Wednesday, 30 April 2014

International Comparision Program at World Bank foresees China overtaking United States as first world economy by the end of 2014

According to the previous report of the International Comparison Program (ICP) released in 2005,  The ICP estimated China's economy to be less than half the size of the United States, just 43% . According to the new edition based on the data collected for 2011, the Chinese GDP was equal to 87 % of the American one. Therefore, the 2011 results still positioned the United States as the largest economy in the world, followed closely by China 'if the calculation is made on the cost of real life, or on a purchasing power parity ( " purchasing power parity " , PPP ).  However,  the IMF now expects China's economy to grow by 24% between 2011 and 2014 , while the United States will increase by only 7.6%. In these circumstances, China is likely to overtake the United States this year as most important economy. Hence, it will be the first time since 1872 - when it passed the United Kingdom - that the U.S. will not longer be the first world economic power.

Among the members of the G8, positions remain unvaried. However, the study is revolutionizing the image of the global economic landscape , increasing the importance of large middle-income countries. India becomes the third-largest economy, was in tenth place in 2005. The size of its economy has almost doubled: from 19% of the GDP of the United States in 2005 increased to 37 % in 2011. Russia, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico (BRICS countries) are part of the top 12 in the global table.
In contrast, high costs and lower growth push the UK and Japan behind the United States with respect to the tables in 2005, while Germany has improved its relative position and Italy remained in eighth place. The world's rich countries still account for 50 % of global GDP , while representing only 17% of the world population.
The report also found that the four most expensive countries to live in are Switzerland, Norway, Bermuda and Australia while the cheapest are Egypt, Pakistan, Myanmar and Ethiopia.

Celebration of International Labor Day (May 1st) and protests of Chinese workers outlines the need to protect and ensure basic labour rights.

In current days, it is not at all anachronistic to celebrate the International Labour Day in a period where while financial institutions are dictating the political agenda in the European Union and in all western economies by diminishing or depriving the workers of primary rights achieved after years of fight in the name of competitiveness and economic stability, we can see protesters in developing countries fight to achieve basic labour rights.

The case of the thousands of workers from Yue Yuen footwear manufacturer demonstrating in the streets of  Dongguan city, China (shown on the map below) is emblematic. In this case workers are protesting for better work conditions and for basic healthcare and pension contributions.

According to Chinese law, employers are obliged to make monthly payments into workers' social security accounts, to help provide medical insurance and a pension,  but manufacturers often shirk their responsibility. Current local and international economic conditions empowered local workers by turning bargaining power in their favour and, in particular, older factory personnel nearing to retirement, is very active in leading the protest in Dongguan.
The existence in China of pro workers legislation is not per se sufficient to ensure and protect the enjoyment of rights, if authorities do not properly enforce the law . On the contrary Chinese authorities are complicating the situation in Dongguan.

"Police have arrested workers in the workshops for not working, more than 60 were detained," said one worker who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals. "At the moment the factory is controlled by police." The Communist Party fears an independent labour movement could threaten its grip on power, so it only allows one government-linked trade union. (Agence-France Press AFP, April 28.

The situation is constantly monitored by China Labour Bulletin, A non-governmental organization founded in Hong Kong in 1994, which grown from a small monitoring and research group into a proactive outreach organization that seeks to defend and promote the rights of workers in China. Workers'demonstrations reached a peak in March 2014 and the one in Dongguan was one of the biggest in recent years (China Labour Bulletin, strike map).

Maybe, as in the near future, we could see transnational companies further de-localizing their productions moving from South East Asia to Africa in search for the most poor economies where to built up new plants and exploit the local workers, the protection and the respect for primary basic labour rights should be a central focus of national policies and also a core objective for development cooperation strategies.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Literacy rate growing globally but still high discrepancies between men and women and among rich and poor countries.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has released in September 2013 the latest data on the world literacy rates for adult ( people aged >=15) and young individuals ( people aged between 15-24). Approximately, percentages are growing for both classes. However, considerable discrepancies are still present among developed and developing countries and between men and women.

Women count for almost half a billion of illiterate adults worldwide (774 million) .The lowest literacy rates are observed in sub-Saharan Africa and in South and West Asia (see Figure 1). Adult literacy rates were below 50% in the following 11 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone. In Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, the average adult and youth literacy rates were greater than 90% (see Figure 2). No regional averages are available for North America and Western Europe due to limited data coverage. It is important to note that regional averages can mask disparities at the country level. This is most apparent in sub-Saharan Africa, where the adult literacy rate ranges from 25% in Guinea to 94% in Equatorial Guinea. 

Literacy is a fundamental human right.  It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individuals, families, and societies alike. This right is stated in the purview of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in article 26 hereafter reported:

Article 26. 

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. 
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. 

The uses of literacy for the exchange of knowledge are constantly evolving, along with advances in technology. UNESCO developed various initiatives to promote literacy. For over 65 years UNESCO has worked to ensure that literacy remains a priority on national and international agendas. A number of initiatives like the UNESCO International Literary Prizes or the World Book Capital City now at its 14th edition were launched by the Organization to realize the vision of a literate world for all. 
The Organization is particularly active in projects supporting the growth of women' literary rate.The publication on the left reports successful examples of activities carried out in various countries like Turkey, Brasil and Senegal.

Further reading:
Adult and youth literacy. National, regional and global trends, 1985-2015
Adult and youth literacy (UIS Fact sheet September 2013)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

April 23rd, 2014 - Opening ceremony of UNESCO Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014

Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State in Nigeria, elected UNESCO World Book Capital for 2014, celebrated the nomination with a number of events starting today. The city of Port Harcourt was selected "on account of the quality of its program, in particular its focus on youth, and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria's culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates”. The selection committee included representatives of the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Booksellers Federation (IBF), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and UNESCO.

Previous World Book Capitals:

Official Poster
  • Bangkok (2013)
  • Yerevan (2012) 
  • Buenos Aires (2011)
  • Ljubljana (2010)
  • Beirut (2009)
  • Amsterdam (2008) 
  • Bogotá (2007)
  • Turin (2006) 
  • Montreal (2005) 
  • Antwerp (2004)
  • New Delhi (2003)
  • Alexandria (2002)
  • Madrid (2001)

Further information:
Official page on Facebook
This Day article on All Africa website

Heads of USAID, UNOCHA and EU International Cooperation demands Call for Action on South Sudan

 As the situation in South Sudan is worsening with first admissions by government officials that the rebel army has taken control of the Mayom county in Unity administration at the border with Sudan (All Africa, 22 April 2014), days ago in Washington DC, USAID’s Administrator Rajiv Shah, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs's Chief Valerie Amos and the European Union (EU) Commissioner for International Cooperation Kristalina Georgieva launched the Call for Action on South Sudan a document highlighting the most pressing priorities that the country needs to address in the following months.

In particular, the heads of the three institutions stressed out the following key points to be immediately faced:
  • First,we call on parties to the conflict to stop fighting.
  • Second, we urge all donors and States to provide the $232 million needed to fund vital aid operations over the next three critical months. Humanitarian workers are on the ground, and with these funds can deliver.  
  • Third we call on the parties to the conflict to respect the people of South Sudan and to abide by international humanitarian law. Parties must end at tacks on civilians and civilian objects, stop the recruitment of child soldiers, and respect medical and civilian humanitarian relief personnel.
Read more at:

Friday, 18 April 2014

Nigeria - New custom tariffs on imported vehicles (tokumbo cars) too expensive for local sellers

Nigerian website to advertise used cars selling
Last December, the federal government in Nigeria decided to introduce new custom tariffs (Thisdaylive, Dec. 2013) on imported vehicles, the so called "tokunbo cars", fairly used carsusually sold by local sellers also through the internet on websites like After the protests of associations of local sellers, such as the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), the policy should be substantially revised (Ajetun Blog, Feb. 2014).
However, it seems from more recent articles that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has commenced full implementation of the 70 percent tariff on imported vehicles (Business Day, Mar. 2014). The idea of the Federal Government to discourage the importation of used cars, which represent the 85 % of imported cars, should support and develop the local automotive market and industry as already done in the past by countries like Pakistan, India and South Africa as declared Dr. Olusegun Aganga, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.

The measure, per se, could be a good incentive to facilitate the establishing of a local automotive industry. However, the increase of the tariff from 22 % to 70% could just annihilate the current market stocks and a modification addressing the needs of the sellers would be advisable. Income deriving from higher  taxation could not balance the plausible collapse of sells.

In the meantime, as written on the magazine African Review, Kia Motors, the South Korean car manufacturer, signed an agreement with its local car distributor Dana Motors to set up a vehicle assembly plant in Nigeria within two years. (Issuu - African Review Magazine, Apr. 2014). What will happen next?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Project Mawingu - Kenya flying high

The African aviation market is one of the most interesting sectors for the growing economies of the continent. In a region with poor surface infrastructures, the development of efficient and quality airlines is essential to support expanding businesses at local and international level.

The delivery of the first of seven Boeing 787 Dreamliner marks for Kenya Airways an important turning point and progress for the implementation of Project Mawingu, the 10 year strategic plan which will increase the number of destinations for the carrier by 50% within 2021:

excerpt from  Kenya Airways website

factors contributing to this significant development::

1 -  Regional level: Kenyan flag carrier is the most important airline serving the growing economies of the East African Community  (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda) .

2 - International level: As a member of the SkyTeam consortium, Kenya Airways could count on the support of the other 19 partners. In addition is going to establish soon an agreement with Etihad reinforcing its position in the Middle East.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

International Telecommunication Union launched global project on cybersecurity

In occasion of a presentation made at the 14th edition of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC 14)  held  in Dubai and dedicated to the theme  "broadband and sustainable development", the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Hamadoun Touré introduced the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) project.

This initiative responds to the need to ensure, both at national and international level, effective and viable measures of safety and protection for those critical information infrastructures essential to each nation's security and economic well-being.
Coordination among authorities, private sector and citizens at national level and Cooperation at international level seem to be the key approach to implement ad hoc strategies for prevention, preparation, response, and recovery from incidents.

By December 2013, targeted countries were invited to participate to the benchmarking exercise aimed at assessing the current situation of each nation state against the GCI by filling out a questionnaire.
The information provided to the index allowed the Union and nation states to better address the specific cybersecurity needs of any country by setting out the most appropriate strategy of intervention and identification of most viable tools.

This joint project developed by ITU in collaboration with ABI Research with the participation of the International Multilateral Partnership against Cyber Threats (IMPACT) aims to measure and rank the level of cybersecurity of each nation state by analysing the following five main areas:

Conceptual framework


Current status

To date already 44 countries submitted their responses (green colour) and other 15 will soon provide their questionnaires. For those not replying, the index score will be calculated using secondary data.
Comprehensive data were collected for the Arab States and later processed in the  following table.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

7th April 2014 Rwanda 20 years on - a Commemoration event in Rome

Under the sponsorship of the municipality of Rome, the NGO Bene Rwanda with the contribution of John Cabot University and in collaboration with the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities organized, in the Sala della Protomoteca in Campidoglio, the event "Rwanda 20 years on". A commemoration day in remembrance of the Tutsi genocide that took place in the country in 1994. The event represented the occasion for the numerous high school students, journalists and  representatives of academic and public institutions present to revive and reflect on one of the most tragic pages of our contemporary history.
Direct evidences from survivors and an intense debate on the historical context and on the responsibilities of the international community and in particular on those of France, who leaded Opération Turquoise, the military operation established to stop atrocities,  moved more by political interests rather than by humanitarian concerns, helped the audience better understand what was going on in the small African country 20 years ago.

Programme details with the painting Years on (2013) by Bruce Clarke
After participating the event, I would like to think that the surgical and atrocious elimination of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, at that time voluntarily unheard and hidden to the public opinion, will have a sense in the end and that all those victims will contribute to model different United Nations institutions. New reforms should envisage voting systems able to really defend the interests of the humanity as a whole and not the mere political and economic interests of single states. The current veto system used by the permanent members of the Security Council weights a ton, but how can we believe in substantial reforms when those members are also the top economies of the world?
Rwanda genocide  favoured the creation of the International Criminal Court and the emergence of the Responsibility to Protect approach but what it's happening right now in Syria and could happen  in Central Africa Republic teach us that more needs to be done soon.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

How much water is needed? Great infographic from FAO

Land & Water Division from the Natural Resources and Environment Department at FAO is responsible for disseminating research papers and inform the general public as well as interested institutions, authorities and politicians on  strategies for agricultural water management addressing water use efficiency and productivity, and best practices for water use and conservation. 

In particular the Division aims at developing the following targets:

  • Integrated water resources management, 
  • Water harvesting, groundwater, 
  • Use of non-conventional water, 
  • Modernization of irrigation systems, 
  • On-farm water management, water-quality management, 
  • Agriculture-wetlands interactions, drought impact mitigation,
  • Institutional capacities, 
  • National water strategies and policies, and
  • River basin and transboundary waters management. 

The division has recently released an interesting infographic listing the quantity of water needed for the production of common beverages and foods to make the public aware of how every day gestures like taking a coffee or eating a sandwich require the use of huge amounts of water.

7th edition of World Urban Forum starting next Saturday in Medellin, Colombia

From next Saturday Medellin, second-largest city in Colombia and capital of Antioquia district, will hold the 7th edition of the World Urban Forum. More than 23,000 participants representing 160 countries already registered and are expected to gather for the Forum. The World Urban Forum (WUF) is convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) city every two years, to examine the most pressing issues facing the world today in the area of human settlements, including rapid urbanization and its impact on cities, communities, economies, climate change and policies. It is considered the World’s Premier Conference on Cities. According to current estimations, almost two-thirds of the world's urban population live in cities where income inequality has increased since the 1980s. In many cases, this increase has been staggering. The them chosen for this edition “Urban Equity in Development - Cities for Life” will point the discussion on inequalities present in urban spaces, with cities divided by invisible borders that take the form of social, cultural and economic exclusion. Slums popping up at the border of cities in most developing countries in the world are emblematic symbols of these marginalization and the face of poverty and urban inequality continue to raise perpetuating the lack of access to basic services and political representation to the most vulnerable communities. For example  1 - Gender inequality persists, preventing women from accessing secondary education, decent employment, political representation, and reproductive health care.  2 - Youth inequalities manifest in discrimination in access to education, differentiated levels of employment and livelihood opportunities, Cities, then, being the setting for the marginalization of most of the people potentially harmed by inequality are a critical component in addressing the problem.

Urban settings can contribute from different perspectives in facing the phenomenon as their  

1) Design, 
2) Governance, and 
3) Infrastructures

have direct impact on the lives and opportunities of their inhabitants. The key points of discussion for the upcoming conference have been identified in a concept paper released by UN-HABITAT in July 2014. 

Don't forget to contribute to the Forum with your tweets using official account @WorldUrbanForum and hashtag  #WUF7