Sol-Gel Technologies Reports Third Quarter 2019 Financial Results and Corporate Update

  • Top–line generic product revenue of $4.7 million in the third quarter
  • Results from TWIN Phase 3 trials in acne vulgaris remain on track for the fourth quarter of 2019

NESS ZIONA, Israel, Nov. 13, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sol–Gel Technologies, Ltd. (NASDAQ: SLGL), a clinical–stage dermatology company focused on identifying, developing and commercializing branded and generic topical drug products for the treatment of skin diseases, today announced financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2019 and provided an update on its clinical development programs.

"We continue to expect top–line data from our pivotal TWIN Phase 3 trials in acne vulgaris by the end of the year and we expect to file a New Drug Application (NDA) in the U.S. for Epsolay in papulopustular rosacea in the first half of next year," commented Dr. Alon Seri–Levy, Chief Executive Officer of Sol–Gel. "2020 will be an exciting year for Sol–Gel as we continue to advance our proprietary assets and also continue to see benefit from our generic collaborations, adding more non–dilutive funding to further support the advancement of our branded pipeline towards NDA approvals and commercialization."

Corporate Highlights and Recent Developments

  • In August 2019, Sol–Gel completed an underwritten public offering for $11.5 million of gross proceeds.
  • In the third quarter, Sol–Gel generated revenue of $4.7 million from its collaboration arrangement with Perrigo.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted provisional approval of the brand name Twyneo cream (microencapsulated benzoyl peroxide, 3% and microencapsulated tretinoin, 0.1%) (formerly TWIN) which is currently being investigated in two pivotal Phase 3 trials for acne vulgaris.

Clinical Program Update

  • Top–line results of the two pivotal Phase 3 trials evaluating Twyneo cream in acne vulgaris continue to be expected in the fourth quarter of 2019.

  • Preparations are underway for the New Drug Application submission for Epsolay microencapsulated benzoyl peroxide, 5%, in papulopustular rosacea in the first half of 2020.
  • Results from a bioequivalence study for generic 5–fluorouracil cream, 5%, for actinic keratosis, continue to be expected by the end of the year followed by a filing in the U.S. of an abbreviated New Drug Application expected in 2020. This study is part of a collaboration with Douglas Pharmaceuticals.
  • Planning continues around the development of SGT–210, a topical epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor, for the potential treatment of palmoplantar keratoderma (PPK) and non–melanoma skin cancer. A proof of concept study of SGT–210 in PPK is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2020.
  • In October, Sol–Gel participated in the Fall Clinical Dermatology Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada where additional data were presented related to Epsolay , Sol–Gel's investigational topical drug candidate. Oral presentations and poster highlights included;
    • Safety and efficacy data from two 12 week Phase 3 studies (SGT–01, SGT–02) which showed significant and rapid improvement in patients with moderate–to–severe papulopustular rosacea treated with Epsolay versus a vehicle
    • Characterization of the company's proprietary microencapsulation technology platform designed to improve topical drug delivery and supported by the results observed from the Epsolay Phase 3 program.

Financial Results for the Three Months Ended September 30, 2019

Revenue in the third quarter of 2019 was $4.7 million. The revenue was due to sales of a generic product from the collaboration arrangement with Perrigo. The decrease in revenue from the previous quarter follows the entry of an authorized generic product to the market.

Research and development expenses were $9.9 million in the third quarter of 2019 compared to $7.1 million during the same period in 2018. The increase was primarily due to an increase of $2.4 million in clinical trial expenses related to Epsolay and Twyneo , an increase of $0.1 million in manufacturing expenses for Twyneo , and an increase of $0.3 million in other expenses.

General and administrative expenses were $2.5 million in the third quarter of 2019 compared to $1.3 million during the same period in 2018. The increase was primarily due to an increase of $0.9 million in consulting expenses, an increase of $0.2 million in payroll expenses and an increase of $0.3 million in legal and professional expenses, partially offset by a decrease of $0.2 million in share–based compensation expenses.

Sol–Gel reported a loss of $7.4 million for the third quarter of 2019 compared to loss of $7.7 million for the same period in 2018.

As of September 30, 2019, Sol–Gel had $7.6 million in cash, cash equivalents and deposits and $50.1 million in marketable securities for a total balance of $57.7 million. Based on current assumptions, Sol–Gel expects its existing cash resources will enable funding of operational and capital expenditure requirements into the first quarter of 2021.

About Sol–Gel Technologies

Sol–Gel is a clinical–stage dermatology company focused on identifying, developing and commercializing branded and generic topical drug products for the treatment of skin diseases. Sol–Gel's current product candidate pipeline consists of late–stage branded product candidates that leverage our proprietary, silica–based microencapsulation technology platform, and several generic product candidates across multiple indications. For additional information, please visit www.sol–gel.com.

About Twyneo

Twyneo cream is a novel non–antibiotic topical cream for the treatment of acne vulgaris. If approved, it will be the first acne treatment that contains a fixed–dose combination of benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin, which are separately encapsulated in silica using Sol–Gel proprietary microencapsulation technology. Tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide are widely believed to be highly effective as a combination treatment for acne; however, benzoyl peroxide causes degradation of the tretinoin molecule, thereby reducing its effectiveness. The silica microcapsule protects tretinoin from oxidative decomposition by benzoyl peroxide, thereby enhancing the stability of the active drug ingredients. The silica shell also allows for an extended drug delivery time and creates a barrier between the drug substances and the skin, which may reduce the irritation typically associated with topical application of benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin on acne–affected skin.

About Acne Vulgaris

Acne vulgaris is a common multifactorial skin disease that according to the American Academy of Dermatology affects approximately 40 to 50 million people in the United States. The disease occurs most frequently during childhood and adolescence (affecting 80% to 85% of all adolescents) but it may also appear in adults. Acne patients suffer from the appearance of lesions on areas of the body with a large concentration of oil glands, such as the face, chest, neck and back. These lesions can be inflamed (papules, pustules, nodules) or non–inflamed (comedones). Acne can have a profound effect on the quality of life of those suffering from the disease. In addition to carrying a substantial risk of permanent facial scarring, the appearance of lesions may cause psychological strain, social withdrawal and lowered self–esteem.

About Epsolay

Epsolay is an innovative topical cream containing microencapsulated benzoyl peroxide, 5%, in development for the treatment of papulopustular rosacea. Epsolay utilizes a patented technology process to encapsulate benzoyl peroxide within silica microcapsules to create a barrier between the medication and the skin. The slow migration of medication from the microcapsules delivers treatment doses onto the skin, while the barrier reduces the ability of benzoyl peroxide to induce the strong oxidation process that can result in significant skin irritation, such as erythema, burning and stinging. Silica is chemically inert, photochemically and physically stable, and is safely used in topical products. If approved, Epsolay has the potential to be the first FDA–approved single–active benzoyl peroxide prescription drug product.

About Papulopustular Rosacea

Papulopustular rosacea is a chronic and recurrent inflammatory skin disorder that affects nearly 5 million Americans. The condition is common, especially in fair–skinned people of Celtic and northern European heritage. Onset is usually after age 30 and typically begins as flushing and subtle redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead. If left untreated, rosacea can slowly worsen over time. As the condition progresses the redness becomes more persistent, blood vessels become visible and pimples often appear. Other symptoms may include burning, stinging, dry skin, plaques and skin thickening.

Forward–Looking Statements

This press release contains "forward–looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements contained in this press release that do not relate to matters of historical fact should be considered forward–looking statements, including, but not limited to, [statements regarding upcoming events and presentations,] the clinical progress of our product candidates, plans and timing for the release of clinical data, our expectations surrounding the progress of our generic product pipeline, and the sufficiency of our cash resources to meet our operating and capital expenditure requirements. These forward–looking statements include information about possible or assumed future results of our business, financial condition, results of operations, liquidity, plans and objectives. In some cases, you can identify forward–looking statements by terminology such as "believe," "may," "estimate," "continue," "anticipate," "intend," "should," "plan," "expect," "predict," "potential," or the negative of these terms or other similar expressions. Forward–looking statements are based on information we have when those statements are made or our management's current expectation, and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed in or suggested by the forward–looking statements. Important factors that could cause such differences include, but are not limited to: (i) the adequacy of our financial and other resources, particularly in light of our history of recurring losses and the uncertainty regarding the adequacy of our liquidity to pursue our complete business objectives; (ii) our ability to complete the development of our product candidates; (iii) our ability to find suitable co–development partners; (iv) our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for our product candidates in our target markets and the possibility of adverse regulatory or legal actions relating to our product candidates even if regulatory approval is obtained; (v) our ability to commercialize our pharmaceutical product candidates; (vi) our ability to obtain and maintain adequate protection of our intellectual property; (vii) our ability to manufacture our product candidates in commercial quantities, at an adequate quality or at an acceptable cost; (viii) our ability to establish adequate sales, marketing and distribution channels; (ix) acceptance of our product candidates by healthcare professionals and patients; (x) the possibility that we may face third–party claims of intellectual property infringement; (xi) the timing and results of clinical trials that we may conduct or that our competitors and others may conduct relating to our or their products; (xii) intense competition in our industry, with competitors having substantially greater financial, technological, research and development, regulatory and clinical, manufacturing, marketing and sales, distribution and personnel resources than we do; (xiii) potential product liability claims; (xiv) potential adverse federal, state and local government regulation in the United States, Europe or Israel; and (xv) loss or retirement of key executives and research scientists. These and other important factors discussed in the Company's Annual Report on Form 20–F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") on March 21, 2019 and our other reports filed with the SEC could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the forward–looking statements made in this press release. Any such forward–looking statements represent management's estimates as of the date of this press release. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update publicly any forward–looking statements after the date of this press release to conform these statements to changes in our expectations.

SOL–GEL TECHNOLOGIES LTD.
CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS
(U.S. dollars in thousands, except share and per share data)
(Unaudited)

December 31,
September 30,
2018
2019
A s s e t s
CURRENT ASSETS:
Cash and cash equivalents $ 5,325 $ 7,640
Bank deposit 1,000
Marketable securities 56,662 50,086
Receivables from collaborative arrangements 4,798
Prepaid expenses and other current assets 2,987 966
TOTAL CURRENT ASSETS 65,974 63,490
NON–CURRENT ASSETS:
Restricted long–term deposits 462 471
Property and equipment, net 2,604 2,410
Operating lease right–of–use assets 820
Funds in respect of employee rights upon retirement 642 691
TOTAL NON–CURRENT ASSETS 3,708 4,392
TOTAL ASSETS $ 69,682 $ 67,882
Liabilities and shareholders' equity
CURRENT LIABILITIES:
Accounts payable $ 2,924 $ 2,459
Other account payable 1,971 5,025
Current maturities of operating leases 660
TOTAL CURRENT LIABILITIES 4,895 8,144
LONG–TERM LIABILITIES
Operating leases liabilities 187
Liability for employee rights upon retirement 878 980
TOTAL LONG–TERM LIABILITIES 878 1,167
COMMITMENTS
TOTAL LIABILITIES 5,773 9,311
SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY:
Ordinary Shares, NIS 0.1 par value "" authorized: 50,000,000 as of December 31, 2018 and September 30, 2019; issued and outstanding: 18,949,968 and 20,387,468 as of December 31, 2018 and September 30, 2019, respectively. 520 561
Additional paid–in capital 190,853 203,481
Accumulated deficit (127,464) (145,471)
TOTAL SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY 63,909 58,571
TOTAL LIABILITIES AND SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY $ 69,682 $ 67,882

SOL–GEL TECHNOLOGIES LTD.
CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS
(U.S. dollars in thousands, except share and per share data)
(Unaudited)

Nine months ended
September 30
Three months ended
September 30
2018 2019 2018 2019
COLLABORATION REVENUES $ 131 $ 18,884 $ 38 $ 4,733
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT EXPENSES 17,545 32,146 7,083 9,913
GENERAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES 3,974 5,816 1,314 2,484
TOTAL OPERATING LOSS 21,388 19,078 8,359 7,664
FINANCIAL INCOME, NET (1,061) (1,071) (652) (311)
LOSS FOR THE PERIOD $ 20,327 $ 18,007 $ 7,707 $ 7,353
BASIC AND DILUTED LOSS PER ORDINARY SHARE $ 1.16 $ 0.94 $ 0.40 $ 0.37
WEIGHTED AVERAGE NUMBER OF SHARES OUTSTANDING USED IN COMPUTATION OF BASIC AND DILUTED LOSS PER SHARE 17,501,491 19,230,070 18,949,968 19,787,194

For further information, please contact:

Sol–Gel Contact:
Gilad Mamlok
Chief Financial Officer
+972–8–9313433

Investor Contact:
Chiara Russo
Solebury Trout
+1–617–221–9197
crusso@soleburytrout.com

Source: Sol–Gel Technologies Ltd.

PNG Bougainville Prepares for Historic Vote on Nationhood

A pro-Independence rally gets underway in Arawa, Central Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on 22 October 2019. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
BUKA / ARAWA, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Nov 13 2019 – The people of Bougainville, an autonomous region in eastern Papua New Guinea (PNG), have aspired to self-government for more than a century. Now their longed-for opportunity to vote on independence will occur on Nov. 23.  But, even with a clear majority in the vote count, the region’s future, which must be agreed and ratified by PNG, is far from certain.

The referendum is a provision of the peace agreement, signed in 2001, which ended a long civil war fought over indigenous rights to land and natural resources on Bougainville Island in the 1990s.  Yet the desire to manage their own affairs dates to Bougainville’s colonisation by Germany in the nineteenth century.

“I believe that independence for Bougainville is nothing new, it has been long overdue; 100 years. People already have chosen that Bougainville must one day be an independent nation and our governments, especially Papua New Guinea, must give us that freedom,” Philip Miriori, chair of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) in Panguna, Central Bougainville, told IPS.

In 1975 Bougainville leaders unilaterally declared the region independent shortly before PNG, administered by Australia after the Second World War, became a new nation state. However, talks with PNG’s first Prime Minister, Michael Somare, resulted in Bougainville remaining as a province.

But in 1989 conflict erupted when local landowners forced the closure of the Panguna copper mine in Central Bougainville, then majority-owned by mining multinational, Rio Tinto, and the PNG government, after their compensation demands for environmental damage and inequity were refused. PNG, a major beneficiary of the mine’s revenues, deployed the military and a guerrilla war, during which the death toll reached 15,000-20,000, then raged until peace was secured a decade later.

The main goals of the peace agreement are disarmament, establishing an Autonomous Bougainville Government, which occurred in 2005, and a referendum on the region’s future political status. The date of the ballot has changed twice this year to allow the Bougainville Referendum Commission, chaired by former Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, to verify the electoral roll.  Now more than 200,000 voters, about 67 percent of the population, will respond to the question: ‘Do you agree for Bougainville to have Greater Autonomy or Independence?’ during two weeks of polling to end on the Dec. 7.

Expectations will be high with predictions of an overwhelming outcome for independence. “Our people are excited because they have been waiting for this for a very long time. A lot of people have died. Our leaders, they have been talking about a referendum, so that the people can make a choice for what they want. Because if we don’t do it, another crisis will come back again,” Aloysius Laukai, manager of the local New Dawn FM radio station in Bougainville’s main town of Buka told IPS.

At Buka’s market, Ruth, a vendor from South Bougainville added: “I am really looking forward to the referendum, to voting for i678ndependence. I am voting for myself, but also for my children, my grandchildren and the generations that come after.”

Preparations have included completing disarmament after the United Nations reported in 2012 that ‘not much progress has been made in disposing of the weapons of war left over from the Bougainville Crisis.’  Several former rebel groups didn’t sign the peace agreement or surrender their guns. But, in a major development, all former combatant groups, including the Panguna-based Mekamui, held a summit in July, during which they signed a declaration to give up weapons and ensure peace during and after the referendum. 

“We have already completed the weapons disposal. Even if we are not part and parcel of the peace agreement, but we already participate. That’s on the ground, because we have one common goal…We are proud to go toward this destination, the preparation of the referendum and beyond. No more war in Bougainville, the war is over,” Moses Pipiro, General of the Mekamui Defence Force, told IPS.

Yet some women leaders remain concerned, even after the government declared the region weapons free and ‘referendum ready’ in late September. “The declaration on the weapons disposal was achieved, but the weapons are still there. The weapons are still with business people, for security reasons, and other people as well,” Celestine Tommy, Acting President of the Bougainville Women’s Federation claimed.

Security during the vote, to ensure people can cast their ballots freely, will be enhanced by a regional support team led by New Zealand.

But the greatest challenges will be after polling during intense negotiations between the PNG and Bougainville Governments. Many believe that PNG will be unwilling to see Bougainville secede, but Bougainville’s President, John Momis, emphasised in a speech to the PNG Parliament in August that: “The PNG government cannot just ignore the results of the referendum. It must take account of the wishes of the people as it engages with the Bougainville Government about the outcome.”

There is no deadline for the post-referendum discussions, which could be lengthy. And the process is likely to be interrupted if a decision hasn’t been reached when Bougainville is due to hold its next general election in early 2020.

Dennis Kuiai, Bougainville’s Acting Secretary for the Peace Agreement and Implementation, has said that prolonging the decision could provoke unrest. To address people’s expectations, the government will set up a forum for local stakeholders, such as churches, women, youths and ex-combatants, to strengthen grassroots participation in the high-level talks. 

If Bougainville achieves nationhood, experts estimate that building the region’s capacity to be self-sufficient could take from 5 to 20 years. Currently the government has no major source of income. Internal revenues have only covered 10 percent of annual expenditure in recent years, resulting in financial dependence on the national government and international donors.


Post-conflict reconstruction and restoration of services has, therefore, been slow. Dr Cyril Imako, Executive Director of Health Services in Central Bougainville, said that people today had a greater sense of freedom and new schools had opened since the civil war ended. But he added that maternal mortality, believed to be about 690 per 100,000 live births, and child mortality rates are very high and health centres regularly run out of basic medicines.

Bougainville’s leaders advocate redeveloping the Panguna mine to increase the region’s fiscal capacity. But this strategy, which carries risks for long term peace, is now on hold. In January last year the Bougainville Government placed an indefinite moratorium on mining after signs that disputes continued among local landowners about the mine’s future.

World Youth Call to Governments to Ban All Hindrances to LGBTQI Communities

MARTIN KARADZHOV, Global Youth Commitee speaking at ICPD25. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi / IPS

By Mantoe Phakathi
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 2019 – Governments across the world must ban all state-implemented harmful practices against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community delegates at the ICPD25 tells IPS.

Adding his voice in bridging the gap of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) among the youth, Martin Karadzhov, chair for Global Youth Steering Committee, told delegates at a youth event themed “our bodies, our lives, our world”, at the 25thInternational Conference on Population Development (ICDP25).

LGBTQI young people remain voiceless

Although there are 1.8 billion youths between the ages of 10 and 24 years, they continue to be marginalised when it comes to SRHR issues. Karadzhov said LGBTQI youth in many countries were subjected to harmful practices including pressure on them to convert, a practice with no scientific basis which is also unethical and, in most instances, a torture. “Justice for one is justice for all,” he said.

He urged governments to repeal discriminatory laws against the LGBTQI community, adding that they were denied access to Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services on the basis of their sexuality. “Our human rights are not controversial,” said Karadzhov.

Young people often only a statistic

Echoing his sentiments was Mavis Naa Korley Aryee, a youth programme national radio host at Curious Minds. She said although there are 1. 8 billion reasons why young people should be involved in decision-making process, they are only mentioned as statistics.“Being part of a minority should not be a reason for discrimination,” said Aryee.

Young people speak out at Nairobi Summit. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi / IPS

She advocated for access to SRH services to be made available to all young people, adding that they have a right to make choices about their bodies. She was, however, encouraged by the way the global youth had stood up to be counted despite the challenges they face. Aryeenoted that the youth contributed to the development agenda leading to ICPD25, adding that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also about them.

“We have then numbers. No one will ignore 1.8 billion reasons. The more we collaborate, the more we advance our agenda,” she said.

Fighting for a seat a the table

The global youth is fighting for a seat on the decision-making table where Marco Tsaradia, a Member of Parliament from Madagascar, said young people are told: “things have always been done like this”. He said the youth are keen to bring about new ideas because they are talented and innovative. However, he complained that the existing decision-making structure prevented them from achieving this objective.

It gets worse if young persons with disabilities want to enter the table because, said Leslie Tikolitikoca from the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation, they tend to be “judged on their disabilities rather than their abilities”. For example, he said, instead of providing services to those who are unable to hear or see, those in power would rather make decisions on their behalf instead of helping them to contribute to the discussion.

“How are we going to ensure that we leave no one behind if we don’t involve all young people?” he wondered.

EU commits funding

Following the youth’s proposed solutions to their SRHR, Henriette Geiger, from the directorate of people and peace at the European Union Commission, said it was time to act. She said the EU has proposed that governments should consider reducing the voting age to 16 years.

Young people at ICPD25 youth session. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi / IPS

“That would make a huge impact in decision-making on youth policy,” she said, adding that the EU was funding key initiatives to change public perceptions about the LGBTQI community by using film.

Although she said the EU was involved in many SRHR programmes in Africa, she further pledged €29 million towards SRHR programmes for the youth, urging organisations to take advantage of this initiative.

Not all doom and gloom

During the opening address of the ICPD25, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) executive director, Natalia Kanem, told delegates “good progress is not good enough”, insisting that the promises made to girls, women and everyone should be kept.

Kanem paid special tribute to the youth, for bringing new ideas and resources to make rights and choices a reality.

“To the youth, you’re inspiring in pushing us to go further Thank you,” said Kanem.

It is not all sad and gloomy for the youth, said Ahmed Alhendawi, the secretary-general of the World Organisation of the Scouts Movement. The fact that the youth have formed themselves into a global youth movement should be celebrated because that is how they are going to win the fight to be part of decision-making processes.

World Youth Call to Governments to Ban All Hin Drances to LGBTQI Communities

MARTIN KARADZHOV, Global Youth Commitee speaking at ICPD25. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi / IPS

By Mantoe Phakathi
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 2019 – Governments across the world must ban all state-implemented harmful practices against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community delegates at the ICPD25 tells IPS.

Adding his voice in bridging the gap of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) among the youth, Martin Karadzhov, chair for Global Youth Steering Committee, told delegates at a youth event themed “our bodies, our lives, our world”, at the 25thInternational Conference on Population Development (ICDP25).

LGBTQI young people remain voiceless

Although there are 1.8 billion youths between the ages of 10 and 24 years, they continue to be marginalised when it comes to SRHR issues. Karadzhov said LGBTQI youth in many countries were subjected to harmful practices including pressure on them to convert, a practice with no scientific basis which is also unethical and, in most instances, a torture. “Justice for one is justice for all,” he said.

He urged governments to repeal discriminatory laws against the LGBTQI community, adding that they were denied access to Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services on the basis of their sexuality. “Our human rights are not controversial,” said Karadzhov.

Young people often only a statistic

Echoing his sentiments was Mavis Naa Korley Aryee, a youth programme national radio host at Curious Minds. She said although there are 1. 8 billion reasons why young people should be involved in decision-making process, they are only mentioned as statistics.“Being part of a minority should not be a reason for discrimination,” said Aryee.

Young people speak out at Nairobi Summit. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi / IPS

She advocated for access to SRH services to be made available to all young people, adding that they have a right to make choices about their bodies. She was, however, encouraged by the way the global youth had stood up to be counted despite the challenges they face. Aryeenoted that the youth contributed to the development agenda leading to ICPD25, adding that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also about them.

“We have then numbers. No one will ignore 1.8 billion reasons. The more we collaborate, the more we advance our agenda,” she said.

Fighting for a seat a the table

The global youth is fighting for a seat on the decision-making table where Marco Tsaradia, a Member of Parliament from Madagascar, said young people are told: “things have always been done like this”. He said the youth are keen to bring about new ideas because they are talented and innovative. However, he complained that the existing decision-making structure prevented them from achieving this objective.

It gets worse if young persons with disabilities want to enter the table because, said Leslie Tikolitikoca from the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation, they tend to be “judged on their disabilities rather than their abilities”. For example, he said, instead of providing services to those who are unable to hear or see, those in power would rather make decisions on their behalf instead of helping them to contribute to the discussion.

“How are we going to ensure that we leave no one behind if we don’t involve all young people?” he wondered.

EU commits funding

Following the youth’s proposed solutions to their SRHR, Henriette Geiger, from the directorate of people and peace at the European Union Commission, said it was time to act. She said the EU has proposed that governments should consider reducing the voting age to 16 years.

Young people at ICPD25 youth session. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi / IPS

“That would make a huge impact in decision-making on youth policy,” she said, adding that the EU was funding key initiatives to change public perceptions about the LGBTQI community by using film.

Although she said the EU was involved in many SRHR programmes in Africa, she further pledged €29 million towards SRHR programmes for the youth, urging organisations to take advantage of this initiative.

Not all doom and gloom

During the opening address of the ICPD25, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) executive director, Natalia Kanem, told delegates “good progress is not good enough”, insisting that the promises made to girls, women and everyone should be kept.

Kanem paid special tribute to the youth, for bringing new ideas and resources to make rights and choices a reality.

“To the youth, you’re inspiring in pushing us to go further Thank you,” said Kanem.

It is not all sad and gloomy for the youth, said Ahmed Alhendawi, the secretary-general of the World Organisation of the Scouts Movement. The fact that the youth have formed themselves into a global youth movement should be celebrated because that is how they are going to win the fight to be part of decision-making processes.

ICPD25: Lessons From the East

Teruhiko Mashiko, Japan Parliamentary Federation for Population

By Joyce Chimbi
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 2019 – The Japan Parliamentary Federation for Population represented by Mr Teruhiko Mashiko and its secretariat, the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) has made a clear and concrete commitment to endorse the ICPD25 agenda. Mashiko tells IPS that Japan, as should every country driven by the well-being of its population, should create the best possible conditions to achieve the ICPD25 agenda.

Interview by Joyce Chimbi at the ICPD25 in Nairobi, Kenya

Q. What lessons are there for developing countries from Japan to accelerate the achievement of sustainable development?

A. The focus of the ICPD25 debate should be focused on how sexual and reproductive health and rights parallel to other development concerns such as food security and women empowerment. Gender equality and freedom for women to make their choices freely is a priority for Japan.

Q. Why are the twin issues of population and development so critical for Africa and for developing countries across the globe?

A. Population is a global issue for both developed and developing even for countries like Japan. This is despite Japan being the first country to achieve a successful demographic transition. Population and development issues are very important for us even though we are already enjoying demographic dividends.

Q. How did Japan achieve this very important demographic transition?

A. Post Cairo, many of the countries which are considered to be developed today prioritized population issues as a key development agenda. Africa must now focus on managing its population so that every pregnancy is wanted. Today, the continent has high unmet needs for family planning and unplanned pregnancies, especially among young people.

Investing in children and young people is critical for sustainable growth in Africa. Importantly, designing special sexual and reproductive health and rights services will prevent early and unplanned pregnancies among Africa’s young. Consequently, they will stay in school and acquire important skills to contribute to building the economy.

Q. High youth unemployment rates prevail across Africa, what lessons can Africa learn from Japan?

A. Economic development is critical because, without a healthy economy, job creation becomes an impossibility. Africa will need to address itself to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and develop sound economic policies.

This will require an in-depth analysis of the challenges facing each country respectively. Matching these needs to specially tailored economically sound policies is very important. An economically active society will accelerate the fulfilment of the ICPD25 agenda.

Q. Why is it so critical for parliamentarians to be involved in developing commitments around the ICPD25 agenda?

A. Parliamentarians are the backbone of legislation in every country. They are key in developing legislation that is progressive and that speaks to the needs of its people. Africa, for instance, will need sound legislation that responds to each country’s most pressing needs including food security, women empowerment, job creation and social security. Without this critical role, populations cannot be managed and provided with what they need to lead fulfilled lives.

Policy direction and planning is the role of parliament after which the government steps in to implement. It is a very clear and complementary relationship that will become even more critical as countries accelerate the ICPD Programme of Action (Poa).

Q. What happens when progressive laws remain unimplemented?

A. Political stability and the quality of politics itself will become increasingly critical for Africa and other developing countries. Democracy and political goodwill is the cornerstone on which Cairo promise will be delivered.

Educating old and new parliamentarians on the need to develop a legislative framework that speaks to the ICPD25 agenda is very important. It is through such initiatives that countries will be able to accelerate and achieve their targets as discussed at this Summit.

Q. How important is consensus around ICPD25 commitments for priority countries where many of the population and development challenges prevail?

A. Consensus on the inter-relationship between population growth and economic development is very important. The overwhelming consensus among stakeholders including governments, political leaders and the people they serve will ensure that these commitments are flagged as critical areas of sustainable development. This will ensure that resources will be mobilized to facilitate their achievement.

Q. How important is political transparency and accountability?

A. Political transparency and accountability must be encouraged at all levels of political representation. In their absence, people will lose trust in the leaders they have in place to represent them. We need more and more self-less politicians, state men and women.

Leaders must feel disturbed by the discomfort of their people. Having only a few of this kind of leaders will derail progress. People’s opinions, desires and aspirations must pass through parliament. Consequently, very country’s legislative framework must be the true reflection of these needs, aspirations and desires. It is the people that should decide what is most needed.

However, it is not all about politics, the goodwill of the people is also very important. Dialogue and inclusivity around these commitments must be encouraged and dissenting voices heard.

Women with Disabilities Speak out Against Exclusion at ICPD25

Jeffrey Jordan/ President of the Population Reference Bureau with ICPD25 participants. Credit: Joyce Chimbi / IPS

By Joyce Chimbi
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 2019 – One in five women globally lives with a disability even as they have same needs and interests as women without disabilities, their access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights remains severely limited.

Delegates representing people living with disabilities at the ICPD25 Conference painted a grim picture of barriers and challenges they face.

“We are perceived to be asexual and therefore offering us reproductive health information is considered wasteful,” says Josephta Mukobe, principal secretary of the Kenya’s Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Motherhood remains taboo for differently abled women

Mukobe says motherhood for them is taboo, and that a pregnant woman with a disability is a phenomenon to be pitied, even ridiculed by society.

“We cannot enjoy pregnancy because people look at us and wonder what poor beast this is with a disability. They are even shocked that you even have sexual organs,” she expounds, and adds: “We desire love and active and healthy sexual life to raise a family.”

Under international law and multilateral agreements, governments have a responsibility to ensure equal respect, protection and access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as rights for people with disabilities. But this is policy – and a long way to practice.

Fighting Exclusions

Veronica Njuhi, chairperson of Women Challenged to Challenge, a movement that ensures women with disability develop a capacity to overcome barriers and discrimination, speaks of how she was continually excluded from training on HIV/Aids.

“My employer never included me in any training on HIV/Aids even though it was offered to all employees. When I confronted him, he was very shocked because he did not think I needed training on HIV/Aids,” she says.

Raising awareness

According to the Population and Reference Bureau, the ratio of people living with disabilities accounts for one in seven globally. Critically, 80 percent of them are living in developing countries where sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions are not only limited, but are most wanted.

Veronica Njuhi I’m conversation with ICPD25 participant. Credit: Joyce Chimbi / IPS

Raising awareness and strengthening protection for the rights of the one billion people with disability around the world has never been more urgent.

Girls and women are particularly vulnerable, and are more likely to experience violence. Young people with disabilities, under the age of 18, are especially vulnerable as they are nearly four times more likely than youth without disabilities, to be abused.

“When people with a disability overcome barriers, it is a representation of what is possible. The world is about all of us, no one should be left behind,” says Jeffrey Jordan, president of the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), told IPS.

Jordan argues that the ICPD25 commitment cannot be achieved when one in seven people in the world are left out of deliberations.

Reaching out to the most vulnerable

“As we strengthen sexual and reproductive health and rights globally, it is crucial that we reach out to the most vulnerable communities,” he says.

Given that they are the least likely to be educated about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, people with a disability are predisposed to greater risk of exploitation, unplanned pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.

“Sex is a private issue which we would also like to explore in private. This is not always possible because if we do not speak out, we will continue to be ignored,” Mukobe says.

She says that interventions must be tailored to suit their special needs, and that they need to be informed on what does not work for them. “A female condom cannot be used among those of us whose legs are crooked. A blind person cannot read without using braille to figure out if a male condom has expired because expiry dates are not written on the condoms,” she adds.

For women with a hearing impairment, the scenario is dire. When seeking health services, they often need to be accompanied by a person who understands sign language. Njuhi says this person is not always available.

“We are pushing for change and now public hospitals in Kenya have at least one person who can understand sign language,” she says.

“A person who is not deaf can easily be treated for a sexually transmitted infection in private. But those who are deaf are humiliated and shamed because they need someone who understands sign language,” Mukobe explains.

Njuhi further reveals that because of existing communication barriers, women with a hearing impairment have for a long time received the injectable even when it was not their primary or preferred contraceptive option.

“The health providers who did not want to struggle explaining various methods, their benefits and side effects, have found the injectable easy to administer. A woman will just be told to return after three months for their follow up dose,” Njuhi reveals.

We will not be silenced

Njuhi further notes the attitude that most health providers have towards pregnant women with disability has contributed to many of them delivering at home without a skilled attendant.

“Just because a woman with disability is pregnant does not mean she was raped. She deserves all the services that will help her travel the safe motherhood route without judgement,” Njuhi advises.

Mukobe decries the state of many health facilities, particularly public sector hospitals, for being extremely unfriendly to those with a disability. She says that beds are often not adjustable, adding on to the list of the many barriers they have to overcome.

Against this backdrop, delegates from this vulnerable community like Njuhi have vowed to take their rightfully place at ICPD25 “because it is not a global conference without us.”

Africa Investment Forum 2019: MOU brings good news for Africa’s rail networks

Another deal signed on second day of the Africa Investment Forum 2019

By African Development Bank
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 13 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and Thelo DB on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg. The agreement will give both parties an opportunity to develop, finance and operate railway projects across Africa.

Thelo and Afreximbank have agreed to collaborate to modernise the continent’s railways, thereby promoting trade, investment, and economic and skills development. Both see the urgent need for efficient and effective transportation and logistics on the continent, particularly in the freight railway sector.

African governments have long been discussing the importance of the regional integration of infrastructure projects as one of the ways to both free and speed up the movement of goods in order to stimulate intra-Africa trade.

Afreximbank President Prof. Benedict Oramah said the two companies were committed to supporting trade on the continent. “That includes creating capacity to deliver to the markets. With Thelo DB’s capacity to deliver and operate railway mobility systems and Afreximbank’s ability to finance projects, we have an incredibly strong team,” said Oramah

Thelo DB is looking at projects in Southern, East and West Africa, which the company believes are home to corridors that transcend country borders.

The MOU is part of the realisation that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will face challenges without the logistical capacity to move goods.

“The MOU solves a very important part of the puzzle for us, which is, when we’re doing these big capital projects, how do we finance them? Rather than building our own expertise as Thelo DB, working in an integrated manner with Afreximbank magically gives us a solution to that challenge. So we can now sit down with our clients and say not only do we bring technical capacity of a global standard, we bring you unbelievable capital mobilisation in the MOU we signed this morning,” said Ronald Ntuli, Thelo Group Chairman.

Thelo DB is an incorporated partnership between the African industrial group, and leading European railway conglomerate, Deutsche Bahn Engineering & Consulting. Thelo DB brings unmatched capacity to the continent’s railway sector. Some of its expertise include construction supervision, rolling stock leasing capabilities, rehabilitation of existing infrastructure and transferring skills through training and development programmes.

Afreximbank is a multilateral African trade finance institution, with the mandate to facilitate, promote and develop intra- and extra-African trade.

Last year’s inaugural Africa Investment Forum “Market Days” secured record levels of investment interest in deals worth billions of dollars in just 3 days.

Investors, project sponsors and government representatives discussed 63 projects valued at $46.9 billion involving seven sectors in 24 countries. Investment interest worth $38.7billion was secured for 49 projects.

AIF 2019 hopes to better that figure between November 11 and 13.

Media contact: Gershwin Wanneburg, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: g.wanneburg@afdb.org

Forced Child Marriage Must Be Stopped Says South Sudanese Child Activist

South Sudanese refugee, Priscilla Nyamal

By Crystal Orderson
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 2019 – Young women and girls are still subjected to a range of harmful practices and violence, including early marriage. Every year, an estimated 12 million girls get married before the age of 18.

In an IPS exclusive from the ICPD25 summit one young brave woman from South Sudan tells us her story of how she had to fight her family and community from becoming a child bride. With the help of the UNFPA in Kenya, Priscilla Nyamal is now advocating for young girls and wants the world to know that child marriage should stop. Priscilla shares her story to IPS.

A New Deal for Sustainable Development

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, Nov 13 2019 – Almost nine decades ago, newly elected US President Franklin Roosevelt introduced the New Deal in 1933 in response to the Great Depression. The New Deal consisted of a number of mutually supportive initiatives, of which the most prominent were: a public works programme financed by budget deficits; a new social contract to improve living standards for all working families, including creation of the US social security system; and financial regulation to protect citizens’ assets and channel financial resources into productive investments.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The New Deal was effectively a fiscal stimulus for recovery, employment, development and environment goals. The Citizens Conservation Corps (CCC) created two million jobs in environmental projects for young Americans aged 18-25 years when the US population was 125 million.

The best known public works project was the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an integrated regional development programme for an underdeveloped region. It built infrastructure to generate hydroelectric energy to sustain industrial and agricultural growth in the US Southwest.

Thus, the New Deal helped ensure US economic recovery, but also successfully addressed unsustainable practices that had caused widespread ecological, social and economic crises in environmentally fragile regions, and helped usher in a new era of economic growth and expanding prosperity, especially in poorer regions.

Sustainable development crises
Today, the world is in protracted economic slowdown. This crisis needs a similarly bold response, as the United Nations urged following the 2008-2009 financial crisis. But its New Deal was to be more global and sustainable. Public works programmes should move countries to more sustainable development pathways to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

First, it has to involve international solidarity, following decades of globalization, and inequalities among and within countries. Second, it has to be sustainable — economically, socially and ecologically. We face profound environmental crises, with global warming the greatest new threat with unprecedented ramifications.

Anis Chowdhury

While much attention has recently focused on climate change, sustainability is also threatened by air and water pollution, natural resource degradation, loss of forests and biodiversity, as well as socio-political instability due to growing inequalities, repression and resistance.

A new New Deal
A New Deal for our times should have key elements similar to Roosevelt’s, namely public works programmes and measures to encourage productive investments for output and job recovery, social protection and prudent financial regulation.

Most developing countries are vulnerable to the global financial system. While varied, they are generally less resilient and more susceptible to market volatility, often forced to pursue pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, exacerbating economic instability and undermining long-term growth.

This New Deal should support counter-cyclical responses in three main ways. First, national stimulus packages in both developed and developing countries to revive and ‘green’ national economies. Second, international policy coordination to ensure that developed countries’ stimulus packages not only create good jobs in the North, but also have strong developmental impacts in the South.

Third, greater financial support for developing countries, as long promised, especially for development and climate change. The North should also enable the South to more effectively mobilize domestic resources, especially through taxation, and stemming illicit outflows of funds.

Setbacks
In light of the slowing world economy, and dim prospects for imminent recovery, resources are needed to strengthen social protection to contain poverty and hunger. Hundreds of millions in developing countries are at risk due to lower incomes, declining export earnings and other challenges.

A strong fiscal response should make long-term investments to accelerate ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive growth. Front-loading massive, multilaterally cross-subsidised public investments in developing countries in renewable energy and sustainable smallholder food agriculture should induce complementary private investments as spontaneous market forces alone will not generate the investments needed.

The Global Green New Deal (GGND) should include mutually beneficial collaborative initiatives between governments of rich and poor countries. Reforms of the international financial and trading systems should support sustainable development for all.

There was a glimmer of hope for such a bold coordinated multilateral initiative at the 2009 London Summit of G20, but cooperation and progress have been disappointing since, e.g., little meaningful progress on its Global Jobs Pact. With the mid-2010 G20 Toronto Summit U-turn, fiscal austerity became the new normal.

Meanwhile, creeping protectionism all around set recovery back further. Growing precariousness and declining living standards, blamed on imports and immigrants, have fuelled the ethno-populist backlash against Others, with multilateralism as collateral damage.

Global Green New Deal urgent
The urgency of an ambitious GGND has risen as most countries drift further off track in achieving Agenda 2030. After almost a decade of stagnation, countries must prioritize recovery, but not at the expense of others. Stimulus packages must lay the foundation for sustainable development.

Policy coordination among major economies should minimize adverse spill-over effects, especially on developing countries, which have become more vulnerable than ever, after decades of economic liberalization and globalization. Socially useful public works could contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation, and improve public goods provision.

To be sure, many other complementary interventions are needed. But such investments and government spending require significantly improved public finances. While revenue generation requires greater national incomes, tax collection can be greatly enhanced through fairer international tax cooperation.

Clearly, the agenda for a new New Deal requires not only bold new national developmental initiatives, but also far better and more equitable multilateral cooperation, through improvement of the inclusive multilateral United Nations system.