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Newsfile: September 2010

Newsfile aggregates news that might otherwise drop off the horizon about situations affecting humanitarian work and the international situation. It doesn't chase after the most immediate stories which other newsfeeds can offer. Latest items from each region are presented first. To comply with fair-use rules we give only a headline, or enough of the story to explain the headline. All the stories cited are fully detailed. Dollars are U.S. unless stated otherwise.

Global

I.L.O.

I.L.O. cautions on U.S. fiscal austerity, Chinese revaluation

Cutting U.S.public borrowing by 2 per cent of GDP will hike unemployment by over 3% while reducing balance of payments by only one per cent, the International Labour Organization predicts. The knockon effect of a drop in imports would largely fall on the main U.S. training partners, Canada and Latin America, the I.L.O. adds.

At the same time, a 20% nominal depreciation of the U.S. dollar vs the Chinese yuan would produce "only a relatively small reduction of the current account surplus of China while exerting upward pressure on unemployment in that country", I.L.O. declares in its flagship World of Work Report 2010 (page 82).

Instead, I.L.O. argues for improved social security and 10% wage increases in Asian conries with a trade surplus. This would create higher growth and lower unemployment elsewhere as well as the Asian region.

Raymond Torres, Director of the International Institute and lead author of the report, says: "Fiscal stimulus measures that were critical in averting a deeper crisis and helped jump-start the economy are now being withdrawn in countries where recovery, if any, is still too weak."

Torres told a press conference in Geneva that 30-35 million jobs were lost between 2008 and the end of 2009 in 80 countries for which ILO had data.

The report adds that in the 35 countries for which data exists, nearly 40 per cent of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year

The report, entitled From one crisis to the next? is downloadable from the ILO website.

In case you are wondering what happened to the green jobs initiative promoted by the U.N. last year, I.L.O. points out that its 2009 Report Green policies and jobs: a double dividend?, also downloadable as a PDF, is still valid. This calculated that "green policies, if combined with job support, could help raise employment by 2.6 million in developed countries and 14.3 million for the world as a whole (summary, p8).

I.L.O. 30 September 2010

U.N.

Preliminary results of investigations into D.R.C. mass rapes

A preliminary report into mass rapes in the Walikale region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) at the end of July and beginning of August says at least 303 civilians had been raped. Another 214 rapes were reported elsewhere in the region, part of the Northern Kivu province, during August, according to Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville.

He told the regular Friday media briefing in Geneva on 24 September that the earlier attacks took place mostly after dark over four days involving about 200 attackers from three groups. The attackers had initially pretended that they had come to provide security for the population. Victims included 13 men and three boys.

More than 923 houses and 42 shops were looted and people abducted to carry out forced labour: disputed mineral quarries are nearby, with concessions given to three foreign enterprises: South-African, British and Congolese, according to the report.

Colville said that the total number of victims quot;might well be higher", as attacks were still taking place in the area while the investigating team was in the villages. The attacks had prevented the team from completing its investigation in six of the 13 villages. In addition, around half of the population of the affected villages, possibly including more rape victims, had still been hiding in the forest.

Colville added that the report, published by the DRC Joint Human Rights Office in Kinshasa, pointed to serious shortcomings in the preparedness and response of the local detachments of the Congolese army and the police stationed in the area. It also noted that their failure to prevent or stop the attacks had been compounded by "subsequent failings on the part of MONUSCO [UN mission] forces" (more below).

United Nations Information Service 24 September 2010

"Extraordinarily cold-blooded and systematic" attack 8212; Rights chief Navi Pillay

“The scale and viciousness of these mass rapes defy belief,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. “Even in the eastern part of DRC where rape has been a perennial and massive problem for the past 5 years, this incident stands out because of the extraordinarily cold-blooded and systematic way in which it appears to have been planned and executed.”

The report names the three armed groups as the Maï Maï Cheka, the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (F.D.L.R.), and elements close to Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, an army deserter who has also in the past been involved with the C.N.D.P. rebel group.

The groups cut off the main routes into the area and took control of a key hill, the only place where telephone communications are possible in the area, thereby preventing the population from raising the alarm.

While one group was looting and raping in a village, the report says, another would set ambushes to catch people fleeing through the forest, who were also then raped or taken away as forced labour.

The report, a PDF currently available only in French, notes that since a government military operation in 2009, the area has become especially unstable, with the FDLR in particular systematically undertaking reprisals against local populations whom they consider to be pro-government.

MONUSCO forces, it says, had not received any specific training in the protection of civilians. The U.N. forces suffered from a number of operational constraints, including limited capacity to gather information, as well as the lack of a telecommunications system in the area.

The recommendations urge MONUSCO to provide special training, quot;clarify the jobs" of each unit and command in protecting civilians and give them the means and tools to carry out the task, and have enough staff on the ground so that locals can raise the alarm if needed. The report says MONUSCO deployed 80 new troops without such training in the area just before the attack. No night patrols took place. The command had no company liaison interpreter at the time. Nor did the troops have any specific knowledge of "dissuasion mechanisms" or "proactive methods of protection that could have maximized their capacity for intervention in the event of an attack", the report notes.

United Nations Information Service 24 September 2010

U.N. Geneva now has multimedia info pages

The United Nations Information Service (UNIS) for Geneva has launched Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter pages. Maybe the most immediately useful service offered is the RSS feed of U.N. Geneva headlines on the Twitter page. But it is worth visiting the Flickr site to see the photos of Jean-Marc Ferre (below) before they are swamped by other material.

sheep at U.N. photo

Since the service calls itself UNIS Geneva in its wikipedia article, surely it is time to drop the illiterate pretense that the office is the United Nations at Geneva rather than the United Nations Geneva. After all, no-one in their right mind talks about the United Nations at New York.

United Nations Information Service, 23 September 2010

Red Cross

Slum-dwellers at greater disaster risk

The world's 1 billion slum-dwellers face a "disproportionately high risk of disaster," according to the Red Cross 2010 World Disasters Report, launched in Nairobi, Kenya, on 21 September.

"In any given year, more than 50,000 people can die as a result of earthquakes and 100 million can be affected by floods and the worst-affected are most often vulnerable city dwellers," the International Federation said. The report, with David Satterthwaite, senior fellow at the London-based International Institute of Environment and Development (I.I.E.D.), as lead writer, calls for investment in preparedness.

IRIN (a news service of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) 21 September 2010

Government subsidies often lead to overfishing

Decades of overfishing have deprived the food industry of billions of dollars in revenue and the world of fish that could have helped feed undernourished countries, according to a series of studies released on Tuesday in the Journal of Bioeconomics.

The Canadian, U.S. and British researchers behind the studies also said that overfishing is often the result of government subsidies that would have been better spent conserving fish stocks.

Governments around the world provide up to $27 billion in subsidies annually to the fishing industry, but about 60 percent of that goes to supporting unsustainable fishing practices, the studies said.

PlanetArk/ThomsonReuters, 5-Sep-10

Americas

United States

Gender gap persists in nonprofit salaries

Female executives in U.S. charities receive a smaller percentage of the total compensations, even though the proportion who are women continues to rise (to 47%), a new study has found. Women received only 29 percent of the total compensation in the survey, down from 35 percent in 2007.

Chronicle of Philanthropy 27 September 2010

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