has begun its operations with an initial meeting in Geneva.

The United Nations Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry in June 2014 for a period of one year to “investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea” as outlined in the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, whose mandate was created by the Human Rights Council in June 2012.

“Our key aim is to help provide Eritrea with the means to improve the human rights of its population,” said the Commission Chairperson, Mr Mike Smith. “Our work is guided by respect and care for the Eritrean people and their proud history, as well as international human rights standards.”

Mr Smith, Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia, and former Executive Director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, is working with Ms Sheila B. Keetharuth, who is the current Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and Mr Victor Dankwa, Associate Professor at the University of Ghana and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.*

The Commissioners have come together for the first time in Geneva this week, and are holding key meetings with a number of diplomatic missions, including Eritrea, UN agencies, scholars and civil society organisations. They have also been discussing the strategy, methodology and investigative approach they will employ during their mandate.

“We have a clear mandate from the Human Rights Council. The Council has expressed its strong condemnation of the ‘continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by the Eritrean authorities’” said Mr Dankwa.

Ms Keetharuth stated “We are committed to reach out to the people of Eritrea to understand the impact of the current situation on the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In particular, we are keen to look at the reasons why Eritreans, including unaccompanied minors, are fleeing the country in their thousands”.

The Commissioners said that they wish for the full cooperation of the Government of Eritrea and to this end have met their representative in Geneva and have asked for full access to the country. “We are hoping that this first meeting in Geneva augurs well for future co-operation with Eritrean authorities,” noted Mr Smith.

The Commission of Inquiry, supported by a team of experienced human rights officers, is publishing a call for submissions to encourage interested individuals, groups and organisations to share information with the Commissioners.

The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea was established by Human Rights Council resolution 26/24 to investigate a variety of alleged violations, including extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, torture, restrictions to civil liberties, human trafficking, discrimination against women and sexual and gender-based violence, violations of child rights, lack of rule of law, and precarious living conditions.

The Commissioners will undertake a first official visit to Switzerland and Italy from 27 November to 4 December 2014 to collect first-hand information on the human rights situation in Eritrea from Eritrean refugees, migrants and other members of the diaspora, as well as other relevant sources.

The Commissioners are holding their first press briefing on Thursday, 20 November, at 10.00 a.m. in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Nov 202014
 

BANGUI, Central African Republic, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, headed by Mr. Ekué Kpodar, visited Bangui, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), from November 11 to 18, 2014 to hold discussions with the C.A.R. authorities on an emergency program that could be supported by the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility (RCF).1

At the end of the mission, Mr. Kpodar issued the following statement:

“The Transitional Authorities of the C.A.R. and the IMF mission reached staff-level understandings on a macro-fiscal framework and a set of economic and structural policies to reinforce the progress made since the previous RCF approved by the IMF Executive Board in May 2014. These policies are aimed at further restoring macroeconomic stability, achieving fiscal consolidation, strengthening the capacity of the C.A.R. government, coordinating technical assistance, and maintaining the commitment of international donors. Under these understandings, C.A.R. could receive support on these policies through a follow-up RCF for an amount of SDR 5.57 million (equivalent to CFAF 4 billion). The IMF’s total financial assistance to C.A.R. for 2014 would thus reach SDR 13.925 million (equivalent to approximately CFAF10 billion). Additional contributions from development partners to the IMF’s assistance would bring the total external budgetary support to the C.A.R. to approximately CFAF 80 billion for 2014.

“The protracted political and security crisis in the C.A.R. and the resulting collapse of economic activity continue to present major challenges to the Transitional Authorities. For 2014, while economic activity is gradually resuming and some of the displaced persons have been able to return, the volatile security situation led the mission and the C.A.R. authorities to revise the GDP growth forecast downward to 1 percent. At the same time, the scarcity of basic consumption goods has translated into a steady rise in prices, with inflation projected to reach 11.6 percent on average in 2014, well above the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) convergence criterion of 3 percent. The external current account deficit is projected to narrow to 6.4 percent of GDP in 2014, reflecting the substantial financial support from the donor community as well as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) countries. However, the strong reliance on food and oil imports and the lagging performance of the exporting industries make further balance of payments support necessary.

“In the budget area, the priority remains to further improve the mobilization of domestic revenues and enhance the quality of spending with a view to limiting the domestic primary balance to 5 percent of GDP in 2014 and 4.1 percent in 2015. The Transitional Authorities will continue implementing measures to strengthen public financial management by enhancing the monitoring of cash flow management, further cleaning up the civil servants roster and payroll, revising the convention with commercial banks to administer tax collection, and strengthening transparency in oil taxation.

“Finally, the mission held in-depth discussions on a draft budget and policies for 2015. For next year, we expect that the return of security and the successful completion of the political transition will mark the beginning of a sustainable economic recovery with a real GDP growth rate estimate of 5.7 percent with inflation being contained at 5.7 percent. However, public finances will continue to be under pressure and will require continued support of the international community.

“The mission met with the President of the C.A.R., Mrs. Catherine Samba-Panza, and held discussions with the Prime Minister, Mr. Mahamat Kamoun, the Minister of Finance and Budget, Mr. Bounandele Koumba, and his delegation, and representatives of development partners, the diplomatic community, and the private sector.

“The mission takes this opportunity to thank the C.A.R. authorities for their exemplary cooperation and the candid and constructive discussions that took place.”

1 The RCF (http://www.imf.org/external/np/exr/facts/rcf.htm) is a lending arrangement that provides rapid financial support in a single, up-front payout for low-income countries facing urgent financing needs.

Nov 202014
 

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of the Congo, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A team of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Ms. Dalia Hakura, Mission Chief for the Republic of Congo, visited Brazzaville during November 11−19, 2014. The mission reviewed recent macroeconomic developments and the near-term outlook, discussed the 2014 supplementary budget, the draft 2015 budget and sought the authorities’ input on the agenda for the 2015 Article IV consultation with the Republic of Congo, planned for April 2015.

At the end of the mission, Ms. Hakura made the following statement:

“Macroeconomic performance has been broadly satisfactory thus far in 2014. Growth is projected at 6 percent in 2014, in light of a slight rebound in oil production. This will also be supported by strong non–oil growth, due mainly to higher government infrastructure spending. Year-on-year inflation has continued to decelerate and the overall price level in June 2014 was virtually unchanged from a year ago, largely as a result of declining food prices. The mission notes that the recently approved 2014 supplementary budget provides for an elevated level of government spending, mainly due to preparations for the All Africa Games. This elevated spending implies a deviation from the fiscal rule that the authorities introduced in 2013. If fully implemented, the budget will considerably widen the non-oil primary deficit and hold back fiscal savings in 2014.

“Against the backdrop of the limited remaining lifetime of oil reserves, the recent decline in international oil prices makes it more urgent for the authorities to revert to a path of fiscal consolidation starting from 2015, while enhancing the efficiency of government spending. In this regard, targeting an early reduction of the non-oil primary deficit that also limits the growth of government spending by more than currently envisaged in the 2015 budget would help to safeguard fiscal and external buffers and contribute to mitigating risks to macroeconomic stability in the medium-term. In a context of rising global oil production, the Republic of Congo is facing an uncertain external environment. There are downside risks to oil prices from a weaker global economic outlook, including slower growth in China.

“For the 2015 budget, the authorities should examine the scope for larger fiscal adjustment while safeguarding targeted social spending and growth-enhancing capital spending. The mission welcomes the authorities’ intention to prioritize completion of basic infrastructure projects whilst also taking steps to begin the conditional cash transfer program. The authorities are also encouraged to follow up on recommendations from the ongoing Public Expenditure Management and Financial Accountability Review by the World Bank and other development partners. This should help to identify reform actions needed to strengthen budget execution, procurement and disbursement processes.

“The authorities should continue with ongoing structural reforms to support inclusive growth in the non–oil sector. The mission welcomes the authorities’ near term focus on ensuring access to water for all, and encourages continuing efforts to improve the business climate, which remains one of the most challenging in Sub–Saharan Africa. These reforms will be important to unlocking the potential of the private sector in the Republic of Congo.

“The mission notes the authorities’ continued commitment to a prudent debt management policy. Against the backdrop of recent increases in external debt, which now stands at about 30 percent of Gross Domestic Product, the continued reliance on concessional borrowing will help maintain long–term debt sustainability and preserve the hard won gains of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries/Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative granted in 2010.

“The execution of the Republic of Congo’s macroeconomic policy and structural reform agenda would also benefit from enhanced transparency. The long delays in data availability hamper the timely assessment of the macroeconomic policy stance. In this regard, the mission welcomes the authorities’ efforts to strengthen the National Institute of Statistics through the development of a national statistics action plan with IMF technical assistance.

“The mission met with the State Minister of Economy, Finance, Planning, Public Portfolio and Integration, Mr. Ondongo, Minister at the Presidency in Charge of Territory Planning and Large Projects, Mr. Bouya, Special Advisor to the President, Mr. Gokana, Deputy Minister in Charge of Planning and Integration, Mr. Mokoko, National Director of the Central Bank, Mr. Ondaye, and other senior officials. The mission also met with representatives of the private sector, civil society, and development partners.

“We thank the authorities for the warm welcome and cooperation given to the mission, and wish them well in the important and challenging policy tasks they face.”

Nov 202014
 

LONDON, United-Kingdom, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Foreign Secretary welcomes UN action taken to list two terrorist groups in Libya, underlining need to support UN-led mediation efforts.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“I welcome the action taken by the UN Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee to list Ansar Al Sharia Benghazi (AAS-B) and Ansar Al Sharia Derna (AAS-D). Both groups have links with Al-Qaida and are responsible for acts of terror in Libya, including bomb attacks, kidnappings, and murder.”

“The decision sends a clear message that the international community will take action against extremist groups in Libya who pose a threat to peace and security. It is incumbent on all Libyans to reject these groups and all they stand for.

“The UK urges all parties in Libya to cease fighting immediately and fully supports the mediation efforts of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Bernardino Leon, in pursuing an inclusive and broad based dialogue.”

Nov 202014
 

MOGADISHU, Somalia, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union (EU) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) welcomed the formation of the Interim South West Administration (ISWA) in Somalia and the subsequent election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President of the ISWA.

“We welcome the election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President. At the same time, we underline the importance of dialogue and inclusivity and urge the new leader to reach out “We welcome the election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President. At the same time, we underline the importance of dialogue and inclusivity and urge the new leader to reach to all constituents of the ISWA and, to reach consensus on addressing the many challenges ahead. The establishment of the Interim South West Administration paves the way to focus our minds on providing services for the people and building a functioning administration.”

“In conclusion, we join international partners in urging the Federal Government of Somalia and the new Administration of the ISWA to work towards peace and state formation. We reiterate the commitment of the international community to supporting the authorities in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in Somalia”.