Hola, Madrid! African Development Bank takes the continent’s climate agenda to COP25 in Spain

The Bank is playing a leading role in guiding progress on climate change on the continent. The Bank has doubled its total climate change commitment to $25 billion between 2020 and 2025.

By PRESS RELEASE
ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire, Nov 30 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The African Development Bank will on Monday kick off a campaign to plead the continent’s case at the world’s leading climate change conference.

The 25th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) comes at a crucial time for the globe and Africa in particular. In recent years, rising temperatures have wreaked havoc with weather patterns, leading to suffocating heat and devastating storms. In Africa, the climate has exacerbated food shortages and destroyed infrastructure.

African countries know all too well the risks posed by climate change, said Wale Shonibare, the Bank’s Acting Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth. He cited the devastating impact of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and the Comoros earlier this year.

“However, Africa also offers climate smart investment opportunities – from country-led innovation centers, to transformative renewable energy initiatives. For example, this year, the Bank approved financing for the first on-grid solar power public-private partnership in Chad, under the Desert to Power initiative,” Shonibare said.

Projects like Desert to Power will be highlighted at COP 25, which will from 2 to 13 December bring together leaders and institutions from 196 nations plus the European Union, who have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At the heart of the matter are the Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, which form part of the landmark Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 during COP21 in the French capital. The NDCs are specific climate change targets that each country must set.

The Paris Agreement has been ratified by 51 out of 54 African countries. It binds countries to cutting carbon emissions to ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2°C by the end of this century, while attempting to contain it within 1.5°C.

Climate finance is another issue that will top the agenda at COP25 in Madrid.

“2020 is a critical year in securing adequate resources for African countries to meet their Paris Agreement commitments, clarity and transparency on global climate finance access is essential to deliver climate action faster and at scale,” said Anthony Nyong, Director Climate Change and Green Growth Department at the African Development Bank.

The African Development Bank is joining the other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) in a pavilion to showcase the joint commitment to combatting climate change. The Bank will participate in several panel discussions at COP25, and will support the advocacy efforts of its regional member countries. The Bank is playing a leading role in guiding progress on climate change on the continent. Some of its achievements are:

    – 85% of investments are screened for climate risk and for greenhouse gas emissions. The Bank’s ambition is to screen all projects by 2020.
    – By next year, 40% of the Bank’s own investments will be dedicated to climate finance.
    – The Bank has doubled its total climate change commitment to $25 billion between 2020 and 2025, with more than half of it going to adaptation.

Read more here on the African Development Bank’s role at COP25.

Media contact: Gershwin Wanneburg, Communications Officer, Communication and External Relations Department, email: g.wanneburg@afdb.org

Community Efforts are Key When Addressing HIV/AIDS

Community Efforts are Key when Addressing HIV/AIDS

Credit: WHO/ F. Tanggol.

By Ifeanyi Nsofor
ABUJA, Nov 30 2019 – Three years ago, I led an evaluation of an HIV project that focused on increasing access to quality care and supporting services for people living with HIV in Nigeria. It also aimed to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

The project achieved these goals by strengthening support groups, using homebased care services for sick persons and providing Savings and Loans Association membership to improve the livelihoods of persons living with HIV. These outcomes point to the power of community in managing HIV.

The first of December is celebrated globally as World AIDS Day. The theme of the 2019 celebration is, “communities make the difference“. This reminds us to re-focus on the power of community as we try to end the HIV pandemic.

Based UNAIDS 2018 global data, 37.9 million people were living with HIV/AIDS. There were 1.7 million new HIV infections. Fifty-four percent of these new infections occurred among key populations such as men who have sex with men, transgender folks and sex workers.

The first of December is celebrated globally as World AIDS Day. The theme of the 2019 celebration is, “communities make the difference”. This reminds us to re-focus on the power of community as we try to end the HIV pandemic

The risk of acquiring HIV was 22 times higher among men who have sex with men; 22 times higher among people who inject drugs; 21 times higher for sex workers and 12 times higher for transgender people.

Weekly, about 6,000 young women aged 15–24 years become infected with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of new infections among adolescents aged 15–19 years are in girls. Young women aged 15–24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men. Eighteen percent of pregnant women living with HIV did not have access to drugs that would prevent transmission of HIV to their newborns.

People living with HIV face many forms of discrimination when they try to get help. In Southwest Georgia in the U.S., people living with HIV travel long distances out of the area to access their HIV care for fear of being stigmatized.

In the United Arab Emirates, while citizens have free access to HIV treatment, non-nationals prisoners are denied HIV treatment and kept in isolation.  However, some face more inequities than others. Key populations, adolescent girls and pregnant women are examples. These communities should be prioritized in the addressing HIV.

 

Here are four ways to bolster community efforts to ensure equity.

First, eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV through peer programs. Governments, UNAIDS and all partners working in HIV should draw lessons from a country such as Cuba that has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis.

For instance, Cuba’s achievement is based on a universal healthcare system which integrates maternal and child health programs with programs for HIV and sexually transmitted infections. In addition, community of mothers living with HIV called Mentor Mothers can improve uptake of PMTCT services.

Mentor Mothers provide peer support to pregnant women who have HIV. A study in Zimbabwe showed that Mentor Mothers improved retention in PMTCT services and led to positive behaviour change among HIV-positive pregnant women.

Second, integrate HIV/AIDS programming into youth-friendly clinics that provide reproductive health services to women aged 15-24 years. These youth-friendly clinics should be safe spaces, non-judgmental and without discrimination.

South Africa has high burdens of women living with HIV -above 62% of adults living with HIV in South Africa are women, or 4.7 million people. In South Africa, mobile technology locally known as Ringa Nathi (talk to us in Zulu) is used to provide confidential youth-friendly HIV services through WhatsApp-based support groups of 10 youths.

It is a platform for judgement-free discussions while improving knowledge on importance of adherence to HIV treatment and living positively with HIV.

 

Third, prioritise HIV services for high-risk populations such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and injection drug users. Too often, they face barriers and discrimination to receiving help and this must end.

In this light, South Africa has established its first transgender healthcare facility at the Wits Reproductive Health Institute.

In Malawi, a country with one of world’s highest HIV prevalence rates, sex workers are stigmatized and often experience violence. International NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides HIV counselling and testing services to sex workers.

 

Fourth, communities must protect the rights of high-risk populations, period. Throughout the 40 years of the HIV pandemic, these populations have faced discrimination and at times been removed from the mainstream of HIV programming.

Stringent homophobic laws across Africa prevent gay men from accessing life-saving antiretroviral drugs. A study of 45,000 gay men in 28 African countries including Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria found that only 25% were taking their HIV drugs.

Therefore, the courts must rise to the occasion and protect the rights of key populations. Consequently, a High Court in Zimbabwe recently ordered the Minister of Home Affairs and the police to pay a trans woman $400,000 as compensation for her unlawful arrest in 2004.

One key lesson I learnt from leading the evaluation of the HIV intervention in Nigeria is that, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Therefore, no community of people living with HIV should be left behind. However, to ensure equity, some communities should be brought to the same level as others and the journey continued.

 

COP25: UN Climate Change Conference, 5 Things You Need to Know

Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 29 2019 – Climate change is happening—the world is already 1.1°C warmer than it was at the onset of the industrial revolution, and it is already having a significant impact on the world, and on people’s lives. And if current trends persist, then global temperatures can be expected to rise by 3.4 to 3.9°C this century, which would bring wide-ranging and destructive climate impacts.

That’s the stark warning from the international community ahead of the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP25, which gets underway in the Spanish capital, Madrid, on 2 December. So, just two months after the Secretary-General convened a major Climate Action Summit at UN Headquarters in New York, what can be expected from COP25?

 

1. We just had the Climate Action Summit in New York. How is COP25 different?

The Climate Action Summit in September was the initiative of the UN Secretary-General to focus the attention of the international community on the climate emergency and to accelerate actions to reverse climate change. The Climate Conference (held in Madrid after the meeting was moved from Chile due to unrest there), COP25, is the actual Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, which is tasked with making sure that the Convention, (and now the 2015 Paris Agreement, which strengthens the Convention), are being implemented.

 

COP25: UN climate change conference, 5 things you need to know

2. But why all the UN attention on the climate?

There is more evidence of the impacts of climate change, especially in extreme weather events, and these impacts are taking a greater toll.  The science shows that emissions are still going up, not down.

According to the 2019 WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high. This continuing long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned, in its 2019 Emissions Gap Report, that greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 are needed to meet the internationally agreed goal of a 1.5°C increase in temperatures over pre-industrial levels. Scientists agree that’s a tall order, and that the window of opportunity is growing smaller.

 

3. So what did the September Climate Action Summit achieve?

The summit served as a springboard ahead of crucial 2020 deadlines established by the Paris Agreement, focusing global attention on the climate emergency and the urgent need to significantly scale up action. And leaders, from many countries and sectors, stepped up.

COP25 is the final COP before we enter the defining year of 2020, when many nations must submit new climate action plans. Among the many elements that need to be ironed out is the financing of climate action worldwide

More than seventy countries committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, even if major emitters have not yet done so.  More than 100 cities did the same, including several of the world’s largest.

Small island states together committed to achieve carbon neutrality and to move to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.  And countries from Pakistan to Guatemala, Colombia to Nigeria, New Zealand to Barbados vowed to plant more than 11 billion trees.

More than 100 leaders in the private sector committed to accelerating the green economy. A group of the world’s largest asset-owners, controlling $2 trillion, pledged to move to carbon-neutral investment portfolios by 2050. This is in addition to a recent call by asset managers representing nearly half the world’s invested capital, some $34 trillion, for global leaders to put a meaningful price on carbon and phase out fossil fuel subsidies and thermal coal power worldwide.

 

4. Hang on: UNEP, WMO, IPCC, UNFCCC, COP…why all the acronyms?

It’s true that the UN is a very acronym-heavy place. These ones all represent international tools and agencies that, under the leadership of the UN, were created to help advance climate action globally. Here’s how they fit together.

UNEP is the UN Environment Programme, the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. WMO stands for World Meteorological Office, the UN agency for international cooperation in areas such as weather forecasting, observing changes in the climate, and studying water resources.

In 1988 the UN General Assembly asked UNEP and the WMO to establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is made of hundreds of experts, in order to assess data, and providing reliable scientific evidence for climate action negotiations.

All three UN bodies publish reports that, in recent years, have frequently made international headlines, as concerns about the climate crisis have grown.

As for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), this document was signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the treaty, nations agreed to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere” to prevent dangerous interference from human activity on the climate system.

Today, 197 countries are parties to the treaty. Every year since the treaty entered into force in 1994, a “conference of the parties”, or COP, has been held to discuss how to move forward. Madrid will hold the 25th COP, therefore COP25.

 

5. And what’s important about this COP?

Because the UNFCCC had non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries, and no enforcement mechanism, various extensions to this treaty were negotiated during recent COPs, including most recently the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, in which all countries agreed to step up efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures and boost climate action financing.

COP25 is the final COP before we enter the defining year of 2020, when many nations must submit new climate action plans. Among the many elements that need to be ironed out is the financing of climate action worldwide.

Currently, not enough is being done to meet the three climate goals: reducing emissions 45 per cent by 2030; achieving climate neutrality by 2050 (which means a net zero carbon footprint), and stabilizing global temperature rise at 1.5°C by the end of the century.

Because the clock is ticking on climate change, the world cannot afford to waste more time, and a bold, decisive, ambitious way forward needs to be agreed.

 

This story was originally published by UN News

Net Closes on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Killers, Sending a Powerful Signal of No Impunity for Corruption

Flowers, candles and tributes to Daphne Caruana Galizia left at the foot of the Great Siege Monument, opposite the Law Courts in Valletta. Caruana Galizia, Malta’s most prominent investigative journalist, was killed by a car bomb in October 2017 outside her home in the village of Bidnija. Courtesy: Continentaleurope/CC BY-SA 4.0

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, Nov 29 2019 – Press freedom campaigners and journalists in Malta are hoping they could soon see justice for murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – and that a powerful message will be sent across Europe that a free press can deny corrupt officials the power to act with impunity.

Caruana Galizia, Malta’s most prominent investigative journalist, was killed by a car bomb in October 2017 outside her home in the village of Bidnija. Her investigations had exposed high-level government corruption linked to businesses.

Until just a few weeks ago investigators had made what critics attacked as scant progress in bringing her killers to justice. But since then there has been a flurry of arrests and ministerial resignations and the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, is under pressure to resign.

And with a key figure in the case now reportedly giving investigators vital information on who was involved in the killing, many are hoping that the person who ordered the murder could soon be identified, paving the way for prosecutions and opening up a new chapter in press freedom in Malta and sending a message to other countries.

“Things are moving fast in Malta, so we are hopeful that there may be a resolution to this soon,” said Pauline Ades-Mevel, Head of the European Union and Balkan Desk at global press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“If the mastermind and hitman and middleman were to be prosecuted, if the case were to be solved, it would have an enormous impact on press freedom in Malta.

“But it would also send an equally powerful signal to countries across Europe because it would show that journalists and organisations like ours are the stone in the shoe of people who think they can act with impunity. They cannot get rid of us,” she told IPS.

Caruana Galizia’s murder made headlines across the world not only because it focused attention on the rule of law in Malta but because it took place in an EU country.

Groups like RSF have warned in recent reports that Europe is “no longer a sanctuary” for journalists and there has been a documented rise in attacks on journalists and an erosion of press freedom across the continent in recent years.

Just months after Caruana Galizia’s death, Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova were shot dead at their home in Velka Maca in Western Slovakia.

Like Caruana Galizia, Kuciak had investigated alleged corruption at the highest levels of government and had been working on a story about ties between the Italian mafia and Slovak politicians at the time of his death.

Protests in the wake of the killing led to the resignation of the then Prime Minister, Robert Fico, while a subsequent police investigation has led to a prominent local businessman, Marian Kocner, being charged with ordering Kuciak’s assassination.

A few months after Caruana Galizia’s killing, three men were arrested and charged with planting the bomb that killed her. But two years after her murder they had not faced trial, nor had anyone else been arrested in connection with the murder.

The authorities’ handling of the case and efforts to bring her killers to justice had been criticised, not least by her family, with questions raised over the arrest of the three men.

The Maltese government agreed to launch a public inquiry in October under pressure from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

But local journalists questioned the independence of the enquiry, citing potential conflicts of interest among its senior board members.

Meanwhile, on the two-year anniversary of her death, RSF released a report saying the situation for journalists in Malta was ‘dire’ – a claim the Maltese government publicly dismissed at the time – and noted that Malta had dropped 30 places in its World Press Freedom Index since 2017.

“It is very difficult to do investigative journalism in Malta, the journalists who are doing it are working under pressure, conditions are difficult,” Ades-Mevel told IPS.

But this month has seen dramatic and rapid developments in the case with the arrest of Yorgen Fenech, a powerful local businessman, and the subsequent resignation of the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Keith Schembri, in the murder.

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Economy Minister Chris Cardona have also stepped down since Fenech’s arrest. Following the release of the Panama Papers in 2016 Caruana Galizia had accused Mizzi and Fenech of corruption linked to ownership of secret shell companies in Panama.

Muscat and Schembri are close friends and the Prime Minister, who is still pursuing libel claims against the dead journalist and her family after she accused him of corruption, had repeatedly rejected calls to sack Schembri when allegations of corruption first emerged years ago.

Schembri was arrested earlier this week amid suggestions Fenech had provided evidence implicating in the murder. But he was released – to the fury of opposition politicians and protestors who claimed he was being protected by the Prime Minister – soon after without charge.

Protests in the capital Valletta in recent days have drawn tens of thousands calling for the Prime Minister to step down.

Muscat has said that he will not leave office until the people who ordered the killing have been identified.

He has also, in stark contrast to police officials or the attorney general, made daily statements on the latest developments in the Caruana Galizia case, including about possible pardons.

This has raised concerns about political interference in the investigation and in a joint statement, ten international press freedom organisations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), RSF, and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), echoed demands made by PACE that Muscat step away from the investigation.

“Malta has clear legal obligations to ensure an independent, impartial investigation into the assassination of its leading journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia. There must be no executive interference in the investigation,” the groups wrote.

“What is worrying is that for the last week the only person who has been commenting on what is going on is the Prime Minister. By putting himself at the centre of the investigation, there is a risk of political interference in the investigation,” Ades-Mevel told IPS.

It is unclear at the moment whether the Prime Minister will clearly step back from the investigation or whether any further arrests are imminent. Further public protests are already planned, however.

In the meantime, some local journalists are cautiously optimistic over the path of current events in Malta.

“There is hope that there could finally be justice for Daphne. Protestors are demanding the Prime Minister step down, and they are also demanding that justice is done and seen to be done,” said Nigel Mifsud, General Secretary of the Institute of Maltese Journalists.

“But this is all in the early stages of the investigation,” he told IPS.

What is clear though is that many people now believe the claims, made by journalists like Caruana Galizia, of corruption at the highest levels.

In a statement earlier this week Malta’s Chamber of Commerce said that “the extent to which criminal activity had infiltrated the circles of power and operated unperturbed for years” was now clear.

“What Daphne wrote about and alleged is being proved now to be true,” said Mifsud. “It has been proved that the work she was doing and the claims she made were correct.”

He added: “One thing I believe all this will do is that that journalists will gain in credibility and social standing here. If this is hopefully resolved, people will see that what journalists do is useful, it brings results. It will also show that people cannot act with impunity and that there will be journalists there to keep a check on them.”

He also said that if the investigation continues and the person who ordered the killing is brought to trial and convicted, it could help press freedom in other countries.

“I hope that what is happening here could be a positive example for other countries.

“Some people said that we would never even get to this stage, that the murder would never be solved. The fact that we have even got to this stage now is something and journalists in other countries can look and see that what they are doing is worthwhile, that their work and investigations can bring results.”

Cabo Verde’s Morna for UNESCO list, Belgium’s Carnival of Aalst to Go?

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, Nov 29 2019 – Morna, the haunting, traditional music of Cabo Verde, is slated to join UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List when a committee meets in Bogotá, Colombia, Dec. 9 to 14, to consider submissions from around the world.

Made popular by singers such as the renowned Cesária Évora, who died in 2011, morna incorporates voice, music, poetry and dance, and it has fans far beyond the Portuguese-speaking island state where it originated.

Being added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (to give the list its full name) would promote recognition of morna’s value, according to the artistic agencies behind the submission.

Inscription would also raise awareness of the “fundamental” mark that morna has made in “contemporary history and Cabo Verdean cultural identity”, they add.

 Morna, the haunting, traditional music of Cabo Verde, is slated to join UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List when a committee meets in Bogotá, Colombia, Dec. 9 to 14, to consider submissions from around the world.

One of Cesaria Evora’s most famous albums (Lusafrica).

The musical practice is one of 41 elements up for consideration at the annual meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Composed of representatives of 24 states, the committee will vote on submissions including: date-palm knowledge, skills, traditions and practices in several Middle Eastern and North African countries; Byzantine chant of Cyprus, Greece; Ethiopian epiphany; Irish harping; and Kwagh-Hir theatrical performance of Nigeria – a cultural expression that “integrates puppetry, masquerading, poetry, music, dance” and other genres.

Apart from voting on these elements, the committee is expected to take unprecedented action in removing Belgium’s Carnival of Aalst from the Intangible Cultural Heritage List, as the event has been criticised for racist depictions.

During the March 2019 staging of the carnival, racist and anti-Semitic caricatures were displayed on some floats, according to human rights groups. Previously, as far back as 2013, UNESCO received complaints about the offensive nature of some aspects of the carnival, which was inscribed on the List in 2010.

“Since its inscription, the Aalst carnival has on several occasions displayed messages, images and representations that can be considered within and outside of the community as encouraging stereotypes, mocking certain groups and insulting the memories of painful historical experiences including genocide, slavery and racial segregation,” the committee states in documents on the subject.

“These representations are racist,” said UNESCO official Tim Curtis, following a press briefing in Paris Nov. 27. Curtis, the secretary of the Convention on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage, told SWAN that the carnival’s organizers have shown little interest in addressing the issue.

In fact, the event’s organizing committee is reported to have “prepared a set of ribbons as collectors’ items, which depict once again several stereotypical representations … The accompanying text makes fun of UNESCO and reaffirms that the Aalst carnival should continue in the same spirit of satire and mockery”, according to UNESCO documents.

While the carnival may be delisted, another of Belgium’s customs is up for selection – the Ommegang procession in Brussels. This follows the addition of the country’s beer-drinking culture to the List in 2016, one of 429 elements inscribed globally up to now.

Such elements include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and the knowledge and skills necessary for traditional crafts.

The aim is to promote the preservation of cultural practices or living expressions inherited from generation to generation, UNESCO says.

The delisting of the carnival may garner attention, but news about Cabo Verde’s morna should also be greeted with celebration, as with the inscription of reggae music of Jamaica in 2018.

Article used by permission of Southern World Arts News

 

Water Is Worth More than Milk in Extrema, Brazil

Elias Cardoso is proud of the restored forests on his 67-hectare farm, where he has protected and reforested a dozen springs as well as streams. "I was a guinea pig for the Water Conservator project, they called me crazy," when the mayor's office was not yet paying for it in Extrema, a municipality in southeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Elias Cardoso is proud of the restored forests on his 67-hectare farm, where he has protected and reforested a dozen springs as well as streams. “I was a guinea pig for the Water Conservator project, they called me crazy,” when the mayor’s office was not yet paying for it in Extrema, a municipality in southeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
EXTREMA, Brazil, Nov 29 2019 – “They called me crazy” for fencing in the area where the cows went to drink water, said Elias Cardoso, on his 67-hectare farm in Extrema, a municipality 110 km from São Paulo, Brazil’s largest metropolis.

“I realized the water was going to run out, with cattle trampling the spring. Then I fenced in the springs and streams,” said the 60-year-old rancher. “But I left gates to the livestock drinking areas.”

Cardoso was a pioneer, getting the jump on the Water Conservancy Project, launched by the local government in 2005 with the support of the international environmental organisation The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Institute of the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, where Extrema, population 36,000, is located at the southern tip.

The project follows the fundamentals of the National Water Agency‘s Water Producer Programme, which focuses on different ways to preserve water resources and improve their quality, such as measures to conserve soil, preventing sedimentation of rivers and lakes.

But at the core of the project is the Payments for Environmental Services (PES), which in the case of Extrema compensate rural landowners for land they no longer use for crops or livestock, to restore forests or protect with fences.

The “Water Conservator” (Conservador das Águas) began operating in 2007, with contracts offered by the PES to farmers who reforest and protect springs, riverbanks and hilltops, which are numerous in Extrema because it is located in the Sierra de Mantiqueira, a chain of mountains that extends for about 100,000 square km.

“Then everyone jumped on board,” Cardoso said, referring to the project in the Arroyo das Posses basin, where he lives and where the environmental and water initiative began and had the biggest impact.

View of the new landscape in the hilly area around Extrema, after the reforestation of thousands of hectares in three basins in this municipality in southeastern Brazil, where the local government has fomented the process of recovery by paying landowners for environmental services. The priority is to restore the forests at the headwaters of the rivers and on hilltops and protect them with cattle fences. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

View of the new landscape in the hilly area around Extrema, after the reforestation of thousands of hectares in three basins in this municipality in southeastern Brazil, where the local government has fomented the process of recovery by paying landowners for environmental services. The priority is to restore the forests at the headwaters of the rivers and on hilltops and protect them with cattle fences. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In the 14 years since it was launched, the project has only worked fully in three basins, where two million trees were planted and close to 500 springs were protected. It is now being extended to seven other watersheds.

“The goal is to reach 40 percent of forest cover with native species” in the municipality and “so far we already have 25 percent covered, and 10 percent is thanks to the Water Conservator,” said Paulo Henrique Pereira, promoter of the project as Environment Secretary in Extrema since 1995.

“Planting trees is easy, creating a forest is more complex,” the 50-year-old biologist told IPS, stressing that it’s not just about planting trees to “produce” and conserve water.

The project began with the prospecting of areas and the training of technicians, after the approval of a municipal PES statute, since there is no national law on remunerated environmental services.

“The bottleneck is that there is no skilled workforce” to reforest and implement water conservation measures, Pereira said.

The project now has its own nursery for the large-scale production of seedlings of native tree species, to avoid the past dependence on external acquisitions or donations, which drove up costs and made planning more complex.

Since 2005 Paulo Henrique Pereira, Secretary of Environment in Extrema since 1995, has promoted the Water Conservator Project, which has won national and international awards for its success in recovering and preserving springs and streams, by paying for environmental services to rural landowners who reforest in this municipality in southeastern Brazil. "Planting trees is easy, creating a forest is more complex," he says. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Since 2005 Paulo Henrique Pereira, Secretary of Environment in Extrema since 1995, has promoted the Water Conservator Project, which has won national and international awards for its success in recovering and preserving springs and streams, by paying for environmental services to rural landowners who reforest in this municipality in southeastern Brazil. “Planting trees is easy, creating a forest is more complex,” he says. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The success of Extrema’s project, which has won dozens of national and international good practice awards, “is due to good management, which does not depend on the continuity of government,” said the biologist, although he admitted that it helped that he had been in the local Secretariat of the Environment for 24 years and that the mayors were of the same political orientation.

“It is a well-established project that is not likely to suffer setbacks,” he said.

The fact that the project offers both environmental and economic benefits helps keep it alive.

“My grandfather, who spent his life deforesting his property, initially rejected the project. It didn’t make sense to him to plant the same trees he had felled to make pasture for cattle,” said Aline Oliveira, a 19-year-old engineering student who is proud of the quality of life achieved in Extrema.

“When I was a girl, I didn’t accept the idea of protecting springs to preserve water either. I thought it was absurd to plant trees to increase water, because planting 200 or 300 trees would consume a lot of water. That was how I used to think, but then in practice I saw that springs survived in intact forest areas,” she said.

Later, when the PES arrived in the area, her grandfather gave in and more than 10 springs on the 112-hectare farm were reforested and protected. The payment is 100 municipal monetary units per hectare each year, currently equivalent to about 68 dollars.

Aline Oliveira studies engineering and lives on her family's farm in southeastern Brazil. She is proud of the way life has improved in Extrema, a process that began with the establishment of the Payments for Environmental Services system, which guarantees income to farmers and ranchers for reforesting watersheds. It is a secure income at a time of falling milk prices and in a town far from the dairy processing plants. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Aline Oliveira studies engineering and lives on her family’s farm in southeastern Brazil. She is proud of the way life has improved in Extrema, a process that began with the establishment of the Payments for Environmental Services system, which guarantees income to farmers and ranchers for reforesting watersheds. It is a secure income at a time of falling milk prices and in a town far from the dairy processing plants. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The PES is a secure income, while milk prices have dropped, and everything has become more expensive than milk in the last 10 years. In addition, there were losses due to lack of transportation, since there is no major dairy processing plant within 50 km,” she told IPS.

Thanks to the municipal payments, “we were able to invest in cows with better genetics, buy a milking parlor and improve health care for the cattle, thus increasing productivity,” which compensated for the reduction in pastures, added the student, who works for the project.

The programme coincided with a major improvement in the economy and quality of life in Extrema. “I was born in Joanópolis, where there were better hospitals than in Extrema. But now it’s the other way around” and people from there come to Extrema, 20 km away, for heath care, Oliveira said.

This is also due to the industrialisation experienced by Extrema in recent decades, which becomes evident during a walk around the town, where many new industrial plants can be seen.

The water conservation project has also contributed to the water supply for a huge population in the surrounding area.

Arlindo Cortês, head of environmental management at Extrema's Secretariat of the Environment, stands in the nursery where seedlings are grown for reforestation in this municipality in southeastern Brazil. "Building reservoirs does not ensure water supply if the watershed is deforested, degraded, sedimented. There will be floods and water shortages because the rainwater doesn't infiltrate the soil," he explains. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Arlindo Cortês, head of environmental management at Extrema’s Secretariat of the Environment, stands in the nursery where seedlings are grown for reforestation in this municipality in southeastern Brazil. “Building reservoirs does not ensure water supply if the watershed is deforested, degraded, sedimented. There will be floods and water shortages because the rainwater doesn’t infiltrate the soil,” he explains. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Jaguari River, which crosses Extrema, receives water from fortified streams and increases the capacity of the Jaguari reservoir, part of the Cantareira system, which supplies 7.5 million people in greater São Paulo, one-third of the total population of the metropolis.

“If the watersheds are deforested, degraded and sedimented, merely building reservoirs solves nothing,” said Arlindo Cortês, the head of environmental management at Extrema’s Secretariat of the Environment.

Extrema’s efforts have translated into local benefits, but contributed little to the water supply in São Paulo, partly because it is over 100 km away, said Marco Antonio Lopez Barros, superintendent of Water Production for the Metropolitan Region at the local Sanitation Company, Sabesp.

“No increase in the capacity of the Cantareira System has been identified since the 1970s,” he said in an interview with IPS.

“Thousands of similar initiatives will be necessary” to actually have an impact in São Paulo, because of the level of consumption by its 22 million inhabitants, he said, adding that improvements in basic sanitation in cities have greater effects.

São Paulo experienced a water crisis, with periods of rationing, after the 2014 drought in south-central Brazil, and faces new threats this year, as it has rained less than average.

Extrema also felt the shortage. “Since 2014 we have only had weak rains,” said Cardoso. The problem is the destruction of forests by the expansion of cattle ranching in the last three decades.

“The creek where I used to swim has lost 90 percent of its water. The recovery will take 50 years, the benefits will only be felt by our children,” he said.

Nuclear False Warnings & the Risk of Catastrophe

Former Titan II Missile in its silo, Sahuarita, Arizona. Credit: The Titan Missile Museum

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 29 2019 – Forty years ago, on Nov. 9, the U.S. Defense Department detected an imminent nuclear attack against the United States through the early-warning system of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). U.S. bomber and missile forces went on full alert, and the emergency command post, known as the “doomsday plane,” took to the air.

At 3 a.m., National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was awakened by a call from his military assistant. He was told that NORAD computers were reporting that 2,200 Soviet missiles had been launched against the United States.

According to Brzezinski, just one minute before he planned to call President Jimmy Carter to recommend an immediate U.S. nuclear retaliatory response, word came through that the NORAD message was a false alarm caused by software simulating a Soviet missile attack that was inexplicably transferred into the live warning system at the command’s headquarters.

The 1979 incident was one of the most dangerous false alarms of the nuclear age, but it was not the first or the last. Within months, three more U.S. system malfunctions set off the U.S. early-warning systems.

The Soviet Union also experienced false alarms. On Sept. 26, 1983, a newly installed early-warning system erroneously signaled that the United States had launched a small salvo of missiles toward the Soviet Union. Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, the officer in charge that night, would later report that he defied standard military protocol and refused to pass the alert to Moscow because “when people start a war, they don’t start it with only five missiles.”

On Jan. 25, 1995, a large weather rocket launched off the coast of Norway created the appearance on Russian radars of an initial phase of a U.S. nuclear attack. Russian President Boris Yeltsin reported that the launch prompted him to activate Russia’s mobile nuclear command system.

Although the Cold War standoff that gave rise to massive U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals ended decades ago, the nuclear strategies that could lead to the firing of hundreds of nuclear weapons remain susceptible to false alarms.

Today, each side deploys some 1,400 strategic nuclear warheads on hundreds of sea- and land-based missiles and long-range bombers—far greater than is necessary to deter an attack and more than enough to produce catastrophic devastation.

Each side maintains hundreds of warheads that can be fired within minutes of a launch order from the president, and both leaders retain the option to retaliate before they confirm that nuclear weapons have been detonated on their territory.

These dangerous launch-under-attack postures perpetuate the risk that false alarms could trigger a massive nuclear exchange.

Complicating matters, Washington and Moscow each reserve the option to employ nuclear weapons first in a crisis or conventional conflict. Each possesses hundreds of so-called tactical nuclear bombs, which produce relatively smaller explosive yields, for use on the battlefield. Both sides regularly conduct drills and exercises involving their respective nuclear forces.

Today, U.S. and Russian leaders have a responsibility to pursue immediate and decisive actions to reduce these grave risks. To start, they should invite all nuclear-armed states to affirm the 1985 pledge made by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Given the risks of escalation, no plausible circumstance could justify legally, morally, or militarily the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. All nuclear-armed states should announce policies that rule out the first use of nuclear weapons and the use of nuclear weapons before nuclear use on their soil has been confirmed.

In fact, the dangerous launch-under-attack policies of the United States and Russia are unnecessary because a large portion of their nuclear forces could withstand even a massive attack. Given the size, accuracy, and diversity of their forces, the remaining nuclear force would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

Another key line of defense against nuclear catastrophe is dialogue. Washington and Moscow can and should resume a regular military and political dialogue on strategic stability.

Such talks can avoid miscalculation over issues such as the use or nonuse of cyberattacks against nuclear command-and-control systems, missile defense capabilities and doctrine, nuclear launch exercises, and more. Similar talks with China should also be pursued.

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin also should promptly agree to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) by five years, as allowed by the treaty, and begin talks on a follow-on deal to set lower limits on all types of nuclear weaponry.

Without the treaty, which expires in 2021, there would be no legally binding, verifiable limits on the world’s largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972; and the likelihood of a dangerous, all-out nuclear arms race would grow.

We were lucky the false alarms of the Cold War did not trigger nuclear war. Because we may not be so lucky in the future, our leaders must act now to take the steps necessary to reduce and eliminate the nuclear danger.

Climate Change-Related New Record-Breaking Events: It’s Time to Think Outside the Box

Image by Paula Kaspar from Pixabay

By Esther Ngumbi
ILLINOIS, United States, Nov 28 2019 – Recently, Italy declared a State of Emergency because of record-breaking flooding while on 11 November, it did not rain anywhere on the continent of Australia, also breaking a record.

These are not the first record-breaking events of 2019. In July, Alaska, recorded temperature of 90 degrees, shattering previous records. During the same month, Mexico experienced a record-breaking hailstorm. In the preceding month, France experienced record-breaking temperatures, with a heat wave pushing the temperatures to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, as all the new record-breaking events, it is hard not to pause for a moment and wonder about the next record-breaking event and how many more we will see as climate change grows to be a bigger and bigger problem. What would it be? Where? When?  Who would be most impacted?

It is also clear that both wealthy and developing countries as well as the rich and poor are at risk, though the poor see a disproportionate impact on their daily lives. Collectively, humanity is at risk

One thing that is clear is that the impact of climate change has no boundaries. Every one of us regardless of the geographical region in which we live is prone to be impacted by climate change. It is also clear that both wealthy and developing countries as well as the rich and poor are at risk, though the poor see a disproportionate impact on their daily lives. Collectively, humanity is at risk.

What struck me most with the Italy record-breaking event is the areas and sectors affected most—tourism, museums and many other historically important and world famous monuments.  Impacted too by this event was Venice’s regional council building.

This departure from the traditional impact of climate change begs for the need to think outside the box and broaden our take on the impact climate change will have now and, in the years, to come. It also begs that we prepare, and act with a sense of urgency to mitigate climate change in order to prevent other catastrophic outcomes.

How then do we facilitate this thinking out of the box about climate change? How do we ensure that collectively, humanity understands that the impacts of climate change are borderless?  How best do we prepare for this new normal?

As a scientist, I know well that science has some of the answers.

We can turn to the power of predictive data to help determine where possible extreme events linked to a changing climate, such as flooding, excessive heating and droughts, would happen.  Sophisticated algorithms and statistical techniques such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and predictive modelling come into play to analyze data related to rainfall patterns, land temperature and other factors.

Data can then be used to send early warning about upcoming climate change-related events. By providing timely information based on predictive data, we can reduce risks and better prepare for effective response and early interventions.

One of the areas where predictive data is used is in predicting hurricanes. With data collected from various satellites including National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellites, the National Hurricane Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather service is able to forecast hurricanes. Once forecasted, the agency issues warning and public advisories.  As a result, early actions are taken.

Of course, the use of predictive data is not a silver bullet. We must continue other urgent measures including broadening the framing around climate change discussions so that everyone understands what is at stake when we choose not to care. This includes nurturing all the voices that are speaking out and calling for the need to act with urgency.

Importantly, there is need to listen to fresh ideas and voices coming from all regions of the world. One way to bring fresh thinking into the climate change discussion is to encourage more diverse experts from all regions of the world to contribute their ideas and thoughts by either writing opinion pieces or appearing in radio and TV interviews.

As such, the work by OpEd Project and the Aspen Institute New Voices program, that groom experts from developing countries so that they can contribute their thoughts in global discussions about climate change and other emerging challenges must be lauded. Such programs should continue.

Clearly, 2019, marks the beginnings of new normal. As such we must strive to think outside the box as we continue reaching out to everyday citizens from every part of the world with the message that everyone — regardless of their geographical location, their wealth and class, and stance on climate change –stands to be affected. We must act with urgency.

 

Dr. Esther Ngumbi is an Assistant Professor at the Entomology Department, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She is a Senior Food security fellow with the Aspen Institute and has written opinion pieces for various outlets including NPR, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Aljazeera and New York Times. You can follow Esther on Twitter @EstherNgumbi.

Bangladeshi Migrant Female Domestic Workers Face Violence

Credit: ILO

By Nayema Nusrat
NEW YORK, Nov 28 2019 – Millions of Bangladeshi women are facing violence either as domestic housemaids or as migrant workers in Gulf countries. A few days ago, a video in social media, secretly filmed by a Bangladeshi housemaid employed in Saudi Arabia, caught everyone’s attention where she was helplessly crying and begging to be rescued from her abusive employer.

A large number of women from Bangladesh leave their families behind and travel thousands of miles away from home with the hope to get better earnings and ensure a better future for their children and family. While many women realize their expected hope, others face a different reality – suffering through insurmountable cruelty and mistreatment by their foreign employers and find no one to turn to for immediate rescue.

Another extremely common form of violence is inflicted by not getting their due salaries as promised despite the hours of hard labor they provide.

In the video, this young woman Sumi was hiding in the toilet, crying for help and begging to be brought back home. She said, “I might not live any longer; I think I am about to die, please keep me alive, take me back to Bangladesh quickly”, she said in “Bangla”. In the video she stated that her owners locked her up in a room for 15 days and barely gave her any food. They burned her arms with boiling hot oil and tied her down.

She also alleged that she was sexually assaulted by her employers. “They made me go from one home to another. In the first home, they tortured me and hit me repeatedly and then took me to another one where I experienced the same”. She was denied any medical treatment by her former employer.

Another very recent story of Husna, 24, surfaced in social media within just a few days of the Sumi incident, who also went to Saudi Arabia through a Bangladeshi broker agency called “Arab World Distribution”. She sent a video message to her husband Shafiullah, begging for help to free her from the abusive work conditions – she had faced physical violence ever since her arrival there.

Credit: United Nations

The contacts at the local broker agency in Saudi Arabia denied her of any assistance with derogatory words and attempted to hit her. In the video message to her husband she also describes how her owner turned crueler towards her since she expressed the urge to return home.

The recruiting agency in Dhaka demanded an additional 100,000 taka (USD 1178.11) from Akter’s husband if she is to break the two years initial contract to work abroad, as he reached out to them for help.

Most Bangladeshi workers are recruited by “Dalals” (chain of sub-recruiters connected to the recruitment agencies in the country). Women who go for work to Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries come from very poor families in rural areas and are often duped by these “Dalals”, realizing soon after they arrive for work. They often receive false promises of salaries of about 20,000 taka (USD 235) per month but rarely get written job contracts although it’s a legal requirement.

These recruiters typically charge them a large amount of recruitment fee for arranging to work abroad. These poor women arrange money either by mortgaging or selling their properties or getting loans with a very high interest rate.

Rothna Begum, a senior researcher from Human Rights Watch (HRW) told IPS, “Most of these women are already in debt before they even started to work abroad, as the recruitment fees combined with loans with high interest rates keep accumulating”.

These women workers are employed in Gulf countries under ‘Kafala’ immigration system. ‘Kafala’ is an employment framework in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that require sponsorship from a national for migrant workers to be employed and reside in the country. The sponsor, either an individual or a company, possesses substantial control over the worker.

(The GCC is a political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries— Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.)

Begum stressed on how the ‘Kafala’ system across the gulf countries make the domestic workers more vulnerable to abuse. She noted, “in the GCC states under the restrictive ‘Kafala’ immigration rule, migrant workers’ visas are tied to their employers so they cannot change jobs without their employer’s consent. Migrant workers who escape an abusive employer can be punished for “absconding” with imprisonment, fines, and deportation”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed hundreds of migrant domestic workers in GCC countries over the years, and almost all of them claimed that their employers had confiscated their passports, phones and restricted their communication.

Some women claimed that as they are typically already coming with so much debt, they feel trapped in exploitative situations, as they feel bound to stay to recoup their money and pay off debt.

Some brave ones risked their lives trying to escape by climbing down tall buildings or jumping off balconies. But those who escaped typically found little or no help from local police. Their employers accused them of criminal activities such as theft or absconding to the police.

HRW’s Begum said “often domestic workers dropped any claims against their employers, in exchange for their employers dropping their own accusations, just so the women could go home. Others found the process of appealing for their unpaid salaries or filing criminal complaints prohibitively lengthy and costly, as they are not allowed to work for another employer during an appeal”.

Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), a Bangladeshi Migrant Rights Group released results of a study with 110 returnees, where the number shows that majority had not been able to effectively or safely make money in Saudi; 86 percent among the women interviewed said their Saudi employers didn’t pay their salaries, 61 percent said they had been physically abused, and 14 percent said their owners sexually abused them.

And returning home to Bangladesh doesn’t necessarily guarantee they will still be safe from their ‘Dalals’. Some who returned were beaten up by them for demanding the salaries as promised.

This year BRAC (Building Resources Across Communities), one of the largest Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) in the world, released new figures showing that 1,300 Bangladeshi women had returned from Saudi Arabia in 2018 because of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their Saudi employers. They also said that this year alone, the bodies of 48 female workers were brought back from Saudi Arabia.

Nuri, another Bangladeshi woman who was tortured and worked without pay in the home of a Saudi family for two months told Thomson Reuters Foundation, “My ‘Dalal’ beat me up and broke my leg when I filed a case against him. I was in the hospital for 15 days. I stay with a friend right now, far away from my house because [the broker] lives nearby my place”.

Nuri held her ground strongly to find justice and is determined about fighting the case in the court – “After he beat me up, I am not turning back”.

Shamim Ara Nipa, a freelance social worker in Bangladesh told IPS, “most of the time these migrant workers do not have proper contact information to reach out to the country of origin agency or the embassy directly for help”.

Nipa also noted that the Saudi Government had been helpful in repatriation of these migrant workers as long as Bangladeshi Government is cooperating. The Bangladesh Government typically steps in when the story of a worker gets highlighted via social media or group protest, such as the case of Sumi who is now in a safe place thanks to BRAC, Bangladeshi Government and it’s Embassy in Saudi Arabia; but there are numbers of other similar violence cases in Gulf countries which never surfaced in mass media, therefore remained silent and unresolved due to lack of government intervention.

Although the Government admits that Bangladeshi workers face violence while working in Saudi Arabia, it rules out the idea of banning female workers going to Saudi Arabia.

Violence against Bangladeshi women workers is still ongoing at an alarming rate; Bangladesh should ensure that it provides the highest protection for its workers abroad, including by increasing oversight over its own recruiting agents, offering protection for its workers in host countries, and aiding workers in distress.

It’s understandable that there are actions and policies that are pursued by the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations; however, better outcomes are expected while the policies and actions are being implemented and monitored closely.

2019 Global Gender Summit marks concrete gains and actionable goals to surge ahead on gender equality

Highlights of the Summit include the launch of:

    • AFAWA risk-sharing facility to de-risk lending to women
    • 50 Million African Women Speak, a Pan-African networking platform
    • Joint UNECA-African Development bank Gender index

By PRESS RELEASE
KIGALI, Rwanda, Nov 28 2019 (IPS-Partners)

“We’ve known it from the beginning that equality and women’s empowerment is the true way for sustainable development,” Rwanda’s Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Solina Nyirahabimana told reporters at a 2019 Global Gender Summit press conference on Tuesday.

“During this past 25 years, we have been concentrating on gender equality, starting by creating a conducive environment, uprooting, revising, and abolishing discriminative laws. We’ve worked tirelessly to have women included in the financial sector,” Nyirahabimana said.

“When you don’t understand women, you can’t serve them.”

More than 1,200 delegates are in Kigali, Rwanda for the 2019 Global Gender Summit including distinguished guests such as the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame; the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde; the African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the First Ladies of Rwanda and Kenya. Also in attending are representatives of the heads of state of Gabon, Mali, Senegal, Chad, and the King of Morocco and gender ministers from Niger, Somalia, Senegal, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Libya.

African Development Bank Group Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Dr. Jennifer Blanke, told journalists that much of Summit conversation centered around growing awareness that women need to be part of the development solution. “Women are a force to be unleashed and supported to ensure that they can really do their part in development in Africa. Women are already such a hugely important part of the development process,” she said.

Key highlights from the 2019 Global Gender Summit include the:

    Launch of the risk-sharing facility for the Bank-led Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa, or AFAWA, programme – to support the program’s three-pronged approach, which seeks to quickly close the gender gap by facilitating access to finance, providing technical assistance and creating an enabling business environment for women-led businesses to thrive.
    50 Million African Women Speak – a new Pan-African networking platform and web and mobile-based application to directly connect 50 million African women entrepreneurs. The platform links women to financial institutions and provides networking opportunities across Africa.
    The joint United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)-African Development Bank Africa Gender Index – a report that assesses African countries on gender equality.
    Fashionomics Africa Digital Marketplace and mobile app – the first ever digital B2B and B2C pan-African networking platform, dedicated to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the African textile, apparel and accessories industries.

Also speaking at the press conference marking the close of the Summit’s multilateral development bank segment, the Chairperson of the Multilateral Development Banks’ Gender working group Chairperson, Sonomi Tanaka, said summit discussions were productive and some African countries are carrying out good practices. However, Tanaka noted the critical importance of data in development policies working toward gender equality. “Again and again, this is something that is coming up. This lack of data comes up across any topic…and data is one area we need to continue to focus on,” she said.

Elaborating on the data challenge, Blanke said, “There is a dearth of data on these issues. The bottom line is if we don’t measure it, you don’t do it. If you don’t measure, it means you don’t care about it – and we care about it.”

This Tuesday press conference was the latest in a series of Global Gender Summit activities that will see delegates attend Summit partner-organized workshops, trainings and technical sessions on Wednesday. The Global Gender Summit is organized by The African Development Bank, with other multilateral development bank partners. The biennial event brings together leaders from government, development institutions, the private sector, civil society, and academia.

Under the theme “Unpacking constraints to gender equality,” the Summit’s conversations and dialogue focuses on scaling up innovative financing, enabling legal, regulatory, and institutional environments; and securing women’s participation and voices.

Commenting on the Summit outcome Blanke noted: “The Summit has been all about doing. Doing more and doing it fast.”

Contact: Grace Kiire, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: g.kiire@afdb.org