The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health :: Education :: Heritage Stewardship ::
Sustainable Development
Week ending 25 January 2020 :: Number 303

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, consortia 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
GE2P2 Global Foundation – Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice

PDF: The Sentinel_ period ending 25 Jan 2020

:: Week in Review  [See selected posts just below]
:: Key Agency/IGO/Governments Watch – Selected Updates from 30+ entities   [see PDF]
:: INGO/Consortia/Joint Initiatives Watch – Media Releases, Major Initiatives, Research:: Foundation/Major Donor Watch -Selected Updates
:: Journal Watch – Key articles and abstracts from 100+ peer-reviewed journals  [see PDF]

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Statement on Creation of Nonprofit Agricultural Research Institute


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Statement on Creation of Nonprofit Agricultural Research Institute
SEATTLE, January 21, 2020 – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is in the process of creating a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations, LLC, which seeks to accelerate the development of innovations supported by the foundation’s Agricultural Development team. The entity, to be known as Gates Ag One, aims to speed up efforts to provide smallholder farmers in developing countries, many of whom are women, with access to the affordable tools and innovations they need to sustainably improve crop productivity and adapt to the effects of climate change.

In two of the fastest growing regions of the world—sub-Saharan Africa, home to around 1 billion people, and South Asia, with a population of about 1.8 billion—approximately 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas that typically depend on smallholder agriculture for food and income. In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture accounts for more than half of the region’s employment, and for South Asia it contributes about 40 percent. Yields on farms in these regions are already far below what farmers elsewhere in the world achieve, and climate change will make their crops even less productive.

Gates Ag One will collaborate with a diverse community of regional and international public- and private-sector partners, as well as interested governments, to enable the advancement of resilient, yield-enhancing seeds and traits globally and facilitate the introduction of those breakthroughs into specific crops essential to smallholder farmers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The goal of Gates Ag One is to help the foundation deliver on its mission to empower smallholder farmers with the affordable, high-quality tools, technologies, and resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty. The foundation is still in the early planning stages, and we look forward to sharing additional details in the future. For more information on Gates Ag One, please consult our frequently asked questions document.

George Soros Launches Global Network to Transform Higher Education


George Soros Launches Global Network to Transform Higher Education
Open Society Founder and Chair gifts $1 billion to newly launched Open Society University Network
January 23, 2020
DAVOS, SWITZERLAND—George Soros announced today that he is creating a new university network to better prepare students for current and future global challenges. He is endowing the network with one billion dollars ($1 billion) and asking other philanthropists to contribute.

The network, which will operate throughout the world, is named the Open Society University Network (OSUN). It will integrate teaching and research across higher education institutions worldwide. It will offer simultaneously taught network courses and joint degree programs and regularly bring students and faculty from different countries together with in-person and online discussions. The network aims to reach the students who need it the most and to promote the values of open society—including free expression and diversity of beliefs.

OSUN will seek to promote rigorous education and reach institutions in need of international partners, as well as neglected populations, such as refugees, incarcerated people, the Roma and other displaced groups. OSUN, with the help of its allies, is ready to start a massive “scholars at risk” program, merging a large number of academically excellent but politically endangered scholars into this new global network.

Already, OSUN is connecting institutions of higher learning and is holding networked courses that unite students and faculty from several universities located in different parts of the world in the classroom, sharing faculty and conducting joint research projects in which people from many universities collaborate.

Mr. Soros said: “I believe our best hope lies in access to an education that reinforces the autonomy of the individual by cultivating critical thinking and emphasizing academic freedom. I consider the Open Society University Network to be the most important and enduring project of my life and I should like to see it implemented while I am still around.”…


Open Society University Network (OSUN)
The Open Society University Network (OSUN) is a new global network that integrates learning and the advancement of knowledge across geographic and demographic boundaries, promotes civic engagement on behalf of open societies, and expands access of underserved communities to higher education.

:: Foster critical thinking, open intellectual inquiry, and fact-based research to strengthen foundations of open society amid authoritarian resurgence
:: Educate students to address tomorrow’s global challenges by getting to know other societies from the inside
:: Expand access to higher education at a time of growing inequities
:: Counteract polarization by promoting global research collaboration and educating students to examine issues from different perspectives and advance reasoned arguments
:: Bolster efforts by universities in challenging environments to build their own capacity through global partnerships to make greater contributions to their societies


Myanmar – ICC

International Court of Justice [ICJ]
23 January 2020
1. General introduction 16-19
2. Existence of a dispute relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the Genocide
Convention 20-31
3. The reservation of Myanmar to Article VIII of the Convention 32-36
4. Conclusion as to prima facie jurisdiction 37-38

…86. For these reasons,
Indicates the following provisional measures:
(1) Unanimously,
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar shall, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the members of the Rohingya group in its territory, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this Convention, in particular:
(a) killing members of the group;
(b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group;
(c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part; and
(d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(2) Unanimously,
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar shall, in relation to the members of the Rohingya group in its territory, ensure that its military, as well as any irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it and any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any acts described in point (1) above, or of conspiracy to commit genocide, of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, of attempt to commit genocide, or of complicity in genocide;

(3) Unanimously,
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;

(4) Unanimously,
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this Order within four months, as from the date of this Order, and thereafter every six months, until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court…


Press briefing note on Myanmar
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Geneva, 24 January 2020
We welcome the Order by the International Court of Justice that Myanmar must take “all measures within its power” to protect the members of the Rohingya group from all future acts that may amount to genocide under the provisions of Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.*
The High Commissioner has repeatedly expressed serious concerns about the situation of the Rohingya following the repeated waves of violence suffered by them, most recently in 2016 and 2017. She has frequently called for the full protection of their human rights, and genuine accountability for the serious violations and abuses they have endured.
As the Secretary-General noted yesterday, these provisional measures indicated by the Court are binding under international law.
The UN Human Rights Office calls on Myanmar to immediately and unconditionally implement them in full, consistently with its obligations under the Charter and the Court’s Statute…


Financial Times, 23 Jan 2020
Opinion : Myanmar
Aung San Suu Kyi: Give Myanmar time to deliver justice on war crimes
Independent commission has documented killing of civilians and looting

This week, a comprehensive inquiry into the 2017 violence and mass displacement in the state of Rakhine presented its final report to Myanmar’s president.

The Independent Commission of Enquiry interviewed close to 1,500 witnesses, including security personnel and affected persons. It has gathered more first-hand information than any other fact-finding body in the world.

Its findings and recommendations for further domestic investigation and prosecution are unequivocal, belying those who chose to prejudge it as ineffective. The material should now be given a chance to inform both discussions on accountability for human rights violations that occurred and a road map for change in the area.

Mobilising international justice takes time and dedication. The process can too easily become attached to specific testimonies of victimisation and consequently rendered inseparable from the narrative they feed. A fair reading of the ICOE report would show that this is a real risk in the current international proceedings on events in Rakhine.

The case against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice, the statements by the prosecutor to the International Criminal Court, and the private lawsuit brought in Argentina all rely extensively on a fact-finding mission by the UN Human Rights Council. This is precariously dependent on statements by refugees in camps in Bangladesh.

The ICOE reports that some refugees may have provided inaccurate or exaggerated information. While this is understandable, we have to recognise that there is a systemic challenge. The international justice system may not yet be equipped to filter out misleading information before shadows of incrimination are cast over entire nations and governments. Human rights groups have condemned Myanmar based on unproven statements without the due process of criminal investigation.

The international condemnation has had a negative effect on Myanmar’s endeavours to bring stability and progress to Rakhine. It has undermined painstaking domestic efforts to establish co-operation between the military and the civilian government. It hampers our ability to lay the foundation for sustainable development in a very diverse country. It has presented a distorted picture of Myanmar and affected our bilateral relations. Should countries with even fewer resources than Myanmar be similarly condemned, the consequences for them could be dire.

To provide the strongest protection for human rights, we need to reform the ways in which unsubstantiated narratives are relied upon by the UN and non-governmental organisations. The voice of victims must be heard and must always touch our hearts. But it is equally important that fact-finders are vigilant in their search for truth. Recommended Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi says war crimes ‘may have been committed’

I stated at the ICJ that there would be domestic investigations and prosecutions if the ICOE report presented further evidence of violations in Rakhine. The ICOE has done that, concluding that war crimes were committed during the internal armed conflict with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army by members of Myanmar’s security forces and civilians. The report details killing of civilians, disproportionate use of force, looting of property, and destruction of abandoned homes of Muslims. The ICOE found no evidence of genocide.

Myanmar’s Union Attorney-general has already announced plans to investigate civilians who may have participated in looting or burning of villages. War crimes that may have been committed by members of the Defence Services will be prosecuted through our military justice system.

We need to respect the integrity of these proceedings and to refrain from unreasonable demands that Myanmar’s criminal justice system complete investigations in a third of the time routinely granted to international processes.

It is never easy for armed forces to recognise the self-interest in accountability for their members, and then follow through with actual investigations and prosecutions. This is a common challenge around the world. But that does not mean that international justice should immediately come into play.

An informed assessment of Myanmar’s ability to address the issue of violations in Rakhine can only be made if adequate time is given for domestic justice to run its course.

Justice can help us overcome distrust and fear, prejudice and hate, and end longstanding cycles of intercommunal violence. This has always been my goal. This is what we are working to achieve. International justice should not itself fall victim to the extreme polarisation which characterises discussions on the situation in Rakhine.
The writer is state counsellor of Myanmar

World Social Report 2020: Inequality in a rapidly changing world


World Social Report 2020: Inequality in a rapidly changing world
2020 :: 218 pages
The World Social Report 2020 examines the impact of four such megatrends on inequality: technological innovation, climate change, urbanization and international migration. Technological change can be an engine of economic growth, offering new possibilities in health care, education, communication and productivity. But it can also exacerbate wage inequality and displace workers. The accelerating winds of climate change are being unleashed around the world, but the poorest countries and groups are suffering most, especially those trying to eke out a living in rural areas. Urbanization offers unmatched opportunities, yet cities find abject poverty and opulent wealth in close proximity, making gaping and increasing levels of inequality all the more glaring. International migration allows millions of people to seek new opportunities and can help reduce global disparities, but only if it occurs under orderly and safe conditions. Whether these mega-trends are harnessed to encourage a more equitable and sustainable world, or allowed to exacerbate disparities and divisions, will largely determine the shape of our common future.

:: Inequality within countries is very high but it is not rising everywhere. Since 1990, income inequality has increased in most developed countries. Inequality declined in most Latin American countries from 1990 to the early 2010s but is increasing again in some of them.
:: Inequality trends differ across countries at even similar levels of development.
:: Income inequality among countries has declined in relative terms but is still higher than inequality within most countries. Absolute income differences between countries continue to grow.
:: The world is far from the goal of equal opportunity for all: circumstances beyond an individual’s control, such as gender, race, ethnicity, migrant status and, for children, the socioeconomic status of their parents, continue to affect one’s chances of succeeding in life.
:: Group-based inequalities are declining in some cases but still growing in many others. Unless progress accelerates, leaving no one behind will remain a still distant goal by 2030.
:: High or growing inequality not only harms people living in poverty and other disadvantaged groups. It affects the well-being of society at large.
:: Highly unequal societies grow more slowly than those with low inequality and are less successful at reducing poverty.
:: Without appropriate policies and institutions, inequalities in outcomes create or preserve unequal opportunities and perpetuate social divisions.
:: Rising inequality has created discontent, deepened political divides and can lead to violent conflict.

2019 Corruption Perceptions Index shows anti-corruption efforts stagnating in G7 countries


2019 Corruption Perceptions Index shows anti-corruption efforts stagnating in G7 countries
Analysis reveals corruption more pervasive in countries where money influences political power
Transparency International Secretariat
January 23, 2020 Issued by

More than two-thirds of countries – along with many of the world’s most advanced economies – are stagnating or showing signs of backsliding in their anti-corruption efforts, according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released today by Transparency International.

Countries in which elections and political party financing are open to undue influence from vested interests are less able to combat corruption, analysis of the results finds.

“Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.”

CPI highlights
The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, drawing on 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives. It uses a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of only 43. Since 2012, only 22 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Estonia, Greece and Guyana. Twenty-one have significantly declined, including Australia, Canada and Nicaragua.

Our research shows several of the most advanced economies cannot afford to be complacent if they are to keep up their anti-corruption momentum. Four G7 countries score lower than last year: Canada (-4), France (-3), the UK (-3) and the US (-2). Germany and Japan have seen no improvement, while Italy gained one point.

Corruption and political integrity
Analysis shows that countries that perform well on the CPI also have stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations and broader range of political consultation.

Countries where campaign finance regulations are comprehensive and systematically enforced have an average score of 70 on the CPI, whereas countries where such regulations either don’t exist or are poorly enforced score an average of just 34 and 35 respectively.

Sixty per cent of the countries that significantly improved their CPI scores since 2012 also strengthened regulations around campaign donations.

“The lack of real progress against corruption in most countries is disappointing and has profound negative effects on citizens around the world,” said Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International. “To have any chance of ending corruption and improving peoples’ lives, we must tackle the relationship between politics and big money. All citizens must be represented in decision making.”…

“Nuclear War, Climate Disaster, Multilateralism” :: Doomsday Clock 2020: it is 100 seconds to midnight

“Nuclear War, Climate Disaster, Multilateralism”

Doomsday Clock 2020: it is 100 seconds to midnight
23 Jan 2020
The Elders call on the world to wake up to the threats of nuclear war and climate disaster as they unveil the 2020 Doomsday Clock.
Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland, and Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former United Nations Secretary-General, today joined experts from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists for the unveiling of the Doomsday Clock in Washington DC, an annual assessment of the existential risks faced by humanity.

The Clock’s hands were moved forward to 100 seconds to midnight – the closest to midnight they have been since they were first set in 1947. The decision takes into account the precarious state of nuclear arms controls, the growing threat of climate disaster, and how these can be compounded by disruptive new technologies.

“Our planet faces two concurrent existential threats: the climate crisis and nuclear weapons. We are faced by a gathering storm of extinction-level consequences, and time is running out,” Mary Robinson said…

To overcome existential threats, we need to re-energise multilateralism
23 Jan 2020
Unveiling the 2020 Doomsday Clock in partnership with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Ban Ki-moon urges world leaders to focus on the clear dangers of nuclear escalation and climate emergency.
The following is a transcript of his 23 January speech

…As Mary Robinson has said, it is an honour to be here today to unveil the Doomsday Clock. But is with a solemn sense of duty, with a moral responsibility, and with a frightening sense of what is happening.

These are perilous times. The alarming rise in tensions in the Middle East threatens war, and a return to nuclear weapons development in Iran. The world waits to see how North Korea will respond to stalled negotiations over its nuclear ambitions. I am struck by the news released from North Korea that it would not be committed to previously made committments, to nuclear disarmament, and the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. This is surprising and very, very shocking. Also, the situation in Kashmir between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India remains unpredictable and highly dangerous.

Such tensions demand responsible global leadership, but instead over the last year we have seen precisely the opposite. We have seen the termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, division and uncertainty regarding the upcoming Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and, most worryingly, the absence of any meaningful negotiations between the US and Russia to extend New START.

It would send a deeply negative message to the world if New START is allowed to expire in February 2021. This would not only eliminate remaining constraints on deployed nuclear arsenals, but also remove the monitoring and inspection capabilities which have provided both sides with increased transparency regarding nuclear capability.

On the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, The Elders believe the world must seize the opportunities presented by the review conference that begins in April. This treaty is the backbone of the multilateral consensus on nuclear arms control, and yet disagreements and frustrations between its signatories mean there is a significant risk that the conference could conclude without an agreed outcome – a scenario that would undermine the treaty and could even trigger withdrawal by member states.

Alongside the potential expiry of New START, this is a disastrous scenario for the world. It exemplifies the failures of global leadership, and the weakness of the multilateral system in the face of isolationist politics that sees diplomacy as a zero-sum game rather than a means of finding common solutions to common challenges.

At a time when world leaders should be focused on the clear and present dangers of nuclear escalation and the climate emergency, we are instead witnessing denial, disregard and dangerous brinkmanship.
The existential risks of climate change and nuclear war are increasing just as the decision-making frameworks to address them are unravelling. From the Paris Agreement to the JCPOA; despondency over the Non Proliferation Treaty to impotency at the UN Security Council – our mechanisms for collaboration are being undermined when we need them most.

To echo Mary Robinson – we must see urgent action on the climate crisis in 2020. All countries must come to COP in Glasgow in November with clear plans for delivering carbon net-zero commitments by 2050. We must see an immediate end to the investment in, and exploration of, fossil fuels. We must heed the demands of the young people on our streets and listen to the science.

We cannot negotiate with nature. We must listen to the warning of nature.

The US must somehow begin to demonstrate leadership at the federal level too. Without it, we cannot hope to meet the targets that will keep global warming to manageable levels. Without US leadership there will be no winners from this climate crisis, only losers.

In the end, we will only overcome these existential threats by working together, and to do so the world needs to re-energise multilateralism. I do believe there is an opportunity for this in the coming year.

2020 marks 75 years since the end of Second World War and the birth of the nuclear age – and, indeed, the founding of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. It also marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

This is an opportunity for the world to renew its commitment to multilateralism. It is a time for world leaders to bring a new mindset to the key moments ahead of us in 2020 – to create the foundations for a just transition to a carbon net zero economy, and redouble the efforts towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

We can overcome the existential threats we face, but we must act, together, now. No country, no individual, no matter how powerful or how many resources, can do this on their own. We need to hold hands and work together.
Thank you.