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Crisis in Rakhine ‘decades in the making’ and reaches beyond Myanmar’s borders

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Voicing concern that hate speech and incitement to violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya community has been “cultivated for decades” in the minds of the country’s people, a United Nations human rights expert urged the Security Council to act strongly to resolve the crisis.

“The crisis in Rakhine state has not only been decades in the making but has for some time gone beyond Myanmar’s borders. For a very long time now this issue has not been simply a domestic affair,” said Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the country, presenting her report to the UN General Assembly’s main body dealing with human rights and social and humanitarian issues (Third Committee).

“It has been cultivated for decades in the minds of the Myanmar people that the Rohingya are not indigenous to the country and therefore have no rights whatsoever to which they can apparently claim,” she added.

In particular, the Special Rapporteur stressed that given the gravity of the situation, it is uncertain how long it might take for the Government to establish conditions for the safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas, and to ensure they can rebuild their lives.

Furthermore, she noted that while the plight of the Rohingyas remains her main concern, the country has numerous other human rights challenges, including consistent reports of religious intolerance against Christians and Muslims across Myanmar.

Many communities have also suffered from the development of “Special Economic Zones” and some people had their land confiscated, she said, adding also that rights violations and decreased humanitarian access have been alleged as a result of reported clashes between armed forces and ethnic armed groups.

It is unclear whether Myanmar’s peace process had advanced since the signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement two years ago, questioned Ms. Lee, underscoring that all those responsible for human rights violations must be held to account and that this should begin with full access for the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission.

The Special Rapporteur also urged the Government to publicly embrace all the communities which make up the population of Myanmar and use its majority in Parliament to strike down all discriminatory laws, to show that all groups in Myanmar have equal rights.

“I have in the past commended Myanmar’s flourishing, widening democratic space. However, it seems to me that national legislation is effectively resulting in the criminalization of legitimate expression,” said Ms. Lee, calling on the Government to press ahead with constitutional reform “to allow for proper operation of the rule of law.”

Furthermore reform of laws that contravene human rights standards should be prioritized, she added.

UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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Over 10,000 Refugees Resettled in UK Under Flagship Scheme

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Pre-departure orientation in Istanbul. © IOM

The United Kingdom is more than halfway towards meeting its commitment to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), according to new figures revealed yesterday (22/10).

The latest quarterly Home Office immigration statistics show that 10,538 refugees have been resettled under the VPRS – one of the largest global resettlement programmes – since it began.

The VPRS is just one of the ways in which the UK is helping to resettle refugees. In 2017, a total of 6,212 people were resettled in the UK – a 19 per cent increase from 2016 – with 4,832 of these people coming through the VPRS. Some 539 people arrived under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), which will resettle up to 3,000 at-risk children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region by 2020. The latest figures take the total number of children that the UK has provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to since the start of 2010 to 28,000.

Earlier this week, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd visited a refugee camp in Lebanon, meeting families who have fled the war in Syria and speaking to officials from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who are working closely with the Home Office to resettle families to the UK.

“As a country we can be proud that we are over half way towards honouring our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria by 2020 so they can rebuild their lives here in safety,” Rudd said. “Nearly half are children and more people are arriving every month.”

“This week I went to Lebanon to see for myself the human impact of the Syrian conflict and talk to refugees about the challenges they face. I met a family who is due to be resettled in the UK and heard first-hand how important the resettlement scheme is and how it helps individuals, who have fled danger and conflict, to rebuild their lives. We are welcoming and supporting some of the most vulnerable refugees and I am grateful to all of the local authorities, charities and other organizations that have made it possible,” the Home Secretary added.

The VPRS is a joint scheme between the Home Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The UK works closely with UNHCR; IOM, the UN Migration Agency; and partners on the VPRS to provide life-saving solutions for the refugees most in need of protection, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.

“The UK has embarked on an impressive upscaling of the VPRS in a short period, setting in place structures to welcome highly vulnerable refugees and allowing them to gradually stand on their own feet again,” said UNHCR’s UK Representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa.

“Collaboration between the central Government, local and devolved authorities and service providers has been commendable. I’ve been up and down the country meeting refugee families and local communities, and the strong support for this programme and refugee integration generally is something the UK should be proud of.”

IOM facilitates pre-departure health assessments, cultural orientation and travel for refugees going to the UK. IOM also supports national and local governments to develop integration programmes as part of a holistic migration management strategy.

“The UK has achieved a significant milestone for the VPRS by resettling over half of the 20,000 committed to be resettled by 2020,” said IOM UK Chief of Mission Dipti Pardeshi. “The generosity and welcome shown by the UK government and the British people to those resettled is commendable.”

“Today, less than one per cent of refugees worldwide have been resettled and the need continues to be dire. Resettlement cannot be viewed as a one-off effort. Countries must step up to resettle more refugees and to view this as part of a holistic process to help vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives.”

The UK’s resettlement schemes are just some of the ways the Government is supporting vulnerable children and adults who have fled danger and conflict. The UK remains the second largest donor in humanitarian assistance and has pledged £2.46 billion in UK aid to Syria and the neighbouring countries, its largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

“I cannot wait to move to the UK,” says 11-year-old Shahed.  Most of her life has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria. Last week her family arrived at the IOM offices in Beirut, Lebanon for the final preparations to resettle to the UK.

A big smile stretches across her face. She understands that this is an opportunity for a new beginning for her family, and Shahed’s plans are already in full swing.

“I want to study and one day be able to teach Maths, Geography or Philosophy. I also want to help other people.”

Shahed and her family will resettle to the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme that has provided an opportunity for over 10,000 refugees to rebuild their lives since 2015.

Since 2012, across Syria and the region, the UK has provided at least 26 million food rations, 9.8 million relief packages, 10.3 million medical consultations and 8.3 million vaccines.

Source: IOM

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World Bank Supports Young Digital Entrepreneurs in Botswana

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Digital ecosystems and entrepreneurs are essential to innovation and development in Africa. With support from the World Bank, the Botswana Business Angels Network and the Global Entrepreneurship Network in Botswana brought together local entrepreneurs and global thought leaders to share knowledge and strengthen the operating environment for digital entrepreneurs in the country.

The workshop built upon the recent XL Africa competition, a pan-African acceleration program to find the 20 most promising digital start-ups in Africa and demonstrate that Africa can produce world-class digital entrepreneurial talent.

“The World Bank supported today’s event to help ensure that Botswana’s digital entrepreneurs are able to learn lessons from other ecosystems across Africa,” said Xavier Furtado, World Bank Country Representative for Botswana. “We hope that, over time, this can help address Botswana’s pressing youth unemployment challenge while also contributing to national economic diversification.”  

Through relevant case studies, participants were exposed to methods and tools to help accelerate digital entrepreneurship. With a supportive and dynamic ecosystem, local digital technology companies can spread new technologies across Botswana and abroad.

“Today’s event indicates that supporting Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and investors requires a thriving and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere, Founder of Ngwana Enterprises. “Over time, we hope that the digital ecosystem will attract and link digital startups, more mature entrepreneurs, and impact entrepreneurs from Botswana with potential investors across the continent and beyond.”

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Job creation around agriculture can spur youth employment in Africa

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Agriculture will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, but businesses around farming, including processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and financial services, could also create jobs for young people, especially those in rural areas, a senior United Nations official said Thursday.

“Countries need to promote a rural and structural transformation that fosters synergies between farm and non-farm activities and that reinforces” the linkages between rural areas and cities, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told a regional conference on employment being held from 19 to 23 February in Khartoum, Sudan.

FAO Regional Conference for Africa primarily focuses on the theme of creating decent and attractive employment in the world’s “youngest” continent in terms of the average age of its population.

Estimates suggest that up to 12 million new jobs will have to be created every year to absorb new labour market entrants over the next 20 years. Today some 54 per cent of Africa’s work force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income and employment, especially in family farming.

With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities. But FAO believes that more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services.

“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

He warned however that more profitable urban markets can lead to a concentration of food production in large commercial farms, and also the creation of value chains dominated by large processors and retailers.

“In this contest, smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” he added, stressing how social protection programmes, including cash transfers can link public food purchase to family farmer’s production.

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