UN bid to improve migrant, refugee response flounders as political will evaporates

More than a year after the United Nations embarked on an ambitious project to draw up two international “compacts” to better respond to unprecedented migration and refugee crises, the progress report is less than stellar.


Experts following the negotiations worry that, despite such a large undertaking, the compacts are still too little, too late. Among key concerns are that their non-binding nature weakens the promise of responsibility-sharing (already evidenced by underfunded pilot projects), and that they will merely reinforce the status quo rather than bring about any tangible improvements for forcibly displaced people.


Part of this is due to a dramatically transformed political climate. In September 2016, US President Barack Obama was leading the charge – following a global outpouring of concern over the humanitarian emergency in the Mediterranean Sea – for radical change in the way the world addresses these issues.


“I called this summit because this crisis is one of the most urgent tests of our time,” Obama said at the UN last year. “Just as failure to act in the past – for example, by turning away Jews fleeing Nazi Germany – is a stain on our collective conscience, I believe history will judge us harshly if we do not rise to this moment.”


At last year’s UN General Assembly, all 193 member states adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was the starting point for discussions on two global compacts: one for refugees and another for migrants. Fourteen months later, as the US under President Donald Trump abandons its leadership role on refugees, and after German Chancellor Angela Merkel has paid a heavy price for her pro-refugee policies, the compacts risk becoming little more than talk and, without charismatic champions, rudderless in the face of strong political headwinds.


Indeed, far-right parties have made gains across Europe as the EU and its member states strike deals with Libya and Turkey to ensure desperate migrants cannot reach European shores. Australia continues to hold refugees in offshore prisons. And, in the Middle East, countries that have hosted Syrian refugees for years are starting to force them back home.

Even if the compacts do cajole UN member states into recommitting to upholding refugee and migrant rights, the anti-migrant, anti-refugee policies they pursue could still undermine the compacts’ intent.


“I’m not saying there will be no positive outcomes,” explained Jeff Crisp, former policy chief at the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR. “But consensus at the level of agreeing to a document is not the same as actually doing practical things to make it a reality.”

Mark Garten/UN Photo
Imvepi Refugee Settlement in Arua District, Northern Uganda

What is the CRRF?


Amidst many still-vague ideas for the compacts, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, or CRRF, sticks out for its concrete objectives. Outlined in the annex of the New York Declaration, the framework aims to “provide for a more comprehensive, predictable and sustainable response that benefits both refugees and their hosts, rather than responding to refugee displacement through a purely, and often underfunded, humanitarian lens.” Ideally, this will be the modus operandi for all refugee crises going forward.


The CRRF contains four broad, ambitious and noncontroversial objectives: to ease pressure on host countries; to build refugees’ self-reliance; to expand refugee resettlement and other legal pathways to third countries; and to create conditions where refugees can voluntarily return to their home countries.


In refugee-hosting countries, this “whole-of-society” approach should draw on partners not typically involved in humanitarian responses, such as the private sector and development actors like the World Bank. Under the CRRF, refugees are not supposed to languish in camps. Rather, they should be integrated into local labour markets and schools from the get-go.


But many experts argue the framework’s ideas are not new – instead, it lists existing best practices.


“Many of the positive things that have been happening predate the CRRF but they’re being attributed to it,” said Crisp, pointing to years-old discussions to rope in the development world and promote refugees’ self-sustainability through cash vouchers. “But perhaps the CRRF can push these trends further and faster.”


CRRF “pilot projects” are currently underway in Africa and Central America. Lessons drawn are to be incorporated into a “programme of action” in the refugee compact.


But emergency responses in these settings are chronically underfunded. This sends a message to host countries that they’re on their own – both in terms of the immediate response and the longer-term CRRF goals.


For example, Uganda, which hosts 1.3 million refugees mainly from South Sudan, gives new arrivals a plot of land on which to live and farm, among other things, as part of its CRRF commitment. It requested $674 million to respond to the South Sudan crisis alone – but has received just 24 percent of this, according to UNHCR. And a fundraising summit in June raised just $352 million of an estimated $2 billion required to cover the South Sudan emergency response plus the longer-term, more sustainable response envisaged by the CRRF.


“If the response is underfunded, it makes it impossible to carry out the CRRF,” said Mark Yarnell, senior advocate and UN liaison for Refugees International in Washington, D.C. “So if host countries are trying to implement policies that are in line with the CRRF but donor countries don’t do their part, it’s tough to make the CRRF successful.”


The Rohingya crisis


While the CRRF pilot projects appear to be struggling to seriously inform the debate on the compacts, experts wonder what use the framework will be if it doesn’t address the most acute real-life emergencies of our time, such as the Rohingya crisis unfolding in Myanmar and Bangladesh. More than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought refuge in Bangladesh since late August.


At consultations around the refugee compact this fall, NGOs questioned why the CRRF does not seem to apply in the Rohingya context.


“There needs to be greater clarity in the [refugee compact] as to what constitutes a large-scale movement, and most importantly, what will be the trigger point for the implementation of the CRRF,” said the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, a coalition of some 300 civil society groups, in a written submission to a consultation event for the refugee compact.


Part of the reason for this could be the way Bangladesh has chosen to handle the influx. Frictions between the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR are on full display as Bangladesh, which is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention, has chosen the IOM to lead the crisis response instead of the refugee agency. Several senior observers told IRIN this has led to a weakening of the UN’s ability to effectively protect Rohingya refugees’ rights.


In an interview with IRIN, UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery said it is up to host countries to decide whether they will formally adhere to the framework.


“The High Commissioner has repeatedly highlighted the need for progressive adjustment in the coordination system towards a more traditional refugee leadership and coordination structure in Bangladesh,” Rummery said. “This would include one in which UNHCR can exercise in full its accountability for the protection of refugees and contribute fully its capacity and expertise. This is yet to happen.”


For now, she added, UNHCR can only do its best to support the Bangladesh government and other agencies “within the existing coordination structure…to best meet the needs of refugees.”


But refugee advocates worry the main takeaway of the Rohingya crisis is that the effectiveness of the CRRF, good intentions notwithstanding, will always be hostage to wider political issues. 


“The situation for the Rohingya in Bangladesh demonstrates that no matter what’s agreed at the UN, a non-binding declaration doesn’t mean anything for people on the ground if governments involved aren’t abiding by it,” Yarnell said. “Bangladesh deserves credit for keeping its borders open, but the whole point behind the New York Declaration is to be much better at responding to these crisis, and clearly there’s a blockage in that so much of this is political.”

Rohingya refugees take shelter from the rain in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
Verena Hölzl/IRIN
Rohingya refugees take shelter from the rain in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

What stage are the compacts at now?


The two compacts, which are still in the discussion stages, are proceeding on separate, parallel tracks.


Negotiations around the more straightforward refugee compact are led by UNHCR. The compact on “safe, orderly and regular migration”, on the other hand, is led by Louise Arbour, UN special representative of the secretary-general for international migration, along with the IOM. Two countries, Mexico and Switzerland, serve as co-facilitators.


Over the past year, a series of regional and thematic consultations have been held around both compacts in several locations around the world. They have solicited suggestions from national and regional governments, international organisations, civil society groups, academic institutions, and the private sector.


Each compact will undergo a kind of ‘stock-taking’ in the coming weeks. Member-state representatives will gather in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, from Dec. 4-6 to discuss and compile input they’ve received throughout the consultation phase. Meanwhile, the refugee compact will be the primary focus of this year’s annual UN High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges in Geneva from December 12-13.


From there, the real heavy lifting of developing the compacts will begin. After the December meeting, Arbour’s office and the IOM have until February to prepare a report on the migrant compact that will be a starting point for intergovernmental negotiations throughout next year. What the final document will look like – and whether any part of it will be binding – is still unclear.


Separately, UNHCR will devise its own draft of the refugee compact by February. It will consist of two parts: the CRRF, as already agreed by member states in the New York Declaration, and the programme of action, which will lay out steps states must take to “operationalise” the CRRF. That will kick off another set of formal and informal discussions to hammer out the details.


If all goes according to the timeline, both compacts will be adopted by the end of next year.

What is missing?


Observers wonder whether the compacts will actually bring about an improved approach to global migration governance, with higher standards and meaningful responsibility-sharing, or simply reinforce the status quo.


Many are concerned about the large numbers of forcibly displaced who don’t fall neatly into either compact. For example, internally displaced people do not seem to be covered, even though they comprise more than 40 million of UNHCR’s estimated 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. And it’s unclear where particularly vulnerable groups like child migrants, who have special rights under international human rights law, fit in.


The refugee compact is focused on responsibility-sharing, and the key player involved, UNHCR, has a mandate to protect refugees. But the migration compact is about management. And even though the IOM was recently folded into the UN system, it lacks a clear mandate rooted in international human rights law and has traditionally been a vehicle for the interests of wealthy, migrant-receiving countries.


“We are concerned that child migrants fall right in the middle,” said Pia Oberi, the advisor on migration and human rights at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “You shouldn’t have to distinguish between a migrant child and a refugee child.”


Also seemingly not covered by either compact are vulnerable migrants who “flee social and economic rights deprivations, food and water insecurity and fragile states – those who may not be regarded as refugees but would be included as part of the people who are forced to flee across borders,” said Alexander Betts, a professor of forced migration and international affairs at Oxford University and immediate past head of its Refugee Studies Centre.


The discussion of forced displacement, he added, needs to move beyond just those who fit the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Geneva Convention. And because UNHCR controls the refugee compact’s development, “it has excluded any discussion on reform of UNHCR itself and any types of cross-border displacement that falls outside the 1951 Convention,” Betts said.


Still, he said, given the difficult political context, UNHCR “has chosen to be much more cautious, and I understand why that’s the case.”


Because the compacts don’t actually exist yet, it’s hard to debate their content. Until now, debates have been centered around what should be included and, in the absence of a binding agreement, how it will all be carried out.


“Now that we’ve pretty much come to a consensus that it’ll be a nonbonding document, do we really need another declaration of a declaration?” Oberi said.


Many observers have called for some kind of monitoring mechanism within the compacts, both to hold member-states accountable and to measure progress. In particular, responsibility-sharing among member states – whether through donor funding, increased resettlement places or hosting refugees – needs to somehow be made concrete, they say.


The non-binding nature was meant to ensure more member states would agree to the New York Declaration and compacts themselves.


“But what impact will that have on state behaviour?” Crisp said. “We don’t know yet.”



(TOP PHOTO: A cultural performance about refugees from the Uganda Solidarity Summit 2017 on Refugees.)


Stock-taking sessions begin next week on two new international “compacts” UN bid to improve migrant, refugee response flounders as political will evaporates un_photo_adjusted.jpg Tania Karas Analysis Aid and Policy Migration NEW YORK IRIN Uganda United Nations HQ Myanmar Global

Troika Statement on the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s High-Level Revitalization Forum Supporting Peace in South Sudan

Begin text:

The members of the Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States) recently traveled to Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, and Kenya in support of the efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to urgently convene a High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) for the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.

The Troika remains appalled by the dire economic, security, human rights, and humanitarian crisis being inflicted on the long-suffering people of South Sudan as a result of the conflict that their political leaders have generated and fueled. The HLRF is a critical opportunity to make urgent progress. All parties have a responsibility to the citizens of this young country to participate constructively and be open to real compromise.

As a first priority, all parties must end hostilities as a sign of commitment to the HLRF � as they have pledged to do. The Government of South Sudan, in particular, must cease its pursuit of military victory and make good on its promise to end all obstruction of humanitarian assistance. The Troika also calls on the armed opposition to end all military activity and lift any barriers to humanitarian access.

The Troika strongly supports the calls that we heard from voices across South Sudan and the region for the HLRF to be inclusive, reflecting the interests of all parties, regions, and groups in South Sudan, including young people and women. The Troika emphasizes that all parties to the conflict must negotiate in good faith and work to amend sections of the Agreement that no longer reflect the reality of conditions in South Sudan, particularly those related to power sharing, timelines, and transitional security arrangements. A key goal for the HLRF should be monitored, effective security arrangements durable enough to stop the conflict, improve the human rights and humanitarian situation, and support a political process that produces an agreed path to viable elections. There must also be clear consequences for those who violate the agreement.

Alongside regional and international partners, the Troika will continue to identify and hold responsible those who work against peace, including through economic and other sanctions. They will also act against those who use their positions to fuel conflict and steal from the South Sudanese people and those who facilitate their illicit financial activities.

Source: U.S Department of State

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D.

MS NAUERT: Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. Hope you’re all having a good day. Many of you may have received a notice from us earlier today about World AIDS Day, and tomorrow is World AIDS Day, so to start with today I’d like to introduce our Ambassador Deborah Birx. Ambassador Birx is going to talk to us a little bit about U.S. global AIDS coordination and also a program called PEPFAR that I know many of you are familiar with. She’s agreed to join me to say a few words about the annual results that were released today and show that the program has received � reached, pardon me � historic highs in HIV prevention and also treatment.

At the United Nations General Assembly in September, Secretary Tillerson was proud to launch PEPFAR’s strategy for accelerating HIV/AIDS epidemic control. It is a landmark strategy set as a bold course for accelerating progress toward epidemic control and reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s leadership and commitment through PEPFAR to support HIV/AIDS efforts in more than 50 countries. PEPFAR has not only saved and improved millions of lives, but it’s also transformed the global HIV/AIDS response.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Birx. She’ll take a few of your questions and then I’ll follow up with the remainder of the briefing. I know you have a lot of questions today. Ambassador, thank you.

AMBASSADOR BIRX: Great. Thank you, Heather. It’s great to be here. Good afternoon. Just quickly, just to let you know, we are at an unprecedented moment in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. For the first time in modern history, we have the opportunity to actually control the global pandemic without a vaccine or a cure, and this is a very exciting time for us. The United States remains the key leader of the HIV/AIDS response, and under this administration leadership of President Donald Trump, we are continuing to lead in the response around the globe. Today we announced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, historic highs, as just noted by Heather. We’re actually preventing more HIV infections and saving more lives than ever before, and we’re doing this driven by transparency, accountability, and cost-effective investments.

One big reason for our great success in this last 12 months is we’ve really refined our approach and expanded our impact based on using the latest science around the globe that’s available to us and the best available data, including data down to the actual sites of where they’re delivering services to our clients. That results in enormous efficiency and cost-effectiveness across the program. We’re also ensuring that we have the greatest impact with our every dollar that’s entrusted to us from the American public, both the � demonstrating the generosity and the compassion of the American people through their taxpayer dollars.

When PEPFAR began in 2003, less than 50,000 people were on treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Entire communities were decimated. Children were living without mothers and fathers, schools went without teachers, hospitals went without nurses and doctors. And today, in these same areas, we have nearly 13 million people on treatment because of PEPFAR.

In addition, we’ve been focused over the last year heavily in prevention, in preventing new infections in men and boys. We’re using new biomedical intervention, voluntary medical male circumcision, that’s reached a historic high of 15 million; 3.4 million circumcisions just done in the last 12 months. And I think the most important announcement we have today, for the first time in the history of HIV/AIDS, we’re announcing a dramatic decline in infections in women, in young women and girls, due to our DREAMS program. It stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe Young Women. We have � we were in � 90 � in 63 districts, but 14 of them had more than a 40 percent decline in the infection rate in young women. Another 27 had declines of 25 to 40 percent in the rate of new infections, and nearly all the districts saw some improvement in the rate of infections in young women and girls. And this is the first time we’ve been able to have that kind of dramatic impact. It’s this public-private partnership. It brings the strength of the private sector with the U.S. taxpayer dollars to have and augment our response, and we’re very excited about that result.

Finally, within orphans and vulnerable children, we’re reaching over 6 million orphans and vulnerable children. We’ve prevented 2.2 million babies from being born with HIV because of care for their mothers and making sure that they receive lifesaving treatment that both saves their lives so that they can be a mother to their children, but also prevents infection in their babies.

So together today we’re excited about these new announcements, but we’re also using this time to commemorate all of the people that we have lost to HIV/AIDS, really renewing our effort to have even a bigger and better and greater response over the next 12 months and have the impact that we believe can end up with controlling this pandemic over the next three years. Thank you.


AMBASSADOR BIRX: I can take questions.

MS NAUERT: Ambassador � certainly. We can � have time to take a few questions and then I’ll get started. I know you’re all a curious bunch. Said, why don’t you go right ahead?

QUESTION: Yes, I have a very quick question: How do you collect and maintain data on the rise or decline of HIV in conflict zones like Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq?

AMBASSADOR BIRX: So it’s � we are fortunate that over the last 30 years, the U.S. has supported UNAIDS in developing the data systems in conjunction with countries, so our reporting is supported both for UNAIDS with the U.S. co-investing in those and � both around the globe to ensure that data collections are correct. That’s the advantage that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has had from the beginning, is we have the ability to map in great detail the progress that we’re making, not only in the countries that I’m talking about where PEPFAR has a significant investment � those 50 countries � but throughout the world and the countries you just cited.

MS NAUERT: Okay, anything else? Josh, how are you?

QUESTION: Good. There’s been a major rise in HIV prevalence in Iran that the Iranian Government’s clearly trying to work on. We obviously don’t have diplomatic relations, really, with them, but is there anything that we’re doing through multilateral fora to try to help Iran address their epidemic?

AMBASSADOR BIRX: Yeah. Throughout the world, the U.S., remember, invests in the Global Fund, which is a very important fund that takes � translates our dollars two-for-one to make them more impactful with the rest of the donor community. They work throughout the countries where often there isn’t a direct U.S. presence. It’s important to note that it’s not just Iran with a rising number of new infections; the greatest rise in new infections around the globe is in Russia, due to primarily key populations and the lack of responsiveness to addressing the depth and breadth of the epidemic there.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Conor from ABC.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this, Ambassador. How do you square your desire to prevent more and new cases of HIV/AIDS with the Trump administration’s push for major cuts of over, I think, $800 million to PEPFAR, $225 million to the Global Fund? In particular, the � one organization released a report this week saying that the proposals would lead to � excuse me � lead to 4 million new � 4 million more deaths and 26 million new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next 15 years. Just a response to that.

AMBASSADOR BIRX: Yeah, I think that’s an important question to put in perspective. So since 2010 � this program reached its highest investment in 2010. Since then we’ve had a decrease investment year over year. And that has been our responsibility to translate the dollars that we have into more and more effective programs. And that’s why I really led with the concept of us increasing maximum efficiency and effectiveness, because we went into this year with a flat budget, yet we dramatically increased results.

And I think you have to measure the administration’s commitment to HIV/AIDS by their political will and willing to address and talk about PEPFAR, as the President did at his inaugural address at the UN General Assembly, and the support that we get both from the State Department and the White House over these World AIDS Day. The President wrote out his proclamation today. That inspires the world that we can do more and be more and be better, and I think that’s � for us that manage programs within the U.S. Government, it’s always important to recognize that this money comes from our parents, ourselves, and our children. And translating that money into the most effective programs that we can that reaches the most lives in the most impactful way, that’s our job, and that’s what we are really excited about being able to talk about today.

QUESTION: So do you dispute any of those numbers, that there will be more deaths because of the cuts that the administration’s proposed?

AMBASSADOR BIRX: I haven’t seen the report yet, but I look forward to reading it. I am very data-driven, so I will be looking very carefully about the analysis, because we constantly are looking at data for how we can be better and do more with the resources we have.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Sir, right there, in the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The World AIDS Day is � we all know every year is on December 1st. But today the President has issued and declared that it’s � December 1 as the World AIDS Day. Reading through the whole thing from the White House, there’s no mention about any additional grant or money or anything. How do you see until the next December 1st your funds being � with all the cuts in the State Department budget, and the cuts, overall federal cuts � how do you see this declaration adding any value to —

AMBASSADOR BIRX: First, it demonstrates amazing political will, and not every government and administration’s willing to talk about HIV/AIDS, willing to talk about the people who are affected by HIV/AIDS. This administration is not only willing to talk about it, but willing to actually commemorate the day and ensure that we continue in the next 12 months to march forward in a very productive way to meet our goals. And I think that’s a great question for you to ask me a year from now, because we believe that we’re going to continue to accelerate our program, as we did in the last 12 months, despite a very flat or decreasing budget.

MS NAUERT: And sir, from Al Jazeera � I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.

QUESTION: Thank you. Abderrahim Foukara from Al Jazeera. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges that you face in dealing with HIV/AIDS in a time of great migration movements such as what we’re seeing from Africa and the Middle East into Europe? That’s number one. Number two: Can you talk a little bit about � in terms of your progress, about the overlap between what you do to achieve that progress, or have done, and what governments in the regions concerned have done?

AMBASSADOR BIRX: Great. Thank you for that question, because if I didn’t make it feel like this is a partnership between communities, host government, and our multilateral colleagues and bilateral donors, I was mistaken. So let me really emphasize that our progress today is only possible � and you can see where we make the most progress in each country. It is when the governments have the political will to have the policies and the comprehensive approach that we know are critical for both preventing new infections and treating those who are HIV-positive.

As you know, if you’ve followed this pandemic, there have been decades of stigma and discrimination against individuals who are HIV-positive or at risk for HIV. And I think what PEPFAR has done, what the Global Fund is doing, and what host countries that are successful are doing is supporting everybody that could potentially become infected to make sure that they have prevention access to services but also to ensure that people that are at risk and could be positive have access to the health centers without discrimination and without stigma.

And I think you’ll see in the countries where � we put everything up online, so if you go to pepfar.gov you’ll see all of our data down to the district level, so you can see the impact that we’re having. And we track dollars very down to the client to ensure just what you talked about. What clients aren’t we reaching? What age groups aren’t we reaching? Who have we left behind? And I think that evolves as the epidemic evolves, and that’s why we’ve been very much focused on the data and understanding how the epidemic is moving.

And I tell you our biggest gap right now, since you’re a lovely man, is men. Men don’t interact with the healthcare delivery system in almost every place where we work and don’t believe they’re at risk for HIV/AIDS. So we are really putting on a push with host country governments to really raise the alert so that men know that they are at risk and men will come to the health center. The health centers often are for women and children, and they don’t see themselves there. But I think if we’re successful over the next 12 months, men will see themselves in a wellness campaign to really understand and get tested for HIV/AIDS.

So thank you for raising the question.

QUESTION: And again, on migration?

AMBASSADOR BIRX: Migration, yes. So in areas of conflict where we’ve had strong programs like in South Sudan, as South Sudanese have moved into northern Uganda we have supported programs. Our dollars move with the risk of the individuals that have moved, so we’re very careful to follow those migratory patterns. Certainly, the European groups and the groups that we work with in Europe also have a very strong HIV/AIDS response. But whether it’s South Sudan or Burundi and the issues in the borders, we both supply services in the country itself and in the areas of transition.

MS NAUERT: Ambassador, thank you so much. She has to go. She’s hosting an event over in —

AMBASSADOR BIRX: So we hope you come there too at 3:45 to see our event and the kiosk. You can explain that.

MS NAUERT: They have an interactive program which you can see, and it sort of overlays some of the areas where the programs have been particularly successful. So if anyone has any follow-up questions for the ambassador, I’d be happy to get those to her and put you in touch.

Source: U.S Department of State

No quick fixes in ‘countering violent extremism’

Since 9/11, Western countries have increasingly invested in programmes to prevent transnational jihadism. These include militarised measures but also softer civic interventions under the banner of ‘countering violent extremism’ (CVE).

An example is funding social development programmes, implemented by civil society, with the aim of engaging and deterring individuals and communities from radicalisation.

An effective response to Salafist violence, threats, and underlying ideologies, is extremely important. But in the Horn of Africa, CVE programmes have failed to adequately engage with the root causes of religious extremism.

In some cases they have failed so miserably that we must ask: to what extent are they actually genuine efforts to address violence and militancy? Are they merely superficial gestures? And how did such a complex issue become the additional burden of NGOs already struggling with layers of political and legal restrictions and limited capacity?

The flame only burns those who touch it is a Sudanese saying that resonates today. Religious militancy is not a new phenomenon in the Horn of Africa. People have lived through this fire for the past 30 years.

In Somalia, thousands have been killed as a result of the brutal al-Shabaab insurgency, which has lured Muslim youth towards militancy by exploiting community vulnerabilities, including poverty.

Dodgy allies

In this region, religious militancy often disguises itself as an ideology for resistance against state corruption, ethnic and cultural biases. Meanwhile, counter-terror programmes often ally themselves with the same corrupt regimes.

The West considers Sudan, for instance, a collaborative partner � though it is itself an incubator of religious militancy as a result of repressive policies and laws.

Indeed, CVE programming has fallen far short of the mark � conceptually and in implementation. Even the language used is deeply problematic. Measures to prevent violent extremism is vague and ambiguous.

CVE programmes are clearly supposed to be ‘soft power’ projects in parallel to military counter-terror interventions. But what exactly do they mean by violent extremism? Is extremism acceptable if it is not violent? At what measureable point does an ideology become ‘extreme’? What countermeasures are acceptable?

And are these projects specifically focused on Islamic religious militancy, or violence based on other religions and ideologies as well?

These programmes have also been overly simplistic, largely ignoring driving factors of militancy and violence including injustices inflicted upon the region’s population.

The � largely flawed � operating assumption is that providing grants to NGOs to undertake development-style programming will lead to a shift in communities’ social identities, or erase those inequalities and injustices.

Last year, the International Organisation for Migration launched a call for proposals on CVE stating that it intended to provide small and quick impact support that capitalises on community-driven interventions aimed at mitigating risk factors that contribute towards violent extremism. These will be preceded by interactive and participatory community consultations.

But how can we think that transforming and influencing social and cultural identity can be accomplished through small and quick impact support?

Since the First World War, British and French colonialists, and later the US government, helped cement political Islam as a buffer against the Soviet Union’s expansion and to counter socialism’s influence in their quest for the control of the Middle East’s oil and gas.

Today states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran stress that Islam has only specific versions, of which they are the vanguards. Supposedly, Muslims all over the world must be either Shia like in Iran or Sunni Salafi like in Saudi Arabia.

Islam’s reform heritage

The Islamic faith also has a rich heritage of reform and transformative discourse. But, like other religions Islam is very diverse. Peoples’ experiences with it vary based on their specific historical and cultural contexts and perceptions.

The Islamic faith also has a rich heritage of reform and transformative discourse, which can be used to facilitate persuasive transitions in communities using their own religious guidance.

The Horn of Africa � which includes Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti � is close to the Arab Gulf region and thus it has been largely influenced by hardline Salafist ideology.

Here, the challenging religious context is further compounded by the complexity of social identity. Universal citizenship is not affirmed or applied by all states, to the disadvantage of minorities. Often, ethnic and religious affiliations also shape identity � as well as access to resources and services.

I recently heard the story of a donor-funded CVE project in the coastal areas of Kenya, which shows what’s at stake when NGOs, following donor agendas, forget that social and cultural change requires great effort, knowledge, and community ownership.

This project had proposed removing all references to jihad in the Qur’an in Islamic religion classes for Madrassa children � provoking anger and revolt from the local community over the presumption that it could intervene in matters of religious identity like this, amending and censoring material.

The wider struggle for democracy

Pursuing social transformation requires focusing on, and investing in, civil movements from within. Years of experience challenging religious militancy and its impact on women has taught me that pursuing any form of social transformation requires focusing on, and investing in, civil movements from within.

It is the role of people living in regions where militant Islam is rife to lead and decide on the best approach to countering it.

Trying to address injustices suffered under militant Islamists requires meticulous and tireless work � but it is one of the most effective approaches.

Women’s movements have also been negotiating and challenging discrimination within different sects of Islamic traditions, text and jurisprudence.

Academic Amina Wadud has contributed to a feminist reading of Quranic text based on equality and justice which counter traditional and militant readings. Addressing religious militancy’s impacts and drivers is also a core priority of the SIHA Horn of Africa women’s network.

This approach must be adopted by political parties too, and be connected to wider struggles for democracy, freedom of belief, equality and justice.

Unfortunately, most CVE programmes and other counter terrorism strategies can only be characterised as pursuing ‘quick-fixes’ and short-sighted and short-term gains.

Communities in the Horn of Africa must look inside rather than outside for solutions.

Within civil society, we must tackle prohibitions and fear of debate and critical engagement with Islam. Internationally, we need a new agenda, centred on liberation, to support movements relevant to the communities most affected by violent extremism.

Source: IRIN

Uhuru Kenyatta Inaugurated as Kenya’s President

NAIROBI After two elections, several Supreme Court petitions, frequent protests and many other twists and turns, Uhuru Kenyatta finally was sworn in Tuesday for a second term as president of Kenya.I undertake today to be the custodian of the dreams of…


KAMPALA, The 36th meeting of the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers is underway in Kampala and will continue until Dec 2 under the theme, Enhancing Socio-Economic Development for Deeper Integration of the Community.The meeting is conside…

South Sudan: Senior UN official urges Security Council to support peace process revitalization

The arrival of the dry season in South Sudan could lead to more fighting that would undermine the political process and cause additional civilian casualties and displacement, a senior United Nations official cautioned the Security Council on Tuesday.

Briefing the Council on the security situation in the world’s newest country, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita also raised concerns about the growing number of incidents targeting humanitarian actors and restrictions on movement of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) personnel.

The humanitarian situation in South Sudan continues to be dire, compounded by widespread armed conflict, inter-communal violence, large displacements of the civilian population and access restrictions which prevents the delivery of humanitarian assistance, Ms. Keita said.

Some four million South Sudanese have been forced to flee their homes in the conflict that erupted nearly four years ago following a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his Vice-President, Riek Machar. Despite an August 2015 peace agreement, violence has continued.

According to UN figures, nearly half of the country’s 12 million people are hungry, including about 1.7 million on the brink of famine.

The situation is likely to get worse with onset of the dry season, Ms. Keita said, and the Government’s push to assert military dominance across the country, notably when faced with continued resistance by armed opposition groups.

She stressed that the conflict in South Sudan can only have a political solution and urged the international community to provide unified and unconditional support for the peace process.

Ms. Keita encouraged the 15-member council to unanimously express its support to the urgent revitalization of the peace process so that the suffering of all South Sudanese civilians can come to an end.

Those efforts are being led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), with support from neighbouring countries, such as Uganda, to revitalize the implementation of the peace agreement and to bring stakeholders together.

An IGAD task force is now meeting informally in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire � where the fifth African Union and European Union summit will begin tomorrow � and will formally discuss the situation in South Sudan in mid-December.

Source: UN News Centre

Arctech Solar’s First African Project Successfully Constructed

SHANGHAI, Nov. 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The 6MWp solar power plant in Namibia, built by the PowerChina Guizhou Engineering Company, was successfully constructed and is expected to be commissioned and grid connected by the end of this year. It was the first time that Arctech Solar supplied Arctracker Pro, with the world’s first invented redundancy design, […]


KAMPALA, Uganda is number 84 in global ranking of Paying Tax 2018, a report by the World Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) says.

The report released on November 21 reveals that Uganda’s overall ranking amongst 190 economies has slightly declined from position 80 in 2015 (adjusted) to 84.

In East Africa, the report places Uganda second behind Rwanda (ranked 31).

The rankings for other East African countries show that Kenya has been ranked 92, Tanzania 164, Burundi 138 and South Sudan 68.

The World Bank and PWC Paying Taxes 2018 for Uganda says a model company had a Total Tax and Contribution Rate (TTCR, as defined under the Doing Business methodology) of 33.7 per cent for 2016, which is the same as the 2015 (adjusted) rate.

The model company makes 31 tax payments per year and takes 195 hours to comply with its tax requirements, numbers which have remained unchanged from 2015.

The comparable average figures for the 53 surveyed economies in the African region are 46.8 per cent, 285 hours and 35.4 payments respectively, indicating that Uganda is doing comparably well in the region, says the report.

In an interview with Daily Monitor on November 22, the associate director in tax at PwC Uganda, Mr Richard Marshall, said Uganda’s ranking is a reflection of the four sub-indicators for Uganda namely Total Tax and Contribution Rate, hours to complete, number of tax payments and post-filing index, relative to the other 190 countries.

The sub-indicators provide an objective like-for-like basis by which the relative tax compliance burden in different countries can be evaluated and compared, he said.

He added: The ranking of 84 indicates that Uganda fares fairly well in the Africa continent, while globally it sits around the mid-point.

Mr Marshall explained that the sub-indicators where Uganda performs well are in the hours to complete (that is the annual time required for a business taxpayer to complete the main tax compliance obligations � 195 hours compared to the global average of 240).

The report also shows a tax and contribution rate of 33.7 per cent versus the global average of 40.5 per cent.

The hours to complete have been significantly reduced over recent years, largely due to the electronic filing and payment platforms introduced by the Uganda Revenue Authority, he said.

Mr Marshall said these platforms have automated and standardised the compliance process. This is beneficial for Uganda’s revenue collection performance, encouraging voluntary compliance and expansion of the tax base.

He said the number of annual tax payments in Uganda is 31, a figure above the global average of 24.

This shows that there is room to streamline various payments required (for instance corporate income tax, VAT, withholding tax, PAYE, NSSF and Local service tax among others).

While the post filing index indicates only 15.5 weeks to obtain a VAT refund, the more recent experience indicates that refunds in general are now taking longer and there is a need to align the refund process with the self-assessment system whereby taxes are paid/refunded based on the taxpayer’s return/declaration and then audited on a post-filing basis, Marshall explained.


Gender Equality Gap Growing, Not Narrowing, Says Deputy Secretary-General in Nelson Mandela Lecture on Reducing Inequality through Inclusion

Following is the fifteenth Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, Centring Gender: Reducing Inequality through Inclusion and Sustainability, as prepared for delivery by Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed in Cape Town today:

I am deeply grateful to the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Board of Trustees for this tremendous honour. As Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations and a former Minister in my country, I have been fortunate to experience many remarkable moments in my life, but few have been more humbling than standing before you today. The speakers who have come before me have all walked a path of courage, compassion and conviction, they are truly a hard act to follow.

I am particularly honoured to be here this year, as we approach the centenary commemoration of Nelson Mandela’s birth in 2018. My feelings about Nelson Mandela �Madiba � are deep. They are shared across this country, this continent and our world. Twenty seven years ago, Mandela was freed after 27 years of unjust imprisonment. At 71, he finally walked his long road to freedom. We all stand today on his shoulders, with a shared sense of the respect, admiration and pride for the feat that he accomplished.

As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, I was proud of our country’s contribution to the liberation struggle in South Africa. For the first time, paying taxes had a profound meaning for many of us. History has moved on since then � but we should never forget this solidarity. To reach across borders is to transcend differences, protect our core values and combat all that threatens our humanity. Today, our world needs this more than ever. The fabric of our society is fast losing its vibrancy and strength.

Multilateralism, peace, development and human rights are all threatened by a leadership vacuum across the globe. Yet we see sparks of hope in our continent where the African spirit of solidarity is expressed even in the most challenging of times. For example, Uganda with its myriad challenges still manages to host hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees, giving them hope and a chance to survive and thrive.

As a young girl, my earliest memory of the liberation struggle was when I was 11 years old and I asked my father if we could visit South Africa. He sighed and said no, that was impossible for a family like ours of mixed heritage.

Why not? I wanted to know. He tried to explain the unexplainable; that as constituted � black father, white mother � we would be breaking the law. In apartheid South Africa, we would be segregated � mother, father and child � by race. The horrifying reality saddened me � that human beings could do that to one another. Later in life, like millions of other people, I instinctively understood that this racist system was a truly frightening abomination � a violation of all that makes us human and a threat to the fabric of society.

Yet the unbending courage and conviction of Nelson Mandela, his leadership and his comrades kept the world full of hope. President Mandela once observed that the depth of oppression in South Africa at that time created the height of character demonstrated by the leaders of the African National Congress (ANC). I believe solidarity and the deep sense of one’s right to justice kept the flame alight.

In the course of history, among great leaders, Mandela towered � but he was the first to say he was not a perfect human. In fact, yesterday I had the privilege of being given a tour of the office and archives at the Nelson Mandela foundation, and read in his own writing how Madiba reflected on this, when writing a book on his years as President. He noted that he was concerned that he not be regarded as a saint. He would have preferred to live as a man � to remind us that the possibility of such humanity exists in each of us � than to be turned into a myth.

Mandela confessed some qualities that could be considered flaws. But he manifested them as virtues. For example, we learned he was stubborn � but his stubbornness was attached to a profound sense of fairness. Nelson Mandela was unrelentingly stubborn where it counted: in fighting for justice and equality. These are core values that I believe are reflected in the issue that I am pleased to have been asked to speak to today � centring gender and reducing inequality through inclusion and sustainability.

This struck me as an ideal subject for a lecture in the name of Nelson Mandela, as it provides an opportunity for me to address what remains perhaps the most pervasive inequality globally, in every country and every society � that of gender inequality. And to reflect on it at an opportune moment � as we launch today the 16 days of activism and mark the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women � but also as we witness a now a global movement, building momentum to say no more will this violence against half our populations (our mothers, sisters, daughters) be invisible or, worse still, treated with indifference.

Nelson Mandela’s profound legacy contains the inspiration we need to address the core of my lecture: putting people at the centre to reduce inequality through inclusion and sustainability. Contemplating the driving force behind Mandela’s spirit � its depth, its compassion, and source of energy � I would have to sum it up simply by saying: the courage of one’s convictions. Madiba was courage even when in his darkest moments he thought he may not have any to give. His moral courage was defined in his DNA. He would never compromise his convictions even at the cost of his freedom. He stared life threatening danger in the face and refused to be cowed. He lived through his family’s suffering, for his long walk to freedom was also that of his nearest and dearest.

When he declared that he was prepared to die for the ideal of a democratic and free society, this was not an academic promise even if it started as an ideal. Mandela made his declaration in an entirely undemocratic, racist society before a judge who was weighing whether to impose the death penalty. The judge stopped short of capital punishment � but his sentence to imprisonment on Robben Island put Mandela at grave risk and tantamount to being the living dead.

Today, I had the immense honour of seeing Robben Island for the second time. I thank Tokyo Sexwale for granting me a personal tour. As I walked across the landscape, I thought about Nelson Mandela’s arrival, along with his fellow political prisoners. The prison warders spoke to them like animals, urging them to move faster. But Mandela led his fellow political prisoners to slow their pace.

The State could rob Mandela of his freedom but never his dignity. As Mandela himself said often, the struggle succeeded thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of thousands of nameless individuals who stood up to the violent, racist ideology of apartheid and gave their lives to the cause. We must honour this legacy by realizing their vision of true equality.

The Constitution of South Africa is a shining example of turning the most brutal lessons of a bloody history into the most humane protections of a rights based ideal. In so many ways, South Africa has been a leader internationally. The United Nations is proud to have benefited from the wise counsel and active contributions of a number of sons and daughters of this great nation. This includes my colleague, the outstanding head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, who I am proud to call a sister, friend and mentor. I know that she is saddened to not be here with you today, however today marks the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women, and her leadership in raising awareness on this global pandemic is needed elsewhere.

She follows in the footsteps of other South Africans, including Navi Pillay, our former High Commissioner for Human Rights. There are many others � Charlotte Maxeke, Lilian Ngoyi, Albertina Sisulu, Gertrude Shope, Ruth First, Fatima Meer, Adelaide Tambo, Emma Mashinini, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Sophia [Williams] De Bruyn, Helen Suzman, Mamphela Ramphele. I highlight these few only to show how South African women have been at the vanguard of change globally. They are the product of an incredible women’s movement in this country.

In the mid 1950s, some 20,000 women of this country marched to protest the pass laws. Their slogan was powerful: You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock. Many have cited this moment as a turning point in the struggle against apartheid. From that moment in the 1950s, through the struggle, the negotiations for a democratic country, and the constitutional assembly that provided this country with one of the most progressive constitutions globally, South Africa women have been leaders for change. They are proof of one simple fact: given the opportunity to participate fully, we have in half our population the capacity, resources, and potential to address the most pressing challenges we currently face. What is needed is to break down institutional and attitudinal barriers and invest in the full contribution of women and girls to their societies and countries.

Gender equality was central to Madiba’s vision of equality, and central to the struggle for freedom. This was the result of women’s tireless mobilization. But it was also a reflection of leadership that understood that equality cannot be selectively applied. Leadership who held a vision of a society where there was no discrimination on the basis of race, class, gender or any other category. Nelson Mandela taught that freedom is indivisible, noting that the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them; the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.

Speaking before the first Parliament in 1994, he declared that freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. He practised what he preached. A number of women here today were present in 1992 at an historic ANC conference in Durban, where Mandela stood up to men who opposed his firm pledge of a 30 per cent quota for women MPs. It is this kind of leadership that we need globally at the moment to achieve transformative and sustainable change within a short period of time.

This is important. As when it comes to gender equality we are often told that change takes time � perhaps even generational change. This country is evidence that wholesale change is possible. During the democratic transition, women’s representation in Parliament increased ten fold, from 2.7 per cent to 27 per cent. African women went in a few short years from the indignity of being a minor from the cradle to the grave, to holding some of the most powerful positions politically and economically.

Yet sadly, the long walk to freedom for women and adolescent girls globally remains unfinished. The continuous battle of overcoming structural barriers as well as cultural and social challenges must be fought with a new narrative that addresses the current context and constituency of young people left behind. Around the world, women still hold less than one third of senior management positions in the private sector. Fewer than one quarter of all parliamentarians are women. Violence against women � in homes and war zones � remains a global pandemic. Up to one in three women has experienced violence in her lifetime. There are nearly 50 countries that do not even have laws against domestic violence. In 37 countries, marriage excuses rape.

This country knows these statistics all too well. Reading the front page of a Johannesburg daily newspaper yesterday, I saw similar facts � one in four women are the victims of violent abuse, an estimated 100 rapes occur per day, and half of children are abused before they turn 18. Marginalized and younger women are particularly at risk and often suffer greater consequences. Young women who experience intimate partner violence are 50 per cent more likely to have acquired HIV than women who have not experienced violence. And while we have seen positive progress to address violence against women in some countries, in others we have, in fact, witnessed a push back on women’s rights and the dismantling of legal protections from violence weakening our struggling democracies.

On the economic front, if we look at the labour force, we find women doing some of the most important work in society for the least compensation. Unpaid domestic work � which often involves taking care of loved ones � falls on three times more women than men. In the formal workplace, women’s equal contribution is not valued equally. And women earn on average 70 cents to every dollar earned by a man. This ratio is far greater among marginalized groups.

A report issued by the World Economic Forum last month noted that it would take 217 years to equalize the pay and employment opportunities of men and women. Perhaps most disturbing is that this number has increased from the 170 years researchers calculated a year ago � meaning that we are in fact seeing the gender equality gap increasing rather than decreasing. Reproductive health services and reproductive rights have been hard won in many places � but now they face new threats. This despite the fact that we know that access to family planning measures are some of the most impactful tools we have to address poverty among women. These stark statistics and facts are only one side of the picture, however. The empowerment of women is more than a social imperative or a matter of justice. It is essential to achieving sustainable development, protecting our environment and securing peace.

According to the World Bank, girls who finish school earn nearly 70 per cent more than girls who have to drop out � and that boosts GDP annual growth rates by 1.5 per cent. When women are kept out of the labour force, everyone pays the price. Put another way, we know that women’s equal participation in the labour force would unlock $12 trillion in global growth. Money that could be used to further access to education, health and services for all.

We have evidence that one of the greatest predictors of stability and resilience to conflict is levels of gender equality in a society, and that women’s meaningful participation in peace processes increases the sustainability of peace by 30 per cent over the long term. There could not be a more important moment to realize the importance of gender equality to the challenges that we face. Our current global context includes sustained and horrifying levels of violence across a number of new and protracted conflicts, taking development gains backwards and leading to the highest levels of individuals uprooted from their homes at any time since the end of [the Second World War].

One of the greatest threats to global security is violent extremism. I have seen its effects in my own country and around the world, and I have met with the survivors. Extremists of all types seek to curtail women’s rights � the rights to education, health, political life; freedom of association and movement, and freedom to make choices. Violent extremists are using gender norms to radicalize and recruit, redefining the roles and identity of men and women. It is for this reason that gender equality is anathema � and a big part of the solution � to ending violent extremism. Coming from north eastern Nigeria, I know terrorists are not born but shaped from an environment that excludes young people, decimates religious teaching and cultural beliefs, converting communities to an ideology of subjugation.

Two weeks ago, I had an extraordinary set of meetings in my office. As Deputy Secretary General, it is common for me to speak to high level officials, but that day I met with teenagers. First, I had a dialogue with a young girl named Ekhlas Bajoo. She is a Yazidi woman who was captured and held by Da’esh, suffering horrific atrocities. I was deeply moved by her plight. But what struck me even more than her incredible story of endurance was her powerful voice for justice.

This young girl had been through worse crimes than most of us could imagine. And yet she was an outspoken, strong and unstoppable advocate for the cause of peace and an end to violence against women and girls. As we walked out of my office, there were two young women ready for my next appointment, one of whom was Hauwa Mohammed, victimized by Boko Haram. A lone face out of the thousands of girls, like the Chibok girls, who have suffered as a result of the terrorism in my own country, Nigeria. The young woman from Nigeria and this young woman from Iraq instantly embraced each other. Although they spoke different languages they easily communicated messages to each other. They said, Don’t give up hope. Let us win over the terrorists. Let us reach across divisions. Let us build a better world.

I left that day knowing that there is nothing more important than giving girls like these a platform to reach the world for those left behind without an authentic voice. Sadly, the context we face in our world today poses new threats beyond terrorism; we also face the major threat to security and development posed by climate change, exacerbating poverty and vulnerability of the poorest in our societies. No one can deny that climate change is real, man made and has a role in pushing up global temperatures � and therefore we know humankind is responsible for and can address the problem before it is too late. The signs are with us everywhere across the globe.

We know that women � especially in poor countries � are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone, five times as many women as men died. In the Indian Ocean tsunami, women accounted for more than two thirds of all deaths. In recent months, the Caribbean witnessed hurricanes that wiped out the GDP of a country overnight. These storms will become more intense and frequent in the coming months and years

These crises as a result of climate change can be turned into opportunities to build back better for all, addressing the investment gap for women that reduces the potential and value of a country by 50 per cent. Socially, environmentally and politically, women have proven that when you invest in them, you get results for all. The question is how to build on these gains and achieve true gender equality. The answer is investment in women’s empowerment in all its ramifications, along with a cultural shift in mindsets so that women’s equality is a given in all societies.

I have skirted the surface of the huge challenges we face today and I believe, from Cape Town and its drought to the lost opportunity of South Sudan and its hard won independence, to the Sahel and its battle with terrorism, human slavery and drug trafficking, to Myanmar and the ethnic cleansing we are witnessing, to femicide in Latin Amercia, opiod wars in middle [United States], to migration and refugee crises in Europe, our global village is truly in a mess. But all is not lost. In 2015, the world came together and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was born. It was a four year journey that was the most inclusive process ever held by the United Nations for development.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Graca Machel, who served as one of the eminent Sustainable Development Goal advocates � and a member of the High level Panel on the post 2015 agenda. The 2030 Agenda constitutes a universal plan of action for ending poverty and ensuring a life of dignity for all. It has been called a declaration of interdependence composed of 17 Goals and 169 targets. The Goals represent unprecedented ambition to free humankind from the tyranny of want. They envisage transforming the way Governments interact with people, businesses interact with communities, and all of us interact with our environment. The Goals have already achieved a seismic shift in our approach to development.

The framework builds on the many successes since the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. About two thirds of countries in developing regions have gender parity in primary education, fewer women die in childbirth, and more girls survive past childhood. We could literally fill this entire hall with documents proving that well educated women who have equality in political participation and the jobs market raise income for everyone � and improve living standards for generations to come.

Women and girls are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These Goals can change history by ensuring women’s rights and leadership around the world. In the United Nations, I am very proud that our Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, speaks out at every opportunity against misogynist mindsets. He is working for gender equality within the United Nations and around the world. His new strategy on gender parity provides a road map to reach parity within the United Nations, and we are working on strengthening our own financing, capacity and expertise on gender equality so that we can better support countries to achieve their own goals. So we are walking the talk. But we will only realize the potential of the SDGs if we take seriously the values of inclusion and leaving no one behind. The sustainable change that we need to see will only be possible if we are including young people � girls and boys.

I have spoken at length about women and equality because it is true that women continue to be less equal then men globally. But gender is not equal to women. Gender inequality, norms, and stereotypes affect men and women, girls and boys. When young boys are taught that it is not manly to cry, they learn to suppress their emotions. When young men are taught that violence is masculine and accepted, we create the next generation of those who seek solutions at the barrel of a gun. When society dictates the role of men as bread winners or aloof and distant fathers, we disempower families and create public policies that don’t match the reality of households.

In the past week I have invited those on social media to send me their thoughts on how we can achieve gender equality. I thank all who participated. Many of the comments were insightful and spoke of concrete actions and the need to ensure financial inclusion, address violence, and increase protections and services. But what also struck me was the number of men who spoke of the need for gender inequality not to dispossess or disempower men. While the dismantling of privilege is never easy, this country has perhaps shown us that it can only be done sustainably when all see the benefits for themselves and feel part of the solution.

Gender inequality affects every one of us. And addressing it is equally our shared responsibility. That change will need to happen with our youth. Over the past two days we have heard the voices of our young girls here in Cape Town. What they have spoken about is the need for girls to have space to convene, to support each other, to be listened to. We are witnessing, as we speak, an unprecedented moment � a global momentum that may have begun in a perhaps unlikely place � but which is carrying reverberations in many corners of the world. The #MeToo movement is opening new conversations, establishing new shared understandings of unacceptable behaviour, and shedding new light on the pervasive nature of gender inequality, as did the He4She campaign. It is an opportunity to shift the tide, and one we should collectively seize for positive change.

Nelson Mandela had a very long walk to freedom. Most of us could not even fathom his journey. At the end, he said he discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb. Leadership at all levels is the key. Madiba showed tremendous integrity in stepping off the platform when the applause was loudest. We should be inspired by his necessarily long walk and make a fast run to gender equality. We need to galvanize the international community which includes us all, to invest in women and girls � and to give them space � so they can contribute to progress.

I am perhaps the first person to deliver this lecture who never met Nelson Mandela. In a sense, I represent generations of people to come who will take inspiration from his life without ever having had the privilege of a personal encounter. However, I believe I learned a little of who he was through a great woman of Mozambique and South Africa � his wife, his better half, his best friend, Graca Machel. She embodies the same vast courage as her late husband � the same inspiring commitment and passion to raising a new generation of girls � and the same immense spirit of humanity. A rare woman of substance who tells it like it is.

Collectively, we see the hills before us and we are challenged to climb them. For climb we must. If we feel defeated, we can return to Madiba’s indomitable bravery and humanism. Nelson Mandela possessed a character that none of us could emulate � but we can all be inspired to try.

Just as the world came together to support the end of subjugation on the basis of race in this country, we need today to birth a new movement that calls for true equality, everywhere. We as leaders must stand up and take collective responsibility for our current failings but also for the actions we must take to end the conflict, injustice, inequality, corruption and ensure true inclusive democracy, peace and prosperity for our people.

I leave you all with a call to action: to invest in the missing 50 per cent of our human asset base, the potential of our women and unleash their power for good; and to make good on the new era of the Sustainable Development Goals, starting with Goal 5 as your docking station for the other 16 Goals to create a world of true gender equality.

My promise to you as woman of colour, a Muslim, a proud mother of six and granny of one in a position of privileged responsibility serving alongside Antonio Guterres, to strive to leave the United Nations fit for the purpose of healing our world and ensuring we keep hope alive for those who deserve a life of respect and dignity. In Madiba’s words, it always seems impossible until it’s done.

I thank you all for your kind patience and attention.

Source: United Nations