Tag Archives: Asmara

El Nino in East Africa: Update on Eritrea

In the Horn of Africa, a drought exacerbated by El Niño has directly affected the region, leading to an increase in food insecurity and malnutrition. This post presents an update on Eritrea.
According to a recent summary report by FEWS NET (a USAID-funded initiative),

“Consistent and above-average rain over the past few weeks has led to moisture surpluses throughout much of Eastern Africa. Torrential rain is forecast to continue over western Sudan and the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea, likely to elevate the River Nile and Al Gash River levels further and potentially resulting in flooding over many areas of Sudan during the next week.”

Furthermore, the report notes that,

“While the abundance of seasonal rain is expected favor cropping activities over many areas of the region, frequent and above-average rain over the western Ethiopian and Eritrean Highlands also raises the Nile and Al Gash River levels and thus increases the risks for river flooding along downstream areas in Sudan. For next week, the probability for above-average precipitation remains quite high…”
As well, a late July 2016 report by the FAO and the Global Information and Early Warning System, Good Prospects for Yields of 2016 Main “Kiremti” Season Crops, details that,

“The 2016 “kiremti” rains (June to September) started on time in Debud, Anseba and Gash-Barka regions, favouring land preparation and planting operations. As shown by satellite imagery, crops and pasture in most inland areas are currently in good conditions due to abundant and well‑distributed precipitation.”
Encouragingly, although vegetation health in some areas in the northern Anseba and southern Gash-Barka regions has been negatively impacted by soil moisture deficits, the report also states that the,

“Latest meteorological forecasts for the period from June to September 2016 indicate an increased likelihood of above normal rainfall amounts over most of the country, with expected positive effects on crop yields.”
This positive outlook is paralleled by the WFP which recently claimed that “the forecasts for the main rainfall season of July-October indicate on or above average rainfall across Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.” This is significant since it should promote favourable and improved crop production and pasture resources across the country. Furthermore, the FAO and WFP’s recently published 2016/2017 El Nino Seasonal Overview, which explores the ongoing and future impact of El Nino, suggests that Eritrea will be “moderately affected.”
Additionally, on 16 August 2016, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, released US$50 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for severely underfunded aid operations in six neglected emergencies, including Eritrea. Specifically, the press release states,

“An allocation of $2 million will support humanitarian partners in Eritrea in responding to current needs due to arid conditions and poor rains. Additionally, gaps in health care, water, sanitation and hygiene services will be addressed.” Furthermore, the aid will also help address the multi-sector needs of over 2,200 Somali refugees in Eritrea.

Importantly, this will continue to support Eritrea’s broad developmental aims. Notably, the United Nations and various other international partners have had a long presence in Eritrea, collaborating with the Government and other stakeholders to work towards a variety of socio-economic and development priorities. For example, the UN operational presence in Eritrea includes the WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA, UNAIDS, FAO, OCHA and UNDSS, while the WFP  maintains a liaison office, and non-resident UN Agencies (such as IFAD, IAEA, UNIDO, ILO, and UNEP) are also represented and work in Eritrea.
In 2015,  US$ 3 million was allocated by UN CERF to support a range of development programmes (e.g. health, nutrition, etc.) in Southern Red Sea (SRS), Northern Red Sea (NRS), Debub, Gash Barka and Anseba regions. This was undertaken in close alignment and coordination with the 2013-2016 Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework (SPCF). The  SPCF, jointly signed by the UN and Eritrea, focuses on an array of programmes in the nutrition, health, food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.
As a final point, it is important to properly understand Eritrea’s “unconventional” approach to external aid. Specifically,  Eritrea turns down aid when it does not fit the country’s needs or its capacity to use effectively. Eritrea does not reject external support – it actively welcomes it, but only when it complements the country’s own efforts. The Government has long encouraged aid that addresses specific needs which cannot be met internally, which is designed to minimize continued external support, and which complements and strengthens (instead of replacing) Eritrea’s own institutional capacity to implement projects. This approach is rooted in a strong desire to avoid crippling dependence and to foster a clear sense of responsibility for the country’s future among all citizens.

Unfortunately, this approach is often misunderstood (or even dismissed). Instead, the country’s determination to rely upon itself and promote independence should be encouraged, and external organizations and potential partners should be committed to working with it on that basis.

Figure 1: Total US Foreign Aid – 2016/17 ($US Millions)

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Figure 2: UN CERF Project Allocations by Sector (2006-2015)

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Image 1: Local market in Eritrea

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Image 2: Local market in Eritrea

market

(Image 2 credit: Solomon Abraha [@solomonasmara])

 

 


Foreign Investment: Eritrea, Mining, Development, and the Resource Curse

Several days ago, the Fraser Institute released its annual Survey of Mining and Exploration Companies. Since 1997, the Institute, headquartered in Vancouver and ranked by a University of Pennsylvania study as “the top think tank in Canada,” has conducted an annual survey of mining and exploration companies to assess how mineral endowments and public policy factors such as taxation and regulation affect exploration investment. Survey results represent the opinions of executives and exploration managers in mining and mining consulting companies operating around the world. Notably, the survey has expanded to include data on 122 jurisdictions worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica, and including sub-national jurisdictions in Canada, Australia, the United States, and Argentina.

It is noteworthy that Eritrea, often simplistically labeled as the “North Korea of Africa” or regarded as lacking the “characteristics” and “environment” to make it a sound investment destination, has tended to score within the middle of the pack. For example, on the Investment Attractiveness Index, the country scored 46.7 for 2014 and 57.5 for 2013, ranking it 77 (out of 122) and 48 (out of 112) respectively. For comparison, this places it ahead of Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan and South Sudan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bolivia, Venezuela, China, Bulgaria, and Turkey, to name a few. Yet again, Botswana, which has experienced decades of sound economic growth, ranked as the top African country. The survey’s Investment Attractiveness Index is an especially useful measure since it combines several indicators and thus provides a thorough, holistic, multidimensional gauge of mining and exploration within a country or jurisdiction.

Another interesting area within the 2014 report is the Comments section. Here, global executives and managers are able to comment freely (since they retain confidentiality) on the mining and exploration environments of various countries and jurisdictions. In addition to other points, Eritrea was described as being “free from corruption” and possessing a “clearly set-out legal framework which is followed to the letter.”

Ultimately, the survey’s comments and indicators offer some cautious encouragement for Eritrea’s ongoing mining and development initiatives. Dating back to its initial days of independence, Eritrea has been aware of the need for a holistic, multi-level approach towards development, while being alert to the pitfalls of the resource curse. The stagnation – if not outright regression in development – of many countries with great natural resource endowments serve as clear, sobering lessons of the possible consequences of mismanagement. For Eritrea, this has meant that its own approach to development and resources has been cautious, pragmatic, and one where the nation’s resources represent only one variable within the larger equation towards holistic development, rather than a simple panacea. This is most clearly spelled out in a statement to the UN Security Council’s Thematic Open Debate on Conflict Prevention and Natural Resources (June 19, 2013), where Ambassador Araya Desta notes that “[t]he cardinal principle of Eritrea’s mining policy [is that]…all mineral resources are a public property, and that the conservation and development of these resources must be ensured for Eritrea’s present and future generations.”[1]

Amongst the most tangible outcomes of Eritrean developmental efforts are its successes within health and education, especially in regards to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.[2] It is within this broader developmental context that Eritrea’s natural resources and mining activities may prove useful; not only to accrue foreign capital and strengthen the economy, but also to promote continued national development.

Overall, Eritrea has witnessed several tangible developmental outcomes, especially within the socio-economic, health, and educational sectors, and the country’s natural resources hold the potential to augment these outcomes. At the same time, Eritrea is unquestionably faced with tremendous developmental concerns within a broad range of sectors. Challenges such as poverty are immediate areas the country continues to focus on, while the prolonged illegal military occupation of Eritrean land by Ethiopia represents an unnecessary, harmful distraction from broader development goals.[3] Moving forward, Eritrea should continue to promote investment and sound management of resources, while the international community should remain constructively involved in and supportive of Eritrea’s developmental efforts and promote the respect of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

~~Figure 1~~

Investment Attractiveness Index 2014

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*Source: Fraser Institute 2014

References

[1] http://www.dehai.org/archives/dehai_news_archive/2013/jun/att-0201/Statement_by_H.E._Araya_Desta_on_Conflict_Prevention_and_Natural_Resources..pdf

[2] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

[3] http://www.pca-cpa.org/showpage.asp?pag_id=1150

Further reading:

Fraser Institute: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/default.aspx

Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2014: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/display.aspx?id=22259

 


UNDP and Eritrea’s Women – NUEW: Highlights and Brief Thoughts:

The longest African independence war of the 1900s, Eritrea’s three decades long struggle was about far more than just political emancipation; rather, it sought to usher in a complete and radical transformation of society. An important part of the latter agenda – giving special attention to egalitarian, popular democratic principles – was a particular focus on women’s and gender-related issues. No longer would women be viewed narrowly as secondary, subordinate figures within society; instead, they would stand proudly as full equals to men. Embodying the notion of equality through struggle, valiant Eritrean women served honorably, fought bravely, and sacrificed greatly alongside men in the labyrinth-like trenches, on the battlefields, and across the frontlines. Ultimately, women would prove absolutely critical to the eventual achievement of independence. Following this legacy, the Government of the State of Eritrea has made the empowerment of women a national priority, and committed to a development agenda grounded in social justice and gender equality. This post highlights some findings from the recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report, 10 Years: Women in Eritrea – National Union of Eritrean Women. 

  • The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) was established in 1979 with the support of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (NUEW). The focus of NUEW is to improve the status of Eritrean women.
  • Over its 35 year history, NUEW has grown considerably, and in September 2014 it held its 7th Congress. Furthermore, over the past decade, it has forged relationships and shared experiences with a number of sister organizations from within Africa and around the world, including the General Union of Sudanese Women, the Support Initiative for Women’s Empowerment in East Africa and the All China Women’s Federation. NUEW has also participated in key international forums and initiatives championing the cause of women’s rights and empowerment, including the International Women’s Conference in Beijing and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (among others).
  • NUEW’s membership base has grown in numbers: from 178,000 in 2003 to nearly 300,000 in 2013. Its membership now represents a decent percentage of the female population in Eritrea and covers all 6 regions, 66 sub-regions, 681 districts and 2631 villages. Notably, women in the diaspora continue to play a key role at NUEW and in the struggle for gender equality in Eritrea. They serve as ambassadors of NUEW vision abroad and have been at the forefront of efforts to empower women inside the country, politically, socially and economically. For example, NUEW women abroad have mobilized resources and raised funds to build professional training centres and offices for their sisters in Eritrea.
    • As of 2013, organizational activities carried out in 120 secondary schools have increased the number of female student members of NUEW to 26,715. NUEW plans to continue activities that motivate female enrolment in schools until the female to male ratio is a balanced 50/50.
  • Since 2004, 569 NUEW management personnel benefited from training programs on campaigning, awareness- raising, leadership, management techniques, communication skills, budgeting, reporting and monitoring. Other training programs offered for district-level NUEW management have reached 4,442 people since 2009, covering topics including women’s and children’s rights, malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention, gender and HIV/AIDS, hygiene, and post-partum fistula.
  • More than 5,500 women have benefitted from NUEW legal counselling and educational programmes geared towards increasing women’s knowledge of legal issues.
  • Over the past 10 years, NUEW has worked with the Ministry of Education to eradicate adult illiteracy, both by organizing educational resources and campaigning for the increased participation of women in the programme. Since 2003, nearly 350,000 people – 92 per cent of them women – have participated in the adult education program.
  • NUEW has worked closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to raise awareness of women’s health issues and prevent and treat health challenges confronting women that are caused by poverty and backward traditions. NUEW has conducted multiple seminars and meetings attended by more than 1.7 million people – encompassing 93 per cent women – towards this end.
    Since 2006, more than 1.2 million participants, 73 per cent of them female, have attended meetings on FGM and early marriage. A testament to the effectiveness and importance of these initiatives are rates of FGM/FGC in the country. Whereas Eritrea once had rates of 80-90%, recent health surveys have shown that only 17.7 per cent of young women aged 6-15 have undergone FGM/FGC, while even fewer girls aged 5 and below – 7.6 per cent – were circumcised.

  • It is important to understand that economic empowerment, which refers to the resources and means an individual needs to achieve their desired goals, is an essential prerequisite for political enlightenment and organization.
    • Over the past 10 years, NUEW has recorded a number of impressive achievements toward this end. More than 2.9 million persons – 90% women – have attended nearly 25,000 meetings on women’s empowerment. 47 million Nakfa has been loaned to nearly 12,000 beneficiaries of the Microcredit Program across the country and professional training centres have been established in a number of regions. Remarkably, out of the total amount loaned, upwards of 85 per cent has been reimbursed by clients and is already being put to use for lending to other clients.
    • Over the last decade, NUEW has organized various professional handicrafts and artisanal programs to supplement existing skills. More than 5,000 women throughout the country have benefited from training in clothing design, sewing and embroidery, wickerwork, ornamentation, weaving, pottery, hairstyling, as well as computer applications and typing. Another more than 3,000 women received special trainings in video shooting, home economics, nutrition, doll making, childcare and midwifery. The programs have proven their practical worth by economically empowering women throughout the country.
  • Rural women have also been targeted as, between 2003 and 2011, NUEW allocated a budget of more than 14 million Nakfa to provide more than 11,000 women in remote rural areas with donkeys and water bags. Also, NUEW and partners such as UNDP have supported the women with funds for farming and livestock keeping. More than 1,400 women farmers have received water pumps to cultivate a collective 153 hectares of land. Strong progress has been demonstrated among women farmers as a result and two groups of women farmers have organized for integrated assistance.

Around the world, it has long been the rule that women are inferior, with little to contribute to society. In Eritrea, an old, out-dated, backwards proverb states that “like there is no donkey with horns, there is no woman with brains.” However, from the days of the long struggle and since independence, Eritrean women have proven resilient exceptions to such outdated, patriarchal rules through their wholehearted participation, struggle, contributions, and sacrifice. Today, Eritrean women are contributing in all areas of society and in many diverse, important ways, ultimately playing a crucial role in the country’s general development and socio-economic improvement. It is wonderful to see the large focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it is clear that NUEW efforts have led to so many positive developments. Moving forward, we should continue to follow their lead to support women and girls in all aspects society.

 

Read the full report here: http://www.er.undp.org/content/eritrea/en/home/library/womens_empowerment/undp-nuew-publication0/

 


Multidimensional Poverty – important data from the OPHI

According to former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “wherever we lift one soul from a life of poverty, we are defending human rights. And whenever we fail in this mission, we are failing human rights.”[1] However, in order to combat poverty (and thus fulfill rights), we must understand it. In this context, the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) represents a useful step forward. The OPHI aims to build and advance a more systematic methodological and economic framework for reducing multidimensional poverty in several ways, including: improving data, building capacity, and impacting policy.[2] Amongst the OPHI’s key contributions is its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The MPI provides multidimensional measures of poverty, well-being and inequality, going far beyond traditional one-dimensional approaches to incorporate dimensions such as health, education, living standards, quality of work and more innovative dimensions.[3]

The latest edition of the MPI covers 110 developing countries (a total of approximately 5.4 billion people), and 803 regions in 72 of these countries. The 10 countries with the lowest scores on the MPI were (in descending order, and with MPI figures in brackets),[4]

  • Burundi (0.454)
  • Mali (0.457)
  • Guinea (0.459)
  • Guinea-Bissau (0.462)
  • Sierra Leone (0.464)
  • Somalia (0.514)
  • Burkina Faso (0.535)
  • Chad (0.554)
  • Ethiopia (0.564)
  • Niger (0.605)

Table 1

OPHI: Multidimensional Poverty Index 2014/15*

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Further exploring the MPI reveals what percentage of the population are both MPI poor and are deprived within each particular indicator. For example, the region with the highest rates of people who are multidimensionally poor and simultaneously deprived in nutrition is Affar, Ethiopia, while the region with the most child mortality is Nord-Ouest, Cote d’Ivoire. The region most deprived in sanitation is Karamoja, Uganda, while Wad Fira, Chad is most deprived in drinking water, electricity, and years of schooling. Examining sub-national regions and inequality, Nigeria has the most extreme regional differences in multidimensional poverty: in Lagos, 8.5 percent of people are multidimensionally poor, whereas in Zamfara, the figure is 91.9 percent. It is also noteworthy that nearly 60 percent of people living in the world’s poorest regions are actually not in the least developed countries.[5]

Overall, poverty remains the gravest human rights challenge facing the world today.[6] In combating poverty, the world has “a moral obligation to look more deeply at the issues of poverty so the most marginalised groups or regions [are] not left behind.”[7] The OPHI’s Multidimensional Poverty Index shows not only who is poor but also in what ways, ultimately helping to better understand poverty and shape more effective policies and reduction measures.

 

REFERENCES

[1] LINK

[2] http://www.ophi.org.uk/

[3] The MPI figure given as the percentage of the population in multidimensional poverty multiplied by the intensity of deprivation among the poor.

[4] The MPI figure given as the percentage of the population in multidimensional poverty multiplied by the intensity of deprivation among the poor.

[5] http://www.ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index/mpi-2014-2015/

http://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/big-new-databank-on-multidimensional-poverty-launched-today/?utm_content=buffer48ab2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[6] http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDAQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ohchr.org%2FDocuments%2FPublications%2FPovertyStrategiesen.pdf&ei=7qC6VNuMHISfggT5pYBo&usg=AFQjCNEVWu9sEZ4nM_K_BEIpGxhQGtulvQ&sig2=maQRjwqrl3-OEjsYzKFbXw&bvm=bv.83829542,d.eXY

[7] LINK

* *Note that MPI ranges from 0-1. However, the scale in Table 1 runs from 0-100.

Explore the OPHI and MPI: http://www.ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index/mpi-2014-2015/


World Bank Global Economic Prospects Report: Quick note on Eritrea’s 2015-2017 Outlook

The World Bank cut its forecast for global growth this year. According to its semiannual Global Economic Prospects report,[i] released today in Washington, the world economy will expand 3 percent in 2015, down from a projection of 3.4 percent in June.[ii]

Developing economies are expected to see an increase in growth from 4.4 percent in 2014 to 4.8 percent and 5.3 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively. For Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) specifically, the period 2015-2017 is expected to see real GDP growth (from previous year) of 4.6, 4.9, and 5.1 percent. Influential factors include infrastructure investment, increased agriculture production, and buoyant services, however the positive outlook is subject to downside risks arising from a renewed spread of the Ebola epidemic, violent insurgencies, lower commodity prices, and volatile global financial conditions.

For Eritrea, the next 3 years, according to the report, are projected to produce real GDP growth of 3.0, 4.0, and 4.3 percent. These projections are slightly lower than those by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which projects Eritrea’s growth to be 7.3 and 6.8 percent in 2015 and 2016.[iii] However, even with the discrepancy, the sharp global oil price decline will support improvements in Eritrea’s trade balance (since it is an oil- importer). Specifically, across 2014-2017, the changes in its trade balance due to terms of trade effects are expected to improve by approximately 3 percent of GDP, amongst the largest in SSA (on the whole, SSA is expected to be adversely affected by the sustained decline in commodity prices).

Overall, for Eritrea, as well as other low-income, developing countries, such economic growth can be central to poverty reduction and broader development goals. For example, between 1970 and 2010, growth in average per capita income accounted for three- quarters of the income growth of the poor.3 In particular, a significant part of poverty reduction was attributed to growth in labor income.[iv] Increases in labor income are associated with a reduction in poverty through at least two channels. First, growth in the agricultural sector, the primary source of income for the poor, raises incomes more than growth in less labor-intensive sectors, in particular the natural resource sector. Second, the movement of labor from the low-productivity agriculture sector to the higher-productivity manufacturing and service sectors raises labor incomes, including of those of the poor.[v]

REFERENCES

[i] http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/global-economic-prospects

[ii] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-13/world-bank-cuts-global-growth-outlook-with-u-s-lone-bright-spot.html?hootPostID=67b113847d7c95651fe373d6cfe324d7

[iii] www.un.org/en/development/desa/…/geo201410.pdf

[iv]a) Inchauste, G. J.P. Azevedo, B. Essama-Nssah, S. Olivieri, T. Van Nguyen, J. Saavedra-Chanduvi, and H. Winkler. 2014. “Understanding Changes in Poverty.” World Bank, Washington, DC.

b) Inchauste, G., and J. Saavedra-Chanduvi. 2013. “Opportunity Knocks: Deepening Our Understanding of Poverty Reduc- tion,” In Understanding Changes in Poverty, ed. Gabriela Inchauste, João Pedro Azevedo, B. Essama-Nssah, Sergio Olivieri, Trang Van Nguyen, Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi, and Hernan Winkler, 1–12. Washington, DC: World Bank.

[v]a) Kuznets, S. 1955. “Economic Growth and Income Inequality.” American Economic Review 45 (1): 1–28.

b) Chenery, H. 1979. Structural Change and Development Policy. New York: Oxford University Press.

c) Ngai, L. R., and C. Pissarides. 2008. “Employment Outcomes in the Welfare State.” CEP Discussion Papers 0856, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics.

 


Mendefera Factory: Menstrual Pads, Education, and Empowerment

It was nice to see Dr. Sleemi’s photo of a factory in Mendefera, Eritrea. The factory manufactures menstrual pads which are distributed to girls in middle and high school. This initiative is important since it promotes equality, empowerment, and general development.

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Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and the developing world, millions of girls either skip school during menstruation or drop out entirely because of a lack of hygiene solutions – thus ultimately harming their (and the community’s or the nation’s) potential. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 10% of African girls skipped school during menstruation, with many girls missing up to 25% of the academic year or simply dropping out. Girls failing to complete secondary school are more likely to get HIV or become pregnant when they are young, and they are also more likely to have a greater number of children and earn lower wages. As well, studies have found that girls with access to menstrual pads report benefits to their self-esteem. Furthermore, girls with access to menstrual pads are able to concentrate better in school, witness increases in their self confidence, and they are able to fully participate in more daily activities while on their period. At the same time, they report that feelings of shame, isolation, and embarrassment improved.

As Eritrea continues to focus on a variety of national development challenges (including literacy, enrolment, and educational disparities), programs and initiatives like the Mendefera factory should be augmented and receive support.

web-St-Joe-Keren-girls-300x255

More materials:

Dr. A. Sleemi (MD, MP): @globalgyno

https://fiqre4eri.wordpress.com/category/education/

http://www.path.org/projects/sanitary-pads.php

http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/east-africa-breaks-the-silence-on-menstruation-to-keep-girls-in-school/

http://www.care2.com/causes/monthly-joy-access-to-sanitary-products-may-lead-to-better-education-for-kenyan-girls.html


Can the US mediate Egypt and Ethiopia’s water dispute?: US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s lessons from the Ethiopia-Eritrea stalemate.

Earlier this week, US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, questioned several expert witnesses at a hearing entitled “Water Sharing Conflicts and the Threat to International Peace.”[i] While the primary focus of the hearing was on the ongoing Ethiopia-Egypt Nile dispute, an extremely interesting point was raised by Rep. Rohrabacher regarding Eritrea. Specifically, when discussing a potential US arbitration or mediation role in the Ethiopia and Egypt disagreement, Rep. Rohrabacher outlined the US’ failure in arbitrating the Eritrea-Ethiopia 1998-2000 war. Rep. Rohrabacher stated:

“Let’s just note that, we did convince the Ethiopians at one point to agree to arbitration of a major dispute that they were in with Eritrea. And, this happened during the last administration, so you’ll know this is not a partisan remark, but I thought the behavior of our government in that whole episode was disgraceful, and has undermined our ability to arbitrate other disputes in the sense that Ethiopia, the decision of the arbiters went against Ethiopia in their border dispute with Eritrea…and we extracted some kind of other deal with them to help us with some sort of defense related deal…and let them off the hook, basically said they didn’t have to follow their arbitration, which meant the message to all of Africa was you don’t…you better skip out the arbitration because that just doesn’t work, even the Americans are going to discard it, what the result is. That was very sad.”[ii]

Rep. Rohrabacher’s comments raise serious questions about any possible US mediation role between Egypt and Ethiopia. What is further striking is his acknowledgement of the US’ utter failure in mediating the Ethiopia-Eritrea 1998-2000 war. Not only were the US’ actions wrong ethically, they proved to be great strategic blunders, since they led to more tension and conflict. Ethiopia has continued to occupy swathes of sovereign Eritrean territory, in direct violation of international law, and in blatant contravention of the rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.[iii] Moreover, the US’ harmful role was further compounded when Ethiopia – supported by the US – invaded Somalia in 2006, leading to a sharp rise in terror and insecurity in the region.

For over a decade, Eritrea has been the scapegoat for the ills of the Horn of Africa – sanctioned, characterized as intransigent, and bearing the brunt of the blame for the region’s instability, conflicts, and tensions. In direct contrast, Ethiopia has been held up as a strong US and western partner, receiving millions of dollars in aid. In 2011, it was the world’s fifth largest recipient of official humanitarian aid and received $3.6B in total assistance,[iv] representing between 50-60 percent of its total budget.[v] Additionally, Ethiopia’s 2011 share of total official development assistance – approximately 4 percent – placed it behind only Afghanistan.

While it is notable that US politicians, such as Rep. Rohrabacher, have begun to recognize – and publicly acknowledge – their administration’s mistakes in the region, much more tangible steps are required to ameliorate the situation and rectify past mistakes. With Ethiopia possessing a critical dependency on foreign aid, the US should end all assistance to the country unless Ethiopia abides by international law and respects Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

REFERENCES

[i] Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. Water Sharing Conflicts and the Threat to International Peace. 2255 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515. Nov 18, 2014 2:00pm

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1O1io-f-itY&feature=youtu.be (begins at 6:20)

[iii] http://www.pca-cpa.org/showpage.asp?pag_id=1150

[iv] http://www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org/countryprofile/ethiopia

[v] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files


Hunger, Africa, Indices, and the need for Accuracy

Today, the 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI) was released. The GHI is put together by the The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), who seek sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. The GHI, as well as IFPRI’s work in general, are important because high quality research can “shape policies, investments, and programs, contributing to a productive, sustainable and resilient agricultural and food system.”
That said, one concern with the GHI is the data utilized. Specifically, the GHI uses “the most recent country-level data available for the three component indicators”:

-Prevalence of underweight children (under five years of age, as a %)
-Under-five mortality rate (as a %)
-Proportion of undernourished in the population (as a %).

While some countries may have indicators that are current, other countries may only reflect outdated, likely now-inaccurate figures. Consequently, the GHI for the latter countries may offer a skewed, incorrect assessment of hunger. For example, in calculating Eritrea’s overall GHI for 2014, data used for “prevalence of underweight children (under five years of age, as a %)” come from the WHO’s figures – from 2002. Considering Eritrea’s general success in the UN MDGs – it is amongst the only countries to achieve the large majority of them – its figures for prevalence of underweight children will likely have reduced.

Ultimately, poor, inaccurate data or unreliable estimates frequently lead to ineffective, inefficient policies or solutions to developmental challenges and issues. With global hunger such a pressing issue, it is important to offer clear, accurate estimates that can support evidence-based decision making for hunger reduction or other dimensions of socio-economic development.


Reza Aslan, Bill Maher, FGM/FGC…and Eritrea – A quick note

Last week, Reza Aslan spoke about FGM/FGC in his debate with Bill Maher. I absolutely loved the smackdown, but was also concerned that Aslan wasn’t overly clear in his comments about Eritrea and FGM/GC. For the record, FGM/FGC – a harmful traditional practice found in parts of Africa and the Middle East – was outlawed in 2007, although efforts to eradicate it were in place during Eritrea’s pre-independence era (ie. early 1970s). Like another traditional, harmful practice, child marriage, not only is it a women’s, child, and human rights issue, it can place females at a high risk for HIV/AIDS through several causal pathways.

Beyond abolishment, Eritrea has also promoted support, awareness, educational, prevention, and recovery programs in both urban and rural areas. Consequently, FGM prevalence rates have decreased, women’s and children’s rights have been better protected, and potential risk factors for HIV/AIDS have been prevented.

Images: Community awareness and Swearing an Oath against FGM/FGC (Eritrea)

Dance-against-FGM-2009 Swearing-Oath-Eritrea-2009

Most exciting, however, are the recent trends. Eritrea has witnessed a change in behaviors/attitudes, and an associated change in prevalence. In some research I’m doing, I’ve come across some amazing figures. Most prominently, in several large population groups/regions, prevalence can range as low as 30%-15% (or below) for girls 15 years old or younger. Considering the practice is a socio-cultural one, dating centuries old, my humble opinion is that this is quite significant, and not inconsequential. The other important thing is that this change is a local initiative, led by women (especially NUEW), although receiving utmost support from the community.

Further information

http://africabusiness.com/2013/10/09/hiv-aids-in-eritrea/

https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/3-ways-increase-girls-education-eritrea


50 Shades of Black – “Eritrean” – An Excerpt

1045147_10151698669956047_2082470228_nBelow is an excerpt from chapter six in 50 Shades of Black, edited by Carlton Mackey (2013). The first volume within a larger series, the book grapples with the issues of race, class, sexuality, skin tone, and diversity, and incorporates a multitude of perspectives. Titled “Eritrean,” my chapter examines the role and influence of my background, culture, upbringing, and heritage in the process of my own identity formation and engagement with the broader world.

[[Transitioning to another one of my favorite hairstyles, the Afro, there exists another underlying story, unknown to many. In my new environment, the US, the Afro is synonymous with the Civil Rights struggle. One outgrowth of the movement was its offer of a renewed sense of identity to the black community, particularly through a redefinition of personal style focusing on an appreciation of African beauty and aesthetics (consider the “Black is Beautiful” concept). With Africa being characterized as natural and exuding pride, what could better espouse this statement than the naturally, untreated hairstyle known as the Afro? Thus, for blacks, the Afro epitomized black pride, while at the same time rejecting notions of mainstream assimilation and integration.

While my Afro does make a political statement based on struggle, it is not one based on the black American experience. My Afro does not represent “Black is Beautiful,” it is not a return to natural, it does not present testimony of a rejection mainstream assimilation, nor does it showcase the sentiments of a longing for lost “Africaness.” No. My Afro is a statement of utmost  honor for the Eritrean Tegadelti. The contributions and exploits of the Tegadelti, freedom fighters of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), are mythical and legendary. Spending over 30 years in the barren, dusty deserts and harsh mountains of Eritrea, they persevered and delivered freedom against all odds. As a famous Time Magazine article discussed shortly after Eritrea’s independence:

“the Tegadelti should never have won; they were outmanned, outgunned, abandoned or betrayed by every all – simply put, their cause was hopeless. They won by force of character, and a unity and determination so steely that not all the modern armaments, superpower support or economic superiority of the enemy could withstand it” (Mcgeary and Michaels 1992).

Out in the fields, up in the mountains, and down in the famous, labyrinth-like trenches, the Tegadelti were known and revered for their unwavering commitment, principles of equality (such as placing women at the same level as men), steadfast devotion to the cause, and absolute fearlessness in the midst of danger, darkness, and destruction. Leading a Spartan-like existence, the Tegadelti were also unique for their iconic Afros, often having an Afro “pick,” fashioned out of wood from the wild, jutting out from their hair. Thus, my Afro is an honorable “shout-out” to the superheroes of Eritrea – the Tegadelti.]]

Beyond imbuing me with a profound pride or an understanding that anything is possible through hard work, my heritage instills a deep sense of obligation. To my mother. My brothers. My sisters. Asmara, my birthplace. Eritrea, my country. To those who sacrificed for it. Lives. Limbs. Families. Everything. And to those working today…endlessly, resolutely, and diligently to defend and develop it. I am blessed…I have been given much. Examples of excellence to follow. Golden standards to maintain. Quite simply, it is my duty. My responsibility. My honor. To give and contribute as much of myself as I can.

**For more information on 50 Shades of Black:

50 Shades of BlackFinal-50ShadesED2.indd


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