Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010
Finalist for society, politics, history blogs



Friday, September 30, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Women in China have been subordinated too long, so that not even modernist ethics of a socialist state was potent enough to break that subordinated gender role for women. Gender empowerment starts and stops within the confines of the Communist Party in the emerging giant, and this had engendered tragic results in the past.

We can only hope that gender empowerment problems are being addressed well in the emerging power. Incidentally, international organizations are able to monitor and even provide aid interventions to ensure the gains of gender empowerment as a key facet of human development.

Small business it seems provides a key to such an empowerment process. Below is the speech by Rebecca Grynspan, official of the UNDP, on the subject.

[Philippines, 28 September 2011]


Rebeca Grynspan: Mary Kay Women’s Small Business Fund 10 Year Anniversary event

14 September 2011

Rebeca Grynspan, UNDP Associate Administrator
Mary Kay Women’s Small Business Fund 10 Year Anniversary event
Chongqing Hall, Great Hall of the People, China
Wednesday, 14 September 2011. 10.00 a.m.

Members of the media,
Distinguished guests,
ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great privilege and a pleasure to stand here amongst so many leading advocates of women’s empowerment in China and to participate in the launch of this new partnership between the All-China Women’s Federation, Mary Kay China, and the United Nations Development Programme.

UNDP has enjoyed a long and close association with the All-China Women’s Federation in promoting and advancing the status of women. It is rewarding to see how our partnership continues to evolve, and grow with new partners like Mary Kay.

I understand that over the last decade, through the Mary Kay Women’s Small Business Fund, All-China Women’s Federation and Mary Kay have forged a truly exceptional partnership to provide female entrepreneurs with the financial and intellectual support, guidance and confidence that they need to excel. I congratulate you on this strong partnership. Though each of our organisations is different, we clearly have much in common. Starting by the believe that investing in women and girls is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do from a social and economics point of view. All studies clearly suggest than one of the main accelerators to achieve ALL the Millennium Development Goals is investing in women and girls and through the political and economic empowering of women.

China is very well positioned to achieve the MDGs. China has achieved the fastest poverty reduction process in history, lifting more than 500 million people out of poverty since reforms back in 1978. This has not only greatly exceeded China’s Millennium Development Goal target, but has ensured that the world as a whole is on track. If we exclude China’s achievements the world would NOT be on track to achieve the goal of halving the planet’s population living in extreme poverty by 2015 as agreed by the world leaders in the year 2000.

China has made very strong progress toward achieving the other Millennium Development Goals too, and has in fact already met several of these goals ahead of schedule. For example, to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling, China has raised its net primary and junior high school enrolment rates above 99% in 2009.

The goals to halve the proportion of people in hunger and reduce the under five mortality rate by two-thirds have also already been met.

China’s leaders have also created a powerful vision of sustainable and equitable development and made good progress towards its attainment.

This remarkable transformation has created tremendous opportunities for women and remarkable progress has been achieved also in this front. One measure of this progress can be exemplify by the fact that according to UNDP’s calculations, whilst China ranks 89th in the world in UNDP’s Human Development Index, it ranks much higher – 38th place – on our Gender Inequality Index, a multi-dimensional measure of gender disparities.

Yet despite strong progress in advancing gender equity, women across the country and indeed, throughout the world, are still less empowered than men, be it economically, politically or socially. There is NO country in the world that has achieved Gender EQUALITY, and as in China we find all around the globe women being disadvantage with respect to salary differentials, labour force participation, access to social protection, access to property rights, political representation and the challenge of gender based violence.

This continues to be true despite tremendous achievement in gender equality in education (in many societies we speak about the reverse gender inequality gap where men are started to be less educated than women). So the reason for the persistence of inequalities cannot be attributed like in the past to women lack of preparation and education.

What explains the persistence and stubbornness of gender inequality in our societies despite all the scientific evidence, research and studies being produced? Studies have shown that employing women raises productivity and therefore adds more to GDP than men, adding more value to capital investment. The 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, for example, calculated that lack of female participation in the workforce costs the Asia-Pacific region an estimated $89 billion in lost GDP each year.

No doubt part of the explanation derives from something women movements have stated from the beginning, the invisibility and undervalue of women role and contribution to society and a kind of blindness of many of the policies and decisions with respect to the differentiated impact these actions have on women.

That is why we are convinced that progress will be slow if we leave it to a natural evolution. We need to help progress by coming together, educate and raise awareness of women needs and valuable contributions to society and to progress, recognizing that the form and evolution of this progress will be specific to each context.

So if China’s development ambitions are to be fully realised, it is crucial to further empower women to seize upon the opportunities presented by China’s impressive growth and to increase the quality of women’s economic and political participation.

For many women around the world, poverty is a matter of time as much as money. They have to spend many hours walking, for example to fetch water and wood, as a result of poor infrastructure. So we need to consider not only income poverty but time poverty as well, when designing public and private interventions in the achievement of gender equality. We all here today know exactly what we are talking about, because time poverty with respect to women if very widely spread. Many of us have struggle in life to carry out our carriers, raise a family and participate as responsible members of society. Imagine the challenge this represent for rural and poor women around the world.

We need to empower all women, especially those from poor and vulnerable communities to be leaders and decision makers in their own communities and beyond, which will promote balanced and equitable development.

And as Mary Kay and ACWF are doing, we also need to promote female entrepreneurship, ensuring that more women have access to the business opportunities that will drive China’s future prosperity.

UNDP is uniquely placed to support China in achieving these goals. We have been working with the All China Women’s Federation, under Mme. Chen Zhili’s strong leadership, as one of our closest partners. We are, for example, currently working with ACWF to help find ways to improve basic social services for women in some of the poorest rural areas.

Globally, we work to ensure that women have a real voice in all governance institutions, as well as in the private sector and civil society, allowing them to participate on an equal footing with men, and influence the decisions that will determine the future of their families and communities.

In China, UNDP has provided business development opportunities to women from poor and ethnic minority communities for more than 30 years. Beginning in 1994, UNDP was the first international organisation to pilot microfinance initiatives in China through partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and local governments and the establishment of grassroots associations. to . Since 2006, through our $7 million Poverty Reduction for Ethnic Minorities in China project, UNDP has worked with the China International Centre for Economic and Technical Exchange and the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, to create further new small business opportunities in ethnic minority communities across China.

Our experience has shown that empowering women economically not only improves livelihoods, but gives them the confidence, status and skills to participate more effectively in the management of family and community affairs. That is why UNDP’s projects are designed not only to provide women with the capital they need to jumpstart their own businesses, but also to enhance their capacity to self-manage and to organise their workforce. This generates benefits for the family as a whole, for the local community and it strengthens social capital.

These are outcomes that I know resonate with all of you here today. UNDP is delighted to be partnering with the All-China Women’s Federation and Mary Kay to take business opportunities for ethnic minority women to the next level and with it, gender equality. We look forward to combining our respective areas of expertise to develop even more effective business that integrate principles of culture-based development, organisational capacity and community leadership.

It is my hope that, over time, our new partnership will provide opportunities for many of China’s bright young women to develop their own pathways to prosperity. With the tremendous talent and commitment of women leaders like all of you here, I have no doubt that we will succeed.

Thank you very much.

Latest Speeches and Statements





Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The sordid, abominable bombing of a UN office in Nigeria by demonic jihadists claimed the lives of truly ennobled souls who were doing their sterling missions in Africa. A very shocking news indeed, as the jihadists have shown their total numbness and lack of compunction in killing their perceived enemies.

Only those possessed of the Demonic Mind will support terror groups and their abominable attacks on helpless people anywhere in our planet. The jihadists’ latest cruelty in Nigeria has all the more driven the global citizens to declare the ‘handwriting on the wall’ of religious fanaticism and intolerance.

Below is a list of names of the said bombing victims as released by the United Nations.

[Philippines, 28 September 2011]


UN releases names of Abuja bomb attack casualties

13 September 2011

Abuja, Nigeria - The United Nations in Nigeria today announced the complete list of names of 11 UN staff members among the 23 people who lost their lives in the 26 August bomb attack on the UN House in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Those killed in the attack were: Ms. Rahmat Abdullahi, UNDevelopment Programme (UNDP); Mr. Musa Ali, World Health Organization (WHO);Mr. Johnson Awotunde, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Dr. Edward Dede, WHO; Mr.Elisha Enaburekhan, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); Mr.Ahmed Abiodun Adewale Kareem, UNICEF; Ms. Ingrid Midtgaard, UN Office on Drugsand Crime; Mr. Iliya David Musa, UNDP; Mrs. Felicia Nkwuokwu, UNDP; Mr. StephenObamoh, UNDP; Mr. Abraham A. Osunsaya, WHO.

“These men and women devoted their lives to improving the living conditions of ordinary Nigerians across the country,” said Mr. Daouda Touré, UN Resident Coordinator. “We will never forget them. Nor will we forge tthe passion and courage with which they proudly served the mission and ideals of the United Nations.”

An additional 116 people were injured in the Abuja explosion, including 64 UN staff members, 36 non-UN staff and 16 who currently remain unidentified.

Since 26 August, the UN has focused attention on securingmedical care, counselling and other essential needs for staff members and theirrelatives. The Nigerian government has been ensuring medical coverage forinjured non-UN staff.

UN work in the country continues with a business-continuity plan and ongoing delivery of the organization’s 2011 programme focused on improving the lives of the poor, addressing hunger, disease and illiteracy, and promoting respect for civil rights and freedoms.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:

  • Charles Nosa Osazuwa, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Information Center (UNIC):; +234.803.402.2085
  • Kelechi Onyemaobi, Communication Specialist, UNDP, +234.705.296.5692, ;
  • Seyi Soremekun, Communication and Information Officer, UNESCO: ; +234.803.303.0002





Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Where has the world gone to after the concurrence of the Kyoto Protocol? We can still recall how, after all the wrangling and quizzing for a ‘final solution’ to the global warming problem, when the USA as the expected leading nation to support the protocol behaved instead on the contrary!

The Northern powers who did so much of the backdoor squeeze to bamboozle developing countries into supporting the protocol, ended up being cold to their respective countries’ commitment to the Protocol’s jack-rabbit start. Look at all the stubborn resort to fossil fuel including nukes that have demonstrated their destructive powers when unleashed upon nature without control.

As of this writing, financial institutions across the globe have expressed grave concern over the post-Kyoto wrangling and lackadaisical commitments of the North to the full protocol execution. So much of forest reserves were already destroyed across the globe by the greed of market players, so the big challenged posed unto the market stakeholders and states is the stronger implementation of forestry-based carbon markets. Will the challenge ‘bite the dust’?

Below is a report from the UNDP about the latest developments on the subject.

[Philippines, 27 September 2011]


Financiers call for forestry-based carbon markets & warn of huge cost of failure

13 September 2011

Geneva - A coalition of the world's foremost financial institutions brought together by the United Nations warns in a report released Tuesday against the huge financial and environmental losses that could stem from a post-Kyoto climate change deal that fails to spur private sector investment into deforestation and forest degradation reduction efforts.

With the new report, REDDy-Set-Grow Part II: Recommendations for international climate change negotiators, over 200 leading actors of the financial sector united under a partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) call on country negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to follow through with their previous commitment, incorporated into the 2010 Cancun Agreements, to an international policy architecture for deforestation and forest degradation reduction in developing countries (a scheme known as REDD+).

The new study asserts that any post-Kyoto climate convention negotiated in Durban and beyond must include text that clarifies the fundamental role of private engagement and investment in funding REDD+, as well as effective measures to tackle the fundamental drivers of deforestation by shifting behavior in the private sector towards sustainable land-use. A positive outcome in Durban would also send an encouraging signal to Rio+20 in June next year with one of its two key themes being the Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

The report highlights the huge costs for the world economy and the global environment of policy-makers coming short of fulfilling these criteria.

An ineffective climate change regime on forests would entail losses in the global economy of $1 trillion per year by 2100, and affect a good portion of the estimated 1 billion people who rely on forests for their livelihood, according to previous research (Eliasch Review, 2008).

In contrast, a healthy forestry-based carbon market could achieve to mobilise investment for the protection and rehabilitation of natural forests in the order of $10+ billion by 2020 (The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity - TEEB, 2010).

"The fundamental reason for current levels of deforestation worldwide is that cleared forests translate into economic opportunity for farmers, local communities and governments while standing forests do not. There is a price for soybeans, palm oil, beef and other products grown on deforested lands, but not for the many critically important services provided by healthy forests, including the sequestration and storing of carbon," said BNP Paribas' Director - Environmental Markets & Forestry, Christian del Valle.

"With the possibility of a global funding mechanism for REDD+ we now have, at the global level, the unprecedented opportunity to address this imbalance. I hope we do not miss it so that natural forests are given the value they deserve," he added.

Sufficient funding of REDD+ mechanisms, if achieved, could be a key boost to efforts to hold the global temperature rise below 2 Degrees Celsius - a target previously agreed by governments - by scaling up current efforts to protect carbon-absorbing forests.

The price tag associated with halving global deforestation and forest degradation at the required scale and speed to meet internationally agreed targets is steep, however, having previously been estimated to amount to a mammoth $17-$40 billion per year (Eliasch Review, 2008; UNEP Green Economy Report, 2010).

With total government pledges for REDD+ adding up to $7 billion, REDDy-Set-Grow Part II stresses that plugging this gaping funding hole will require the close involvement of private finance, which has so far been on the margins of the funding debate.

"The banks, insurers and investors that are members of the UNEP Finance Initiative are optimistic that governments, when meeting in Durban this December, will realise the importance of mobilising private capital to help reduce deforestation and forest degradation," said Abyd Karmali, Managing Director and Global Head of Carbon Markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a member institution of UNEP FI.

"Without the systematic involvement of the private sector, ranging from institutional investors to local forest cooperatives, the REDD+ mechanism agreed to in Cancun risks being rendered ineffectual."

REDDy-Set-Grow Part II further articulates the features which the private financial sector would like policy-makers to include in a new climate change treaty to summon sufficient funds.


Among the specific policy recommendations formulated in the report are the details of a policy scenario, coined as the "nested approach," deemed most likely to close the REDD+ investment gap.

Under a nested approach, a future REDD+ funding mechanism would be:

  • Inclusive: Private entities (such as forest concessionaries or forest cooperatives) as well as governments (at both the national and sub-national level; such as central governments or municipalities) would be eligible to develop and implement forest conservation, rehabilitation or reforestation activities and to receive payments based on performance for these initiatives, with the desired effects of both spurring the multiplication of REDD+ projects and reducing possible red tape and risks commonly associated with weak governments.
  • Decentralised and reliable: Payments for REDD+ projects would come from the generation of REDD+ carbon credits and their trade on international carbon markets rather than from currently cash-strapped donor country budgets. In other words: the burden of reducing, halting and ultimately reversing deforestation would not be borne by tax payers in developed countries, but by carbon polluters (or emitters). In addition to increasing the reliability and potential volumes of performance-based payments, such a market-based system would provide a strong real-price signal.
  • Leakage-proof: Risks that successful deforestation reduction efforts in a given region be used to justify increased deforestation in another one - a phenomenon commonly known as "leakage" - will be mitigated by the enforcement of a national baseline. The baseline will aggregate project-level performance indicators into a country-wide performance indicator.

The report also calls for reforms to forest-based projects under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which the financial sector would like to see improved - namely with the creation of permanent carbon credits - in a post-Kyoto regulatory environment.

"Our position is simple: our involvement is direly needed, and we wish to get involved. But we cannot do so unless it makes basic commercial sense to us," said Armin Sandhövel, CEO of Allianz Climate Solutions, another member institution of UNEP FI.

"With this report, we wish to state with one voice, as an industry, that policy-makers must urgently put in place viable avenues and formats for upscaled private sector investment and involvement in REDD+ by, firstly, redoubling efforts to agree on a climate change deal that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, and secondly, making policy decisions that will make investments in the protection, rehabilitation and creation of natural forests more competitive against conventional, unsustainable options. This report says how that can be done," he added.

Part I of REDDy-Set-Grow, released earlier this year, cast a spotlight on the abundance of untapped opportunities in current and emerging forest-carbon markets.
Further Quotes

Paul Clements-Hunt, head of UNEP Finance Initiative: "The climate-change mitigation debate has not kept apace with the finance community's rapidly growing understanding of its critical role in enabling and driving the shift to the green and low-carbon economy, with the result that the views of one of the world's most economically influential sectors are currently largely unaccounted for in international climate change negotiations."

"Private banks and investment funds can contribute to the global struggle to mitigate climate change. Our detailed recommendations on financing forest-based mitigation hopefully bode the beginning of a new dialogue between the finance community and governments," he said.

Contact Information

Nick Nuttall
Acting Director Division of Communications and Public Information/UNEP Spokesperson
+254 733 632755

Sebastien Malo
UNEP FI Communications
+41 22 917 8465 / Mobile: +41 78 686 7022

Stanislav Saling
Communications Specialist
+ 1 212 906 5296

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Thursday, September 29, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

We have been experiencing worldwide the upswings in disaster-conflict interface. In certain areas of the Horn of Africa, for instance, where hunger now stokes millions of refugees, the relief operations are severely hampered by jihadist groups that have undercut the supply lines between aid groups and hungry refugees.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts are of the opinion that governance is the key to an appreciable management of the disaster-conflict interface. “Governance is a Key Enabler,” goes the thesis of the UNDP, which this development stakeholder agrees with.

Below is the news report coming from the UNDP about the subject.

[Philippines, 27 September 2011]


Disaster-Conflict Interface: One Abets the Other, but 'Governance is a Key Enabler'

12 September 2011

GENEVA—Disasters and conflicts frequently occur together, often devastating countries that are least able to sustain them, but good governance can speed recovery and lessen the likelihood of recurrence, according to a new UNDP study.

In most instances, the disaster-conflict interface increased the risk of future crises and hampered crisis recovery efforts,” says Maxx Dilley, Officer in Charge of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery (BCPR) Disaster Risk Reduction and RecoveryTeam and author of the study “Disaster-Conflict Interface.”

The report examines interactions between conflict and disasters associated with natural hazards. It presents an unprecedented survey of cases in which conflict and disaster coincide—each a complex phenomenon in its own right, as in the worsening Horn of Africa crisis.

In all case studies, conflict was found to have an adverse impact on disasters where both are present,” Dilley says. Taken together, these cases “highlight the importance of governance as a key enabler of both disaster reduction and conflict prevention.”

The study argues for developing an integrated pool of staff with expertise in conflict and disaster risk-management, but also including governance, environment, and poverty practitioners, he says.

The unfolding famine in the Horn of Africa—now facing its worst drought in 60 years—is a case in point. Long-running conflict has increased vulnerability to drought and severely hampered humanitarian access to the worst-affected areas, triggering a flood of famine refugees.

U.N. officials this week said Somalia’s famine has spread to a sixth region and warned at least 750,000 people are at risk of dying in the next four months in the absence of scaled-up aid. Tens of thousands have already died, mostly children.

“This makes the humanitarian response more complex, imposes additional stress on host communities which are themselves affected by the drought, and heightens the risk of conflict over resources,” Dilley says.“Increased inter-communal violence has been reported throughout the drought-affected rural areas due to the scarce availability of water and pastures.”

A comprehensive response must include scaled-up support for more responsive, accountable, and resilient governances, he said.

Following is an interview with Maxx Dilley, Officer in Charge of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery (BCPR) Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery Team and author of the study “Disaster-Conflict Interface.”

What prompted this report?

“The Disaster-Conflict Interface study was undertaken as a joint effort to improve the evidence base for pursuing crisis prevention and recovery comprehensively when both disasters and conflicts, or related risks, are present. The study was intended to inform the broader practice of crisis prevention and recovery—in an environment in which disaster losses continue to rise: In 2010, 373 natural events, such as earthquakes, floods, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, and droughts, affected some 208 million people, causing 300,000 deaths, and producing economic losses estimated at US$110 billion.

“More than 80 countries are meanwhile identified as facing violent tensions, and 22 of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are in the midst of or emerging from violent conflict. As you can see right now in the Horn of Africa, many of these countries are highly exposed, and vulnerable, to natural hazards as well.

“In cases such as the Horn of Africa, where a major hazard event has occurred in a context of conflict and heightened conflict tensions, BCPR is working with UNDP Country Offices to ensure that their recovery and long-term risk reduction programmes address both conflict and disasters holistically.This includes, for example, addressing hazard-related risks through livelihood programmes that also promote conflict recovery, and addressing conflict risk factors through programmes that provide immediate drought recovery assistance.”

What do you want policy advisers to take away from this study?

“The case studies highlight the importance of governance as a key enabler of both disaster reduction and conflict prevention. Conflict-ridden countries have difficulty attaining the necessary level of social cohesion needed to address the root causes of disasters. Conflict inhibits development broadly, including increasing disaster risks and losses due to increased vulnerability to natural hazards. Conversely, reduction of disaster losses contributes to sustainable development and therefore—at least indirectly—to reduced conflict risk.

“The case studies suggest that potential exists for addressing the disaster-conflict interface more systematically. For example, the research for this study identified a significant variation in the capacities, approaches, and prioritization of these issues across the nine UNDP Country Offices. In most cases, staff were in the initial stages of learning about these issues and related programming approaches. Awareness-raising, advocacy, and capacity development must all be scaled up.”

What did you aim to achieve with this study? Has this nexus been studied at UNDP in the past?

“This bureau, BCPR, launched the study to explore the interface between conflicts and disasters through an empirical approach based on actual country cases—it’s the very first study on this topic undertaken in UNDP. BCPR is working in many developing countries that experience both disasters and conflict at the same time.

“Contexts in which conflicts and disasters overlap are daily realities for people who are affected, as well as for many humanitarian and development practitioners. Effective programmes to manage crisis interventions need to reflect conflict-disaster complexities and respond to them in a holistic and integrative manner. Experience has also shown that development interventions that fail to recognize the link between disasters and conflict in at-risk countries can worsen tensions and increase risk. While intuitively it makes sense to assume that the geographical overlap of both disaster and conflict worsens the impact of crises, evidence for this is limited. Analyses of concrete case study observations are also limited, and those that do exist come from different unconnected disciplines. In an effort to share the experience in operating in conflict-disaster interface settings, BCPR undertook this analysis in 2007.

“The study aims to achieve a comparative analysis of tendencies and experiences that stem from the relationship between disasters and conflict. It also analyses the relative success of existing relevant programming approaches adopted in-country. This will help identify practical approaches and disseminate good practice, helping to better equip UNDP Country Office staff who operate in complex environments in which disaster and conflict overlap.”

You focused on examples from nine countries. Which disaster-conflict interactions struck you most vividly? What did they have incommon?

“The study is based on experiences from nine selected case-study countries: Bolivia, Haiti, Indonesia (Aceh), Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Each case study analyses the dynamics of the interface, as well as strategies and interventions across agencies, and particularly focuses on UNDP approaches and good practices.

“A disaster-conflict interface happens when disasters (risks, events, and recovery) have a relationship with conflicts (risks, events, and recovery) and/or vice versa, beyond simple geographic/demographic co-location. Each interface is a complex phenomenon in its own right. But commonalities recur. In all case studies, conflict had a harmful impact on disasters. In most instances, the disaster-conflict interface increased the risk of future crises and hampered crisis recovery efforts. This was particularly obvious at the local level, with widespread examples of problematic interactions between disasters and conflict.

In most case studies examined, the interface of disasters and conflicts was overwhelmingly harmful, worsening the risk of future crises and hampering crisis recovery efforts. In all case studies, conflict was found to have an adverse impact on disasters.”

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Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A graciously good news has been coming out lately from the enclaves of international organizations as their respective institutions have been stretching out their tentacles and logistics in aid of the famine victims in the Horn of Africa.

In my past notes, I already shared the information about the interventions done by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) in the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the hungry 11 Millions of affected Africans. As of late, the World Bank and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have entered the scene in aid of the miserable millions.

As of this writing, the World Bank and UNHCR jointly reported that their synergy will benefit approximately 550,000 famine victims. That represents 5% of the total of 11 Millions of pauperized hungry refugees, though it is already appreciable a move as other organizations, inclusive of international NGOs, are also on the move to aid others.

Below is a summary of the aid coming from the World Bank news rooms.

[Philippines, 26 September 2011]


World Bank, UNHCR Join Efforts in an Emergency Response to Malnutrition and Disease in Horn of Africa Refugee Camps

Press Release No:2012/074/AFR

Some 550,000 people, mostly women and children, expected to benefit

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – Over half a million people, mostly women and children, will be able to access nutrition, health and sanitation services in refugee settlements along the Somali border in Kenya and Ethiopia as a result of a US$30 million grant which the World Bank announced today.

The grant is drawn from the $250 million earmarked for the Horn of Africa drought through the Crisis Response Window (CRW) recently established as part of the International Development Association (IDA)—the World Bank Group’s fund for the world’s 80 poorest countries—to respond in a timely manner to emerging crises in low-income countries.

The $30 million grant will be administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under the Horn of Africa Emergency Health and Nutrition Project, which is one of several initiatives undertaken by the World Bank to respond to one of the worst droughts in the Horn of Africa sub-region in more than half a century.

The drought has caused deaths, widespread hunger, massive displacement, and loss of means to survive in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, where the United Nations has declared a famine. Nearly 13.3 million people across the sub-region are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

Specifically, the grant will help reinforce ongoing UNHCR relief efforts with an emphasis on the most vulnerable, notably women and children. Targeted activities include measures to combat malnutrition (such as nutritious food and micronutrient supplements); basic health services, including pediatric and maternal care; and immunization. In addition, grant resources will be used to expand access to safe water and sanitation services, and to prevent and treat common illnesses such as diarrhea, measles, and malaria.

“When communicable diseases are addressed in densely populated environments such as refugee settlements, it is not only refugees who benefit, but also their host communities,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “The funds granted today will allow us to expand coverage of essential health, nutrition, and sanitation services in the largest refugee camps in the Horn of Africa.”

Over the 18-month span of the project, it will help address the immediate needs of refugees in targeted camps, including those in the Dadaab complex in Kenya and the Dollo Ado area of Ethiopia, where there are nearly 600,000 Somali refugees.

Data collected at the camps shows alarming rates of severe acute malnutrition, especially among children under five years of age. Water shortages are also frequent. New refugees arriving at these sites are weak and prone to illness, and children are particularly at risk of dying of malnutrition and diarrheal diseases.

“The scale and severity of the Horn of Africa drought compels development agencies, governments, and NGOs to work in close collaboration in ways that maximize the comparative advantage of all partners,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region. “This approach ensures that we do not lose sight of the links between short-term crisis mitigation and the long term development outlook.”

The deadly nature of the drought has prompted the World Bank’s Board to allow unprecedented measures. This is the first grant through the Crisis Response Window issued directly to a UN agency. It is also the first time that the implementing entity’s procedures – not World Bank procedures - will be used through the life of this project, thus enabling an exceptional application of the 2008 Fiduciary Principles Accord signed between the Bank and the United Nations to this IDA operation.


World Bank: Kavita Watsa, (+1) 202 473 8302,

UNHCR: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, (+41) 79 249 3483,

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Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The Arab Spring has revealed the chasm that divides the youth and older generations in the Middle East & North Africa or MENA. The development gains across the MENA has been very uneven to say the least, with state weaknesses singled out as the greatest bottlenecks to prosperity.

Beyond the surface however lies even greater realities about weak institutions in the MENA. Such weaknesses could have generated the disappointments and frustrations of the pan-Arab youth, frustrations that have erupted to social turmoil that called for the overthrow of established regimes.

It is even further revealing to note the weak financial institutions across the MENA, which could baffles us somehow. MENA was among those that introduced zero-interest financing in antiquity, a framework and ‘best practice’ that drove wealth generation to successes of immense proportions.

Below is a special report from the World Bank’s news rooms concerning the rather baffling financial weaknesses in the MENA. The clear challenge to Arabs of the day is: reform your financial institutions!

[Philippines, 26 September 2011]


Building Financial Institutions as Solutions to Frustration and Exclusion

Press Release No:2012/072/MENA

An agenda for the Middle East and North Africa

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – Financial systems across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) proved resilient during the global financial crisis and subsequent political shocks but have failed to provide access to finance, contributing to the region’s relatively weak growth performance and inability to generate jobs. This in turn has contributed to the deep-seated frustrations of the region’s large youth populations, say the findings of a new World Bank report.

“We began work on this report with our partners in the Arab Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank and the Union of Arab Banks, well before the Arab Spring,” says Roberto R. Rocha, Senior Adviser and principal author of Financial Access and Stability: A Road Map for the Middle East and North Africa. “Many of our findings now have even sharper relevance in the light of the protests that have reflected popular discontent with systems where opportunities are few, competition limited and access to finance constrained.”

The report describes MENA’s financial sectors as dominated by large, well-capitalized banks, but largely undiversified and uncompetitive. Essential non-banking financial institutions such as insurance companies, mutual and pension funds, leasing, and factoring, are not well developed with few exceptions. Equity markets are large in many countries, but mainly dominated by financial institutions and infrastructure companies. Private fixed-income instruments and markets remain negligible.

And notably, the region’s banking systems have failed to provide broad, sound and equitable access to finance. They have very high loan concentration ratios, reflecting the focus of banks on providing loans to large and well-connected enterprises and industrial groups while only 20 percent of MENA’s small and medium enterprises have a bank loan or a line of credit, one of the lowest shares among emerging regions. This has constrained their capacity to grow and generate jobs.

The number of deposits and loan accounts per adult are also low by international standards and microfinance penetration remains disappointing. The lack of access to finance is also reflected in the low share of mortgage loans in loan portfolios.

“We see large numbers of university graduates who don’t have access to opportunities and jobs; we see young couples who can‘t get married because the housing finance market is almost non-existent,” says Loic Chiquier, Director of Finance at the World Bank. “All this just increases the sense of economic exclusion and political discontent.”

The lack of access to finance is due to weaknesses in financial infrastructure, insufficient competition in the banking sector, and gaps in the legal framework preventing the development of alternative sources of finance. The report recognizes that the structure of MENA’s banking systems is evolving in the right direction, but that levels of competition are still weak. The reduction in the share of state banks bodes well for the future, says Rocha but banking systems remain less competitive than those in other regions, due to a massive presence of the state in some countries, stricter entry requirements, weak credit information systems preventing a level playing field between small and large banks, weak regulation of large exposures and connected lending, and lack of competition from capital markets and non-banking institutions.

We’ve had a fantastic working relationship with our partners in building the statistical and analytical basis for these findings and conclusions and I think there is wide acceptance that while the financial sector is now part of the problem, it needs to be – and can be – part of the solution,” says Rocha.

This would mean implementing a comprehensive and integrated agenda for improving access and preserving stability, he adds. The report examines how this agenda needs to include three sets of mutually reinforcing reforms to be successful: the strengthening of financial infrastructure, improvements in bank competition, and the development of non-banking institutions and financial instruments. Critical though is complementing these reforms with a financial stability agenda ensuring that financial systems remain resilient as access is expanded and new risks emerge. Experience from elsewhere, notably central Europe, had shown the dangers of quickly improving access to finance without shoring up stability.


In Washington: Tina Taheri, (202) 725-0719,;

Esther Lee Rosen, (248) 935-0510,

For a link to the report, please click here.

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