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Reuniting with Birth Family: How to Search for your Biological Relatives

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Adoption in the United States is much more common than people think. According to the US Census Bureau, one in every twenty-five families with children have adopted. Around 2% of the people have adopted, but more than a third have considered adopting a child. 100 million people in the United States have direct contact with adoption in their immediate family (either adopting themselves, being adopted, or placing children). In recent years, there is a tendency of more openness to the topic and somewhat between 60 and 70 percent of adoptions being “open” which means that there is some sort of disclosure between parents and children about their adoption.

A lot of people that figure out that they were adopted develop, at some point in their lives, the interest or need to know who their biological relatives are. For some, it is about knowing where their roots are or understanding why they could not be taken care of, for others is about the information on medical predispositions or conditions. Others might want a fresh start or build new connections for their children. For many, this can be a stressful and very emotional process. Here you can find a very helpful guide to help you by delineating some of the most effective ways to search for your biological relatives.

1. Prepare yourself emotionally and be aware of the reasons why you start the search

This first step should not be overlooked since reuniting with biological relatives can be very intense. It is recommended that you hear experiences from other people that have gone through the same process. The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) offered a very interesting webinar that goes in-depth into the preparation process. It might be also useful to reach support groups. The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers a directory of state-specific groups. Of course, relying on emotional support from friends and family will also be essential in this process. 

2. Gather existing information and existing documents

After making sure that you have devised ways for protecting yourself emotionally, it is time to get to the practical matters. Where to start? The very first step in the process is gathering all the information that you have about your biological relatives. The specific means you will need to use will depend upon the information that you already have.

You should start by reaching to your adoptive parents and ask them about information about the adoption agency. Documents that might be useful will be any hospital records and your amended birth certificate.  An amended birth certificate is issued after an adoption is finalized and puts the names of the adoptive parents instead of the biological ones. Several States in the USA provide access to original birth certificates which could provide you the valuable information about the name of your biological parents. In case that your state is not one of those that directly gives access to your original birth certificate, you can appeal to a court petition. In general, it is very advisable to get acquainted with the most important State Laws concerning adoption and access to records.

3. Develop a Search Strategy

Depending on the amount of information that you have at each point of your search, you will want to make use of one of the following search means. Some of them only work if you have the names of any of your relatives or at least someone that you know had contact with them.

–             Register at reunion registries

There are several organizations that offer “reunion registries”. Passive registries (or also known as mutual consent registries) will help connect both parties only when both sides registered. Although it is a long shot, it is usually worth trying this means since this service is usually free of charge. Active registries are organized by private groups that will help you look for your biological relatives for a fee. The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers a useful search tool.

–             Search through social media

The internet offers entirely new ways of communication and interaction. Now almost every person in the United States uses the internet on a daily basis. We all have different accounts and profiles that will be useful if you want to find someone. Try all possible combinations of the information that you have both for your relatives and for the people you think might have some information on them. For example: name, name + birth city, name + school, name + workplace, name + degree of education.

–             Do a background search

Whenever you have the name of any of your biological relatives or of anyone that knows the, doing a background search is a very efficient way of finding a lot of information at once. For example, Nuwber offers the possibility of getting a full report with all publicly available data on a person which will include marital status, history of addresses, criminal records, business records, information about their workplace, evictions, and records on bankruptcy. This extra information might be very useful in the next step, where you will want to develop the right strategy to approach your biological family.

–             Hire a professional

Whenever you cannot find any information that will help you start your search, the only thing left is to hire a professional person or group. Although they will ask for a fee, they usually rely on their experience to find relative in situations where information is scarce. For example, Search Angels is an organization that seeks to help you find your family using methods like DNA testing.

4. Design an appropriate way for first contact and reunion with your biological relatives

After going through the process of searching and once you have concrete ways of contacting biological relatives, it is very important that you take some time to decide on the most appropriate ways of contacting them and reuniting with them. In general, before meeting in person, it is generally advisable to contact them either online or through telephone. A meeting in person carries a bigger emotional load.

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EU Politics

MEPs condemn Turkey’s activities in Varosha, Cyprus, and call for sanctions

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Turkey’s decision to “open” the sealed-off suburb of Varosha undermines prospects of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, warn MEPs.

In a resolution adopted by 631 votes in favour, 3 against and 59 abstentions, MEPs condemn Turkey’s illegal activities in the Varosha suburb of the city of Famagusta and warn that its partial “opening” weakens prospects of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, exacerbating divisions and entrenching the permanent partition of the island.

MEPs call on Turkey to transfer Varosha to its lawful inhabitants under the temporary administration of the UN (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984)) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a policy of illegal settlement.

Tough sanctions against Turkey

A sustainable solution to reunify the island of Cyprus and its people can only be found through dialogue, diplomacy, and negotiations, MEPs stress. They call on the European Council to maintain its unified position on Turkey’s illegal actions and impose tough sanctions in response.

MEPS regret that the Turkish authorities have endorsed the two-state solution for Cyprus and reiterate their support for a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement on the basis of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with a single international legal status. They also call on the EU to play a more active role in bringing the negotiations under UN auspices to a successful conclusion.

Tense EU-Turkey relations

As Turkey distances itself more and more from European values and standards, EU-Turkey relations are at a historic low, warns Parliament. Its illegal and unilateral military actions in the Eastern Mediterranean infringe on the sovereignty of EU member states Greece and Cyprus. MEPs also point out Turkey’s direct support of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as its actions in Libya and Syria.

Background

The Turkish army fenced off Varosha immediately after the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The Greek Cypriots who fled from Varosha were not allowed to return and with public entry prohibited, Varosha has effectively become a ghost town.

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Energy News

Securing Africa’s Energy Future in the Wake of Covid-19

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African ministers from countries making up 70% of Africa’s total primary energy supply, nearly 70% of its GDP and more than half of the continent’s entire population met with global energy leaders via videoconference on 24 November 2020.

A revitalised energy sector is key to Africa’s economic transformation. Participants agreed on the urgent need to enhance actions to ensure sustainable economic recovery and significantly scale up energy investments in Africa over the next three years in the wake of Covid-19.

Discussions highlighted implementation priorities and innovations key to enabling Africa’s energy sector to power regional economic growth over the three-year period (2020-2023) that coincides with end of the first 10-year Action Plan of the AU Agenda 2063. Africa’s pace of progress towards the realisation of the transformative Agenda 2063 continental vision will be determined by the degree to which it successfully recovers from the evolving impacts of the 2020 global health and socioeconomic crisis. African countries must engage in robust, innovative actions to strengthen energy security, scale up infrastructure investment, and promote the growth of the green economy, making use of all available opportunities to continually accelerate Africa’s clean energy transitions. These interventions can be bolstered by enhanced rates of internal trade in Africa, including in the energy sector, through a speedy implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Ensuring Sustainable Recovery – Participants noted that achievement of full access to modern energy by 2030 is achievable but will require stable, consistent policies and strong political will. They stressed the need for all global stakeholders to maintain focus on collective action, and also update plans to step up the pace of universal access to electricity and modern cooking in Africa. African governments and other partners must continue to work together to ensure progress towards achievement of SDG7. It was acknowledged that the momentum behind existing policy and investment plans was insufficient to meet the modern energy needs of Africa’s population. It was noted with concern that the initial Covid-19 crisis impact in 2020 had already severely affected recent progress on universal energy access.

Financing and Investment – Participants underscored that Africa is facing major challenges in obtaining the required finance and new investments to meet its immense structural transformation needs. Challenges include reduced financing flows, a lack of fiscal space, a slowdown in new investments in the energy sector and significant increases in the cost of borrowing. Oil and gas producers in Africa have been hit very hard throughout 2020, and many new ones have seen their hope for energy sector transformation dashed by the global economic slowdown this year. Local currencies have weakened against hard currencies and this is translating to higher debt burden. The already weak financial position of many African power utilities has been worsened by declining demand due to the pandemic and a high default rate. This situation is further exacerbated by weakened currencies.

Key conclusions – Participants stressed the following top recommendations going forward:

Partnership for a green and just transition is an essential priority to boost sustainable economic recovery in Africa and ensure progress towards universal access to clean energy, whilst ensuring that no one is left behind. In that context, the need to involve more women and youth throughout the value chain of energy projects was also emphasised.

Support for energy sector institutions and particularly power utilities, which are the fulcrum of the sector, is critical against the financial shocks imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Predictable policy environments with innovative market regulations help to attract new investment.

An integrated approach embracing grid, mini-grid and off-grid solutions is required to sustain the momentum for increasing access. In light of the Covid-19 crisis, supportive policies to ensure the sustainability of mini-grid providers need to be replicated across the continent.

Despite the challenges imposed by Covid-19, governments must avoid the temptation to slow down the pace of energy access and provide the right incentives for the private sector to play a part in the recovery process, leveraging on the productive sector and innovative business models and digitalisation.

Enhanced multilateral, regional and international cooperation can play an important role in addressing financing and investmentchallenges in the post Covid-19 era.

Stronger regional integration of electricity markets and infrastructure is a crucial factor in achieving a just energy transition as well as building secure, flexible and reliable power supply in Africa.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) opens the door to a new era of increased interconnectedness. Continental energy infrastructure programs like PIDA should play significant role to support AfCFTA.

A strong focus on improving power infrastructure, within and across borders, building up regulation and capacity to support Africa’s power pools and further enable regional electricity markets could all play an instrumental role in improving the financing and investment climate on the continent.

AUC, IEA and partners should consider forming a Taskforce on climate financing solutions for the African energy community that could present its recommendations at the COP 26 in 2021.

The outcomes of this Ministerial Forum will be shared with African Union and IEA member state leaders, as well as the leaders of international financial institutions and other global decision-makers, business leaders and key stakeholders. In addition, these outcomes will help guide future activities linked to enhancing the strong AUC-IEA partnership and inform the IEA’s continued deepening of its engagement with key decision-makers from governments, the private sector, investors and other leading regional institutions across the continent. 

As the co-chairs of this event, we would like to thank all participants for their active engagement and constructive contributions.

Signed,

  • Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, African Union
  • Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA
  • Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, South Africa 

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Human Rights

UN: Renew commitment to Palestinian people

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Al-Walaja, a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Photo: UNRWA/Marwan Baghdadi

Commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to explore every opening to “restore hope” for a two-State solution. 

In a message, the UN chief cautioned that prospects for a viable two-State solution are becoming “more distant”. 

“A host of factors continue to cause great misery, including: the expansion of illegal settlements, a significant spike in the demolition of Palestinian homes and structures, violence and continued militant activity,” said Mr. Guterres. 

“Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility to explore every opening to restore hope and achieve a two-State solution.” 

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed each year on 29 November. Established in 1977, it marks the day in 1947 when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State. 

Committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis 

The Secretary-General said that he remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict and end the occupation in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements in pursuit of the vision of two States – Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and sovereign Palestine – living side by side in peace and security, within secure and recognized borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States. 

“I hope that recent developments will encourage Palestinian and Israeli leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations, with the support of the international community, and will create opportunities for regional cooperation,” he said. 

“Let us together resolve to renew our commitment to the Palestinian people in their quest to achieve their inalienable rights and build a future of peace, dignity, justice and security,” added the Secretary-General.  

In the message, Mr. Guterres also extended his condolences on the passing, earlier this month, of Saeb Erakat, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General and Chief Negotiator for Palestinians in the Middle East Peace Process. 

Financial situation of UNRWA 

Mr. Guterres also voiced concerns over the financial situation facing the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides direct and often life-saving assistance to millions of Palestine refugees. 

“I appeal to all Member States to urgently contribute to enable UNRWA to meet the critical humanitarian and development needs of Palestine refugees during the pandemic,” urged the Secretary-General. 

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