DIDI UPDATED CLASS PERIOD: ROSEN, TOP RANKED GLOBAL INVESTOR COUNSEL, Encourages DiDi Global Inc. Investors with Losses in Excess of $500K to Secure Counsel Before Important Deadline in Securities Class Action – DIDI

NEW YORK, July 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — WHY: Rosen Law Firm, a global investor rights law firm, announces it has filed a class action lawsuit expanding the Class Period on behalf of more purchasers of the securities of DiDi Global Inc. (NYSE: DIDI): (1) pursuant and/or traceable to the registration statement and related prospectus (collectively, the "Registration Statement") issued in connection with DiDi's June 30, 2021 initial public offering (the "IPO" or "Offering"); and/or (2) between June 30, 2021 and July 21, 2021, inclusive (the "Class Period"). A class action lawsuit has already been filed. If you wish to serve as lead plaintiff, you must move the Court no later than September 7, 2021.

SO WHAT: If you purchased DiDi securities during the expanded Class Period you may be entitled to compensation without payment of any out of pocket fees or costs through a contingency fee arrangement.

WHAT TO DO NEXT: To join the DiDi class action, go to http://www.rosenlegal.com/cases–register–2113.html or call Phillip Kim, Esq. toll–free at 866–767–3653 or email pkim@rosenlegal.com or cases@rosenlegal.com for information on the class action. A class action lawsuit has already been filed. If you wish to serve as lead plaintiff, you must move the Court no later than September 7, 2021. A lead plaintiff is a representative party acting on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation.

WHY ROSEN LAW: We encourage investors to select qualified counsel with a track record of success in leadership roles. Often, firms issuing notices do not have comparable experience, resources or any meaningful peer recognition. Be wise in selecting counsel. The Rosen Law Firm represents investors throughout the globe, concentrating its practice in securities class actions and shareholder derivative litigation. Rosen Law Firm has achieved the largest ever securities class action settlement against a Chinese Company. Rosen Law Firm was Ranked No. 1 by ISS Securities Class Action Services for number of securities class action settlements in 2017. The firm has been ranked in the top 4 each year since 2013 and has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for investors. In 2019 alone the firm secured over $438 million for investors. In 2020, founding partner Laurence Rosen was named by law360 as a Titan of Plaintiffs' Bar. Many of the firm's attorneys have been recognized by Lawdragon and Super Lawyers.

DETAILS OF THE CASE: According to the lawsuit, the Registration Statement featured and defendants throughout the expanded Class Period made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (1) the Cyberspace Administration of China ("CAC") urged DiDi to delay its IPO; (2) DiDi "had the problem of collecting personal information in violation of relevant PRC laws and regulations"; (3) DiDi could not guarantee data security; (4) due to the foregoing, DiDi would face "serious, perhaps unprecedented, penalties" from relevant authorities; (5) DiDi and its many apps would face an imminent cybersecurity review by the CAC, which could lead to removal of Didi's apps from app stores; and (6) as a result, defendants' statements about the Company's business, operations, and prospects were materially false and misleading and/or lacked a reasonable basis at all relevant times. When the true details entered the market, the lawsuit claims that investors suffered damages.

To join the DiDi class action, go to http://www.rosenlegal.com/cases–register–2113.html or call Phillip Kim, Esq. toll–free at 866–767–3653 or email pkim@rosenlegal.com or cases@rosenlegal.com for information on the class action.

No Class Has Been Certified. Until a class is certified, you are not represented by counsel unless you retain one. You may select counsel of your choice. You may also remain an absent class member and do nothing at this point. An investor's ability to share in any potential future recovery is not dependent upon serving as lead plaintiff.

Follow us for updates on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the–rosen–law–firm, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rosen_firm or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosenlawfirm/.

Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

———————————————–

Contact Information:

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The Rosen Law Firm, P.A.
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Muslim Women in India’s Workforce: Where Are They?

Indian Muslim women are practically invisible in the country’s workforce. There are approximately 70 million educated Muslim women in the country. Given that India’s female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is falling, bringing educated Muslim women into the workforce could, according to one study, account for approximately USD 770 billion of the country’s GDP. Unfortunately, Indian Muslim women face the double disadvantage of being female and Muslim.

A platform or support network to champion women with entrepreneurial ambitions and facilitate the exchange of ideas, information, and capital needs to be set up. Credit: Unsplash

By External Source
Jul 30 2021 – Muslims are the largest minority community in India, and yet, they are highly underrepresented both in public and private institutions. According to a study conducted by the Economic Times Intelligence Group in 2015, Muslims constituted approximately 2.7 percent of mid to senior executives in the private sector. As of April 2018, only 1.33 percent of officers in the central government, holding the rank of joint secretary and above, were found to be Muslims. 

The lack of women leaders is even starker, and Indian Muslim women are practically invisible in the country’s workforce. There are approximately 70 million educated Muslim women in the country. Given that India’s female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is falling, bringing educated Muslim women into the workforce could, according to one study, account for approximately USD 770 billion of the country’s GDP. Unfortunately, Indian Muslim women face the double disadvantage of being female and Muslim.

Indian Muslim women are practically invisible in the country’s workforce. There are approximately 70 million educated Muslim women in the country.: bringing educated Muslim women into the workforce could, according to one study, account for approximately USD 770 billion of the country’s GDP
Any conversation around Indian Muslim women in India needs to take into account the larger, external ecosystem as well as certain internal factors. External factors include systemic issues, such as the slew of legislations passed by the government, that are leading to further marginalisation of the community as a whole.

Internal to the Muslim community are factors that are in the immediate environment of its women. These include lack of education, social norms, and more, that keep women out of the public space and away from leadership roles in the workforce. Additionally, narratives around Muslims in India tend to focus on poverty, illiteracy, and conviction rates.

And, reportage on Muslim women in India is inextricably linked to either the triple talaaq law or Kashmir. This further enforces certain stereotypes and prejudices that act as roadblocks for the community and leads to discrimination.

Muslim women have always been caught between political considerations and personal marginalisation. Internal factors, too, require systemic changes and are limited until external factors are corrected. However, certain shifts in existing structures can help create space for young Indian Muslim women.

 

What will it take to change this?

1. Increasing enrollment in educational institutions

A report from the National Statistical Office reveals the extremely poor literacy rate among Muslims and the severity of their academic marginalisation in India. It points out that Muslims have the highest proportion of youth (ages 3-35 years) who have never enrolled in formal education.

The report also states that the Gross Attendance Ratio (people attending a level of education as a proportion of the population of the group) of Muslims is the lowest—100 percent in primary education—among various social and religious groups in India, and drops to a mere 14 percent in above-higher secondary courses. One step in the right direction would be to expand the scope of the Right to Education Act of 2009—which ensures compulsory primary education—to include secondary and higher education as well.

While the overall literacy rates for Muslims are abysmal, the report reveals a visible gap between male and female percentages as well. According to the report, the male literacy rate in India is 81 percent whereas the female literacy rate is 69 percent. An unpublished study1 draws parallels between Muslim and Hindu women, stating that women from both communities tend to have lower levels of enrollment as compared to men in Indian society because of various economic and cultural factors.

However, Muslim women also face discrimination in schooling because of their religious affiliation and are less likely to enrol in school compared to Muslim men. Policy changes for the community to encourage Muslims, especially women, to continue their studies and eventually seek employment, therefore, require rigorous and sustained efforts.

2. Ensuring equal opportunities in a professional space

Levelling the playing field for women professionals is key. It becomes essential, therefore, for organisations to follow the Equal Opportunities policy. The Indian Constitution mandates the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, and mandates equal opportunity in matters of public employment. In India, companies like Nestlé India and DELL, have committed themselves to create a work environment free of discrimination and harassment for their employees.

3. Building a support network of like-minded women

A platform or an informal, inclusive support network to champion women with entrepreneurial ambitions and facilitate the exchange of ideas, information, capital, and counsel needs to be set up. This should include local women-only networking programmes at a village, panchayat, and city-level to spur entrepreneurial engagement and participation. In addition to this, private and public partnerships that are government-led should help provide direct access to technical and business counselling.

4. Celebrating female entrepreneurs

Celebrating women role models through cross-media campaigns by national and state governments can help eliminate stereotypes, build community, and celebrate the successes of Indian Muslim women. This can also be translated to the private sector through a sectoral campaign that brings female professionals and entrepreneurs into the mainstream. This would help young Indian Muslim women identify potential mentors and empower them to continue on their journey, from education to employment.

In order to implement this broad framework, women leaders in the public and private sectors will need to come together to change the current situation. Recognising the need to create a formal network for Indian Muslim women is what led us to establish Led By Foundation—a leadership incubator for Indian Muslim women, to help them be gainfully and meaningfully employed, while also providing them with an ecosystem of support and recognition.

Through our work, we’ve interacted with numerous women who have the ambition, aptitude and aspiration to succeed. However, they lack the avenues—platforms to learn, share and encourage, access—the network, agency, and role models who have paved the path to success.

While we understand that the journey to changing this status quo may be slow and arduous, it is certainly not impossible. In our end state, racial equity—equal representation, economic, social, and political empowerment—will be achieved, and Muslim women will have multiple seats in boardrooms, in mid-level executive positions, in educational institutions, and more.

 

Deepanjali Lahiri is an experienced project management professional with more than 13 years of experience across IT, retail, and FMCG. With a degree in hotel management, she has spearheaded large-scale business projects to establish strategic directions for companies in the growth and acceleration stages. She is passionate about working with organisations and individuals to create a seat at the table for those who need a voice of support and to be a champion of change.

Dr Ruha Shadab graduated from Harvard Kennedy School as a Harvard Public Service Fellow. She has worked as a doctor in low-income neighbourhoods in Delhi, as well as with the Government of India, on systemic issues of healthcare. She established Led By Foundation, a social enterprise that provides professional training and mentorship to Muslim women college students, to inspire the next generation of female change-makers. She believes that for a community to be heard, it first needs to speak up.

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

Takeda and Frazier Healthcare Partners Announce Collaboration to Launch HilleVax, Inc. to Develop Clinical Stage Norovirus Vaccine Candidate

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited (TSE:4502/NYSE:TAK) (Takeda) and Frazier Healthcare Partners (Frazier) today announced a collaboration to launch HilleVax, Inc. (HilleVax), a biopharmaceutical company to develop and commercialize Takeda's norovirus vaccine candidate. Takeda has granted a license to HilleVax for the exclusive development and commercialization rights to its norovirus vaccine candidate, HIL–214 (formerly TAK–214), worldwide outside of Japan. Takeda will retain commercialization rights in Japan and HilleVax will integrate certain Japan development activities into its global development. Takeda remains committed to vaccines and this collaboration allows Takeda to focus primarily on dengue, COVID–19, pandemic influenza and Zika.

HIL–214, which is a virus–like particle (VLP) based vaccine candidate, completed a randomized, placebo–controlled Phase 2b field efficacy study in 4,712 adult subjects in which HIL–214 was well–tolerated and demonstrated clinical proof of concept in preventing moderate–to–severe cases of acute gastroenteritis from norovirus infection.1 To date, the candidate has been studied in nine human clinical trials with safety data from over 4,500 subjects and immunogenicity data from over 2,000 subjects.

Ursula Belinda Myles, General Manager of Takeda's Access Market Cluster (covering much of Africa) commented: “Africa's underlying burden of endemic diseases is one of the largest in the world, and infectious diseases play a larger portion of these diseases across the continent. Like many other nations, COVID–19 has emphasized Africa's greatest challenges around healthcare and highlighted the need for continued greater investment in healthcare systems. These investments are critical to secure economic development as Africa implements flagship projects around the 2030 Africa Health Strategy.”

Ursula added: “The announcement of our partnership with Frazier Healthcare Partners will allow Takeda to focus efforts and resources on vaccines for diseases prevalent across Africa and provide support in alleviating the growing burden that infectious diseases have on public health systems.”

Norovirus is a common intestinal infection marked by diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea and sometimes fever that may lead to clinically significant dehydration.2 Norovirus is recognized as the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis across the age spectrum.3 It is estimated that norovirus causes nearly 700 million cases of illness and more than 200,000 deaths worldwide per year with significant additional economic and social burden.3 No vaccines are currently approved for norovirus infection, and HIL–214 continues to be the most advanced norovirus vaccine candidate in human clinical trials.

"Takeda and Frazier have a history of successfully partnering together, and we are confident in HilleVax's capabilities to progress HIL–214, the most advanced norovirus vaccine candidate in development with the potential to address the huge global burden of norovirus–associated acute gastroenteritis," said Rajeev Venkayya, M.D., President of the Global Vaccine Business Unit, Takeda. "This will allow Takeda to focus its efforts and resources on our dengue vaccine, which we have begun filing for licensure around the world, our pandemic programs, and our partnership with the US Government to develop a Zika vaccine."

Takeda's Commitment to Vaccines

Vaccines prevent 2 to 3 million deaths each year and have transformed global public health. For more than 70 years, Takeda has supplied vaccines to protect the health of people in Japan. Today, Takeda's global vaccine business is applying innovation to tackle some of the world's most challenging infectious diseases, such as dengue, COVID–19, pandemic influenza and Zika. Takeda's team brings an outstanding track record and a wealth of knowledge in vaccine development and manufacturing to advance a pipeline of vaccines to address some of the world's most pressing public health needs. For more information, visit www.TakedaVaccines.com.

About Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited
Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited (TSE:4502/NYSE:TAK) is a global, values–based, R&D–driven biopharmaceutical leader headquartered in Japan, committed to discover and deliver life–transforming treatments, guided by our commitment to patients, our people and the planet. Takeda focuses its R&D efforts on four therapeutic areas: Oncology, Rare Genetic and Hematology, Neuroscience and Gastroenterology (GI). We also make targeted R&D investments in Plasma–Derived Therapies and Vaccines. We are focusing on developing highly innovative medicines that contribute to making a difference in people's lives by advancing the frontier of new treatment options and leveraging our enhanced collaborative R&D engine and capabilities to create a robust, modality–diverse pipeline. Our employees are committed to improving quality of life for patients and to working with our partners in health care in approximately 80 countries and regions. For more information, visit https://www.takeda.com.

About Frazier Healthcare Partners

Founded in 1991, Frazier Healthcare Partners is a leading provider of growth and venture capital to healthcare companies. With nearly $4.8 billion total capital raised, Frazier has invested in over 200 companies, with investment types ranging from company creation and venture capital to buyouts of profitable lower–middle market companies. The firm's Growth Buyout team invests in healthcare and pharmaceutical services, medical products and related sectors. The Life Sciences team invests in therapeutics and related areas that are addressing unmet medical needs through innovation. Frazier has offices in Seattle, WA and Menlo Park, CA, and invests broadly across the US, Canada, and Europe. For more information about Frazier Healthcare Partners, visit the company's website at http://www.frazierhealthcare.com.

About HilleVax

HilleVax is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of novel vaccine candidates. Its initial program, HIL–214, is a virus–like particle (VLP) based vaccine candidate in development for the prevention of moderate–to–severe acute gastroenteritis caused by norovirus infection. For more information about HilleVax, visit the company's website at http://www.HilleVax.com.

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited Forward–Looking Statements

This press release and any materials distributed in connection with this press release may contain forward–looking statements, beliefs or opinions regarding Takeda's future business, future position and results of operations, including estimates, forecasts, targets and plans for Takeda. Without limitation, forward–looking statements often include words such as "targets", "plans", "believes", "hopes", "continues", "expects", "aims", "intends", "ensures", "will", "may", "should", "would", "could" "anticipates", "estimates", "projects" or similar expressions or the negative thereof. These forward–looking statements are based on assumptions about many important factors, including the following, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward–looking statements: the economic circumstances surrounding Takeda's global business, including general economic conditions in Japan and the United States; competitive pressures and developments; changes to applicable laws and regulations; the success of or failure of product development programs; decisions of regulatory authorities and the timing thereof; fluctuations in interest and currency exchange rates; claims or concerns regarding the safety or efficacy of marketed products or product candidates; the impact of health crises, like the novel coronavirus pandemic, on Takeda and its customers and suppliers, including foreign governments in countries in which Takeda operates, or on other facets of its business; the timing and impact of post–merger integration efforts with acquired companies; the ability to divest assets that are not core to Takeda's operations and the timing of any such divestment(s); and other factors identified in Takeda's most recent Annual Report on Form 20–F and Takeda's other reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, available on Takeda's website at: https://www.takeda.com/investors/reports/sec–filings/ or at www.sec.gov. Takeda does not undertake to update any of the forward–looking statements contained in this press release or any other forward–looking statements it may make, except as required by law or stock exchange rule. Past performance is not an indicator of future results and the results or statements of Takeda in this press release may not be indicative of, and are not an estimate, forecast, guarantee or projection of Takeda's future results.

# # #

CONTACTS:

Takeda Media Contacts:
Japanese Media

Ryoko Matsumoto

ryoko.matsumoto@takeda.com

+81 (0) 3–3278–3414

Media Outside Japan

Amy Atwood

amy.atwood@takeda.com

+1–774–571–3316

For HilleVax, Inc.: For Frazier Healthcare Partners:
David Socks

info@hillevax.com

+1–650–325–5156

Liz Park

liz.park@frazierhealthcare.com

+1–650–319–1831

References

1 Sherwood J, et al. Vaccine 2020; 38(41):6442–6449

2 https://ww.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html [accessed 2021 April 27].

3 Hall AJ, et al. Expert Rev Vaccines 2016;15(8):949–951


What Public Health Officials Can Learn from a New Long COVID Survey

A new survey on public awareness of long COVID by ‘Resolve to Save Lives” showed that among the 40% of Americans who were not vaccinated, seeing testimonials of those who suffer from long COVID inspired nearly two-thirds to consider the vaccine

Fifty percent of vaccine-hesitant Americans believe the message that “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to prevent COVID-19 and its potential long-term complications”. Credit: UNICEF/Nahom Tesfaye

By Ifeanyi Nsofor
ABUJA, Jul 30 2021 – A new survey on public awareness of long COVID by ‘Resolve to Save Lives” showed that among the 40% of Americans who were not vaccinated, seeing testimonials of those who suffer from long COVID inspired nearly two-thirds to consider the vaccine. A representative sample of nearly 2,000 Americans 18 and older took the survey between May 21 and June 10, 2021.

While most people who recover from COVID-19 get better within a few weeks, some people have health problems for a long time. Even people who were initially asymptomatic can start exhibiting them. Examples of the symptoms include difficulty thinking or concentrating, headache, difficulty breathing, cough, joint or muscle pain, fatigue, loss of smell, lightheadedness, and depression or anxiety.

Trying to avoid long COVID is a good reason to try to not catch COVID-19. This is especially true with the emergence and spread of the highly infectious Delta variant. Long COVID devastates lives, occupations, and incomes

Even though some people may not take precautions or get vaccinated because they think COVID symptoms would be mild if they contract it, long COVID shows that even people with mild or asymptomatic cases can suffer long-term. Trying to avoid long COVID, then, is a good reason to try to not catch COVID-19. This is especially true with the emergence and spread of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Long COVID devastates lives, occupations, and incomes. For instance, Paul Garner, a professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Co-ordinating Editor of the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group has documented his long COVID experience for the British Medical Journal.

After being diagnosed with COVID-19, receiving treatment and recovering, he had bouts of long COVID symptoms. His symptoms included acutely painful calf, upset stomach, tinnitus, pins and needles, aching all over, breathlessness, dizziness, arthritis in the hands.

A breakdown of the recent survey result shows that learning about these kinds of stories can motivate unvaccinated Americans. In the long COVID survey, 64% of Americans became more concerned about contracting COVID-19 from watching the testimonials.

Thirty-nine percent of those who were unvaccinated, including 31% who were vaccine hesitant, were motivated to consider getting the vaccine. The testimonials were most effective among 18 to 29-year-olds, Hispanics and urbanites.

Fifty percent of vaccine-hesitant Americans believe the message that “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to prevent COVID-19 and its potential long-term complications”.

As a public health physician and COVID-19 vaccine advocate, I found the survey findings promising. They provide the evidence base to increase vaccine uptake and counter misinformation. What can public health officials do with this information? Here are four steps.

First, engage willing long COVID sufferers and survivors as vaccine advocates. A misleading aspect of this pandemic is that about 80% of those infected do not have any symptoms. This gives the false impression that COVID-19 is not as infectious, harmful or as fatal as it actually is.

Moreover, even those who are asymptomatic can still develop long COVID and that fact needs to be better publicized. The long COVID survey has shown the power of testimonies by sufferers. Governments, national public health institutes, civil society organizations, community-based organizations should leverage this.

This should begin by identifying long COVID sufferers willing to share their testimonies. COVID:Aid, the UK-based long COVID Charity set up to support and give a voice to individuals affected by Covid-19 across the UK, is a great organization to work with. Partnering with COVID:Aid will help identify sufferers and support them to share their stories.

Second, use findings of this survey to create targeted advocacy messaging for all demographics. Such messaging must be aspirational. It should not be designed to make the target groups feel unworthy. Rather, the messaging should be to make them aspire to be vaccinated. It should make the unvaccinated know the importance of being vaccinated and ending the pandemic. Health advocates must seize this opportunity to end the pandemic.

Third, prioritize social media as the medium for communicating the testimonials and targeted advocacy messaging. Vaccine hesitancy is quite common among the youths who use social media since they do not think they will suffer much if they contract it. Using social media in this way should involve working closely with social media firms and involving them in designing the messaging.

Already Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are involved in countering COVID-19-related misinformation and disinformation. Their involvement should include sharing videos of long COVID sufferers talking about their symptoms, how they cope and the benefits of being vaccinated.

Fourth, and related, use influencers to deliver long COVID social media testimonials. Globally, there are billions of social media users ruled by influencers. There are examples of social media influencers countering misinformation.

In Nigeria, the FactsMatterNG used Nollywood celebrity Actor Kate Henshaw (2.3 million Instagram followers). In Indonesia, social media influencers were among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine. The Indonesian government took this route in world’s largest Muslim country due to the belief that influencers will post their experience online and help convey that vaccines are safe, effective, and allowed under Islamic law.

Celebrity TV star, Raffi Ahmad (54 million Instagram followers) shared his video of being vaccinated and it has been viewed more than 3.7 million times. In the U.S., American pop star Olivia Rodrigo (14.4 million Instagram followers) is supporting the plan by President Biden’s Administration to encourage young people to get vaccinated.

In a White House video, Olivia and Dr. Fauci read tweets and answered questions by young people on COVID-19 vaccination.  The first tweet they read was, “If Olivia Rodrigo tells you to get vaccinated, you get vaccinated“. This tweet shows the power of social media influencers.

Long COVID will be around for a long time. The survey shows that hearing testimonials from sufferers and survivors can help reduce vaccine hesitancy, so we must capitalize on that and work to reduce the likelihood of more people suffering from long COVID.

 

Dr. Ifeanyi McWilliams Nsofor is a graduate of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University. Ifeanyi is the Director Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch.

Are UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in the Doldrums Due to the Corona Virus?

A Somali resident sells meat at a market in Hudur, where food shortages continue to cause suffering. Meanwhile, between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020 – some 161 million more than for 2019 – the UN Secretary-General said July 12; “new, tragic data”, which indicates the world is “tremendously off track” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

By Jan Servaes and Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u
BRUSSELS, Belgium / JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Jul 30 2021 – A short answer to this question is yes, but it is obvious and predictable failure was visible for some time. This debate started before 2015, the year in which the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) were adopted as successors to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed in 2000. The 8 MDGs were expanded to 17 massive goals and 169 targets.

Using projections from international organizations such as the World Bank, the OECD and the WHO, the British Overseas Development Institute (ODI) already quantified in 2015 how much the world would need to accelerate current trends to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The targets were given a ‘grade’, based on the expected progress. An ‘A’ rating meant that current progress is sufficient to meet the target, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’ numbers need to go up a notch. An “F” number indicates that the world is going in the wrong direction.

None of the 17 SDGs was rated A. Only three SDGs, — SDG1 (no poverty), SDG8 (economic growth and decent jobs) and SDG15 (biodiversity) — were rated B. SDG 3 (health for all), 4 (quality education), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), 17 (partnerships for the goals), 2 (no hunger), 6 (water and sanitation), 7 (energy), 5 (gender) and 9 (industrialization) all received an average C grade. SDGs 10 (inequality), 11 (cities), 12 (waste), 13 (climate change) and 14 (oceans) were all unsatisfactory.

In other words, only 3 of the 17 SDGs were on track to achieve a reasonably acceptable outcome by 2030. This score was developed in 2015, long before COVID-19 hit.

With the devastating effect of COVID-19 on nearly every sector of the global economy, it is clear that achieving the SDGs by 2030 is virtually impossible. Moreover, addressing development goals by nation states is more difficult than was recognized by the authors of the 2030 Agenda for Development.

For example, a study by Lin and Monga (2017) concluded that between 1950 and 2008, only 28 countries managed to reduce their gap with the United States by 10 percent or more. That is a period of 58 years, while the 2030 agenda must be realized within 15 years. Of the 28 countries listed by Lin and Monga, only 12 were non-European or non-oil economies.

According to Lin and Monga, the challenge of renewing developing countries’ economies is inseparable from some of the intellectual and policy errors imposed by the Washington consensus in the 1970s to 1990s, the years described as the lost decade for developing countries.

Banerjee and Duflo (2019), who shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics for their work on poverty alleviation, in fact emphasized how economists designing development policies are out of touch with the realities of ordinary people.

In a more recent analysis, published in the authoritative World Development, Moyer and Hedden (2020) also question how feasible the SDGs are under the current circumstances. They highlight difficulties for some SDG indicators (access to safe sanitation, high school completion, and underweight children) that will not be resolved without a significant shift in domestic and international aid policies and prioritization.

In addition, Moyer and Hedden cite 28 particularly vulnerable countries that are not expected to meet any of the nine human development targets. These most vulnerable countries should be able to count on international aid and therefore financial support.

In our view, the realization of the 2030 agenda can only be achieved on the basis of three factors.

The first is financing. The critical question that is posed in various forums about the SDGs invariably ends with the question: who is going to fund it? Where will the money come from? How can low- and middle-income countries generate sufficient resources to finance the 2030 development agenda.

Although each country has its own priorities, paying the bills for the SDGs remains a delicate matter. The Asia-Europe Foundation calculated (2020: 6) that “the total investment costs to achieve the SDGs by 2030 are between USD 5 and USD 7 trillion per year at the global level and between a total of USD 3.3 and USD 4.5 trillion per year in developing countries.

This implies an average investment need of USD 2.5 trillion per year in developing countries. To better understand the real financial needs of the SDGs, these countries should prepare their own estimates, at least for their priority objectives”.

A significant effort must be made through the private sector and philanthropists. While governments and ordinary people have been hit hard by the health and economic impact of COVID-19, in a way it has been good news for billionaires, many of whom have seen their wealth grow astronomically.

A report from the Washington-based Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) shows that US billionaires have seen their wealth grow by $1 trillion between March and November 2020. Amazon’s owner Jeff Bezos’ net worth increased 61 percent between March and November 2020, from $113 billion to $182.4 billion.

The report added that just three years ago, there was not a single multi-billionaire, that is, a person with a net worth of more than $100 billion. Since November 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now at least 5 multi-billionaires; namely Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Bernard Arnault, president of Louis Vuitton; Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft; Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook; and Elon Musk of Tesla (Huffington Post 2020).

These billionaires, along with the more than 2,000 billionaires from around the world, are wealthy enough to help make substantial progress in some of the SDGs.

The second important factor that can help achieve the SDGs is political will. Many countries have drawn up ambitious national development plans that look great on paper. How many of those plans end up being realized?

When one sees that the fortunes of a country have been successfully changed through the effective implementation of national plans, one cannot separate such achievements from the strong political will of the leaders. The example of China speaks for itself.

The crucial question to be asked is whether that political will is there. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, responded to a mid-term review of the Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2020): “It is inevitable that one crucial ingredient is still missing. Political will. Without political will, neither the public opinion, nor the stakeholders take sufficient action”. This is where the challenge to achieve the SDGs lies, i.e. a real political will.

The third factor is the need for robust communication for development and social change, so that political will can be conveyed to all stakeholders. Leaders who inspire change do so with the communication tools available in their time.

While the digital age disrupts social systems and drives transformation at a scale and pace unparalleled in history, the SDGs remain quite silent on the subject. Indeed, today digital technologies determine what we read and consume, how we vote and how we interact with each other and the world around us.

Many risks and uncertainties are emerging, including threats to individual rights, social justice and democracy, all amplified by ‘the digital divide’ – the differential speed of internet penetration and access to digital technologies around the world.

None of the SDGs can be achieved unless people are able to communicate their dreams, concerns and needs – locally, nationally, regionally, globally. We therefore propose to supplement the list with SDG 18: Communication for all.

Communications for social change in the era of COVID-19 must also consider the challenge of misinformation when initiating communication strategies. Therefore, the communication strategies of the World Bank, UNICEF or WHO are not comprehensive enough.

First, they failed to take into account the challenges of infodemics and fake news in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The second shortcoming is that the strategies contain little scientific communication to make the public aware of how health professionals make decisions and advise the public about its safety. Disinformation is a critical factor that exacerbates the challenges that communication for development and social change must address.

For all these reasons, the UN and the rest of the international community need to be realistic and review the 2030 Agenda for Development by shifting the timeline from 2030 to 2050.

Some regional organizations, such as the African Union, have already set the date for achieving their development goals to 2063 (https://au.int/en/agenda2063/sdgs).

The SDGs should be prioritized with SDG1 on the eradication of extreme poverty as the main objective for the next 10 years. Eradicating extreme poverty is likely to have implications for other SDGs, in particular SDGs 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Efforts to eradicate extreme poverty should not be based on slogans, but should be supported by governments, funding agencies, donors and philanthropists are seen as the best chance to save humanity. The intellectual errors and policies imposed on low- and middle-income countries, which plunge them further into the abyss of underdevelopment, must be avoided.

Serious thought should be accorded to the post COVID19 world due to the impact of the lockdown on the global economy. Some governments, multinational institutions and private sector are hastening to institutionalize remote work before the pandemic ends.

As an interim major, working from home has contributed significantly in reducing the impact of the pandemic, but what is the impact of working from home on the future of work in a post-COVID-19 World?

Will the closure of offices, firms and other businesses for remote work accelerate or reduce the chances of achieving the SDGs? Is there sufficient data to back the policy decisions on a permanent remote work culture? How does this affect the employability of low and unskilled workers?

These are questions that policy makers must think through. The SDGs are meant to promote social inclusion and reduce inequality, not to save money and increase profitability.

Setting the timeline for the achievement of the SDGs to 2050 will allow sufficient time to re-evaluate progress made so far, complete missing objectives, such as SDG 18 on communication for all, and bridge the lost ground of the SDGs.

It will also give the global community ample time to strategize on how to deal with the potential rise of right-wing, populist and nationalist governments such as Bolsonaro, Duterte or Trump’s, which may impose limits on the SDGs through their disdain for multilateralism. And plans must also be made in advance to mitigate the next disasters that could impair the achievement of the SDGs.

Jan Servaes was UNESCO-Chair in Communication for Sustainable Social Change at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He taught ‘international communication’ and ‘communication for sustainable social change’ in Australia, Belgium, China, Hong Kong, the US, Netherlands and Thailand, in addition to short-term projects at about 120 universities in 55 countries.

Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u is an international development expert and former journalist with the BBC World Service, London. He was the Managing Editor of Africa Policy Journal at Harvard Kennedy School, USA and one-time Senior Lecturer in Media and Politics at Northumbria University, UK; he has taught Mass Communications at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria.

This text is based on Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u & Jan Servaes (eds.).
The Palgrave Handbook of International Communication and Sustainable Development, Palgrave MacMillan, 2021, ISBN 978-3-030-69769-3, https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030697693

 


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When Branded as a Born Criminal: The Plight of India’s De-Notified Tribes

A girl from the Nat community performing – Credit: Department for Social Justice

By Mariya Salim
NEW DELHI, India, Jul 30 2021 – Branded as being born ‘criminal’ 150 years ago under British colonial rule, De-Notified Tribes (DNTs) continue to bear the brunt of the various laws that stigmatised them since 1871.

Dakxin Chhara, the award-winning filmmaker and DNT activist, shared how the DNT community in India continues living an abysmal existence because of a centuries-old criminality stigma. Chhara calls his community an “invisible population” owing to their absence from government records, welfare schemes and a complete lack of political will to address their marginalisation.

“Even within a village in India, one can see the clear demarcation of localities based on caste, religion etc. One of the most marginalised, Dalits (former untouchables) also have an area where they stay, but for DNTs, there is no space within this structure,” Chhara said in an exclusive interview with IPS. “They are not considered worthy of being part of the village, and most end up living in jungles, moving from one place to another, isolated and stigmatised.”

In 1871, nearly 150 tribes were notified to be criminals by the ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ passed by the British, meaning, just being born into one of these tribes made one a criminal. The absurdity of the rationale behind this discriminatory law, introduced in 1871 in India, a society largely based on caste and caste-based discrimination, can be seen in the British official’s introduction to the bill. He said: “People from time immemorial have been pursuing the caste system defined job-positions: weaving, carpentry and such were hereditary jobs. So, there must have been hereditary criminals also who pursued their forefathers’ profession.”

Academics say the creation of these criminal tribes was a “colonial stereotype”. It was to justify the British to discipline or control a section of the population who did not fit into the colonial power’s moral order they were trying to enforce on rural society. Among the worst victims were communities like the DNTs, who did not have a sedentary lifestyle. This made it more difficult to demand their subservience.

The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, was repealed on August 31, 1952, resulting in the former criminal tribes ‘de-notified’ of this discriminatory tag. However, this was only on paper.

As in most groups, the women from these communities bear many layers of marginalisation. Sakila Khatoon from the north Indian state of Bihar belongs to the Nat community. Married off at a very early age, Sakila pursued her education and worked within the development sector on issues concerning her community. Most women she works with, however, have not had that opportunity, she told IPS.

Women from the Nat community face prejudice and stereotypes because of their involvement in sex work, and those who wish to explore other avenues of livelihood are discouraged and not treated with dignity. Sex workers from the community not only face stigmatisation but also are targets of police excesses. Khatoon shared how children of these women are often discouraged from pursuing higher education and are recipients of undignified comments from people who know that their parents are sex workers.

“Encouraging and supporting women from our communities to pursue higher education is the key to their upliftment,” Khatoon says.

Vijay (name changed) from the ‘Pardhi’ community in the state of Madhya Pradesh shared how harassment by police led to many people belonging to his community commit suicide and how the authorities continue to ostracise them. Youth are arbitrarily arrested on mere suspicion because they are seen as habitual offenders.

Over the years, there haven’t been any genuine attempts to address the plight of the DNT communities, and commissions aimed at improving their condition have failed.

Shiney Vashisht, a PhD research scholar at the Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi, who worked as a researcher at the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi Nomadic tribes, confirms this.

“The National Commissions established and re-established over the years, have done nothing close to substantial for the DNTs except for half-heartedly recommending welfare steps, that are a mere compilation of suggestions from previous commission reports, based on population projections of decades-old data,” Vashisht says.

Based on her engagement with leaders from the community and field research, she argues that these communities deserve a designated commission, having a constitutional status on the lines of National Commissions for Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The commission should generate a database from a national survey of DNTs. The inquiries should have a strong mandate to recommend DNT specific welfare schemes.

Chhara adds that one of the demands of the DNT community is separate reservations. He gives the example of the state of Maharashtra, where within the OBC quota, there is a separate reservation for DNTs and says that a model similar to this should be applicable throughout the country.

Chhara remembers how as children, his sister eventually gave up going to school after the humiliation of being falsely called a thief in front of the entire class and teacher when a few marble balls went missing.

Years later, little has changed. Chhara had to remove his children from their school after the principal told him that because the school’s trustees belonged to the upper caste, the school had clear instructions of not admitting any children from communities that Chhara came from.

“It is not hard to guess that when something like this can happen to a man like me who has won national and international awards, what would the fate and plight of others belonging to our communities be.”

 

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Civil Society Leading Covid-19 Mask Campaign in South Asia – Podcast

Civil society leading Covid-19 mask campaign in South Asia

Civil society leading Covid-19 mask campaign in South Asia

By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Jul 30 2021 – Footage of flames engulfing bodies at makeshift funeral pyres and stories of people dying in cars as drivers desperately raced from hospital to hospital seeking a bed. These scenes marked the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India just months ago.

Nepal was similarly walloped: staff turned away people at intensive care units and patients attached to oxygen cylinders were being treated in parking lots. Other South Asian countries were less affected but overall Covid-19 has officially killed 450,000 people in the region since 2020.

 

 

With vaccines expected to arrive painfully slowly in coming months—India for example has fully vaccinated just 6% of its population, Nepal 4% and Pakistan 2%—mask wearing needs to be the priority, says the guest on today’s episode of Strive.

Maha Rehman is Policy Director at the Mahbub ul Haq Research Centre at Lahore University of Management Sciences, in Pakistan. She is also a leader of the NORM mask-wearing intervention taking place in four countries in the region, and beyond. She describes NORM’s early success in Bangladesh and how finding a way to embed the programme in local communities in each of these very different countries will be key.

If you enjoyed this first episode of Strive, please help spread the word by rating or reviewing the show on Apple podcasts. You can also subscribe, follow or favourite Strive on any podcast app.

Stay up-to-date with us between episodes on Twitter and Facebook. If you have something to say to me directly email me at mlogan@ipsnews.net.

Resources

 

Civil Society Leading Covid-19 Mask Campaign in South Asia - Podcast

Dickey's Barbecue Pit Expands to Pakistan

Dallas, Texas, July 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Lahore, Pakistan is open. The Texas Style barbecue restaurant features Short Ribs, Lamb Shank and Beef Sausages.

Representatives Azam Bhatti and Mazhar Zaidi from the A.J. Corporation inked their master franchise agreement with Dickey's Barbecue Pit to develop Pakistan's first American–based barbecue franchise and bring true, Texas–style barbecue to Pakistan. "We are so proud to be expanding Internationally and offer slow–smoked meats and sausages in Pakistan" says Roland Dickey Jr. Chief Executive Officer of Dickey's Capital Group.

"Dickey's Barbecue Pit is proud of the work Mazhar Ziadi, our master partner in Pakistan has done to drive the opening of our first location in Pakistan, Islamabad." Says Jim Perkins, Executive Vice President of International Sales and Support for Dickey's Barbecue Pit. "Under normal conditions opening a first location in a distant land is based on commitment and teamwork. Mazhar and his team forged forward under extreme Covid19 conditions and opens our Flagship store in Pakistan, I am proud of him, his team, and Dickey's Regional Manager in Dubai, Mansoor Saeed who made this available to the guests in Pakistan". Adds Perkins.

Since the barbecue chain opened their first overseas locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2018, this new deal now marks the 6th international location for the world's largest barbecue concept who plans on opening in Cairo, Egypt in August of 2021.

The A.J. Corporation acquired full franchising rights for Pakistan that includes a total development of 20 stores spread out over the next 10 years and plans to offer a variety of menu items, delivery, and catering options at their first location.

"We have a love for barbecue, because of its unique taste and we are excited to introduce Pakistan to Dickey's Legit. Texas. Barbecue.," says Azam Bhatti, founder of the A.J. Corporation. The 2,300 square foot restaurant is open from 11am until midnight.

To learn more, about Dickey's Franchise opportunities, click HERE. Follow Dickey's Franchise infomation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Download the Dickey's Barbecue Pit app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

About Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants, Inc.

Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants, Inc., the world's largest barbecue concept, was founded in 1941 by Travis Dickey. For the past 80 years, Dickey's Barbecue Pit has served millions of guests Legit. Texas. Barbecue. At Dickey's, all our barbecued meats are smoked onsite in a hickory wood burning pit. Dickey's proudly believes there's no shortcut to true barbecue and it's why they never say bbq. The Dallas–based, family–run barbecue franchise offers several slow–smoked meats and wholesome sides with 'No B.S. (Bad Stuff)' included. The fast–casual concept has expanded worldwide with international locations in the UAE and Japan. Dickey's Restaurant brands have over 550 locations nationwide. In 2016, Dickey's won first place on Fast Casual's "Top 100 Movers and Shakers" list, was named a Top 500 Franchise by Entrepreneur in 2018 and was named to Hospitality Technology Industry Heroes in 2021. Led by CEO Laura Rea Dickey, who was named among the country's 50 most influential women in foodservice in 2020 by Nation's Restaurant News and was recognized as one of the top 25 industry leaders on Fast Casual's 2020 Top 100 Movers and Shakers list, Dickey's Barbecue Pit has also been recognized by Fox News, Forbes Magazine, Franchise Times, The Wall Street Journal and QSR Magazine. For more information, visit www.dickeys.com.

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Kenya’s Huge Railway Project Is Causing Environmental Damage. Here’s How

View of Standard Gauge Railway, at Mlolongo from Nairobi National Park, Kenya. Credit: Backrop Ke / Flickr

View of Standard Gauge Railway, at Mlolongo from Nairobi National Park, Kenya. Credit: Backrop Ke / Flickr

By External Source
NAIROBI, Jul 29 2021 – Kenya is constructing a railway line that connects the coastal port of Mombasa and the interior of the country. It is expected to terminate at Malaba, a town on the border with Uganda, and link up with other railways that are being built in East Africa. It’s locally known as the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

The passenger and freight railway line is one of the biggest infrastructure investments in Kenya’s history. Construction began in 2014 at an estimated cost of US$3.8 billion, 90% of which is supplied by a loan from the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China and 10% from the Kenyan government.

Although the actual land area affected by the railway itself is small, parts of it are raised and it cuts through a wide range of the country’s ecologically fragile and important ecosystems. For instance, the railway cuts across Tsavo Conservation Area (which supports about 40% of Kenya’s elephant population) and the Nairobi National Park. It also traverses range lands in southern Kenya that support pastoral communities and are vulnerable to the impacts of climate and changes in land use.

My colleagues and I carried out a study to gain insights into all the impacts the railway was having on the environment.

The construction of the railway is being done in three phases. The first two phases (now completed) cover 610km. The third phase is still under construction. Our study focused along the entire stretch of the first two phases, covering eight counties from Mombasa to Narok.

Map of the railway corridor.

The project involves many stakeholders including various levels of government (such as the National Environment Management Authority and Kenya Wildlife Service), local communities, civil society organisations and the private sector. For our study, we hosted group interviews and meetings with 54 key informants from all these sectors.

We found that the construction and operation of the railways has degraded, fragmented and destroyed key ecosystems. It increased soil erosion, land degradation, flooding and habitat destruction. It also affected water bodies and wildlife movement.

Environmental impact assessments for the railway were conducted, and these are of an international standard. The final reports, which included recommendations, were written to facilitate licensing by the National Environment Management Authority, the government regulator.

However, it’s become clear that the recommendations weren’t fully implemented. Several observers identified a lack of funding, technical capacity and political interference as some of the barriers.

Project proponents must develop measures that properly mitigate the key ecosystem challenges and ensure they’re enforced.

 

Impact on land

Participants in our study identified that the railway line had an impact on soil, water and air contamination, during construction and operation of the line.

During construction, soil was compacted and excavated. It was also moved from one location to another to erect embankments. This has many effects on the environment. For instance, Community Forest Association officials (around the coastal mangrove forests in Mombasa) observed that sediment, eroded from the rail embankments, affected streams and plants. They said that:

not only did it affect mangroves seed development and self-germination but also blocked streams and reduced the stream size…

Another challenge was that underpasses were built to allow for movement under the railway. This is because the railway is raised. But these underpasses redirected surface water and rainfall courses. Respondents from Narok county observed that this led to erosion, leading to the siltation of water sources, including Lake Magadi – a unique saline, alkaline lake which is surrounded by wildlife and a major source of trona. This is a sodium carbonate compound that is processed into soda ash or bicarbonate of soda.

Another impact was the blasting of land for construction material. Communities around Nairobi said that this caused tremors, sometimes causing buildings to crack.

 

Flooding

Floods have been a major challenge. To avoid cutting through the railway embankments, contractors rerouted natural surface water flows (such as streams) to the underpasses.

But this led to increases in the volume and speed of the water flow which caused flooding and soil erosion. This was compounded by the clearing of surrounding vegetation, which would usually slow water down.

In Voi, county officials explained how storm water flooded low lying homesteads and farms during heavy rains.

A blocked river in Kitengela.

In addition, silt from construction led to the blockage or drying up of rivers, notably the Empakashe and Mbagathi rivers around Nairobi. Most communities in these areas rely on the rivers for domestic consumption, watering their livestock and irrigation agriculture.

 

Pollution

Another concern was oil spills. These occurred due to fuel transport accidents and because of train and railway maintenance activities.

For instance, local officials in Kibwezi County said that an oil spill polluted the Thange River. Now the river can’t be used for irrigation or domestic purposes. The land in the affected area is still unsafe for cultivation.

Noise pollution was also reported during construction and operation of the railway, particularly in the areas around Nairobi and Voi. Some communities were unable to sleep and school classes were disrupted due to the noise levels.

Dust pollution was an additional challenge. There were reports of coughs and chest pain.

Communities relying on wetlands and rivers in Voi, Kibwezi, Tuala and Narok areas lost access to some of these critical resources, and the long-term prospects are unclear.

An additional impact of the railway was the emergence of illegal activities, such as grazing in protected areas.

Officials of the Kenya Wildlife Service observed that:

local communities {were} using the underpasses to pass their livestock through to Tsavo National Park particularly around Buchuma gate.

The livestock incursions resulted in serious soil degradation in the southern part of Tsavo East.

Wildlife was also affected. About 120km of the line traverses through a key wildlife area, Kenya’s Tsavo National Park.

We learnt that elephants displayed early signs of behavioural modification. This included aggression and avoidance of the railway area.

These are consistent with behavioural adaptations observed among other species which shift their home ranges or alter their movement patterns due to infrastructure.

 

What next

Linear infrastructure projects like the railway must develop sustainable and ecologically sensitive measures to mitigate these impacts.

For example, underpasses must be at the right density and of the right size. At present, the underpasses are few and are located in areas not used regularly by wildlife.

In addition, water courses should be channelled and redirected to avoid flooding.

Furthermore another full assessment, involving all stakeholders, is needed of the environmental impacts of the railway. This is key to designing a sustainable railway. It must ensure that development gains are maximised while the ecosystem impacts are minimised.The Conversation

Tobias Nyumba, Post Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Nairobi

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Revamped UN System Crucial for a Changing World

By Trevor Page
LETHBRIDGE, Canada, Jul 29 2021 – From an international humanitarian perspective, the first half of 2021 has been disappointing. We’re no further ahead in ending the conflict in Syria and Yemen. From the fledgling democracy that it had become, Myanmar has descended into what most of its people had hoped was a bygone era of military rule. And in Ethiopia, where its Prime Minister, Ably Ahmed, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, armed conflict in Tigray is preventing the 2020 winners of the very same prize, the World Food Programme, from delivering the food needed to stop at least 350,000 Ethiopians from starving to death.

Trevor Page

These are not the only conflicts raging in 2021. There are many in Africa and a few still linger on in Asia and South America. And once again, Afghanistan, the country that defied Alex the Great, the Brits, the Russians and now the Americans and NATO, is set to move center stage on the humanitarian front.

Since its founding in 1945, Canada has always looked to the United Nations to head off armed conflict and to alleviate the human suffering that it causes. That includes preventing the use of hunger as a weapon of war. Canada’s contribution to UN peacebuilding has dropped considerably since 1970, when its proposal for 0.7% of a donor country’s GNI was accepted as the target for foreign aid. Nevertheless, it is still among the top five donors to the World Food Programme. Canadians expect the UN to do its job.

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres and WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, have repeatedly warned that unless war and armed conflict is ended, people could starve to death in several countries. They have appealed to the leaders of opposing sides and those fighting proxy wars to let UN humanitarians and their NGO partners do their job. In early February 2021, soon after the fighting started in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, David Beasley visited Addis Ababa. He was assured that immediate access to Tigray would be granted for WFP and other humanitarian workers, as well as safe passage for its convoys of food aid trucks. Well, that didn’t happen for months. The first WFP plane with humanitarian workers only landed in Makelle, Tigray’s capital, on July 22. As for the convoys of WFP food aid trucks, they’re frequently attacked or blocked en route and don’t have anything like free passage.

So why is the UN so ineffective at ending conflicts, or even getting access granted for humanitarian supplies? It’s all to do with the principles on which the UN was founded: noninterference in the internal affairs of sovereign States. So, are UN humanitarians just supposed to stand by when a government decides to attack and kill off some of its citizens, or let large numbers starve to death when famine looms? No, not since the World Summit of 2005, when governments unanimously adopted R2P or the Responsibility to Protect.

In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan insisted that the traditional notions of sovereignty had been redefined: “States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their peoples”, he argued. In his report “We the People” on the role of the United Nations in the 21st Century, he posed the following question: “If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?”

Yet despite the widespread human suffering in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar and Ethiopia, the Responsibility to Protect has not been invoked. More work needs to be done on R2P, including an expansion of its scope. So too on “humanitarian intervention”, which does not always require the deployment of foreign forces to mitigate human suffering. And the voluntary agreement by P5 Security Council members (Britain, China, France Russia and the United States) to withhold their veto power when resolutions to stop genocide and crimes against humanity are being considered is another ad hoc effort to prevent the wholesale slaughter of humankind. But with more and more ordinary people around the world standing up and making it known to their governments that crimes against humanity and dying from starvation is not acceptable, it is clear that the piecemeal approach that we’ve cobbled together over the last half-century falls well short of today’s expectations. A total overhaul and reorganization of the UN humanitarian system is required as a first step.

In September, when the UN General Assembly reconvenes, Antonio Guterres will be reconfirmed as UN Secretary General. For the next 5 years, he will have the opportunity to bring about some the changes to the UN System that he keeps speaking about without having to worry if any of the P5 will oppose his second term in office. He will have to move fast on Agenda 2030, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. With less than a decade to go, these are far from being attained. We must reduce inequality; it’s a major cause of conflict.

Covid-19 is the biggest challenge the world has faced since the Spanish Flu, a century ago. It has affected everyone and everything we do. It has increased the number of food insecure people around the world by149 million, according to WFP; so close on 1 billion of us now go to bed hungry. And despite anti-Covid vaccines having been developed in record time, variants will keep emerging and we’ll be playing catch-up for years to come.

Climate change, an even bigger challenge, is already on us and is set to intensify. Extreme weather has devastated parts of north-western America and neighbouring Canada this Spring resulting in unbearably high heat and wildfires. Abnormal floods in China and Germany have resulted in unusually high mortality and devastated towns and cities in both countries.

So, while 2021 will end up as a disappointing year for multilateralists, the challenges that lie ahead in 2022 and beyond will be even greater. Despite the odds, UN humanitarians and their NGO partners have already saved many lives in 2021. But years of experience show that a revamped United Nations System is critical if we are to deal effectively with the challenges of the 21st century.

Trevor Page, resident in Lethbridge, Canada, is a former Director of the World Food Programme. He also served with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR and what is now the UN Department of Political and Peace Building Affairs.

 


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