‘Unprecedented Terrorist Violence’ in West Africa, Sahel Region

A girl runs outside a small community school in Korioume, Mali, where children lack basic equipment, including notepads and pens. Parts of the school have been attacked and in 2013 the village was a Jihadist stronghold. Credit: OCHA/Eve Sabbagh

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 2020 – The top UN official in West Africa and the Sahel updated the Security Council on Wednesday, describing an “unprecedented” rise in terrorist violence across the region.

“The region has experienced a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), told the Council in its first formal meeting of the year.

“The humanitarian consequences are alarming”, he spelled out.

In presenting his latest report, Chambas painted a picture of relentless attacks on civilian and military targets that he said, have “shaken public confidence”.

A surge in casualties

The UNOWAS chief elaborated on terrorist-attack casualties in Burkina Faso Mali and Niger, which have leapt five-fold since 2016 – with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone as compared to some 770 three years earlier.

“Most significantly,” he said, “the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal States”.

He also flagged that the number of deaths in Burkina Faso jumped from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 last year.

And displacement has grown ten-fold to about half a million, on top of some 25,000 who have sought refuge in other countries.

Chambas explained that “terrorist attacks are often deliberate efforts by violent extremists” to engage in illicit activities that include capturing weapons and illegal artisanal mining.

Intertwined challenges

Terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence are often intertwined, especially in peripheral areas where the State’s presence is weak.

“In those places, extremists provide safety and protection to populations, as well as social services in exchanged for loyalty”, he informed the Council, echoing the Secretary-General in saying that for these reasons, “counter-terrorism responses must focus on gaining the trust and support of local populations”.

“Farmer-herder clashes remain some of the most violent local #conflicts in the region” said SRSG Chambas to the #UNSC

The Special Representative outlined that governments, local actors, regional organizations and the international community are mobilizing across the region to respond to these challenges.

On 21 December, the ECOWAS Heads of State summit “adopted a 2020-2024 action plan to eradicate terrorism in the sub-region”, he said.

Calling “now” the time for action, Chambas drew attention to the importance of supporting regional Governments by prioritizing “a cross-pillar approach at all levels and across all sectors”.

Turning to farmer-herder clashes, which he maintained are “some of the most violent local conflicts in the region”, the UNOWAS chief highlighted that 70 per cent of West Africa’s population depend on agriculture and livestock-rearing for a living, underscoring the importance of peaceful coexistence.

The Special Representative also pointed to climate change, among other factors, as increasingly exacerbating farmer-herder conflicts.

“The impact of climate change on security also spawns a negative relationship between climate change, social cohesion, irregular migration and criminality in some places”, he upheld.

Stemming negative security trends

The UNOWAS chief noted that in the months ahead, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Niger would be democratically electing their leaders and maintained that “all-too-worrying” security trends must not distract from political developments.

“Unresolved grievance, incomplete national reconciliation processes and sentiments of manipulation of institutions and processes carry risks of tensions and manifestations of political violence”, he warned.

In the months ahead, Chambas stressed that UNOWAS would continue to work with partners on the national and regional levels to promote consensus and inclusiveness in the elections.

“As UNOWAS’ mandate is renewed, we count on the Council’s continued full support”, concluded the Special Representative.

General Fusion enters strategic partnership with Hatch

Global engineering firm invests in General Fusion and prototype program

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Jan. 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — General Fusion announced today that it has entered into an industrial partnership with Hatch Ltd. (Hatch) to bring power plant engineering and other expertise to its Fusion Demonstration Plant project. This partnership includes an investment by Hatch into the recently announced General Fusion USD $65 million Series E financing round.

Hatch is a leading global engineering and construction firm with a strong record of success with both demonstration and commercial programs. It brings recognized power plant design, siting, licensing, and other specialized capabilities to General Fusion in support of the development and deployment of its Fusion Demonstration Plant. This prototype, which is planned to be completed and tested over the next five years, will demonstrate the company's Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology at power plant–relevant scale.

"Success in commercializing fusion technology depends on strong engagement by stakeholders in the global energy industry," said Chief Executive Officer Christofer Mowry. "Hatch is highly respected and capable. They understand the realities of power plant engineering and will help ensure we develop a practical and on–demand cleantech that finally enables the energy transition we are all talking about."

Fusion energy is expected to provide a new source of socially acceptable and economically competitive carbon–free electricity for the world. Commercially viable fusion power plant technology will complement renewable energy sources and storage solutions to provide a practical transition to our zero–carbon energy future. Ongoing advances in fusion science and enabling technologies are accelerating the global pivot from fusion research to commercialization.

"Hatch sees General Fusion and its technology as a potential game changer for the production of sustainable, carbon–free energy," said Hatch's Global Managing Director, Energy, Robert Francki. "We are proud to be an integral part of this important step in General Fusion's path to commercialization.”

About General Fusion
General Fusion is pursuing the fastest and most practical path to commercial fusion energy, and is based in Vancouver, Canada, with locations in Washington D.C., and London, U.K. The company was established in 2002 and is funded by a global syndicate of leading energy venture capital firms, industry leaders, and technology pioneers. Learn more at www.generalfusion.com.

About Hatch
Whatever our clients envision, our engineers can design and build. With over six decades of business and technical experience in the energy, infrastructure, and mining sectors, we know your business and understand that your challenges are changing rapidly. We respond quickly with solutions that are smarter, more efficient and innovative. We draw upon our 9,000 staff with experience in over 150 countries to challenge the status quo and create positive change for our clients, our employees, and the communities we serve. Find out more at www.hatch.com.

For more information:

Paul Sullivan
Office: +1 604 685 4742
Mobile: +1 604 603 7358

Lindsay Janca
Office: +1 905 403 4199

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Can UN Development Be Reformed? Not at This Rate

Credit: UN Development Programme (UNDP)

By Stephen Browne
GENEVA, Jan 9 2020 – Like his predecessors, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has been pushing a reform program to help the organization adjust to the demands of contemporary global governance.

Over nearly 75 years, the UN has innovated and adapted. At first, humanitarian assistance was not envisaged to go beyond the needs of people displaced by global conflict. Yet that program now disburses nearly $30 billion a year through its largest field agencies, growth that has led to some radical changes in the organization.

The UN’s peacekeeping practices also had to be invented and have since adapted to intrastate conflict and global terrorism. Human rights was initially a verbal aspiration only.

But with the Universal Declaration in 1948, they have been enshrined in many covenants and treaties that have been overseen since 1993 by a high commissioner and a well-staffed office in Geneva.

That leaves the fourth pillar of development, where services, training and research are administered by more than 30 separately managed organizations and a similar number of departments, institutes and commissions.

The development system cries out for reform, but progress is continually frustrated by inertia. This sprawling organizational domain originally comprised the first specialized agencies, some predating the creation of the UN itself, and “brought into relation” with the organization in 1945.

Their parallel, independent existence has defied attempts to bring coherence into the UN’s development work, particularly as the “development system” grew.

More specialized agencies joined the family, and many UN funds and programs were established to respond to newly perceived development challenges, dispersing the UN’s development efforts further.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) was intended to act as principal funder and coordinator of the system. But each agency and organization of the system began to supplement its financial needs by going directly to the UN’s main donor governments, as UNDP became its own separately funded implementing agency. As a funding rival, UNDP could no longer be considered a useful coordinator.

What has emerged is an extensive web of patronage underpinning UN development. Northern countries patronize the UN selectively through their preferred organizations and funding patterns, to align with their own agendas.

Today, four-fifths of funding through the UN development system is earmarked by donors, while core funding has shrunk concomitantly.

Credit: FAO/Xavier Bouan

For their part, the governments of the Global South — and individual ministries in them — have also developed preferential relationships with individual UN organizations. So, whether patrons and patronized, member states see advantages in a disjointed UN system that keeps expanding in response to their demands and lacks a central blueprint.

Consequently, member states are largely satisfied with the status quo and reluctant to support more consolidation and coherence and less wasteful duplication and overlap.

More is better than less, and change is not primarily motivated by cost-effectiveness, which would be required for any organizational reform.

The pervasive patronage system goes a long way in explaining why conservatism prevails in intergovernmental discussions on reform. So why pursue reform if many of the member states are opposed?

The answer is that even if cost-effectiveness does not drive change, the fact remains that the UN could do more with less in the development domain, and it is for the UN organizations themselves to strive to be more valuable for “we, the peoples,” particularly in helping countries to achieve their own 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A high-level panel in 2006 proclaimed the shortcomings of the UN development system as “Ineffective governance . . . policy incoherence, duplication and operational ineffectiveness . . . competition for funding, mission creep and outdated business practices.”

Ten years later, many of the same sentiments were echoed by an independent team of advisers. The latest reforms proposed by Guterres fully acknowledge the problems, but can they be resolved?

Take funding. Unwinding the patronage system will mean first shrinking the preponderance of conditional funding by donor governments. A new “funding compact” has been drawn up that aims to increase core funding from 20 to 30 percent and encourage more pooling of donor resources. It’s a start, although there is not much optimism that even these modest goals will be achieved.

Next, consolidation. The system is too large and unwieldy. The many governing bodies need to acknowledge their common interests and combine their oversight functions, reducing the tendency for the same governments to speak with different voices on different boards.

Again, the prospects for more united governance are not promising. Meanwhile, atomization at the field level has increased, with evermore numbers of representative offices, now over 1,400.

The answer has been to “deliver as one” with closer collaboration within country teams. In the latest reform, the transfer of responsibility for field coordination has been removed from UNDP and given to UN resident coordinators, reporting solely to the deputy secretary-general, Amina Mohammed.

These coordinators will also be given more staff and resources. These are positive steps. However, fewer than half of the developing countries have signed up to the One UN concept, favoring the patronage system.

A larger systemic challenge persists. Each of the main functions of peace operations, human rights, humanitarian relief and development in the UN system are still managed by separate clusters of entities, with separate funding sources and separate lines of vertical communication.

Except for a few crisis-prone countries, these functions are managed in isolation from one another.

So while development is “sustainable,” it does not incorporate considerations of rights inherent in the UN’s own concept of human development. There are humanitarian coordinators in addition to resident coordinators for development. Peace operations are still mainly concerned with mobilizing armed personnel.

Belatedly, there are new attempts at management reform, which is welcome. But here, again, there are flaws, starting with senior appointments. While the current secretary-general was appointed through a more meritocratic process, there has been no departure from the double jeopardy that allows the veto-wielding powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — to choose both their own top posts and the incumbents in the UN secretariat.

Management comes from the top, and this second form of UN patronage hurts chances for a more effective UN. Considerations of geography and gender cannot take precedence over the “highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity” enshrined in the language of the Charter.

“Reform, that you may preserve,” said Thomas Macaulay, the British politician and essayist, nearly 200 years ago. The continued life of the UN, particularly in development, depends on its ability to change.

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