IMF Executive Board Approves US$1.24 Billion in Financial Support for Iraq

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On July 29, 2015, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved SDR 891.3 million (about US$1.24 billion or 75 percent of quota) for Iraq under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI)

The purpose of this financial assistance is to help Iraq address present and urgent balance of payment and budget needs in 2015 related to the ISIS insurgency and a decline in oil prices. The IMF financing will support the authorities’ current economic program, which includes fiscal adjustment measures and structural reforms.

Following the Executive Board’s discussion of Iraq, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair of the Board, issued the following statement:

“The twin shocks faced by Iraq from the ISIS insurgency and the drop in global oil prices have severely widened the government deficit and caused a decline in international reserves. The authorities’ policies to deal with the shocks, including sizable fiscal adjustment and maintenance of the exchange rate peg, go in the right direction. Access under the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument will help address Iraq’s urgent balance of payments and budget needs. However, large fiscal and external financing gaps remain.

“The large financing gap calls for the rigorous implementation of the authorities’ policies, but also additional fiscal adjustment measures and identification of domestic and internal financing. In this context, it will be important to implement the new electricity tariff schedule as soon as possible, or adopt compensatory measures. Looking ahead, the authorities should lay the ground for medium-term structural reforms that would better support macroeconomic policy management and boost the economy’s resilience to shocks.”

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3,400 refugees receive digital identity cards in Western Equatoria

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 JUBA, South Sudan (July 31) – This month UNHCR and South Sudan’s Commission for Refugee Affairs (CRA) jointly issued and distributed some 3,400 digital identity cards to refugees in Western Equatoria. This includes nationals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic who fled to South Sudan between 2008 and 2010 to escape attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army. But also some Sudanese refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

“Identity documents are essential for refugees”, says Isabelle Misic, UNHCR Assistant Representative on Protection in South Sudan. “Even in a place like South Sudan where the consequences of being undocumented are less drastic than in other countries, it is crucial that refugees are able to prove not only their identity but also that their presence in the country is lawful.” Identity cards are key in the protection of refugees. Foreseen in the 2012 South Sudanese Refugee Act, they enable refugees to freely move within the country and access services and assistance. 

The distribution of ID cards followed a two-week biometric verification exercise whereby UNHCR collected up-to-date, complete and reliable data of refugees living in Makpandu and Ezo settlements as well as the rural areas of Maridi, Source Yubu, Tambura, Andari and Naandi. The results of this exercise show that the refugee population of Western Equatoria has slightly decreased from 10,707 to 8,921 individuals. “We registered the vast majority of these refugees in 2009”, says Misic. “After so many years, it is important that we have updated records on their family composition, births, deaths and marriages and we know the real needs of the sick, elderly and other vulnerable people.” 

 Biometric technology was used to verify and record bio-data of the refugee population into UNHCR registration database. “Refugees were interviewed, photographed and finger-printed before being issued an ID card”, says Misic adding that the use of biometrics facilitates the confirmation of refugees’ identity -even where they lack other documentation- and minimizes the instances of fraud. “If they lose their ID card, they can approach us to get a new one in no time”, she says.

 Since the launch of biometric verification and documentation of refugees in June 2014, nearly 10,000 refugees received a digitized ID card. This exercise will continue in the coming months. The short-term plan, says Misic, “is to issue an ID card to all refugees living in camps and urban areas in Central and Western Equatoria.”

 South Sudan, Africa’s youngest country, is currently host to more than 265,000 refugees. 

USAID LAUNCHES WAU CIVIC ENGAGEMENT CENTER

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 The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a new Civic Engagement Center in Wau, which will serve as a neutral platform for civil society to access information, share meeting space with other civil society organizations, improve communications between these organizations, and offer education to members of the local community.

The Civic Engagement Center will also highlight civil society’s work in conflict mitigation, reconciliation, transitional justice, the delivery of critical services, and other community-driven issues.  “Communities throughout the country are looking for civil society organizations to represent their concerns and advocate for sustainable peace,” said U.S. Ambassador Mary Catherine Phee, who visited Wau July 28 to inaugurate the new center.

 Civil society organizations directly support citizens by delivering key social services, advocating for important community issues, and serving as a key link between communities and government. However, many civil society organizations lack the resources to maintain permanent office space, access the Internet, or implement long-term programs that will raise community concerns and improve government responsiveness, particularly at the state level.

With USAID’s support, civil society organizations in Western Bahr el Ghazal will have access to free Internet with space to organize coalitions and implement programs that are important to the local community. The Wau Civic Engagement Center will now be able to promote an active civil society community that represents citizen needs and participates in public affairs.

 The project is implemented by a consortium that includes Democracy International and the Public International Law and Policy Group. The project is operating a similar Civic Engagement Center in Juba with plans for an additional center in Yambio.

UN Humanitarian Chief calls for end to fighting in South Sudan

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(Juba, 25 July 2015) – The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, concluded a four-day visit to South Sudan today, calling on all parties to lay down their arms and commit to sustainable peace to halt the rapidly spiralling humanitarian crisis.

During his mission, Mr. O’Brien met with humanitarian partners, Government officials and the diplomatic community, and visited communities affected by the conflict in Juba and Unity State.

“I am deeply shocked by what I have seen. Innocent civilians are bearing the brunt of this brutal war,” stated the Emergency Relief Coordinator. “Families have endured horrendous atrocities – including killing, abduction, and the recruitment of children into armed groups. Women and girls have been beaten, raped and set on fire. Entire communities have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Many people are starving, living in swamps or in bushes, hiding in fear of their lives. This senseless cycle of violence must stop.”

The UN humanitarian chief called on the leaders of the warring factions to take responsibility for their own actions and for those who act in their name; “I call on the leadership of South Sudan to listen to their people and lay down their arms, to stop the violence, reconcile their differences and commit to peace.”

The humanitarian consequences of the nearly 20-month long conflict in South Sudan are grave: Some 4.6 million people are severely food insecure, with a quarter of a million children at risk from rapidly worsening nutrition. Massive displacement continues – over two million people, half of whom are children – have fled their homes. This includes some 1.6 million people displaced inside South Sudan and almost 600,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries.

“Humanitarian needs are higher now than ever and we cannot wait to respond, to do even more than brave humanitarians are already delivering. I appeal to the international community to act now to avert an even greater humanitarian tragedy in South Sudan,” noted Stephen O’Brien.

The South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2015 is currently only 42 per cent funded, leaving a gap of nearly $1 billion dollars.

Businesses called to actively support conflict prevention in East Africa.

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23 July 2015, Zanzibar — IGAD’s Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) and the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) in collaboration with the Government of Zanzibar, the East African Community (EAC) and Common Market for Easter and Southern Africa (COMESA) convened a business leaders roundtable on “Addressing the nexus between Business and Peace,” on 22 July 2015 in Zanzibar.

The seminar formed part of the agenda of the GPF’s Annual Global Leadership Conference 2015 with the theme ‘Promoting Peace security and Sustainable Development in East Africa: A Call for Moral and Innovative Leadership.’

The Business leaders roundtable seminar that brought together senior representatives of IGAD, EAC, COMESA, the African Union, political analysts and business leaders was presided over by the Secretary General of EAC Ambassador Richard Sizebera.

Ambassador Sizebera stated that there is sufficient data from the region that illustrates conclusively the nexus between peace, business and development and cited…

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Businesses called to actively support conflict prevention in East Africa.

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IMG_8711

23 July 2015, Zanzibar — IGAD’s Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) and the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) in collaboration with the Government of Zanzibar, the East African Community (EAC) and Common Market for Easter and Southern Africa (COMESA) convened a business leaders roundtable on “Addressing the nexus between Business and Peace,” on 22 July 2015 in Zanzibar.

The seminar formed part of the agenda of the GPF’s Annual Global Leadership Conference 2015 with the theme ‘Promoting Peace security and Sustainable Development in East Africa: A Call for Moral and Innovative Leadership.’

The Business leaders roundtable seminar that brought together senior representatives of IGAD, EAC, COMESA, the African Union, political analysts and business leaders was presided over by the Secretary General of EAC Ambassador Richard Sizebera.

Ambassador Sizebera stated that there is sufficient data from the region that illustrates conclusively the nexus between peace, business and development and cited statistics on the economic cost of the recent crisis in Burundi as well as the toll the threat of terrorism is having on the tourism industry in Kenya.

The seminar comprised a series of expert presentations that made a strong case for a more proactive and direct support from the private sector in conflict mitigation in the East and Horn of Africa region due to the strong mutually reinforcing relationship between of thriving businesses and peace.

CEWARN Director Mr. Richard Barno stated that the East and Horn of Africa regions have huge development potential which is being undermined by violent conflict.

Barno also recognized the huge potential business has in terms of finances, expertise and influence that can be tapped into for peace building and conflict prevention.

He added that businesses have a key role in promoting human security through delivery of basic public services and promoting inclusive development.

The Director further highlighted the untapped potential of partnerships for peace with privately owned media given media’s critical role in peace efforts and conflict mitigation.

Mr. Barno stressed the need for the private sector to engage proactively in democratization, governance and conflict mitigation initiatives – and not shy away from investing in conflict prone areas.

He underlined the need for investment in early warning mechanisms that are crucial for timely response to violent conflicts.

Other issues raised in the seminar included the need for the private sector to empower the region’s large youth population as a strategy of averting violent conflicts.

The Seminar recognized existing frameworks in IGAD, EAC, COMESA and the African Union for engagement with the private sector that can be leveraged to have businesses directly support peace building and conflict mitigation/ resolution programmes.

These frameworks include the IGAD Business Forum, the East African Business Council, COMESA’s Trading for Peace and Youth Entrepreneurship Programmes as well as the AU’s African Solidarity initiative that has been conceived as a mechanism for mobilizing resources within the continent to support countries emerging out of conflict.

Experts present at the seminar also raised the need to address the negative impact businesses could have on peace through acts of corruption and illegitimate business activities related to extractive industries; private military and security companies and financing terrorism among others.

The key outcomes of the roundtable included a recommendation for the convening of an EAC/ Horn of Africa Private Sector Summit as well as the scaling up of CEWARN Peace Dividends (amenities that serve as connectors for communities affected by conflict) to benefit more citizens in the Horn and East Africa regions.

20150723_181723 IMG_8734There was also consensus that a special focus should be paid to small and medium enterprises as avenues for promoting the peace agenda.for communities affected by conflict) to benefit more citizens in the Horn and East Africa

‘Active shooter incident’ reported at Tennessee naval center

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WTVR.com

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee — Authorities were investigating an “active shooter incident” Thursday at the Naval Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Fire Chief Randy Jackson said.

“Horrific incident in our community,” tweeted Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. “We will release details as they are confirmed. Prayers to all those affected.”

Jackson said paramedics were standing by but had not transported anyone at this time.

Photos posted on Twitter by media outlets showed police blocking a road and a large number of patrol cars.

A witness in Chattanooga, Tennessee, told CNN that she saw a man with “a high-powered rifle” fire multiple shots at her store from a silver Mustang. Gina Mule said she heard “Pow, pow, pow!” around 10:50 a.m. ET.

Chattanooga State University asked people on its main campus to stay inside because of a “confirmed shooting,” the school said on Twitter.

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