Hyper Hippo Blasts Through Time With New Idle Game: AdVenture Ages

KELOWNA, British Columbia, Feb. 01, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The makers of AdVenture Capitalist and AdVenture Communist, Hyper Hippo Entertainment today announced the global launch of the latest idle game in its portfolio, AdVenture Ages. The simulation game is now available worldwide on the App Store and Google Play.

Watch the AdVenture Ages trailer here: https://youtu.be/RCyGk8YCg0k

Players will be transported back to past civilizations to collect historical figures and restore history in this quirky new idle adventure.

Set in numerous, exciting chapters of history, AdVenture Ages sees players taking on the role of a decorated time–traveling agent, who after an unfortunate accident must journey back to past civilizations to restore history (and their pristine career) before the future as they know it ceases to exist.

"AdVenture Ages takes the best parts of our Idle games""our engaging systems and quirky art style""and wraps them in an exciting adventure through the Ages that everyone can enjoy," says Rimmy Spanjer, Managing Director of Games at Hyper Hippo. "We can't wait for new players and long–time fans to start assembling a team of famous figures throughout history, helping them become the ultimate time–traveling agent."

Key Features:

  • Repair a shattered timeline by guiding the most powerful civilizations throughout history
  • Journey through civilizations and collect resources to upgrade your time machine
  • Restore the population throughout the Ages""Bronze, Medieval, Renaissance, and more!
  • Grow your population, even when you're offline
  • Collect historical heroes to manage your resources
  • Boost your time machine's power
  • Climb the ranks from cadet to the greatest agent of all time.

Post launch, the game will be supported with regular updates and live events.

Download the game on your iPhone or iPad at: https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/time–tycoon/id1510649539

Download the game on your Android device at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca.hyperhippo.adventureages

Players can join the AdVenture Ages community now by following @PlayAdVentureAges on Twitter and @AdVentureAges on Facebook. They can also join the official AdVenture Ages Discord channel and keep a lookout on the game's Reddit community for regular updates from the player support team.

About Hyper Hippo Entertainment:

Hyper Hippo is an entertainment studio, driven to entertain, connect, and inspire billions of fans around the world. Founded in 2012, by the creator of Club Penguin, Lance Priebe, Hyper Hippo are the makers of the idle hits AdVenture Capitalist and AdVenture Communist. For more info, please visit http://www.hyperhippogames.com.

Press Kit

Find supporting assets here.

Media Contact

Emma Bullen
emma@hyperhippo.ca

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/667eae64–993c–4f55–b303–88d97cf52605


Hyper Hippo Blasts Through Time With New Idle Game: AdVenture Ages

KELOWNA, British Columbia, Feb. 01, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The makers of AdVenture Capitalist and AdVenture Communist, Hyper Hippo Entertainment today announced the global launch of the latest idle game in its portfolio, AdVenture Ages. The simulation game is now available worldwide on the App Store and Google Play.

Watch the AdVenture Ages trailer here: https://youtu.be/RCyGk8YCg0k

Players will be transported back to past civilizations to collect historical figures and restore history in this quirky new idle adventure.

Set in numerous, exciting chapters of history, AdVenture Ages sees players taking on the role of a decorated time–traveling agent, who after an unfortunate accident must journey back to past civilizations to restore history (and their pristine career) before the future as they know it ceases to exist.

"AdVenture Ages takes the best parts of our Idle games""our engaging systems and quirky art style""and wraps them in an exciting adventure through the Ages that everyone can enjoy," says Rimmy Spanjer, Managing Director of Games at Hyper Hippo. "We can't wait for new players and long–time fans to start assembling a team of famous figures throughout history, helping them become the ultimate time–traveling agent."

Key Features:

  • Repair a shattered timeline by guiding the most powerful civilizations throughout history
  • Journey through civilizations and collect resources to upgrade your time machine
  • Restore the population throughout the Ages""Bronze, Medieval, Renaissance, and more!
  • Grow your population, even when you're offline
  • Collect historical heroes to manage your resources
  • Boost your time machine's power
  • Climb the ranks from cadet to the greatest agent of all time.

Post launch, the game will be supported with regular updates and live events.

Download the game on your iPhone or iPad at: https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/time–tycoon/id1510649539

Download the game on your Android device at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca.hyperhippo.adventureages

Players can join the AdVenture Ages community now by following @PlayAdVentureAges on Twitter and @AdVentureAges on Facebook. They can also join the official AdVenture Ages Discord channel and keep a lookout on the game's Reddit community for regular updates from the player support team.

About Hyper Hippo Entertainment:

Hyper Hippo is an entertainment studio, driven to entertain, connect, and inspire billions of fans around the world. Founded in 2012, by the creator of Club Penguin, Lance Priebe, Hyper Hippo are the makers of the idle hits AdVenture Capitalist and AdVenture Communist. For more info, please visit http://www.hyperhippogames.com.

Press Kit

Find supporting assets here.

Media Contact

Emma Bullen
emma@hyperhippo.ca

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/667eae64–993c–4f55–b303–88d97cf52605


Sri Lanka’s Deteriorating Human Rights Situation Raises Multiple Alarms

Shreen Saroor

By Sania Farooqui
NEW DELHI, India, Feb 1 2021 – A decade has passed since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war between the government and the LTTE, where at least 100,000 people were killed in the over three-decade long conflict. Families of victims of enforced disappearances continue to seek justice, the government is yet to end impunity and put accountability for crimes under international law and human rights violation and abuses in its transitional justice process.

In a recent United Nations Human Rights Office of The High Commissioner report, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed that the failure to deal with the past continues to have devastating effects on tens of thousands of families in Sri Lanka, who are still waiting for justice, reparations – and the truth about the fate of their loved ones. The report warns that the failure of Sri Lanka to address past violations has significantly “ heightened the risk of human rights violations being repeated.”

“Sri Lanka’s current trajectory sets the scene for the recurrence of the policies and practices that gave rise to grave human rights violations.” The report also flags the pattern of intensified surveillance and harassment of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and victims, and a shrinking space for independent media.

“I see the OHCHR report as something that will give more oxygen to continue our many struggles, especially for truth and justice,” says Sri Lanka based human rights activist Shreen Saroor to IPS News. The report has articulated the lack of access to justice and the need for accountability very well. It is robust on militarisation and deep securitisation of Sri Lanka and calls for rigorous vetting and demilitarization with a warning of grave consequences if failed, says Shreen.

“Michelle Bachelet’s criticism on surveillance on CSOs and shrinking space for dissent and the abuses of Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act are alarming. However in order to prevent another round of conflict, the report should emphasize more on the ongoing attacks against countries’ religious minorities,” says Shreen.

Earlier in december 2020, Muslims in Sri Lanka were outraged over the forced cremation of a 20-day-old COVID-19 victim against the family’s wishes. Sri Lanka has been flagged for ignoring the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines which permits both burial and cremations.

In a country where minorities are marginalized and discriminated against, Muslims who fall victim to COVID-19 are unjustly prevented from being laid to rest in accordance with their religious beliefs and are forcibly cremated, said Amnesty International in a statement. Sri Lanka is one of the few countries in the world which has made cremations mandatory for people who have died or are suspected of having died from COVID-19. The rights group urged the Sri Lankan Government to not forget that “ it has a duty to ensure all people in Sri Lanka are treated equitably. COVID-19 does not discriminate on grounds of ethnic, political or religious differences, and nor should the Government of Sri Lanka.”

“Many of us who have witnessed continuous minority rights violations over three decades in Sri Lanka, it is important for OHCHR to take on the issue of growing Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism and the extreme nationalism that has been mentioned in the OHCHR report.

“It is time for OHCHR to come up with an early prevention strategy, so that another bloody war or religious violence in this country is prevented,” says Shreen.

Human Rights Watch in its recently released 93-page report, Open Wounds and Mounting Dangers: Blocking Accountability for Grave Abuses in Sri Lanka, examines the efforts by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to thwart justice in seven prominent human rights cases.

“The Sri Lankan government’s assault on justice increases the risk of human rights abuses today and in the future,” said John Fisher, Geneva Director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN Human Rights Council should adopt a resolution at its upcoming session that demonstrates to the Rajapaksa administration that the world won’t ignore its abuses and offers hope of justice to victims’ families, the report stated.

In 2018, just before and during the ongoing session of the UNHRC, Sri Lankan authorities made several announcements to signify their commitments to pledges made in the October 2015 resolution on justice and accountability for abuses during Sri Lanka’s civil war.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksha months into his tenure in November 2019, made several changes including replacing the 19th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution, which was enacted to limit excessive executive power and facilitate independent institutions including the judiciary with the 20th Amendment, which consolidated power in the executive and nullified the independent commissions mainly Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commissions and Office of the Missing Persons. “Rajapaksa appointed people implicated in war crimes and other serious violations to senior administration positions,” said Shreen.

In February 2020 Sri Lanka withdrew itself from the 2019 UN resolution on post-war accountability and reconciliation, which is scheduled to be taken up in the upcoming session.

Sri Lanka’s main Tamil political parties are now urging for an international probe, and in a joint letter addressed to members of the UN Human Rights Council said, “It is now time for Member States to acknowledge that there is no scope for a domestic process that can genuinely deal with accountability in Sri Lanka.”

According to this report, Sri Lanka is in discussion with India and other countries for support to counter the Core Group’s move which could lead to targeted sanctions, asset freezes and travel bans against alleged perpetrators of grave human rights violations and abuses in the March session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The author is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The Sania Farooqui Show where Muslim women from around the world are invited to share their views.

 


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Myanmar Coup Sends ‘Chilling Message that Military won’t Tolerate Dissent’

Myanmar’s military has sized control of government and reportedly detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, senior members of her governing National League for Democracy (NLD) as well as human rights activists and student leaders. Courtesy: Yves Alarie on Unsplash

Myanmar’s military has sized control of government and reportedly detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, senior members of her governing National League for Democracy (NLD) as well as human rights activists and student leaders. Courtesy: Yves Alarie on Unsplash

By Nalisha Adams
BONN, Germany, Feb 1 2021 – Responding to reports this morning that Myanmar’s military has sized control of government in a coup on the eve of the country’s opening session of its new parliament, rights group Amnesty International said it “sends a chilling message that the military authorities will not tolerate any dissent amid today’s unfolding events”.

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, senior members of her governing National League for Democracy (NLD) as well as human rights activists and student leaders were reportedly detained this morning, Feb. 1. The BBC reported military “was handing power to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing because of “election fraud”” and that soldiers were “on the streets of the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and the main city, Yangon”.

Amnesty International said in a statement today that phone lines and the internet have been cut in some areas, further stating, “the military-owned television station announced that a one-year state of emergency was being imposed under the authority of the Commander in Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing”.

The President of the European Council Charles Michel condemned the coup in a tweet this morning.

 

As did the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A statement from White House spokesperson Jen Psaki read the United States was alarmed by the reports of the coup and subsequent arrest of Suu Kyi and civilian officials. “The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” the statement read.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also condemned the coup and called for Suu Kyi’s release as well as that of other leaders and government officials.

Guterres expressed “grave concern regarding the declaration of the transfer of all legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military. These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar”, a statement said.

Myanmar’s Nov. 8 election, which was won by Suu Kyi’s NLD which increased its parliamentary majority — taking 396 of the 498 seats — had been disputed by the military. The Rohingya population had been excluded from participating in the vote.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, called it “an ominous moment for people in Myanmar”, stating it threatened “a severe worsening of military repression and impunity. The concurrent arrests of prominent political activists and human rights defenders sends a chilling message that the military authorities will not tolerate any dissent amid today’s unfolding events” he said in a statement.

“Previous military coups and crackdowns in Myanmar have seen large scale violence and extrajudicial killings by security forces. We urge the armed forces to exercise restraint, abide by international human rights and humanitarian law and for law enforcement duties to be fully resumed by the police force at the earliest opportunity,” Hah said.

Concern remains about the safety of the Rohingya, an ethnic minority in the mostly Buddhist country.

The Rohingya have long been persecuted by the military and according to an October report by Human Rights Watch, “have faced decades of systematic repression, discrimination, and violence under successive Myanmar governments”.  

According to the UN Refugee Agency, a million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar since the 1990s. However, in August 2017 when violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

In November, The Gambia brought a case against  Myanmar to the UN’s International  Court of Justice, arguing that the mainly-Muslim Rohingya had been subjected to genocide. Suu Kyi had downplayed the allegations of genocide and serious human rights violations.

Last month, Jan. 23, the ICJ ruled that Myanmar must take steps to protect its minority Rohingya population. ICJ’s orders are binding against Myanmar.

But as late as last November, Amnesty International reported it had “documented a litany of serious human rights crimes in Rakhine, Chin, Kachin and northern Shan States in recent years, including  attacks killing or injuring civilians, extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other ill-treatment, forced labour, looting and confiscation of property”.

Amnesty International’s Hah said today, “Reports of a telecommunications blackout pose a further threat to the population at such a volatile time – especially as Myanmar battles a pandemic, and as internal conflict against armed groups puts civilians at risk in several parts of the country. It is vital that full phone and internet services be resumed immediately.”

  

A Grey Cloud Over Lebanon: Mental Health Burdens

Beirut, Lebanon; Tuesday, September 1st, 2020. Credit: Photojournalist Rahib Yassine

By Maria Aoun
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb 1 2021 – Humankind is no stranger to the destabilizing events of 2020. The state of the global economy and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the headlines. In this ever escalating global crisis, Lebanon, has been facing what can only be described as unimaginable hardships. For the past year the country has seen challenges which have resulted in an utter state of hopelessness and rapid deterioration in mental health of many of its citizens.

The country has been facing a high rate of youth unemployment, with 55% of the Lebanese population already living under the poverty line according to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Followed by an almost complete devaluation of the Lebanese currency due to ever-growing political uncertainties and national lockdowns to tackle the pandemic, Lebanon is faced with one of its worst economic crises. The aforementioned obstacles reinforced pre-existing socio-economic inequalities in the country that has taken a heavy toll on the state of mental health of the Lebanese people.

In fact, shortly after the economic collapse in July 2020, alarming reports made headlines about the double suicides that occurred on the same day, a Friday, mainly because of the financial instability that people are faced with. On 3 July, a man in his 60s stood in front of a café in the city of Hamra and shot himself in the head in broad daylight, leaving behind a copy of his clean criminal record with a message written in red that said “I am not a Kafer” meaning sinner, infidel or blasphemer, and a Lebanese flag. On that same day in Sidon, an unemployed bus driver in his late thirties took his own life.

The middle aged man also wrote “I am not a Kafer” since the act of suicide is culturally and religiously prohibited and considered a sin or taboo in both Islam and Christianity, the two predominent religions in Lebanon. In fact, some families tend to hide the real cause of death of members who have taken their own lives to avoid societal judgment.

The successive misfortunes that befell Lebanon reached a height when one of the deadliest events in its history occurred at 6.07 pm on 4 August 2020; tons of Ammonium Nitrate detonated at the Beirut port, devastating the capital within seconds and causing thousands casualties. Additionally, it is estimated that 70,000 workers have lost their jobs, and 42 percent of affected families who had chronic medical conditions reported that they could not afford continuing treatment, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

When asked about the collective mental state of the Lebanese in 2020, Mia Atoui, co-founder and board member of “Embrace”, a Lebanese NGO that works to raise awareness around mental health told IPS that “We are witnessing increased levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD as a result of all the crises”, stressing on the importance of providing mental health services to people during these difficult times.

According to the latest report created by “Embrace” titled “Post Beirut’s Blast Update”, issue no.9, two months after the Beirut blast, the national hotline for emotional support and suicide prevention received more than 2239 calls, with approximately 67% of those callers expressing emotional distress and around 28% exhibiting suicidal tendencies. Those numbers reveal the state of mental health faced by the Lebanese. “Embrace Lifeline (1564) received more than 6,100 calls to its hotline in 2020, compared to more than 2500 calls in 2019” stated Atoui. These numbers show that calls have almost tripled from the year 2019 to 2020.

Beirut, Lebanon; Tuesday, September 1st, 2020. Credit: Photojournalist Rahib Yassine

Nowadays, and five months post blast, the Lebanese are still trying to adapt to what seems to be a “new normal” by going about their daily lives, navigating a pandemic that has gone completely out of control.

Lebanese Journalist Cendrella Azar was meters away from the Beirut blast and shared with IPS her mental journey. “Physically, I am a survivor, I healed in no time. Nevertheless, mentally and emotionally, I am still bearing the consequences of the Beirut Port crime I was subjected to. Today, almost six months past the explosion, I still deal with different kinds of symptoms. While I think that I am a normal human being who overcame this traumatic event, I am hit on a daily basis with visions and thoughts. I am physically at home among my loved ones yet mentally I am stuck within the walls of Annahar Newspaper’s building where I was the moment we were hit by the third biggest non-nuclear explosion in human history” stated Azar.

The journalist pointed out the daily stress that citizens are subjected to amidst the new wave of the global pandemic that brutally hit Lebanon. “We transformed into a traumatized nation, suffering from a collective trauma, and bearing so many invisible wounds and scars. We are currently in a national state of shock” declared Azar.

With positive cases of Covid-19 multiplying due to relaxing of governmental restrictions, Lebanon is now seeing a saturation in ICU beds and is heading towards disaster including yet another full lockdown. “The impact of Covid on mental health is a very significant and serious one. People are in a constant state of fear with worry and anxiety; many are losing their loved ones, which is also causing a lot of people to be in grief” explained the mental health expert Atoui. In fact, Lebanon is seeing thousands of new contaminations per day with the peak being 6154 registered cases on 16 January 2021, coupled with an exponential death toll, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Mental health hit a low point in Lebanon in the year 2020 with a grey cloud over the country overstaying its welcome. However, Atoui explained that suicides have not increased this year, “most probably because of the Covid crisis and Beirut blast; usually when there are big disasters at a national level we do not witness an increase in suicides, especially after the Beirut blast where there was a lot of social solidarity…” she said. “…However if the crises continues in 2021 we may witness an increase in suicide rates. Currently the rate of suicide in Lebanon is on average 1 person every 2.1 days” stated Atoui.

Atoui mentioned how important it was to assist people mentally during those trying times yet the current skyrocketing prices have made mental health services inaccessible with therapists charging outrageous figures per therapy session. Atoui told IPS that “Even when it [the cost of therapy] was 150,000 LBP (approximately $ 100 at the time), it was not affordable by most people. Now [after the currency devaluation] it has become a luxury. Since Embrace opened its clinic in August 2020, we have provided 690 consultations and we already have a long waiting list”.

A few days into the new year, a middle-aged man set his car on fire in Beirut and attempted to burn himself alive; bystanders rushed to stop him. On 25 January this year, violent anti-lockdown protests erupted in Tripoli, one of the poorest cities in Lebanon. Met by police brutality, the protesters denounced the absence of a sustainable governmental plan and a lockdown that is worsening their economic situation everyday.

 


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Vitruvian to acquire majority of Expereo

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Feb. 01, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Vitruvian Partners, the international growth capital and buyout firm, has reached an agreement with Apax Partners sas, the European private equity firm based in Paris, to acquire a majority shareholding in Expereo, the world's leading provider of Managed Internet, Cloud access and SD–WAN solutions. Apax Partners will remain as a minority shareholder alongside Vitruvian Partners and the company's management team, who will continue to lead the business. The completion of the transaction is subject to obtaining customary merger control clearances.

Expereo has a strong track record of growth, financial performance and value–enhancing acquisitions, solidifying its position as a market leader in providing managed Global Internet and network connectivity solutions to its communication service provider partners and an impressive array of multinational corporate customers spanning the globe.

“Vitruvian Partners will further bolster our ambitious growth trajectory, enabling us to capitalize even faster on the fundamental changes and opportunities digital transformation brings in the global network and cloud connectivity space,” says Irwin Fouwels, CEO of Expereo. “Vitruvian and the continued support of Apax Partners, will enable us to further build out our leadership position at scale whilst broadening our services suite, enabling our global enterprise customers' network transformation and cloud–first strategies with enhanced internet and cloud access services with a single, best–in–class, digital customer experience.”

David Nahama, Senior Partner at Vitruvian Partners, adds:
“We have been tracking Expereo since 2016 and have seen the company consistently outperform,"and more recently make multiple significant strategic acquisitions. Expereo has established a global leadership position in the highly attractive global cloud and software–defined networking market, allowing it to deliver compelling and differentiated solutions"to its customers, underpinning its attractiveness from an investment perspective. We approached Irwin and Thomas late last year and are delighted to be"partnering"with the Expereo team and Apax on the next significant chapter of Expereo's expansion and success.” Joe O'Mara, Partner at Vitruvian Partners, concluded: “Together with Apax, we believe we have significant capital and operational capabilities to support Expereo's growth and acquisition aspirations.”

Thomas de Villeneuve, Partner at Apax Partners, says: “The rapid adoption of cloud–based applications and SD–WAN technologies puts Internet–based WAN solutions at the center of multinational companies' business models. Expereo has delivered impressive growth since we invested in the business and truly capitalized on these technology trends. We are extremely pleased to continue on this success journey together with Vitruvian, Irwin and his team.”

About Vitruvian

Vitruvian is an international growth capital and buyout firm headquartered in London with offices across London, Stockholm, Munich, Luxembourg, San Francisco, and Shanghai. Vitruvian focuses on dynamic situations characterized by rapid growth and change across industries spanning information technology, financial services, life sciences & healthcare, media, and business and consumer services. Vitruvian Funds have backed over 50 companies and have assets under management of approximately 10 billion. Notable investments to date include global market leaders and innovators in their field such as Voxbone, Bitdefender, Farfetch, Just Eat, Trustpilot, Easypark, Unifaun, Marqeta Global""e and CRF Health, Vitruvian is a signatory of the UN supported Principles of Responsible Investment (“PRI”).

www.vitruvianpartners.com

About Expereo

Expereo is the leading provider of managed network solutions, including Global internet connectivity, SD–WAN, and Cloud Acceleration services. Expereo is the trusted partner of 30% of Fortune 500 companies and powers enterprise and government sites worldwide, helping to enhance every business' productivity with flexible and optimal Internet performance.

www.expereo.com

About Apax Partners

Expereo was acquired by Apax Partners in 2018.
Apax Partners is a leading European private equity firm based in Paris. With over 45 years of experience, Apax Partners provides long–term equity financing to build and strengthen world–class companies. Funds managed and advised by Apax Partners exceed 4 billion. These funds invest in fast–growing middle–market companies across four sectors of specialisation: Tech & Telecom, Consumer, Healthcare and Services.

Paris–headquartered Apax Partners sas (www.apax.fr) and London–headquartered Apax Partners LLP (www.apax.com) have a shared history but are separate, independent private equity firms.

@ApaxPartners_Fr
www.apax.fr

Advisors
Vitruvian was advised by Freshfields, Bruckhaus Deringer (legal), Nielen Schuman (corporate finance & debt advisory), Bain & Company (commercial due diligence), FTI Consulting (financial due diligence) and PwC (tax). Apax was advised by Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Expereo 2021


UN Humanitarian Staff in Geneva Experience Anxiety, Job Insecurity & Fear of Tomorrow

UN staff in Geneva protesting proposed pay cuts. Credit: ILO Staff Union

By Isabel Garcia-Gill
GENEVA, Feb 1 2021 – For the staff of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 2021 is likely to be even more difficult than 2020, with job cuts, forced departures, transfers to Istanbul or The Hague, restructuring and too many rumours.

In Geneva, the plan to relocate part of the teams to Istanbul has caused turmoil and incomprehension and has been the cause of many sick leaves over the last twelve months. This deep unease is the result of a serious lack of transparency in internal communication on the future of staff and is also due to the stress linked to the Coronavirus.

2021 will not give more respite

The relocation project announced by Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, plans to move 23 professional posts (P3 to P5) from Geneva to Istanbul, 5 from New York to The Hague and 8 to other countries (some posts have already been relocated from Geneva to The Hague).

However, no date could be set for the signature of the agreement with the Turkish Government or the move to Istanbul during the year 2020. The OCHA Press Office did not answer many questions about the relocation plan. It merely pointed out that OCHA will gradually resort to offshoring in order to reduce its costs and conduct its headquarters activities more efficiently.

Unfortunately, OCHA staff did not receive any internal information by email or post regarding the date of installation in Istanbul. Yet, on his Twitter account, Mark Lowcock said on January 22, 2021: “It was a pleasure to meet yesterday in Turkey at the United Nations headquarters for the signing of the UNOCHA agreement. Many thanks to Ambassador Sinirlioglu “.

Fear in the gut

“I have dedicated more than 20 years to humanitarian affairs in the field and at headquarters. And the head of human resources in Geneva gave me an ultimatum: either I accept the transfer or she will put my post directly up for competition in Istanbul,” says a staff member who does not want her name to be mentioned. “People are afraid of retaliation from management”.

For many OCHA officials, the current restructuring is not very coherent. They also fear that Geneva’s central role in the humanitarian community will be jeopardized if important coordination functions are relocated.

“We are struggling to make sense of all this restructuring”, says one interviewee. Several OCHA staff members also said that Mr. Lowcock, a former chartered accountant and Director of Finance at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), seems insensitive to the staff human situation.

Opacity of figures

“There is talk of substantial savings, but we don’t know how much money we’re talking about,” regrets a father who is prepared to leave Geneva in 2021 if necessary. He has calculated the salary he would earn in Turkey, 15% less than in Geneva.

On the one hand, there are plans to cut six general service posts (G4 to G7) in order to recruit locally in Turkey, and on the other hand, the plan is to leave a large number of D1 and D2 director posts in Geneva. Where is the logic?

Last October, for example, a D1 was dismissed and received severance pay equivalent to one year’s salary, even though his post had already been filled in Geneva.

Precarious employment

Prisca Chaoui, Executive Secretary of the UNOG Staff Coordinating Board, is concerned about the willingness to relocate administrative posts and transform professional posts in Geneva into temporary jobs under the pretext of making OCHA staff more mobile.

This trend of job insecurity is not new. Another professional woman has had the hard experience of it. She has been working in the UN system, at headquarters and in the field, for about 15 years and was recruited on a fixed-term contract in Geneva.

After a few years at the headquarter, her post was recently abolished and she had to accept a temporary position.

However, Lowcock recently stated: “OCHA will work to strengthen women’s leadership in the humanitarian sector (…) In the face of increasingly demanding and dangerous situations (…) the staffing strategy places particular emphasis on the safety, health and well-being of its employees”.

The union is outraged

On the side of the Staff Coordinating Council, the observation is severe: “It is unfortunate to note that OCHA, in this plan, is totally failing in its duty of care towards its staff. In resettlement decisions, staff do not occupy the central place that they should have for a humanitarian entity such as OCHA”.

Lowcock responded in writing to the union’s remarks, saying that OCHA management, including himself, had held several meetings with OCHA staff representatives and the UN union in New York and Geneva in 2019 and 2020.

“While we understand the need for staff mobility, we believe that decisions must be people-centered first and foremost. Instead, OCHA’s leadership has succeeded in taking the human dimension out of the term ‘humanitarian’,” concludes Prisca Chaoui.

 


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