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Five Key Challenges for New UN Refugee Chief

The UN's new High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.  
Photo: Amanda Voisard/UNHCR

irinnews.org - BY Kristy Siegfried

OXFORD, 5 January 2016 (IRIN) - Getting back to work following the end-of-year break can be tough. But spare a thought for Filippo Grandi, who arrived in Geneva this week to begin his five-year term as head of the UN’s refugee agency.

Not only is he replacing António Guterres, who held the office of High Commissioner for the past 10 years and was widely revered, but he is doing so at a time when record numbers of people around the world are fleeing persecution and conflict and in need of UNHCR’s protection and support. . . .

. . . Here are five of the greatest challenges likely to preoccupy him in the coming months:

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A Different Sort of Aid for Syria?

           

Some aid organisations are helping residents of Homs' Old City start over.  Photo: B. Diab/UNHCR

CLICK HERE - REPORT - UNDP - March 2015 - Syria - Alienation and Violence - Impact of Syria Crisis Report 2014 (66 page .PDF report)

irinnews.org - by Charlotte Bailey

BEIRUT, 4 January 2016 (IRIN) - Given the brutality that has come to characterise Syria’s four-year war, it is understandable that discussion of the conflict has focused on violent deaths.

But there is another scourge destroying lives in the country: economic ruin and crippling poverty – what a UN-backed report called “an equally horrendous but silent disaster.”

Some aid organisations and policy experts are finding that with more than four out of five Syrians in poverty, traditional humanitarian aid, while necessary, just isn’t enough. So they’re advocating for, and implementing, livelihood projects – intervention to assist people’s abilities to support themselves.

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Global Stock Markets Dive on China Worries

         

The index was at the lowest level in nearly three months.  Associated Press

Wall Street has continued the rout on global share markets, with the Dow Jones, S&P 500 closing down more than 1.5% and Nasdaq down 2%.

bbc.com - January 4, 2016

It followed sharp falls in China, where trading on the main stock markets was halted early after indexes tumbled 7%.

A survey indicating China's manufacturing sector contracted again last month was blamed for the falls. . . .

. . . On Wall Street, all 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by the 2.4% fall in the technology sector. Bank stocks were also hard hit, with JP Morgan down 3.65%.

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(ALSO SEE RELATED ARTICLES WITHIN THE LINKS BELOW)

CLICK HERE - The Guardian - US stock markets open with worst performance since 2008

CLICK HERE - Huffpost Business - China Halts Trading After 7 Percent Plunge

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NGOs Speak: Their Most Pressing Humanitarian Priorities for 2016

             

South Sudan tops many aid agencies' humanitarian priority lists. as a three-year civil war exacts a heavy toll on the citizens of the country.  (Nichole Sobecki, AFP)

Following a call from the UN for a record $20.1 billion, 15 of the world's leading aid agencies were polled on their top humanitarian concerns.

mg.co.za - by Tom Esslemont - December 28, 2015

There’s one prediction for 2016 that most aid workers can make with confidence – that the new year will usher in rising humanitarian needs.

Besides displacement caused by long-term conflicts in places like Syria and South Sudan, there is also the threat of more violence in Central African Republic and hunger caused by El Nino, which is expected to bring more drought to already-parched southern regions in Africa and potential flooding in the east. . . .

. . . A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll asked 15 of the world’s leading aid agencies to name their top three humanitarian priorities for 2016. Not surprisingly, Syria topped the list of concerns. But what were the others?

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Spain Votes ‘No’ on Failed Economic Policies

                

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at a press conference in Madrid on December 21, 2015.  His Popular Party lost its parliamentary majority in elections the previous day.  Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images

Spanish voters reject the two-party system that presided over austerity and mass unemployment

huffingtonpost.com - by Mark Weisbrot - December 23, 2015

In Spain's elections last Sunday, the two parties that have ruled the country for the past three decades took serious losses. This has important implications for the future of not only the country but also the rest of Europe. It is yet another example of how and why the eurozone remains in political upheaval, six years after the global recession. 

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Vodafone Launches Mobile Cash Transfer System in Ghana Where 15M People Do Not Have a Bank Account

             

Moving money: The service, called M-Pesa, will be branded Vodafone Cash in the West African state

thisismoney.co.uk - by City & Finance Reporter for the Daily Mail - December 7, 2015

Vodafone has launched its mobile cash transfer system in Ghana where 15m people do not have a bank account.

The service, called M-Pesa, will be branded Vodafone Cash in the West African state. It allows mobile phone users to load money on to their phones, just as pay-as-you-go customers can top up their credit. 

They can send the funds anywhere in the country with a text message. Recipients can pick up the cash at shops that offer the service.

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Unmitigated Climate Change to Shrink Global Economy by 23 Percent, Researchers Find

CLICK HERE - STUDY - Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production

reuters.com - by Ben Gruber - November 16, 2015

Berkeley, California (Reuters) When the world heats up, economies around the globe will cool down. That's according to a new study which predicts that rising temperatures due to climate change will wreak havoc on economic output.  

"Our best estimate is that the global economy as a whole will be 23 percent smaller in 2100 than if we would avoid climate change entirely," said co-author of the study Solomon Hsiang, an associate professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley. 

The study looked at the relationship between temperature and economic activity in 166 countries over a 50 year period.

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CLICK HERE - Berkeley News - Study finds climate change will reshape global economy

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The White House - Memorandum -- Distribution of Department of Defense Funded Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

whitehouse.gov
Office of the Press Secretary - November 13, 2015

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT: Distribution of Department of Defense Funded Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2249a(b)(1)(B) of title 10, United States Code, I hereby:

Determine that section 2249a(a) of title 10, United States Code, would impede the distribution of urgently needed humanitarian assistance in Syria to alleviate the current refugee crisis, as well as other United States Government objectives in the Middle East for stability and humanitarian relief; and

Waive the prohibition in section 2249a(a) of title 10, United States Code, for humanitarian reasons and to the extent necessary to allow the Department of Defense to carry out the purposes of section 2561 of title 10, United States Code, for the distribution of humanitarian assistance into Syria.

You are authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

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How Technology Can Help Reboot Ebola-Free Sierra Leone

submitted by George Hurlburt  

             

The new Sensi Technology Innovation Hub hopes to help the country rebuild after its Ebola crisis

cnn.com - by Peter Guest - November 7, 2015

(CNN) - Morris Marah was working in the Sierra Leonean High Commission in London when the devastating Ebola outbreak struck his country last year.

Desperate to help, he went home; first to volunteer in a community health center, then by applying his technology skills to build an SMS-based platform that disseminated weekly information and advice on how to avoid contracting the disease to more than 500,000 people.

"I felt, sitting in London there wasn't much I could do from that far away. I wanted desperately to come out here and see how I could be useful," he says over the phone from the capital, Freetown.

Working on that platform, called Sensi, and on other public health initiatives demonstrated how successfully technology could be leveraged for social good, and inspired him to look for ways to bring the country's small, but talented, tech community together to help restart the country's stalled economy.

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How Much Did Ebola Cost Sierra Leone?

submitted by George Hurlburt

             

(Francisco Leong / Getty News Images)

cnn.com - by Peter Guest - November 12, 2015

. . . Before the outbreak, Sierra Leone was already heavily dependent on aid money. Around 50% of public expenditure programmes were financed by donors, according to UN figures. . . .

. . . Without growth and investment, the country will struggle to create jobs for its young population -- many of whom lack stable employment -- and rebuild public services.

The government's recovery strategy, which is supported by the international community, is about "building back better," says Sudipto Mukerjee, the United Nations Development Program's country director for Sierra Leone. This is particularly relevant to the health sector, which was seriously under-developed before the crisis began, and its weakness undoubtedly contributed to the speed with which the outbreak got out of control.

"When you're talking about the health sector, you're not talking about bringing it back to where you were at the beginning of the outbreak," he says. "That's not good enough. It's also about making sure that you not only build on the investments made so far, but you invest to make it much more resilient in the future."

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