Daily Archives: April 21, 2015

Yemen is Fast Becoming a Humanitarian Disaster on Par with Syria and South Sudan

Yemen is a humanitarian disaster. And as the Saudi-led airstrikes enter its 27th day, things are only getting worse.

150,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the fighting. An untold number of civilians have been killed. The entire country is basically under siege, with adequate humanitarian supplies unable to reach people in need.

The airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are apparently not adequately distinguishing between civilian and military targets. In the latest example, of which there are many, an Oxfam humanitarian supply warehouse was hit in a missile strike. And even when military targets are hit, the civilian costs are can be exceedingly high, as in yesterday’s strike on a missile factory in Sanaa, which caused a huge explosion and killed 30 people and destroyed houses miles away.

Just look at this explosion. And consider it happened in city with a population of over 1 million people. It’s hard to see how this satisfies the just war principle of double effect.

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In the latest onslaught of dire warnings, the WHO warned today of the “imminent collapse” of Yemen’s entire health system saying that polio, measles and diarrhea may make a comeback.

Health facilities are struggling to function as they face increasing shortages of life-saving medicines and vital health supplies, frequent disruptions in power supply and lack of fuel for generators. Lack of fuel has also disrupted functionality of ambulances and the delivery of health supplies across the country.

Power cuts and fuel shortages also threaten to disrupt the vaccine cold chain, leaving millions of children below the age of five unvaccinated. This increases the risk of communicable diseases such as measles, which is prevalent in Yemen, as well as polio, which has been eliminated but is now at risk of reappearing.

Shortages of safe water have resulted in increased risk of diarrhoea, and other diseases. “Over the past 4 weeks, national disease surveillance reports show a doubling in the number of cases of bloody diarrhoea in children below the age of 5, as well as an increase in the number of cases of measles and suspected malaria. High rates of malnutrition among women and children below the age of 5 have also been reported,” says Dr Ahmed Shadoul, WHO Representative for Yemen.

With no end to the conflict in sight there is one bright spot: Saudi Arabia has agreed to cover the entirety of the UN’s $273.7 million humanitarian appeal to provide basic relief to 7.5 million people affected by the conflict.  This is exceedingly rare. Humanitarian responses to ongoing disasters are almost never paid for in full. (For example, the Syria humanitarian appeal is only 17% filled.) Also, this is probably the first time that a belligerent to a conflict has footed the entire bill of the humanitarian response to a disaster caused, in part, by their bombs and missile strikes.

Still, if Saudi Arabia continues its airstrikes and siege, these costs are going to skyrocket. Yemen is fast becoming a first-order humanitarian emergency, on par with Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. If the international community doesn’t coalesce around a strategy to reduce the violence it risks letting loose another region-wide Syrian-esque death spiral.

Bonus: In this 15 minute interview April Longley Alley of the International Crisis Groups explains the root causes of this conflict and what the international community can do to put a halt to this violence.

Discussion

comments…

Three killed in restaurant car bombing in Somali capital

NNA – Three people were killed and six wounded in a car bomb blast outside a popular restaurant in the center of the Somali capital Mogadishu on Tuesday, police said.

The attack is the latest in a string of bombings in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, where Al-Qaida-affiliated Shebab Islamists are fighting to topple the government.

“There are at least three dead, and six others have been injured,” police officer Ahmed Warhere told AFP.

“A vehicle loaded with explosives was parked outside the restaurant.”

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the restaurant is located in the center of Mogadishu, where the Shebab Islamists have carried out repeated attacks.

U.N. envoy to Somalia Nick Kay, who was visiting colleagues in the northeastern town of Garowe a day after the Shebab killed six people in an attack on a U.N. bus there, condemned “another atrocity”.

He said the “killing needs to stop”.

Four staff from the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF were killed in the bus attack, including two Kenyans, an Afghan and a Ugandan. Two Somali security guards were also killed in that attack.

The Shebab, meaning “youth”, emerged out of a bitter insurgency against Ethiopia, whose troops entered Somalia in a 2006 U.S.-backed invasion to topple the Islamic Courts Union that was then controlling the capital Mogadishu.

Shebab rebels continue to stage frequent attacks in their fight to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government, as well as to counter claims that they are close to defeat due to the loss of territory, regular U.S. drone strikes against their leaders and defections.

In other recent attacks Shebab gunmen shot dead a Puntland lawmaker, Adan Haji Hussein, on Saturday and on Sunday killed three African Union troops in an ambush in the south of the war-ravaged country. —AFP

=======R.A.H.

Paul G. Allen Convenes Experts to Overcome Key Challenges in the Ebola Response

– Ebola Innovation Summit Welcomes Brightest Idea-Makers in Global Health, Technology and Government to Devise New Ways to Tackle Ebola

SAN FRANCISCO, April 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/–

What: Today, April 21, Paul G. Allen will host the Ebola Innovation Summit in partnership with the Skoll Global Threats Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The one-day, interactive event brings together a diverse group of experts to solve some of the biggest challenges in the current Ebola response. The summit will build on the lessons learned from this Ebola outbreak to improve the world’s ability to fight the next outbreak.

Attendees will problem-solve against four challenge areas: Data collection and coordinated systems; diagnostics; social mobilization; and emergency infrastructure and logistics. Promising innovations will be evaluated and funded by Paul G. Allen along with other funders interested in supporting great ideas.

Who:  Speakers include:
-Paul G. Allen, Founder, Vulcan Inc. and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
-Dr. Larry Brilliant, Epidemiologist, Former President/CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and an advisor to Jeffrey Skoll
-Dr. Olawale Maiyegun, Director of Social Affairs, African Union
-Dr. David Nabarro, Special Envoy on Ebola, United Nations
-Hon. Madina Rahman, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone
-Denise Rollins, Senior Coordinator for the Africa Ebola Unit, USAID
-Dr. Rajiv Shah, Distinguished Fellow, Georgetown University

Summit attendees include scientists, engineers, government representatives, academics, and philanthropists who will combine resources to develop and design new approaches to these challenges.

For a full list of speakers and agenda visit: www.pgafamilyfoundation.org/Ebola-Innovation-Summit

Note: Morning sessions from 9AM-Noon PT are available to registered press only.

Where: The invitation-only event is being held in San Francisco. For specific location,
please reach out to the contact below to register.

How: Follow the Summit on Twitter: #Innovate4Ebola and @TackleEbola

CONTACT: To register for the morning sessions or to request additional information contact:
Vulcan Media Relations at press@vulcan.com
OR
Anna Kukowski, Burson-Marsteller
212-614-4560
anna.kukowski@bm.com

Daily News 21 / 04 / 2015

Meeting of the colleges of the African Union and the European Commission on Wednesday 22 April

Tomorrow, the African Union Commission and the European Commission will hold their annual College-to-College meeting in Brussels. This is the biggest EU-Africa event of the year. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I am particularly pleased to welcome Chairperson Dr. Dlamini-Zuma and her colleagues to this first meeting with the Commission that took office in November. We will build on the good progress made at last year’s EU-Africa summit and ensure our partnership continues to deliver results. The summit will also be the opportunity to put a renewed focus on our cooperation in the field of migration at what is a particularly challenging time for all of us. In the context of the ongoing crisis in Libya and the dramatic situation in the Mediterranean, we have to enhance cooperation with North African and Sub Saharan African countries to build migration and border management capacities, with the support of international organizations already active on the ground.” Ahead of the meeting, a programme of €80 million for building disaster resilience in sub-Saharan Africa will be launched. EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and AU Commission Deputy Chairperson, Erastus Mwencha will sign the programme. This will put the AU Commission in the lead role for disaster risk reduction in the African continent, driving the effective implementation of the post-2015 African Disaster Risk Reduction strategy, which was put in place to help protect people from the threat of natural hazards by identifying, assessing and reducing the risks of disaster. More information is available online. (for more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

Plan d’investissement pour l’Europe: la Pologne contribuera à hauteur de 8 milliards d’euros

La Pologne a annoncé aujourd’hui qu’elle contribuerait à hauteur de 8 milliards d’euros à des projets financés par le Fonds européen pour les investissements stratégiques (FEIS), qui constitue l’élément central du plan d’investissement pour l’Europe de 315 milliards d’euros. Le versement de sa contribution passera par sa banque nationale de développement, Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK). Après l’Allemagne, l’Espagne, la France, l’Italie et le Luxembourg est le sixième pays à contribuer au plan avant même que le Fonds européen pour les investissements stratégiques n’ait été officiellement institué. M. Jyrki Katainen, vice-président de la Commission européenne chargé de l’emploi, de la croissance, de l’investissement et de la compétitivité, a déclaré: “Je suis très heureux d’apprendre la bonne nouvelle du ministre des Finances Mateusz Szczurek en personne que la Pologne contribuera au plan d’investissement. Ce sera le sixième pays qui y contribuera. La Banque Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK) de la Pologne a déjà un vaste engagement dans les plates-formes d’investissement de l’UE. Je suis très heureux de cette annonce très opportune.” (for more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhan Bright – Tel.: +32 229 57361)

EUROSTAT: Provision of deficit and debt data for 2014 – first notification; Euro area and EU28 government deficit at 2.4% and 2.9% of GDP respectively; Government debt at 91.9% and 86.8%

In 2014, the government deficit of both the euro area (EA19) and the EU28 decreased in absolute terms compared with 2013, while the government debt rose in both zones. In the euro area the government deficit to GDP ratio decreased from 2.9% in 2013 to 2.4% in 2014, and in the EU28 from 3.2% to 2.9%. In the euro area the government debt to GDP ratio increased from 90.9% at the end of 2013 to 91.9% at the end of 2014, and in the EU28 from 85.5% to 86.8%. A EUROSTAT press release is available online. (for more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Johannes Bahrke – Tel. +32 229 58615)

EU acts on illegal fishing: Yellow card issued to Thailand while South Korea & Philippines are cleared

The Commission has today put Thailand on formal notice for not taking sufficient measures in the international fight against illegal fishing. After a series of discussions with Thai authorities since 2011, the Commission has denounced the country’s shortcomings in its fisheries monitoring, control and sanctioning systems. Should the situation not improve, the EU could resort to banning fisheries imports, as it has done in the past with Guinea, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. On a more positive note, the Commission acknowledges today that two important fishing nations, Korea and the Philippines, have carried out appropriate reforms of their legal systems and are now equipped to tackle illegal fishing. It therefore stops the “identification” procedure that started with a yellow card to Korea in 2013 and the Philippines in 2014. A press release is available online in EN, FR and DE. You can also follow the press statement by EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella on Europe by Satellite. (for more information: Enrico Brivio Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)

The Commission approves new promotion programmes for agricultural products

The European Commission has approved 41 new programmes to promote agricultural products in the EU and on third country markets, worth €130 million over 3 years, half of which comes from the EU budget. This includes an extra 30 million € of EU funds made available following the Russian ban on imports of EU food products last August. Commenting on these new programmes, Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Phil Hogan, said: “Promoting EU agri-food products on global markets is a strong and proactive response to the Russian ban.  The increased funding for promotion measures will continue to contribute to the success story of the growth in exports of high quality EU agri-food products on the world market” The selected programmes, from 18 different Member States, cover a variety of product categories, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, quality products, organic products, olive oil, meat, as well as combination of different product categories. Some 17 of these programmes target the internal EU market and 24 target third countries. A press release is available online in EN, FR and DE (other languages to be available shortly). See here (also available in FR and DE) for the full list of programmes and budgets adopted. (for more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 229 56 185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52 509)

Mergers: Commission clears Altice’s acquisition of PT Portugal, subject to conditions, rejects  referral request by Portugal’s competition authority

The European Commission has authorised under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the Portuguese telecommunications operator PT Portugal by the multinational cable and telecommunications company Altice. The decision is conditional upon the divestment of Altice’s current Portuguese businesses ONI and Cabovisão. The Commission had concerns that the merged entity would have faced insufficient competitive constraint from the remaining players on the market for fixed telecommunications. This could have led to higher prices for clients. The divestments offered by Altice address these concerns. The Commission has also rejected a request to refer the examination of the transaction to the Portuguese competition authority. A press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and PT. More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission’s public case register under the case number M.7499.(for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

State aid: Commission temporarily approves rescue aid for Romanian Complexul Energetic Hunedoara

The European Commission has concluded that temporary rescue aid of RON 167 million (approx. €37.7 million) to be granted by the Romanian authorities to Complexul Energetic Hunedoara (CE Hunedoara), the state-owned electricity and heat producer in Romania, is in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission found that the aid was limited to the amount necessary to allow CE Hunedoara to continue operating its power plants in the next six months. At the end of this period, the company will either pay back the aid or Romania will notify a restructuring plan, setting out measures to ensure the company’s long-term viability. A press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and RO. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

Antitrust: Swedish, French and Italian competition authorities obtain commitments in online hotel booking sector

The competition authorities of Sweden, Italy and France have accepted commitments offered by Booking.com, Europe’s largest online hotel booking platform. These commitments address competition concerns that the authorities raised in relation to so-called parity clauses contained in Booking.com’s agreements with hotels. The parity clauses oblige hotels to offer Booking.com the same or lower room prices as the hotel makes available on all other online and offline distribution channels. The three competition authorities had concerns that these clauses may restrict competition between Booking.com and other online travel agents and hinder new booking platforms from entering the market. To address these concerns, Booking.com offered commitments, regarding upon which the three authorities sought stakeholder views on in December last year. Booking.com amended its draft commitments to take the comments from the market tests into account. The final commitments will be implemented as of 1 July 2015 in Sweden, Italy and France and will, amongst other things, allow hotels to offer lower room prices on other online hotel booking websites. The European Commission assisted the three authorities in coordinating the investigations. More information, including the text of the commitments, can be found on the websites of the three authorities: France, Italy and Sweden. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Vice-President Georgieva in Berlin

Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva will be in Berlin today, 21 April. She is taking part in the conference “Policy options for more investment in Germany and Europe” organised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. At the event, she will speak about the role of EU budget in steering investments in Europe. She will also give examples of how the good use of EU budget has led to more growth and jobs in Europe. You can watch the conference live here. Following the conference, Vice-President Georgieva will meet with German Vice-Chancellor and Minister of the Economy Mr Sigmar Gabriel. More about the opportunities the EU budget of almost 1 trillion euro for the period 2014 – 2020 gives to citizens is available online. (for more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Andreana Stankova – Tel.: +32 229 57857)

Commissioner Creţu attends the 4th EU Capital Mayors meeting in Vienna

Today, 21 April, Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu is in Vienna to attend the 4th EU Capital Mayors meeting, where she will call for the support of the EU capital city mayors to take forward the EU Urban Agenda. “We are now at a major turning point. In the last 20 years we have never been as close as we are today to reaching an agreement on the Urban Agenda. Capital cities have an important role to play: to engage with national authorities, to exert their political influence and to make sure the Urban Agenda becomes a reality on the ground”, she said, ahead of the meeting. Last summer the Commission launched a public consultation on the EU Urban Agenda, during which stakeholders called for better coordination of EU policies in tune with urban realities and more direct involvement of cities in the EU policy cycle. The CITIES Forum, which will take place on 2 June, will focus on the results of this consultation as well as on the next steps. More information on the urban dimension of Cohesion Policy is available online. (for more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

High Representative / Vice-President Mogherini meets Cuban Foreign Minister, 22 April

High Representative / Vice-President Federica Mogherini will be meeting the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla on Wednesday 22 April. This meeting is taking place following the 3rd round of negotiations of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement on 4-5 March, the official visit of HRVP Mogherini to Cuba on 23-24 March and her participation in the Summit of the Americas on 11 April. High Representative / Vice-President Mogherini and Minister Rodriguez are expected to discuss the state of play of the current Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, the political situation, and regional and global issues. A press point is being envisaged in the VIP corner on Wednesday. Time to be confirmed. (for more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

Vice-President Dombrovskis on European Semester visit to Berlin

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, will visit Germany tomorrow 22 April and Thursday 23 April to discuss the European Semesterand the reforms underway in the country. He will meet Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert, as well as representatives of social partners and key think tanks. He will address parliamentary committees at the Bundestag and deliver a keynote speech at the Monetary Conference hosted by Die Welt and the German Foundation of Family Businesses. A statement by the Vice-President on the German economy will be available tomorrow on EbS. Vice-President Dombrovskis is travelling to Member States as part of the Commission’s outreach on the European Semester of economic policy coordination. This takes place on the basis of the Commission’s assessment of Member States’ economic and social developments, or Country Reports, published in February, and in view of the country-specific policy recommendations, which will be published by the Commission in May. During these visits, the Vice-President engages national governments, parliaments and social partners in a constructive discussion on the issues raised in the reports. After Germany, the Vice-President’s next country visit will be Belgium on 30 April. (for more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)

The Commission approves new promotion programmes for agricultural products

The European Commission has approved 41 new programmes to promote agricultural products in the EU and on third country markets, worth 130 million EURO over 3 years, half of which (65m EURO) comes from the EU budget. This includes an extra 30m€ of EU funds made available by the Commission following the Russian ban on imports of EU food products last August.

Commenting on these new programmes, Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Phil Hogan, said: “Promoting EU agri-food products on global markets is a strong and proactive response to the Russian Ban. The increased funding for promotion measures will continue to contribute to the success story of the growth in exports of high quality EU agri-food products on the world market”

The selected programmes, from 18 different Member States, cover a variety of product categories, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, quality products (PDOs, PGIs and TSGs), organic products, olive oil, meat, as well as combination of different product categories. Some 17 of these programmes target the internal EU market and 24 target third countries. This is a significant change in comparison to the previous wave of programmes, where nearly two thirds of the schemes targeted the internal market. This is most likely due to the additional 30 million EURO announced by the European Commission last year in the wake of the Russian ban on imports of certain EU agricultural products as a measure to help find alternative markets. In spite of the restrictions imposed unilaterally by the Russian Federation, total EU agri-food exports to third countries increased by 2% in value in the period August-December 2014 compared to the same period of the previous year.

Third countries and regions targeted are: Middle East, North America, South-East Asia, China, Japan, South Korea, Africa, Russia, Belarus, Kazakshtan, Australia and Norway. Moreover, five of the accepted programmes are so-called multi-programmes, comprising joint promotion campaigns by organisations from different Member States.

See LINK for the full list of programmes and budgets adopted is available in the annex.

 

Background

The measures financed can consist of public relations, promotional or publicity campaigns, in particular highlighting the advantages of EU products, especially in terms of quality, food safety and hygiene, nutrition, labelling, animal welfare or environmentally-friendly production methods. These measures can also cover participation at events and fairs, information campaigns on the EU quality systems (PDO, PGI and TSG), on organic farming, and information campaigns on the EU system of quality wines. The EU finances up to 50% of the cost of these measures (up to 60% in certain cases), the remainder being met by the professional/inter-branch organisations which proposed them and in some cases also by the Member States concerned.

This wave of programmes is the first of 2 waves for 2015, the last schemes under the existing regulation (3/2008). From 1 December 2015, the new rules agreed in last year’s reform of EU promotion policy will enter into force. As well as a gradual increase in the EU budget contribution to 200m EURO per year, the new regulation (1144/14) will adjust the co-funding rules (no national co-financing & higher rate of EU-funding, even higher rate for “multi programmes”), and introduce simpler procedures (single approval process, wider scope of beneficiaries and eligible products, annual work programme and calls for proposals).