UN Principals call for solidarity with Rohingya refugees

UN Principals call for solidarity with Rohingya refugees
Mr. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Mr. Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
Mr. William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration

Joint Statement on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis
(16 October 2017, Geneva/New York): After violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on 25 August, more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh in less than five weeks. Tens of thousands of refugees have arrived since, fleeing discrimination, violence and persecution, as well as isolation and fear.

The speed and scale of the influx made it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis and a major humanitarian emergency. The Government of Bangladesh, local charities and volunteers, the UN and NGOs are working in overdrive to provide assistance. But much more is urgently needed. The efforts must be scaled up and expanded to receive and protect refugees and ensure they are provided with basic shelter and acceptable living conditions. Every day more vulnerable people arrive with very little — if anything – and settle either in overcrowded existing camps or extremely congested makeshift sites.

They are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance for food, water, health and other essential needs. Basic services are under severe strain. In some sites, there is no access to potable water, and sanitation facilities are absent, raising health risks for both the refugees and the communities hosting them.

Bangladesh has kept its borders open, offering safety and shelter to fleeing families. We have been moved by the welcome and generosity shown by the local communities towards the refugees. Now a critical Pledging Conference in Geneva on 23 October 2017 is being organized by OCHA, IOM and UNHCR and co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait. It provides Governments from around the world an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the burden and responsibility. Their further generous support for the Joint Response Plan, which was recently launched by the UN and partners, is urgently needed to sustain and scale up the large humanitarian effort already under way. The plan requires US$434 million to meet the life-saving needs of all Rohingya refugees and their host communities – together an estimated 1.2 million people – for the difficult months to come.

We call on the international community to intensify efforts to bring a peaceful solution to the plight of the Rohingya, to end the desperate exodus, to support host communities and ensure the conditions that will allow for refugees’ eventual voluntary return in safety and dignity. The origins and, thus, the solutions to this crisis lie in Myanmar.

Let us all come together on 23 October at the pledging conference and send a strong message to the Rohingya refugees and their generous hosts in Bangladesh that the world is there for them in their greatest time of need.

The State of World Population 2017 – World’s Apart: Reproductive health and rights in an age of inequality :: UNFPA 2017

Human Rights, Reproductive Health, Development, Women

The State of World Population 2017 – World’s Apart: Reproductive health and rights in an age of inequality
UNFPA 2017 :: 140 pages
Division of Communications and Strategic Partnerships
PDF: http://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/sowp/downloads/UNFPA_PUB_2017_EN_SWOP.pdf

In today’s world, gaps in wealth have grown shockingly wide. Billions of people linger at the bottom, denied their human rights and prospects for a better life. At the top, resources and privileges accrue at explosive rates, pushing the world ever further from the vision of equality embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Right now, the combined wealth of the world’s 2,473 billionaires, as calculated by Wealth-X, exceeds $7.7 trillion. That’s equivalent to the combined gross domestic product of an astonishing four fifths of the world’s countries in 2015. It means that while some privileged households budget for billions, many hundreds of millions of families barely scrape by on less than $1.25 a day.

This is a path that we pursue at our peril. The yawning gap between the richest and the poorest is not only unfair, but a risk to economies, communities and nations. In 2015, in recognition of this risk, the world’s governments agreed that the path to sustainable development for the next 15 years must be built on a foundation of equality, inclusiveness and universal enjoyment of rights.

Inequality is often understood in terms of income or wealth—the dividing line between the rich  and poor. But, in reality, economic disparities are only one part of the inequality story. Many other social, racial, political and institutional dimensions feed on each other, and together block hope for progress among people on the margins.

Two critical dimensions are gender inequality, and inequalities in realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights; the latter, in particular, still receives inadequate attention. Neither explains the totality of inequality in the world today, but both are essential pieces that demand much more action. Without such action, many women and girls will remain caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, diminished capabilities, unfulfilled human rights and unrealized potential—especially in developing countries, where gaps are widest.

The unmet demand for family planning in developing countries, for example, is generally greatest among women in the poorest 20 per cent of households. Without access to contraception, poor women, particularly those who are less educated and live in rural areas, are at heightened risk of unintended pregnancy. This may result in health risks and lifelong economic repercussions. The lack of power to decide whether, when or how often to become pregnant can limit education, delay entry into the paid labour force and reduce earnings.

Making information and services more widely available and accessible will lead to better reproductive health outcomes. But this is only part of the solution. Unless we start addressing the structural and multidimensional inequalities within our societies, we will never attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health for all. This standard was envisaged by the 179 governments that endorsed the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which guides the work of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The ICPD affirmed that closing disparities for women and girls in income, education, employment and other areas will largely depend on enabling women and girls to fully realize their reproductive rights. If the objectives of the ICPD—and the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—are met, humanity will be well on its way to a more equal world, with more inclusive and vibrant economies. Most important of all, this is the path to human dignity for every woman and every girl, everywhere.

The late Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin (1949–2017)
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and
Executive Director
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Releases Open-Source Software to Support Efforts that Expand Access to Financial Services in Developing Countries

Development – Financial Inclusion/Access to Services

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Releases Open-Source Software to Support Efforts that Expand Access to Financial Services in Developing Countries
New code reduces complexity and cost of building payment platforms that connect poor customers to merchants, banks, mobile money providers, governments

SEATTLE, Oct. 16, 2017 – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today released a new open-source software for creating payment platforms that will help unbanked people around the world access digital financial services. The software is designed to provide a reference model for payment interoperability between banks and other providers across a country’s economy. It is available now, free-of-cost, for software developers to adapt and banks, financial service providers and companies to implement. Information on the code can be found at mojaloop.io.

Current data from the World Bank shows that nearly two billion people in developing economies lack bank accounts and miss out on the benefits and security that basic financial services provide. Digital financial services, such as mobile money on cell phones, have rapidly expanded over the last two decades because they are convenient for users and cost-effective for companies aiming to serve new markets. In Kenya, an estimated 194,000 households have moved out of extreme poverty due in part to their access to M-Pesa, a mobile money platform, and users’ ability to save money more effectively. Digital financial services are now available in nearly 100 countries according to GSMA, an organization representing mobile network operators. However, global expansion of these services—especially to the world’s poor—has been hampered, in large part, by a lack of interoperability between digital financial services and payment platforms.

The new software, called Mojaloop, establishes a blueprint for connecting today’s financial services sector, and can be used as a solution to barriers that banks and providers seeking interoperability have traditionally faced. Delivering financial services to the poor is prohibitively challenging for many businesses because they struggle to invest adequately in complex technology while maintaining a commitment to low-cost, inclusive services. This has led to a prevalence of consumer payment options that are out of reach for many people in developing economies, or which limit customers’ ability to transact across products, banks and borders. These and similar challenges have dissuaded many companies from expanding into developing markets altogether.

Mojaloop can be used by financial institutions and commercial providers, to simplify and reduce the cost of developing inclusive payment platforms. It was designed to serve ultimately as a model for national payment switching systems that, for example, enable an individual’s digital wallet to connect with her employer’s bank account and her children’s school account to complete monthly transactions. The code can also be applied to adapt and improve existing services.

“Interoperability of digital payments has been the toughest hurdle for the financial services industry to overcome. With Mojaloop, our technology partners have finally achieved a solution that can apply to any service, and we invite banks and the payments industry to explore and test this tool,” said Kosta Peric, Deputy Director, Financial Services for the Poor, at the Gates Foundation. “Just as the internet revolutionized digital communication, open-source solutions like Mojaloop can spark innovation and democratize access to digital payments, empowering billions of new customers and driving massive economic growth in developing markets.”

Mojaloop (building off the Swahili word “moja,” which means “one”) was created in partnership with fintech developers Ripple, Dwolla, ModusBox, Crosslake Technologies and Software Group, using cutting-edge technology such as the Interledger Protocol, a solution for settling funds among multiple providers across their individual systems. It joins other promising digital financial software, but is the first model that can help extend interoperability from mobile money providers to any bank, merchant or government institution in a customer’s economy in a way that specifically meets the needs of the poor…

Developers can access the new software on GitHub, the world’s leading open-source development platform. It includes four components: an interoperability layer, which connects bank accounts, mobile money wallets, and merchants in an open loop; a directory service layer, which navigates the different methods that providers use to identify accounts on each side of a transaction; a transactions settlement layer, which makes payments instant and irrevocable; and, components which protect against fraud. The software will not be owned or implemented by the Gates Foundation. It will be used in the foundation’s ongoing work to promote the development of pro-poor, digital payment platforms.

Mojaloop was created by the Gates Foundation’s Level One Project, which is aimed at leveling the economic playing field by crowding in expertise and resources to build inclusive payment models to benefit the world’s poor. Alongside Mojaloop’s development, the project also brought together four mobile systems companies—Ericsson, Huawei, Telepin, and Mahindra Comviva—to develop an Open API for mobile money interoperability. These APIs will allow mobile money providers to integrate seamlessly with Mojaloop and products built from it…

Preventing Ageing Unequally – OECD Report

Ageing/Equity/Inequality: Inter-Generational Challenges

Preventing Ageing Unequally
OECD Report
Published on October 18, 2017 :: 258 pages
PDF: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/deliver/8117161e.pdf?itemId=/content/book/9789264279087-en&mimeType=application/pdf
This report examines how the two global mega-trends of population ageing and rising inequalities have been developing and interacting, both within and across generations. Taking a life-course perspective the report shows how inequalities in education, health, employment and earnings compound, resulting in large differences in lifetime earnings across different groups. It suggests a policy agenda to prevent, mitigate and cope with inequalities along the life course drawing on good practices in OECD countries and emerging economies.


Media Release
Population ageing and rising inequality will hit younger generations hard
18/10/2017 – Younger generations will face greater risks of inequality in old age than current retirees and for generations born since the 1960s, their experience of old age will change dramatically. Moreover, with family sizes falling, higher inequality over working lives and reforms that have cut pension incomes, some groups will face a high risk of poverty, according to a new OECD report.

Preventing Ageing Unequally says that in 1980, there were only 20 people aged 65 and over for every 100 of working-age, on average across the OECD; by 2015 this number had risen to 28 and by 2050 is projected to almost double to reach 53. Many OECD and emerging economies are ageing much faster. At the same time, inequalities have been increasing from one generation to the next. Among people starting their working life it is now already much higher than among today’s elderly.

The future elderly will be in more diverse situations: people will live longer but more will have been unemployed at some point in their working lives and earned low wages, while others will have enjoyed higher, stable earning paths.

Inequalities in education, health, employment and income start building up from early ages, according to the report. A 25-year old university-educated man can expect to live almost 8 years longer than his lower-educated peer, on average across countries; for women the difference is 4.6 years. At all ages, people in bad health work less and earn less. Over a career, bad health reduces lifetime earnings of low-educated men by 33%, while the loss is only 17% for highly-educated men.

Low earners tend to have a lower life expectancy than high earners and this reduces further their total pensions. Raising the retirement age tends to widen inequality in total pensions between low and high earners, but the impact is small. Gender inequality in old age, however, is likely to remain substantial: annual pension payments to the over-65s today are about 27% lower for women on average, and old-age poverty is much higher among women than men.

Old-age inequality issues are even more acute in emerging economies and several, including Brazil, China and India, are facing rapid ageing at a relatively early stage of development, have wider health inequalities than OECD countries and a less effective social safety net.

To tackle these issues, the OECD says that countries should take a life course approach focusing on three areas:

Prevent inequality before it cumulates over time. Measures should include providing good quality childcare and early education, helping disadvantaged youth into work and expanding health spending on prevention to target at risk groups.

Mitigate entrenched inequalities. Health services should move to a more patient-centred approach and employment services should boost efforts to help the unemployed back into work, as well as remove barriers to retain and hire older workers.

Cope with inequalities at older ages. Reforms to retirement income systems cannot remove inequality among older people but can mitigate it. Well-designed first-tier pensions can limit the impact on pension benefits of socio-economic differences in life expectancy. Some countries have pension adequacy risks, especially for women. Making home care affordable and providing better support to informal carers would also help reduce inequalities in long-term care.

St. Petersburg Declaration on Promoting cultural pluralism and peace through interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue

Inter-Parliamentary Union – Governance, Accountability, Cultural Pluralism, Dialogue

St. Petersburg Declaration on Promoting cultural pluralism and peace through interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue
Endorsed by the 137th IPU Assembly, St. Petersburg, 18 October 2017 [3.pages]
PDF: http://archive.ipu.org/conf-e/137/SPB-declaration.pdf
Parliamentarians from 155 countries have committed to pursuing cultural pluralism and peace through interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue, calling for transparency, accountability and respect for human rights and the rule of law to serve as the basis for building sustainable and peaceful diversity.
As parliamentarians, we commit to working towards cultural pluralism and peace through interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue by:
…Preventing human rights violations relating to culture and religion:
– Allocate sufficient resources to conduct awareness-raising activities on cultural and religious issues among law enforcement officers so as to strengthen their ability to identify and investigate hate crimes, in line with international standards and protocols;
– Build the capacity of outreach workers and mediators in order to create peaceful and trusting environments at the local and regional levels;
– Ensure that the legislative process is transparent, and that parliamentary records are made available and accessible so that religious and ethnic minorities can understand and follow the activity of MPs and hold them accountable for their actions;
– Design protection measures for all religious and ethnic minorities within the national territory, including non-citizens, migrants and newly arrived minorities.

Building social dialogue for multicultural and inclusive societies:
– Exercise effective budgetary oversight so as to prevent the funding of projects and organizations that promote hate and intolerance, openly combat hate speech in public discourse and online platforms, and support projects with a greater balance in terms of gender, culture and religion, particularly at local and regional levels, including through mixed housing areas, collective events and multicultural media;
– Collaborate with scientists on cultural and religious matters and work in partnership with local religious leaders to assess social challenges, such as the struggle against fundamentalism, and ensure that religious and cultural interpretations respect the human rights of all people, in particular women, young people and ethnic and religious minorities;
– Take concrete action to eliminate structural or systemic discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, including by implementing processes for the collection and analysis of data disaggregated by gender, age, language, ethnicity, religion, and other minority status…


Global Parliamentary Report 2017—Parliamentary oversight: Parliament’s power to hold government to account
Inter-Parliamentary Union and United Nations Development Programme
2017 : 117 pages
PDF: https://www.ipu.org/file/3131/download?token=rHfuJ16P
The second Global Parliamentary Report shines the spotlight on one of parliament’s critical functions: its power to hold governments accountable for their actions and decisions. The report, co-published with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is based on the contributions of 150 national parliaments. As a practical and useful tool for Members of Parliament (MPs) and other interested communities, it has examples of how parliaments and MPs carry out oversight in their countries, as well as tips for MPs on how to approach oversight.
The Executive Summary is available in four languages.

Conclusion, key findings and recommendations
[Excerpt, p.99]
Rigorous, constructive and evidence-based oversight improves government in many ways. It seeks to ensure that government functions well and protects the rights and wellbeing of all people. It monitors that laws are implemented effectively and that their impact on people’s lives is closely monitored, and provides a means to identify gaps or problems in legislation that need to be addressed. It ensures that money is well spent and that government programmes are valuated
against results. Corrupt practices become more difficult to hide in the presence of effective systems of oversight.

Oversight makes democracy stronger by providing a channel for people to engage in the management of public affairs on a daily basis between periodic elections. It brings information
into the public domain, ensuring that government operates under public control. Oversight is a key part of a system of checks and balances designed to limit abuses of government power. It provides political mechanisms to sanction the government or ministers in the case of shortcomings.

Drawing on the submissions from parliaments, interviews with MPs and thematic discussions with MPs and senior parliamentary staff, it is possible to affirm certain core principles of parliamentary oversight:

Core principles of parliamentary oversight
Oversight should:
:: be a rigorous, constructive and evidence-based process designed to promote people’s well-being, monitor the achievement of development goals and priorities, and improve governance;
:: cover all areas of government, at all times;
:: be the shared responsibility of all parliamentarians.

Parliament should:
:: have a strong mandate for oversight set out clearly in the constitution, laws and parliamentary rules of procedure;
:: have full and timely access to information required for oversight;
:: ensure that opposition and minority parties are able to participate fully in oversight;
:: provide committees with the mandate and means to carry out effective oversight;
:: develop its capacity for oversight to match its formal powers;
:: mainstream a gender perspective into all oversight activities and ensure women are able to undertake oversight across all areas of policy and legislation;
:: be willing to use the powers available to it to hold government to account for meeting its obligations under existing commitments, laws, and rules.

Yet oversight is often difficult in practice. There are many common challenges, regardless of a country’s political system or level of economic, social and political development.

Research for this report shows that in most countries rules and systems for oversight exist, but oversight may not be prioritized fully by parliament, MPs or the public. The following sections capture the key findings from the report, and set out recommendations for a renewed effort to strengthen parliamentary oversight…

Global Mobility Report 2017 – Tracking Sector Performance

Global Mobility/Transport Systems

Global Mobility Report 2017 – Tracking Sector Performance
Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All) a worldwide consortium of over 50 leading organizations in the transport sector
2017 :: 107 pages
PDF: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/28542/120500.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

The is the first-ever study to assess the global performance of the transport sector and the progress made toward four main objectives: universal access, efficiency, safety, and green mobility. The publication covers all modes of transport, including road, air, waterborne, and rail transport.
According to the report, the world is not on track to achieving sustainable mobility. Apart from being inaccessible to many of the world’s most vulnerable, the transport sector today is plagued by high fossil fuel use, rising greenhouse gas emissions, air and noise pollution, an alarming number of road fatalities, and a reluctance to embrace digitalization.
The report will be updated on a continuous basis, with a new issue expected to come out every two years.

A Few Key Findings
Universal Access
:: Many people continue to lack access to transport. In Africa, an estimated 450 million people–more than 70% of the region’s rural population – are still unable to reach jobs, education and healthcare services due to inadequate transport.
:: Transitioning to sustainable mobility would allow Africa to become food self-sufficient and create a regional food market worth $1 trillion by 2030.

:: The main transport technologies in use today came out of the industrial revolution. Since then, the volume of car traffic has increased tenfold, while cycling and public transport have seen hardly any growth.
:: When considering all transport costs—including vehicle acquisition, fuel, operational expenses, and losses due to congestion—the move toward sustainable mobility can deliver savings of $70 trillion by 2050.

:: Road transport claims the bulk of fatalities worldwide: it accounts for 97% of the deaths and 93% of the costs.
:: Aviation has seen a continuous reduction in the number of fatalities and fatal crashes over recent years. Some regions have even begun to experience zero fatalities.

Green Mobility
:: The transport sector contributes 23% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and 18% of all man-made emissions.
:: The increase in cycling and e-bike use would save the world a cumulative $24 trillion between 2015 and 2050.

New ISO standard to combat land degradation

Heritage Stewardship – Land Degradation

New ISO standard to combat land degradation
18 October 2017
By Sandrine Tranchard
…A new ISO standard will help land managers at global and national scales put in place best practices to combat land degradation. The recently published ISO 14055-1:2017, Environmental management – Guidelines for establishing good practices for combatting land degradation and desertification – Part 1: Good practices framework, provides guidelines for developing good practices to combat land degradation and desertification in arid and non-arid regions.

The standard refers to actions or interventions undertaken with the purpose of preventing or minimizing land degradation or, where land is already degraded, aiding its recovery to improve productivity and ecosystem health.

Because managing our land-based capital impacts directly on human livelihood and health, the standard covers the various topics that must be considered when establishing good practices, such as the respect for human rights, forest management and agricultural practices, climate conditions and industrial activities, among others.

ISO 14055-1 will serve as a useful tool for land managers, land users, technical experts, and private and public organizations, as well as for policy makers involved in the management of land resources for ecological, productivity, economic or social purposes. It advocates a fundamental shift in behaviour towards a more sustainable use of land and is intended to complement and support the activities of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

ISO 14055-1 and its complement, the future ISO/TR 14055-2, which provides regional applications of the principles in Part 1, will help to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15 for the protection, restoration and sustainable management of land-based ecosystems. In doing so, we can hope to reach a “land-degradation-neutral world” by the year 2030.