Saturday, September 24, 2011

Africa must face climate change head on

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Africa must face climate change head on 
The FAO and African leaders are working together to move quickly to adopt a “climate-smart” approach to agriculture to fight the impacts of climate change and increasing scarcity of natural resources.
 “Africa needs increased productivity in its agriculture and higher incomes in its rural areas, and rural communities and the agro-ecosystems on which they depend have to adapt to climate change and become more resilient to its impacts,” Alexander Mueller, FAO’s Assistant-Director General for Natural Resources, said in remarks at the conference “Climate Smart Agriculture: Africa – A Call to Action,” convened by the Government of South Africa (13-14 September, Johannesburg).

“FAO together with its partners has developed the concept of ‘Climate-smart agriculture,’ which offers a way to deal with these multiple challenges in a coherent and integrated way”, he said.
The approach aims to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and build resilience to environmental pressures, helping farmers adapt to climate change, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This can be achieved through climate-smart practices that increase the organic soil matter and improve water-holding capacity. This also makes yields more resilient and reduces erosion, helping to mitigate climate change.

The way forward
 “Climate-smart agriculture includes proven practical techniques and approaches that can help achieve food security, climate change adaptation, and climate change mitigation,” Mueller said.
“But more support is needed. We need further piloting and scaling-up of early action programmes, we need to bring together finance and investment opportunities and make them available for developing countries. Agriculture and climate finance need to be addressed together,” he added. “Handling one at a time is not going to be enough to meet these multiple challenges,” he said.

Agriculture is key, adaptation is essential
Agriculture is the economic foundation of many sub-Saharan countries, employing about 60 percent of the region’s workforce and accounting for some 30 percent of gross domestic product.
But climate change may reduce crop yields substantially in sub-Saharan Africa by the 2050s. And some 650 million people in Africa are dependent on rain-fed agriculture in fragile environments that are vulnerable to water scarcity and environmental degradation.
A paper for the Johannesburg event prepared by the South African Agriculture Ministry in collaboration with FAO and the World Bank argues that without measures to adapt food productions to the challenges posed by climate change — and the financing to support those measures — Africa’s poverty alleviation and food security goals will not be reached.

Putting agriculture front and centre in climate talks
“The upcoming UNFCCC meeting in Durban, South Africa (28 Nov-9 Dec 2011), offers an opportunity for Africa to shape the global climate change agenda and this conference will help garner attention for the climate-smart agriculture approach,” Mueller said.
“It is a signal of utmost importance that Africa has put climate-smart agriculture high on the political agenda by convening this conference,” according to Mueller.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Mercenaries: Iraq, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea, three key reports by UN expert panel
The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries released three country mission reports on Iraq, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea, focusing on a wide range of issues such as immunity, lack of accountability, and links between mercenaries and private military and security companies.
“The reports provide insights into the experiences of three countries which have been particularly affected by the activities of mercenaries, private military and security companies, or a combination of both,” said the new Chair-Rapporteur of the UN expert panel, Ms. Faiza Patel, who presented them to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Providing security to its people is a fundamental responsibility of the State,” Ms. Patel said. “Outsourcing security creates risks for human rights and the Government of Iraq must remain vigilant and devote the necessary resources to ensure that private military and security companies – whether international or Iraqi – are stringently regulated and that they respect the human rights of the Iraqi people.” The report:

South Africa
“South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to adopt legislation which required Cabinet-level approval for the export of military and security services,” noted the Working Group’s Chair-Rapporteur. “This is a critical first step, but it remains to be implemented and must be accompanied by more direct means for ensuring redress for any human rights violations.” The report:

Equatorial Guinea
“All mercenaries should be held accountable for their actions,” Ms. Patel stressed. “Anyone accused of involvement in a mercenary-related incident should be tried by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and in compliance with international human rights standards, and treated in accordance with such standards.” The report:

Fire shows need for protection for slum-dwellers
Amnesty International on September 14 called on the Kenyan authorities to open an immediate investigation into the causes of an explosion and fire at an informal settlement in Nairobi, and to provide assistance and support to those affected.
More than 100 people are reported to have died after a petrol pipeline exploded and started a fire in an informal settlement located next to the pipe. The informal settlement, known as Sinai, is located in the industrial area of Nairobi. The fire is believed to have caused extensive damage in Sinai.
The exact cause of the explosion remains unknown, although it is believed to be linked to a petrol leak spilling into an open sewer. A police spokesman said fuel had leaked from a tank in a nearby depot.
Fire can spread rapidly in Nairobi’s slums and informal settlements. Settlements are often located in areas which make them vulnerable to fire, such as the industrial area with its petrol pipes and depots. The poor quality of construction of homes, the materials used and the overcrowded conditions in settlements can all increase the risk of fires.
This latest incident of fire starkly illustrates the particular vulnerability and inadequate conditions faced by people living in slums and informal settlements. Amnesty International urges the Government of Kenya to address the inadequate and often dangerous housing conditions in informal settlements in Nairobi to ensure that all persons are able to enjoy the right to live in security and dignity.
Amnesty International calls on the Kenyan government and the Nairobi city council to provide emergency relief to all those affected by the fire, including food, water. They should also provide shelter for those who have been left homeless by the fire, and help to increase fire safety by providing information to residents and improving access roads to ensure that emergency services are able to access such areas in the future.
Amnesty International also urges the Government of Kenya to ensure credible independent investigations into the causes of the incident and take action on the outcome of the investigation to ensure that such incidents do not take place in the future and put in place safeguards to prevent further leakages and accidents.
Since the incident, several officials including the Prime Minister are reported to have told people to move away from the area. Amnesty International recognises the dangers faced by residents of Sinai in living next to the pipeline. Where the Kenyan authorities consider that residents must be evacuated from the area, they should prioritise moving people based on an assessment of the risks they face. Such action should include the provision of temporary alternative housing where there is an imminent danger to lives. 
Procedural safeguards must be put in place to ensure that such evacuations comply with international standards on evictions. While people may have to be moved swiftly for reasons of safety, this cannot be used to justify leaving people homeless, and the state must provide the necessary support if people need to be moved. If adequate consultation and all the required procedural safeguards cannot be put in place before moving people, the authorities must meet these requirements as far as possible once people are moved away from danger, particularly in terms of compensation for their losses and consultation on resettlement, ensuring that all resettlement sites comply with the criteria for adequate housing. Source: Amnesty International

Fifth Conference of African Ministers in Charge of Integration 
Experts from the AU Member States, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), converged in Nairobi on 5 September 2011.
The theme of the Conference, “Integration and Sovereignty”, aims to find ways and means of fast-tracking the process of regional and continental integration.
The meeting was opened by Dr. Edward Sambili, CBS, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 of the Republic of Kenya, in the presence of Dr RenĂ© Kouassi N’GUETTIA, Director for Economic Affairs of the African Union Commission.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Kouassi observed that Africa’s image today is that of mark-timing Continent in comparison to the other regions of the world where integration is successfully taking root as the engine of growth and development. The reason is that in Africa the twin aspects of independence and sovereignty is, according to several observers, the main obstacle to the integration process. This explains why they are central to the main theme of this Conference.
Dr. Kouassi said that “sharing sovereignties today guarantees tomorrow’s success in the economic and political integration process. Rejecting or concealing this reality is accepting permanent marginalization of our countries and Continent in the community of Nations.”
The director for Economic Affairs concluded his remarks by saying that since integration is a joint and long-term effort, the Commission knows that it can count on the indispensable support of member States, RECs, development partners and other stakeholders to ensure a happy and quick outcome and to meet the aspirations of our people.
For his part, Dr. Sambili stressed on the push for deeper African integration must be premised on the understanding that integrating Africa’s economies will leverage Africa’s collective bargaining power in international fora, enhance its effective participation in the international economic system, and provide the continent with a platform for prudent management of trans-boundary resources.
The Conference of African Ministers in Charge of Integration, held once a year, was institutionalized by The Sirte Declaration (September 1999) of the AU Heads of State and Government. Source: African Union Commission (AUC)

AU and UN prepare for elaboration of ten year capacity building programme
A three day retreat to prepare for the elaboration of a comprehensive capacity building programme for the African Union, under the United Nations- African Union Ten Year Capacity Building Programme (TYCBP) is being held in Debre Zeit, from 7-9 September.
The focus is to see how best the two organisations can implement one of the principal recommendations of the 11th ordinary session of the AU Assembly, namely the elaboration of a comprehensive capacity building programme for the AU, NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) and the Regional Economic Communities (RECS).
The AU strategic plan is the starting point for the formulation of the programme. That plan has six programme areas i.e. peace and security, shared values, integration, development, cooperation, and institutional capacity building.
AU Commission Deputy Chairperson Mr. Erastus Mwencha told the 85 delegates attending the retreat that a capacity building programme for African Union is important to enable the institution to tackle challenges on the continent such as ensuring peace and security, human resource development, food security, infrastructural development, improving governance and health etc. The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa Mr. Abdoulie Janneh emphasized the need for adoption of concrete activities that have tangible results.
The Debre Zeit retreat is the first phase of the elaboration of the capacity building programme. It is being attended by senior management of the AU Commission, headed by the Deputy Chairperson Mr. Erastus Mwencha; the United Nations Economic Community for Africa (ECA) headed by the Executive Secretary Mr. Abdoulie Janneh; programme managers; representatives of the NPCA, African Peer Review mechanism, Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM), and Regional Economic Communities; and members of the joint RCM Joint Secretariat.
The declaration ushering in the TYCBP was signed in 2006 by the then UN Secretary General and the then Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Source: African Union Commission (AUC)

Preparations in gear for EAC military exercise ‘Natural Fire 11′
Preparations are at an advanced stage for an EAC joint military training exercise codenamed Natural Fire 11. Officers from the EAC Partner States’ Defense Forces and the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) are expected in Zanzibar from tomorrow 11 September 2011 ahead of the event’s official opening on 16 September at Chukwani Military Centre in Zanzibar. The command post exercise ends on 21 September.
More than 300 military personnel from the five EAC Partner States and the USAFRICOM will take part in Natural Fire 11, whose theme is to ensure security and foster regional stability. Natural Fire 11 follows similar exercises held in the past in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (Mainland).
“The exercise aims to develop the capacity of EAC Defense Forces to respond quickly and efficiently to complex security challenges, harmonize the working relationship among them and foster cooperation between these Forces and the United States of America,” affirms the Chair of Defense Liaison Officers at the EAC Secretariat, Brigadier General Salvator Nahimana.
He adds that Natural Fire 11 aims to enhance cooperation between regional Defense Forces, civil authorities and international organizations, and to improve interoperability between the Forces.
He says the exercise will focus on peace support operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, counter terrorism and counter piracy between 17 and 20 September.
These joint exercises were first held in 1998 as a bilateral exercise between the US and Kenya and reconfigured in 1999 as a multilateral exercise between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Rwanda and Burundi were subsequently enrolled upon joining the East African Community in 2007.
Exercises such as Natural Fire 11 are part of EAC efforts to deepen cooperation in defense by the EAC Partner States, guided by the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Defense which lays down four areas of cooperation namely: military training; joint operations; technical assistance; and visits (including sporting exchanges and range competitions as well as visits by the Chiefs of Defense) and exchange of information. The MoU was signed in 1998 and revised in 2001. Source: East African Community (EAC)

  • Courtesy of the Africa Press Organisation (APO)

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