Somalia-Construction-Rebuild

Things are looking up for the Somali capital of Mogadishu as the sound of gunfire has recently been replaced by that of construction. Many from the diaspora are finally returning home to rebuild Somalia. As described by journalist Laila Ali of the Guardian, “New buildings and business are emerging from the carnage and lawlessness that pervaded the east African country for more than two decades.”

Many people who fled in the midst of the chaos are now choosing to return home, which has caused the demand for property to skyrocket. Mursal Mak, a British-Somali property developer who is returned after 22 years, has been following the increasing business opportunities. “Real estate is booming in Mogadishu” he says. “This evening I had a meeting with a client and he said ‘Mogadishu is becoming like Manhattan or central London; you are talking incredible prices when it comes to property.’”

Land rights have become sticky, however, with so much land unregistered or with ownership that cannot be confirmed. At times, people take the risk of buying land at half of its value for cases where ownership is unclear. But this has not seemed to disrupt the surge of buying and developing. From grand beach hotels to commercial banks, many from the diaspora are returning home in hopes of rebuilding business in Somalia.

Omar Osman is another Somali who has returned home to set up an internet company, Somalia Wireless, in hopes of increasing connectivity for the growing private sector. He explains, “We are trying to advocate the setting up of business to be as smooth as possible, because, ultimately, the growth of business will translate into job creation and prevent youngsters from being idle and walking into terrorism. Investing and making money is not the goal. The goal is to create jobs, do something to benefit the masses and make life better for every Somali.”

– Shannon Keith

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Laila Ali

UNICEF India 2_opt
India has organized a national summit on Call to Action for Child Survival and Development from February 7th to 9th. Held in Mahabalipuram, the summit brought together both national and international experts, policy makers, as well as representatives of developmental agencies including the UN, to assess challenges and work toward achieving India’s development goals.

India is the regional front-runner when it comes to social entrepreneurship and its rapid advances in the health sector, specifically in dealing with maternal and child mortality rates. The summit additionally presents the need to build upon this great momentum both locally and globally. Since the 1990s, India’s maternal mortality rate has dropped by more than 50 percent, while its child mortality rate has reduced by 45 percent.

The United States government has pledged its support for India’s Call to Action initiative. USAID has been actively working with the government of India in its development undertakings, especially eradicating preventable child deaths. USAID is now initiating the Country Development Cooperation Strategy, which will focus on fostering partnerships locally and work towards co-funding rather than fully funding agreements in support of the efforts for finding solutions for child survival.

USAID expressed its commitment to this effort voicing, “An investment in India’s children is an investment in India’s future.”

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: USAID
Photo: UNICEF India

Billionaires_end_poverty_Warren_buffett
According to Oxfam, an international NGO committed to fighting poverty, the money made by the world’s top 100 billionaires in the last year alone could end global poverty four times over.

Oxfam asserts that the wealth amassed by the world’s richest is encouraging inequality and deepening a divide between those in abject poverty and the rest of the world – making it even more difficult to end poverty once and for all. They assert that the world’s rich are getting richer at the expense of those in extreme poverty, and that the $240 billion that was collected in 2012 by the wealthiest 100 billionaires could end global poverty four times over.

Although a few American billionaires have already pledged to donate much of their wealth back into the public sphere, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the exact figure has not been disclosed, and foreign billionaires have not made any such pledge to match those given by Gates and Buffet.

The Chief Executive for Oxfam GB Barbara Stocking cites a report that will be unveiled at the upcoming World Economic Forum. The report, titled “The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt Us All”, found that within the last 20 years, the wealthiest 1% have increased their wealth by 60%. Stocking points out that this trend has led to extreme poverty as low-income earners have taken home an even smaller share of the total income as the rich get richer, which has also stifled growth and investment.

The report states that this trend has affected even Westernized countries, citing levels of high income inequality in the UK and South Africa. The report points out that top earners in China own over 60% of the overall income, similar to the situation in South Africa, where income inequality has risen even past levels seen at the end of apartheid.

Income inequality also persists across the United States, where the portion of total national income going to the top 1% has doubled within the last 30 years – the top 1% now take home 20% of the national income.

Oxfam is urging global leaders to committ to lowering income inequality levels to those seen in the 1990s, and Stocking asserts that doing away with tax havens, which reportedly would create $189 billion in additional tax revenues, would help alleviate the problem.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have taken a similar stance, saying that income inequality hinders development and growth, and say that they aim to fund projects that limit the perpetual cycle of inequality.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: The Guardian

syria water
The conflict in Syria, which began in 2011, has left over four million people in need of humanitarian aid. The current shortage of sanitary water supplies is producing grave repercussions on children’s health. UNICEF, coordinating with other organizations including the Syrian Aran Red Crescent and the Ministry of Water Resources, is working to provide sanitary water supplies for over 10 million people.

Access to safe water supplies has grown increasingly difficult as chlorine supplies in Syria have significantly declined. Shortage of clean water greatly increases the risk of contracting water-borne diseases, including diarrhea. The effects are most detrimental to children, whose systems are not as able to bear the strain.

On February 3rd, 80 tons of sodium hypochlorite water chlorination supplies were been delivered to Syria through the Jordanian border. UNICEF will transport 1,000 tons of chlorine to regions across Syria over the coming weeks.

At the same time, the World Health Organization, co-signing an agreement with Saudi Arabia, will donate medicines and medical equipments worth $2.1 million, which will assist over 3 million people and last the period of a year.

Relieving the shortage of medicines, waste management, and the lack of clean water supplies are the three foremost steps to humanitarian aid in Syria; the international community has pledged more than $1.5 billion for this cause.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: UN
Photo: Reuters

It’s always encouraging when those who have so much, give to those who have so little. David Beckham, an international celebrity and professional footballer, made a unique announcement upon signing with a new football league. He will give all of his salary to charity.

Beckham recently left the LA Galaxy team and has now signed a five-month contract with France’s Paris St. Germain (PSG) league. One of the special conditions that he and the team decided on was that all his earnings would go to a local charity in Paris, helping children. He has said the choice has made him very excited and proud to make the move to France, and it is one of the reasons he chose PSG, as many different teams were trying to sign him. No details have been given to the exact dollar amount, but Beckham said it would be a “huge sum.”

Every time an example is given of the super wealthy giving away money to charity, it gives precedent and pressure to all others in the same unique position, to take action and make real change in the world.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Sky News
Video: You Tube

Super Bowl Blackout

About 108 million people watched this year’s Super Bowl. That means that about 108 million people got to enjoy the half hour blackout of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. For more than thirty minutes, a viewing public that was greater than the population of Rhode Island was focusing on the lack of power in the stadium. In case you’ve missed it, the Super Bowl blackout was a big deal.

While those in the stadium panicked at not having power for a half hour, much of the world, as of 2003 an estimated 1.6 billion people, live without access to electricity in their daily lives. In the United States, we use electricity for so many things in our day-to-day life, phones, lighting, charging products, cooking and more, to live without it seems unimaginable. Thankfully, the world has changed a lot since 2003, with more and more people gaining access to electricity in their homes or in community centers and clinics around the world. This shift has increased standards of living, production, and education everywhere.

As of 2009, roughly 1.3 billion people still lived without access to electricity according to the group World Energy Outlook. As that number slowly gets smaller, we have to keep in mind that it is an issue, something that is often difficult to remember when the only time we really worry about power in our lives is when we need to charge our phones or pay the bills.

Hopefully, those thirty minutes of Super Bowl chaos will have made people think a little more carefully about the lack of energy access around the world, and inspire them take action on this cause.

– Kevin Sullivan

Sources:PolicyMic,Global Issues,World Energy Outlook
Photo:Digital Trends

malala-fund-created-to-support-girls-education
In October 2012, the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old girl, for speaking up about women’s rights and education. She survived the brutal attempt on her life and in response, became determined to help every child in the world receive an education. To help make this dream a reality, she started the Malala Fund.

The Malala Fund was created with the help of an already established non-profit, Vital Voices, which encourages women’s empowerment and leadership. The Malala Fund’s aim is to support education for children across the globe.

Since the attempt on her life, much of the world has stood up in support of Malala. She even had a song titled Ricochet (Malala’s Song) written about her by a girl named Samantha Anne Martin; all of the profit created from the song on iTunes will go towards the Malala Fund. On February 4th, Malala released a video stating that she was still alive and doing well after various surgeries, and that now she will dedicate her life to serving girls across the world who need her and need help attaining an education.

Malala’s father has told ABC that he believes his daughter should serve as an inspiration to the children of the world. Perhaps he is right, because despite the fact she almost died for supporting the right woman to receive an education, she has become even more committed to the cause following her recovery.

Two important organizations, The United Nations Foundation and Girl Up, have given their support to the Malala Fund and her cause. Some militants still wish to harm Malala but nonetheless, Malala has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and remains optimistic.

To donate to the Malala Fund, see the Democracy in Action webpage.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: ABC News, Vital Voices, New York Times
Photo: The Daily Beast

quebec-and-its-Potential-International-Aid-Agency
Recently, Quebec and its potential international aid agency has become a hot news topic. Quebec is considering the creation of its own foreign aid agency with its allotted share of the Canadian budget for International Development during the most recent elections.

If Quebec and its potential international aid agency become a reality, it would loosen its ties to the rest of Canada. Parti Quebecois is a political party in Quebec that aims to move away from its connections to Canada to make Quebec its own state. Overall, Quebec’s government, an opposition to Canada’s Conservative party, believes that Canada’s foreign aid programs have been “tainted” by the Conservatives. Therefore, Quebec’s independent foreign aid budget becomes highly tangible.

Quebec has already shown progress on research and development into the definition and function of the new department. The government has demonstrated its full intentions by hiring several of Quebec’s developers to take on the job. A committee report is expected at the end of 2013 to give more updates on the project, which will be run by the Quebec Association for International Solidarity.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Macleans, Winnipeg Free Press
Photo: CTV News

Displaced-Congo

On Wednesday, U.N. officials and diplomats reported that a peace deal could be signed this month and end two decades of conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The resurging violence in the Congo has forced communities from Rwanda and Uganda to periodically relocate for nearly 20 years. Last May, Red Cross Workers registered close to 3,000 displaced people in one week.

A lasting peace deal between the Congolese government and the rebels would save these communities from further displacement.

African leaders did not sign the deal last week because of a dispute over the command of a newly created regional force that will fight armed groups operating in the eastern Congo.

Herve Ladsous, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said the brigade would be under the same command as the regular United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission’s (MONUSCO) troops. The regular MONUSCO troops conduct patrols and support the Congolese security forces

South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique; 3 out of 15 member states in the South African Development Community (SADC), argue the enforcement brigade should have its own command separate from MONUSCO. The diplomats of these three countries note the failure of MONUSCO’s current command in the 11 day occupation of the eastern city Goma by M23 rebels.

Ladsous said on Tuesday that all key countries seem ready to sign the deal. He did not state when or where it would be finalized, though discussions have considered mid-February in Africa. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may be present.

If approved by the U.N. Security Council, the deal would include a three-pronged mandate to prevent the growth of armed groups in the eastern Congo and to disarm them.  Unmanned surveillance drones would also track armed militias that are difficult to detect.

U.N. officials said that the creation of an enforcement brigade and the drones within a peacekeeping mission is new for the United Nations. But, U.N. officials insist that an increase in U.N. military activity is not enough to end the fighting without a signed peace agreement between Kinshasa and its neighbors in eastern Congo.

Promisingly, the Congolese government has been negotiating with the M23 rebels, and last week the rebels said they wanted to sign a peace deal with Kinshasa by the end of February.

Kasey Beduhn

Sources: Reuters, allAfrica
Photo: Press TV

Child Marriage
Nobel laureate and anti-apartheid icon Archbishop, Desmond Tutu; former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson; former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland; and social activist Ela Bhatt will work together to eradicate the high rates of child marriage in Bihar, India.

Their initiative, Girls Not Bridges, has connected 80 civil society organizations based throughout the world.

Bhatt drew several conclusions after speaking with local people about child marriage. “We have discussed with all including women, children and youths about child marriage, all of them described it a bad practice,” Bhatt said.

Robinson said the local opposition to child marriage was beneficial for the development of their campaign against child marriage. “It is a positive development to encourage people to join the campaign,” Robinson said.

Internationally, approximately 10 million girls are married before turning 18 each year. If this rate does not slow, 100 million girls under 18 will be married by 2020.

In Bihar, girls are typically married off at a young age. Most are unable, as well as unprepared, to have children of their own. Early marriages result in early childbearing, resulting in frequently premature and underweight infants. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are also common.

Moreover, girls who marry young often don’t receive an education. This is a detriment to the Millennium Development Goal of attaining universal education.

In Bihar, UNICEF works to ensure that girls are educated. For instance, Nari Gunjan, one of UNICEF’s partners in education, with the help of Sister Sudha Varghese, started a learning center in India. This learning center provided many girls with access to education that they were previously denied.

Several of these girls were able to write their own autobiographical essays from the education they had received at the centre. Rinku Kumari wrote about her early marriages and lack of education. Her father married her to a boy from a neighboring village when she was only 15 years old.

“I was keen to study right from my childhood but there was no opportunity.  It was only when a Nari Gunjan centre opened in my village that I joined it with the permission of my father,” Rinku wrote.

However, Kumari’s husband did not allow her to attend school for long. “Though my mother-in-law allowed me to attend classes at the centre, my husband stopped me from going there.  He threatened to break my legs if I disobeyed him,” Rinku wrote.

Buna Devi was 13 years old when she was married off. “When I went to the Centre, my neighbors would comment, “Look at this old woman with two children.  She is going to study now, at this age!”  I never replied to them but silently pursued my goal,” she wrote.

Hopefully, Girls Not Bridges will help UNICEF ensure that girls like Rinku and Buna aren’t married off so young, but instead are able to receive an education.

Kasey Beduhn

Source: UNICEF, rediff News
Photo: Thoughtful India