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Boko Haram attacks, human trafficking threaten progress in West Africa and Sahel

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The security situation in West Africa and the Sahel remains of grave concern, the United Nations envoy for the region said Thursday, warning that while there had been progress on the political front over the past year, there had also been a worrying upsurge in Boko Haram attacks.

“Following a notable decline in Boko Haram attacks in the first half of the year, there has been an uptick in the number of incidents since September last year, with a peak of 143 civilian casualties alone in November 2017,” said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).

In his repotrted a fivefold increase in the use of children as suicide bombers by Boko Haram, reaching some 135 cases in 2017.

Updating the Council on Mali, he said that terrorists launched a complex attack on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission’s (MINUSMA) positions in Kidal, which resulted in one peacekeeper’s death, while three Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine and another by terrorists in Niono. Additionally, two separate attacks on security posts were registered in Burkina Faso near the Malian border.

“The attacks in Mali as well as within the Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso tri-border area are mainly attributed to A1-Qaida affiliated groups and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara,” he stated.

Turning to Niger, he noted that because of an increasing number of security incidents, the government has dedicated 17 per cent of 2018 public expenditure to the security sector – compared to 15 per cent last year.

“This has, however, triggered demonstrations in Niger’s capital given the expected detrimental effects on the delivery of social services,” he asserted.

The UN envoy pointed out that while 700 Boko Haram abductees have recently escaped, the group continues to kidnap people and that, overall, more than two million displaced persons “desperately” await an end to the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

Commending the efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force operating in the region, he stressed that the comprehensive response of the region to address the Boko Haram threat “must be supported by the international community.”

He explained that in the Sahel, the Group of Five (G5) – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – had made significant progress in operationalizing its Joint Force, including by establishing its military command structure and Force headquarters in Sevarÿ and conducting its first military operation with French troops in late October.

Additionally, in line with Security Council resolution 2391 (2017), consultations among the UN, European Union (EU) and G5 are ongoing regarding the conclusion of a technical agreement on supporting the Joint Force through MINUSMA.

“The past six months have seen substantive progress in the efforts to reinvigorate UNISS,” he said, noting that a support plan would be shared with national, regional and international partners to harmonize approaches and canvass for effective support to the Sahel “in line with national and regional priorities, the UN Agenda 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063.”

Meanwhile, he noted that migration has become one of the most lucrative activities for criminal networks across West Africa and the Sahel.

“Stemming human trafficking must continue to be a top priority in 2018 as recently underscored by Secretary-General Guterres,” he affirmed.

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World cannot stand idle as millions in DR Congo ‘suffer in silence’

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Photo: Joseph Mankamba/OCHA-DRC

The dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic over the past year has been further complicated by recent floods and health crises, the United Nations migration agency said Wednesday, appealing for urgent funding to ensure continued assistance and protection for millions in need.

“The humanitarian situation in the DRC is at breaking point as is our capacity to respond due to extremely limited funding,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, said the head of operations for the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the country.

“The stories that Congolese, who have been forced from their homes, are telling us are bone-chilling. They have been through so much already – torture, rape and murder of their loved ones – we cannot stand idly by as they suffer in silence,” he added.

Speaking exclusively to UN News, Mr. Chauzy said: “If we don’t get that level of funding then, there are people who will die. I have to be clear with this. People will die.”

He said that the severe malnutrition rates in the Kasai have increased by 750 per cent largely because the people in the region have been displaced so often, three planting seasons have been missed.

Across the country, some 4.3 million remain displaced, of them 1.7 were forced from their homes last year. In 2018, over 13 million are feared to be in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the country. Children, young men, women and ethnic minorities are among the hardest hit, and nutrition, food-security and protection greatest needs.

Particularly worrying is that an estimated 4.7 million women and girls could be exposed to gender-based violence in crisis stricken areas.

However, in face of such daunting challenges, IOM’s response appeal is severely underfunded. Since the release of its appeal, only $3.5 million was received in 2017 and only 47 per cent of the overall inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan (for 2017) was funded.

“Funding levels are at their lowest for many years, with DRC seeming to have ‘fallen off the map’ for many donors, at a time when we are facing vastly increased humanitarian needs,” added Mr. Chauzy, hoping that the same does not continue through 2018.

The UN agency has appealed for $75 million to urgently meet the growing needs of displaced Congolese and the communities hosting them in the eastern and south-central provinces of North and South Kivu, Tanganyika and the Kasai.

Its interventions in 2018 will focus on camp coordination management; displacement tracking; shelter and non-food items (NFIs); water, sanitation and hygiene; health; and protection.

According to IOM, a revised inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan is to be released Thursday, 18 January.

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Second Sudanese National Conference on Inclusive Education

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©UNESCO: Second Sudanese National Conference on Inclusive Education: Stage. Ministry of Social Welfare, Khartoum, Sudan, 17/12/2017

On 17 December 2017, the UNESCO Khartoum Office in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Social Welfare, the National Council for People with Disability (NCPD), National Commission for Education, Science and Culture, and OVCI (International NGO with Italian origin) organized the Second National Conference on Inclusive Education, which took place in Khartoum, Main Hall of the Ministry of Social Welfare. The first National Conference on Inclusive Education took place in June 2016.

More than 60 professionals working with disabled Sudanese students from different government bodies (including 18 Heads of the Special Needs Departments in MoEs from all the states of Sudan), academics and NGOs discussed different actual issues of their work.

The opening ceremony was welcomed by Dr. Awadia Alnigoumi, the director of the Special Needs Department in MoE, Dr. Ibtisam the director of the Quality Assurance Department in MoE, Dr. Rashid Eltigani, the general director of the National Council for People with Disabilities in Khartoum state, Dr. Layla Abdelazim Karrar, the head of the Special Needs Department in the Faculty of Education of the University of Khartoum, Dr. Eman Abdallal, National Center for Curriculum and Education Research, Mr. Nadir Babiker, the education officer of the NCPD, Mr. Bader Eldin Ahmed Hassan, the Secretary General of the National Council for People with Disability, and Ms. Asya Abdalla, the Minister of Education.

In the first session of the conference, Her Excellency the Minister of Education announced the decision of the president of Sudan to dedicate 2018 as the year for People with Disability. She thanked UNESCO for the efforts made in the inclusive education sector and the significant support the Ministry received; she requested to see more work in 2018. Her Excellency promised to finalize the establishment of the remaining Special Needs Departments in the remaining states. Mrs. Asya Abdalla encouraged the participants to have active discussions and continue their support and collaborations with partners, to create technical job opportunities and support the inclusive education directorate.

Dr. Aiman Badri, the education officer in UNESCO, convoyed the greetings of UNESCO Representative to Sudan, Dr. Pavel Kroupkine, and assured the full support of UNESCO to the efforts of the federal Ministry of Education to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG4 on quality education. He enumerated the several books and training programs developed in 2016-17 for integrating disable children to usual classes of basic schools – achieved with the Special Needs Department in MoE. Dr. Aiman confirmed that the 2018-19 plan of the UNESCO Khartoum office includes further development of inclusive education in Sudan, and that UNESCO Khartoum together with UNICEF and WHO work on joint plans and projects to support MoE, focusing on designing the resource room for disabled students, its technical materials and the technical teacher training.

The second session headed by Dr. Aiman Badri, included a presentations about new special needs degree program and curricula (Dr. Layla Karrar from University of Khartoum), and about new developments in the legislations and laws relevant to people with disabilities (NCPD).

Dr. Bader Eldin Ahmed Hassan, the director of the National Council for People with Disabilities, headed the third session – with presentations about ground experience of inclusion of children with disability in ordinary school in frameworks of a project funded by EU (Mrs. Silvia Bonanomi, the director of OVCI Sudan), and about results of efforts of the Special Needs Department in MoE (Dr. Awadia Alngoumi).

At the end of the conference, the participants discussed and agreed on recommendations for focusing their work in 2018-19. The recommendations aimed to

The certification in the technical and vocational education and its compliance with the general education system for disabled students

  • Completing the resource rooms’ technical guide and assistant technical teacher training tools.
  • Eliminating differences of service quality – between the Khartoum state and the other of Sudan
  • Strengthening approaches / methods / tools of inclusive education available in Sudan

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Kenyan peacebuilders join forces to boost positive interfaith relations

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Participants of the first ever Faith in the Commonwealth training workshop have pledged to lead the charge in building strong, positive interfaith and intercultural relations.

Twenty-eight dynamic peacebuilders from 16 Kenyan districts joined forces during a 2.5 day training programme, jointly initiated by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Khalili Foundation. The diverse group of young people included community development workers, youth workers, university students, musicians, artists, social activists and representatives from civil service organisations. They explored effective ways to facilitate and support dialogue and drive positive change within their communities. The ultimate aim, facilitators say, is to develop and promote deeper respect and understanding of different faiths, cultures and beliefs.

“The training that focused on interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue and global citizenship could not have come at a better time,” said participant Keith Andere from the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network. “Kenya has just come out of a long electioneering period following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the 8 August presidential election. The country is now focused on dialogue and ways to reconcile, as the politics left the country divided. In my view, the training provided an opportunity to capacity build the youth with skills that will see us take the lead in facilitating dialogue among the young people.”

Balqesa Abdi Sheikh added, “Facilitation is not about teaching, but about generating and guiding conversations. During this training I learnt how facilitation, learning, training and fun can be blended to deliver a workshop.”

The participants received practical training in facilitating dialogues and group discussions using a method that explores difference while building respect and understanding. It prepared them to facilitate groups that deal with potentially divisive issues in a way that focuses on appreciating their own and others’ identities, beliefs, realities and aspirations.

“These young people are joined by their shared passion to make a change in their community, and a commitment to building lasting peace in their country and Africa at large,” said Faith in the Commonwealth project manager Michelle Callander.”

“They can now return to their communities not only with new skills, but with a project to deliver and a new multi-stakeholder network of practitioners to partner and collaborate with. Their projects draw on the skills, resources and broader networks of the young trainers. In many cases there are co-facilitation workshops led by trainers from neighbouring districts, working together to mentor and coach each other as they develop their facilitation skills. The group is already connected on social media channels and is maintaining the momentum and energy they generated in Nairobi.”

Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy Development, Economic, Youth and Sustainable Development Directorate added, “Creating sustainable, local change that’s led by young people is the ultimate goal of the training. The Faith in the Commonwealth’s monitoring and evaluation framework connects this new network of young trainers with both the Commonwealth’s existing youth networks and with the Kenyan government’s youth officers. This provides ongoing monitoring, mentoring and support to the trainers and creates the best possible opportunity for their training to make a difference at the grassroots.’

The next Faith in the Commonwealth training workshops will be held in Trinidad and Tobago and Bangladesh.

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