29 March 2013

A Tale of Two Africas

A Changing Aid Landscape

A new aid landscape is emerging that increasingly involves a smaller role for traditional donors like the US government and the World Bank.
Headlines were made when the UK met its aid spending target of 0.7 percent of Gross National Income and Canada ‘restructured’ its aid agency. At the same time, emerging economic giants such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (aka the BRICS) just wrapped up their summit in Durban, South Africa. The traditional donors are undergoing changes and there are some new kids on the block.
Dave Barger
Romilly Greenhill of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) commended the progress of the UK, but warned that aid is declining.
“Total aid from traditional donors is now falling, and is likely to fall further in the years to come, while large BRIC economies such as China are increasing their engagement with developing countries, including by providing aid,” said Greenhill to Humanosphere.
“These recent events confirm the trends that we have identified in the report –non-traditional assistance is growing much faster than traditional aid and is likely to continue to do so.”
Developing countries are entering an ‘age of choice’ says a new paper authored by Greenhill and ODI. That choice means that competition is increasing between donors and giving an increasing amount of control to countries over their development paths.
The paper goes on to argue, “These new forms of financial assistance will have a game-changing effect on aid.”
An irrigation project in Tanzania involved the installation of new irrigation pumps with the technical support of Japanese experts. Initially, the project led to increases in incomes for the farmers, but that changed when the experts left, the pumps broke down and nobody could fix them.

26 March 2013

Good and Bad News About Agriculture Investments in Africa

African countries are making promising agricultural gains, but the progress remains in the balance due to a $4.4 billion funding shortfall, warns a new report by the ONE Campaign. That is in addition to $11 billion in agriculture funding pledged by G8 nations that has yet to be disbursed.

The ONE report cites 2013 as an important year for agriculture in Africa because it is a time when international and domestic funding agreements come to an end.

“African leaders have the opportunity to deliver on their goals of lifting millions from extreme poverty and hunger and preventing chronic malnutrition by meeting these commitments,” write the report’s authors.

Edward Carr of the University of South Carolina was general supportive of the report, but noted that the problem of agriculture may be one that is about markets rather than production.

“There is no discussion on the massive rate of loss between farm gate and market in this region,” said Carr. “The report raises further questions. Is there really a production shortfall or a marketable crop shortfall?”

The heads of state for the countries of Malawi, Senegal, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone have been invited for a two-day visit to the White House at the end of this week. The countries are among the 6 highest performing African countries in the ONE report and have strong ties to US agriculture initiatives such as Feed the Future and the Millennium Challange Corporation (MCC). ONE believes that the Obama administration may add Malawi and Senegal to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a move that further commits US support for agriculture development in the two countries.

The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) established by African leaders in Maputo in July 2003 set forward the goal of countries allocating 10% of their national budgets to agriculture. Since then, 24 countries signed the agreement and have developed national agriculture plans. The ONE report assessed 19 of the signatory countries and found that only 4 have met the 10% spending target.

25 March 2013

Kristof on Half the Sky the Game and International Reporting

I asked Nick Kristof a few questions about his new Facebook game. I put them into an article for Humanosphere at the beginning of the month. However, I figured I might as well share the raw interview. I keep saying I want to share stuff like this, but keep forgetting. So, here is my attempt to keep good on my promises. For the sake of speed, I am not editing this. Please forgive Nick and I for any errors in spelling and grammar.

Asi mentioned that you had been thinking about a game as a part of Half the Sky almost from the beginning. Why did a advocacy game interest you?
One of the problems with a book is that the people who read it are mostly those who agree with it. We tried to pull more people in with the Half the Sky television documentary, partly with the use of famous actresses, but likewise most of the people who watched it were presumably those who thought that the issue of women’s empowerment is an important one. We don’t just want to preach to the choir, but rather to build the choir, so we were looking for ways to reach people who have no interest whatsoever in these issues. Games are a pretty good way to reach a diverse online audience, and we see this as an experiment. As far as we know there has never been an online social purpose game with this much backing behind it, and maybe it’ll prove to be an important tool to raise awareness and build the advocacy community. Or maybe it won’t. But one of the things I’ve learned in journalism is that we have to be willing to experiment and try new things. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
The game will benefit a group of NGOs. How did these relationships develop?
The partners are mostly NGO’s whom we had worked with in the making of the documentary.
How do you define awareness raising in the context of Half the Sky across all the platforms (book, documentary, game, website)? What will success look like for the Half the Sky movement?
I don’t have precise goals or metrics of success for the game. Ultimately, we’d like to get women’s rights and empowerment to be more a part of the global conversation and higher on the global agenda. One challenge is that here in the U.S. right now, I think the public is retreating from an interest in global affairs, so in that sense we may be sailing against the wind. 
Based on your research and experience, what steps must be taken to achieve global gender equity?
There are no silver bullets, but I think the two interventions that matter the most for empowering women are access to education and the opportunity to earn an income and control economic assets. There’s a vast range of challenges, though, from FGM/FGC to human trafficking to maternal mortality. In general, I think legal solutions matter a bit less than social change.
It appears your career has been an evolution from journalist to journalist/activist to activist/journalist. How do you see your work in the coming years? In what ways can activism and journalism work in concert?
I’m not so sure that I’ve changed as much as you think. There was certainly a big change in 2001 when I moved from newsroom journalist to opinion columnist, but I was pretty passionate in my columns against the Iraq war in 2003/04, or about Darfur in 2004-07. It’s a fine line, because I think many of us went into journalism because we wanted to make a difference in the world – and yet you can’t have every reporter covering city council meetings determined to make a difference. Particularly with Darfur, I walked pretty close to the line sometimes in trying to galvanize a response to what I considered genocide, and I certainly wanted not only to inform people but also to stop the slaughter. And even in earlier points in my career, I sometimes did things that veered off the traditional dispassionate, neutral course of journalism: in China, after one of my sources was imprisoned and then escaped, I helped him flee from China. We described that in our book China Wakes.
I was really interested in this comment "I think the public is retreating from an interest in global affairs, so in that sense we may be sailing against the wind." I assume you are optimistic that the metaphorical winds can change or at lease become less resistant. Aside from your own reporting and the Half the Sky Movement, what do you think can be done to change this trend or at least slow it down?
I don’t think there’s any easy answer. The u.s. has historically been insular and inward-looking, and I think we’re reverting to that norm. It would help if universities encouraged more study abroad and int’l studies. My hunch is that the news media will have less coverage of global issues in the coming years.

23 March 2013

Review of The Ringtone and The Drum

Have you heard about the story of the aid worker who traveled in Africa? Why yes, that is pretty much every book about aid.

So you can excuse me for being a bit jaded when approaching Mark Weston’s book that recounts his travels with his wife to the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso. Weston’s The Ringtone and the Drum opens in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are about to read a self-indulged account of his travels through some of the worst countries in the world. That initial impression was dead wrong.

The exposition section acted less as a set up and more like a series of information that Weston wanted to shed as quickly possible. Make no mistake about it, the book is about him. However his role is that of the storyteller who happens to be in the story, rather than the main character. Weston is the connective tissue of the stories of the people that he interacts with across the three countries.

The arc of his story allows him to bring in historical background information to fill in the context of the current state of the countries. Weston resists the temptation to fit the people he meets into a neat story about progress or development. Rather, he shares their stories as a way to show the complex ways that the lives of the poor cannot be packaged into a neat box.

22 March 2013

Collecting Reactions to Achebe's death

Chinua Achebe
This morning brought the news of the death of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe at the age of 82. The author died in a Boston hospital where he had been staying for what we are now learning was a significant period of time. The Premium Times was the first to break the story saying that he passed away in an undisclosed hospital.

The news was met by an outpouring of grief and remembrance for the writer. Aaron Bady reposted his 2008 blog post to The New Inquiry about Achebe and the faint praise that the author received during his career.
Here’s the thing: Achebe was just a great writer, full stop. I’m not sure anyone could do what he did. And while it  may seem like a small point, like complaining that a genuine compliment just isn’t enough of a compliment, there’s an important point of which it’s in service, a larger issue of who gets to “know” what sorts of knowledges and why. It diminishes his achievement to pretend that white writers don’t write about the things he wrote about, because if Rush’s novels (or any post-war white novelist) had to be placed next to Achebe’s, we might have to acknowledge the uncomfortable fact that the best practitioner of English literature might be an African.
Achebe is best known for his 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart. It has sold millions of copies around the world and has been translated into dozens of languages. A 2005 list of the 100 greatest novels since 1923 by TIME magazine included the novel calling it, "A novel of great power that turns the world upside down."

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NYT Fawns over Ben Affleck

IMG_2387The New York Times Fashion & Style section fawns over Ben Affleck and his Eastern Congo Initiative.
“I think we are a naturally good people. We care about one another. When our neighbor has cancer, we go over with meatloaf and take care of their kid,” said Affleck. “I think what happens [when we think about the Congo] is that we feel it’s too big, it’s too difficult to look at … I can understand my aunt who passed away, but 3 million deaths I can’t understand. I don’t want to understand – it’s just too painful, so I disengage.”
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20 March 2013

Like the Bee Gees Song, Feed the Future is Stayin' Alive

Rather than provide food in response to droughts or work around governments, Feed the Future represent’s a commitment to working with governments.

While the program took a few years to get off the ground, and is probably not all that well known to the public, it is a favorite of USAID Administrator Raj Shah – and also a go-to program budget hawks now want to cut back.

Agriculture programs have been losing federal funding over the past few years already. The House Budget Committee recommended to cut Feed the Future entirely last year. Budget negotiations come for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) come in the wake of sequestration. The House Budget Committee’s proposal involves a 7% cut to the International Affairs budget.

Yet Feed the Future has managed to survive.

While the Republican controlled house tries to rectify a budget with the Democrat controlled Senate that wants to add 9% more to the International Affairs budget, Feed the Future appears to have won a second life. But the uncertainty that looms over the budge cut discussion may cause harm.

“When we aren’t clear about our intentions, it creates uncertainty,” explained Gregory Adams, Director of Aid Effectiveness for Oxfam America to Humanosphere. “If you are delaying your annoucement of plans, you leave farmers in the lurch. Many will miss a planting season because they do not know when aid will arrive.”

The House budget committee, led by policy superstar Paul Ryan, called for the complete elimination of Feed the Future in its FY13 budget recommendations.
While addressing the issues of poverty and malnutrition around the globe is important, the U.S. Government’s fiscal condition does not permit the expansion of U.S. foreign assistance initiatives, especially ones that overlap with existing programs.
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19 March 2013

Mixed Signals: Is TOMS Trying to Alleviate Poverty?

Turns out TOMS is not in the poverty alleviation game.
Eventually, I was connected with the company’s chief giving officer, Sebastian Fries, who acknowledged that there were aspects of the Toms approach that could still be improved. When I asked Mr. Fries whether Toms might be perpetuating the poverty of the children who get free shoes, he responded that Toms is “not in the business of poverty alleviation.”
That is from an article by Adriana Herrera in the NY Times Boss Blog. So what does TOMS do when it gives away shoes?

Founder Blake Mycoskie seems to be talking about poverty alleviation when he wrote the following in the Huffington Post in 2009.
The first mission, and the one most relevant to my time in Southern Ethiopia, is my desire to eliminate unnecessary human suffering through the distribution of new shoes. In one of the very rural areas on my trip, I had an epiphany that might seem like common knowledge to many. But to me, it was a way of looking at the need for shoes in a totally different perspective. In the areas of the greatest poverty, which often are also extremely remote, a willing person can build shelter, grow food and they can even seek elders and teachers to learn from, but it is highly unlikely that they can make a pair of shoes. Shoes require factories, machines and materials not typically found in nature. So in these areas, if there are diseases to be contracted in the absence of shoes, these people have little hope of escaping them. This is why we must continue to give aid in these areas, and while I am a big believer in teaching someone to fish instead of giving them fish, in this case, we must give them fish in order for them to learn other things that will allow them to improve their lives. Our work to prevent Podoconiosis, and our efforts to help raise the necessary funds to treat it, fall into this category and mission.
And so does this campaign.

So what is the goal of TOMS?

How Sequestration Causes Harm in One Infographic

18 March 2013

Talkin' Kenya Election Blues with Ken Opalo

Uhuru Kenyatta may have won the Kenyan presidential election, but the dust has yet to settle.

He barely made it past the 50 percent mark to avoid a runoff with the current Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The election itself exceeded and fell below expectations. Violence did not follow, as some warned, and the voter turnout was much higher than predicted. What looked like a likely runoff between Odinga and Kenyatta appears to be over.

All of this raises some new questions.

I spoke with Kennedy Opalo to hear about his personal experience voting in the election, why the turnout was higher than expected and what may come next following the final results.

Opalo is a Nairobi native who is presently studying for his Political Science PhD at Stanford University as the Susan Ford Dorsey Fellow. He also writes the popular blog Opalo’s Weblog, a vital resource on issues regarding Kenyan politics. In the run up to the election, Opalo published analysis of the campaigns and opinion polls. Read on for his view of the process and where this is all headed.

What was your experience like in terms of voting? How did people you know feel about the campaign, election, media coverage and vote tally?
I waited for three hours to vote. And this was in a relatively sparsely populated area of Nairobi. I heard stories of people who got in line at 5 AM and did not vote until in the early afternoon.
The campaigns this time were not any different from the past. Real issues took a back burner and were instead replaced by veiled calls for ethnic unity in the respective alliances against unnamed enemies, historical injustices, and straw men. The big media houses did not explicitly take sides but it was evident in the courage which of the two main coalitions were favored by the respective editorial teams. 
With 2007 fresh on everyone’s mind the media went overdrive with messages of peace. After voting this was extended to the censoring of anything that was considered inflammatory. While this was commendable, to some extent it went a little too far – especially when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was experiencing massive problems with the tallying process; the media did not independently verify the results and censored any substantive discussions of what the faults in the electronic system meant for the integrity and eventual outcome of the election. 
The failure of the electronic tallying system exposed a serious lapse in the IEBC’s ability to deliver credible elections. Sources close to the commission have admitted that when the system was tested the Friday before the election it failed, yet the commission decided to go live on Monday anyway. I don’t think the system meltdown affected the eventual result – a (Parallel Vote Tabulation) PVT done by Elections Observation Group (ELOG) confirmed IEBC’s findings – but it raised concerns over IEBC’s vulnerability to manipulation.

What Bono and UNDP Say About Ending Extreme Poverty

Bono loves data and said so in his February TED talk, which was recently released in video. He says the promise of ending extreme poverty turns him on.

“If the trajectory continues we get to the ‘zero zone.’ For number crunchers like us, that is the erogenous zone,” says Bono. “And it’s fair to say, by now, that I am sexually aroused by the collating of data.”

Extreme poverty has been halved from 43% of the world in 1990 to 21% by 2000. The current trends show that extreme poverty could end by 2030, say the World Bank, ONE and CGD.

However, the most recent data (aka UNDP’s Human Development Report (HDR) 2013) suggests that ending extreme poverty will get harder if we don’t take more action:

“Environmental inaction, especially regarding climate change, has the potential to halt or even reverse human development progress. The number of people in extreme poverty could increase by up to 3 billion by 2050 unless environmental disasters are averted by co-ordinated global action,” says the report.

The report includes the annual Human Development Index (HDI), a measure of the development progress of 187 countries. Bono and UNDP both agree that there have been impressive global gains against extreme poverty over the past few decades. However, the driver of the change comes from the larger countries like India, Brazil and China. Meanwhile, smaller countries are not left behind. Rwanda, Angola, Niger and Mail join ten other countries that have improved by an annual rate of over 2% each year in the HDI since 2000.

15 March 2013

Boston Development Happy Hour

Calling all aid and development professionals, academics and students in Boston who love to chat and share a few drinks with your peers.

Join the Boston Development Happy Hour. This is the time to talk shop, complain about working groups and compare field stories. Most of all, it is meant to network and have a bit of fun.

We welcome special guest Jennifer Lentfer who is in town to Boston. Some of you may better know Jennifer on twitter as @intldogooder and through her blog, How Matters.

Come on over to The Harp starting at 5PM.

Boston Development Happy Hour

March 20, 5-9 PM
@ The Harp
85 Causeway St
Boston, MA 02114

RSVP here.

14 March 2013

Domestic verses International Reporting: Two Different Pitches

Western journalists were rightly criticized for the overall level of coverage surrounding the Kenyan elections. However, it is a case that is a part of what seems to be the rule rather than the exception when it comes to how Western reporters will tell stories from the African continent.

The image of a western journalist interviewing a traditional African may seem like a trope of the past, but look no further than the left image from a PBS MediaShift report.

Cornell University English professor Mukoma Wa Ngugi makes the case in Africa Is a Country that Western journalists continue to fail to “tell the whole story of humanity at work.” He says that American reporting on tragedies that took place in the US show dignity of the victims and tell stories of heroism and triumph during tragedy.
A three paragraph article in Reuters offered the choice terms “tribal blood-letting” to reference the 2007 post-electoral violence, and “loyalists from rival tribes” to talk about the hard-earned right to cast a vote. Virtually all the longer pieces from Reuters on the elections used the concept of tribal blood-letting. CNN also ran a story in February of this year that showed five or so men somewhere in a Kenyan jungle playing war games with homemade guns, a handful of bullets and rusty machetes – war paint and all.
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13 March 2013

Does the Commission on the Status of Women do Anything?

Keshet Bachan (you may know her as one of the authors of the annual Because I am a Girl Report) thinks it is a waste of time.

Different people will have different opinions on the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). As it enters the second week, it appears that the CSW suffers from some serious problems. Namely the sticky issue of reproductive rights prevents may prevent the outcome document from having real teeth or even meaningful language about reproductive health as a right.

Bachan stresses that now is the time to find ways to end the violence, abuse and discrimination faced by girls around the world. However, the CSW may not be the best way to do it, in her opinion.
The best example of CSW impotence is the fact that in my many travels to ‘the field’, no one has ever heard of this meeting. sorry, but its true. the only interested folks, are those who are attending, have attended, or might attend one of the meetings in future. (sic)
Liz Ford reported from the CSW last week for the Guardian Global Development channel. Her reports showed an event that tried to push against the restriction of women’s rights, but had to balance against the many participating nations.

That challenge was evidenced in remarks by the head of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, at the opening day of CSW.

The Latest on the US International Affairs Budget

The US Global Leadership Coalition sent out an update yesterday evening that highlights where things currently stand in regards to the budget US international affairs following sequestration. Here are some of the highlights.

  1. Ryan's FY14 Budget Makes Deep Cuts - "The plan, which will be marked up in the Committee tomorrow, reduces federal spending by $4.6 trillion through FY2023 and provides $38.7 billion in base funding for the International Affairs Budget. This represents a 7% cut (-$3 billion) from current FY13 sequestered levels.

    The House funding level, if enacted, would mean that one of every four dollars of base funding for the International Affairs Budget will have been cut in just four years: the House budget proposal is 25% (-$12.8 billion) lower than FY10. The impact of these cuts is devastating to America’s ability to respond to today’s global security, economic and humanitarian challenges.""
  2. House and Senate FY Continuing Resolutions Largely The Same - Both reflect the 5% sequestration cuts, but the Senate version allows for greater flexibility as to how the cuts are applied within agencies. This matters as it would allow the administration to divert money towards priority programs and areas.
  3. Senate Increases Global Health Spending - "The Senate CR provides $2.61 billion for USAID health programs and $5.43 billion for PEPFAR. While both are below FY12 levels (due to sequestration), they are higher than the President requested for FY13. The Senate further provides $1.65 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, as requested, compared with $1.05 billion appropriated last year. (The State Department later raised this level to $1.3 billion.) By increasing resources for the Global Fund, however, the Senate bill reduces amounts available for PEPFAR."
  4. Senate will give $200 million more to development banks than House.
  5. More Disaster Funding From Senate - "The Senate proposes to dramatically increase funding within OCO for USAID’s International Disaster Assistance and State’s Migration and Refugee Assistance accounts. Collectively, within base and OCO resources, the Senate measure provides $4.2 billion for the two accounts, 43% higher than FY12 (even after sequestration has been applied)."
  6. Senate increase contributions to international peacekeeping activities by $1.9 billion.

International Affairs Budget Snapshot

FY12 Enacted
FY13 Current
FY13 House CR
FY13 Senate CR
FY14 House
Budget Res.
OCO (war)
Note: All FY13 figures are post-sequestration

Criticism of the Religious Right at the Commission on the Status of Women

The religious right are holding things up when it comes to progress on family planning issues at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Liz Ford, who has been providing stellar reporting from the event for The Guardian, takes on the religious groups who are leading the charge against progress.
Giving women a right to choose does not mean they will seek abortions. Giving women access to family planning will not mean they won’t have children. Likewise, the suggestion that keeping sex for marriage will somehow protect women from sexual assault (another point the man with the model foetus made), and therefore mitigate the need for emergency contraception or abortion services, is naive in the extreme.

12 March 2013

Why Eating Local May Harm Global South Farmers

Want to change the world? Many tell you to start at the grocery story…or with your local farmers market.

Eat less meat, go organic, eat local and eat healthier. Such recommendations can be heard just about anywhere and they often end with a call to demand support for American farmers, or politically, renewal of the US Farm Bill. The argument sounds sensible on a quick glance and certainly so from a US-centric, self-serving perspective. But it may not be so sensible and good.

Modern food production and distribution systems are today international in scope and affect almost everyone, everywhere – and in many ways that may surprise you.

As the same time, eating local – locavores – has increasingly become a popular trend in the United States. Farm-to-table restaurants are popping up touting that they source all their products locally. The appeal is that consumers can get fresh (often organic) produce at nearly the same cost while supporting local businesses and reducing the massive carbon footprint produced by shipping food across the United States.

The trend has come with wider public recognition of the downside of industrial food production: The antibiotics used for livestock protect against disease (and boosts production) but this also builds drug resistance that has negative ramifications for people’s health. The high overall consumption of meat hurts the environment – from the methane produced by cows to the amount of land and water needed to care for them. Policies by governments and purchases by consumers have an impact on farmers from Arkansas to Haiti to the Horn of Africa.

The choice between eating cheap supermarket food versus being a sustainable locavore is not really as simple as it looks, at least if your goal is to make the world a better place.

DAWNS and Global Citizen Grant Award Winners Announced

NEW YORK, March 11, 2013 – The Development and Aid World News Service (DAWNS) and the advocacy platform GlobalCitizen.org, today announced the winners of the Humanitarian Reporting Grant Competition. The Competition honored independent projects focused on telling stories related to humanitarian issues.

Over the course of three weeks, nearly 700 voters cast their ballots for 12 finalists to receive one of two $1,000 grants funded by GlobalCitizen.org, and subscription sales to the DAWNS Digest global news curation service.

The two winners of the Humanitarian Reporting Grant Competition are:

Regina Zoneziwoh, from Cameroon, and Shanoor Seervai, from India.

Regina's project, ‘know herStory,’ will narrate 15 personal and unique stories of grassroots women leaders involved in community mobilization, HIV/AIDS, peace building, social justice, and human rights advocacy in Cameroon. Shanoor will document the lives of sexworkers in Mumbai, India, to tell the stories of their lives with a particular focus on the relationships these women have with their children.

“Our goal is to create a community of news consumers who will support compelling storytelling on critical global issues that do not often make headlines,” said DAWNS co-founder Mark Leon Goldberg.

"We hope these stories inspire Global Citizens to discover the diversity of skills and passions that are needed to end extreme poverty,” said Jordan Hewson, editor of GlobalCitizen.org. “We each can find a role to play in this movement, and these candidates have done exactly that."

The finalists included journalists, photographers, and documentary filmmakers from around the world who wanted to tell a range of stories, from gender discrimination in Gambia, to the problem of female foeticide and abandonment in India.

“It is becoming increasingly hard for reporters to bring stories to wide audiences as the journalism industry faces further and further cuts,” said Tom Murphy, co-Founder of DAWNS. “We have to find ways to report more, not less, on the global issues of poverty, violence and disease. These grants seek to support journalists and storytellers so that these important stories can be told.”
More information about the Humanitarian Reporting Grant Competition can be found at www.GlobalCitizen.org.


About Global Citizen: GlobalCitizen.org is a tool to amplify and unite a generation’s call for justice. It’s a place for you to learn, and act, to bring an end to extreme poverty. Global Citizens know that a world that deprives 1.3 billion people of their basic rights and opportunities is unjust and unacceptable. We celebrate the efforts made to cut extreme poverty by half, but recognize more still needs to be done. GlobalCitizen.org is powered by the Global Poverty Project, an international education and advocacy organization working to catalyze the movement to end extreme poverty. Learn more at http://www.globalcitizen.org, and www.globalpovertyproject.com

About DAWNS: The Development and Aid World News Service (DAWNS) is a media platform for people interested in global news. Our flagship product is the DAWNS Digest, a hand-curated subscription-based daily news clipping service and mobile app that delivers an easy to read snapshot of the day’s global humanitarian news. We aim to firmly establish DAWNS as a platform to support journalism for the humanitarian community. With revenue generated through subscriptions to DAWNS Digest we have started a micro-grant program to support reporting and storytelling on global humanitarian issues. Learn more at http://dawnsdigest.com

Media Contact:
For further information please contact Jane Atkinson, GPP Global Director of Communications: jane.atkinson@globalpovertyproject.comor for media inquiries: Gingold@sunshinesachs.com

11 March 2013

Concannon Disagrees with Fan and Kayyem on the UN and Cholera in Haiti

What should the UN do about cholera in Haiti?

I highlighted the recent disagreement over whether the UN can and should claim responsibility for the cholera outbreak in Haiti. The evidence of their fault is overwhelming and there is no real disagreement over that fact. It is also generally agreed that the UN should take the lead in the recovery and rebuilding work related to the outbreak. They caused it, so they have to fix it. The consensus comes apart slightly over the area of paying victims. The article on Monday was meant to highlight some of the dissenting opinions and arguments.

That elicited an email exchange with Brian Concannon, the Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). His firm is trying to bring forward a lawsuit against the UN on behalf of some of the victims. IJDH is calling on the UN to 1) Accept guilt and apologize to the victims; 2) Pay damages to the victims; 3) Do everything in its power to support the building of water and sanitation infrastructure that will prevent future cholera outbreaks.

Concannon said that the UN can be held responsible without damaging its work in other countries or overall mission. Here is his explanation and points that refute the blog post from Victoria Fan and article by Juliette Kayyam.
First, there is no question that, as a general rule the UN is responsible for harms it causes during its peacekeeping missions. That is absolutely clear on the books, and in practice- the UN has been compensating people harmed by peacekeeping for decades. So the UN responding to our claim within its system would not imperil its immunity as Kayyem avers. The UN responds fairly to claims every day without sacrificing immunity. The UN is imperiling its immunity by not responding fairly in our case, because that leaves us no option but to go to a national court, where a judge outraged by the UN’s outrageous behavior might chip away at the immunity.
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Development 2.1: Building Off Lentfer's Development 2.0

By Kyle Navis

We came across an article generally outlining and summarizing two forms of aid by Jennifer Lentfer at the How Matters blog from a couple years ago, describing what she called “Old School” Development and Development Aid 2.0.

We thought this would be a great discussion starter, so we took her table and made a few changes so that it made sense to the context here in Bolivia and then went through each of them one-by-one with our workers. (Unfortunately, our one Guatemalan worker had to return early, so she was unable to participate this time—it would have been very interesting to hear her feedback and perspective on these.) The questions we used to guide our reflection were:
  1. What do you think of the list? Do you agree with the movement from “old school” to “2.0”? Should a “2.0” approach be our goal? Are there any shifts you do not agree with? Why or why not?
  2. Think about the relationship between our organization and your partner organization. In what ways are we maintaining this relationship well and in what ways is it not?
  3. Think about yourself. In what ways are you abiding by the principles of “2.0” and in what ways are you falling into the “old school” approach? What can you do to move yourself towards a “2.0” approach?
  4. Looking towards the future: We’ve noticed that often friends and family do not really understand the nature of our work. They think that service is just doing things (physical actions) for others. That said, how can you help them understand that the HOW of your work is just as, if not more important that the WHAT?
The feedback and reflection was quite interesting, and generally we found that most everyone agreed with the principles of “2.0” and that their and our work should be guided accordingly. However, there were a number of points of agreement and disagreement that I think are worth outlining.
  • Generally speaking, the “Old School” Development side is a bit too much of a negative caricature. That is, it’s almost like taking pot-shots at something that was a product of its time instead of assuming that people were doing the best anyone knew how to do at the time. Thus there are categories that are too obviously “duh”-inducing.
  • If you want to generalize, you could almost call “Old School” Development a purely Western cultural framework for organizational management, while Development Aid 2.0 recognizes the nuances required by a cross-cultural situation and adapts accordingly.
Looking at some of the entries specifically, here are some of the comments and critiques offered:

“Old School” Development
Development Aid 2.0
Overshadowing needs of institutionsCommunity groups as “clients always right”This goes too far—there needs to be a 3rd point of view that’s able to approach issues more dispassionately. Perhaps the ideal ought to be phrased in terms ofpartnership between institution and community groups. Although taking into account the need to respect host communities, the community groups should have veto power.
Band-aidInoculationThere’s a time and a place for “band-aid” solutions, but keeping in mind this is about development (versus, say, relief), perhaps a less forceful suggestion than inoculation could be prevention.
Deficit thinking, problem-solving, “those poor people” cannot copePeople without cash resources can and do cope (and even thrive at times)We very much liked the use of the word “cope,” but there was still pushback on the need to recognize the value of efforts like problem-solving, at least done in partnership.
Progress is externally catalyzedSocial change is internal, organicThe critique here was that “catalyzed” is a positive word, and a better characterization might end up being “Social change is externally driven.”
Pedantic, condescending, adversarial, “othering”Supportive, encouraging, nurturing, respectful, alliesWe thought about this in the context of media. One of the things people really loved about our employer’s policies is its insistence that media must portray people with dignity. That is, poverty porn is not ever acceptable. The question it then raises is, is it ever acceptable to portray people in situations of need for the purposes of eliciting help or aid? We personally tend towards never, but there was not a group consensus.
Oblivious to or dismissive of power dynamics, resulting in overt or unintended expressions of controlGrounded in compassion and empathyWe felt it was necessary to add the words “relationship, understanding, and [physical] presence,” to the 2.0 category.
I knowYou know, let me help you discover itThis one made us a bit nervous. It can come across as a bit snide. We thought perhaps either “We’ll figure it out together” or “Let’s hash it out together and you get the last call” would do better.
Presumption of knowing what the future should beFaith in social outcomesPerhaps we were not fully understanding the gist of the “2.0” entry, but this came across as too na├»ve and not accounting for the role of planning and outlining objectives.

If you read the comments on Lentfer’s original post, influential aid blogger “J” makes the following comment referring to It’s about me “helping” moving towards I “show up” and my presence helps let potential out:
I flat disagree with “I ‘show up’ and my presence helps let potential out.” Seeing my primary contribution as simply showing up, seems about the worst example of the “Savior Complex” possible. We had better have specific contributions to make or stay out of the field.
The reason I highlight this is because that entry was probably the most appreciated one in our group of workers who are all seconded to Bolivian partner organizations, working in jobs that fill needs and requests that have been expressed by our partners. They are fit into the organizational structure in places that are not leadership roles and where they are under the authority of Bolivian administrators. 

In other words, we seek out positions that do not let foreigners occupy a place of power in relation to the organizations they work with (at least, any more power than is sometimes /inevitably yielded to foreigners—and I’d note that those dynamics of power can eventually work themselves into equilibrium through long-term relationships and critical self-reflection).

I understand J’s disagreement, but I think we have different contexts in mind. My impression is that J is talking about development in general, and it makes sense that if the only goal is to simply “show up” and see what happens, that’s purely a self-interested and self-glorifying motivation, not one to justify the load of money it took to get you there in the first place. 

Good point.

However, I’d argue that in our context, this does make more sense, because one of our driving goals is intercultural exchange within the context of development work. That is, a huge thrust of our work is to build bridges through meaningful and long-term intercultural interactions and relationships. To do that, you have to spend a long time in community with people. 

And when your job description involves working as a teacher’s aid in a Bolivian daycare classroom, it will feel often like the best you can hope for the day-to-day is to just show and hope that your presence is helping let potential out. Of course all that is done in the context of year-long plans that each worker writes for themselves and we revisit and/or update at least three times throughout the year.

Personally, at first KTB (Kyle's wife) and myself thought Lentfer's version of "2.0" was generally a little too open-ended and “dialogue/conversation”-focused in a way that seems to lower the role data and PME play, although that suspicion comes out of our personal experiences with certain NGOs. However, if you take into account that de facto you're going to have to meet reporting requirements anyway in a functional development organization (granted, that's definitely not always de facto), than as a description of a shift in general approach and mindset, this is a good table. 

We found it to be a really helpful guide for reflection and wanted to share it with people who might find it useful.

This originally appears on the blog Form & Function. You can find the session plan from the conversation here.

10 March 2013

Debate Over 2010 DRC Rape Numbers

What really happened in a village near Luvungi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in August 2010?

At least 200 fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Mayi Mayi Sheka looted homes, committed rapes and abducted hundreds. 387 people (300 women, 23 men, 55 girls and 9 boys) were systematically raped over the course of four days by rebels, according to the International Medial Corps (IMC) and the UN.

An article by Laura Heaton, a freelance reporter and consultant for the Enough Project, in Foreign Policy this week says that the figures were exaggerated. She uses the attack as an example of how an extraordinary amount of attention and resources are diverted to the problem of rape in the DRC while issues like displacement garner much less attention and financial support.

She visited the area after the attacks and interviewed a few women about their experiences. In those discussions, Heaton and her colleague felt that they were being lied to by the women.
When the interviews were over and we were out of earshot, my colleague and I stood in confused silence. I had interviewed survivors of rape in eastern Congo before; a psychological element seemed to be missing in these interactions. Before I managed to articulate the uncomfortable feeling that we had just been lied to, my Congolese colleague spit it out: “Those women have been coached.”
Her doubts were confirmed by a healthcare provider from the nearest hospital, one run by the state run with support from IMC. He told her, behind closed door, that he only treated six victims between July 30 and August 2, 2010. He claimed that every woman that was treated during that period was recorded as a victim of sexual violence regardless of the ailment and leveled an accusation that the patient logs were revised to increase the victim numbers.

08 March 2013

When David Guetta and Usher Advocated for the Sahel Crisis

Ok, the two don't really do anything other than lend the song 'Without You' to the UN Foundation and OCHA. It has garnered more than three-quarters of a million views in two weeks time. Listing the song name at the front probably helps as it draws in fans who want to listen to the track.

The video itself features an Australian brother and sister who visit a family affected by the drought in Niger. Its premise is to tell the story of people affected by the drought by going beyond the tragedy dominated headlines.

The content itself could be discussed, but I wonder how effective it is at grabbing a new audience. The celebrities are used as a facilitator through what they do best, make music. For those who are critical of celebrity-driven advocacy, this may be a step towards campaigns that use but do not feature celebrities.

Book Review: Beyond the Possible

When a person sets out to work in a community, to devote one’s life to making that community better, that person takes on a great deal of work. Often, the only way to succeed is to have an underlying motto – a feeling that you live by. In Beyond the Possible, the story of Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, that theme is unconditional love. For Williams, whose life has seen violent racism against minorities and utter neglect of those most in need, this motto is both his lifestyle and also how he organizes in his community. That community is San Francisco’s Memorial Glide Church.

Once at his post at Glide, Williams reimagined the church as a part of a battle against injustice, arguing that he was not free until everyone in his community was free – from racism, from addiction, from poverty and other ills. This mission takes Glide from opening soup kitchens and providing after-school childcare to tearing the cross down from the altar and hosting rowdy celebrations instead of sevices. Beyond the Possible chronicles Williams and Mirikitani’s efforts to use the church to do everything from lobbying for school renovations to building self-operated tenements for the poor. Through all of this, the church operates under the concept of unconditional love.

Since this blog is worried first and foremost with aid and development, I thought I should concentrate on themes that were transportable to other causes. Fighting poverty in the Tenderloin may be different from fighting poverty in the Sahel, but a goal like that requires some of the same tactics and understandings about how to get the job done.

One theme of the book, and perhaps this is a given, is that all of Glide’s projects were grassroots efforts to improve the community. Chapter after chapter, the authors tell anecdotes about members of the Glide community coming to them with a problem, and then working with members to find a solution. The diligence with which Williams listened to and worked with the community was a direct cause of programs like inexpensive mammograms for the poor and civilian efforts to document police brutality. 

 There are several instances when the board at Glide expressed skepticism or even disapproval of Williams’ methods, but he often paid more attention to his community than to his superiors. At Glide, as in aid and development, some of the best programs are ones that answer the needs of the community, not the perceived needs of the donor. When members of the church run onto the stage to interrupt his sermons, Williams hands them the mic. Empowering the marginalized to speak is just one example of Williams’ inclusive nature, but it is also a tool that should guide any sort of community-building.

Even a successful story like Glide has its moments of failure. Mirikitani mentions several times when she struggled with Williams’ attitude as he grew more and more popular. As Glide became more well-known, she worried, Williams was losing his way. The authors’ back-and-worth writing depicts a constant effort to stay the course and to continually grow – always creating new programs and always working on new problems. It is important to remember this in any line of work, but especially in development. 

As large programs grow, they tend to lose their message, becoming blind to the unintended consequences of their presence. Development workers, like human rights activists, are in the business of putting themselves out of business. If we can help target countries develop economically, if we can encourage actors to respect human, civil, and political rights – we can go on to other things. It is important to continually work on these goals and to continually find new methods to make that happen. This is a central part of Glide’s success over the years.

The book itself is about how two people transformed a church into a growing inclusive community. The dividing of the story between two authors helps show two different sides of the struggle to build Glide. Ultimately, you get a sense that the church will always be a work in progress, but always trying to succeed. The story can be about more than a church, though – it’s about a community. As such, it has some lessons for anybody who is trying to better their community.

07 March 2013

Charting Displacement from Conflict

In case there was need to add further context regarding the gravity of the Syrian conflict. What stands out in the graph is the fact that the conflicts in Kosovo and Liberia displaced nearly half of the populations in both countries. Though the sheer number of refugees from the Rwandan genocide and the fact that it happened in a matter of months is quite stark as well.

USAID, Cisco and ICT go to Burma

As Burma makes good on its democratic reforms, USAID and the private sector are making they way into the country. A partnership between USAID and Cisco announced the establishment of two Cisco Networking Academies  that will support ICT training in Burma. Here is what the press release says:
“Technology can serve as a powerful tool to advance the country’s development while contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic growth,” Dr. Shah said during his first visit to Rangoon. “ICT can expand economic opportunities, transform public service delivery, and provide more opportunities for citizen engagement.”

As part of a longstanding engagement with USAID, Cisco will donate networking equipment for labs in two educational institutions and provide career skills training for up to 15 university faculty staff to support the program. Cisco has established over 10,000 Networking Academies in 165 countries, helping individuals build ICT skills and prepare for industry-recognized certifications and entry-level ICT careers in most industries. Students develop foundational skills in ICT while acquiring career skills in problem-solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.

"Cisco has a long track record of supporting the development of emerging economies through education, and the Cisco Networking Academy program will equip students in Burma with industry relevant skills for the 21st century workforce, as they transform their country and their communities,” said Sandy Walsh, regional director of Cisco’s Social Innovation Group in Asia Pacific.

While in Rangoon, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah participated in a technology fair hosted by the Myanmar Computer Federation (MCF) where he met with local entrepreneurs, other industry leaders, and students engaged in the country’s ICT sector.

“We welcome USAID’s interest in our country’s ICT sector. Opportunities like this will help pave the way for possible collaboration to promote greater innovation and entrepreneurship to transform our country’s future development,” said Khun Oo, President of MCF.
It also mentions that USAID was joined by Cisco, Google, HP, Intel, and Microsoft in a 'technology delegation' to Burma recently. Apparently HP is considering bringing its HP Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs program to Burma and the other companies are weighing similar ideas or expanding their technology training and education programs in the country.

Not really big news itself, but a sign of what may come in regards to US-Burma relations and ways that US companies will try to enter the country.

Half the Sky Movement: the Game - Beyond the Press Release

A new game released on Facebook wants to raise awareness about the challenges faced by women around the world. Half the Sky aims to be a movement about empowering girls and women worldwide, fighting gender discrimination and oppression.

"We don’t just want to preach to the choir, but rather to build the choir, so we were looking for ways to reach people who have no interest whatsoever in these issues," Kristof told Humanosphere.

The game has been met by praise as well as criticism, see below, of its portrayal of women living in poverty.

When writing the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, renowned New York Times columnist Nick Kristof said he also wanted a game to be part the movement he and his wife Sheryl WuDunn were trying to foment. The book prompted a TV documentary of the same name, but Kristof said he was inspired to make a game of it by the 2006 release of Darfur is Dying by MTVu.

Kristof stressed that the game is an experiment.

"One challenge is that here in the U.S. right now, I think the public is retreating from an interest in global affairs, so in that sense we may be sailing against the wind," he said. "My hunch is that the news media will have less coverage of global issues in the coming years."

In the midst of the genocide and atrocities committed in the Darfur region of Sudan, activists used the game Darfur is Dying to reach 800,000 people within a few months of its release. In one year the game was played by 1.2 million people worldwide. Players had to navigate a Sudanese refugee camp and learned about the problems faced by Darfuri's through play.

At the end, users were encouraged to send a message to a member of Congress and some 50,000 of the game's players took the advocacy step at the end of the game.

The release of Half the Sky the Movement: The Game this week is the culmination of three years of work by Kristof and WuDunn. With an estimated $15 million budget for their project, the movement is now turning to social media, gaming and video as a way to maintain momentum and bring in more advocates.

06 March 2013

Sequestration and public perceptions of US foreign aid: An ill-fated combination?

Guest post by Mary Marchal, Partnerships Advisor on Oxfam America’s Aid Effectiveness Team

As sequestration looms, I can’t help but think—what do Americans and policymakers imagine when they think of developing countries and our assistance to them? Do massive federal budget cuts have human faces associated with them?

At Oxfam, many of the people we work with and talk about—and who will be directly affected by cuts to poverty-reducing aid—are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Majeda Begum Shiru comes to mind—a woman who rarely even used to go into government offices where she lives in southeastern Bangladesh.

“Even if I did, I felt uncomfortable,” she says.

After being trained in public speaking and leadership (provided by NGO Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha with support from USAID), Shiru was elected as a member of the District Public Policy forum.

Today, she has become one of the locally-elected officials she used to fear.

It is people like these who drive our work on Oxfam America’s aid effectiveness team and why we continue to advocate for better aid, despite a difficult budget climate and now looming sequestration. Evidence tells us that US development aid works when resources are put directly into the hands of those people like Shiru, who are working every day to improve their communities.

The Pew Research Center last week released a new national survey on potential cuts in US government spending. For 18 of 19 programs tested, majorities want either to increase spending or maintain it at current levels. Unfortunately, the only exception was assistance for people who are poor in the developing world.

At less than 1% of the US federal budget, eliminating humanitarian and development aid won’t help us cover the budget gap. Cutting programs that serve people who are poor in the US won’t help either. It’s an argument we’ve made at Oxfam (and will continue to make) again and again.

So how do we give policymakers and the American public a chance to see foreign aid the way we see it? How can poverty-reducing foreign aid be associated with people like Majeda Begum Shiru, rather than nameless or voiceless people who receive a bednet or a bag of seeds?

In January, Oxfam America created a series of ads featuring stories of local "changemakers" who are holding their governments accountable, seeing results, and using US foreign assistance to get it done. Twenty-eight billboards in metro stations and at Washington DC’s National and Dulles airports were accompanied by print and online ads, op-eds, interviews, articles, and blog posts. The ads superimposed DC-insider buzzwords such as “job creator” and “beltway outsider” with decidedly non-DC imagery—people surrounded by fishing boats in Ghana, a plant nursery in Tanzania, a roadway in Malawi.

When the billboards went up, we started hearing that the images drove the buzz—colorful, intriguing, contextualized photos of powerful people, all of whom we know and admire and who helped shape the campaign. Thus far, it seems many audiences think we're getting the protagonists right. (You can see a compilation of folks' reactions on Twitter here, as well as one aid critic’s reaction here.)

However, we don’t yet know what will affect the US general public’s view of foreign aid. On the first day the ads hit, the New Media team reported that the first blog post was being shared more than average. Even though the campaign was focused on DC policymakers, this led us to invest in some sponsored Facebook ads with friends of Oxfam’s friends. Many people’s reactions were overtly negative however, and we feared this would overshadow the critical message of how to make aid more effective.

Clearly very few US citizens realize that less than 1% of the US federal budget goes to poverty-focused international aid. Oxfam America’s publication, Foreign Aid 101, and this campaign from ONE start the conversation, but there is clearly a long way to go.

Regardless of what happens in Congress in coming weeks, we will continue to fight to make aid more useful to those leading change in their own countries. And we will continue to ask people like Majeda Begum Shiru, Emiliana Aligaesha, Manuel Dominguez, Martha Kwataine, and Nana Kojo Kondua IV show us how.

This post originally appeared on Oxfam America’s The Politics of Poverty blog.

05 March 2013

Looking into the Debate over the UN's Guilt in Haiti

The UN continues to refuse to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak in Haiti. It will not provide compensation to the victims, as some are calling for, claiming immunity against such claims.

Many are outraged at the UN’s stance but, beyond the recriminations, there is a legitimate debate over what the UN can and should do. Some say that the UN should claim responsibility and pay the victims. Others argue that the UN cannot do that without causing irreparable damage to its global work, and to other humanitarian endeavors.

The UN announcement last week that it will not compensate vitcims of the outbreak led to a series of strongly worded articles condemning the actions by the UN. Former AP reporter Jonathan Katz wrote in Slate:
The U.N.’s claim of immunity is ironic in Haiti, where, after all, a lack of immunity was the problem: Haitians had no resistance to the imported disease because they’d never been exposed to it before. That nightmare continues. Though cases have tapered off, there are indications the disease is once again on the rise. Haiti’s health ministry reported a spike in cases nationwide in December 2012 and January 2013, with active outbreaks continuing in three of the country’s departments.
The Economist decried the UN’s claim of immunity by comparing its situation to that of a corporation.
If a company dumped lethal waste into a river in the United States, it would be sued for negligence. But there is no legal mechanism for redress against the UN. Immunity protects it from most courts. Although its agreement with Haiti provides for a claims commission to hear grievances, that commission has never been set up. So the lawyers for the cholera claimants brought their petition directly to the secretary-general. They demanded that the UN pay damages, accept responsibility, set up the claims commission and build the sewage systems that Haiti lacks.
continue reading... 

Kenya: Moving Past the Tribal Politics Story

By now, millions of Kenyans have completed voting for their next president – some of them having done so at personal risk or after waiting hours in long lines.

Kenyans know already how important it is that this election, unlike the one in 2007, go well. Unfortunately, it’s not as widely recognized outside Kenya why this election is of global significance.

US Media Tells Only Part of the Picture

The most casual observers are well aware of the violence that followed the 2007 presidential elections. It matters, but the reasons are not being explained well. Violence is the story that leads just about any coverage about Kenya’s election. (Here’s a sarcastic ‘report’ by a Kenya newspaper, the Daily Nation, of foreign journalists preparing to mount their own attacks on each other in order to have stories of violence….)

Mentions of machetes are all but required and the cause is boiled town to tribalism. Recent fighting in areas like Turkana in the north and the Tana River region near the cost are held up as examples of what may come. This map documents the fighting that has been documented in Kenya by the UN since last January.

The problems in the most disputed regions have less to do with the elections themselves than with the lack of an adequate solution to mediate claims between different groups over land and resources. Just because there was fighting along tribal lines after the 2007 election and there is tribal fighting in parts of Kenya does not mean that the two are related, let alone drive entirely by tribalism. Some of the problems that contributed to the post-election violence in 2007 have yet to be resolved. By most accounts corruption, especially rampant petty corruption by police, persists. Furthermore, the very leaders who are running for office are facing criminal trials at the International Criminal Court.