The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health ::
Holistic Development :: Sustainable Resilience
Week ending 24 January 2015

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortiums and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
Editor &
Founding Managing Director
GE2P2 – Center for Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice

pdf verion: The Sentinel_ week ending 24 January 2015

blog edition: comprised of the 35+ entries to be posted below on 25 January 2015

Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More :: OXFAM ISSUE BRIEFING – JANUARY 2015

Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More
Deborah Hardoon, Senior Researcher, Oxfam GB
Post date: 19 January 2015 :: 12 pages

Global wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite. These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and insurance and pharmaceuticals and healthcare.

Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further. The most prolific lobbying activities in the US are on budget and tax issues; public resources that should be directed to benefit the whole population, rather than reflect the interests of powerful lobbyists.

This briefing explains Oxfam’s methodology and data sources and updates key inequality statistics, such as Oxfam’s frequently cited fact in 2014: ’85 billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population.’

[Report Press Release Excerpt]
The combined wealth of the richest 1 percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked, Oxfam warned today ahead of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, a research paper published today by Oxfam, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 percent in 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.

Of the remaining 52 percent of global wealth, almost all (46 percent) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world’s population. The other 80 percent share just 5.5 percent and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult – that’s 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1 percent.

Staggering inequality
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.

“In the past 12 months we have seen world leaders from President Obama to Christine Lagarde talk more about tackling extreme inequality but we are still waiting for many of them to walk the walk. It is time our leaders took on the powerful vested interests that stand in the way of a fairer and more prosperous world.

“Business as usual for the elite isn’t a cost free option – failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades. The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality – they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around.”…

[Concluding section of report]
In October 2014 Oxfam launched its Even It Up campaign, calling for governments, institutions and corporations to tackle extreme inequality. This briefing provides further evidence that we must build a fairer economic and political system that values every citizen. Oxfam is calling on world leaders, including those gathered at the 2015 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, to address the factors that have led to today’s inequality explosion and to implement policies that redistribute money and power from the few to the many.

1 Make governments work for citizens and tackle extreme inequality
Specific commitments must include: agreement of a post-2015 goal to eradicate extreme inequality by 2030; national inequality commissions; public disclosure of lobbying activities; freedom of expression and a free press.

2 Promote women’s economic equality and women’s rights
Specific commitments must include: compensation for unpaid care; an end to the gender pay gap; equal inheritance and land rights for women; data collection to assess how women and girls are affected by economic policy.

3 Pay workers a living wage and close the gap with skyrocketing executive reward
Specific commitments must include: increasing minimum wages towards living wages; moving towards a highest-to-median pay ratio of 20:1; transparency on pay ratios; protection of worker’s rights to unionise and strike.

4 Share the tax burden fairly to level the playing field
Specific commitments must include: shifting the tax burden away from labour and consumption and towards wealth, capital and income from these assets; transparency on tax incentives; national wealth taxes and exploration of a global wealth tax.

5 Close international tax loopholes and fill holes in tax governance
Specific commitments must include: a reform process where developing countries participate on an equal footing, and a new global governance body for tax matters; public country-by-country reporting; public registries of beneficial ownership; multilateral automatic exchange of tax information including with developing countries that can’t reciprocate; stopping the use of tax havens, including through a blacklist and sanctions; making companies pay based on their real economic activity.

6 Achieve universal free public services by 2020
Specific commitments must include: removal of user fees; meeting spending commitments; stopping new and reviewing existing public subsidies for health and education provision by private for-profit companies; excluding public services and medicines from trade and investment agreements.

7 Change the global system for research and development (R&D) and pricing of medicines so that everyone has access to appropriate and affordable medicines
Specific commitments must include: a new global R&D treaty; increased investment in medicines, including in affordable generics; excluding intellectual property rules from trade agreements.

8 Implement a universal social protection floor
Specific commitments must include: universal child and elderly care services; basic income security through universal child benefits, unemployment benefits and pensions.

9 Target development finance at reducing inequality and poverty, and strengthening the compact between citizens and their government
Specific commitments must include: increased investment from donors in free public services and domestic resources mobilization; and assessing the effectiveness of programmes in terms of how they support citizens to challenge inequality and promote democratic participation.

PRIVATE VIOLENCE, PUBLIC CONCERN – Intimate Partner Violence In Humanitarian Settings – IRC Research

PRIVATE VIOLENCE, PUBLIC CONCERN – Intimate Partner Violence In Humanitarian Settings
IRC Practice Brief, January 2015 :: 12 pages

Violence against women and girls perpetrated by their intimate partners is a global phenomenon-experienced by at least one in three women during their lifetime.1 Prevalence is likely to be even higher in humanitarian settings, with an increasing body of evidence showing intimate partner violence (IPV)2 to be the most common type of violence women experience, though it may go underreported and receive less attention from humanitarian actors compared to sexual violence perpetrated by armed forces.

A new study by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Private Violence, Public Concern, examines the nature and drivers of intimate partner violence in three refugee camps across three continents. The research shows that intimate partner violence in humanitarian settings is driven by a complex set of factors that include pre-existing gender inequalities, which is exacerbated by rapidly changing gender roles.

Private Violence, Public Concern’s qualitative findings deepen our understanding of women’s experience of intimate partner violence in displaced settings and highlights the lack of programming that exists to effectively prevent and respond to intimate partner violence. The study took place in 2014 in Domiz camp in Iraq, Dadaab camp in Kenya, and Ajuong Thok settlement in South Sudan, and focused on three key questions: 1) What are the drivers and nature of intimate partner violence in humanitarian settings?; 2) How do displaced women experience intimate partner violence?; and 3) What are women’s suggestions for how humanitarian organizations can improve prevention and response to intimate partner violence?

This brief presents key findings from the study, draws on knowledge and insights from decades of IRC experi¬ence working with women and girls in crisis settings, including research on intimate partner violence in West Africa and Syria,8,9 and presents recommendations that are relevant to the humanitarian community working both within and outside of formal camp settings.

Education Policy Research – OECD, UNESCO, UNICEF

Education Policy Outlook 2015: Making Reforms Happen
19 Jan 2015 :: 315 pages
ISBN: 9789264225442 (PDF) ; 9789264228535 (EPUB) ; 9789264220942 (print)
DOI : 10.1787/9789264225442-en

[Excerpt from press release]
Governments around the world are under growing pressure to improve their education systems. Rising spending is increasingly being matched by reforms to help disadvantaged children, invest in teachers and improve vocational training. But a widespread lack of evaluation of the impact of these reforms could hinder their effectiveness and hurt educational outcomes, according to a new OECD report, which finds that once new policies are adopted, there is little follow-up. Only around one in 10 of the 450 different reforms put in place between 2008 and 2014 were evaluated for their impact by governments between their launch and the publication of this report.

Measuring policy impact more rigorously and consistently will prove more cost-effective in the long-run, says the OECD. It will also ensure that future reforms are built on policies proven to work over a timeframe independent of political cycles or pressures.

“Too many education reforms are failing to measure success or failure in the classroom,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, at the launch of the report at the Education World Forum in London. “While it is encouraging to see a greater focus on outcomes, rather than simply increasing spending, it’s crucial that reforms are given the time to work and their impact is analysed.”

“Education represents 12.9% of government spending, with total expenditure across the OECD exceeding 2.5 trillion dollars a year, equivalent to the GDP of the United Kingdom,” he added. “This valuable investment must be deployed in the most effective way. Reforms on paper need to translate into better education in our schools and classrooms.”
The report finds a trend of reform priorities converging across the OECD. Of the reforms analysed, most focused on: supporting disadvantaged children and early childhood care; reforming vocational education systems and building links with employers; improving training and professional development for teachers; and strengthening school evaluation and assessment.

A second OECD report underlines the continuing need for improving education. Education at a Glance Interim Report: Update of Employment and Educational Attainment Indicators finds that almost one in six 25-34 year-olds across OECD countries does not have the skills considered essential to function in today’s society, and the situation has changed little since 2003.

There are 13 OECD countries with 15% or more unqualified youth, including countries like France, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand or Italy.
“Having one out of every six young adults entering the world of adult life without a qualification is a major risk for labour markets and societies, said Andreas Schleicher. “Progress has to be achieved across the educational ladder, with priority given to diminishing the share of the least educated among the young.”


Adolescents twice as likely to be out of school as children of primary school age, say UNESCO and UNICEF
New report shows why ‘business as usual’ won’t lead to universal primary or secondary education
Around 63 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 years are denied their right to an education, according to a new joint report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and UNICEF, Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children, released today during the Education World Forum.
Globally, 1 in 5 adolescents is not in school compared to almost 1 in 10 primary school-age children. So adolescents are twice as likely to be out of school as their younger counterparts. The report also shows that as children get older, the risk that they will never start school or will drop out increases.

In total, 121 million children and adolescents have either never started school or dropped out despite the international community’s promise to achieve Education for All by 2015. Data show that there has been almost no progress in reducing this number since 2007. Children living in conflict, child labourers and those facing discrimination based on ethnicity, gender and disability are the most affected. There is also a growing concern that previous gains in expanding access to education will erode without a major shift in policies and resources.

“Business as usual strategies based on more teachers, more classrooms and more textbooks are not enough to reach the most disadvantaged children,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “We need targeted interventions to reach the families displaced by conflict, the girls forced to stay home, the children with disabilities and the millions obliged to work. But these policies come at a cost. This report serves as wake-up call to mobilise the resources needed to guarantee basic education for every child, once and for all.”

As pressure mounts to include universal secondary education in the post-2015 global development agenda, the report shows the way forward to break the barriers that keep children out of school. If current trends continue, 25 million children – 15 million girls and 10 million boys – are likely to never set foot inside a classroom.
“To realize the promise of universal education for every child, we need a global commitment to invest in three areas: getting more children into primary school; in helping more children – especially girls – stay in school through the secondary level; and improving the quality of the learning they receive throughout their schooling,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “There should be no debate among these priorities: we need to do all three, because the success of every child – and the impact of our investment in education – depends on all three.”

The highest out-of-school rates are in Eritrea and Liberia, where 66 per cent and 59 per cent of children, respectively, do not go to primary school. In many countries, the rates of exclusion are even higher for older children, especially girls. In Pakistan, 58 per cent of adolescent girls roughly between the ages of 12 and 15 are out of school compared to 49 per cent of boys.

Poverty is the greatest barrier to education, according to the report. In Nigeria, two-thirds of children in the poorest households are not in school and almost 90 per cent of them will probably never enrol. In contrast, only 5 per cent of the richest children are out of school and most of them are expected to start in the future (see the interactive data tool).

MSF- The Right Shot: Bringing Down Barriers to Affordable and Adapted Vaccines

MSF- The Right Shot: Bringing Down Barriers to Affordable and Adapted Vaccines
2nd Edition – January 2015 :: 124 pages


[Full text from Overview]
Whether vaccinating refugee children in South Sudan, or pregnant women in Afghanistan, MSF has committed itself to prioritizing vaccination as a core health service in its operations. In 2013 alone, our programs delivered more than 6.7 million doses of vaccines and immunological products, and we see the need to ramp up our activities even further.

However, the organization increasingly faces challenges at the field and global levels in expanding capacity to address immunization needs. The barriers encountered by MSF, including the rising cost of new vaccines and the lack of vaccine products suited for low-resource settings, are also obstacles for affected countries. As MSF uses newer vaccines more frequently in crisis settings, in line with the recently developed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on vaccinating in humanitarian emergencies, the challenges we face in purchasing vaccines at an affordable price have become acute. In addition, countries that are unable to afford these high prices are increasingly voicing their frustration at the inability to protect their children against life-threatening-but preventable-diseases.

This second edition of The Right Shot outlines how the prices of 16 fundamentally important vaccines have evolved since their development, in some cases as far back as 2000.
The report analyzes how prices are affected by the fact that a few multinational companies dominate the market, a lack of competition, various procurement strategies and purchasing conditions, and the business practices of the pharmaceutical industry. The publication consolidates and analyzes vaccine price data points from countries, UNICEF, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), MSF, and pharmaceutical companies. By examining the differences in pricing strategies used by companies based in emerging economies (developing country manufacturers) and multinational companies (industrialized country manufacturers), the publication explains how multinational pharmaceutical companies use their first-to-market advantage to reap blockbuster revenues, and are increasingly moving beyond high-income countries in seeking other profitable markets.
It also demonstrates how entry of additional manufacturers with WHO-prequalified vaccines, in particular developing country manufacturers, stimulates competition and drives down prices.

An overarching challenge that MSF faces in analyzing the vaccine market is the lack of data on prices and the notoriously opaque nature of the market; this lack of transparency also inhibits efforts to improve affordability. Price secrecy is ubiquitous in the vaccines market, putting countries and other purchasers at a distinct disadvantage when negotiating with companies.

While Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has helped to lower prices of new and underused vaccines for its eligible countries-originally the poorest 73 countries of the world-the cost to fully immunize a child has nevertheless skyrocketed. Even at the lowest global prices, the introduction of the newest vaccines against pneumococcal and diarrheal diseases (pneumococcal conjugate and rotavirus vaccines, respectively), and against cervical cancer (human papillomavirus vaccine) has increased the cost of the full vaccines package 68-fold from 2001 to 2014, calling into question the sustainability of immunization programs after countries lose donor support. Of particularly serious concern is the impact of this drastic increase on most middle-income countries (MICs), which are benefitting neither from lower prices negotiated by organizations such as Gavi, nor from international donor support. Many children living in MICs are not benefitting from new, life-saving vaccines as a result of irrational and unaffordable pricing policies; some of these countries even have lower immunization coverage rates than Gavi-eligible countries.

Finally, while recent years have seen the introduction of several new vaccines that offer significant potential to reduce childhood deaths, there has been little investment in adapting-or optimizing-vaccine products to resource-limited contexts. Most vaccines still need to be refrigerated in a rigid “cold chain” until the moment they are administered, which is an immense challenge for places without electricity. Multiple doses are needed to fully protect children, and bulky products complicate transport to remote areas. These are some of the obstacles that annually prevent almost 22 million children under one year of age from receiving the basic package of lifesaving vaccines. Whether in a small village in rural Congo or a refugee camp in Iraq, vaccine delivery can be extremely difficult and costly to execute. A growing body of evidence, including MSF research, shows that some vaccines can remain effective outside of a strictly regulated temperature range, and rapid steps to re-label vaccines for their true heat stability are needed, along with further investments in better adapted products.

Vaccine commodities themselves account for almost half of the 57 billion US dollars (US$) needed to finance the Decade of Vaccines-the global framework for expanding access to immunization from 2011 to 2020. In the meantime, many countries, especially middle-income countries, are unable to afford the newest vaccines for their populations, nor can organizations such as MSF provide these vaccines to crisis-affected children, because of the very high price tag. Better solutions that can make new quality-assured vaccines more affordable and adapted to the environments where children are most vulnerable are urgently needed. Efforts to accelerate real competition in the vaccines market will deliver the most sustainable price reductions; in the interim, procurement strategies that benefit as many countries as possible should be pursued. Collective action is needed to improve price transparency and ensure affordable prices for quality assured vaccines in all countries, so that governments can make the benefits of immunization accessible to their populations. Shedding more light on the vaccine industry will benefit children everywhere.

Genetic diversity a hidden tool in coping with climate change – FAO book

Genetic diversity a hidden tool in coping with climate change
Raw material of food systems are key to helping agriculture adapt to volatile weather and rising temperatures

19 January 2015, Rome – Genetic resources have a critical role to play in feeding the world – especially as climate change advances faster than expected – and much more needs to be done to study, preserve and utilize the biological diversity that underpins world food production, according to a new book released by FAO today.

“Time is not on our side” warns the book, Coping with climate change: the roles of genetic resources for food and agriculture. “In the coming decades, millions of people whose livelihoods and food security depend on farming, aquaculture, fishing, forestry and livestock keeping are likely to face unprecedented climatic conditions.”

Crops, livestock, forest trees and aquatic organisms capable of surviving and producing in a changing climate will be needed.

The ability of plants and animals raised by farmers to withstand volatile conditions and adapt when the environment changes is a direct result of their genetic diversity, but stronger efforts to study and use that diversity as a coping mechanism – and policies to support that – are required, the book argues.

“In a warmer world with harsher, more variable weather, plants and animals raised for food will need to have the biological capacity to adapt more quickly than ever before,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.

“Preventing further losses of agricultural genetic resources and diverting more attention to studying them and their potential will boost humankind’s ability to adapt to climate change,” she added.

Such an adaptive approach will require updating the goals of agricultural breeding programmes – and in some cases introducing varieties, breeds, species, that have not been previously raised.

And improvements to field-based and off-site conservation programmes for domesticated species, their wild relatives and other wild genetic resources important for food and agriculture – along with policies that promote their sustainable use – are “urgently” needed.

Building our knowledge of genetic resources for food and agriculture – where they are found, what characteristics they have (e.g. resistance to drought or disease) and how they can best be managed is also critical, the book says.

In particular, improving knowledge, conservation and use of crop wild relatives is important – they are likely to have genetic traits that can be used to develop well-adapted crops for use in climate change-affected food systems.

“We need to strengthen the role of genetic resources and help farmers, fishers and foresters cope with climate change,” says Linda Collette, lead editor of the volume and Secretary of FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which starts its biennial meeting today.

Many locally adapted varieties and breeds of crops and livestock – as well as trees, fish, insects and micro-organisms – are poorly documented and may be lost before their potential roles in climate change adaptation are recognized.

Efforts should be made to avoid practices that destroy biodiversity or undermine the health of agricultural ecosystems – for instance the use of broad-spectrum insecticides that impact pollinators.

Guidelines point the way
The commission will also consider the adoption of guidelines for the integration of genetic resources into climate change adaptation plans, developed by FAO taking into account UNFCCC’s current guidance. The draft guidelines argue for an increased and explicit use of genetic resources as a part of overall adaptation measures needed to assure food security – in recognition to the critical role that genetic diversity must play there.

The guidelines contain a range of recommendations aimed at helping countries implement policies and strategies for studying, preserving, and utilizing genetic resources to adapt to climate change.

They aim to support governments’ use of genetic resources – ranging from seed varieties of major staple crops to the millions of microbes living in the soil, an area where expertise is relatively thin – in their national plans for coping with climate change.

U.N. approved cross-border aid helps 600,000 Syrians in six months

Editor’s Note: While we cannot generally track country-level activity, we take note of the Secretary General’s report below which tracks the impact of the Security Council’s precedent-setting decision to authorize specific humanitarian access to Syria without government consent.
U.N. approved cross-border aid helps 600,000 Syrians in six months
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS Fri Jan 23, 2015 5:25am IST
(Reuters) – The United Nations said on Thursday that 54 aid shipments to Syria had been made since the U.N. Security Council authorized some cross-border routes in July, supplying food to 600,000 people, along with water and medical supplies.

In his latest monthly report to the council, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations and partners had made 40 shipments from Turkey and 14 from Jordan. Deliveries could not be made from Iraq due to insecurity, he said.

The Security Council approved humanitarian access without Syrian government consent into rebel-held areas at four border crossings from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. Western diplomats said at the time that nearly 2 million people could be reached.

Ban’s report on Syria aid access, obtained by Reuters, said food assistance had reached 596,000 people, non-food items had been delivered to 522,000, water and sanitation supplies had reached more than 280,000 and medical supplies some 262,000.

Deliveries at those four border crossings added to existing efforts in coordination with the Syrian government, which reach several million people a month.

But Ban said the situation has continued to “deteriorate rapidly” as Syria’s civil war is about to enter its fifth year.

“Widespread fighting across the country, administrative hurdles, and lack of agreement from the parties continued to constrain humanitarian access across the country, affecting the humanitarian capacity to deliver at planned scaled,” Ban said.

He said some 12.2 million Syrian need assistance, while 3.8 million people have fled the country and about 7.6 million in Syria are displaced.

“It is completely unacceptable that the people of Syria continue to face grave abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law by the parties to the conflict and that they are denied access to the basic requirements for their survival,” Ban’s report said….