Prepared Remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama for International Women of Courage Award

The White House

Office of the First Lady

For Immediate Release

March 05, 2015

Note: Due to inclement weather, the International Women of Courage event has been cancelled. Please see the First Lady’s prepared remarks below.

Remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
International Women of Courage Award
Washington, DC
March 5th, 2015

It is such a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you today as we celebrate this year’s International Women of Courage.  When you learn about what these ten extraordinary women have done with their lives – it just takes your breath away. 

One of our awardees is the first woman to be a fixed-wing Air Force pilot in Afghanistan’s history, and she continues to fly despite threats from the Taliban and even members of her own extended family.

Another awardee is a women’s right activist whose organization has assisted more than 30,000 survivors of sexual assault and abuse in Bolivia, and for the past 30 years, she’s helped pass nearly every women’s rights law in her country.  

These women are journalists exposing corruption and extremism; they are activists fighting armed conflict and discrimination; and one of them is a nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for her patients.  But as soon as she recovered, she went right back to work, and she now serves as a spokeswoman, raising awareness and fighting the stigma around Ebola.

Each of these women has accomplished so much and helped so many people, but as we all know, they have all paid a high price for their efforts.  They’ve lost their jobs; they’ve been beaten and jailed; they’ve faced death threats and attacks on their reputations. 

But through it all, they’ve kept on going, because for them, staying silent simply isn’t an option.  For them, turning away from the injustices they see simply isn’t possible.  You see, these women refuse to believe the false comfort that other people’s suffering isn’t their problem, and they refuse to listen to those who tell them that one person can’t possibly make a difference.  Instead, they listen to the relentless moral voice inside themselves that drives them toward justice, compassion and truth.

That is one thread that connects their stories across cultures and continents.  And while these women come from different backgrounds and are working on different issues, there is another theme that runs through so many of their lives – and that is the power of education. 

Whether they attended secondary school, or a university, or got some kind of training, for so many of these women, their education helped them discover and develop their potential – it gave them a platform on which to build their professional lives.  And they have used that platform to inspire countless others to follow their example. 

I mean, think about how many girls now dream of taking to the skies or reporting breaking news.  Think about how many Ebola survivors have been able to reclaim their lives.  Think about how many survivors of violence and discrimination have finally gotten the support and justice they deserve – all because of the women on this stage.

So really, so many of these women are living, breathing proof of the ripple effect that occurs when we believe in women and girls and we invest in their potential. 

But we all know that for each of these women of courage, there are millions of others who may never have the chance to make their mark on the world.  Today, 62 million girls worldwide are not in school – girls with boundless promise, girls who are so eager to learn, so hungry to make something of their lives, but they may never get that opportunity. 

Think about the loss that represents for our world.  Think about how many of us in this room and how many of the women on this stage wouldn’t be here today if we hadn’t gotten some kind of education.  So we all know the power of education to transform the lives of women and girls – and to transform their families, communities and countries. 

And that’s why I am so thrilled that earlier this week, the U.S. Government launched a new global girls’ education effort called Let Girls Learn.  As part of this effort, in collaboration with the Peace Corps, we’ll be supporting new, community-focused girls’ education projects across the globe. 

We’ll be drawing on the talent and energy of the nearly 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers serving in more than 60 countries worldwide, and these volunteers will be supporting hundreds of new community projects to help girls go to school and stay in school – girls’ leadership camps, girls’ mentorship programs, and so much more.  These programs will be community-generated and community-led; they’ll be based on solutions devised by local leaders, families and the girls themselves.

And I am thrilled to kick off this new initiative with a trip to Asia later this month.  I’ll be going to Japan, where I’ll be meeting with Mrs. Akie Abe, the wife of Japan’s Prime Minister, who is eager to join us in this work.  I will also travel to Cambodia, where I will be meeting with Peace Corps volunteers and visiting a school where community-driven efforts are already transforming girls’ lives. 

This work could not be more urgent or more important, because we know that every single girl on this planet has something to contribute.  Every single girl has a spark of potential that is worthy of our investment.  And there is no limit to the impact we can have when we make that investment.

I think that one of today’s awardees put it best in an interview she did with a reporter about her work to help girls in Pakistan.  Tabassum Adnan was married at the age of 13, and after enduring 20 years of brutal abuse by her husband, she finally escaped, losing her home, her children and all her money.

But Tabassum refused to be defeated.  Instead, she founded an NGO to fight back against acid attacks, honor killings and other horrific violations of women’s rights in her community.  It’s dangerous work, and progress doesn’t come easily, but Tabassum won’t give up.  As she told that reporter – and these are her words: she said “We’ve come a long way, and it won’t be easy to back off now.”

That is what all of these women of courage have done – they have gone that long way, and they have inspired so many others to join them.  They’ve built movements and created waves of momentum for justice and peace and equality – and now, because of their courage and sacrifice, it’s not so easy for the rest of us to back off or back down.  Because of brave women like them, the tide is beginning to turn for women and girls across the globe.

And I am so proud to be here today to honor these women – and I am so determined to do whatever I can as First Lady of the United States and beyond to support their efforts and give all our women and girls the chances they deserve to fulfill their promise.

So congratulations to this year’s awardees.  We are so inspired by all of you, and we look forward to all that you will continue to contribute to your countries and our world in the years ahead.

Thank you so much, and God bless.

The Gates Letter, 2015

The release of an annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates has become an event akin to the State of the Union Address for the international development and health crowd. The big highlights from this year: The Gates’ predict what life will be like in 2030, including worldwide child deaths halved; diseases like, polio, guinea worm and river blindness will be eradicated; and a cure for malaria. Also, the Gates’ announce an ambitious plan to organize “global citizens” and are ambitiously backing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Read the letter. Read a news story about the letter from Reuters.

Why Obama’s India visit is such a big deal…President Obama is heading to India this weekend. This is the first time that a president will visit India twice while in office. Tanvi Madan of Brookings explains the significance of this trip, what can be expected on the climate change front and why this trip could have profound historic consequences. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1yVcGMR)

Saudi Arabia’s long King Abdullah has died at the age of 90. He was best described as a cautious reformer.  The transition to Prince Salman seems to be smooth, at least on the surface. NYT http://nyti.ms/1yVchKk

Is private equity really hot for sub-saharan Africa? The Economist thinks so. http://econ.st/1CHO2wo

Ebola

Sierra Leone said on Thursday it would reopen schools across the country in March, with the deadly Ebola epidemic slowing throughout west Africa. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6B6V3)

Even though the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues, the U.N. says it’s time to plan for the recovery of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. A joint mission has just completed its assessment in Sierra Leone. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AaNp)

Recent news reports indicate a drop in the number of new cases the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.  Some treatment centers built with foreign aid are operating at a fraction of their capacity.  Health care specialists say now’s the time to focus on revitalizing weakened health care systems. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AjAp)

Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo‘s Senate has announced a one-day delay for its vote on a proposed electoral law that has sparked days of violent protests. Senators now say they will vote Friday on the bill, which would require completion of a national census before a presidential election can be held. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AcVr)

Nigeria should delay next month’s elections to give organisers more time to distribute millions of biometric ID cards to voters, the country’s top security official said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1CGddPT)

Madagascar’s opposition is to challenge the appointment of Prime Minister Jean Ravelonarivo in the constitutional court after the administrative court said it would not hear the case, extending uncertainty in a country struggling to repair its economy. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yJMCTa)

A new report by Human Rights Watch accuses the Ethiopia’s government of systematically cracking down on media ahead of the May 2015 elections. The report, released Thursday, details how Ethiopia has restricted independent reporting since 2010. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3sq9r)

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3sB4K)

An outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Nigeria has spread to 21 commercial farms in seven different states, with more than 140,000 birds having been exposed to the virus, the agriculture minister said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1y3uXAC)

The slaughter of rhinos in South Africa hit a new record in 2014, with poachers killing 1,215 of the iconic savannah animals as Asian-led demand for their horn showed no sign of abating, authorities said Thursday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6B8fC)

Chad’s President Idriss Deby has secured control of regional operations against deadly Boko Haram Islamists, riding roughshod over his supposed allies in a week-long diplomatic and military offensive. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6Ba78)

MENA

The Yemeni government has offered its resignation to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a source close to Prime Minister Khaled Bahah said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1CjcwhD)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on world leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum on Thursday to unite against the global threat of terrorism. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1y3uRci)

Rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that Saudi Arabia would postpone the flogging of blogger Raef Badawi, whose case has sparked international criticism, for a second week on medical grounds. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1y3xLxK)

The U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinians will run out of money by the end of January to repair homes in Gaza damaged in the 2014 war with Israel, worsening an already dire humanitarian situation, an agency spokesman said on Thursday. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1Bi67lg)

It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for whom Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ClB3CO)

It costs thousands of euros for a false passport and place on a boat to Turkey, but Syrian refugees stranded in Cyprus are ready to try anything. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Bi6E6B)

Asia

Thirteen Vietnamese social activists say they were attacked by police and taken into custody after visiting recently freed dissident Tran Anh Kim. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rUZ4)

Pakistan says it wants an early repatriation of Afghan refugees in the country but does not intend to forcefully evict them. Meanwhile, Afghan officials are warning that unwarranted pressure on the refugee population as part of Islamabad’s increased counterterrorism measures could hinder bilateral ties. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2zE20)

Cambodia has managed to reduce poverty in many parts of the country but admits it is still falling behind on many of its United Nations development targets as a deadline to reach such goals approaches. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rVMM)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday that China’s slowing economy reflected the broader, global situation and promised that he would forge ahead with major reforms to boost growth prospects. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rW3p)

The disclosure by a key United Nations witness, that parts of his testimony about his life in North Korean prison camps were untrue, is raising questions about the credibility of the U.N. report on human rights abuses in that country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2zHL9)

“We cannot be counted as citizens of the 21st century” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a hard-hitting message to the country during the launch of a nationwide campaign to save and educate girls. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2Afkn)

Pakistan has outlawed two militant groups accused of plotting terrorist attacks in neighboring India and Afghanistan. The announcement comes before President Barack Obama’s trip to New Delhi this week. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yJLMWL)

Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra strongly defended herself in parliament before a vote by members on whether to impeach her for her role in a controversial rice subsidy scheme. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CGcC0C)

India will look to the United States for more private sector partnerships and technology to support a drive to expand its use of clean energy, as Washington looks to secure political support for a global climate change deal in 2015. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Cjdjiu)

Myanmar’s government has accused ethnic rebels of trying to scuttle a nationwide peace deal, as tensions soar in the northern state of Kachin, where an activist said sporadic clashes between the army and insurgents have trapped more than 1,800 villagers. (AP http://yhoo.it/15vNQ8U)

The Americas

Amnesty International is calling on the Mexican government to investigate the army in the disappearance of 43 students in southern Mexico on September 26. (AP http://yhoo.it/1E7biIl)

A bill that would prohibit using federal money to pay for “any abortion” or for “health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion” has been approved by the US House of Representatives. (NPR http://n.pr/1Bit9IN)

Opinion/Blogs

Bill and Melinda Gates Want the UN to Get Real (Businessweek http://buswk.co/1E6Voxw)

Africa’s Economy Is Rising. Now What Happens to Its Food? (Upshot http://nyti.ms/1JdYD6r)

Microfinance not a quick escape from poverty, studies show (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1JdYAHV)

Nigerians Don’t Need More Boko Haram Coverage, They Need Action (Vanity Fair http://vnty.fr/186mg3E)

Is USAID Helping Haiti to Recover, or US Contractors to Make Millions? (The Nation http://bit.ly/1yKfKbw)

Why Boko Haram Has Stepped Up Attacks in Nigeria (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/15tX5GK)

Double standards of celebrity humanitarianism (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1yOavHT)

Every movie rewrites history. What American Sniper did is much, much worse. (Vox http://bit.ly/1CGBeX9)

Heartfelt and provocative on Boko Haram (Storify http://bit.ly/1yOaseY)

Research/Reports

The United Nations asked governments on Thursday to submit plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions as the building blocks of a deal due in Paris in December to limit global warming, after scientists said 2014 was the hottest year on record. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1y3xAlQ)

Countries are divided on how a new global plan to reduce the risk of disasters should measure progress, with some governments opposed to setting numerical targets for cutting deaths and economic losses and protecting infrastructure. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1y3xHOi)

Discussion

comments…

Mali Not Clear of Ebola

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Ebola in Mali…Mali is racing to control a fresh Ebola outbreak after confirming its second death from the disease, just when it appeared the country would be given the all clear. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1pQWJn8)

Getting serious about indoor air pollution…The WHO is issuing new guidelines aimed at reducing health-damaging household pollutants in order to reduce the number of people killed by indoor air pollution. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xOhhvp )

On the Docket for Thursday…USAID Admin Shah will deliver keynote remarks at the third Global Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Human Rights and Inclusive Development on Friday at 11AM EST. And…The WHO will release new data on global progress against measles later today.

Ebola

More than 400 health workers at the only Ebola treatment centre in southern Sierra Leone went on strike on Wednesday over unpaid risk allowances the government is meant to fund, officials said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1pR0hFZ)

The U.N. peacekeeping chief is urging the Security Council to extend the mandate of its 7,000-member peacekeeping force in Liberia, as the Ebola crisis continues to strain national institutions and threaten gains made since that country’s civil war ended in 2003. (VOA http://bit.ly/1unMpCD)

Britain’s foreign secretary announced plans for 700 Ebola treatment beds in Sierra Leone within weeks, admitting the global response had been too slow as he visited the former colony. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1xOiToW)

The Ebola epidemic is still outstripping efforts to contain it, according to doctors from Médecins Sans Frontières who have mounted most of the early response in west Africa. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1EBoCm4)

Sierra Leone will make a one-off payment of $5,000 to the family of any health worker who dies as a result of treating an Ebola patient, authorities said, as a sixth doctor in the country tested positive for the virus. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1EBycoU)

Critical gaps in “behind-the-scenes” infrastructure are hampering Ebola response times and containment efforts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, aid agencies and health workers say. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1pQWwQI)

Africa

South Sudan: Young boys dream of carrying kalashnikovs not books as arms airdrops and night raids for child soldiers make peace in the world’s newest nation ever distant. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1EBtQ11)

H&M, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, said that it made every effort to ensure its cotton did not come from appropriated land in Ethiopia but could not provide an absolute guarantee. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1pR1EnQ)

For subsistence farmers in rain-scarce Kenya, drip irrigation can mean the difference between hand-to-mouth survival and being able to grow an agricultural business. (TRF http://bit.ly/1EBzikH)

Medical experts say cervical cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa. A majority die of ignorance. Less than one percent of women are scanned for the disease. Free vaccination campaigns for 9 to 13 years old girls are ongoing. (VOA http://bit.ly/1EBzW1y)

A protester was killed and two others badly wounded after angry crowds accused UN troops of shooting a man in the head in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, rights groups said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1umJdHq)

Sudan’s government and rebels from South Kordofan and Blue Nile launched their latest round of peace talks Wednesday, as mediators called for an “urgent” end to over three years of war. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/1xOhYF1)

Kenyan law provides for life imprisonment when a girl dies from FGM/C, which in addition to excruciating pain, can cause hemorrhage, shock and complications in childbirth. Officials are optimistic they can force a change in attitude but still worry that the practice is too ingrained for legal threats to have an impact. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1unMSVp)

MENA

Amnesty International on Wednesday criticised “woefully insufficient” steps taken by Qatar so far to end abuses of migrant workers building facilities for the controversial 2022 World Cup. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1xMMYVZ)

The U.N. World Food Program has begun distributing food vouchers to Iraqis displaced by war. The WFP gave out the first vouchers in Erbil to about 500 Iraqis last week. (VOA http://bit.ly/1EBwxzV)

Air strikes by U.S.-led forces in Syria have killed 865 people, including 50 civilians, since the start of the campaign in late September against Islamic State militants, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1EBEFQH)

Asia

Myanmar’s transition from military rule has not been as fast as hoped and the government is “backsliding” on some reforms, U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview published on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1EBFGbJ)

Furious protesters took to the streets in central India on Wednesday, smashing up cars and demanding the chief minister resign, as the death toll from a mass government-run sterilisation programme rose to 13. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pR6v8x)

A team of doctors rushed to central India on Wednesday after at least 13 women died and dozens of others fell ill following sterilization surgeries in a free, nationwide program aimed at limiting births in the world’s second-most populous nation, officials said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1EBEkxs)

Cambodia’s mainly agricultural society is changing fast, driven by urbanization and falling fertility rates. As young workers move to the cities, older people are staying back in the villages, where they have little support. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pQYL6z)

Seven Cambodian housing and land rights activists have been sentenced to a year in prison, just one day after they were arrested during a protest. The activists, who were protesting poor flood management in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak neighborhood. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pQZcOm)

Cambodia on Wednesday raised the controversial monthly minimum wage for garment workers by 28 percent, a decision likely to infuriate unions seeking a higher increase and revive calls for strike action. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pR2eC6)

The U.S. has expressed reservations about the China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but some experts say opposing the newly established bank may not a wise choice for Washington. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xOh0Zw)

The Americas

The number of Americans struggling to afford food has remained stuck near recession-era highs. But a recent Gallup poll suggests things may be starting to get back on track for some. (NPR http://n.pr/1pR2Ibm)

Colombia’s largest left-wing rebel group, the Farc, says it is sorry for killing two members of the Nasa indigenous group last week. (BBC http://bbc.in/1pR2tx5)

Cuba clearly is on the minds of the editors of the New York Times. In the last month the paper has published five weekend editorials in English and in Spanish asking the US administration to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba. (BBC http://bbc.in/1EBtwPQ)

The presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador will present the United States with a proposed plan to stem child migration from their countries. (AP http://yhoo.it/1unMrdU)

Opinion/Blogs

Militarizing Global Health (Boston Review http://bit.ly/1xhHs0D)

Obstacles to Development Arising from the International System (IPS http://bit.ly/1EBx8By)

Should NGOs jump on board the Payment by Results bandwagon? New research suggests proceed with caution (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1xhH6Y0)

Sterilization deaths show India’s health care ills (AP http://yhoo.it/1EBFQzF)

When being on the fence is a good thing:  GMOs and loss of autonomy for African farmers (HURDL Blog http://bit.ly/1xhH1Uf)

ICAI report slams DFID’s anticorruption efforts, aid experts slam report (Dev Policy http://bit.ly/1xNeBht)

Why it’s time for Band Aid to disband… (Development Truths http://bit.ly/1xhGUIj)

Justice in Syria: If not the ICC, then What? (Justice in Conflict http://bit.ly/1xhHmpY)

Most Money for Health Is Subnational, But What Will Donors Do About It? (CGD http://bit.ly/1xOgsTe)

Research/Reports
Death rates of young children have dropped to record lows in developing countries. Experts say there are two main reasons for the decrease: improved government action and simple protective health measures. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pQYUXO)

And the Most Transparent Aid Donor Is…UNDP

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The UN Development Program is atop a new list published by the International Aid Transparency Index. And in case you were wondering, China is on the bottom. Overall, donor countries are off pace to meet their promise to join the transparency standard by the end of 2015. “A lot of progress was made at the political level in the early days of aid transparency, including a promise to publish aid information to an internationally-agreed common standard by the end of 2015,” said Rachel Rank, Director of Publish What You Fund. (Humanopshere http://bit.ly/1BSDrNG)

Man who brought Ebola to USA Dies…Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died on Wednesday morning at a Dallas hospital. This was the first death of an ebola patient in the developed world. “Duncan became ill after arriving in the Texas city from Liberia on Sept. 20 to visit family, heightening concerns the world’s worst Ebola outbreak on record could spread outside of the three worst-hit West African countries. About 48 people with whom Duncan had been in contact are being monitored.” (Reuters http://bit.ly/1BSHk5p)

Most of the world’s governments are taking measures to reduce the worst and most hazardous forms of child labor, according to a major report released by the U.S. Labour Department. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vRfh6C)

Ebola

Britain will send 750 troops to West African state Sierra Leone to help build an Ebola treatment centre, the BBC reported on Wednesday following a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron. (BBC http://bit.ly/1t36PlQ)

The deadly Ebola epidemic could deal a $32 billion-plus blow to the West African economy over the next year if officials cannot get it under control, the World Bank warned Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BSF4uW)

Sierra Leone burial teams have gone back to work one day after organizing a strike over pay and abandoning the dead bodies of Ebola victims in the capital. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BSE75Y)

Travelers arriving in the United States from Ebola-stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will face mandatory screening measures for the deadly virus as soon as this weekend, according to a media report on Wednesday. (CNN http://bit.ly/1BSHHNg)

The United Nations mission in Liberia says a second member of its staff has contracted Ebola. In a statement Wednesday, the mission said the international medical official is undergoing treatment, but did not specify their nationality. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t38QOU)

Africa

An angry crowd killed a Muslim man in the capital of Central African Republic overnight, decapitating and burning his corpse, and in revenge Muslims killed a taxi driver, witnesses said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t36gYY)

A court in Tanzania granted bail to an opposition member of parliament on Wednesday and eight others after charging them with illegal protests for demonstrating last week against a draft constitution. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1t36X4F)

The new head of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, Ellen Margrethe Loej, called for “the guns to fall silent” in South Sudan to allow the United Nations and aid agencies to stop focussing on protecting people from violence and start helping the young country to grow. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vRf8ji)

Somalia’s first-ever cash withdrawal machine has been installed in the capital, Mogadishu. (VOA http://bit.ly/1qjb0Cm)

MENA

The governments of Europe and the United States have criticized Israel for announcing it will build 2,600 new housing units in a sensitive part of East Jerusalem. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t39oUK)

The U.N. refugee agency on Wednesday said it was urging the European Union to overhaul its policy toward Syrian refugees, warning the number of fatal accidents at sea could rise further as winter approaches. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BSEQ71)

Asia

Pakistan is losing ground in the battle against polio, with the country suffering its worst outbreaks in more than a decade, but suspicions about the vaccine itself are also proving an obstacle. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BSMrlX)

Five Afghan men were hanged on Wednesday for the gang rape of four women despite the United Nations and human rights groups criticising the trial and urging new president Ashraf Ghani to stay the executions. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BSDU2s)

Authorities sealed off villages in Myanmar’s only Muslim-majority region and in some cases beat and arrested people who refused to register with immigration officials, residents and activists say, in what may be the most aggressive effort yet to force Rohingya to indicate they are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BSEFbP)

Indian PM Modi, in his biggest attempt at fiscal change since he swept to power in May, has been less bold than some would wish, steering clear of reforming the most sensitive and costly benefits – food and fertilisers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t356gf)

Rescuers and fishermen found eight survivors and 17 bodies Wednesday after two days of searching for a motorboat lost since its captain reported an engine failure off Indonesia’s main island of Java. (AP http://yhoo.it/1t35Zp4)

Cambodia enacted a regulation Wednesday to protect nightclub hostesses and other adult entertainment workers under the same laws that protect other workers’ rights, a move that was hailed by the U.N.’s labor body. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BSFZvx)

Protracted fighting in northern Myanmar is displacing entire villages, including those of ethnic Palaung, who say they need more help to build up local civil society groups to allow aid to flow more effectively to their people. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1t37p2K)

The Americas

Colombia must invest at least $44.4 billion to implement a peace deal with Marxist rebels to end a 50-year conflict, says a senator who backs the current peace talks, adding the amount is much less than the cost of waging war. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t36nUv)

As sea levels rise, tidal flooding along the U.S. coast is likely to become so common that parts of many communities, including the nation’s capital, could become unusable within three decades, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t353AV)

Opinion/Blogs

Meet the Company That’s Bringing the LED Revolution to the Developing World (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/Zep2i6)

When it comes to aid, learn from those who know what poverty is really like (Guardian http://bit.ly/1t37gML)

Alibaba.com: Supermarket for torture devices? (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1BSHTfz)

A big deal in the ICC: 6 questions with GlobalPost’s Tristan McConnell http://bit.ly/1BSHWb2)

Rethinking US Foreign Assistance: MCC Tops US Government in Aid Transparency Again (CGD http://bit.ly/1t37eVl)

Alternatives to refugee camps: Can policy become practice? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1BSIKNb)

Marine Protection as Stand-Alone Goal for Post-2015 Agenda? (IPS http://bit.ly/1qjbpor)

How do donors imagine more effective humanitarian aid? (OECD http://bit.ly/1qjbLv4)

Africa On the Rise – a Myth or Reality? (New Times http://bit.ly/1qjcFYG)

Journalists Must Avoid Mass Hysteria Over Ebola (allAfrica http://bit.ly/1vRgIC1)

Categories: Uncategorized

Will the USA Target ISIS in Syria?

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The Obama administration is sending strong signals that it may expand its air assault against ISIS to Syria, despite the fact that such a move would probably contravene international law. First, National Security Council advisor Ben Rhodes tells NPR that the USA is not ruling out hitting ISIS in Syria. Then, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey says this: “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated. Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1roTeo3)

Navi Pillay’s Parting Shot to the Security Council…Outgoing U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay  gave her final briefing to the UN Security Council. Her tenure ends at the end of the month, where she will be replaced by Prince Zeid of Jordan–who just happens to currently serve on the Council. Pillay was rather unsparing in her criticism of the ways in which divisions in the council prevented adequete responses to urgent human rights catastrophes. Money quote: “I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives” (VOA http://bit.ly/1s5wZiA)

Ebola

The two U.S. patients who were treated for Ebola have been discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where they had been in an isolation ward since returning from Liberia early this month. They are the first patients treated for Ebola on American soil. (NPR http://n.pr/1wdDjLp)

South Africa said on Thursday that due to fears over the spread of the Ebola virus it was banning travellers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from entering the country, apart from its own citizens. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1s4VFrr

Up to 30,000 people could have used experimental treatments or vaccines so far in the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola currently plaguing West Africa, British scientists said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1s4W4u4)

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease – using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. (VOA http://bit.ly/1wdHWF4)

Hundreds of residents of a Liberian slum lined up to receive rice and water from government officials Thursday in their neighborhood which was sealed off from the rest of the capital in an attempt to halt the spread of Ebola. (AP http://yhoo.it/1we7vWy)

An emergency research call has been launched to help fight the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with the British government and the Wellcome Trust medical charity pledging a combined $10.8 million. (VOA http://bit.ly/1wdIlaI)

Africa

Children accused of being members of armed groups in the conflict in Mali are languishing in adult jails while human rights abuses continue, said Amnesty International. (ReliefWeb http://bit.ly/1wdC5jc)

A cash transfer scheme in Zambia provides a bi-monthly cash allowance of $25 and $50 respectively for vulnerable households and households where there are people with disabilities, to help people deal with shocks created by climate. (IPS http://bit.ly/1wdDTZq)

Uganda has been hailed as a success story in fighting HIV/AIDS, with prevalence rates dropping from 18 percent in 1992 to 6.4 percent in 2005. But activists fear a new HIV Bill will lead to lead to people shunning testing and treatment. (IPS http://bit.ly/1s4URmz)

The 40,000 people sheltering from South Sudan’s civil war in a flooded and crowded UN camp are enduring conditions “barely compatible with life and incompatible with human dignity”, and must be helped before disease and danger force them back into the conflict zone, MSF has warned. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1s4X0yA)

Fighting erupted in the Central African Republic capital Bangui, killing a humanitarian worker and injuring dozens of civilians hours after the UN said it would dispatch thousands of peacekeepers to quell religious violence. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1wdH2sh)

Human Rights Watch says South Sudan’s army used child soldiers during recent fighting against opposition forces in violation of international law. (VOA http://bit.ly/1wdIdI7)

The UN refugee agency called for East African countries hosting Somali refugees to make voluntary repatriation possible and sustainable. (VOA http://bit.ly/1wdIw5L)

West Africa must openly confront its political and governance weaknesses to curb the growing drug trade in the region, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said. http://yhoo.it/1wdIYkq

Former child soldiers in war-torn Somalia are being held in prison conditions in foreign-funded camps, “punishing” rather than rehabilitating them, the top UN children’s envoy said Thursday. http://yhoo.it/1s5wcOw

MENA

America has returned to war, of a sort, in Iraq with airstrikes that have intensified in recent days against Islamic State militants. But details about the execution of this limited campaign, which so far includes no reported U.S. ground combat, are thin. (AP http://yhoo.it/1we896t)

About 10,000 mourners on Thursday buried three senior commanders of the armed wing of Hamas who were killed in a predawn airstrike by Israel, the most significant blow to the group’s leadership since Israel’s operation in Gaza began more than six weeks ago.(NYT  http://nyti.ms/1roUoQi)

Asia

Sri Lanka’s government is scrambling to ease the impact of record harvest losses on millions of farmers as the country enters its tenth month of an acute dry spell. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1s4SLTu)

Thousands of rescuers combed through the wreckage of homes engulfed by landslides in western Japan on Thursday in the slim hope of finding survivors, a day after a wall of mud claimed at least 39 lives. http://yhoo.it/1wdJuyZ

Flooding in Cambodia has killed at least 45 people since last month, officials said Thursday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1we7lyA)

The Americas

Brazil expands labor rights for domestic workers through new legislation. (AP http://yhoo.it/1s50Jfy)

Police on Mexico’s Caribbean coast arrested 13 activists during a demonstration by Maya Indians against water rate hikes. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1roUtna)

Opinion/Blogs

South Sudan’s Looming Famine (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1nfAQq7)

How Uganda Stopped Previous Ebola Outbreaks (DW http://bit.ly/1s5yayk)

Microfinance in Jordan isn’t helping to empower women (Guardian http://bit.ly/1s5yvRI)

Can alternative economic indicators ever be any good if they are devised solely by experts? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1piMipH)

Shouldn’t “anti-poverty” and “pro-middle class” be synonyms? (Campaign for Boring Development http://bit.ly/1piMG7Q)

There always needs to be a product: ‘Self-reflection’, volunteering & the emerging development entertainment industrial complex (Aidnography http://bit.ly/1nfB7tn)

150 million bank accounts – is that enough? (IPA http://bit.ly/1piN32i)

Research/Reports

A new study finds cancer affects even simple, ancient multicellular organisms — which means the disease and the deaths it causes may simply be a part of life. (NPR http://n.pr/1wdDd6u)

The international community needs to stop looking at neglected tropical diseases as a sub-Saharan African problem and realize that the G20 countries are now home to the “lion’s share” of the dangerous, debilitating, yet low-profile illnesses, a US expert has warned. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1s4Yf0v)

The Ebola Outbreak Just Got More Fierce

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Africa’s most populous country has confirmed its first ebola death, from a traveller from the Liberia. In the meantime, Liberia is going on lockdown and two American aid workers have been sickened. Jina Moore of Buzzfeed offers an excellent dispatch from Lagos, Nigeria. “Nigeria has begun medical testing at all ports of entry for passengers coming from Ebola-affected countries after a Liberian traveler died of the disease in Lagos on Friday. Passengers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — as well as any passenger from any departure point who appears ill upon arrival — must be tested for Ebola, an often fatal virus. Anyone positive will be quarantined.” (BuzzFeed http://bzfd.it/1rxj30S)

The Liberian government closed most of its border crossings and introduced stringent health measures to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed at least 660 people across the region. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1q9Hkcq)

A second American aid worker stationed at a Liberian hospital tested positive for the Ebola virus on Sunday, a week after an infected man brought the disease by plane to Nigeria.  (Fox News http://fxn.ws/1rxi0Ou)

Security Council Calls for Gaza Ceasefire. It Breaks Down Quickly…”A fragile truce in Gaza for a Muslim holiday broke down Monday as a mortar shell fired from the Palestinian territory killed four Israeli soldiers, prompting the army to resume attacks on Hamas militants. The renewed fighting killed a fifth Israeli soldier inside Gaza, Israel said, while Gaza health officials said at least 18 Palestinians were killed…An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council called for “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire,” echoing U.S. President Barack Obama’s appeal in a phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.”(WSJ http://on.wsj.com/1rxk8G3)

Africa

Sweden has resumed financial aid to Uganda after suspending some assistance in March over a law widely condemned by donor nations that increases punishment for homosexuals. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1q9GHPX)

The UN’s FAO is warning people in West African countries about a link between eating wildlife and the disease Ebola. The FAO says it is especially worried about the fruit bat. (VOA http://bit.ly/WJLVd3)

More than 130,000 people who live in 42 fishing villages along Uganda’s shores of Lake Victoria have an HIV-infection rate that is three to four times higher than the national average in this country of 36 million people. (VOA http://bit.ly/1q9OUU9)

Despite legislative and societal hostility, Uganda’s gay rights activists refuse to take a step back. (Think Africa Press http://bit.ly/1pwpajl)

MENA

Lebanon’s inability to store water efficiently, water pollution and its misuse both in agriculture and for domestic purposes, have put great pressure on the resource. (IPS http://bit.ly/1q9G6Ob)

Migrant workers who built luxury offices used by Qatar’s 2022 football World Cup organisers say they have not been paid for more than a year and are now working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1q9Izbv)

The Gaza police operations room and a Palestinian health official say separate Israeli airstrikes hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital, causing casualties. (AP http://yhoo.it/1rS5Am8)

Asia

People in Asia who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual often find themselves victims of violence from family members, who in fact are often the main perpetrators, according to a recent report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. (IPS http://bit.ly/1q9FCHQ)

The planned construction of 88 hydroelectric dams in the lower Mekong basin by 2030 will cause food security challenges in Cambodia, experts say. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1q9HAbm)

The Philippines on Sunday welcomed its 100-millionth citizen — a baby girl named Chonalyn who was born at a hospital in the capital, Manila. But the celebration is mixed with concern in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country with one of the fastest growing populations in Asia. Many in the country struggle to meet the basic necessities of life. (NPR http://n.pr/WJKfQV)

A group of 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers has arrived at a detention camp in Australia, government officials said on Monday, after having been held at sea by authorities for almost a month, sparking a legal challenge. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1q9QrK0)

Pacific island leaders will renew calls for meaningful action on climate change at a regional summit opening in Palau today, amid fears rising seas will swamp their low-lying nations. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/1q9RrOb)

New legislation recently passed in the southwest Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea outlawing polygamy has been welcomed by experts in the country as an initial step forward in the battle against high rates of domestic violence, gender inequality and the spread of AIDS. (IPS http://bit.ly/1pwovyj)

The Americas

Argentina’s government is resuming negotiations in a dispute with US. creditors that risks sending the country into default this week. (AP http://yhoo.it/1q9TPo8)

Opinion/Blogs

A conversation with Daniel Drezner about the new BRICS Development Bank and his book about how international institutions responded to the 2008 financial crisis. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/WKicR6)

Sanitation For All: Ignore Quality at Your Own Peril (People, Spaces, Deliberation http://bit.ly/X4DusM)

How Not to Teach Children about Poverty (NYU Development Research Institute http://bit.ly/X4CvZt)

How enormous stories go unreported all the time (Campaign for Boring Development http://bit.ly/1zmHdjf)

Africa’s Last Colony (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/X4EOvF)

Research/Reports

A UN panel opens a three-day meeting on the ageing of the global population. It’s part of a process that could lead to a new international treaty to protect the rights of older persons. (VOA http://bit.ly/1rS5Q4L)

Blockages to preventing malnutrition in Kambia, Sierra Leone: a semi-quantitative causal analysis (SLRC http://bit.ly/1zmHLpf)

Top of the Morning: No Texting in CAR

Seriously. “Mobile phone users in the Central African Republic who try to send text messages are getting the response: “SMS not allowed”. “The use of any SMS by all mobile phone subscribers is suspended from Monday June 2, 2014, until further notice,” the ministry said in a letter to mobile phone operators in the conflict-torn country. It said the decision was made by Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke. Since last week there has been a resurge of violence in the capital Bangui, as well as a call for a general strike relayed by SMS in the past few days.. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1nOJUb6)

Conflict Minerals Legislation Taking Effect…For the first time, nearly 1,300 UScompanies have filed reports on whether the products they manufacture or sell are made with minerals that have bankrolled conflict in the Great Lakes region of central Africa. (IPS http://bit.ly/1pRlQRX)

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Africa

UNICEF officials in South Sudan said that men in uniform are occupying at least 30 schools in five different states, interrupting the education of tens of thousands of children whose lives have already been disrupted by six months of conflict. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nOGPrz)

Health officials are warning that a cholera outbreak in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, which has left 23 people dead and forced more than 670 others to seek treatment, could be getting worse. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1pRj0fV)

South Sudan can only avoid famine if a shaky ceasefire holds and people displaced by more than five months of fighting are able to return home in the next few weeks to plant crops before the rains, a senior U.N. official said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1nOIFJ3)

Senior United Nations officials are in the DR Congo to draw attention to the fact that continued insecurity and a decrease in financial resources is causing millions of people to go hungry. (UN News Centre http://bit.ly/1pRm8s7)

As security forces in Kenya continue to round up and detain thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, most of them Somali, an agreement between the UNHCR and the Kenyan and Somali governments on the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees is coming under strain. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1pRiSwE)

While the number of patients appeared to be in decline, new cases of Ebola have been reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone. The virus has already affected more than 300 people in West Africa. (MSF http://bit.ly/1pRp1ZK)

MENA

Separate groups of gunmen in Libya shot dead a Swiss national working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, fired a grenade at the prime minister’s office and tried to kill a renegade general on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1nOMmOP)

Saudi Arabia announced a jump of nearly 50 percent in deaths from the MERS virus after re-examining old data that also showed the number of infections since 2012 was a fifth higher than previously reported. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nOGxRD

The International Organization for Migration reports tens of thousands of migrants have been rescued while making the perilous sea crossing from Libya to Italy this year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pRjmCZ)

Asia

The coup in Thailand is causing problems for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from neighboring Cambodia and Burma. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nOGIfP)

Indonesia’s health ministry and child protection advocates are calling for chemical castration for convicted pedophiles. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nOH0mR)

Japan has temporarily halted its official development assistance to Vietnam as Hanoi continues its probe into bribery allegations on a railway project. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pRjMcx)

The World Food Program says it distributed more than 2,500 tons of food in North Korea last month, the largest amount so far this year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pRk0k3)

United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay called on China to reveal the truth about the army’s violent suppression of mass pro-democracy protests on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 25 years ago. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nOJEsF)

The Americas

Mexico increased the minimum prison sentences for kidnapping to 40 years after a dramatic surge in the crime in recent years. (BBC http://bbc.in/1nOFXmI)

Although Venezuela has 520 long rivers, taps often run dry, many poor neighbourhoods depend on tanker trucks, water rationing remains a reality, and in some areas water quality is very poor. (IPS http://bit.ly/StJMzt)

Opinion/Blogs

Making Democracy Soup in Africa: how one bad ingredient can spoil the lot (African Arguments http://bit.ly/1hajpdf)

Is Brazil’s social/economic miracle running out of steam just as the World Cup arrives? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1kLQjvE)

Will US take global environmental lead by cutting coal emissions? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1nOI764)

Why Malawi took so long to declare an election winner (ODI http://bit.ly/1ocLu4p)

The importance of Live Below The Poverty Line (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1jSiicY)

Lessons for Australia from DFID’s underperforming private sector development efforts (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/1ocLQYQ)

The New Chinese-Backed Infrastructure Bank: Will it Tame the Corruption Dragon? (The Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1jSjsW2)

Research/Reports

Aiding institutional reform in developing countries: lessons from the Philippines on what works, what doesn’t and why (ODI http://bit.ly/1pRj9Qk)

What non-food items best meet needs of women and girls in emergency situations? (GSDRC http://bit.ly/1pRlLxG)

Italy announced plans to give citizenship to children born of refugees who have been granted asylum, as the government faced growing anti-immigrant sentiment over an influx of migrant arrivals by sea. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1pRoFm9)

The UK government’s $629 million Newton Fund aims to ‘end the need for aid’ in 15 countries by fostering ties between researchers in developing countries and the UK that will boost their economic development. (SciDevNet http://bit.ly/1nOQ0Z6)

75% of Australians think poverty reduction most important for aid: Lowy Poll (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/1jSjfC5)

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