WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 28-December 4, 2011)

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Irish Panel on Abuse Cites Failures by Church.” By Douglas Dalby. New York Times. November 30, 2011. Authorities in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland were slow or did nothing to notify civil authorities and the Vatican of hundreds of allegations of clerical child sexual abuse over several decades, according to independent audits of six dioceses published simultaneously on Wednesday. The church-sponsored National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland found allegations of widespread abuse in every diocese it investigated, saying that 85 priests in the six dioceses had been accused of 164 sexual assaults on children since 1975, but that only 8 were convicted. Of the 41 still alive, 30 no longer serve as priests. Many victims, police investigators and advocates dismissed the report as another whitewash by the church. One victim, Martin Gallagher, said on RTE, the national broadcaster, that it was not “worth the paper it’s written on.” “Too much emphasis was placed on the situation of the accused priest and too little on the needs of their complainants,” the report found. “Judgments were clouded, due to the presenting problem being for example, alcohol abuse and an inability to hear the concerns about abuse of children, through that presenting problem. More attention should have been given to ensuring that preventative actions were taken quickly when concerns came to light.”

DEVELOPMENT

South-South Ties Reshape Aid Paradigm.” By Miriam Gathigah. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 28, 2011. When the G-8 countries, comprising the world’s largest industrialised nations, decided that improving Internet access to developing countries should be a priority, scores of leaders from developing world opposed the move. While millions of women and children were dying from AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases Internet did not seem a priority. The prevalence of harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and women and girls trekking miles in search of water and firewood seemed far removed from Internet technology. Says Esther Suchia, an activist in Kenya, “This commitment to give developing countries aid to improve access to Internet was taken as an insult.” “Millions of girls in Africa had no access to education or an opportunity to escape from early marriages and drudgery, so African leaders wondered whether it wasn’t more prudent to try and achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals first.” In its defence, the North said access to technology would allow the global South to leapfrog over the causes of extreme poverty that set the stage for a myriad of preventable diseases. It has never been disputed that the South benefited from technology, development aid and even humanitarian aid such as when the West responded to the drought in the Horn of Africa when at least four million people were facing starvation. But this humanitarian aid has not stopped the critics of North-South assistance. That includes delegates at the Nov. 26-28 Open Forum for Civil Society, timed ahead of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness starting in this South Korean port city on Tuesday.

Global Fund for Education Gathers Momentum.” By Thalif Deen. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 28, 2011. If the international community can successfully raise billions of dollars to fight deadly diseases, why not a similar fund to promote education, asks Gordon Brown, former British prime minister. Speaking at the three-day World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Qatar early November, Brown made a strong case for the creation of a Global Fund for Education “in the same way that we have a global fund for health, that has made enormous advances in TB, HIV Aids, vaccinations, and, of course, in polio and malaria”. The proposal by Brown, a former British chancellor of the exchequer, has been gathering momentum at a time when the United Nations complains of a growing crisis in the educational sector – a shortage of over 6.1 million teachers in a world inhabited by nearly 800 million illiterate people, nearly two-thirds of them women. Allan E. Goodman, president and chief executive officer of the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE), who strongly supports the proposal for a global fund, told IPS: “It is a new idea and one that promises to leverage private as well as public funds.” Without it, he warned, the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals – including a call for universal primary education by 2015 – are unlikely to be reached by the deadline. “Improving education needs to be a priority for governments and such a fund would signal that indeed it is,” said Goodman, whose Institute was one of the co-sponsors of the Qatar summit, along with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Dr Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, chairman of WISE, told IPS the former UK prime minister’s proposal for the creation of a global fund for education is evidence that leaders are hearing the WISE call to raise the status of education on the political agenda.

Aid Dependency on the Decline.” By Miriam Gathigah. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 29, 2011. Poor countries have depended on rich nations to supplement their sector budget without which millions of people would have continued to live in abject poverty. Have the years of funding made these countries any less dependent? Sector budget is aid that is allocated to developing a country’s particular development priorities, which could be in the areas of health, education or even sanitation and housing. Most poor countries struggle to raise funds to supplement sector budgets, remaining at the mercy of donors. But statistics are now showing that poor countries are slowly becoming more self reliant. Lucia Fry of ActionAid UK says, “Aid dependency among 54 of the world’s poorest countries has declined by a third in the last decade. This means that poor countries are now much less dependant than they were 10 years ago. “This has been a consequence of giving real aid to poor countries- aid that addresses inequalities and poverty by empowering poor women and men to realise their rights or aid that supports tax systems, better governance and economic development with the ultimate goal of reducing dependency.” In Africa there are indeed countries that have been able to significantly cut their aid dependency because they have grown and are able to mobilise local resources to create revenues that can be ploughed back into sector budgets.

Inclusiveness Wins at Busan Aid Forum.” By Suvendrini Kakuchi. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). December 1, 2011. Inclusiveness was the winner as donors, recipient governments, emerging economies, multilateral lenders and civil society representatives hammered out a consensual document at the close of a major meeting in this South Korean city to boost development aid effectiveness. “The process has been bumpy but we have landed safely. The challenge is to move ahead along a less divided and more unified front,” said Talaat Abdel-Malek, co-chair of the Development Aid Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Abdel-Malek was referring to the Busan Outcome Document, released Thursday, that has been endorsed not only by traditional donors but also by new players such as China, India and Brazil that emerged as key actors at the three-day Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4). The document pledged to “establish a new, inclusive and representative global partnership for effective development co-operation” and spoke of Busan as reference for South-South partnerships “on a voluntary basis.” The rise of new players that do not belong to the Northern countries, particularly China, has become a complex issue in the development world. China insisted that the document was voluntary. Under the new South-South co-operation, the group of emerging donors has launched small- and medium-scale bilateral and multilateral aid projects in poor countries. They provide knowledge, funds and technical expertise that primarily call for a results-based approach. The approach has raised concern and pressure is rising to encourage the new actors to join the DAC that is committed to regulations and principles that support transparency, democratic rule and diverse stakeholders.

Busan Skirts Gender Equality.” By Miriam Gathigah. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). December 1, 2011. Gender champions have lauded the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness for providing gender equality and the empowerment of women a special session, but there is dissatisfaction with Thursday’s Busan outcome document. Although the document alluded to gender equality, experts feel that the scope is narrow and does not really touch the core issues that can be catalytic to the empowerment of women. “There has been progress since the Paris Declaration, which had no mention of gender equality. In the Accra declaration, gender equality achieved some recognition in relation to development. Today, we have moved slightly beyond Accra,” Kate Lappin, regional coordinator of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, said. But, she is emphatic that economic development is not a comprehensive indicator of human development. Paragraph 20, Lappin says, “is about using women to achieve economic growth. Although there is mention of human rights across the ‘Busan Declaration’, there’s surprisingly no linkage of human rights to economic development under this paragraph.” Perhaps this explains why although the Busan conference coincided with two important global events on human rights, particularly in relation to gender, women’s rights did not form part of the Busan agenda.

EUROPE

Co-ops Off to a Promising Start; Co-op members say their eating habits have changed radically since joining.” By Claudia Ciobanu. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). A small wave of consumer co-operatives is rising in Central and Eastern Europe, attempting to provide food that is locally produced and healthy, and to build conviviality. Thousands of producer and consumer co-operatives exist in post-socialist countries, many of them new initiatives created since 1989. They enjoy legal protection and even European Union funds. But a special breed of informal consumer co-operatives has started emerging in the region in the past years, created by mostly middle-class people interested in healthy food and being a part of a community of peers. “Co-operatives always appear when they are needed,” says Torsten Lorenz, a historian studying the European co-operative movement at Charles University in Prague. “The English Rochdale co-operative, considered the starting point of the whole movement, appeared in the mid 19th century because people were starving and they found that cooperation helped them weather hard times. Nowadays it is often young environmentalists and leftists in pursuit of an alternative vision of society who start co-ops.”

HEALTH

What A Lack Of AIDS Funding Could Mean For Africa.” By Anders Kelto. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. December 1, 2011. Orphaned children are cared for at the Baphumelele Center, which assists people affected by AIDS in South Africa. The Global Fund is short on AIDS funding, preventing it from funding new programs. The world’s largest supporter of AIDS programs has made an ominous announcement: Because of the global financial crisis, it is well short of its fundraising goals. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria pays for more than half of the world’s HIV medicine, and supports hundreds of education and advocacy programs worldwide. With World AIDS Day on Thursday, many are worried about what that means for the future of the war on AIDS.

INDIA

Will name Indians with Swiss accounts in 2012: Julian Assange.” No by-line. Times of India. December 4, 2011. The names of Indians holding Swiss bank accounts may be revealed by WikiLeaks sometime next year, its founder Julian Assange said on Saturday. Assange, who is under house arrest in the UK, said this through videoconferencing during a conference held in Delhi , that whistleblower Rudolf Elmer, who passed CDs containing information to him, is undergoing trial and it would not be proper to make disclosures at this juncture. Asked if names of Indians holding Swiss accounts will be revealed in the coming year, he said, “yes” . Information about such accounts “which will affect India” will be revealed in the coming year, he said. He said since Elmer was jailed and facing legal action, he would not like to comment on the issue at the moment. “For that reason, unfortunately , I cannot speak about information related to Swiss accounts in great detail… we must protect our people,” he added. Assange said governments in some countries are “sucking out” data from emails and internet transactions and passing on this “economic intelligence” to companies like Wal-Mart . He made some startling revelations about “hacking” and “hijacking” of data of unsuspecting people. Assange maintained that NTRO, which he termed was India’s equivalent of National Security Agency of the US, was engaged in similar kind of surveillance under the cover of keeping track of “Islamic terror” .

SOMALIA

Lives at risk as Islamists evict Somali aid staff; A quarter of a million Somalis rely on the aid agencies to avoid starvation.” By Tristan McConnell. Times of London. November 29 2011. Islamist gunmen shut down most international aid agencies in Somalia yesterday, bursting into their offices in the famine-blighted country, evicting staff and looting their equipment. The al-Shabaab militia, which controls much of the country, said that it mounted dawn raids after a decision to close permanently charities and other groups that it accused of engaging in “illegal acts”. The organisations include six United Nations agencies, including those responsible for children and refugees, the Irish charity Concern Worldwide, and national aid agencies from Scandinavia and Germany. Most have been involved in providing food and medical care to victims of the famine, drought and war in Somalia. The UN estimates that a quarter of a million people are still facing starvation in Somalia, and the ban could be catastrophic. “Any interruption of humanitarian assistance could affect the lives of thousands of children,” said Jaya Murthy, a Unicef spokesman.
Related story:
Al-Shabaab bans aid agencies in Somalia and raids offices; Islamic group permanently revokes permission for organisations including Unicef and WHO to work in country amid famine crisis.” Guardian. November 26, 2011.

THAILAND

NGOs rescue flood victims with HIV in Thailand.” By Yang Dingdu. Xinhua News (Xinhuanet.com). November 30, 2011. Apiwat Wangkeaw and his friends, standing in line on the roof of a building submerged by water, is relaying medicines and drinking water from a small boat to an AIDS patient living on the second floor of an inundated house. As the worst flood in nearly 70 years hit Thailand, many people living with HIV in flooded areas found themselves blocked from treatment and medicine by water. To help flood victims with HIV, Apiwat and other volunteers of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+) row boats to deliver medicines home by home every day in central Thailand provinces of Ayutthaya, Nakorn Sawan, Ang Thong and Sing Buri, where flood water is 3 to 4 meters deep. “Because we also have HIV, we knew exactly what kind of help people living with HIV need, what kind of trouble they are in and where to find them. We are in the same community, it’s like family, ” said the head of TNP+. In addition to delivering medicines to flood victims living with HIV, volunteers at TNP+ also send them water, food and help transport people for medical checks and send patients to unaffected hospitals. Moreover, many hospitals were also inundated with medical staff relocated, making it even more difficult for flood victims living with HIV to find help, he added. Thailand has 500,000 people with HIV, and the number is increasing by 25 each day, or more than 10, 000 every year. It is a good example of how governments and civil society can work together. Government and insurance were quick to provide access to resources and treatment. NGOs help them reach out to flood victims living with HIV one by one, house by house.

UK

Badge Joe Public blog: Why the big society should prompt a clean-up in the charity sector; The charity sector has lost its way and the big society is all but forgotten, argues Dave Clements; but maybe there is still a way to save both.” By Dave Clements. Guardian. November 29, 2011. The charity sector has lost its way and seems to have given up on its founding notions. We are seeing a rather unseemly scramble for funding as charities seek to retain what they can of their state hand-outs while public services are cut. Or fundraisers, particularly those pesky chuggers, seemingly unacquainted with the causes for which they are apparently campaigning. Volunteers are expected to be as interested in their own employability as they are in helping other people. And the sector is apparently more interested in contracts and compacts than campaigns and causes. I don’t think we should blame the cuts or the “big society”, as many in the sector do, for the problems charities face. The whole point of the big society – and the reason why I welcomed it at first – was that it proclaimed itself to be against an overbearing big state. We were told it was for the idea that people are able to do things for themselves, and to run their own lives without being “supported” all the time. But it seems that the charity sector doesn’t see the big society in quite the same way, and the inference that it would not play the starring role in the coalition’s big idea really rankled. “We are the big society”, it screamed. But is this true? At the same time that the sector has been claiming to represent us – to be the 99% (to borrow a phrase) – it has also boasted of its special relationship with the state. There is little pretence from sector leaders that it has any real independence, or indeed that this should be a problem. This “dual role” as both campaigner and service provider is described as a positive boon, allowing it influence that it wouldn’t otherwise have. But it also means that charities don’t stand for anything much anymore. The sector has no identity of its own, straddling both state and society. And so the promise of the big society, already held back by the prejudices of a parochial political culture, has become just another argument about funding, rooted in the charity sector’s historical sense of entitlement.

Our favourite Movember ‘taches; This month, thousands of men have grown their facial hair in order to raise money for cancer charities. Here’s a selection of some of the finest mos around.” By Camilla Apcar. Guardian. November 28, 2011. “Thousands of men are growing moustaches to raise awareness and money for men’s cancer charities as part of Movember. Here are five fine mos that should be spared the chop later this week.” Growing a moustache across the length of your face doesn’t guarantee the same warmth in the winter months as a full beard. On the other hand, the cheek-to-cheek look will guarantee your initiation into the inner circles of the Mo BroHood. Super Mario is always a failsafe source of inspiration when cultivating your moustache. Shreddies, plasters, pastries, macaroni, live snails … The flexibility of the 21st-century moustache has only one limit: how squeamish you are. Newly hatched tadpole moustache, anyone? Bristle strength, length and curvature – all qualities under scrutiny in any M-Olympics. Not covering up grey pays off, because ageing with grace means you can emulate John Cleese and Borat at the same time. Proud of your ‘tache? Email a picture to fashion.desk@ guardian.co.uk

How to make an impact on the charity sector; The head of New Philanthropy Capital, Dan Corry, on why charities, not wealthy individuals, are now the focus of its work.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. November 29, 2011. Dan Corry, the new chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), says he has been struck by how much of a mark the organisation he joined in September has made since it burst on to the UK voluntary sector scene a few years ago. “I was talking to someone recently and they said NPC had ‘bludgeoned’ the sector into doing impact [assessments]. I took that as a bit of a compliment.” When NPC was started in 2002, by staff at investment bank Goldman Sachs who were trying to find the most effective way for wealthy individuals in the City to give away money to charity, the whole concept of charity impact assessment and performance measurement was relatively unknown. NPC asked a simple question: why should anyone donate money to a charity that cannot prove it makes a difference? Too many charities were complacent about what they thought they were achieving for the causes they supported, the organisation claimed. Their cosy self-perception as fighters on behalf of the downtrodden and dispossessed was assumed, rather than proven, and perhaps in some cases, unearned. Too much donors’ money was being poured lazily into projects and campaigns without any real assessment or check whether this investment had produced any real beneficial effect. Charities, NPC argued, had a duty to measure the “social impact” of the work they did. This radical message was not one many charities wanted to hear.

Children’s cancer charities must return Games cash.” By Alexi Mostrous. Times of London. December 3, 2011. Charities must return thousands of pounds intended for cancer victims after breaching strict rules banning the resale of Olympics tickets. Two children’s cancer charities, Make a Wish and Chain of Hope, respectively auctioned a pair of tickets to the Games’ opening ceremony for £22,000 and a pair for the closing ceremony for £17,000. The auctions took place at glamorous balls held at the Dorchester and the Natural History Museum in London last month. At the Chain of Hope event, the models Bar Refaeli and Yasmin Le Bon, the property entrepreneur Robert Tchenguiz and the pop group UB40 helped to raise more than £500,000. The charities will now have to return the £39,000 after Olympic organisers ruled the auction invalid because of anti-touting rules. Lisa Yacoub, the programme co-ordinator for Chain of Hope, said: “This money could pay for three heart operations. The person who procured these tickets thought that it was their free will to donate them. Someone donated a box at the Royal Opera House to see La Traviata. We’re not touts, we’re raising money for sick kids.” The London Organising Committee of the Olympics said: “Unfortunately, this is a breach of the terms and conditions of the sale of London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games tickets and we cannot honour the auction results.”

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