Daily Archives: May 12, 2015

News in Brief 12 May 2015 (PM)

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Credit: OHCHR

“Alarming” reports of alleged massacre in Angola

There have been alarming reports of an alleged massacre in the central province of Huambo in Angola, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).

The Government has reported that nine police officers and 13 civilians were killed in a confrontation in Serra Sumé, when police attempted to arrest the leader of a religious sect called “Luz du Mundo”, meaning “Light of the World” in Portuguese.

But other accounts of the incident claimed that hundreds of followers of the sect had been killed, some even suggesting the number might exceed 1,000.

OHCHR is urging the Angolan Government to ensure that a truly independent and thorough investigation is conducted.

Adoption of law strengthening rights of persons with disabilities in Moldova

The adoption of a law last Thursday strengthening the rights of persons with disabilities by the Moldovan Parliament has been welcomed by the UN human rights office.

For the first time in Moldova, people who had been deprived of legal capacity on the basis of their disability were given the right to vote.

OHCHR says the new law also allows people under guardianship to appeal against decisions that deprived them of or restricted their legal capacity.

Ninety per cent of electronic waste illegally traded or dumped each year

Up to 90 per cent of the world’s electronic waste, worth nearly US$19 billion, is illegally traded or dumped each year, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

A report released on Tuesday estimates that each year, the electronic industry generates up to 41 million tonnes of e-waste from goods such as computers and smart phones.

Africa and Asia are key destinations for large-scale shipments of hazardous wastes for dumping, and sometimes for recycling.

Cathrine Hasselberg, United Nations

Duration: 1’43″

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Beyond quotas: What else is new in EU migration policy?

OXFORD, 12 May 2015 (IRIN) – The European Commission releases its long-awaited European Agenda on Migration on Wednesday, but a leakeddraft of the new policy is already in circulation. 

The media focus has been on the introduction of a system that would require EU member states to accept a certain number of the asylum-seekers arriving in frontline states such as Italy and Greece, based on criteria such as size of population, GDP and unemployment rate. 

But aside from this controversial quota system, which is bound to be divisive, the new agenda contains several important measures likely to reshape Europe’s migration policy for years to come:

Increased resettlement of refugees

The relatively small number of refugees Europe accepts for resettlement, compared to the United States and Canada for example, has long been criticised, especially in the context of the four million refugees produced by Syria’s long-running conflict, the vast majority of whom must either sit out the war in neighbouring countries ill-equipped to support them, or take their chances with smugglers offering them passage to Europe.

“There must be safe and legal ways for [displaced persons in need of protection] to reach Europe,” states the draft agenda, which recommends an EU-wide resettlement scheme with a quota system for member states.

The draft omits to mention a figure for how many refugees would be offered resettlement, but the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has recommended a target of 20,000 places per year by 2020.

How the scheme would work if certain countries, such as the UK, refuse to participate is unclear at this stage.

Greater cooperation with third countries

An outline of the agenda released in March hinted that more collaboration with origin and transit countries would be a key element of the final policy. The draft agenda is more specific, stating that the EU’s diplomatic service, the European External Action Service, “will work together with partner countries to put in place concrete measures to process migrants before they reach the EU’s borders.” 

As well as stepping up support to countries in North Africa and the Horn of Africa that host large numbers of refugees, “a pilot multi-purpose centre” will be set up in Niger by the end of the year.

Likely to serve as a model for similar centres in origin and transit countries in the future, it is rather vaguely envisaged that it would “help to provide a realistic picture of the likely success of migrants’ journeys, and offer assisted voluntary return options for irregular migrants.” 

A network of liaison officers is to be dispatched to key transit and origin countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal, Sudan and Turkey, where they will be tasked with improving coordination on migration control and gathering information on “major migratory related developments.”

A major focus of the increased collaboration with third countries will also be to secure their cooperation in cracking down on smuggling networks, which can span entire regions or even continents.

Better enforcement of return decisions

The draft agenda points out that currently only about 39 percent of decisions to return irregular migrants are enforced. Part of the problem is that returns are dependent on migrants’ home countries agreeing to take them back. “The EU should be ready to use all leverage and incentives at its disposal,” states the agenda, noting that member states also need to do their part by properly applying the Return Directive, which sets out the procedures and standards governing returns of migrants from Europe. 

The new EU policy also calls for border agency Frontex to be given a legal mandate not only to coordinate returns from member states, as it does now, but also to initiate its own return operations. The implications of this will no doubt concern migrant rights groups.

Securing external borders

EU-wide standards for the management of external borders are to come into force in 2016. A new initiative dubbed “Smart Borders” will make use of technology to create a record of all cross-border movements of third-country nationals.

Countries bordering the EU will be encouraged to secure their own borders with EU funding and support from Frontex.

A truly Common European Asylum System

The draft agenda acknowledges that systems across the EU are far from harmonised, which explains why asylum-seekers often head for particular countries where their applications are more likely to be successful. A new monitoring process will aim to ensure that asylum rules are being applied uniformly across all member states.

There is also a pledge to crack down on “abuses” of the asylum system. “Too many [asylum] requests are unfounded,” says the agenda, noting that last year 55 percent of applications in the EU resulted in a negative decision. It does not mention how many of those decisions were overturned on appeal, but in the UK the rate is about one in four, according to Amnesty International UK.

Swift processing of unfounded asylum applications is listed as one way of fighting such abuses. However, the use of a fast-track system for determining certain asylum cases has been found to be fundamentally flawed in the UK, where asylum-seekers are given little opportunity to prove their cases before being rejected.

The agenda also recognises that the Dublin System, designed to discourage “asylum shopping” and ensure applications are processed where asylum-seekers initially register, is not working. Frontline countries like Italy and Greece, where the majority of migrants arrive, lack the capacity to process so many applications and often allow asylum-seekers to head north without registering them. The new policy insists that member states implement rules on taking fingerprints and promises a new “Hotspot” approach that will deploy staff from the European Asylum Support Office and Europol to help frontline states process asylum claims more quickly.

The Commission also promises an evaluation of the Dublin System in 2016 to help determine whether a significantly revised system is needed.

New channels for legal migration

The introduction to this section of the agenda notes that “without migration, the EU’s working age population will decline by 17.5 million in the next decade,” and emphasises the importance of migration to the EU economy. But it quickly becomes clear that the new policy is a far cry from the more open borders that some migration experts have called for. 

The emphasis is firmly on expanding EU-wide schemes to attract highly-qualified migrants who can plug Europe’s skills gaps, as well as a certain amount of tinkering with visa policies aimed at “maximising the positive economic impact” of attracting more tourists and business travellers while minimising irregular migration.

In the longer term, the agenda recommends working with member states to develop a system that would create an EU-wide pool of qualified migrants that employers could select from prior to migration taking place.

The draft EU policy document also suggests making it easier for migrants to move to other countries in their own region, thereby decreasing the likelihood they would head for Europe. Support for initiatives encouraging labour mobility within regions such as West Africa “can bring an important contribution to local development,” it states.


Afghanistan mission and Victoria Cross recipients to be commemorated

National monuments to be unveiled in Ottawa in 2017

May 12, 2015 – Ottawa – Veterans Affairs Canada

The Honourable Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs, announced today that two memorials will be created in the nation’s capital to pay tribute to Canada’s Afghanistan mission and to Victoria Cross recipients. He was joined by the Honourable Pierre Poilievre, Minister responsible for the National Capital Commission, and Pierre Lemieux, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

The National Memorial to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan and the National Victoria Cross Memorial will be placed at Richmond Landing, along Confederation Boulevard, as part of the new Memorial Route. This beautiful green space on the bank of the Ottawa River has views of Parliament Hill and will provide a quiet yet prominent place for Canadians and visitors to reflect on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, and to read the names of those awarded the Victoria Cross. Both memorials and the Memorial Route will be officially unveiled in 2017, helping to mark Canada’s 150th year since Confederation.

The National Memorial to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan, which was announced May 8, 2014, will serve as a testament to Canadians’ deep gratitude for the strength, courage and valour of Canadian Armed Forces members who reacted immediately to their call of duty and served in Afghanistan in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The memorial will also pay tribute to the service, sacrifices and accomplishments of many Canadians, both military and civilian, who helped begin to rebuild Afghanistan.

The National Victoria Cross Memorial will honour Canadians who have earned our nation’s highest award for valour, listing all of their names.

Competitions for designing and creating both memorials will be launched in the coming months.

For more information on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan and Victoria Cross recipients, please visit veterans.gc.ca.

Quick Facts

Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan (2001-2014)

  • More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members were deployed to Afghanistan—the largest number since the Second World War.
  • During the mission, in addition to civilians, 158 Canadian Armed Forces personnel were killed, making it the fifth most costly conflict, in terms of lives lost, in Canada’s post-Confederation military history, after the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War and the South African War.
  • More than 2,000 Canadian military personnel were injured in Afghanistan.

Victoria Cross

  • The Victoria Cross was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856 as the highest military honour for gallantry, covering all actions since the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854.
  • Since the Crimean War, 99 Canadians have been awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry; 38 posthumously.
  • In 1993, a revised Victoria Cross was formally adopted into the Canadian Honours System.

Memorial Route

  • The 2.8-kilometre Memorial Route will link existing and future commemorative landmarks in Ottawa that have particular significance to Canada’s military traditions and history. The route will connect the Cartier Square Drill Hall to the east with the Canadian War Museum to the west and includes the National War Memorial and the Parliament Buildings. It will feature interpretative elements that highlight military landmarks and enhance the commemorative experience for visitors.


“The National Memorial to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan and the National Victoria Cross Memorial will honour the Canadians who have served our country with pride and valour. They will also act as enduring reminders of our duty, as Canadians, to remember and reflect, with pride and compassion, on the efforts and sacrifices made by all those touched by war and conflict.”

The Honourable Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs

“Today’s announcement was an opportunity to reflect upon the sacrifices made by our men and women in armed conflict throughout our history. The new memorials in Richmond Landing will honour those who have served to make it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms we do today.”

The Honourable Pierre Poilievre, Member of Parliament for Nepean–Carleton and Minister responsible for the National Capital Region

“As we prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, marking key events in our history will contribute to a deeper understanding of how Canada became the strong, proud and free country it is today. These two memorials will pay tribute to the strength, sacrifices and accomplishments of Canadians and be a permanent place of commemoration in Canada’s Capital Region.”

The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Associated Links

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Martin Magnan
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Veterans of Affairs

Media Relations
Veterans Affairs Canada

CycleBeads App Helps Kenyan Women Prevent and Plan Pregnancy with Just a Smartphone

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 12, 2015 / PRNewswire – Women in Kenya can now prevent pregnancy without side effects using a free smartphone app called CycleBeads®. The CycleBeads Android app helps a woman know which days she is fertile and which days she is not based on her period start dates. This information can be used to prevent or plan pregnancy. CycleBeads is the only app that can be used to effectively prevent pregnancy by simply tracking a woman’s period start dates.

CycleBeads is based on the Standard Days Method®, a family planning method that:

  • Was proven more than 95% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly in large-scale efficacy trials.
  • Is the most widely used modern natural family planning option in the world having been used by +4.5 million women worldwide in +60 countries, including Kenya.
  • Is designed for women with cycles between 26 and 32 days long

Cycle Technologies, the company that developed the CycleBeads app, is working with researchers from iHub in Nairobi and the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, to test its usability and impact.

“While many mobile-based health technologies are coming into the Kenyan market, CycleBeads is unique in its approach, using the mobile phone to increase information needed to adhere to a natural family planning method (Standard Days Method). I think this app is a great option for women in Kenya who want to plan the size of their families naturally without using hormonal contraception,” says Angela Okune of iHub,

The CycleBeads Android app has already been downloaded by over 30,000 women around the world. Based on pilot research conducted by iHub, the original app has been updated to help better meet the needs of Kenyan women.

“CycleBeads is ideal for a woman who is looking for a way to monitor her cycle. This can be extremely useful information,” said Dr. Nzisa Liku AfyaBora Fellow 2014/2015.

Download the CycleBeads Android app in the Google Marketplace.

For more information about CycleBeads in Kenya visit: www.CycleBeads.com/Kenya

About Cycle Technologies
Cycle Technologies is a socially minded consumer product company based in Washington, D.C. Since 2002 the company has worked with researchers, healthcare partners, and technologists to identify, develop, and make available solutions to address global health needs. www.CycleTechnologies.com

Alev Sezer-Jacobs
Direct: 202.607.1233
Office: 202.730.1629
Email: ASJacobs@cycletechnologies.com
Website: www.CycleTechnologies.com