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Newsfile: February 2012

Newsfile aggregates news that might otherwise drop off the horizon about situations affecting humanitarian work 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.

By Peter Hulm


Against rape as a tool of war

Longtime feminist campaigner Gloria Steinem persuaded CNN to give her space on 8 February 2012 to frontline her attempts to turn the spotlight on rape as a tool of war.

Can we end rape as tool of war? marshals a host of researchers, going back to the Holocaust, to document the horrors of sex crimes deployed for obvious intimidation and psychological annihilation. Though rape was comparatively rare in Nazi atrocities against Jews, sex slavery was common. Few people, I imagine, will protest that these were not rapes and not related to the war.

Source: CNN

The Global Fund saga, Part II

Has Bill Gates saved the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria with his Davos "promissory note" for $750 million for its 10th anniversary? Maybe, maybe not.

The Global Fund still has a $2 billion shortfall. Michel Kazatchkine (executive director for the past five years) is leaving in March because a general manager has been appointed to ride herd on its administration. The organization has suspended its next round of funding and will not disperse any new money until 2014.

Annie Kelley of the U.K. Guardian reported on the outlook on 2 February 2012. She points out that the Global Fund has achieved "staggering successes – including helping put 3.3 million people on AIDS treatment, 8.6 million on anti-tuberculosis treatment and providing 230m insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria".

But she also quotes Médecins Sans Frontières' (MSF) HIV adviser, Sharonann Lynch, as observing: "Over the past few years the sense of urgency which once defined the work of the fund has become greatly diminished, and the board basically gave themselves a holiday instead of stepping up and doing their job and ensuring that the funding shortfall was made up."

For his part, the Microsoft co-founder told the rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos: "The way people have talked about this small misuse of funds is pretty disappointing – you're going to have a small percentage that's misused."

Gabriel Jaramillo was due to over the job of General Manager for 12 months on 1 February to "oversee a process of transformation" reportedly with a salary of $1. However, as of 14 February, the Fund has made no announcement of his starting work (not such a good PR move).

By electronic vote on 2 February Board reportedly decided that Mr Jaramillo "will exercise all of the powers and functions of the Executive Director, including the power to execute agreements on behalf of the Global Fund". He told the Wall Street Journal he will focus on "establishing a disciplined private-sector governance process" for managing grants, and will also improve risk management and strengthen the Fund's forecasting. He plans a fund-raising conference later this year.

The Board had appointed Professor Kazatchkine to a second three-year term in January 2011. He gave no reason why he felt he had to resign. Simon Bland, Head of the Global Funds Department in the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, told the French news agency AFP: ""I categorically deny the information (published on Liberation's website) saying Michel Kazatchkine reportedly resigned because of the questioning of his links with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.".

Sources: The Guardian, U.K., Global Fund. Note that searching for Kazatchkine produces no results. The wikipedia link to the announcement also times out. In July 2012 he was appointed U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Google searches result in a page of official links and a notice that certain information has been removed in line with the European Union Court decision on the "right to be forgotten" (with a separate page that Google is acting on individual requests).

U.N. Disaster Risk Group warns of dangers ahead

U.N.I.S.D.R., the U.N. organization for disaster risk reduction, on 14 February 2012 issued a paper for planning post-2015, outlining its consultation plans.

The paper, "Towards a Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction", points out that exposure to disaster risk is increasing, all countries are vulnerable, economic impacts are rising but few countries systematically account for disaster losses. "For countries to reduce their vulnerabilities and exposure to risk a much bolder approach is required," the report argues. "The approach needs to incorporate development mechanisms (such as national public investment planning systems, social protection, and national and local infrastructure investments) to reduce risks and strengthen resilience."

Source: U.N.I.S.D.R.

Unconfirmed: over 100 NGOs urge WIPO to cancel meeting

Unconfirmed but from two sources: more than 100 international NGOs have urged the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to postpone a forthcoming IP Summit in South Africa in April 2012. They say the event lacks a development or public interest dimension; it lacks transparency and information; and they add there are conflicts of interest in the entire Africa-wide programme.

In a letter to WIPO director general Francis Gurry, reported Ramesh Shankar of Mumbai on on 9 February 2012, more than 100 international NGOs expressed their concern over co-organising the summit in partnership with US, France and Japan. Their complaint: these countries are known for advocating TRIPS (trade-related controls on intellectual property rights) plus agendas in developing countries in the interests of their own industries and priorities. "For instance these countries are proponents of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a plurilateral treaty that is widely criticized for its secret negotiating process and the detrimental impact on public interest issues such as access to medicines, freedom of expression over the internet and access to knowledge," notes Shankar.

"To make matters worse the Summit is being sponsored by the private sector in particular the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Company etc., that clearly have a strong stake in a pro-IP protection and enforcement agenda. The involvement of the private sector also raises issues of conflict of interests."

The meeting does not appear on the WIPO website list of events or in the media section. The NGOs are not identified by any of the stories and a Google news search for the story reveals only these sources.

The story was picked up by boing-boing on the same day with this intro: "Over 100 NGOs have asked the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization to postpone a summit in South Africa on the grounds that notice of the meeting was not published, the agenda has been set without any transparency, and the speakers all favor a single, narrow view on copyright and patents." The rest seems to come from pharmabiz. For example, this section:

"The summit concept paper suggests a programme that undermines the spirit of Development Agenda. It is premised on the notion that heightened IP protection and enforcement will deliver development and protect public interest. This distorted approach has no historical or empirical basis and has been clearly rejected by the Development Agenda process."

Sources: pharmbiz, boing-boing


IP-watch reported on 30 February 2012 that the summit had been "rescheduled". A "less ambitious" workshop took place in Tanzania in 2013.

WIPO low-marked for survey

Not a good month for WIPO. The U.N. body on 7 February 2012 received a scornful write-up from of its attempt to get feedback from web visitors.

Mike Masnick starts off by suggesting WIPO "has a pretty long history of basically being the leading supporter of ever stricter and more ridiculous copyright (and patent and trademark laws)." But its effort to open up more to people representing the public gets an even snottier response for its survey of "Stakeholder Perceptions of WIPO".

"Many of the questions are kind of ridiculous in the 'and when did you stop beating your wife' variety," says Masnick. "For example, at one point they ask you to 'rank' how important specific WIPO priorities are -- and looking down the list, I though pretty much all of them should not be priorities, because all of them focused on expanding IP, rather than looking at more effective IP, or even exploring where IP might hurt the public."

His readers were even more critical. One pointed out:

"I thought it was interesting that I checked the box that said I was only somewhat familiar with the WIPO, and this is what it told me: 'The survey questions are of a very detailed and specific nature that requires a strong familiarity with WIPO and its operations. In the interest of your time the survey will terminate here.'"

For the full article and comments:


Most West African electronic waste is home produced

The Geneva-based Basel Convention of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says 50-85% of wastes from electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) in West Africa results from domestic consumption, according to a study of five countries published on 10 February 2012.

"E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream world-wide," says Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. "Dealing with electronic and electrical equipment properly presents a serious environmental and health challenge for many countries.".

The report, Where are WEEE in Africa?, reported the U.K. was the predominant exporting country in 2010, followed after a large gap by France and Germany. Statistics do not distinguish between new and used equipment, but a country study in Ghana showed 70% of imports were EEE, and 30% were non-functioning, i.e. e-waste. The report was carried out on the presumption that "West Africa serves as the major trading route of used testing and repair, there are significant volumes that prove unsuitable for re-use and further add to local e-waste EEE into the African continent, with Ghana and Nigeria as the main import hubs."

A Pan-African Forum on e-waste is to take place in Nairobi, Kenya on 14 - 16 March 2012.

The U.N. argues that handling the waste could create green jobs if proper management are recuperation are implemented.

Source: U.N.E.P., Basel Convention. Note that the Basel's Website makes it difficult to give an adequate link for the summary.
Full Report: Where are WEEE in Africa?(pdf)