Close to 3 million people access hepatitis C cure

On the eve of the World Hepatitis Summit in Brazil, WHO reports increasing global momentum in the response to viral hepatitis. A record 3 million peoplewere able to obtain treatment for hepatitis C over the past two years,and2.8million more people embarked on lifelong treatment for hepatitis B in 2016.

We have seen a nearly 5-fold increase in the number of countries developing national plans to eliminate life-threatening viral hepatitis over the last 5 years,rdquo; says Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO#39;s Department of HIV and Global Hepatitis Programme. These results bring hope that the elimination of hepatitis can and will become a reality.rdquo;

Hosted by the Government of Brazil, the World Hepatitis Summit 2017 is being co-organized by the World Health Organization and the World Hepatitis Alliance. The Summit aims to encourage more countries to take decisive action to tackle hepatitis, which still causes more than 1.3 million deaths every year and affects more than 325 million people.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that last year 194 governments committed to eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030. For sure we are still a long way from this goal but that doesn’t mean it’s some unattainable dream. It’s eminently achievable. It just requires immediate action,rdquo; says Charles Gore, President of World Hepatitis Alliance. The World Hepatitis Summit 2017 is all about how to turn WHO’s global strategy into concrete actions and inspire people to leave with a ‘can do’ attitude.rdquo;

Brazil is honored to host the World Hepatitis Summit 2017 � and welcomes this extraordinary team of experts, researchers, managers and civil society representatives to discuss the global health problem posed by viral hepatitis,rdquo; says Dr Adele Schwartz Benzaken, Director of the Brazilian Ministry of Health’s Department of Surveillance, Prevention and Control of STIs, HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis.rdquo;Brazil is committed to taking recent advances in its response to hepatitis forward � on the road to elimination.rdquo;

Progress in treatment and cure

Many countries are demonstrating strong political leadership, facilitating dramatic price reductions in hepatitis medicines, including through the use of generic medicines�which allow better access for more people within a short time.

In 2016, 1.76 million people were newly treated for hepatitis C , a significant increase on the 1.1 million people who were treated in 2015. The 2.8 million additional people starting lifelong treatment for hepatitis B in 2016 was a marked increase from the 1.7 million people starting it in 2015. But these milestones represent only initial steps � access to treatment must be increased globally if the 80% treatment target is to be reached by 2030.

However, funding remains a major constraint: most countries lack adequate financial resources to fund key hepatitis services.

Diagnosis challenge

To achieve rapid scale-up of treatment, countries need urgently to increase uptake of testing and diagnosis for hepatitis B and C. As of 2015, an estimated 1 in 10 people living with hepatitis B, and 1 in 5 people living with hepatitis C, were aware of their infection. Countries need to improve policies, and programmes to increase awareness and subsequent diagnosis.

Prevention gaps

Countries need to provide a full range of hepatitis prevention services that are accessible to different population groups, particularly those at greater risk.

Largely due to increases in the uptake of hepatitis B vaccine, hepatitis B infection rates in children under 5 fell to 1.3% in 2015, from 4.7% in the pre-vaccine era.

However, the delivery of other prevention services, such as birth-dose vaccination for hepatitis B, harm reduction services for people who inject drugs, and infection control in many health services, remains low. This has led to continuing rates of new infections, including 1.75 million new hepatitis C cases every year.

Need for innovation

Innovation in many aspects of the hepatitis response must continue. New tools required include a functional cure for hepatitis B infection and the development of more effective point-of-care diagnostic tools for both hepatitis B and C.

We cannot meet the ambitious hepatitis elimination targets without innovation in prevention interventions and approaches, and implementing them to scale,rdquo; said Dr Ren Minghui, Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases, WHO. The great successes of hepatitis B vaccination programmes in many countries need to be replicated and sustained globally in the context of moving forward to universal health coverage.

Implementation of elimination strategy

The World Hepatitis Summit 2017 will be attended by over 900 delegates from more than 100 countries, including Ministers of Health, national programme managers, and representatives from organizations of people affected by viral hepatitis. The Summit will review progress and renew commitments by global partners to achieve the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030 � a target reflected in WHO#39;s elimination strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Source: World Health Organization (WHO).

Donor club set to snub Britain on Caribbean “aid”

A British demand to use aid money to repair hurricane damage to its semi-autonomous territories in the Caribbean looks set to be blocked. Donor countries meeting today in Paris to hammer out new rules on international aid will not agree the proposals, but may consider them later, according to multiple sources.

The British want spending to help Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British Virgin Islands to come from its aid budget. This could then count towards the 0.7 percent of gross national income target set by UK law. Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel argued that hurricanes Maria and Irmajustified a waiver: this unprecedented event shows the need to consider how the impact of a natural disaster on a territory should lead to a change in how that territory [is] defined in ODA terms.

Britain needs other major donor countries to agree by consensus any change to what counts as aid, or Official Development Assistance (ODA). Britain uses definitions agreed at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and cannot change them unilaterally. Spending in middle- and low-income countries can count as ODA. However, the three Caribbean territories Patel mentioned fall in the high-income category, so any assistance sent to them cannot be accounted for as part of the global $146 billion annual ODA spend. The details get thrashed out in the OECD’s 30-member Development Assistance Committee (DAC), whose annual high-level meeting opened today.

London faces large bills in repairing damage from the hurricanes and already deployed relief and military clean-up teams. The shock to the islands might in time drive them temporarily into middle-income status, but the statistics will take years to show the change, so the British argue that getting them back on their feet should count as ODA. Some high-income small island states such as Barbados also support an ODA rule change due to their vulnerability.

The measure was never likely to pass immediately, given the slow pace of decision-making at the OECD, and the UK’s failure to pick up support in the key donor club before this week’s meeting, several sources said. DAC members may feel “uncomfortable”, and that it’s “premature” to “improvise” ODA eligibility rules at such short notice, according to Julie Seghers, OECD advocacy officer with Oxfam. Another analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, said pressure from the British populist press drove Patel’s ill-judged negotiating strategy.

Observers say the proposal is now likely to be rolled into a broader discussion (and possibly return to the agenda at next year’s meeting) about how disasters and economic shocks can cause setbacks to higher-income countries that are ineligible for aid.

Aid diluted

It’s a “difficult time for the defenders of aid, said Seghers, alluding to the pressure donor agencies are under, for example to use aid budgets to meet political priorities about migration and security.

Amy Dodd, director of the lobby group UK Aid Network, told IRIN the DAC has a key role to hold the line on “what you count and how you count it” and to ensure a level playing field amongst donors. The DAC is “fundamentally an accounting exercise”, she said, describing it as “inherently political but quite technical”.

Overall, there’s a “risk of ODA being diluted” away from core poverty reduction and sustainable development, Seghers warned, adding that DAC members ought to be the “custodians” of a principled approach, of keeping “clear boundaries” on what should and should not count as aid.

Even before dealing with the British waiver concept, DAC members were at least “keen to move ahead” with “clearer rules” on other outstanding issues, Seghers said. However, sources told IRIN that despite two years of discussion, agreement is also elusive in two important areas:

In-country refugee costs

Receiving new refugees in a developed economy can get expensive � it takes a range of processing, welfare, and integration programmes. Donors are allowed to count one year of these costs as part of their official aid, even though it’s all spent at home. As IRIN reported earlier this year, this provision has been jumped on by many European donors, some say excessively, and now accounts for $15.4 billion a year � astonishingly, more than the total of emergency aid sent abroad (about $14.4 billion). In Paris this week, these rules will be clarified. IRIN understands from those close to the process that security-related costs (police, border security, deportations, and detention) are out. However, there’s a last sticking point: how to treat the processing of asylum-seekers who don’t qualify as refugees. Should that be allowed, the rule (or loophole, depending on your point of view) will have been significantly widened.

Private sector instruments

If a donor guarantees a loan for a company working in a poor and risky country, or a development bank buys shares in a garment factory in sub-Saharan Africa, which part of that can be called ODA? Oxfam and other NGOs have listed concerns about private sector proposals that “blur the lines on commercial interests”, lack human rights and environmental safeguards, and are “way too generous” to donors, according to Seghers. Technical debates on these issue will not conclude this week, sources told IRIN.

The inclusion of two NGO representatives in the DAC talks this week � UK Aid Group’s Dodd and Tony Tujan of Filipino NGO IBON Foundation � is seen as a welcome but modest improvement in transparency. But Seghers called for greater scrutiny still of the DAC’s work: “We need more public debate about what aid is actually meant for.

Source: IRIN

Government leaders, entrepreneurs set to gather in Bahrain for UN forum on sustainable development

More than one thousand business leaders, government officials and academics will converge at a United Nations forum Tuesday in Bahrain to strengthen global partnerships, entrepreneurship and investment for the implementation of the 2030 Agendafor Sustainable Development.

As our world gets more interconnected, no one country or region can meet development challenges on its own, the President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak � who will be attending the World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum � told UN News.

The Forum offers a unique opportunity to promote entrepreneurship and innovation � both of which can help us build momentum to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he added.

Being organized from 31 October to 2 November by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in partnership with the Government of Bahrain, the World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum has the overarching theme of ‘Achieving the SDGs through promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.’

The three day Forum also includes a number of key events on the Maritime-Continental Silk Road; investing for global impact; women in industry; private sector engagement for implementing SDGs; promoting inclusive investment in Africa; and forging partnerships between entrepreneurs.

Highlighting, in particular, the focus on the role of female entrepreneurs and the challenges they face in industry, Hashim Hussein, the Head of UNIDO Investment, Technology and Promotion Office in Bahrain (ITPO-Bahrain) said that the percentage of women owning business � below 10 per cent worldwide � and challenges relating to issues such as maternity leave and working hours are indicative of the challenges they face at work.

The Forum will, therefore, discusses addressing these challenges and explore opportunities for women to be more active in the industrial arena and promote women entrepreneurship, including through access to finance and new technologies, building support networks, and managerial skills.

It will focus on the role of female entrepreneurs, partnerships for development, and the implications for achieving the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure.

It will also recognize the contributions made by prominent women entrepreneurs from different parts of the world.

Linked to the World Forum, UNIDO organized a training on understanding links between gender equality and industrial development, and designing programmes and policies that promote women’s economic empowerment.

Concluding later today, key issues and challenges identified at the training will feed into one of the Forum’s plenary sessions, informed Mr. Hussein.

Also on the agenda for the Forum is the inauguration of the Bahrain Entrepreneurs Exhibition, launch of the Maritime-Continental Silk Road Entrepreneurs Alliance and Action Plan, and the unveiling of the Coding for Girls joint initiative between the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNIDO ITPO-Bahrain, Microsoft and the Bahrain Supreme Council for Women.

Entrepreneurship the driving force for years to come � UN official

Similarly, the UN Resident Coordinator for Bahrain and the UNDP Resident Representative, Amin El Sharkawi, also underscored the importance of entrepreneurship for sustainable development given that through innovative thinking, entrepreneurs can bring new dimensions to the implementation of the SDGs .

Entrepreneurship can support the creation of wealth and develop dynamic solutions to problems and can give greater economic freedom and quality of life at the individual level, said Mr. El Sharkawi, speaking at a press conference, alongside Mr. Hussein; Samir Al Darabi, the Director of the UN Information Centre in Manama; and Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Under Secretary for International Affairs at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain.

In his remarks, the UN Resident Coordinator highlighted that through partnering with a broad range of stakeholders, the UN system in Bahrain is working to translate the global development agenda into local opportunities for business.

He expressed hope that with an understanding of sustainable development, entrepreneurs will be able to adopt sustainable business practices which would lead to better business opportunities as well as job creation.

Source: UN News Centre

Police: Danish Inventor Admits Dismembering Journalist

TALLINN, ESTONIA She was a promising young journalist, tested in trouble spots throughout the world, reporting on a Danish inventor famed for building what was thought to be the world’s largest private submarine. The story seemed to present little danger, but it cost Kim Wall her life.

The Swedish journalist’s dismembered, naked torso was found on a southern Copenhagen coast in late August and her head, legs and clothes were later discovered in plastic bags at sea. The bags also contained a knife, and heavy metal objects designed to take them to the ocean floor. Wall’s arms are still missing.

Inventor Peter Madsen � who is in custody � has offered a shifting variety of explanations for Wall’s death.

Police revealed Monday that Madsen now admits dismembering Wall’s body and throwing the body parts into a bay southwest of Copenhagen, but steadfastly denies killing her. He previously claimed she had an accident but now says she died from carbon monoxide poisoning suffered inside Madsen’s submarine while he was out of harm’s way on the vessel’s deck.

“This explanation naturally will lead the police into gathering additional statements from the coroner and the armed forces’ submarine experts,” said Copenhagen police investigator Jens Moller Jensen.

Police on Monday expanded the charges against him to include sexual assault.

Madsen, 46, is a self-taught aerospace engineer who was one of the founders of Copenhagen Suborbitals, which is dedicated to building submarines and manned spacecraft. He generated attention in 2008 with the launch of Nautilus, which was billed as the world’s largest privately built submarine.

He denies killing the 30-year-old Wall, who had carved out a name for herself in the competitive world of freelance journalism by producing a string of stories from Sri Lanka, Uganda, Cuba, the Marshall Islands, and many other countries.

The globetrotting journalist was last seen alive on the evening of Aug. 10 on the submarine, known as the UC3 Nautilus. Police believe Madsen and Wall did not know each other before their trip.

Concerns about Wall’s safety surfaced the next day when her boyfriend reported her missing. Hours later, Madsen � a celebrated entrepreneur who dreamed of launching a manned space mission � was rescued from his sinking submarine.

Investigators believe he had sabotaged the vessel despite his assertion that it had suffered a technical fault. He told authorities he had dropped Wall off on an island several hours after their voyage began.

Later, he dropped that version and said she had died in an accident on board. He said he had buried her at sea.

Madsen claimed she had slipped and suffered a blow to the head from a heavy metal hatch on the sub � but police found no indication of a skull injury when her head was finally located. Her torso was found with multiple stab wounds.

Madsen is currently charged with murder and mutilating Wall’s body. Police said Monday that the charges have now been extended to include sexual assault without intercourse.

An examination of Wall’s torso revealed wounds to her genitals and rib cage that were believed to have been caused during her death or shortly after. “We’re taking an approach that there exists a sexual motive,” Jensen told Swedish broadcaster SVT.

Danish prosecutors said earlier they believe Madsen killed Wall as part of a sexual fantasy game.

During their investigation, police found videos on Madsen’s personal computer of women being tortured, decapitated and slain. Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen said the videos are thought to be real.

The case has led Danish investigators to reopen a number of unsolved killings, including the 1986 death of a young Japanese tourist whose cut-up corpse was found in several plastic bags in Copenhagen harbor.

Police say the review of so-called “cold cases” is standard procedure and has not provided any immediate link to the case involving Wall and Madsen.

Wall grew up in southern Sweden, just across a strait from Copenhagen.

Her family said it was unimaginable that she could be killed “just a few miles from the childhood home” after reporting from so many dangerous places.

Source: Voice of America

Thailand’s Late King’s Remains Laid to Rest

The bones and ashes of Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyedaj were brought to their final resting place Sunday in the conclusion of a five-day funeral after a year of official mourning.

The funeral ceremonies drew hundreds of thousands to the streets of Bangkok, and millions more to shrines across the country.

Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana led the final royal procession on horseback to the Wat Rajabopidh and Wat Bovoranives temples where a traditional ceremony took place to lay the ashes of her grandfather.

King Bhumibol ascended to the throne in 1946 after the death of his elder brother, King Ananda Mahidol, and was among the world’s longest serving monarchs when he died. He was widely regarded as a demigod by his subjects, who had nothing but praise for his rule.

Hundreds had camped out for up to a week, hoping to catch a glimpse of the procession held under grey monsoonal skies, but with an occasional burst of sunshine. They were joined by international dignitaries from Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and the United States, where Bhumibol was born, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Since his death after a long illness at age 88 last year on Oct. 13, almost 13 million people, or a fifth of the population, have paid their respects at the Throne Hall in Dusit Palace where his remains laid in state, with a golden death mask covering his face.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn � Bhumibol’s son � presided over the pageantry culminating in Thursday’s cremation. He was often flanked by other members of the royal family and Thai elites from the military and civil society.

King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation is expected to be held in December of this year.

Source: Voice of America

Burundi Withdraws From International Criminal Court

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South Sudan’s youth: perpetrators or peacebuilders?

“There are no opportunities for youth here,” said Yar, a 20-year-old South Sudanese refugee from Jonglei, stuck in the Nyumanzi refugee settlement in northern Uganda.

Her words were echoed in conversations I had throughout my two-week visit to the settlements.

Since war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, approximately four million people, one third of the fledgling nation’s population, have been forced to flee their homes.

Today, half of those who’ve fled are living as internally displaced persons in South Sudan, and the other half have become refugees in neighbouring countries, especially Uganda.

Uganda now hosts more than one million South Sudanese refugees and more cross the border every day, fleeing violence, insecurity, and drastic food shortages in their native country.

Yar arrived in Uganda in 2014. She lost most of her family in the war and is now living alone in the refugee settlement, without much hope for the future.

“There is no opportunity for youth to study in secondary school or to get jobs,” she told me. “Young people are just sitting around doing nothing.”

The issue of youth idleness was a recurring theme in nearly all my conversations: with refugees, NGO representatives, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the Office of the Prime Minister, or OPM, which coordinates the refugee response in Uganda. 

Approximately 61 percent of the South Sudanese refugee population in Uganda is under the age of 18.  With no signs of South Sudan’s ethnically driven civil war ending anytime soon, some refugees could be displaced for 10 to 20 years, or more.

Wasted lives

If this youth population remains idle for the next decade or two, without support to address their trauma and hatred towards certain ethnic groups, there is a significant risk they could return to South Sudan to perpetuate violence through the next generation.

There are already some reports of refugees being recruited by armed forces in South Sudan, and some are willingly returning home to take up arms. 

Research has shown a strong correlation between a growing unemployed/idle youth population and civil conflict.

As US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Hayley begins a trip to South Sudan and Uganda today, she must confront this issue in the refugee settlements and prioritise the inclusion of youth in future peace endeavours. 

Large and idle youth populations are often easily manipulated, especially if there are unaddressed grievances against certain groups (ethnic, religious, political). Some individuals become so desperate that they will join armed groups to provide for themselves and their families. 

With a third of the population displaced – most of them youth – lacking opportunities, traumatised by war, and ethnically divided, the situation could become a perfect storm for perpetuating the conflict.

As Michelle Gavin, an adjunct fellow for Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations said: “If you have no other options and not much else going on, the opportunity cost of joining an armed movement may be low.”

For good reason, the humanitarian community’s emergency response to the refugee situation has focused primarily on providing for refugees’ basic needs – food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

However, by now some refugees have been displaced for more than three years. The response must also prioritise youth empowerment programmes, job training, and peacebuilding efforts to ensure they don’t become a lost generation.

Change agents

Mike Brand/IRIN
A plan of action

Today’s idle youth population represents a huge risk factor for further violence, but it does not have to be that way.

With the right training and investment, these young refugees could become productive members of both the South Sudanese and Ugandan societies, and could play a pivotal role in bringing peace to South Sudan.

Some South Sudanese youth leaders have taken the initiative to form organisations dedicated to mobilising their peers to become a positive force for change.

Among these is the African Youth Action Network, which conducts dialogue sessions and trains leaders in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Operating in both South Sudan and Uganda, AYAN brings together youth of various ethnic groups – men and women – to discuss issues related to the conflict in South Sudan, as well as issues specific to refugee communities.

“So often, youth are being regarded as only victims or perpetrators, but the great potential that we have to bring about positive change in South Sudan is neglected,” Malual Bol Kiir, AYAN’s co-founder and executive director, told me.

Kiir, who is also a member of the UN Advisory Group of Experts for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, added: “We organise dialogues and train young people on peacebuilding and conflict resolution. So far, we have 150 South Sudanese peace ambassadors across Uganda and in Juba [South Sudan].”

Given the training and opportunity of working with organisations like AYAN, South Sudan’s youth could become the change-makers their country so desperately needs. With two thirds of the population under the age of 30, the country cannot afford to have its youth sitting idle – in refugee camps or at home. 

As Ambassador Haley tries to understand the current conflict dynamics and determine how to reignite a peace process, it is imperative that she takes time to meet with South Sudanese youth leaders, and insists on the inclusion of youth in any future peace process.

Donor nations and the humanitarian community responding to the refugee crisis must prioritise the issue of youth idleness and invest in reconciliation and peacebuilding programmes.

We must engage these youths now so that they will play a leading role in bringing peace to their young nation.

mb/oa/ag

TOP PHOTO: An AYAN meeting in Rhino refugee settlement, northern Uganda

ayan_meeting.jpg Opinion Solutions and Innovations Aid and Policy Migration Conflict South Sudan’s youth: perpetrators or peacebuilders? Mike Brand IRIN We can’t afford to lose an entire generation to the war NYUMANZI Africa South Sudan Uganda

South Sudan’s youth: perpetrators or peacebuilders?

There are no opportunities for youth here, said Yar, a 20-year-old South Sudanese refugee from Jonglei, stuck in the Nyumanzi refugee settlement in northern Uganda.

Her words were echoed in conversations I had throughout my two-week visit to the settlements.

Since war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, approximately four million people, one third of the fledgling nation’s population, have been forced to flee their homes.

Today, half of those who’ve fled are living as internally displaced persons in South Sudan, and the other half have become refugees in neighbouring countries, especially Uganda.

Uganda now hosts more than one million South Sudanese refugees and more cross the border every day, fleeing violence, insecurity, and drastic food shortages in their native country.

Yar arrived in Uganda in 2014. She lost most of her family in the war and is now living alone in the refugee settlement, without much hope for the future.

There is no opportunity for youth to study in secondary school or to get jobs, she told me. Young people are just sitting around doing nothing.

The issue of youth idleness was a recurring theme in nearly all my conversations: with refugees, NGO representatives, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the Office of the Prime Minister, or OPM, which coordinates the refugee response in Uganda.

Approximately 61 percent of the South Sudanese refugee population in Uganda is under the age of 18. With no signs of South Sudan’s ethnically driven civil war ending anytime soon, some refugees could be displaced for 10 to 20 years, or more.

Wasted lives

If this youth population remains idle for the next decade or two, without support to address their trauma and hatred towards certain ethnic groups, there is a significant risk they could return to South Sudan to perpetuate violence through the next generation.

There are already some reports of refugees being recruited by armed forces in South Sudan, and some are willingly returning home to take up arms.

Research has shown a strong correlation between a growing unemployed/idle youth population and civil conflict.

As US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Hayley begins a trip to South Sudan and Uganda today, she must confront this issue in the refugee settlements and prioritise the inclusion of youth in future peace endeavours.

Large and idle youth populations are often easily manipulated, especially if there are unaddressed grievances against certain groups (ethnic, religious, political). Some individuals become so desperate that they will join armed groups to provide for themselves and their families.

With a third of the population displaced � most of them youth � lacking opportunities, traumatised by war, and ethnically divided, the situation could become a perfect storm for perpetuating the conflict.

As Michelle Gavin, an adjunct fellow for Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations said: If you have no other options and not much else going on, the opportunity cost of joining an armed movement may be low.

For good reason, the humanitarian community’s emergency response to the refugee situation has focused primarily on providing for refugees’ basic needs � food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

However, by now some refugees have been displaced for more than three years. The response must also prioritise youth empowerment programmes, job training, and peacebuilding efforts to ensure they don’t become a lost generation.

Today’s idle youth population represents a huge risk factor for further violence, but it does not have to be that way.

With the right training and investment, these young refugees could become productive members of both the South Sudanese and Ugandan societies, and could play a pivotal role in bringing peace to South Sudan.

Some South Sudanese youth leaders have taken the initiative to form organisations dedicated to mobilising their peers to become a positive force for change.

Among these is the African Youth Action Network, which conducts dialogue sessions and trains leaders in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Operating in both South Sudan and Uganda, AYAN brings together youth of various ethnic groups � men and women � to discuss issues related to the conflict in South Sudan, as well as issues specific to refugee communities.

So often, youth are being regarded as only victims or perpetrators, but the great potential that we have to bring about positive change in South Sudan is neglected, Malual Bol Kiir, AYAN’s co-founder and executive director, told me.

Kiir, who is also a member of the UN Advisory Group of Experts for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, added: We organise dialogues and train young people on peacebuilding and conflict resolution. So far, we have 150 South Sudanese peace ambassadors across Uganda and in Juba [South Sudan].

Given the training and opportunity of working with organisations like AYAN, South Sudan’s youth could become the change-makers their country so desperately needs. With two thirds of the population under the age of 30, the country cannot afford to have its youth sitting idle � in refugee camps or at home.

As Ambassador Haley tries to understand the current conflict dynamics and determine how to reignite a peace process, it is imperative that she takes time to meet with South Sudanese youth leaders, and insists on the inclusion of youth in any future peace process.

Donor nations and the humanitarian community responding to the refugee crisis must prioritise the issue of youth idleness and invest in reconciliation and peacebuilding programmes.

We must engage these youths now so that they will play a leading role in bringing peace to their young nation.

Source: IRIN

Ugandan Opposition MP’s Reject Payments as Bribes

KAMPALA The ruling party’s bid to remove the presidential age limit from Uganda’s constitution is stirring up controversy again, this time over the disbursement of a total of $3.5 million to lawmakers to fund ongoing consultations on the proposed amen…