Policy News Roundup – March 23, 2010

Foreign Aid Reform:

Bill Clinton and Bill Gates come together in foreign aid request
Former president Bill Clinton and Bill Gates called on US lawmakers to boost foreign aid to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria in the world’s poorest nations. They went to Capitol Hill to boost support for the so-called Global Health Initiative (GHI) and promote a crucial health aid budget bill proposed in 2009 by President Barack Obama’s administration. Taking into account the current economic situation, Clinton said the proposed US contribution was carefully developed for maximum impact and followed logically from existing US contributions to the PEPFAR program — the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS relief.

IGD proposal recommends integrating trade and aid to promote African development
IGD joined with a number of business associations, development organizations, think tanks and companies to endorse a recent white paper on trade and development in Africa. This paper is being broadly distributed to policymakers and was submitted as written testimony for a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing to review U.S. trade preference programs.
The white paper outlines four proposals: make critical improvements to trade policies to encourage trade with and within sub-Saharan Africa, establish a mechanism for coordinating trade and development policies, use targeted capacity building and development assistance to increase Africa’s capacity to trade, and use a “Whole of Government” approach that integrates trade, foreign aid and investment policies.


World Water Day:

Yesterday was World Water Day.  Quick facts:  “World Water Day is celebrated each year on March 22. The annual commemoration of international activities dedicated to addressing global water challenges builds on a series of recommendations made by delegates to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, held in Brazil. Following the conference, the UN General Assembly declared March 22 to be the World Day for Water. In 1993, the United Nations began inviting countries to organize annual activities to raise the profile of work focused on the implementation of UN recommendations and the achievement of internationally agreed goals regarding water.” 10 percent of the global burden of disease can be credited to water.

Senate Committee to Vote on Clean Drinking Water Bill
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled to vote on the Paul Simon Water for the World Act today, March 23rd. However, according to the committee’s website today’s business meeting has been postponed.  Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are both cosponsors of this bill, which would bring safe drinking water to 100 million people. You can find links to more information about this bill on the Global Washington legislative index, Global Health section.   Other Senate Foreign Relations Committee business of interest on today’s schedule included the Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act, and the nominations of Elizabeth Littlefield for Overseas Private Investment Corporation President and Carolyn Radelet for Peace Corps Deputy Director.

New charity to aid Haiti recovery efforts by providing drinking water
“Unshaken” is a NY-based fundraising campaign to help Haiti recover from the earthquake by providing people with access to clean, safe drinking water. Their goal is to raise at least $1.3 million, funding 11 large-scale water projects which will serve more than 40,000 people in need. 100% of all donations will directly fund water projects in Haiti.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war”
Since 2005, the United Nations and other multilateral groups have prioritized water as an important focus for development assistance.  In keeping with this priority, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally-agreed upon goals include water-related issues.   A United Nations Water Program 2010 report, “Clearing the Waters: A focus on Water Quality Solutions” calls attention to the importance of clean water as an international development goal. The Secretary-General reiterated the importance of water conservation and sanitization when he said, “day after day, we pour millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural waste into the world’s water systems. Clean water has become scarce and will become even scarcer with the onset of climate change…”

The Story of Bottled Water
The US advocacy group Corporate Accountability International used World Water day to tell people to stop buying bottled water. They stress: bottled water isn’t better than tap water, and the plastic bottles often aren’t recycled.

Ship made From Reclaimed Plastic Bottles Sets Sail
On March 20th the Plastiki, a unique 60ft catamaran engineered from approximately 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and srPET, set sail on a journey of more than 11,000 nautical miles. The Plastiki crew want to draw attention to the health of our oceans, in particular the colossal amounts of plastic debris, by showcasing waste as a resource and demonstrating real world solutions through the design and construction of the Plastiki.


Other Development News:

“Quiet Corruption” – African Development Indicators 2010
This year’s Africa Development Indicators essay sheds light on a different type of corruption—what the authors call “quiet corruption”—when public servants fail to deliver services or inputs that have been paid for by the government. The most prominent examples are absentee teachers in public schools and absentee doctors in primary clinics. Others include drugs being stolen from public clinics and sold in the private market as well as subsidized fertilizer being diluted before it reaches farmers.

A leaked UN report says that up to half of Somalia food aid is stolen
The UN report says that up to half of food aid – valued at approximately $485 million in 2009 – is being diverted through a corrupt web of partners, contractors, World Food Program (WFP) staff and local armed groups. The coverage expresses outrage at government and charity monies being wasted, or even worse, the use of food aid to fuel conflict and terrorism. The recent information from the report has has sparked heated debate on how aid reaches people in Somalia.

Argentina coin shortage leaving less change for panhandlers
Argentina has had a coin shortage for more than three years. The crisis has turned normally mundane tasks – like buying a newspaper or a snack – into a big hassle. The situation is also leaving the homeless short-changed. Alita Casal, a postgraduate student, says, “People sometimes hesitate handing coins to street musicians and beggars because they are afraid to run out.”

North Korea on the verge of a new famine
Many North Koreans are braving the fences and armed guards in search of food and medical care. The flow of refugees from North Korea has slowed in recent years as Pyongyang has issued shoot-to-kill orders to guards, and China is losing patience with the influx of refugees. Nevertheless, China, nervous about instability across its border, continues to heavily aid North Korea with food and oil. The few who have made it across live in constant fear of discovery. They risked the crossing to survive the famine they believe is now imminent. The crisis they face now is the barren period around April which is believed as the most dangerous period when the risk of starvation becomes high.