Archive for October 2011

SECURING HAITI’S RAPE SURVIVORS POST-CATASTROPHE

October 20, 2011

SECURING HAITI’S RAPE SURVIVORS POST-CATASTROPHE

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

In case people think that Haiti has already recovered from the catastrophe it encountered just over a year ago, think again. There are still too many tent relief centers in the country, most of which are run by the IOM or International Organization for Migration.

Tent centers are deteriorating as update reports have revealed. Worst, girls normally get raped right inside their own tents. Sex trade might just rise across the coming weeks as a way to daily survival.

What happened to the global enthusiasm that was demonstrated in support of Haiti at the height of the catastrophe there? Is this a sign of the ‘bushfire reflex’ or ningas kugon, where peoples’ interest in helping out calamity victims soon wane, revealing a subtly superficial show of compassion?

Below is an update report on pro-active response in aid of rape victims in Haiti.

[Philippines, 21 October 2011]
Source: http://www.unhcr.org/4e8d98856.html
Haitian group offers safe house for rape survivors
News Stories, 6 October 2011
© UNHCR/Andres Martinez Casares
The KOFAVIV safe house offers business training to survivors of rape and forced prostitution in Haiti.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, October 6 (UNHCR) – Shirley* seems like a typical young woman – energetic, excited and hopeful. Her smile is contagious and her voice clear and strong. However, when she begins to share the horrors she has experienced, her voice drops and her gaze turns downward.
The 20-year-old lost her mother and aunt in the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. With no place to go, she moved into one of the sprawling tent camps in the capital, Port-au-Prince. One night she came back to her tent to escape the rain. A man approached her and asked to go inside. She said he hit her and pushed her into the tent: “He threw me to the ground and raped me. After that I was haemorrhaging for a month.”
Explaining further, she said, “The tents are not secure. Anyone with a razor or knife can cut the tent and come inside. There are no walls and no protection and before you know it someone is there in your tent.”
Her ordeal is not unique. Twenty months after the catastrophic earthquake, conditions in Haiti continue to deteriorate. Today, there are nearly 1,000 makeshift camps across Haiti and approximately 600,000 internally displaced people.
The International Organization for Migration manages most of the camps, but fading international interest has affected the humanitarian community’s ability to provide assistance. Women are particularly vulnerable in the camps, where there is little to no privacy, security or lighting. UN reports indicate sexual violence against women is occurring at alarming rates.
“Sixty-five per cent of the victims are minors,” said Jocie Philistin, a director of a local non-governmental organization known as KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims). “Since the earthquake we have been seeing more children, minors and babies aged one to 17 months who have been raped.” The NGO’s findings reflect a recent Amnesty International study that showed 50 per cent of rape victims were young girls.
In addition to having to live in unsafe conditions, Shirley had no way to pay for her basic expenses. She said her only way to make money was to become involved in survival sex. “After the earthquake there was a system where you could get food but you had to sleep with the guys who were in charge of the food, even though it had been given out by the government. So a lot of young women were forced into prostitution to survive,” she said.
As one of several organizations supporting the humanitarian efforts in Haiti, UNHCR interviewed women from 15 camps. They all reported that survival sex was a serious but invisible problem in their camps. With no gainful employment opportunities and widespread despair, Haitian women often feel there is no other option to access the food and water they and their children desperately need.
One woman living in a camp near the airport noted, “There was a girl who lived near me. She was raped. She had no parents and no one to defend her. That girl had no place to stay because she came from the provinces. She begged for money, but no one gave her what she needed. She had to turn to selling herself, and that was a form of sexual violence.”
To help combat widespread sexual violence in the camps, KOFAVIV has trained dozens of community outreach workers to locate victims and provide them with much needed services.
UNHCR is working with KOFAVIV to run one of the few safe house projects in Haiti for survivors of rape and forced prostitution in Port-au-Prince. Over the course of three months, the women receive shelter, health training, psychological support and business training. After they start to earn their own money, they will be moved to longer-term housing and supported as they continue to get back on their feet. This month (September) UNHCR chief António Guterres visited the safe house project and encouraged the local staff to continue their efforts.
Shirley is one of 15 women chosen to take part the project. Her nightmare ended in June when she finally moved out of the camp into the safe house. For the first time in over a year and a half, she has a bedroom door with a lock.
“Now I have a safe and secure place and a new family,” she said, smiling at the thought of returning to school and starting a small shoe business. Grateful for the help she’s received, she is also working with KOFAVIV to provide support to other rape survivors.
* Name changed for protection reasons
By Charity Tooze in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
With field reporting by Sarah Ahmed
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GREEN ECONOMY, POOR NATIONS: COMPATIBLE?

October 20, 2011

GREEN ECONOMY, POOR NATIONS: COMPATIBLE?

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Is development ‘take off’ of poor nations compatible with the green economy goal?

Poor nations refer to economies with per capita income of below US $1,000 per year. At least 30% of their families subsist in incomes of less than US$2 per day. Can its policy makers and market players even think of greening—energy sources, manufacturing, services—when their scarce resources must be used for providing jobs to the poor folks?

China, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam have ceased to be poor nations, as they have all graduated to middle income economy status. They are the ‘emerging markets’ of today, the growth drivers and saviors of the global economy. They are tops with regards to crafting enabling policies for green economy, investments in green energy and greening other sectors of their respective economy. Will poor nations be able to follow their paths?

Below is a discussion on the subject matter, culled from the SciDev.net.

[Philippines, 21 October 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/climate-change-and-energy/news/poor-nations-need-to-find-own-path-to-green-economy-.html

Poor nations ‘need to find own path to green economy’
T.V. Padma
6 October 2011
[NEW DELHI] Developing countries should be given ‘policy space’ to tailor policies on the transition to a green economy that match their development priorities, an international meeting has heard.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and national priorities should define each country’s strategy for environmentally friendly growth, environment ministers and senior officials of more than 40 countries told a meeting organised by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) and India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests in New Delhi this week (3–4 October).
The Delhi ministerial dialogue — one of several events feeding into a major UNCSD conference on sustainable development, Rio+20, to be held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — focused on the issue of creating green economies in the context of poverty eradication, sustainable development and inclusive growth in developing countries.
Delegates from developing countries expressed several concerns, such as the varying interpretations of what ‘green economy’ means for different stakeholders. For developed countries it implies a low-carbon growth model, even if it involves high-end, costly technologies, whereas developing countries view green economies as sustainable, natural-resource based livelihoods.
“There is a fuzzy concept of green economy and the near- to medium-term implications for developing countries and least-developed countries to transition to a green economy,” Tariq Ahmad Karim, Bangladesh’s high commissioner in India, told the meeting.
A second concern centred on integrating food and energy security with green economy strategies, especially against the backdrop of climate change. Moving to greener models of agriculture depends on the transfer of, and financial support for, green technologies to enhance productivity, improve resilience and diversify production systems, delegates said.
Similarly, moves to a green economy should address the issue of increasing access to clean energy for the poor and achieving universal electricity access by 2030, they said.
A third concern was that developed countries should not resort to ‘green protectionism’ or impose trade barriers such as high tariffs on goods whose production is based on technologies with high carbon emissions.
Another area of concern was the transfer of affordable, sustainable technologies from developed countries when developing countries do not benefit from technologies for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Sha Zukang, UN’s under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs and secretary-general for Rio+20, said afterwards that delegates had “not resolved all issues” or achieved consensus on the costs and benefits of moves to green economies.
One unresolved issue is a proposal by delegates from Colombia and Guatemala that the Rio+20 conference should develop ‘sustainable development goals’ along the lines of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
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CAMBODIA DEVELOPMENT THRU INFRASTRUCTURES ON THE GO!

October 20, 2011

CAMBODIA DEVELOPMENT THRU INFRASTRUCTURES ON THE GO!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Cambodia is no longer Khmer Rouge country, though there are indeed old habits that die out so slowly in the minds of other peoples such as the thought that Cambodia is so fearsome a place to live in.

Economic development is pursuing at a normal rate in the war-torn country. Thanks to the high presence of international aid groups and agencies, the decimation of the country’s intellectuals by the Khmer Rogue—who were Manchurian Candidates of evil operators of Elites based in Washington, DC—was filled up with noble substitution.

Below is an update report about a new bridge in operation in the hinterlands of the once miserable land. As a fellow from ASEAN, I watch with sympathy and commiserate with Cambodians over their willful efforts to build a modern, prosperous nation.

[Philippines, 20 October 2011]
Source: http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/ourwork/democraticgovernance/successstories/new_bridge_improveslinkslivelihoodsforcambodianvillages.html
New bridge improves links, livelihoods for Cambodian villages
When 26-year-old So Phorn gave birth to her first child three years ago it took her two strenuous hours on a motorbike, a ferry and a rickshaw to get to the nearest health centre in the neighbouring commune of Beoung Preav, in south-western Cambodia.
Following completion six months ago of a joint international project that built a concrete bridge crossing the 40-metre wide Kampong Sdam River, So Phorn now has a 30-minute trip to deliver her second child at the same hospital.
The new bridge—a partnership between the two local governments, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union—is directly improving the lives of 10,000 residents of the Chroy Svay and Boeung Preav communes, separated by the river.
Highlights
• The Inter-Commune Cooperation project is working to strengthen local governance in Cambodia and better serve rural communities.
• The ICC grants US$1.8 million each year to fund projects that cross commune boundaries and has implemented over 260 projects since 2006.
• ICC projects have built roads, bridges and schools in remote communities and respond to women’s needs and environmental issues.
“It used to be very difficult without a bridge,” said Neng Chhun, a 31-year-old father of six who runs a home-based grocery store in Chroy Svay and regularly crosses the river to the neighbouring village where he replenishes his stock.
Chhun and other residents recalled that a preceding bridge had fallen into a state of disrepair and was so unstable that few locals would take the risk of mounting the rickety structure even when it was urgent that they reach the other side.
Two boats joined together by a wooden platform acted as the quickest alternative for motorcyclists and pedestrians. The ferry charged a one-way fee equivalent to US$0.12, a price out of reach of many in a country where the poverty line is just about US$0.60 a day.
“A new bridge was the highest demand,” said Hay Sin, Chroy Svay’s commune chief, who initially said there was nothing he could do about the problem due to the limited budget available through his office.
In 2010, Hay Sin invited his counterpart in the neighbouring commune to pool resources and draw up a joint proposal to win funds from the UNDP/EU Inter-Commune Cooperation, an agency functioning in 12 provinces to ensure development projects of highest benefit to residents.
“We can work together to bring benefits for all the people,” said Sin after the communes received US$40,000 to build the bridge. “As commune council leaders, we should not think only about our own communities.”
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Related Links
• Project: Strengthening Democratic and Decentralized Local Governance in Cambodia
• UNDP results in Cambodia
• Human Development Report: Cambodia Country profile
UNDP in Cambodia
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MAD BOMBINGS OF UN WORKERS WON’T STOP DEVELOPMENT WORK

October 20, 2011

MAD BOMBINGS OF UN WORKERS WON’T STOP DEVELOPMENT WORK

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Mad bombings in Abuja won’t stop social development work by the UN agencies notably the United Nations Development Programme o UNDP. This is surely a most welcome move, as UN workers involved in social development have brought home results based on our experiences in PH and Asia.

 

I still recall the blog I published earlier about the Abuja bombing. After posting it,  so-called ‘liberal’ in a blog site retorted that “the UN is an evil agency.” Liberalism and conservatism are two sides of the same coin, and the dividing line between the liberal-conservative domain and fascism is a thin one. Political partisans are of the Herd mind or morons who are in fact being orchestrated from Above by the ideological operators of global Elites to continuously foment global anarchy or ‘synarchy’ and polarization.

 

True, the United Nations is being maneuvered by the Rockefeller section of the global elites, the same Rockefellers who donated the UN estate in New York. But to say that the UN is an instrument to make morons out of the non-Western participants (the global Elites are centered in the West) is to reveal the partisans’ ridiculously substandard to subhuman minds.

 

Killing social development personnel of the UN agency isn’t justified at all by the maneuverings being done by the Elites within the UN. Only Demoniacs or sociopaths would feel glorified by the deaths of true professionals and community servants in the hands of terrorists.

 

[Philippines, 20 October 2011]

 

Source: http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2011/10/05/nigeria-un-work-continues-after-bombing-says-undp-chief.html

 

Nigeria: UN work continues after bombing, says UNDP chief

05 October 2011

UNDP chief Helen Clark lays a wreath at the damaged UN headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria Tuesday on the first day of her three day official visit to Nigeria. The August 26 bomb blast killed 23 people, including 11 UN staff, and injured more than 100. (Credit: UNDP)

Abuja UNDP Chief Helen Clark met with UN staff and toured the damaged UN headquarters in Abuja yesterday on the first day of her three day official visit to Nigeria.

“These were unarmed civilians who had dedicated their lives to helping the people of Nigeria,” said Clark after she laid a wreath at the site of the bombing.  “This senseless attack will not stop our critical development work here.”

The August 26 bomb blast killed 23 people, including 11 UN staff, and injured more than 100.

“I have been very shocked, and to see the scale here today is very sobering indeed.”

Later in the day, Clark met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who expressed condolences to the UN and lauded UNDP’s work globally.  Speaking after the meeting, Helen Clark thanked the President for his support and pledged continued support to Nigeria’s development priorities, including the President’s job creation scheme.

“Nigeria has a tremendous role to play in the continent, and overcoming its challenges can be a lesson for other countries,” she said.  “With the threat of global recession, times are tough, and we will also focus our efforts on the imperative of employment, so as to fulfil the aspirations of young people.”

The President acknowledged that youth unemployment remained a challenge in Nigeria, and that by November of this year, 56% of the 166 million Nigerians will be under the age of 35.

“These young people have to acquire skills, find work, proper housing, and a place in society,” said President Jonathan. “We want every young person to create employment for 5 other young people, and thus develop a multiplier effect.  We are launching a major youth entrepreneurship program this month, and we welcome our partners’ assistance in this initiative.”

Helen Clark also met with the Minister of the National Planning Commission Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, Minister of Foreign Affairs Olugbenga Ashiru, and Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. She is accompanied by Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP Africa Bureau, Mr. Tegegnework Gettu.

Contact Information

In Abuja:
Anthony Dioka
UNDP Nigeria Communication Associate
Anthony.dioka@undp.org
Tel: +234 803 291 3085

In Dakar:
Maimouna Mills
UNDP Regional Communication Adviser
Maimouna.mills@undp.org
Tel: +234 706 860 2318 // +221 77 529 1298

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POPULATION IMPACTS CROPS LARGER THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

October 19, 2011

POPULATION IMPACTS CROPS LARGER THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

I have no fondness for Malthusian bogey perspectives about population outstripping food production. And I do scorn such fear-mongering neo-Malthusians as Paul Erlich’s nauseating ‘population bomb’ thesis.

 

Albeit, there is indeed validity to the pressure exerted by burgeoning population on limited arable lands. A study done in Africa shows the demographic factor as having greater impact on crops than the much ballyhooed climate change. However, the study didn’t go to the extent of prescribing genocide and population decimation strategies in order to return the food security situation of the past, as such mad prescriptions belong more to the Malthusians and the eco-fascists hiding under the rubric of ‘environmentalists’ or ‘greens’.

 

Below is a special report on the subject coming from the SciDev.net.

 

[Philippines, 19 October 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/agriculture-and-environment/farming-practices/news/population-has-bigger-effect-than-climate-change-on-crop-yields-study-suggests.html

Population has bigger effect than climate change on crop yields, study suggests

Bernard Appiah

4 October 2011 | EN

Climate change and population hike might mean smaller maize yields in the future

Population pressure will be as significant a factor as climate change in reducing crop yields — and thus increasing food insecurity — in West Africa, according to a modelling study.

The authors inserted different climate change, land use, and demographic change scenarios, into an internationally validated model to estimate maize yields in Benin from 2021–2050.

They found that, as the population increases, farmers frequently cultivate cropland without allowing adequate resting periods for the soil to regain its fertility — thus reducing crop yields.

Overall, they found that various land use scenarios reduced maize yields by up to 24 per cent over the period, whereas climate change scenarios reduced them by up to 18 per cent.

But beyond 2050, “climate change is most likely to be the predominant driver for crop productivity”, they concluded.

“Our main assumption [before conducting the study] was that the low-input fallow systems (which allow resting periods for ploughed, but un-seeded land) in Benin and other West African countries would not change in the near future,” said Thomas Gaiser, lead author and a researcher at the University of Bonn, Germany.

“If governments in the region introduce policies such as the promotion of the use of mineral fertilisers, then the decrease [in the amount of land left fallow] will not be as serious as that without fertilisers,” he added.

Gaiser said farmers should use mineral fertilizers or intercrop with leguminous crops to promote soil fertility and increase yields.

He added that the findings are relevant to many Sub-Saharan African countries relying on leaving land fallow for soil fertility, like Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

“I am not surprised by the findings,” said Brian Keating, the director of Sustainable Agriculture Flagship of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), based in Australia. “It is important to look at all the factors that contribute to agricultural productivity output, and not just on climate change.”

But Keating told SciDev.Net that many farming systems in West Africa yield only 20–30 per cent of what would be possible if better practices and technologies were adopted.

Temi Ologunorisa, director of the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research at Osun State University, in Nigeria, said African governments should adopt climate change adaptation strategies.

“Agriculture in Africa is about 80 per cent rain-fed, and this must change given the declining amount of rainfall,” Ologunorisa said.

The study was published in the August edition of Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

Link to abstract in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology

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PROFESSOR ERLE ARGONZA SPEAKS AT 2ND ANNUAL PH UFO CONFERENCE

October 17, 2011

PROFESSOR ERLE ARGONZA SPEAKS AT 2ND ANNUAL PH UFO CONFERENCE

Team Argonza
17 October 2011

Prof. Erle Frayne Argonza, social scientist and spiritual guru, was guest speaker recently during the 2nd Annual PH UFO Conference. Guided by the theme UFO E.T. Presence – the Philippine Link, the conference was sponsored by the UFO Society of the Philippines.

In his paper titled “Philippines-Mu, Earth Changes, Cosmic Awakening,” Prof Argonza presented the background, to wit:

Two contentions today are making ripples across the country: (a) that the Philippines is a remnant of the super-continent of Mu; and, (b) that Earth will ascend back to 4th Dimension on 12/21/12, thus ending a long epoch of 3rd dimensional Earth history. I will shed light on the interconnections of the two contentions, and liberally add mystical theses from me as a Brother of Light/Fellow of the Great White Lodge.

Accordingly, the paper’s goals were as follows:

(1) To present new mystical knowledge regarding the Philippines;
(2) To share insights concerning the place of PH in the forthcoming Planetary ascension; and,
(3) To forecast scenarios about PH changes due to the galactic & planetary changes.

Presenting fresh knowledge and insights about cosmic awakenings, Earth changes and the Philippines’ role in the ongoing changes, the guru’s talk captivated the eager audience. Questions and shared thoughts were then generated from the audience who were largely seekers and freethinkers from all over PH plus some foreigner participants who traveled all the way from overseas to attend the event.

Other resource speakers were:
• Lily Dueñas: Unlocking the Mystery: Philippines’ Extraterrestrial Links and the UFOs
• Neil Gould: Exopolitics: A World View
• Gerard Aartsen (Netherlands): UFOs Herald World Transformation
A well attended conference, with the venue (Air Force Museum) jam packed by a highly enthusiastic audience, the event was very successful. It is the country’s best conference event on the Extraterrestrial issue to date, with very notable speakers who presented papers that were well researched, thus signifying the very high level of authoritativeness on their respective topics.

The conference was characteristically Asian & Filipino in that material science and metaphysical (wisdom) discourse were combined to constitute an integrated frame for understanding the phenomenon. The transphysical factors of higher dimensions, spiritual hierarchy, cosmology and prophecy were intertwined with astrophysics, morphology, exopolitics, and futurology in regard to the “alien question.”

Dr. Jaime Lichauco, among the country’s foremost authorities on paranormal studies, came to grace the occasion. Dr. Lichauco is a professor and veteran journalist, with a regular opinion column at the topgun newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer and a radio program at the DZMM.

Also appearing to grace the occasion is entertainment industry personality Roy Alvarez. Also a high profile civil society leader with environmentalism & conservationism as his forte, Mr. Alvarez is also mystic and Initiate of the spiritual Brotherhood.

A recently constituted nongovernment organization, the UFO Society of the Philippines is led by its dynamic president Antonio Israel, businessman and emerging Ufologist. Its latest conference was held at the Philippine Air Force Museum in Villamor Airbase, MetroManila.

Links: For those who may be interested in getting involved or interact with the UFOSP, pls visit its website: http://ufosp.org

INDONESIA’S LOCAL GOVERNANCE ON REFORM TRACK

October 17, 2011

INDONESIA’S LOCAL GOVERNANCE ON REFORM TRACK

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Indonesia has the largest population in the ASEAN. It is also the economic bloc’s largest economy. Having produced many luminary minds to propel itself to grand visions of prosperity, Indonesia has emerged as the most influential Big Brother nation to its neighbors as its democracy has shown stability worth accolades.

Governance institutions in Indonesia should shore up in terms of strengthening. That means the culture of efficiency, participative culture (partnering with civil society), minimized graft, and related governance indices must improved rapidly in the next couple of years if Indonesia vies for wealth nation status within the bloc and exert leadership in the ASEAN.

Local governance reforms are incidentally on track, though it is too early to pre-judge the results. The reform agenda is still on-going, and it is most fitful for the regional development bank ADB to assist the emerging market in the process.

Below is an update of the reform agenda going on in the country.

[Philippines, 18 October 2011]

Source: http://beta.adb.org/news/adb-200-million-loan-supports-more-local-government-reforms-indonesia
ADB $200 Million Loan Supports More Local Government Reforms in Indonesia
4 October 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending $200 million to aid Indonesia’s push to develop strong regional governments which can boost growth and cut poverty at the local level.
The ADB Board of Directors has approved a 15-year loan for Subprogram 2 of the Second Local Government Finance and Governance Reform Program. The initiative is helping to boost the financial and management capabilities of regional governments as they handle state finances and services that have been decentralized.
“Since 2001 national government has been devolving key expenditure and revenue functions to regional governments which are now responsible for the delivery of most basic services,” said Juan Luis Gomez, Senior Public Management Specialist at ADB. “Strengthening regional governments so they spend state funds effectively and provide services efficiently and equitably is essential for improving local living standards and reducing poverty.”
The second phase of the program targeted reforms in six core areas, including strengthening local government management of decentralized funds, improving regional administration to boost service delivery, and developing more local revenue sources. Policy actions taken by the national government to support the reforms include the finalization of a comprehensive strategy for fiscal decentralization, the gradual devolution of taxes to local governments, and pioneering steps to introduce gender-based budgeting.
ADB estimates that the direct economic benefits of the program in the medium term will be worth around $820 million, with half the amount due to the improved financial management systems of regional governments and the other half stemming from efficiency improvements in collection of property taxes being devolved to the regions between 2011 and 2014. To build on current gains, ADB has drawn up a post program partnership framework which identifies future reforms to further improve the policy environment and strengthen the institutional capabilities of local governments.
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URBANIZING WORLD NEEDS MORE TREES!

October 16, 2011

URBANIZING WORLD NEEDS MORE TREES!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The entire planet is going urban. One country after another is moving towards predominantly urban communities and populations. It matters much that as of this juncture, the strategic agenda of greening all cities in pursuit of a more balanced ecology, conservation, clean air and zero pollution.

My own country PH was predominantly rural for the longest time of its post-colonial history. By the 1990s the services sector began to outpace the primary sector in terms of manpower employment. By the year 2000, urban population exceeded rural population altogether. By the end of this year 2011, 68% of PH population will be cities’ habitués. 2% of people are added to urban population every year, while rural population decreases by the same increment annually.

It looks worrisome to see cities rising everywhere across the globe that tend to destroy the last vestiges of farming and tree canopies as a result of imbalanced urbanization. Big Cities that have lost their own green covers are no longer the models of future cities as these big players ought to catch up in the greening project.

Below is a report from the FAO regarding the need to plant trees in a rapidly urbanizing world.

[Philippines, 17 October 2011]
Source: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/92329/icode/
As world goes urban, new focus on role of trees in cities /More attention needed to maximize benefits of urban forests
3 October 2011, Rome – Focused policies and investments aimed at protecting and managing forest and trees in and around cities are needed to strengthen urban livelihoods and improve city environments, as the world becomes increasingly urbanized. This was the message offered today on the occasion of World Habitat Day by the international Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), of which FAO is a member.

As an increasing share of the world’s population now lives in cities and their surroundings, the CPF called on countries to pay more attention to managing and protecting urban and peri-urban forests.

In addition to improving the quality of urban environments, forests in cities can also mitigate severe weather impacts by shielding buildings from strong winds and flooding and can help cities save energy by acting as a buffer from hot weather.

“The accelerating rate of natural disturbances affecting cities such as storms, droughts, floods and landslides reminds us that resilience to disasters is of critical importance and that trees play an important role in protecting city environments,” said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales. “Good practices in urban and peri-urban forestry can contribute to building a resilient city in terms of mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change.”

Urban forests also improve the well-being and health conditions of citizens by cooling the environment, particularly in arid zones.

Ecosystem services

“Trees and forests in cities provide urban dwellers with much needed recreational and ecological values, and during the International Year of Forests we have seen many examples of community activities in cities from tree plantings to nature hikes,” said Ms. Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat. “These ‘green belts’ also serve as valuable habitats for birds and small animals and create an oasis of biological diversity in urban environments.”

Additionally, urban trees afford vital ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and carbon storage, and can serve as a source of alternative energy.

Benefits for food security, environmental education

Urban agriculture and agroforestry, home gardens, and the harvesting of non-wood forest products like mushrooms can supplement household food supplies, but are not common practices, globally.

Urban forests can also serve as a living laboratory for environmental education in urban settings helping to bridge the gap between urbanized populations and forests.

First ever guidelines on urban forestry

FAO is helping develop guidelines for policy and decision-makers on urban and peri-urban forestry to promote sound policies and highlight good practices.

“Often unclear responsibilities for different parts of the urban forests, lack of policies and legislation, as well as lack of comprehensive information, hamper successful integrated approaches to urban forestry,” said Cecil Konijnendijk, Deputy Coordinator of a research group on urban forestry initiated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). “Initiatives such as FAO’s guidelines for urban forest policy and management are of great importance.”

The guidelines, which set to be published in July 2012, will give a comprehensive review of good practices and highlight significant initiatives taken around the world in order to contribute to improved policy development and decision making.

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ASEAN ELECTORAL REFORMS SURGING AHEAD

October 14, 2011

ASEAN ELECTORAL REFORMS SURGING AHEAD

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

ASEAN is surging ahead economically and no veteran analyst will deny this development. It has three (3) emerging markets with it—Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam—while its member states Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Thailand have already made it to the wealthy economy status.

That done, ASEAN ought to address too the matters of institutions, governance and culture. Building strong institutions, good governance, and inclusive multi-culture domains are sine qua non in shoring up business confidence and strengthening consumer purchasing power (i.e. redistributing wealth).

In the matter of elections for instance, too many areas in the ASEAN are like cave man dwellers’ era yet, where electoral cheating and violence hold sway as normal patterns. Electoral reforms, in consonance with human rights reform agenda of ASEAN, should be addressed by the entire bloc.

Gladly for observers and especially for ASEAN’s folks who suffer the brunt of warlords’ dirty political maneuverings, ASEAN has included electoral reforms on its table plates of urgent agenda. Below is an update concerning the subject.

[Philippines, 15 October 2011]

Source: http://www.asean.org/26648.htm
Message by Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, at the ASEAN Electoral Management Bodies’ Forum, ‘Inspiring Credible ASEAN Electoral Management Bodies’
Jakarta, 3 – 5 October 2011
H.E. Dr Nur Hassan Wirajuda, Former Foreign Minister of Indonesia
Prof Dr Hafiz Anshary, Chair of the Election Commission of Indonesia Commissioners of the Election Management Boards of ASEAN Member States
Dr Andrew Ellis, Director for Asia and the Pacific of IDEA
Ibu Sri Nuryanti, Member of the Election Commission of Indonesia
Election Commissioners of ASEAN Dialogue Partners
Excellences’
Distinguished Participants
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning,
As someone who was elected as a member of parliament in Thailand eight times in the last two decades, I feel a great sense of affinity with all of you here who are dedicated to the management and conduct of fair and free elections.
I am told that this is the first time that the Electoral Management Bodies from the ASEAN Member States have met at the regional level. This is a result of the far-sighted initiative of the General Elections Commission of the Republic of Indonesia (KPU) and of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). Let me compliment these two organizations for conceiving the idea of this seminar. While the Election Commission of Indonesia has provided leadership, IDEA has been a fervent supporter of work to promote electoral assistance and democracy in ASEAN. Let me thank both KPU and IDEA, as well as the Government of the Republic of Indonesia for their commitment and support of these processes during their chairmanship of ASEAN.
Let me take the opportunity to welcome all the distinguished officials and participants from the ASEAN member States, and ASEAN’s Dialogue partners.
As you are aware, ASEAN Member States have a vision to create an ASEAN Community by 2015. The ASEAN Charter, which was adopted by the ASEAN Member States in 2007, commits ASEAN to the principles of “adherence to the rule of law, good governance, democracy and constitutional government”. The ASEAN Political and Security Community (APSC) Blueprint provides details on the measures which the ASEAN Heads of States have agreed to, in order to translate these principles into real and practical life.
The APSC Blueprint commits ASEAN to evolving into a”rules-based” Community of shared values and norms (A.12). These shared values include promoting the principles of democracy – for example by “convening seminars, training programmes and other capacity building activities for government officials, think-tanks and relevant civil society organizations to exchange views, sharing experiences and promote democracy and democratic institutions” (A.1.8.ii); and by “conducting annual research on experiences and lessons-learned of democracy aimed at enhancing the adherence to the principles of democracy” (A.1.8.iii).
While the APSC Blueprint specifically covers the issue of democracy, the Blueprints of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and ASEAN Economic Community are no less relevant to building the social and economic foundations of a democracy.
How can ASEAN’s stakeholders help the ASEAN governments realise the vision of the ASEAN Community? I would like to introduce you to a number of key ASEAN organs who make policy at the ASEAN level.1 Some of these organs were created when the Charter was adopted:
Here is a list of some of the key ASEAN bodies who perform work at the ASEAN level:
• ASEAN Summit – this body comprises the Heads of State of the ten ASEAN countries;
• ASEAN Coordinating Council – this body coordinates policies from the three pillars of the ASEAN Community before the decision by the Summit;
• ASEAN Community Councils – this body makes decisions on political-security, socio-cultural and economic issues;
• ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives – these are ambassadors from the ten ASEAN Member States who coordinate national policies at the regional level;
• ASEAN National Secretariats – each ASEAN member state has a national secretariat which coordinates policies at the national level.
• ASEAN Secretariat – the ASEAN Secretariat facilitates the work of the member states which covers all issues affecting the ASEAN Community;
More specialised ASEAN government bodies related to your work include:
• ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)
• ASEAN Commission for Women and Children (ACWC)
• ASEANAPOL – a network of chiefs of ASEAN police who handle matters of law enforcement and crime control
• There are also a host of other ASEAN bodies and working groups which deal with specific issues such as trafficking, trade, disabilities, labour issues, finance and economic integration, and others.
Other non-governmental entities who undertake ASEAN work include:
• the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Assembly (AIPA)
• ASEAN-ISIS network of think-tanks across ASEAN.
• ASEAN Law Association
As you can see, the network of policy-making organs working at the ASEAN level is flourishing. Three years after the ASEAN Charter entered into force, the regional policy-making organs are still evolving and finding ways of working with their colleagues from the other ASEAN Member States. They will need time to find their feet. Depending on the nature of the issues you are confronted with at the ASEAN level, you may find it useful to approach some of these bodies. One of these bodies will likely be working on the very issues of you are concerned with.
Democracy is not only about elections – but credible elections are at its core. Credible elections require a commitment to transparency and to an election environment which enables the voices of political parties and candidates to receive a fair hearing. Credible elections also require effective electoral management– which is both about creating and ensuring a level playing field for political participants, and about organising highly complex events well in a manner which follows the rules. Effective electoral management relies on the independence of electoral management bodies. This applies to all electoral management bodies, whether they are functionally independent or whether they are executive government agencies (or even if they are a mixture of the two).
A General Election is often the most comprehensive activity a country undertakes in peacetime. Electoral administrators and managers have to make a large number of decisions under heavy time pressure and with a lot riding on the political outcome. Their job is not simple. While many of these decisions are technical, most have political implications.
A large amount of money is also needed to organise a credible election. Huge numbers of people are involved, especially on polling day, and the procurement of equipment and supplies also involves very substantial sums of public money. Spending this money with transparency and accountability matters – not only because it is right in itself, but also because the honesty and financial integrity of the electoral authority affects the confidence in the political outcome of the elections.
The challenges of logisticsin elections across the ASEAN Member States can on their own be daunting, and the costs of failure in lost credibility can again be high. For instance, in archipelagic countries like Indonesia and the Philippines whose population collectively are spread over more than 20,000 islands, managing elections are a mammoth logistical and political challenge. If the ballot box, papers and materials have not arrived in time for a polling station to open on polling day, all that can be done is damage minimisation.
Elections are only highly visible during campaign periods and until results are declared, and that is when electoral managers are under most scrutiny. However, good performance by electoral managers is necessary almost all the time – because the cycle of elections goes on all the time. Tasks such as the drafting and updating of electoral procedures, the registration of electors, training, and the resolution of disputes and complaints under an electoral justice system which follows the rule of law are done at other stages of the electoral cycle – and all have a major impact on the credibility of elections. New challenges such as ensuring the opportunity to vote for all adult citizens, including migrant’s in-country and citizens abroad, require inventiveness. Information technology can increase credibility if used well, but can cause more problems than it solves if badly handled – and it is another area in which the role of money and of vested interests needs careful oversight.
We must harness the power of technology to activate networks of likeminded citizens to create a momentum to realise our vision for our future, since we all have a stake in it. The social media has radically transformed the nature of electoral contests and how they are viewed. Information technology is also having a liberating and empowering influence on our community of disabled people in many ways including political inclusiveness even as ASEAN builds a community based upon inclusive values.
Election bodies should therefore continually keep pace with technological advances. As you know, it is also no longer necessary for candidates to meet face-to-face with their voters. Technology will continue to make electoral contests more inclusive. Social media has also allowed people to meet online, and form networks and partnerships to realise common ends. Electoral management is a task that will increasingly require greater professionalism.
This seminar is therefore a valuable platform for professionals from the ASEAN nations to share knowledge, expertise and experiences among themselves as well as with colleagues from dialogue partners. It will create a network of electoral managers within the ASEAN Member States who can work together to face the challenges of organising credible elections at all levels in their countries.
Your task as managers of the election commissions is of utmost importance. I would like to encourage you to maintain the contacts you have made here to improve your work in your own countries. This is a highly significant and powerful network of likeminded people. I would also urge you to understand the ASEAN Charter and ASEAN processes so that you can better contribute to “inspiring credible ASEAN election management bodies”.
Let me reiterate the commitment that our governments have made at the very highest level to “strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law”, and to “promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms”. It will take time for us to achieve these noble objectives, but our Leaders have taken an important step towards this end. With your knowledge, commitments and expertise, I believe this Forum will accelerate momentum to realise the vision of the ASEAN Charter and the development of a people-centred ASEAN Community based on shared and free values.
1 For a list of the ASEAN organs, and entities associated with ASEAN, see Chapter IV and Annex 2 of the ASEAN Charter
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ASEAN-CANADA TRADE RELATIONS BOOST

October 14, 2011

ASEAN-CANADA TRADE RELATIONS BOOST

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day from the Pearl of the Orient!

ASEAN is on its way to becoming a fully integrated Economic Union by 2015. As it moves closer to the mid-2015 period when integration will be executed, it is most prudent for wealth economies and emerging markets to concur trade agreements with the southeast Asian bloc that is now rising to the fore as a global economic power.

ASEAN is indubitably traversing the path of a Pillar of the Global economy which it can achieve before 2020. With a population that is nearing 700 millions, a large market it impeccably is for enthused trade partners. It now boasts of a middle class numbering past 150,000,000 heads which will breach in a couple of years the USA’s 160,000,000 estimated ‘constantly buying consumer base’ of upper & middle class consumers.

Canada just signed a Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment with the ASEAN, a pro-active decision that will see the fruits of the covenant accruing even before 2015. The summary news report is shown below.

[Philippines, 15 October 2011]
Source: http://www.asean.org/26646.htm
ASEAN and Canada Adopts Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment
Jakarta, 3 October 2011
The ASEAN-Canada relations achieved another significant milestone yesterday as Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, Minister of Trade, Indonesia and Chair of the ASEAN Economic Ministers, and Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, Canada exchanged letters of adoption of the Joint Declaration between ASEAN and Canada on Trade and Investment.
The Joint Declaration was endorsed by the ASEAN Economic Ministers at their 43rd meeting in August 2011 in Manado, Indonesia. The Joint Declaration, which is also a key outcome stated in the ASEAN-Canada Plan of Action, aims to enhance trade, industrial cooperation and investment; promote and facilitate increased involvement of the business sector, in particular small and medium-scale enterprises; promote greater coordination in the WTO and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum; and develop a mechanism for regular exchanges of information on trade and investment opportunities and other promotional activities related to trade and investment.
“We will task our Senior Officials to follow-up on the Joint Declaration and develop a Work Plan. Emphasis will be given to activities related to the development of SMEs and effective partnership with the private sector,” said Minister Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu.
Canada is ASEAN’s 13th largest trading partner and 9th largest source of FDI. Trade between ASEAN and Canada grew at a significant pace, recording annual average growth of 21% between 2005 and 2008. Due to the global financial crisis and economic downturn, trade flows dipped to 15.8% in 2009 but showed signs of recovery in 2010 with total trade amounting to US$9.8 billion, an increase of 8.6% over the previous year. Foreign direct investment (FDI) flow from Canada to ASEAN increased more than two folds in 2010 amounting to USD 1.6 billion. In 2009, the total tourist arrivals to ASEAN from Canada were 1.41 million.
ASEAN is becoming an important market and investment destination for Canada. ASEAN as a group is Canada’s seventh most important trading partner. In 2010, Canada’s investment in the ASEAN region was more than Canada’s investment in China and India combined.
“We see enormous opportunity in ASEAN. It’s a region with a growing middle class and abundant natural resources. It is also an increasingly integrated region that is attracting trade and investment from around the world,” said Minister Ed Fast.
The Joint Declaration between ASEAN-Canada Trade and Investment is timely as ASEAN gears towards deepening its economic integration and enhancing its linkages with its trading partners. “The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is based on open regionalism and deepening trade and economic ties with our partners is an integral part of ASEAN’s economic community building. The AEC will provide trade, economic and business opportunities for ASEAN, Canada and other trading partners to tap on,” said Pushpanathan Sundram, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN for AEC in his opening remarks.
In conjunction with his first visit to Jakarta, the Canadian Minister of International Trade also had a bilateral meeting with Pushpanathan Sundram who was representing the Secretary General of ASEAN. The meeting discussed on identifying the important next steps in increasing trade and investment, strengthening cooperation in the areas of social welfare, particularly on gender issues and human rights, as well as establishing an effective platform to engage the private sector.
Canada is one of ASEAN’s oldest Dialogue Partner. ASEAN and Canada will celebrate the 35th Anniversary of their relations in 2012.
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LIVING IN TENT CITY: SOMALI REFUGEES’ ADAPTATION STORY

October 14, 2011

LIVING IN TENT CITY: SOMALI REFUGEES’ ADAPTATION STORY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day from the Pearl of the Orient!

We have so many narratives about peoples’ adaptation in tent cities today. By tent cities I refer to communities habituated by refugees. In my country PH, I’ve watched how tent cities have arisen as contingency measure after the Mt Pinatubo eruption circa early 90s, and visited some of them to offer relief and rehabilitation services.

Across the planet, tent cities abound like mushrooms as contingencies arising from calamities or politico-military conflicts. Aid hasn’t been wanting at all, as we have too many international organizations—UN agencies, international NGOs, domestic philanthropic groups—that reinforce the efforts of local stakeholders. Their presence helps to alleviate the stress and discomfort of living in tent cities.

Besides, the said agencies help in mediating possible conflicts arising from the tent city occupants. Take the case of Somalis who have been running away from both social conflicts and drought. Given their histories of mutual animosities and distrust, how do they manage to co-habituate tent neighborhoods?

Below is the latest reportage about the Somali refugees’ adaptation inside tent cities.

[Philippines, 14 October 2011]
Source: http://www.unhcr.org/4e77488d9.html
Somali refugees learn to live together in new tented town rising in Kenya
19 September 2011
© UNHCR/B.Bannon
IFO EXTENSION, Kenya, September 19 (UNHCR) – In a windy desert camp, two women vigorously insult each other over who will be the first to fill their plastic can with water. Either side of a standpipe, they hurl epithets. For much of their lives, the women have been accustomed to travelling several kilometres for the precious substance and it is a resource worth battling over. Arguments such as this can quickly evolve into blood feuds involving entire families.
Local leader Bashir Abdi Kassim, 38, arrives on the scene with community security officers before the argument comes to blows. He takes the two Somali refugees aside and discusses the problem. The women don’t yet understand that there is more than enough water for everyone at the new extension at Ifo, part of the sprawling Dadaab refugee complex in north-east Kenya.
Kassim puts forward a solution that has the elegance of being both obvious and face-saving. Anyone who wants water must place his or her jerrycan in a line. Queue-jumping is not tolerated. “We’ve taken enough lessons about conflict and tribal clashes in Somalia to know that no arguments are good,” says Kassim, who arrived in Dadaab more than a month ago from Gedo region in southern Somalia. “Here we need to work together as a block.”
The dispute is part of Ifo Extension’s social evolution. A delicate lattice of community has begun to take hold among the thousands of refugees who inhabit the white tents – what was once a disparate assembly of refugees is slowly becoming a cohesive group with a shared sense of responsibility and obligation. Families are coming to understand that they need not be as preoccupied with the difficulties of procuring basic necessities as they were when they inhabited more dangerous areas on the outskirts of Ifo.
“The provision of services brings people together and helps to define community,” say Moulid Hirsi, a field associate for UNHCR who has worked in Dadaab for more than 19 years. “It becomes the focal point for common interests and responsibility. You eliminate the ‘I’ and replace it with the ‘we’.”
The sense of neighbourhood is fragile, as would be expected among a group of strangers whose arrival reflects the desperation attendant with drought and conflict. An emergency still whirls around them with continued concerns about disease, security and the provision of basic amenities.
But since the beginning of June, when continued fighting and the worst drought in 60 years triggered the latest crisis in Somalia, Ifo Extension has evolved from a barren landscape to a growing town of 7,300 tents and nearly 30,600 individuals. The goal to provide shelter and services for 90,000 refugees by year’s end remains a UNHCR priority.
Community members are not waiting for the completion of the project to build their own institutions. Some 30 metres from the water point, community members have started their own makeshift school, even as UNHCR and partners lay the groundwork for a tent school nearby.
Osman Aden, 11, and Ali Nunow, 14, are among the students practising how to write extracts of the Koran. “We came together as a group and decided that we would begin this school,” says 32-year-old Ahmed Ali, who teaches the youngsters. “We’ve not been here long but we . . . want to give our children an education.”
Signs of commerce have also begun to appear. Farhan Noor Shringe, 26, started his first business last month next to his tent. Sugar and vegetables are the most popular items, but he also vends flashlights, tea, spaghetti, tomatoes and cigarettes. The profit margin is less than one US dollar a day, but the venture gives Shringe a sense of hope. “I may be a refugee, but I want to be able to survive on my own,” he says. “As this community grows, my business will develop bit by bit.”
In another sector of Ifo Extension, school is in session. About 100 youngsters share desks in a cavernous classroom where, for the first time, they learn to count in English. Teacher and students engage in an eager call and response. For the vast majority in the class, it is the first time they have had contact with an education that meets Kenyan standards – superior to what they are used to.
“The school brings the community together,” says Headmaster Mohamed Abdulahi Bashir. “There are parent meetings, exchanges of ideas.” As classes end, along the school perimeters, a group of 50 teenagers assemble for a discreet mission. “We normally played football when we lived on the outskirts,” says 18-year-old Ali Magaley. “But then our ball broke.”
Youth officer Tomoya Soejima promises the group that in their new home in Ifo Extension football will definitely be on the agenda. The youths quickly provide a tentative list of players and the next day some 20 teenagers arrive. As the game continues, children arrive almost out of nowhere and soon there are four teams playing into the late afternoon – shirts versus skins.
“Football is a unifier,” says Tomoya. “It is an engine for conversation, friendship and empowerment. When they begin to play there is a shyness. But after an hour, you can see the smiles and camaraderie start to grow. It’s like normal life again.”
By Greg Beals in Ifo Extension, Kenya
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WHAT SAYETH AFRICA REGARDING CLIMATE CHANGE?

October 14, 2011

WHAT SAYETH AFRICA REGARDING CLIMATE CHANGE?

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Talking about climate change is one thing else, while acting upon climate change challenges and risks is another thing. Which is which for Africa?

Across the Sahara is a tree planting project running by the hundreds of miles. Started couples of years ago yet, the intervention will hopefully begin reforestration and arrest the prolonged desertification of the region. I already extended accolades to this wonderful project sometime back, and I honestly think that this is one intervention that properly addresses climate change challenges and risks.

The question is, where does food security come into the intervention fray? Given the latest famine and hunger outbreak in the Horn, we can practically see symptoms of failures by state and tiller stakeholders to recognize satellite-evidenced drought coming, or even to recognize what experts have been forewarning all along about a huge famine forthcoming. The result of that failure is a famine of gargantuan proportions that affect at least 11 Millions of warm bodies, a calamity that could see hundreds of thousands die of starvation in three (3) months’ time (as of this writing).

Below is an update reportage about the subject, coming from the FAO.

[Philippines, 14 October 2011]

Source: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/89603/icode/
Africa must face climate change head on / Agriculture should be placed front and centre at upcoming meeting of UN Climate Change Convention
14 September 2011, Johannesburg/Rome – FAO and African leaders are working together to move quickly to adopt a “climate-smart” approach to agriculture to fight the impacts of climate change and increasing scarcity of natural resources.

“Africa needs increased productivity in its agriculture and higher incomes in its rural areas, and rural communities and the agro-ecosystems on which they depend have to adapt to climate change and become more resilient to its impacts,” Alexander Mueller, FAO’s Assistant-Director General for Natural Resources, said in remarks at the conference “Climate Smart Agriculture: Africa – A Call to Action,” convened by the Government of South Africa (13-14 September, Johannesburg).

“FAO together with its partners has developed the concept of ‘Climate-smart agriculture,’ which offers a way to deal with these multiple challenges in a coherent and integrated way”, he said.

The approach aims to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and build resilience to environmental pressures, helping farmers adapt to climate change, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This can be achieved through climate-smart practices that increase the organic soil matter and improve water-holding capacity. This also makes yields more resilient and reduces erosion, helping to mitigate climate change.

The way forward

“Climate-smart agriculture includes proven practical techniques and approaches that can help achieve food security, climate change adaptation, and climate change mitigation,” Mueller said.

“But more support is needed. We need further piloting and scaling-up of early action programmes, we need to bring together finance and investment opportunities and make them available for developing countries. Agriculture and climate finance need to be addressed together,” he added. “Handling one at a time is not going to be enough to meet these multiple challenges,” he said.

Agriculture is key, adaptation is essential

Agriculture is the economic foundation of many sub-Saharan countries, employing about 60 percent of the region’s workforce and accounting for some 30 percent of gross domestic product.

But climate change may reduce crop yields substantially in sub-Saharan Africa by the 2050s. And some 650 million people in Africa are dependent on rain-fed agriculture in fragile environments that are vulnerable to water scarcity and environmental degradation.

A paper for the Johannesburg event prepared by the South African Agriculture Ministry in collaboration with FAO and the World Bank argues that without measures to adapt food productions to the challenges posed by climate change — and the financing to support those measures — Africa’s poverty alleviation and food security goals will not be reached.

Putting agriculture front and centre in climate talks

“The upcoming UNFCCC meeting in Durban, South Africa (28 Nov-9 Dec 2011), offers an opportunity for Africa to shape the global climate change agenda and this conference will help garner attention for the climate-smart agriculture approach,” Mueller said.

“It is a signal of utmost importance that Africa has put climate-smart agriculture high on the political agenda by convening this conference,” according to Mueller.

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PAKISTAN FLOODS’ AFFECTED FAMILIES NEED AID!

October 12, 2011

PAKISTAN FLOODS’ AFFECTED FAMILIES NEED AID!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

274,000 families were so badly affected by the latest floods that hit Pakistan. They are so vulnerable to the ecological risks that now confront them in the Sindh province.

So far, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and its aid partners estimate that the most urgent task requires a funding of US $67 Million. A huge number of almost half a million affected ones are now living in makeshift shelters.

Tapping the South-South channels of mutual support seems to promise greater results for the expected aid expenditures. The narrative update is shown below. All parties that are willing to extend aid should better contact the IOM for the purpose.

[Philippines, 13 October 2011]

Source: http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/media/press-briefing-notes/pbnAS/cache/offonce/lang/en?entryId=30599

Emergency Shelter Agencies Appeal for US$ 67 Million for Families Displaced by Southern Pakistan Floods

Posted on Monday, 19-09-2011

Pakistan – As Pakistan’s southern Sindh province struggles to cope with some of the worst flooding in its history, IOM and its partners in the “cluster” of aid agencies providing emergency shelter have appealed to international donors for US$ 67 million to help at least 274,000 vulnerable families.
The appeal, which follows Pakistan’s urgent request for international assistance 10 days ago, is part of a broader consolidated UN appeal for US$ 357 for the next three months covering coordination, food security, health, logistics, shelter and non-food relief items, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
The Shelter Cluster, which is led by IOM, is appealing for funding for 26 projects submitted by six UN agencies, eight international NGOs and 11 local NGOs. The projects were selected from nearly 100 applications by the Cluster, in agreement with the UN and the government.
“These projects represent the minimum of international support that Pakistan needs to provide Sindh’s most desperate, flood-displaced families with the emergency shelter and other essential non-food relief items that they need to survive,” says IOM Emergency Advisor for Asia Brian Kelly.
“Nobody should underestimate the consequences for thousands of vulnerable communities, already weakened by last year’s floods, if the international community fails to respond adequately to this appeal,” he added.
The Shelter Cluster response, if funded, will complement the Pakistani government’s commitment to provide 150,000 tents for families displaced by the floods.
It will include tents, plastic sheets, ropes, tent poles, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen utensils and other life-saving survival items for at least 274,000 impoverished, displaced farming families, many of whom have lost all of what little they had to the flood waters.
Shelter experts recommend a mix of tents and plastic sheet-based shelter kits in emergencies. While tents can be better in camps in the short term, plastic sheet is cheaper, more versatile and can be more useful in the longer term, when displaced families return home and use it for waterproofing new shelters and rebuilt homes.
According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), some six million people in all 23 Sindh districts have now been affected by the floods. Some 1.39 houses have been damaged or destroyed, together with an estimated 2 million acres of crops, and at least 248 people have died.
An estimated 482,899 people are now living in some 2,737 makeshift temporary relief sites, including schools and public buildings, dotted across the province. Thousands of spontaneous sites where people are camped out on higher ground or on roadsides are yet to be counted. By some estimates the total could be close to 6,000.
For more information please contact:
Saleem Rehmat
IOM Islamabad
Tel: +92.300.856.0341
E-mail: srehmat@iom.int
or
Chris Lom
Tel. +92.303.555.2058
E-mail: clom@iom.in
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SOMALIS IN ETHIOPIA IMPROVING HEALTH-WISE

October 12, 2011

SOMALIS IN ETHIOPIA IMPROVING HEALTH-WISE

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day from the Pearl of the Orient!

Let’s continue with our own monitoring of the drought-famine-hunger triad of calamity that is now raging across the Horn of Africa, with the hope that the intervention measures are somehow working positively this early to ensure a low level of deaths due to starvation in the coming months.

UN agencies, notably the UN High Commission for Refugess and International Organization for Migration, have been monitoring the arrivals of Somalis, for instance, in neighboring Ethiopia. The FAO, World Bank, UNDP and other international organizations have their hands full on the monitoring and interventions as well.

The heart-warming news is that the health situation for Somalis in Ethiopia has been improving overall. Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the World Bank amounting to US $30 Millions had been focused on helping the said refugees, aside from those extended by other agencies.

Below is an update report about the said refugee Somalis.

[Philippines, 12 October 2011]
Source: http://www.unhcr.org/4e734da96.html
Health situation improves for Somalis in Ethiopia; World Bank grants US$30 million to help refugees
16 September 2011
© UNHCR/G. Puertas
DOLLO ADO, Ethiopia, September 16 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency said Friday that as Somali refugees continue to arrive daily in Ethiopia, the health and nutrition situation is improving in the camps they are heading for.
In a related development, the World Bank announced in Washington, DC, on Thursday that it was donating US$30 million to UNHCR to help the more than half-a-million refugees – mostly women and children – in targeted camps in Ethiopia and Kenya get access to nutrition, health and sanitation services.
The grant will be used over an 18-month period to combat malnutrition, provide basic health services (including paediatric and maternal care) and for an immunization programme. In addition, the money will be used to expand access to safe water and sanitation services, and to prevent and treat common illnesses such as diaorrhea, measles and malaria.
“The funds granted today will allow us to expand coverage of essential health, nutrition and sanitation services in the largest refugee camps in the Horn of Africa,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
UNHCR is highly concerned about the health of the tens of thousands of Somali refugees fleeing drought, famine and fighting in their country this year, especially children. Malnutrition and measles have been blamed for many deaths in refugee camps in recent weeks.
But the refugee agency and its partners have been making progress in boosting health care and providing nutrition to vulnerable refugees in several camps, including those in the Dollo Ado region of eastern Ethiopia. Some of the World Bank funding will be used in these camps.
A UNHCR spokesman said that a measles vaccination campaign, completed two weeks ago, had resulted in a sharp decrease in the number of new cases and related fatalities in the Dollo Ado camps. “Mobile health teams are reaching many families who previously had no access to medical services,” Adrian Edwards said.
In the Kobe camp, there has been a steady decline in the crude mortality rate, which is now estimated to be 2.1 per 10,000 people per day, down from a rate of four to five people per 10,000 a few weeks ago.
“When Ethiopia’s newest camp, Hilaweyn, opened six weeks ago, the overall malnutrition rate among newly arrived refugee children under the age of 18 was 66 per cent. The rate has now dropped to 47 per cent,” Edwards said.
Across all camps in Dollo Ado, the overall rate is around 35 per cent as the nutritional feeding programmes for refugee children have been able to reach the most vulnerable. “We are continuing these feeding programmes as the rate of malnutrition is still high, particularly among children under the age of two,” Edwards added.
Meanwhile, an average of 300 Somalis continue to cross the border daily into Dollo Ado from the southern Somalia regions of Bay, Gedo and Bakool. New arrivals say conditions in Somalia are still precarious, with food hard to come by because of the drought. Some are also fleeing continuing conflict and violence.
In the capital, Mogadishu, the incidence of diaorrhea and measles among internally displaced Somalis (IDP) remains a concern and the estimated mortality rates among children under the age of five continue to be alarmingly high. Malnutrition rates have also worsened.
UNHCR has undertaken a number of fact-finding missions to some of the more than 180 makeshift camps in the Somali capital where distributions of emergency aid items have been carried out. More missions are planned.
With colder weather and rain expected in October, UNHCR is working with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the distribution of some 60,000 blankets to mitigate the risk of hypothermia in Mogadishu and neighbouring regions.
UNHCR is also moving to implement transitional shelter solutions before the rainy season, and procurement of shelter material and plastic sheeting is under way.
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LAO PDR UPGRADES EDUCATION WITH ADB HELP

October 12, 2011

LAO PDR UPGRADES EDUCATION WITH ADB HELP

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

To the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic goes my greetings of goodwill and best wishes for upgrading education!

Laos was among the countries totally devastated by the carnage of the US imperialist aggression. Previous to that war, there was the war of independence from France. Visualize the damages sustained by Laos after successive wars versus world powers, wars that the Indochinese eventually won at any rate, and you would be appalled at the living conditions of the post-war recovery period.

Lao PDR had since departed from those gory days of Western aggression cum genocide. Its neighbor Vietnam is among the Emerging Markets of Asia, while it is also a proud member of the ASEAN (which also counts Cambodia and Vietnam). Lao PDR has no better option to take than gear up the high road to global competitiveness and prosperity.

Such a developmental option requires upgrading the quality of education and the access to the upgrading quality of instruction. Gladly, Laos is facing the challenges of upgrading education squarely, Official Development Assistance or ODA from the Asian Development Bank.

The reportage about the subject is shown below.

[Philippines, 12 October 2011]

Source: http://beta.adb.org/news/adb-help-lao-pdr-raise-access-quality-secondary-education
ADB to Help Lao PDR Raise Access, Quality of Secondary Education
20 Sep 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is to help the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) address key gaps in its secondary education system that impede its contributions to growth and the country’s transition to a market economy.
The ADB Board of Directors has approved loan and grant finance totaling $40 million for the Secondary Education Sector Development Program. The funds will support policy reforms and other measures to improve the quality and relevance of the curriculum, and to make access to secondary schooling more equitable. Much of the focus will be on ensuring that young people – particularly girls – from poor, remote ethnic group communities attend school.
“Education is an essential component of Lao PDR’s development strategy and modernization, and significant gains have been made at the primary level,” said Chris Spohr, an ADB senior education economist. “The transition to a seven-year secondary education subsector is an important milestone, but there remain gaps in access, quality and relevance, and management which need to be addressed.”
While total numbers attending secondary classes have grown substantially in recent years, enrolment rates remain problematic. National figures also mask significant disparities, with enrolment rates lowest and dropout rates highest in poor, rural and ethnic group areas. Rapid rises in the number of primary school graduates and limited resources have strained the ability of the government to provide high quality secondary education.
The Ministry of Education is putting in place new curricula and textbooks for secondary schools to improve learning, and the program will aid the government’s reform efforts. Assistance will be given for a range of policy including access to secondary education for disadvantaged students, and to improve teacher recruitment, training and performance.
The project grant will supplement the program loan with targeted, specific measures, including building new secondary classrooms in districts with the most need. It will also fund stipends for almost 3,000 poor students (prioritizing girls and ethnic group children), along with the construction of low-cost, sex-segregated dormitories. Support will be given for textbook development and distribution and for nationwide teacher training to help roll out the new curricula.
The program loan, equivalent to $10 million from ADB’s concessional Asian Development Fund, has a 24-year term and an 8-year grace period. Interest during the grace period is set at 1.0%, rising to 1.5% for the balance of the term. The project grant of $30 million also comes from the Asian Development Fund, with the Government of Lao PDR contributing $2.4 million for a total investment cost of $42.4 million.
The Ministry of Education will execute the program and associated project activities which are due for completion by December 2018.
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