09 September 2011

DAWNS Digest is Out!

On Tuesday, Mark and I quietly began to roll out the DAWNS Digest.  We tweeted about it and told a few friends, but wanted to work out some of the kinks to get the ball rolling before starting to more publicly announce that it is fully operating.  Now, I am proud to share with you that the DAWNS Digest is available to arrive in your inbox each morning with the latest news from around the world aimed at a humanitarian/aid/development audience.

We have two options for you to receive.  The first is the GMT edition which is published each day by 5AM GMT.  This means people living in Europe, Africa and Asia will get the digest in the morning.  The second option is the EST edition which is sent out by 9AM EST.  It includes the same stories as the GMT edition with a few updates based on a quick survey of the morning news before being published.

Right now, you can sign up for a free one week trial to see if you like it.  We hope that you do and then decide to sign up for one or both of the editions.  If you think you want both, no problem.  Sign up for one, email us at dawnsdigest@gmail.com and let us know you want both.  We will add you to the second.  No need to pay for both.

Ideas and feedback are more than welcome.  So please comment here or email us.  We are also offering specialized editions for organizations.  If you would like to offer the DAWNS Digest to your staff, we can work with you to format an edition that meets your needs.

Go here and sign up today!

If you happened to have already signed up, this is what would have landed in your inbox this morning at 9AM EST.

Top Stories

Pakistan asks the UN to issue an Emergency Humanitarian Appeal

There are 18 humanitarian appeals administered by the United Nations around the world for a total of $4.3 billion. On Thursday afternoon, Pakistan’s president telephoned Ban Ki Moon requesting that one more be added to the list. Monsoon induced flooding has killed at least 136 people so far in Pakistan and has displaced millions of families. The situation is becoming increasingly dire. “‘President Asif Zardari talked to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon by telephone today and requested him to issue an international appeal for assistance to the flood-affected people,’ presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP. ‘Our foreign office is sending a formal letter to the United Nations in this regard,’ Babar said.” The rains are forecast to continue this week. (AFP http://ht.ly/6pdy0)

Iran, Shockingly, Condemns Syria Crackdown

It’s Friday in Syria. And if the pattern over the past several months persists, that means massive protests after evening prayers will be met by a fierce crackdown by Syrian authorities. Yesterday, some 28 people were killed in Homs after a phalanx of tanks sacked the city.
Syrian leader Bashar al Assad has lost a great deal of international support, but he could always county on long time ally Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to stand by his side. That is, until, now: From the NYT: “Regional nations can assist the Syrian people and government in the implementation of essential reforms and the resolution of their problems,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in an interview in Tehran, according to his official Web site. Other press accounts of the interview with a Portuguese television station quoted him as also saying, “A military solution is never the right solution,” an ironic assessment from a man whose own questionable re-election in 2009 prompted huge street demonstrations that were put down with decisive force. (NYT http://ht.ly/6pt7h )

Leading U.S. Congressman Unveils a Massive Foreign Aid Reform Bill

A top United States congressman, Democrat Howard Berman, unveiled a massive US foreign aid reform bill he is calling the “Global Partnership Act” at a speech in Washington, DC today.   From Foreign Policy: “Some of the key reforms in the 813-page bill include: a new comprehensive system for evaluating and monitoring the success of foreign assistance programs, a rule that would peg USAID operating expenses to a percentage of program funds in order to limit dependence on contractors, and a requirement that comprehensive country strategies are developed with Congress's participation and funded on a multi-year basis.” The bill would be the first time that Congress takes a stab at foreign aid overhaul since the Kennedy administration. The NGO umbrella group InterAction issued a strong statement of support for Berman’s bill. (Foreign Policy http://ht.ly/6pfni  and NGO Statement http://ht.ly/6pfrv)

Horn of Africa Crisis

The UN Refugee Agency is planning to scale up its operations inside Somalia, including at a main transit point en route to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. (UNHCR http://ht.ly/6pJYI)

Norway announced a doubling of its financial aid for victims of the drought and famine. (Government of Norway http://ht.ly/6pK7f)  

A Somali soldier opened fire at a food distribution center in Mogadishu as women were lining up for rations. At least five people were killed. (AFP http://ht.ly/6pdD8)

Somalia’s Deputy Finance Minister Ali Dirir Farah said that international aid has not been effective in addressing the ongoing famine and the country needs to build up its capacity to manage the incoming aid. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6pb4u)


The Kenyan government has issued an alert on a polio outbreak in the country following a confirmed case in Nyanza. (All Africa http://ht.ly/6pL2r)

In Liberia, the Chairman of the National Elections Commission says that four weeks will be needed in order to prepare for any runoff elections resulting from the October general election. (The Anaylst http://ow.ly/6pcUn)

Anti-Monarchy protests continue in Swaziland, prompting officials to close schools “indefinitely.” (Reuters http://ht.ly/6pieh)

The government of Eritrea is accusing Amnesty International of plotting to incite popular unrest.  AI says it has not had staff operating in the state for over a decade. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6pL5j)

The murder rate in South Africa has dropped by 6.5%. However, rape, ATM rip-offs and commercial crimes are on the rise. (South Africa Press Association http://ow.ly/6pcMe)

The Nigerian government is warning of severe flooding in two states: Sokoto and Oyo. (Vanugaurd http://ht.ly/6pi5I)

A strike by teachers at Uganda’s Makerere University has closed down the school.  Now a group of parents have said that the school has a week to re-open or they will bring forward a lawsuit. (New Vision http://ow.ly/6pbHC)

Acholi Religious leaders in northern Uganda are launching a five year plan to combat HIV/AIDS in their community.  (New Vision http://ht.ly/6piEP)

Poor ARV supplies to Zimbabwe persist and roughly 7,000 children die from HIV/AIDS every year, says UNICEF representative Dr Peter Salama. (The Herald http://ow.ly/6pk6V)

Arsonists are systematically setting fire to bars in Zanzibar. (Daily Nation http://ht.ly/6psGO)

Middle East and North Africa

Egypt: Secular and left wing activists are gathering for a day of protest on Tahrir square to press the transitional Egyptian government to make good on reforms. (Al Jazeera http://ht.ly/6pKTl)

Interpol has issued “red notices” at the behest of the ICC for former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and former director of military intelligence Abdullah Senussi. (Al Jazeera http://ow.ly/6pJ3O)

A delegation from the European Union, on a visit to a village near Bethlehem, voiced concern about the humanitarian implications of the location of a proposed separation barrier.  (EU http://ht.ly/6pdTI)

Palestinian leaders will continue to seek recognition from the UN and there is little the US can do about it says former U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace George Mitchell. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6paKD)

Syrian activists are pleading for the international community to send human rights monitors. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6paUY)

NATO will continue to provide support in Libya “as long as the threat remains,” says Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6pbly)

In Yemen, the ruling party has requested that President Ali Abdullah Saleh be given 90 days to vacate his office from the time he signs the transfer of power agreement. (Al Jazeera http://ow.ly/6pcyX)


Parents in Peshawar, Pakistan face potential jail time (or if they are Afghan refugees, deportation) should they refuse polio vaccination for their children. (Dawn http://ht.ly/6peeJ)

NATO confirms that an American soldier in Afghanistan shot dead an Afghan BBC journalist in July after mistaking him for a suicide bomber. (Al Jazeera  http://ht.ly/6psC0)

The crackdown by the Chinese government in Xinjiang over the decade following 9/11 has driven the divide between the inhabitants and the interfering government further apart. (Reuters http://ow.ly/6psVK)

The rise of the kyat in Myanmar against the US dollar is affecting exports and has the government considering changing of the country’s exchange rate for the first time in four decades. (Al Jazeera http://ow.ly/6pcpp)

The Americas

As the September 11 anniversary approaches, The United States government is warning of a a “credible” but  unconfirmed al Qaeda threat to use a car bomb on bridges or tunnels in New York City or Washington. (CBS News http://ht.ly/6pKE4)  

Protests in Colombia have lead to the suspension of oil production by Petrominerales Ltd. (AlertNet http://ow.ly/6pbc5)

High level World Bank officials are visiting Haiti this week to “re-affirm support for Haiti’s recovery.” (World Bank http://ht.ly/6pezB)

There is a dengue fever warning in Limon, Costa Rica. (Diaro Extra http://ht.ly/6psMj)

The U.S. government has accused 4 Venezuelan government officials of aiding the Colombian rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (AP http://ow.ly/6ptga)


A study by Jean-Marie Baland, Catherine Guirkinger, and Charlotte Mali finds that people in Cameroon are taking out loans to make it appear as if they do not have any savings.  Duke Professor Marc Bellemare shares part of the abstract of the appropriately titled “Pretending to be Poor” paper and shares some of his thoughts on the findings.  He writes:

“From field observations of credit cooperatives in Cameroon, we find that a substantial number of members take loans that are fully collateralized by savings they held in the same institutions. 20% of the loans observed fall into this category. The price paid in terms of net interest payments is not negligible as it represents 13% of the amount borrowed. As traditional arguments such as credit rating or time inconsistent preferences cannot explain such behavior in our specific setting, we propose a new rationale based on in-depth interviews with members of the cooperatives. Those interviews indicate that some members systematically use credit as a way to pretend that they are too poor to have available savings. By doing so, they can successfully oppose request for financial help from friends and relatives. We develop a signaling model to analyze the conditions under which this behavior is an equilibrium outcome.”

In other words, people pretend to be poor by borrowing just so they can credibly show their friends and family members that they have an outstanding loan, and thus that it would be difficult for them to make loans to these same friends and family members.

When Catherine first told me about this phenomenon, I was not surprised as I’d heard about it in a seminar in graduate school back in 2002 or 2003, when we were discussing possible explanations for a landlord’s preference for crop over cash in a land tenancy agreement beyond risk aversion. One of my colleagues back then — who had years of field experience in Cameroon — had then suggested that landlords may ask for crop so as to not have cash on hand in order to avoid having to say “no” to friends and family members asking for cash. This makes me wonder if  sharecropping or crop fixed rent contracts are prevalent in Cameroon.

Marc Bellemare Blog http://ow.ly/6pevH

The choice between peace and justice is often one attributed to developing nations recovering from conflict. It seems that the United States is not free from such decisions as Kate Cronin-Furman explains in the Wronging Rights blog.

[A]s shown by Round 1 of this Economist-sponsored throw-down between Richard "Justice on Principle" Dicker and Jack "Pragmatic Peace" Snyder, the two sides of this debate are arguing from very different premises.  While Team Justice does make consequentialist arguments (for instance, that impunity can breed future instability), their emphasis is generally on the normative claim that it is morally right to punish perpetrators through criminal prosecutions. Consequently, their response to Team Peace's consequentialist arguments (that pushing for accountability can undermine prospects for peace by creating perverse incentives for actors who fear prosecution) is often to treat them as beside the point at best, or as spurious dictator-coddling excuses at worst.

However, the fact that criminal trials were viewed as too risky by the Obama administration - in a setting characterized by strong institutions and entrenched democracy -  underscores just how high the stakes of pursuing accountability for the crimes of a previous regime are.  If the view looks that way from Washington D.C., where the trade-off is "smooth institutional function vs. justice", imagine what it looks like in contexts where institutions are weak, and the resort to violence is common.

Wronging Rights http://ow.ly/6pecX