Tag Archives: USA

Sport and Resistance: Lilesa’s Brave Stand for Freedom in Ethiopia

According to the late Nelson Mandela, the great South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, “Sport has the power to change the world.” It brings people together, offering unity and shared celebration. At the same time, however, sport frequently serves as an important outlet for social and political resistance. Specifically, for those suffering oppression, discrimination, and despair, sport is often so significant because it provides a vital means of retaining humanity, dignity, hope, and inspiration.

 

On Sunday in Brazil, as he crossed the finish line to take the Olympic silver medal after a grueling marathon race, Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head. Later, at the conclusion of his press conference, Lilesa repeated the gesture in front of the world’s media. Although at first glance the gestures appeared somewhat innocuous, they were strong and courageous acts conducted in solidarity with the thousands of people in Ethiopia and across the world protesting against the Ethiopian government. Hundreds of anti-government protesters have been killed and countless others arrested by authorities amid the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia. For months, hundreds of thousands of people from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups (primarily the Oromo and Amhara) have rallied to protest political marginalization and systematic persecution by the minority-led government. In Brazil, the young Lilesa, from the Oromia region of Ethiopia, not only won silver, he utilized his platform to stand up for justice and emphasized the underlying socio-political significance of sport.

 

For years, the banned colles castelleres (human towers) or trekking excursions and support for FC Barcelona were a reflection of Catalonian resistance against Franco’s fascistic regime in Spain, while support for Spartak Moscow was, at times, seen as a symbol of political resistance against the official establishment in the former USSR. Additionally, in Korea, football within the curricula of physical education created a platform for Korean resistance to Japanese colonialism (Numerato 2011: 109-110).

 

Similarly, in Eritrea, the most popular sport, cycling, became a symbol of resistance to Italian colonialism. The first sighting of a bicycle in the country was in the latter half of the 1800s in Massawa, having been introduced by the Italians. By the 1930s, clubs were being organized, and on 21 April 1937, the first race took place in Asmara. However, during this period, Eritreans were barred from races and clubs due to the segregationist policies of fascism. Not to be denied, Eritreans soon created their own competitions and formed their own clubs. Then, in 1939, a special “trial of strength” was organized by the Italian colonial administrators; Eritreans and Italians would compete together in the same race. In Mussolini’s Italy, sporting success was to embody the greater glory of the fascist nation-state, and the joint Eritrean-Italian race was expected to display the superiority of the colonial master. Instead, like Jesse Owens’ spectacular destruction of Hitler’s Nazi propaganda about Aryan supremacy in the 1936 Munich Olympics, Eritrea’s Ghebremariam Ghebru won the race and shattered colonial myths about Eritrean inferiority.

 

During the turbulent 1960s, in the midst of the growing black power movement, the civil rights struggle, and the anti-Vietnam war movement, Muhammad Ali, widely regarded as the best boxer ever, became a global symbol of resistance to racism, militarism, and inequality. He unapologetically raised troubling questions and forced society to come to terms with civil rights, race, religion, war, and imperialism, defying all convention and the US government (Rowe 2016; Zirin 2016).

 

“I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong,” Ali stated forcefully. “They never called me ni–er.” With that, despite being at the peak of his career and understanding the implications, he refused to serve in the US Armed Services. Subsequently, he was stripped of his heavyweight title, convicted of draft evasion (facing a 5-year prison sentence), fined thousands of dollars, and banned for several years. While he would eventually make a glorious return to the ring, it was his strongly principled stand and unwavering activism that truly made him “the greatest” and an inspiration for millions worldwide.

 

In 1968, a year after Ali was convicted of draft evasion, two black American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200 meters, made history at the Mexico Olympics by staging a silent protest against the continuing racial discrimination of blacks in the US. They stood with their heads bowed and a black-gloved hand raised as the American national anthem played during the victory ceremony. Although they were immediately booed and castigated by many, and then quickly suspended by their team and expelled from the Olympics, Carlos and Smith’s brave act, which soon gained much support from black athletes around the world, “shifted dissidence from the periphery of American life to primetime television,” and “was understood as an act of solidarity with all those fighting for greater equality, justice and human rights” (Younge 2012).

 

Although the authoritarian Ethiopian government has attempted to forcibly crush the protests and rules the country through the politics of fear, Lilesa’s gesture embodies strength, hope, courage, solidarity, and defiance, while poignantly illustrating the broader socio-political significance of sport.

 

 

 

Image 1: Fiyesa Lilesa crossing the finish line and showing solidarity with protesters in Ethiopia.

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Image 2: Fiyesa Lilesa showing solidarity with protesters in Ethiopia

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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

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

 

 


Canada Elections: Justin Trudeau Out West in Harper’s Backyard

I had the opportunity to attend Justin Trudeau and Matt Grant’s Liberal Party “Meet and Greet” event in Calgary, the hometown of Conservative Leader and Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. While the conditions were sweltering hot, the atmosphere was welcoming and positive, and it was good to see a considerable number of people, young and old and of a range of ethnicities, in attendance.

 

Liberal Leader Trudeau’s speech mainly focused on the economy, and discussing how the Conservatives have failed to develop a positive foundation for Alberta’s energy future. With the national election campaign having just begun, expect more focus on Canada’s faltering economy. Canada’s economy contracted by the most in nearly six years in the first quarter of 2015, and the economy recently recorded its fifth consecutive monthly contraction in gross domestic product raising fears of a new recession (technically, recessions are defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth). Although Harper remains optimistic about an economic turnaround, his record has increasingly come under attack. In a recent exhaustive empirical comparison of Canada’s economic record under the Harper government with previous post-war prime ministers, the authors concluded that “there is no other time in Canada’s post-war economic history in which Canada’s economy has performed worse than it did under the Harper government.” For Trudeau and other candidates, the suggestion is that Harper is out of touch and that it is definitely time for a change.

 

Trudeau also noted how the national government has been focused more on itself than on the citizens, and also claimed that it spends “your money on themselves to buy an election instead of investing it in you to make your lives better,” in reference to the Conservative Party’s alleged use of departmental ad budgets to boost the Harper government’s brand. Trudeau’s comments also seem appropriate since Harper’s call for an early election stands to considerably hurt taxpayers who may end up forking over $1.23 for every dollar a political party spends during the election campaign (through rebates for parties’ election expenses and individual candidate’s campaign costs, and financing of the federal political contribution tax credit).
Although the economy will understandably be a key area of focus on the campaign trail, another topic that ought to arouse significant attention is foreign policy. Across the post-World War II period, Canada was globally respected and admired for its foreign policy which held up the importance of international institutions, promoted multilateral diplomacy, sought to strengthen international laws, rules and norms, and pushed for dialogue, reconciliation, and the peaceful settlement of global disputes. However, under Harper, Canada has experienced a radical shift in foreign policy – essentially Canada’s foreign policy has become “un-Canadian.” Thus, an important election question is how will Trudeau (or other candidates) handle Canada’s involvement and approach in or towards Afghanistan, Libya (recall Canada flew among the most sorties of any NATO member), Iraq, Ukraine and Russia, Iran, Syria, Israel (under Harper Canada became the single most supportive nation of Israeli policy, exceeding even the United States, at times), and the environment? Will it be more of the same or the ushering in of change?

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Trudeau with a baby from the crowd.

 

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Trudeau and the author.

 


Instability and Insecurity in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the US, and UK

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recently tweeted about “the volatile Horn of Africa.” The tweet provided a link to an interactive map presenting discussions of Regional Overview, Somalia’s Instability, Transnational Issues, and Armed Forces in the Region. Although useful, the CFR’s analysis fails to identify several of the key factors influencing instability in the Horn of Africa.

Briefly, while the CFR notes the harmful influence of Al-Shabaab, it should more clearly describe how and why Al-Shabaab arose. Doing so would reveal that, far from Somalia, Al-Shabaab’s rise, consolidation, spread, and ongoing attacks can be better attributed to failed policies originating in the US, as discussed by noted independent journalist Jeremy Scahill:

As well, Professor Vijay Prashad, a distinguished scholar, has outlined how the West’s catastrophic approach toward and meddling within the region has helped fuel the rise of Al-Shabaab:

Additionally, in its discussion of the “strife” in Somalia, the CFR should delve further and note the toxic role of Ethiopia within the situation, supported financially, militarily, diplomatically, and politically by the West (especially the US and UK). Previously, speaking in the British Parliament, MP George Galloway famously exposed the British government’s hypocrisy and complicity in grave human rights abuses occurring within Somalia, under the harsh, brutal occupation by Ethiopia (funded by the US and UK):

Last, the CFR erred in its use of phrases such as “border tensions” and “border dispute” between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Instead, the CFR should have described the situation for what it is: an illegal military occupation in direct violation of long-accepted international norms and laws. Furthermore, the reference to dispute suggests there remain disagreements about the border. Rather, the dispute was settled long ago through a “final and binding” international judicial process, and only one party (i.e. Ethiopia) fails to implement. Instead of seemingly downplaying the gravity of this particular issue, the CFR would be better in noting that an end to the occupation would go a long way to normalizing relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa and, in the process, improving  overall stability and security in the Horn of Africa.

These are just initial, brief (and humble) thoughts in response to the CFR’s tweet and analysis. The CFR does well to note the importance of the Horn of Africa to broader geo-political and regional stability and security. However, within this context, it is imperative that analyses of the situation and region consider all factors and reveal uncomfortable truths.


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

 


A Rogues Gallery of Abusive Regimes- CC: “Abesha Institute”

I just wanted to extend a quick “kudos” to @AbeshaT (Abesha Institute) on the latest news of the US’ donation of Hercules aircraft to the Ethiopian military. The Abesha Institute describes itself as an “independent Ethiopian economic and political policy researcher,” and it claims that it focuses on “advocacy on trade policies and geopolitical strategies”. Although I was not aware of this latest development, the Institute ensured that the “wonderful news” did not pass me by. Thankfully, the story also allows me to kindly remind the Institute of the illustrious company that the Ethiopian government is a part of in being generously funded and armed by the US. This list, comprised of governments that systematically abuse(d) human rights, includes (in no particular order):

Indonesia’s General Suharto who, according to the CIA, committed “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century” during the 1965-66 massacres in Indonesia. SEE

Haile Selassie, who was a despotic tyrant who ruled oppressively, enslaved innumerable peasants via a draconian feudal system, and illegally annexed Eritrea. SEE

Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam, who overthrew Selassie. Although heavily backed by the USSR, Mengistu also received millions in aid (at the same time!) from the US. Mengistu oversaw a reign of terror characterized by widespread violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes. In repressing self-determination efforts in Eritrea and other areas, civilians were deliberately targeted and fell victim by the hundreds of thousands as a result of the indiscriminate violence against them. Further, his regime’s “villagization” program played a direct role in the further nearly half a million civilian deaths during the late 1980s. SEE

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. In 1953, the CIA and British intelligence orchestrated a coup d’etat that toppled the democratically elected Mossadegh government of Iran, and installed the Shah. The crushing of Iran’s first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms. The anti-American backlash that toppled the Shah in 1979 shook the whole region and helped spread Islamic militancy. SEE

Saddam Hussein, who received critical assistance from the Reagan administration in the war against Iran during the 1980s. Not only did Ronald Reagan turn a blind-eye to the Hussein regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and Iraq’s Kurdish minority, but the US helped Iraq develop its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. SEE

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled Ethiopia for 20 years with dictatorial ruthlessness. His tenure was marked by the cracking down on civil society organizations and journalists, the illegal invasion and occupation of several neighboring countries (e.g. Somalia and Eritrea), the exclusion and marginalization of several of Ethiopia’s major ethnolinguistic and religious groups from political and economic life, the denial of humanitarian and food aid from “disloyal” segments of the country, and a counterinsurgency involving “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” SEE 1 and SEE 2

And to this list, we can add Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, and dozens of others generously backed by Washington.* Of course, it would be remiss of me to fail to mention the current Ethiopian regime’s “sterling” record. Led by Prime Minister Desalegn, who came to power following Zenawi’s mysterious and abrupt death, the current regime has utilized much of its aid “well” suggesting that the Hercules aircraft will likely be put “to good use”. Specifically, Desalegn has maintained the Zenawi regime’s longstanding harsh policies. Ethiopia has continued to crack down on all dissent via highly-controversial anti-terrorism laws, sustained the marginalization or persecution of various ethnolinguistic groups or homosexuals, retained the criticized villagization programs, and engaged in an ongoing counter-insurgency against the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) – utilizing executions, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, and various other abuses. SEE 1 and SEE 2 and SEE 3

Cheers…

 

*However, due to time and space constraints, I am unable to delve further into these other cases.


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.

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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


Examining Ethiopia: Bahir Dar, Defections, and Indonesia.

ethiopian-prime-minister-hailemariam-desalegn-r-shakes-hands-u-s-secretary-state-john-kerry

As 2014 draws to a close, the recent defection of several high-level Ethiopian military personnel,[i] and the Ethiopian government’s bloody crackdown on protests in Bahir Dar[ii] highlight serious questions about Ethiopia’s tense internal socio-political situation and the West’s ongoing support for Ethiopia’s repressive government.

 

Late last week, in Bahir Dar, several people were killed and many others wounded after police abruptly opened fire on protesters defending a sacred site against government-sponsored demolition.[iii]On the heels of the crackdown, several military pilots and a technician absconded with MI-35 helicopters; notably, the defections are only the latest in a series of similar such high-profile desertions.

 

Although Ethiopia has witnessed several years of respectable economic growth, last week’s developments reflect “the politics of fear” that pervades Ethiopia’s socio-political landscape, and emphasize the country’s significant “challenges concerning human rights, political competition, good governance, and corruption.”[iv] Earlier this year, Ethiopian authorities arrested nine journalists and bloggers, subsequently denying them access to lawyers, family, and colleagues. They have been held on allegations they work for foreign human rights groups or used social media to incite violence.[v] Such allegations have become common-place, as Ethiopia’s highly-controversial anti-terrorism laws allow the government to hand down long sentences to anyone who “writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, [or] disseminates” statements the government considers terrorism.[vi] The arrests of the bloggers coincided with mass non-violent protests led by students in the central Oromia region,[vii] ultimately seeing numerous protestors killed, wounded, and arrested.[viii][ix]

 

Furthermore, the Ethiopian army has systematically engaged in executions, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, and various other abuses in its ongoing brutal counter-insurgency against the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).[x]Ethnic groups residing within and around the region have endured arbitrary detentions, torture, and mistreatment in detention, as well as severe restrictions on movement and commercial trade, and minimal access to independent relief assistance. Effectively, such abuses constitute direct threats to their survival.[xi]

 

As well, weeks ago, TV4 reported that H&M, the popular Swedish clothing company, has purchased cotton from regions in Ethiopia where land-grabbing and forced displacement have occurred.[xii] Problematically, a central component of Ethiopia’s developmental and agricultural strategy involves “villagization,” a program entailing the relocation of millions of people from locations reserved for industrial plantations.[xiii]Villagization has long been condemned by international organizations,[xiv] since it leads to greater food insecurity, a destruction of livelihoods, and the loss of cultural heritage of ethnic groups. Ethiopia’s program, which utilizes forced evictions, has been plagued by a plethora of human rights violations, with a variety of human rights groups documenting beatings, killings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation, and political coercion by the government and authorities.[xv]

 

With national elections on the horizon (scheduled for May 2015), the potential for further instability, discord, and popular revolt loom large, especially considering past precedent. In 2005, following national elections widely believed to have been rigged, the Ethiopian government, under the late, authoritarian leader Meles Zenawi, “massacred” hundreds of protestors, many of them teenagers.[xvi] Moreover, in recent years, massive protests by the Blue Party opposition group and Muslim groups, have ended in deaths, repression, and state violence.[xvii] Finally, in November, a 166-page report on the plight of the Oromo people in Ethiopia was released.[xviii] Concluding that the Oromo people have suffered “sweeping” repression in Ethiopia, the report detailed that between 2011 and 2014, more than 5000 Oromos have been arrested based on their opposition to the government, with the majority of those arrested being peaceful protestors or members of opposition parties.[xix] Looking towards the 2015 elections, Berhanu Nega, Professor of Economics at Bucknell University and former leader of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy in Ethiopia, asserts that the Ethiopian government can “never have free and fair elections.” Specifically, according to Nega,

 

“[t]he reason why there’s so much repression, the reason why there’s so much muzzling of the press, the reason why the Ethiopian government is arresting opposition figures inside the country is precisely because they know that this is a despised government. It cannot last a day in an environment of freedom. This is a government that will lose catastrophically if there were [a] free and fair election.”[xx]

 

Last, it is noteworthy that Ethiopia’s various internal challenges are compounded by its transgressions which extend beyond its borders. Specifically, Ethiopia has continued to occupy sovereign territory of its northern neighbor, Eritrea, in direct violation of international law, and in blatant contravention of the rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.[xxi] The 12-year-long military occupation has frozen any possibility of developmental cooperation or economic partnership between the two countries, and the military occupation is seen as an influential factor to much of the instability within the Horn of Africa region.

 

In seeking to address Ethiopia’s flagrant dismissal of international norms and laws, a variety of measures could plausibly be undertaken (e.g. sanctions). However, the first, and possibly most far-reaching and effective response by the international community should be to withdraw its unwavering support for the repressive Ethiopian government. George Galloway, respected British politician, broadcaster, and writer, has often voiced concern of how the West’s (led by the US and UK) support for dictatorial, tyrannical regimes results in harming the populations of those countries. Regarding Ethiopia, Galloway has decried how the UK and US policy of encouraging, arming, training, financing, and facilitating the Ethiopian government’s “reign of terror” is “morally vacuous.”[xxii]Similarly, renowned international economist, William Easterly, has recommended that the international community “stop financing tyranny and repression” in Ethiopia.[xxiii]

 

An indication of the possible far-reaching effects of removing external support for a harsh, brutal regime can be seen in the example of Indonesia. Professor Noam Chomsky (MIT) has written and spoken extensively on how US and western support for the despotic regime in Indonesia played an indirect, yet extremely harmful role in the carnage and deaths of hundreds of thousands in East Timor.[xxiv] However, in 1999, after much pressure, the US finally “pulled the plug” on its support for the Suharto regime, quickly leading to the cessation of Indonesia’s brutal campaign. Specifically,

 

“[f]or 25 years, the United States strongly supported the vicious Indonesian invasion and massacre, a virtual genocide. It was happening right through 1999, as the Indonesian atrocities increased and escalated, after Dili the capital city was practically evacuated. After Indonesian attacks, the US was still supporting it. Finally, in mid-September 1999, under considerable international and also domestic pressure, Clinton quietly told the Indonesian generals “It’s finished.” And they had said they’d never leave, they said “this is our territory.” They pulled out within days, and allowed a UN peacekeeping force to enter without Indonesian military resistance. Well, you know, that’s a dramatic indication of what can be done.”

 

While the socio-political dynamics and historical contexts of Indonesia and Ethiopia are quite different, the comparison presents several clear similarities. Both regimes received decades-worth of external economic, military, and political support (particularly from the US). Additionally, both regimes systematically and persistently violated human rights, transgressed various international laws – such as through military occupation, and engaged in large-scale campaigns characterized as “genocidal.” Consequently, with Ethiopia continuing to overlook basic international norms, standards, and laws, the international community must end its complicity in and (in)direct support for Ethiopia’s various transgressions. As Clinton relayed to Indonesia’s leadership, the international community must tell Ethiopia, “It’s finished.”

 

REFERENCES

[i] http://www.tesfanews.net/two-ethiopian-pilots-abscond-with-two-mi-35-attack-helicopters/

[ii] http://ethiopia-chat.com/esat-breaking-news-19-december-2014-huge-protest-in-bahir-dar-ethiopia/

[iii] http://www.tesfanews.net/ethiopia-3-killed-scores-wounded-in-bahir-dar-protest/#gyAzuOrAISVspgYi.99

[iv]http://allafrica.com/stories/201412200102.html?utm_source=December+22+2014+EN&utm_campaign=12%2F22%2F2014&utm_medium=email

[v] http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/apr/30/press-freedom-ethiopia?CMP=twt_gu

[vi] http://www.newsweek.com/ethiopias-war-homosexuals-224457

[vii] http://thinkafricapress.com/ethiopia/addis-ababa-sleeping-beauty-no-longer-student-protests-police-response-oromo

[viii] https://twitter.com/BBCAfrica/status/461849684974505984

[ix]  1) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27251331

2) http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1126651

[x] http://www.hrw.org/node/74305

[xi] http://www.hrw.org/features/ogaden-war-crimes-ethiopia-0

[xii] https://fiqre4eri.wordpress.com/

[xiii] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/development-aid-ethiopia

[xiv] http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/ethiopia0112webwcover_0.pdf

[xv] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/development-aid-ethiopia

[xvi] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6064638.stm

[xvii] 1) http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/ethiopian-repression-muslim-protests-must-stop-2013-08-08

2) http://www.irinnews.org/report/96787/

3) http://www.voanews.com/content/new-ethiopian-blue-party-tries-again-to-demonstrate/1741733.html

[xviii] http://oromopress.blogspot.ca/

[xix] http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR25/006/2014/en

[xx] http://www.voanews.com/content/former-us-diplomat-calls-for-free-fair-elections-in ethiopia/2568689.html

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

[xxii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcxfrnRkwDQ

[xxiii] http://www.tesfanews.net/stop-financing-tyranny-like-in-ethiopia-william-easterly/

[xxiv] http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199910–.htm


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