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New ADB Strategy to Support Inclusive, Sustainable Growth in Afghanistan

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The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has endorsed a new 5-year country partnership strategy (CPS) to establish a stronger foundation for sustainable growth and poverty reduction in Afghanistan.

The 2017-2021 strategy is expected to provide $887 million in grants to Afghanistan, a founding member of ADB, through 2020. Sovereign operations will focus on energy, transport, and agriculture and natural resources. To date, ADB has provided over $4.9 billion in grants and loans to the country.

“ADB is one of Afghanistan’s leading partners in infrastructure and regional cooperation and brings in-depth experience delivering projects in fragile and conflict situations,” said Samuel Tumiwa, ADB Country Director for Afghanistan. “Our new CPS brings a holistic approach combining infrastructure investments with capacity building for the government to ensure ADB projects make an impact in reducing poverty and encouraging growth.”

Despite marked improvements since 2002, Afghanistan still faces a severe infrastructure deficit that negatively affects the country’s economic growth and job creation. Only about 32% of the population has access to grid-connected electricity and more than 70% of the interprovincial and interdistrict roads remain in a poor state. Only 10% of irrigated land has formal irrigation systems, with the rest relying on inefficient informal systems that hold back productivity, higher incomes, and job opportunities. The country’s security situation has hampered economic growth, averaging 1.4% during 2014-2016. With the poverty rate close to 40%, there is still a need to improve the country’s infrastructure, climate resilience, and gender equality.

Under the new CPS, ADB will align its work closely with Afghanistan’s foremost development priorities, including the National Peace and Development Framework, the self-reliance and reform agendas, and National Priority Programs. ADB operations in Afghanistan will focus on three strategic pillars: expanding access for women and men to economic opportunities, markets, and services; building stronger institutions and human resources through better governance and skills development; and increasing the country’s environmental sustainability as well as resilience to climate change and disasters.

ADB will continue to develop Afghanistan’s potential as a cross-regional transit point for both transport and energy initiatives, with emphasis on the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) corridors and regional energy initiatives. Additionally, trade facilitation initiatives under CAREC will increase regional trade and create greater opportunities for local businesses. In 2016, ADB approved a grant to prepare the Salang Corridor rehabilitation project to improve the efficiency and safety of movement of goods and people in Afghanistan and across Central Asia.

In the energy sector, ADB has helped deliver electricity to more than 5 million people in Afghanistan who used to receive only 4 hours of power in Kabul, while other cities were even worse off in the 2000s. ADB will support the increase in the country’s electrification rate, play a major role in power transmission both regionally and domestically, and promote clean energy, including through solar power.

To improve transport and connectivity, ADB will continue the development of the road network including CAREC regional corridors to help improve regional trade and local growth. Support for operation and maintenance will ensure the road network provides sustainable benefits. ADB’s key support to the transport sector includes the establishment of the first railway line between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, which carries around 3 million tons of freight per year between the two countries. A comprehensive Transport Sector Master Plan Update was developed to cover roads, railways, civil aviation, urban transport, trade logistics, and other related operations in the next 20 years.

Another key to poverty reduction is development of agriculture and water resources. ADB’s focus will be on provision of irrigation and watershed management, and on the development of agriculture market infrastructure and business through value chains. ADB will also support infrastructure that delivers safe water through improved water storage and delivery systems. These activities will mitigate the effects of droughts and floods, reduce soil erosion, and help restore forest areas.

Through ADB’s support, more than 160,000 hectares of irrigated land have been rehabilitated and upgraded, with work continuing for an additional 260,000 hectares. The investments have resulted in improved rural livelihoods, economic growth, and better water resources management. As part of its commitment to using high-level technology in its operations, ADB will help climate-proof these projects, for example by flood-proofing roads and designing irrigation systems that are resilient to floods or droughts.

Over the coming years, ADB will strengthen its engagement with the private sector and improve the business environment for economic growth and job creation. ADB will promote public-private partnerships, which can be leveraged to support more investment and better operations and maintenance of critical infrastructure.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

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Africa Today

Eritrea: Release journalists and politicians arrested 20 years ago

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The Eritrean authorities must immediately and unconditionally release 21 journalists and politicians who were arrested in a sweeping crackdown on dissent 20 years ago, said Amnesty International as it launched a new campaign #WhereAreEritreasDissidents

The arrests of the journalists between 21 and 23 September 2001 followed the arrest on 18 September 2001 of politicians popularly known as G-15 and the banning of independent media after they had published an open letter urging reforms.

“It is unconscionable that these brave prisoners of conscience are still languishing in jail 20 years since they were arrested for exercising their human rights, with no word from the authorities on their current circumstances, and that the ban on independent media remains in place,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.  

“Days have turned into months, months into years and now years have turned into decades of unending anguish for these detainees, their families and loved ones. We call on President Isaias Afewerki to take meaningful steps to bring an end to this travesty of justice.”

The journalists arrested between 21 and 23 September 2001 are Dawit Isaak, Seyoum Tsehaye, Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab, Fesseaye “Joshua” Yohannes, Amanuel Asrat and Temesegn Gebreyesus, Said Abdelkader, Yosuf Muhamed Ali and Medhanie Haile. The politicians – all members of Isaias’ ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) – include former Vice-President Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo and his wife and independence war heroine Aster Fissehatsion, and former foreign ministers Haile Woldetensae and Petros Solomon. Nine of the politicians and journalists have previously been reported to have died in detention, a claim the Eritrean authorities refuse to confirm.

“There are also many other politicians, journalists and activists that were arrested and detained without charge before September 2001 and since then and they must be released too,” said Deprose Muchena

Some of the high-profile detainees in Eritrea include former Finance Minister Berhane Abraha, who was arrested in September 2018 following his publication of a book considered critical of President Isaias, and Ciham Ali,  the daughter of the defected former Minister of Information Ali Abdu, who was arrested in 2012 aged 15, as she tried to flee the country.

Amnesty International has documented extremely poor prison conditions in Eritrea, in some cases amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Prisons in Eritrea are generally overcrowded, with inadequate water and sanitation facilities and providing poor-quality food and drinking water.

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Human Rights

Torture, killings, lawlessness, still blight Burundi’s rights record

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A man carries water close to Bujumbura in Burundi. © UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

The people of Burundi continue to endure serious human rights violations including possible crimes against humanity, the majority committed by those with links to the ruling party, UN-appointed independent investigators said on Thursday.

Despite a pledge by President Evariste Ndayishimiye to address the situation in the country after years of violent repression, crimes including arbitrary detention and execution, torture and intimidation, have not stopped, according to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.

“Not only have grave human rights violations continued to occur, but in some respects the situation has deteriorated”, since President Ndayishimiye’s took office in June last year, Commission chair Doudou Diene told journalists in Geneva.

These abuses happened against a backdrop of “multiple armed attacks” by opponents of the Government since August 2020, Mr. Diene explained.

“While seeking persons allegedly involved in the armed attacks or collaborating with rebel groups, the security forces targeted mainly members from the main opposition party, the National Congress for Liberty (CNL), former members of the Tutsi-dominated Burundian Armed Forces (ex-FAB), returnees and some of their family members. Some were executed, others disappeared or were tortured while detained arbitrarily.”

Dire situation

The Commission noted that although the level of political violence in the Great Lakes nation decreased immediately after the 2020 elections – and with the country appearing to be “on the road to normalization” – the human rights situation remains “dire”.

The national poll was held after the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose decision to stand for a controversial third term in 2015 sparked major protests and mass displacement, and ultimately the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council, in 2016.

The political climate today is “highly intolerant of dissent”, the Commissioners maintained in their fifth and final report to the Human Rights Council, highlighting how members of opposition parties – notably the CNL – have been targeted, in particular since June 2021.

Imbonerakure impunity

Many security officers and others linked to the ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, continued to go unpunished for their crimes, they added, pointing to agents of the National Intelligence Service (SNR), police officers – including from the Mobile Rapid Intervention Groups (GMIR) – and the Imbonerakure youth-league, whose brutality has been documented in previous Commission of Inquiry reports.

Individuals belonging to these groups are “the main perpetrators of those violations, some of which could amount to crimes against humanity”, the Commission of Inquiry report said. “They continue to enjoy widespread impunity for their actions, as has been the case since 2015.”

Justice reforms lacking

Highlighting the lack of promised structural reforms to promote accountability in the country, Commissioner Françoise Hampson said that the “rule of law in Burundi continues to erode, despite the stated intention of President Ndayishimiye to restore it”.

In common with the Commission’s previous findings, Ms. Hampson noted how testimonies gathered for its latest report pointed to an organized campaign “against those elements of the civilian population that were seen as or thought to be hostile to the government in power” – a potential crime against humanity. “Some of the violations that this year’s report detail, seem to be a continuation of that policy,” she added.

In Burundi, the judicial system could not be relied upon “to curb or remedy human rights violations”, Ms. Hampson continued, warning that the newly elected Government “has only been strengthening its control over the judiciary”.

For the past five years, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi has documented, monitored and reported alleged human rights violations in Burundi.

It has conducted more than 1,770 interviews, including remotely, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, as well as Burundi.

The Commission is scheduled to present its report to the Human Rights Council on 23 September, 2021.

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Development

Women in Albania to Gain Greater Access to Global Digital Jobs Market

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“Digital Jobs Albania” is a new World Bank initiative that will help women in Albania gain better access to online work opportunities and connect with the global economy. The initiative will provide intensive 3-month training in digital skills for women aged 16-35 years, empowering them to access online freelancer job opportunities in graphic design, web development and digital marketing.

The emergence of online freelancer job markets is creating new opportunities for Albanians to connect with the global economy. Websites such as Upwork, Fiverr and People Per Hour allow Albanians with the right skills to access online project work commissioned by companies and individuals anywhere in the world, while staying in their local communities.

Women in particular stand to gain. The female labor force participation in Albania is still 14.6 percentage points lower than for males. The gender pay gap remains 6.6 percent, according to 2020 data from the Albanian National Statistical Authority (INSTAT). The emerging online freelancing work model can play an important role in narrowing these gaps. Flexible work hours and the ability to work from home can help more women with the right skills stay in the labor market and gain financial independence.

The Digital Jobs Albania initiative, implemented in partnership with the Government of Albania, Coderstrust (an international digital skills training provider), and EuroPartners Development (a local consulting company), will provide an online training program to equip selected participants with in-demand technical skills. It will also provide mentorship to participants and help them develop the soft skills needed to successfully compete for project work on online freelancer websites. 

“This initiative offers an exciting new opportunity for Albanian women to acquire digital skills and join the online economy – a blueprint to inspire future projects in this space,” says Emanuel Salinas, World Bank Country Manager for Albania. “No one can afford to be left behind in the ongoing digital transformation.”

The initiative is part of broader ongoing World Bank engagement in Albania to help the country leverage the economic opportunities associated with digital trade in goods and services.

“Albania has recognized the importance of digital markets as an opportunity for economic development. We have mobilized a team from across the World Bank to support this effort, through this new initiative and others in the future,” says Christoph Ungerer, the World Bank task team leader for the Albania Digital Trade Project.

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