General Government

“From Cairo to Cape Town” — African Countries Take Step Towards Huge Free Trade Zone

It will be called TFTA — the Tripartite Free Trade Area. “Representatives from 25 African nations signed an initial agreement on Wednesday to create a free-trade zone linking three economic blocs that would unite 57 percent of the continent’s population. The deal would combine the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the South African Development Community (SADC), and the East African Community (EAC)…The alliance would bring together more than 60 percent of the continent’s gross domestic product, valued at $1.2 trillion, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on the last day of a week-long conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.” (Reuters

But is it sure to disappoint? Some commentary and analysis from Quartz (QZ

Will the EPA Start to Regulate Airline Emissions? The US Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday said greenhouse gases from aircraft endanger human health, taking the first step toward regulating emissions from the domestic aviation industry…The “endangerment finding” by the Environmental Protection Agency would allow the administration to implement a global carbon dioxide emissions standard being developed by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization. (Reuters

“Quote” of the Day: “The very concept of aid is, and I believe should be, a constant exploration of societies and self. For foreigners working to supply aid outside of their own countries, not to mention outside of their own homes, or in the mirror itself, it is a constant struggle.” – Sean Penn in the Huffington Post


Burundi’s embattled president has officially delayed the presidential election, after weeks of protests sparked by his decision to run for a third term. (VOA 

Hundreds of thousands of people risk starvation in South Sudan where a resurgence in fighting and deepening food shortages have left some with nothing to eat except water lilies, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday. (Reuters

Dozens of armed men suspected of being Islamist militants attacked a police base in southern Mali early on Wednesday, security sources said. (Reuters

It’s estimated thousands of children in Ghana work in dangerous, unlicensed gold mines. A new report says they risk injury when mines collapse and are exposed to dust and mercury poisoning. (VOA

1-800-SUDAN…A Filipino teenager has been flown to Sudan to undergo life-saving heart surgery at a charity-run hospital that has become a world leader in complex heart operations. (AFP

Improving access to education, healthcare and jobs for women in the arid Sahel region of Africa could play an important part in rolling back poverty in one of the world’s most underdeveloped areas, the U.N. special envoy to the region said. (Reuters

Public outcry and parliament have forced Malawian President Peter Mutharika to suspend the sale of a state-owned bank which has been weighed down by bad loans. (VOA 

South Africa’s poultry industry could lose close to $72 million in turnover and about 6,500 jobs as a result of an agreement to allow duty-free imported chicken from the United States, an industry association said. (Reuters

U.N. forces have deployed ground troops, attack helicopters and drones to support a campaign by Democratic Republic of Congo’s army against rebels in the northeast of the country, the head of its U.N. peacekeeping mission said on Wednesday. (Reuters 

A child forced to marry at just 13 who then poisoned her 35-year-old husband and three friends is set to be freed in Nigeria, lawyers and a judge said Wednesday, amid fears for her safety and future. (AP 


Egyptian security forces have arrested dozens of activists ahead of a general strike planned for Thursday, activists and security sources say, part of what the activists describe as an unrelenting crackdown on dissent. (Reuters

Police in Egypt say they have foiled an attempted suicide bomb attack at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, one of the country’s most popular tourist sites. (BBC )

Tunisia’s navy on Wednesday rescued 356 migrants including a two-month-old baby girl off the country’s southeastern coast near Ben Guerdane, the Red Crescent said. (AFP 

Kuwait is to send $300 million in humanitarian aid to conflict-hit neighbours Iraq and Yemen, the foreign ministry announced Wednesday. (AFP 

Egypt’s antiquities minister issued orders on Wednesday to intensify security at antiquities sites across the country in coordination with the Interior Ministry, in comments reported by state news agency MENA on Wednesday.  (Reuters 

On a backstreet in Jerusalem sit the sparse offices of B’Tselem, an Israeli organization that has long been a bane of successive governments, tirelessly flagging military abuses in occupied Palestinian territory. (Reuters 


Recent quakes in Nepal and Malaysia have shaken the Philippines into action, with authorities scaling up earthquake preparedness drills and safety inspections of public buildings in the capital Manila. (IRIN

A $6 billion hydropower dam planned for a site in Myanmar’s Shan state is drawing fierce opposition from locals who say it will flood an area nearly the size of Singapore, destroying 100 communities. (VOA

Law enforcement officials must be prepare for a long struggle in the campaign to get corrupt officials who have fled abroad back to China, with 214 suspects being returned to the country as of the end of May, the Ministry of Public Security said. (Reuters

A joint South Korean-World Health Organization mission studying an outbreak of MERS recommended on Wednesday that schools be reopened, as they were unlikely to spread the disease, just as school boards recommended more be shut. (Reuters

The Americas

The European Union has committed $133 million in investment support for Latin America and Caribbean nations at the start of their two-day summit. (AP

Paraguay’s government has been advised to take “precautionary measures” to ensure the health of a 10-year-old girl who is pregnant after allegedly being raped by her stepfather. (Guardian

The progress that Latin America has made in reducing child mortality is cited by international institutions as an example for cutting the under-five mortality rate by two thirds. But this overall picture conceals huge differences between and within countries in the region. (IPS

A US federal appeals court upheld a controversial Texas state law requiring nearly all facilities that perform abortions to operate like hospital-style surgical centers. (NPR 

…and the rest

Almost 170 million youth are trapped in child labor, deprived of education and facing a life without decent jobs, the International Labor Organization said on Wednesday. (TRF

A global climate agreement being negotiated this week in Bonn is supposed to apply to all countries, from large industrialized economies to tiny island nations. (AP

As the United Nations continues its negotiations to both define and refine a new set of Sustainable Development Goals before a summit meeting of world leaders in September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed support for a new “International Decade for Water for Sustainable Development.” (IPS


Inside Al Jazeera: Is the pan-Arab channel a propaganda outfit or an essential voice? (Al Jazeera

This is not the Middle Eastern order you are looking for (Monkey Cage

The microfinance delusion: who really wins? (Guardian

Time for a new deal for Middle East’s displaced? (IRIN

Why Are Threats to Civil Society Growing Around the World? (IPS

All in the Family: Explaining the Persistence of Female Genital Cutting in West Africa (Marc Bellemare

India’s domestic workers need a break (Guardian

Is World Cup Game Over for Qatar? (VOA

Justine Greening: The days of ignoring poverty because it’s far away are over (Guardian

Loan Guarantees and Financial Inclusion in the Developing World (CFR

What future for Development Advocacy? Three Paradoxes and Seven Directions (From Poverty to Power

Turning the Digital Revolution into a Health Revolution to Achieve the SDGs (UN Dispatch

TB–The Forgotten Health Crisis, by Eric Goosby. (The Hill )



General Market

‘Callous’ EU politics on migrants costing lives, UN rights chief warns

20 April 2015 – Following the loss of some 700 lives after a boat carrying migrants capsized and sank over the weekend, the UN human rights chief has urged European Union (EU) governments to take a “more sophisticated, more courageous and less callous approach” to coping with the flows of migrants towards Europe.

“As we learn of yet more men, women and children who have lost their lives in their search for better and safer lives abroad, I am horrified but not surprised by this latest tragedy. These deaths and the hundreds of others that preceded them in recent months were sadly predictable,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

“The [deaths] are the result of a continuing failure of governance accompanied by a monumental failure of compassion,” he added.

“While Italy’s ‘Mare Nostrum’ programme, which ended last October, was a valiant, and in many ways successful, effort to save lives, the scaled-down ‘Operation Triton’ is simply not fit for purpose,” said Mr. Zeid, emphasizing that it is totally inadequate and “more geared to border control and policing the seas than to saving lives.”

Stopping the rescue of migrants in distress has not led to less migration, nor indeed to less smuggling, but merely to more deaths at sea, he said, stressing that Triton should immediately be replaced by a European-wide, State-led and well-resourced search and rescue capability in the Mediterranean.

“We have repeatedly underscored that no one who has food to eat, who is safe from torture, and rape, and from falling bombs, who has healthcare for his family, education for her children, decent and productive work would readily embark on these perilous journeys,” he added.

Europe is “turning its back” on some of the most vulnerable migrants in the world, and risks turning the Mediterranean into a “vast cemetery” rather than acknowledge that European economies and societies need the low-skilled labour that migrants are desperate to contribute, and that refugees have a right to seek asylum, Mr. Zeid said.

Lack of regular channels, coupled with harsh controls at external borders, has led migrants to turn to the increasingly organised smuggling industry along Europe’s southern borders, he said.

“It is time for politicians to show courageous leadership on this issue, instead of joining the mindless clamour for ever harsher deterrence policies. Not only do such policies not work, they operate at an unacceptable cost in terms of human lives,” the High Commissioner said.

In a separate statement, UN experts said that the repression of irregular migration clearly cannot be the only solution to the recurrent grave problem of masses of people drowning at sea. “The unnecessary deaths over the past few days are just the beginning. Europe must act innovatively to save lives,” said François Crépeau, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

“We are talking about people dying unnecessarily when States have the capacity to save lives,” he added. “If Europe is to witness a significant reduction of human suffering at borders, it must bank on regulated openness and mobility. Otherwise the number of migrants risking their lives on unseaworthy vessels over perilous sea routes can only increase.”

“Moreover, those surviving their perilous journey find themselves in a situation of social vulnerability and often fall prey to unscrupulous or criminal recruiters or employers, exploiting them in slavery-like conditions,” cautioned Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Mr. Crépeau and Ms. Giammarinaro both said that it is important to bring to justice unscrupulous smugglers for the suffering they inflict on irregular migrants, but warned that “Europe will find it difficult to defeat resourceful and adaptable smuggling rings, unless it destroys their business model, which was created when barriers and prohibitions to mobility were erected and which thrives at evading restrictive migration policies of many EU Member States.”

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants will present a report on his visit to Italy and a thematic report on EU border management to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015.

Earlier in the day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the death of hundreds of migrants off the coast of Libya a “shock to the global conscience.” The Mediterranean is fast becoming a “sea of misery” for thousands of migrants, he said.

“And this truly titanic humanitarian tragedy highlights yet again the need to address the plight of migrants, to crack down on the criminals who exploit the most vulnerable, and to strengthen rescue capacity in the Mediterranean and elsewhere,” Mr. Ban said.