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‘Spirt of unity, partnership and collaboration’ needed to realize Sudan’s aspirations

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UNDP is supporting Sudanese farmers whose incomes and crop yields have been impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns. UNDP/Ahmed Alsamani

Moving from Sudan’s current fragile transition period towards stable civilian rule, requires a continued “spirt of unity, partnership and collaboration”, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Thursday.

“One of the key messages remains that we expect all parts of Sudan to work together for all of Sudan”, Special Representative Volker Perthes said after consulting on the country’s future with a wide and diverse group of participants.  

Paris Conference 

Having just returned from the Paris Conference, designed to encourage the economic revitalization of the country, he told ambassadors that Member States had announced bilateral debt forgiveness to help Sudan clear its arrears with international financial institutions. 

Sudanese civil society also shared their vision of a new Sudan based on freedom, justice and economic opportunity, while Prime Minister Abadalla Hamdok reiterated his commitment to peace, said Mr. Perthes, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). 

“I encourage all of Sudan’s international and domestic partners to continue supporting Sudan as it implements key economic and political reforms”.  

Road to comprehensive peace  

Beginning with the peace process, the UN envoy said that on 28 March the Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council – which combines military and civilian representatives – and the leader of rebel group, the Sudan People Liberation Movement, had signed a Declaration of Principles, which paves the way for a final agreement. 

He also said that during talks scheduled for next week, UNITAMS would support the parties as well as neighbouring South Sudan, the mediator, as required. 

The UN official also discussed with Abdulwahid al Nur, leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, in Darfur, one of the other main non-signatory factions, the importance of engaging politically with the Government for “a comprehensive peace”. 

Political overview 

The Government continues its efforts to advance the political transition, including the “important steps” of establishing a Peace Commission, Anti-corruption Commission, and Transitional Justice Commission, among others, said Mr. Perthes. 

Turning to delays in the transition process, he pointed “most importantly” to the fact that an inclusive and representative Transitional Legislative Council with at least 40 per cent female participation has yet to be realized. 

Amidst “great concern” over the limited progress in implementing the Juba Peace Agreement of October last year, the UN envoy noted some advances, such as preparations to establish its Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism.  

“Other critical aspects remain unfulfilled”, he said, pointing to security arrangements, a ceasefire, a Joint Protection Force and other security committees, all of which have “a direct bearing on protection of civilians and overall stability”. 

Resolving armed conflict 

After intercommunal clashes that left 144 dead and some 65,000 displaced last month in Darfur, the Special Representative told the Council that the Government had decided to implement further critical security measures, including joint security forces, enhanced security arrangements, related ceasefire committees, and more humanitarian relief. 

Despite the willingness of armed movements to put forward named representatives for ceasefire committees and identify personnel for joint security forces, he said, “deployments have yet to commence”. 

“I fear that without the speedy establishment of these Joint Forces, and the implementation of Sudan’s National Plan for the Protection of Civilians, we could see similar incidents like Geneina be repeated”, the UN official warned, referring to five days of fighting in West Darfur that left scores dead.

Sudanese women

Meanwhile, Sudanese women leaders have continued to draw attention to disparities in safety, basic needs and political participation, demanding their rights as continued reports reveal human rights violations against women and girls, including through social media campaigns inciting violence. 

The Special Representative the Government’s decision to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women was “an important step forward” as well as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and pledged the mission’s continued support for “an environment where women live free of fear for their safety and exercise their full rights”

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Sierra Leone Receives World Bank Support to Strengthen Education Service Delivery

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Sierra Leone will receive $6.85 million in additional financing to support the COVID-19 education response in the country. Funded by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) under the Free Education Project, the financing will support activities to ensure school safety and strengthen education service delivery including continuous distance education and accelerated learning. It will also support sustaining effective Government operations, planning, and policies during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

“As an alternate board member of the GPE Board, Sierra Leone continues to play a leading role in the Partnership to implement programs that promote accessible quality education for all,” said Hon. David Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education for Sierra Leone. “In the COVID-19 era, we need to think outside the box to ensure that widening inequities do not further push our most vulnerable populations backward. That is the focus of this additional financing. Even as the Ebola Viral Disease has been recently recorded in the sub-region, we will be able to use the same interventions for continuous learning should the disease ever return to Sierra Leone.”

The financing, which was approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Director on February 5 and became effective on May 26, 2021, is aligned with the Government’s education priorities and strategies, including those outlined in the COVID-19 Education Emergency Response Plan and the World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework for Sierra Leone, specifically with its emphasis on the importance of investing in human development.

There is an implementation partnership arrangement with an NGO Consortium led by Save the Children, partnering with Handicap International (operating under the name Humanity and Inclusion), Plan International Sierra Leone, Concern Worldwide, Foundation for Rural and Urban Transformation, Focus 1000, and Street Child of Sierra Leone. This partnership will help the Government deliver activities rapidly, focusing more on community engagement, and reaching the most marginalized and deprived groups.

“This additional financing will help the Government to cover the costs associated with expanded activities relating to the COVID-19 response as well as enhancing the impact of the Free Education Project in responding to the challenges in the education sector,” said Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “The funding will also help address commitment toward achieving a more inclusive approach to education, increasing the retention of girls and improving the learning environment for children with disabilities.”

The Free Education Project is financed by a $66 million grant, with $50 million from the World Bank and $16 million from development partners. It will help to address key challenges in the education sector. It will contribute to achieving the Government’s larger strategic objectives in the sector while supporting analytical and advisory services associated with monitoring and evaluation, technical assistance, and research and studies.

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Mozambique: Violence continues in Cabo Delgado, as agencies respond to growing needs

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A woman and her baby who fled their home in northern Mozambique in November 2020 are now living in a camp for displaced people. © UNHCR/Juliana Ghazi

Civilians continue to flee armed conflict and insecurity in northern Mozambique, more than two months after militants attacked the coastal city of Palma, located in Cabo Delgado province, UN agencies reported on Friday. 

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reports that some 70,000 people have fled the city since 24 March, bringing overall displacement to nearly 800,000. 

People have been escaping daily for districts further south, or to neighbouring Tanzania. Thousands more are reported to be stranded in areas around Palma, with restricted humanitarian access. 

Shots fired, houses burned 

“Those fleeing have told UNHCR staff that the situation in Palma remains very unstable, with regular gunfire at night and torching of houses”, Spokesperson Babar Baloch said during a briefing in Geneva. 

UNHCR and partners recently assisted people living in dire conditions in remote areas around Palma, distributing relief items to some 10,000 who have been displaced. 

The agency continues to advocate for internally displaced people to receive protection and assistance, and for those seeking safety in Tanzania, to access asylum. 

Forced back into danger 

Mozambican authorities report that many people attempting to cross the river, which marks the border between the two countries, have been forcibly returned.  More than 9,600 have been pushed back since January, with 900 removals occurring over a two-day period this week. 

“UNHCR reiterates its call for those fleeing the conflict to have access to territory and asylum, and, in particular, for the principle of non-refoulement (no forced return) to be respected”, said Mr. Baloch. “Refugees must not be forced back into danger.” 

‘A children’s crisis’ 

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said needs are enormous in Cabo Delgado, located in a region that has barely recovered from a deadly cyclone in 2019.  

In the wake of the attack in Palma, some 2,000 children have no idea of the whereabouts of their parents, or even if they are alive, agency Spokesperson James Elder told journalists

“What is happening in Cabo Delgado is a children’s crisis – an emergency on top of an emergency – a deadly cocktail from the impacts of climate change, conflict and COVID-19”, he said. 

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Kenya Receives $750 million Boost for COVID-19 Recovery Efforts

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To reinforce Kenya’s resilient, inclusive and green economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the World Bank approved $750 million in development policy financing to support policy reforms that will strengthen transparency and accountability in public procurement and promote efficient public investment spending.

This development policy operation supports measures to improve medium-term fiscal and debt sustainability through greater transparency and efficiency in government spending, building on ongoing World Bank support to enhance public finance management systems. The operation provides for the establishment of an electronic procurement platform for the public sector that seeks to make government purchases of goods and services transparent. This will help increase accountability in public spending and reduce opportunities for corruption. The support also strengthens public investment management by seeking cost-savings and applying rigorous selection and monitoring and evaluation criteria to all projects. Both measures are expected to yield fiscal savings of up to $2.6 billion.

“The operation prioritizes reforms in hard hit sectors, such as healthcare, education, and energy, which have been made urgent by the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “In recognition of the severity of the crisis and need for a comprehensive response, we are supporting the government’s post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery Strategy, which is designed to mitigate the adverse socioeconomic effects of the pandemic and accelerate economic recovery and attain higher and sustained economic growth.”

The policy operation also prioritizes energy sector reforms to improve electricity access and ensure that Kenyans benefit from least-cost, clean energy sources. Further, the new policy framework will help strengthen Kenya Power and Lighting Company’s (KPLC’s) finances with a new competitive pricing regime.

Kenyans will also benefit from better healthcare and disease prevention, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable households, through National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) governance reforms and the establishment of the Kenya Center for Disease Control (KCDC) to strengthen disease prevention, detection, and response. Reforms will further seek to provide Kenyans with more equitable access to higher education, through a performance-based funding method to reduce the imbalances and inefficiencies created by the existing funding model for universities.

“Stabilizing the debt trajectory and reducing high debt costs is a top priority,” said Alex Sienaert, Senior Economist and Task Team Leader, World Bank Kenya. “This policy operation supports measures to reduce the budget deficit over time, such as by making public spending more efficient, whilst minimizing debt costs by helping to meet the government’s current financing requirements on concessional terms.”

DPOs are used by the World Bank to support a country’s policy and institutional reform agenda to help to accelerate inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have made reforms that improve governance and service delivery, including those covered by this operation for Kenya, even more critical because they create better conditions for Kenya to inclusively and sustainably recover from it. Financing provided by the World Bank is offered on concessional terms, making it significantly lower than commercial loans. The total annual interest and service cost of the Kenya DPO is 3.1%.

* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.6 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $21 billion over the last three years, with about 61 percent going to Africa.

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