Monday, 28 February 2011

Birth Registration and distorted birth sex ratio in China and India

In some populous countries, such as India and China it is possible to identify a twofold forms of gender discrimination. Not only birth registration is more difficult for girls, but beyond this, cultural beliefs and traditions in these countries push for distorted birth sex ratio in favor of boys:

Birth registration
In 2003, it was calculated that 48 millions, the 36% of children born, were not registered and among these females constituted the majority of the so called "black" children.

Further information are available in the following documents:
Birth sex ratio
This indicator measures the proportion of males to females in a given population. The variable is usually expressed as the number of males per 100 females. At global level the average ratio of males to females in newborns is among 105/100. Some Asian countries, such as India, China and Viet Nam report higher rates, as indicated in the chart below, revealing the existence of this second form of gender bias:

From the literature review it emerges that the weight of traditional beliefs and the influence of a strongly patriarchal society were responsible in the past for the high rates of female infanticide or abandonment. The document outlines how nowadays, these practices ceased but  the emergence and spread of prenatal sex determination technologies at affordable prices favored the recourse to sex selective abortion. The current sex imbalance negatively affects women rights and their position in the Indian society. As mentioned in the paper: …"the traditional roles as wife, daughter-in-law or mother would become increasingly in demand, be enhanced at the expense of other life courses, such as decisions regarding celibacy, or opting for a career. Pressure towards early marriage may be detrimental to women’s education, training and employment; their permanent or temporary withdrawal from the workforce may be encouraged, in order to give them adequate time to act as (traditional) wives or mothers"…

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Illegal logging prevention a priority in the Philippines

After seeing the devastation caused by floods and landslides in Albay, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in a recent intervention considered the possibility to impose a total log ban in six provinces to prevent further denudation of forests there. These provinces are Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Samar, Leyte, Surigao del Sur and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental.a total log ban nationwide.
For the President it will be important to drastically cut down the problem of illegal cutting of log as forests are among the first defences against floods and landslides.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has estimated the damage to property, infrastructure, and agriculture caused by floods and landslides in parts of Bicol, Visayas, and Mindanao at  P1.2 billion. In the Caraga Region alone, damages to government roads, bridges, schools, irrigation, agriculture due to landslides and flashfloods had already reached P300 million.

At least 42 people have died due to the floods and landslides. The number of displaced persons nationwide has reached 1,355,229, according to the NDRRMC's report to the president.

For further information:

International Women's Day

Next 8th March will mark the International Women’s Day centenary. Women for Women in collaboration with Google has renewed its “Join me on the Bridge” campaign to raise awareness on the role of woman in society. Originally conceived of by women from Rwanda and Congo as a sign of solidarity between women in two conflict-ridden countries, last year’s edition brought together thousands of women and men at more than 100 bridge events on four continents.

Below is a list of events arranged by UN agencies and other organizations in occasion of the International Women's Day:
The fifty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from Tuesday, 22 February to Friday, 4 March 2011.

Women Watch - UN news agency on gender Issues

UNFPA-UN Population Fund

ILO International Labour Organization celebrating the IWD 7-11 March 2011

ITU-International Telecommunication Union

UNESCAP – UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

UNGEI - United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative


UNCCD – UN Convention to combat desertification

Council of Europe

European Union


EASSI Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women

SADC Southern African Development Community

Committee for Asian Women
Women Thrive Worldwide

Global Fund for Women

Plan . Coalition of organizations aiming to raise the profile of International Women’s Day

Hunger Project -


Global Pulse - Global media and communication network devoted to bringing women a global voice.


Women Deliver

Interaction - Consortium of international foundations

Women for peace

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Information on the Internet could be an evidence to incriminate Colonel Gaddafi ?

As in occasion of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, Aljazeera is following with a dedicated blog, the protests taking nowplace  in Libya.
Internet has transformed the way people is informed about historic events like these.
In the early 90s, the most emblematic simbols of the first Gulf War were the pictures of the Iraqi artillery shooting on the Nato airplaines attacking Baghdad and the dense smoke of the oil wells set on fire in the desert.


CNN International, the cable television based in Atlanta, became famous worldwide for broadcasting live the war in all tv screens around the world.Nowadays, we receive these information directly from the people involved. They testify their experiences through the Web. Which are their fears and hopes. The cruel reaction and resistance of the forces loyal to Gaddafi show us the atmosphere of intimidation and oppression that the Libyan people have suffered for more than 40 years!!!

The courage of people publishing videos on Youtube, the data collected on the map below providing the details of fights and bombings around the country deserve much more attention and need to be considered not just as event's accounts but, according to the circumstances, as evidences of the infringement of human rights and the outrageous use of force perpetrated by Gaddafi against the People he represents and defenceless civilians.

The site of the protesters

The history of aid effectiveness from the Millennium Summit to Busan - 2nd part

2002 Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development:

The Monterrey Conference highlighted a number of important issues for the the successful implementation of the Millennium Development Goals:
  • The aim of the Conference had been to examine the internationally agreed development goals adopted during the past development decade, and especially the goal of halving the number of people living in absolute poverty by 2015, for their financial implications and to indicate ways of mobilizing the financial resources needed to achieve them.
  •  Governments of developing countries during the Conference became aware to be primarily responsible for their own economic and social development.
  • Industrialized countries understood the importance for developing countries to participate and being more actively represented in the various international institutions. 
  • The Monterrey Consensus also called for new action, for example, increasing ODA effectiveness, achieving fairer burden-sharing during the management of international financial crises, promoting the adoption of international insolvency law and the role of the private sector.

    2003 Rome Declaration of the First High level Forum (HLF) on Harmonisation:

    Monday, 21 February 2011

    From rice to crabs farming adapting to climate change in Bangladesh

    In the South-West of the country, where swathes of farmland are submerged in salty water, many people have taken up crab farming after struggling to grow rice.
    The financial returns are so good that some farmers are contemplating carrying on with crab-farming even if their land becomes suitable for growing rice and other crops one day.

    Crabs farming is becoming the profession of unemployed farmers after their land was flooded by a tidal surge which followed Cyclone Aila in May 2009.

    More than a year-and-a-half later, water still seeps in during high tide and floods acres of farmland, making it unsuitable for growing crops. Non-governmental organisation Brac, which has been helping with relief and rehabilitation work in the area in the aftermath of the cyclone is giving now giving to farmers money to buy small crabs, fatten them up and sell them back for export to countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.
    Some crabs can grow as heavy as 4kg and fetch up to $5 a piece. Each crab is allowed a maximum of 10g of fish daily, otherwise it will overeat. According to Dr Kabir, Brac's project's representative, the floodings ensure a  better economic return than land. One of the mai purpose of the project is to move people away from a relief mentality.

    Furthermore, the environmental impact of crab-farming is limited, more than even rice production.
    Once the embankments will be repaired, farmers will be able to flush out polluted water from their lands and prepare for crop production.
    The healthy returns from crab farming have also helped overcome a social taboo by encouraging Muslim farmers to take up the practice. Traditionally it was limited only to members of the minority Hindu community, as many Muslims do not eat crabs for religious reasons and therefore see crab-farming as un-Islamic. Although crabs and lobsters are not specifically banned like pork, neither are they declared halal like chicken or beef - so most Muslims in Bangladesh just avoid them.

    Will be Libya the next tile of the revolutionary domino in Great Middle East?

    Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is in the throes of an unprecedented dispute against his power that has lasted more than 40 years. The leader has reacted forcefully to demonstrations deploying police forces and mercenary troops. According to Arabic television Al Jazeera on Saturday, some military transport planes loaded with weapons for the police landed at an airport south of Benghazi. Special Forces would be
    also ready to act, think and organize for a fight without borders: The objective is crush the protest and to do so, according to an opponent, are recruited 'military units African origin, who have tribal ties and which might be expected for a deadly campaign of repression. Medical sources quoted by the website 'Libya Al Youm' claim that 285 people have been killed in Benghazi during clashes between demonstrators and police. 

    "Libya is at a critical moment in its history. Already the next few hours the People's Assembly will meet to discuss the adoption of reforms and a Constitution for the country.But if the insurgency will not stop there will be a civil war. Thousands of people are coming to defend Gaddafi in Tripoli and Libya and will resist to the last man ": This is what said at national TV in his speech second son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's.
    Main riots are reported in the main cities of  Cirenaica in the following Libyan districts (sha'biyat):

    ,Tobruk (1),Derna (2) Al Beida(3), Al Marj(4), Benghazi (5) and Ajdabya (6):

    Districts of Libya from 2007

    Map available on the site of the Libyan General Information Authority
    The resignation of high Libyan diplomats to protest against the reaction of police forces and the use of mercenaries against people protesting in Benghazi demonstrates that Colonel Ghadafi's regime is under threat and  that also in the institutions discontent is arising.

    H.E. Abdel Moneim - Libya's representative at the Arab Legue

    H.E. Mustafa M. Elguelushi - Ambassador of Libya in China
    H.E.  Ramadan E. El. Bahbah - Ambassador in India

    The live speech of Seif El Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader's son, on Libyan state television didn't stop the protest to reach the capital Tripoli. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is believed to have fled the capital Tripoli after anti-government demonstrators breached the state television building and set government property alight

    FURTHER reading:

    Live blog Libya

    Middle East protests - special report

    Saturday, 19 February 2011

    Mobile phone services to tackle the dissemination of fake drugs

    The problem of counterfeit medicines was first addressed at the international level in 1985 at the Conference of Experts on the Rational Use of Drugs in Nairobi. The meeting recommended that WHO, together with other international organizations and NGOs should study the feasibility of setting up a clearing house to collect data and to inform governments about the nature and extent of this phenomenon.
    In February 2006, the World Health Organization launched the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT).  At its core, IMPACT aims to build coordinated networks across and between countries in order to halt the production, trading and selling of fake medicines around the globe.
    Recently, Sproxil, a social enterprise, developed a labelling technology called Cascading Authentication targeted for medicines distributed in developing countries which takes advantage of the large distribution of mobile phones in these countries. All genuine drugs, tracked within the supply chain from the factory to the final retailers, are identified by a specific code on the package.  Local consumers, simply by texting this code to the operator get an instant response confirming the brand's genuineness.

    Cascading Authentication - Sproxil
    Further information
    MPedigree an NGO in Ghana, produced a video on counterfeit medicines.
    Sproxil website of the social enterprise


    Thursday, 17 February 2011

    A request for civil and political rights, "democracy 1.0" is echoing in the Middle East

    Demostrations taking place  in the Middle East in the last weeks overthrowned  first President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia in power since 1987 and afterwards Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak President of Egypt, in charge from 1981.Other protests are reported in neighboring countries like Libya, Algeria and also in Iran and Yemen.
    A number of scholars have pointed out the importance of the demographic factor in the upraising riots. The percentage of youths in local populations is higher compared to most Western, mature democracies, as also indicated in the median age map of the world below:

    Global Median age - Cia Factbook (2009)

    The youth factor was also cited by Graham Fuller, former CIA spook and Middle East expert writer of the bestseller A World Without Islam, in a paper published in 2003 for the Brookings Institution entitled "The youth factor: the new demographics of the Middle East and the implication for US policy".
    For further reading and an interesting discussion on this issue visit the blog of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

    Wednesday, 16 February 2011

    Political deadlock continues in Côte d’Ivoire and the number of displaced people grows

    United Nations refugee agency set up a new camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in western Côte d’Ivoire who fled their homes as a result of violence and uncertainty related to the current post-election political crisis in the West African country. 
    “Humanitarian conditions have deteriorated with the shortage of shelter and our hope is that the new camp will ease pressure, in particular for the most vulnerable,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva. The agency has so far registered a total of 38,600 IDPs in western Côte d’Ivoire.

    The new camp is located near the town of Duékoué, and will accommodate up to 6,000 people, easing crowding at a nearby Roman Catholic mission of Sante Thérèse, Filles de Marie Auxiliatrice / Communauté Salésiens de Don Bosco (SDB) Diocese de Man, where many of the IDPs are accommodated. Heavy rainfall last week destroyed a number of makeshift shelters in the mission compound prompting UNHCR to provide tents to some of the displaced families.

    Refugées à la mission catholique de Duékoué, Diocese de Man, Moyen-Cavally - Côte d’Ivoire

    Many of the IDPs have been surviving on the generosity of local families and charities. In Danané, Binhouye and Zouan-Hounien districts, more than 8,600 IDPs are staying with local families, some of whom are sheltering up to 25 people each and struggling to make ends meet.
    Most of those displaced in western Côte d’Ivoire fled their homes in mid-December and early January as a result of ethnic tension and violence sparked by the presidential elections held in November.
    The country has been in turmoil since early December when outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office despite opposition leader Alassane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in the run-off poll. Mr. Ouattara has been recognized by the international community as the duly elected president.

    The basic structure of Ivorian politics since 2000 or so is the very apparent north-south divide. The south, fertile and green, is largely Christian. It is the centre of the cocoa and coffee economy which made the country’s fortune until the 1990s. The north – the northwest in particular, is drier and largely Muslim. 
    In Duékoué, the IDPs told UNHCR that they have no homes to go back to because their houses were torched and their property looted. Others alleged that they had been subjected to violence, including sexual assault, as well as arbitrary detention by armed groups acting with impunity.

    Fear of retaliation, lack of law enforcement and dysfunctional judicial institutions have prevented many people from reporting abuses.


    Monday, 14 February 2011

    Customary justice to empower legal rights of the poors

    Development agencies, research institutes and international donors around the world are considering the modernization of  customary justice systems as a means to strengthen legal rights of poor and marginalized populations in developing countries. In the past, the simple and artefact introduction of western legal principles without  any linkage with indigenous systems to reform the justice systems in third world countries  has proved to be inadequate. A re-elaboration of indigenous traditions will have more chance to be accepted and uderstood by indigenous populations and favour the integration of society layers otherwise marginalized and discriminated. The International Development Law Organization has recently launched a number of reports for its research projects based in Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Liberia and Uganda.


    Friday, 11 February 2011

    Water scarcity as a means of peace

    The Middle East Research Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace based in Lebanon has launched"The Blue Peace Report: Rethinking Middle East Water".
    The report, published in cooperation with the Strategic Foresight Group, focuses on the problems of water scarcity affecting  Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories and  recommends to these countries to negotiate the adoption of common policies and guidelines for the sustainable management of  local water resources.
    River flows in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan have been depleted by 50 to 90 percent in the last 50 years alone, while the vital Jordan River, which acts as a water source for five of the concerned countries, has decreased its discharge by over 90 percent from 1960.

    Middle East region - Political map
    With consumer requirements predicted to increase to 50-60 percent over the next decade, further pressure will be put on ever-dwindling supplies, he said, the need for setting a diplomatic agenda is crucial.
    Some moves toward cooperation have already been made with the bilateral agreement between Syria and Lebanon on the partition of resources for the Orontes and Nahr al-Kabir rivers. The most alarming situation is in Palestine. the calculations made at the time of the Oslo Accords -اتفاقات أوسلو between Palestine and Israel will need to be revised downward.
    Water appropriation has created a “high stress” situation where the average Palestinian is left living on less than 30 liters of fresh water a day, with the average Lebanese and Jordanian estimated to be surviving on around 60 liters. This compares to 350 liter per person per day in Israel.
    The report proposes installing a region-wide cap on daily consumption where all people would be allowed for consuming no more than 200 liters.

    Wednesday, 9 February 2011

    Multi-Donor Trust Fund to improve aid effectiveness in the UN system

     The UN Development Group unites the 32 UN funds, programmes, agencies, departments, and offices of the UN system playing a role in development. The common objective of the UNDG is to deliver more coherent, effective and efficient support to countries seeking to attain internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

    New financing modalities have been implemented by the UN bodies to best serve the interests of the beneficiary countries, especially  those affected by conflict and disasters. Donors have been exploring a range of possibilities, including Multi-Donor Trust Funds (MDTFs). 
    The increasing use of this funding mechanism responds to the need to provide flexible, coordinated and predictable funding to support the achievement of national and global priorities such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the application of the Aid Effectiveness Agenda and the UN Reform initiative "Delivering as One".
    MDTFs can be classified into three major categories:

    • Trust Funds that respond to disasters.
    • Trust Funds targeted for particular global development goal or set of goals.
    • Trust Funds focusing on the humanitarian needs of a specific country. 
    Where the funds are goingWhere the funds are coming from

    Further readings:

    Official Reports from the United Nations:
    Discussion Note. Strengthening the system-wide funding architecture of operational activities of the. United Nations for development 

    Publications available on Amazon
    Joint Evaluation of the UNDG Contribution to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness
    Better Aid Aid Effectiveness: A Progress Report on Implementing the Paris Declaration
    Paris in Bogota: Applying the Aid Effectiveness Agenda in Colombia (IDS Working Paper)
    Trust Funds under International Law: Trustee Obligations of the United Nations and International Development Banks

    Tuesday, 8 February 2011

    Middle East and MENA region particularly vulnerable to climate change

    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the forefront of assessing and monitoring global water resources, has developed in collaboration with GRID-Arendal, a Norvegian Research Institute, a map presenting information on water resources use and management for 30 years. This study is particularly useful for policy-makers to implement effective environmental decision-making.

    According to Population Action International, more than 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will face water scarcity conditions by 2025
    The impacts of human-induced climate change are often considered a future prospect, yet in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), indications of a changing climate are already evident.
    Most of the predicted outcomes associated with international climate models are already occurring in the region, compounding existing problems of water scarcity, water pollution,desertification, salinization, and sea-level rise. Since most of the MENA region is arid and hyperarid, small changes in water availability and arable land have significant consequences for human security. Human-induced climate change, through effects on the variability and quality of scarce and degraded water resources,  exacerbates already existing problems affecting urban and rural development, human health, and economic productivity in MENA.
    The Belfer Center for Science and international Affairs, at Harvard University, published in September an interesting working paper written by Jeannie Sowers and Erika Weinthal entitled "Climate Change Adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa: Challenges and Opportunities". 
    The document provides information on a number of proactive measures to adapt to climate change that could be encompassed within existing policies for the water and agriculture sectors. These include upgrading and extending water harvesting and storage infrastructures; improving demand management of water and agricultural efficiencies; extending sanitation systems, particularly to rural areas and informal urban areas, to safeguard water supplies and human health; and fostering local and provincial capacities to deal with existing water/agricultural problems.


    Monday, 7 February 2011

    Microfinance industry - the case of Pakistan

    The article Pakistan: a protected microfinance borrower? written by Arsala Kidwai from the International Development Law Organization - IDLO provides an insight of the legislation enforced to regulate MFIs activities in the country. The paper monitors and evaluates laws and regulations in place in Pakistan against a number of indicators (listed below) to state rights and warranties of microfinance customers.

    • Transparency and disclosure in lending practices and initiatives to improve financial literacy.
    • Types of collaterals collected and procedures of enforcement.
    • Initiatives to prevent overindebtedness and limit multiple lending (like credit information  databases)
    • R ecovery loans mechanisms
    • Availability and accessibility of redress mechanisms to the consumer.

    International Development Law Organization

      Microfinance institutions needs to focus on sustainability not on profitability

      The key messages passed at the last conference on microfinance in Europe held in Brussels last November 2010 provide interesting points of reflection for the future development of the microfinnance industry.

      In particular, the statement: "Create a more favourable environment for microfinance at national level. Microfinance providers need to balance the aim of sustainability (not profitability) with the objective of social performance" foresees the recommendations made by Muhammed Yunus in his recent article Sacrificing microcredit for megaprofits published on the New York Times.

      The history of aid effectiveness from the Millennium Summit to Busan - 1st part

      In September 2000, after a decade of conferences and summits, the UN Member States adopted in the Headquarters in New York the United Nations Millennium Declaration which involved all the Nations to a global partnership to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of world’s people suffering for extreme poverty.
      Decades of development demonstrated the need for a more systemic approach.  Only bringing in local perspectives and participation it is possible to provide tangible benefits to poor communities and produce sustained impact. The new global challenge to promote widespread and sustainable development demands a new agreed strategy, not merely based on the amounts of aid given, but mainly concerned with effective criteria and methods of aid delivery. For this purpose, the political engagement is essential to move the agenda forward.

      The 8 Millennium Development Goals

      The Millennium Summit of 2000 represented a historical turning point for setting the aspirations, defining the results and strengthening accountability in the development cooperation sector.

      Wednesday, 2 February 2011

      Hidden charges, financial literacy, quasi-monopoly market demand more regulations in microfinance

      Main issues requiring government regulations in the microcredit sector:

      1 - Quasi monopolistic market: microcredit organizations do not operate in free and competitive markets but operate business in often quasi-monopolies. Furthermore, according to specialists: competition is only on non-price terms (Nimal Fernando, Asian Bank for Development).

      2 - Low Financial Literacy: Wrong assumption that microcredit clients are rational economic actors. On the contrary, as demonstrated by the recent global financial crisis, also developed countries need to increase consumer protection legislation. In the United States, for instance, the Obama administration, enforced The Credit Card Accountability Responsability and Disclosure Act of 2009 and in 2010 established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect consumers of financial services from abusive, deceptive and unfair practices.

      3 - Lack of Transparency: Transparency is another key point. Consumers should be put in the conditions to choose the right product after comparing effective interest rates and loan terms. Malpractices such the ones below transform loans from opportunities  to obligations:
      up-front fees, compulsory savings, insurance premium subscription; distorted calculation of  the interest rates (usually based on the original loan and not on the residual amount of debt). Professor Subrata Mitra from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta, describes in his article Exploitative Microfinance Interest Rates how these tricks litteraly blow up the effective rates.

      for more information on these issues you can read the article by Prof. Aneel Karnani published on the Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled Microfinance needs regulation

      Tuesday, 1 February 2011

      A book on the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights

      The Council of Europe has just released a new book on the European Court of Human Rights. For over 50 years the Court's rulings have resulted in numerous changes to domestic legislation and helped to strengthen the rule of law throughout the wider Europe.

      The book European Court of Human Rights: facts and figures retraces the Court's activities and case-law since its foundation in 1959. The presentation of several hundred of the cases the Court has examined, together with statistics for each State, paints an overall picture of the Court's work and the impact its judgments have had in the member States.

      The book reviews the law cases of the Court by theme and by article of the European Convention on Human Rights. This work shows the full extent of the rights and freedoms the States Parties to the Convention have undertaken to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction. In addition,  It also takes a country-by-country look at the cases the Court has been called on to examine, and at the impact its judgments have had in the States it has condemned for violating the Convention. A resume of the ruling of the Court is also available in the following summary.